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wikipedia design

What does Wikipedia sound like? The global orchestra of information.


“Listen to Wikipedia” is a tool that helps us visually and audibly understand the incessant movement of the largest online library.

While it is undoubtedly overwhelming to think of massive information deposits like Wikipedia, that grows, is edited, erased and changed continually, it can also be a delightful experience for our senses. Listen to Wikipedia, by Mahmoud Hashemi and Stephen LaPorte, transforms the world’s editing process into a relaxed global orchestra. A celesta plays when something is added, a clavichord when something is erased —the higher the tone, the simpler the editing.

“Listen to Wikipedia was designed to be simple,” explains Mahmoud Hashemi, “a visualization which doesn’t overshadow the sonification aspect and a sonification which scales well between different levels of traffic. A wind chime that sounds as good on a calm day as it does a windy one.”

Like wind bells, the tones sound in a pentatonic scale that allows for any random order to have a pleasant sound. The visualisation uses colour codes to show how Wikipedia works. Registered users are the green points, those that are not registered are white and robots are purple. We can also see the titles of the articles users are editing in real time, which is an attractive addition to Wikipedia, this incredible information phenomenon.

Often, the best tool we have at hand is our hearing. With it we can learn how this platform works, and who are contributing the most to the website. Perhaps Wikipedia is not just the most participative orchestra in the world, it is also one that never stops playing.

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