FWIW, the still caught my eye (uncommon for the media section of the page) and I read the
caption, which does give context.
The main product of Buchenwald and other camps was death. Why do we want to cover that up?
I saw nothing wrong with it, just as there was nothing wrong with all the photographs of
the dead I saw in school hallways as part of Holocaust remembrances.
Offensive is gore for the sake of gore. Obviously, this is not the case here.
Date: Fri, 9 May 2014 12:11:49 -0700
Subject: Re: [Wikimedia-l] Commons' frontpage probably shouldn't prominently
feature a decontextualised stack of corpses.
Pine: besides the unusually high effect Commons has on other projects (most
projects are essentially forced to use Commons,) Commons' lack of a local
canvassing policy, and the general unenforceability of canvassing policies
on mailing lists anyway, when a local project has a low population of
active editors and is pretty consistently making poor decisions that impact
all projects, I see absolutely nothing wrong with raising the discussion at
a higher-than-local level, and don't think that raising a discussion at a
higher-than-local level needs to be done in a neutral fashion. I think
that Commons' not uncommonly acts in a way that is actively detrimental to
every other project (and a way that is certainly actively detrimental to
building relationships with edu and GLAM institutions,) and given that
there's not a large local population on Commons, think a non-neutral
posting to a broader audience is absolutely appropriate. Discussion of
issues with the Acehnese Wikipedia years ago wasn't confined to the
Acehnese Wikipedia, and in recent years issues with the Kazakh Wikipedia
and at least a couple of other projects have been brought up on a meta
level as well. (The fact that the decision to put a piece of content like
this on Common's frontpage was made by *two people* highlights an issue as
I'm not upset about the fact that we have a video of the aftermath of the
liberation of Buchenwald on Commons - if we didn't, I'd go find one and
upload it. It's an event (and a video) of enormous historic significance,
and not one that should ever be forgotten. I'm not even opposed to
featuring it on Commons' frontpage - in a way that adheres to the principle
of least astonishment and provides viewers with context. That's not what
was done here. A still image featuring a pile of corpses was put on
Commons' frontpage with any context whatsoever only provided for viewers of
five languages - and we run projects in 287 different languages. More than
that, since Commons only supports open video formats, a sizable majority of
people who use Wikimedia projects are literally incapable of actually
playing the video in question. Is there enough journalistic or educational
value in displaying a still photo of a pile of corpses that links to a
video that cannot be played by most people that provides after the fact
context in only 5 of the 287 languages we run projects in to justify
putting it on Commons front page? I'm gonna go with no.
FWIW: I would explicitly support featuring this video (or an article about
Buchenwald, etc,) albeit with a different freezeframe and appropriate
context provided, on the frontpage of the English Wikipedia or any other
project where it was actually possible to provide appropriate context to
the viewership of the project. ENWP's article about Buchenwald - quite
rightly - contains numerous images more graphic than the one that was on
Commons front page yesterday. They add significant educational value to
the article - and they also only appear past the lede of the article, at a
point when anyone reading the article will be fully aware what the article
is about and will have intentionally sought the article out - rather than,
say, going to Commons to look up an image of a horse and being confronted
with a freezeframe of a stack of bodies from a video your browser cannot
play with context provided only in languages you do not speak.
American Cultures Program
On Fri, May 9, 2014 at 10:48 AM, Nathan <nawrich(a)gmail.com> wrote:
On Fri, May 9, 2014 at 1:30 PM, Jeevan Jose
See the comment by Pristurus<
On Fri, May 9, 2014 at 10:57 PM, Nathan <nawrich(a)gmail.com> wrote:
> On Fri, May 9, 2014 at 1:19 PM, Jeevan Jose <jkadavoor(a)gmail.com>
> Already answered on the talk page by the editor who had chosen it.
> there if you really want to help us. Continue the comments here if
> interests. ;)
Ah, thanks. Amazing how handy links are. I was a little surprised to see
that even on that talkpage, you asked people to move the discussion to yet
a different page. I asked that question because a debate on the merits
might be somewhat moot if the still was selected randomly or by software,
it's interesting to see that it wasn't.
In any case, Pristurus has a good point and one that it would be hard to
craft a policy around. Least astonishment is a useful principle, but it
doesn't beat out journalistic and/or educational value. Newspapers,
magazines, textbooks and other sources of educational material often pick
striking images of tragic or shocking circumstances. The point is precisely
to draw attention, to disrupt the consciousness of the viewer so that the
meaning behind the image and any accompanying material sinks in and the
message is imparted strongly. Good sources of knowledge do this rarely but
well; shock sites do it constantly and for no particular reason.
Many Pulitzer prize winning photographs feature dead people, people who
have been shot, dismembered, even people in the midst of burning alive.
They win prizes because they have extraordinary communicative power and
meaningfully illustrate very important subjects. Would anyone truly argue
that such images should never be used on the main page of any project?
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