When people learn new facts, they should know where those facts come from. Imagine reading a book with no obvious author or publisher, or watching a film with no opening or closing credits. These details are there so that everyone has the ability to discern and understand how a work came to be. Indeed, when people are able to identify where their information comes from, they can better evaluate whether that information should be trusted. It also helps shape their views about where the information comes from, what values that source of information stands for, and what influence it has in the world.
Yet more and more, people are learning information sourced from Wikimedia projects and they don’t even know it. Voice activated devices, user-generated videos, podcasts and other sound-based media often do not inform their users when they are sharing information sourced from Wikimedia. One recent study found that Wikipedia content was used to answer between 81 and 84% of common desktop knowledge queries through Google’s search engine, and those rates were similar for searches on Bing and DuckDuckGo https://nickmvincent.com/static/wikiserp_cscw.pdf. There is already some evidence that in the absence of identification of Wikimedia content, users often assume that knowledge from Wikimedia actually comes from the search platform itself, particularly Google https://www.scholars.northwestern.edu/en/publications/the-substantial-interdependence-of-wikipedia-and-google-a-case-st. Wikimedia content should be both easily recognized and valued when content is used in these newer spaces and formats.
One way to help users who find information from Wikimedia on other platforms recognize where it comes from is through the use of logos. By definition, a logo is “…a graphic mark, emblem, or symbol used to aid and promote public identification and recognition.” Logos do not provide formal attribution, especially because Wikimedia projects are not an original source, but they do help people understand the connection between Wikimedia and our content.
Wikimedia already uses known graphic logos like the Wikipedia puzzle globe logo, which has evolved its design and license over time and is visible on every desktop Wikipedia page. These logos are intended to communicate what Wikipedia is all about – a never ending work-in-progress, trustworthiness, neutrality, freedom from cost and advertising, openness, and multilingualism, among other concepts. They also change and adapt over time as we build new logos and update old ones.
While existing graphic logos could be used in videos, graphic logos don’t work with audio podcasts or voice activated devices because they are sound based. Sound logos are the audio equivalent of graphic logos (examples: Intel, TED, American Public Television). The Wikimedia Foundation is currently exploring how to create a sound logo in partnership with the Wikimedia movement that will represent all Wikimedia content.
Designing the sound logo will be new and unique because of the psychoacoustic considerations to be made. Sounds can elicit strong emotional feelings, in ways that images or text sometimes can’t. For example, seeing a photo of a tiger may elicit a very different feeling (and corresponding psychological associations) than hearing that tiger roar.
Once we have a sound logo, we can explore partnerships with outfits who reshare and reuse Wikimedia content in audio form to encourage them to use it in a variety of ways. Additionally, a sound logo may help strengthen Wikimedia’s identity and what information we communicate about ourselves on our own platforms and channels. Today, 30% of all searches globally are being done using devices without a screen. We don’t yet have all the answers about what a sound logo could achieve and all the ways that it could be used, but are confident that trends in knowledge consumption mean that it will be both useful and strategic.
The sound logo project is designed to move thoughtfully. The project team has been reaching out to global Wikimedia communities since October 2021 to sharpen our concept and discuss ideas around a sound logo in public. Since the beginning of February 2022, the team has started thinking through how to create a sound logo in an open and participatory way, building off of what has been done in the past with other Wikimedia logos while adapting for the context of sound and broader use cases outside of our own platforms. We will share these ideas for community input before putting a plan into place.