WIKIWEB: The visual Wikipedia

By Teresa de Andrés. July 16, 2012

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I remember –somehow sceptical and bewildered– the days when in the Media Studies faculties we were told that "if it's not on TV it doesn't exist". At the time I didn't quite understand that sentence because I had already replaced the small screen for my PC. For some reason, during my university years I also wasn't able to get out of my head the white shelves from my parents’ house –how they tormented me–, crammed with grey volumes of encyclopedias that, probably, nobody would ever read again (beyond the Apocalypse, when they are found turned into pulp in a puddle of petrol, amongst shreds of clothes and plastic furniture).

This isn’t new: Internet has changed how we access information and knowledge so fast and radically that I sometimes doubt we are entirely conscious about it. Let's take Wikipedia as an example. In slightly more than ten years, in addition to causing a true drama to the encyclopaedia industry, it has changed the production and access to knowledge (almost) everywhere. Today, eleven years later, it seems that a collaborative encyclopedia with more than 20 million articles in 282 languages and dialects is not enough. It is time to think about new means to read and explore it, in renewed ways to get lost within it. Because, when faced with overabundance of information, it is essential to devise powerful systems to help us visualize the data.

Wikiweb is a reader for iPhone and iPad that lets you explore any article on the Wikipedia (in 45 languages), with a perfect layout and a visual design that is more attractive than the original. One of its most interesting features is that it encourages the discovery of new articles through unexpected connections. Blood-Spain-basketball-jewel-Sanskrit or Sanskrit-soap bubble-red-pigment-blood (and so on ad infinitum).

The eight hands that make up the Friends of The Web studio have designed it with heart in Baltimore, Maryland. Those behind projects such as The Emotional Breakdown, Crowdstorms, Jittergram or Quiption, embark again in data visualization. And to do so they dare to deal with no more and no less than the encyclopedia of encyclopedias. The new –maybe the only– universal archive we have known so far. Wait and see.

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