The ImageWiki Project


Our civilization is on the verge of a technological breakthrough that will allow for image based search. Soon you’ll be able to take a picture with your camera phone, send it to a computer and then have it tell you more about that thing you photographed. My talk stems from reflections and concerns about the implications of this critical juncture of technology.

We live in an image saturated world. Images straddle barriers of language and culture. Corporations work hard to create a brand association between certain images and their products. Photographers and artists often go out of their way to protect an ownership over their images. Certain images have a strong cultural value for one community and a totally different value for another community. Some images are taboo and other images are enshrined. Computers are going to start to allow our thoughts about images to begin to leak across normally disconnected boundaries.

Search providers great and small are gearing up rapidly to service this emerging potential for visual search as a new market. But who gets to dictate what information is returned on a visual search of a Coke can? How about a visual search of a childs’ drawing of a Coke can? How do we crowd-source trustworthy statements about the things we see? What are the Patent issues of various image recognition approaches such as SIFT? What are the implications for Trademark owners? How about for stock photographers and flickr enthusiasts? Will there need to be a Creative Commons license to cover this? If we think of images as a new kind of hyperlink then does visual search then become a valid “resolving opportunity” like DNS? Copyright has not even begun to touch this space.

Some of these questions are rhetorical but we believe that these issues and more are pushing us towards a need to define an Image Commons.

In 5 brief minutes I hope to present on these issues and also introduce the ImageWiki project. This will not be a pitch insofar as that project is open source, but rather a call to arms encouraging everyone to see and claim this space. My hope out of this work is praxis; to have a clear statement made not just in words but in code.

Anselm Hook


Anselm Hook is a Hacker, Dad, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and former Games Developer. He was born in Paris, France in 1967 but grew up mostly in Alberta and Saskatchewan. His father followed the Oil Boom west and started The Computer Shop of Calgary in 1976. Anselm has traveled, spelunked and hiked in places including Canada, the US, the UK, Iceland, Europe, Mexico, South America, New Zealand, Hawaii, Japan and India. Today Anselm is the CTO of Meedan a real-time English/Arabic translation project funded by IBM and MacArthur.

Anselm is passionate about Social Cartography. He is focused on creating tools to help people understand and appreciate the world around them. He helped launch Ning and led the engineering of Platial. Currently he is the co-chair of WhereCamp, volunteered a tiny bit on Calagator, as well as co-founding the MakerLab, a project incubator based in Portland, Oregon.

Within the Makerlab, the current project he is working on is the ImageWiki. With an ImageWiki a person can point their phone at an image of anything and have it find similar images and comments that other people have submitted on that image. One can take a picture of a favorite bar, or of a beer label or of a music album and see what people think about that thing, or even see if friends nearby have commented on the same thing.