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What If All The Images Went Away

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Last week on Twitter and Facebook, I leveled criticisms at particular sites and railed against improper image use in science communication. Again.

After arguing with (arguably) allies in science communication I was fed up. Fed up with the attitude that unattributed images are just a (small) sacrifice for the net good of science communication to the populace at large. Fed up that photographers, cartoonists & illustrators are considered by many to be lesser professions than scientists & educators. Fed up that rapid image sharing (oh I’m sorry: “curation”) can trample so many creators and yet lead to fame and fortune.

I found myself saying once again, “can you imagine what science communication would be like without images?

And now I’m going to show that to you. Click on the images for maximum effect.

*      *      *

The 4 blogs I am showing below are all ones I consider to be excellent at science communication in all aspects: compelling reads coupled with effective, often astonishing images. These bloggers, in my opinion make every effort to attribute and use images correctly. They link back. They name sources, just as good science blogging should.


Deep Sea News

*      *      *

io9 – we come from the future

See io9′s post here

See io9′s post here

See io9′s post here

*      *      *

Not Exactly Rocket Science


*      *      *

Cocktail Party Physics

See Cocktail Party Physics’ post here

*       *      *

I wish that once a year, popular browsers like Chrome, Safari and Firefox could somehow block all images online as an awareness campaign.

Despite feeling discouraged last week about what it will take to see a phase-change in how image creators are treated online, I still believe there is hope. And thanks to those of you who encouraged myself and others who were wading into some ugly debates. Here are a few hopeful tweets I shared.


Many thanks to Annalee Newitz (io9), Dr. Craig McClain (Deep Sea News), Jennifer Ouellette (Cocktail Party Physics) and Ed Yong (Not Exactly Rocket Science) for letting me stripmine their blogs in order to make these non-images. Apologies to your bloggers, illustrators, photographers and designers.

Before anyone goes scurrying off to see if they have ever screwed up and forgotten an attribution, let me assure you that these bloggers would welcome the correction. I didn’t approach them because I am certain they are perfect: I approached them because they show respect to creators consistently.


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Glendon Mellow About the Author: Glendon Mellow is a fine artist, illustrator and tattoo designer working in oil and digital media based in Toronto, Canada. He tweets @FlyingTrilobite and is on Instagram. You can see Glendon's work-in-progress at The Flying Trilobite blog and portfolio at Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Glendon Mellow 12:01 pm 03/18/2014

    *Edited one sentence for clarity:
    “Fed up that photographers, cartoonists & illustrators are (obviously!) lesser professions than scientists & educators.”
    Changed for clarity. That was sarcasm. I don’t believe that this is necessarily true. AT ALL.

    Update: “Fed up that photographers, cartoonists & illustrators are considered by many to be lesser professions than scientists & educators.”

    Link to this
  2. 2. beatrice 12:14 pm 03/18/2014

    Love this post so much, Glendon!

    Link to this
  3. 3. Glendon Mellow 1:14 pm 03/18/2014

    Thank you beatrice!

    Link to this
  4. 4. Brimblecombe 6:01 pm 03/18/2014

    Glendon, Great post. You wrote ‘Fed up that rapid image sharing (oh I’m sorry: “curation”)…’ I get your fed upness! When ‘curation’ is used as a descriptor of image sharing etc and there is no or poor attribution for the images, then it is not curation. A curator in an art gallery or museum would never not attribute. If there is poor provenance then all attempts are made to record any helpful information, so that it is clear professional practice is adhered to. Any online ‘curated’ show would necessarily need to follow similar professional practice.


    Link to this
  5. 5. DrKrishnaKumariChalla 10:29 pm 03/18/2014

    science itself started with images ( of stars, animals in the environments people live in ). They are deeply associated with science and they will not go anywhere.

    Link to this
  6. 6. Jerzy v. 3.0. 5:18 am 03/19/2014

    You need to get on holiday. I spent few weeks recently in a place with poor and no internet access. After a few days you realize you don’t need images and not 99,9% of information coming from the internet.

    Link to this
  7. 7. KBCash 8:55 am 03/19/2014

    As an artist, I thank you.
    As a scientist, I thank you.
    As a journalist, I thank you.
    As a philosopher, I offer my favorite wall for you to bang your head against.

    Link to this
  8. 8. Glendon Mellow 11:19 am 03/19/2014

    Thank you #4 Kathryn! I know language often adapts and changes but the mangling of the word “curation” to mean rapid ripping off and sharing of other people’s images is my least favourite change.

    #5 DrKrishnaKumariChalla I fully agree they are not going anywhere: this post is about respecting images as more than decoration, and realizing images and their creators are essential.

    #6 Jerzy: That’s nice. I’m not on holiday right now, I’m working.

    #7 KBCash: Thank you for your support! I hope it’s a sturdy wall. :-D

    Link to this
  9. 9. Glendon Mellow 1:14 pm 03/25/2014

    The Facebook discussion.

    Link to this

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