Every picture tells a story. These days in the realm of social networks, click rates and the hunt for audience it’s more like every picture sells a story.
Imagery is vital to online content. The featured images that get scraped and then catch the eye as articles are tweeted and favorited. The decorative fly in the coarse fishing of the World Wide Web.
Imagery matters. Imagery shapes the agenda. And there’s a whole load of crap, clichéd stock imagery that time-pressed and underpaid online editors attach to their copy without really thinking.
Last week I had a minor viral success. Nothing like the infamous Four Tops incident of 2015, but nonetheless something out of the normal indifference my social networking usually generates. Underlying a bit of sarcasm was a serious point. Lazy use of stock imagery in the tech and mainstream press is creating a significant (and dangerous) misrepresentation of the progress of a number of technologies.
I have written in the past about how the human brain is prone to acts of anthropomorphism, assuming human traits to things that look a bit like us. That’s why I think it’s time to take a stand against the lazy use of humanoid robots to illustrate articles about everything from big data to AI to machine learning to robotic process automation.
These technologies are undoubtedly coming. They are undoubtedly going to change the nature of work and the types of career paths available in the future. But attaching images of Marvin or any of his better-looking modern fictional peers is not helping the debate about how that should be in the broader population. If anything, it’s hindering as the expectations of all-singing, all-dancing, all-knowing robot overlords are going to be seriously disappointed.