Better images of AI can support AI literacy for more people

Marika Jonsson's book cover; a simple yellow cover with the title (in Swedish): "En bok om AI"

Marika Jonsson, doctoral student at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, reflects on overcoming the challenge of developing an Easy Read book on artificial intelligence (AI) with so few informative images about AI available.

There are many things that I take for granted. One of them is that I should be able to easily find information about things I want to know more about. Like artificial intelligence (AI). I find AI exciting, interesting; and I see the possibilities of AI helping me in everyday life. And thanks to the fact that I have been able to read about AI, I have also realised that AI can be used for bad things; that AI creates risks and can promote inequality in society.  Most of us use or are exposed to AI daily, sometimes without being aware of it.

Between May 2020 and June 2023, I participated in a project called AllAgeHub in Sweden, where one of the aims was to spread knowledge about how to use welfare technology to empower people in their everyday lives. The project included a course on AI for the participants, who worked in the public healthcare and social care sectors. The participants then wanted to spread knowledge about AI to clients in their respective sectors. The clients could be, for example, people working in adapted workplaces or living in supported housing. There was a demand for information in Easy Read format. Easy Read format is when you write in easy-to-read language, with common words, short sentences and in simple chronological order. The text should be spaced out and have short lines, and the texts are often supported by images. Easy Read is both about how you write and about how you present what is written. The only problem was that I found almost no Easy Read information about AI in Swedish. My view is that the lack of Easy Read information about AI is a serious matter.

A basic principle behind democracy is that all people are equal and should have the same rights. Therefore, I believe we must have access to information in an understandable way. How else can you express your opinion, vote or consent to something in an informed way? That was the reason I decided to write an Easy Read book about AI. My ambition was to write concretely and support the text with pictures. Then I stumbled on the huge problem of finding informative pictures about AI. The images I found were often abstract or inaccurate. The images could also be depicting AI as robots and conveyed the impression that AI is a creature that can take over the earth and destroy humanity. With images like that, it was hard to explain that, for example, personalised ads, which can entice me to buy things I don’t really need, are based on AI technology. Many people don’t know that we are exposed to AI that affects us in everyday life through cookie choices on the internet. The aforementioned images might also make people afraid of using practical AI tools that can make everyday life easier, such as natural language processing (NLP) tools that convert speech to text or reads text aloud. So, I had to create my own pictures.

I must confess, it was difficult to create clear images that explain AI. I chose to create images that show situations where AI is used, and tried to visualise how certain kinds of AI might operate. One example is that I visualised why a chatbot might give the wrong answer by showing how a word can mean two different things with a picture of each word’s meaning. The two different meanings give the AI tool two possible interpretations about what issue is at hand. The images are by no means perfect, but they are an attempt at explaining some aspects of AI.

Two images with Swedish text explaining the images. 1. A box of raspberries. 2. symbol of person carriying a bag. The Swedish word ”bär” is present in both explanations.
The word for carry and berry is the same in Swedish. The text says: “The word berry can mean two things. Berries that you eat. A person carrying a bag.”

The work of creating concrete, comprehensible images that support our understanding of AI can strengthen democracy by giving more people the opportunity to understand information about the tools they use in their day-to-day lives. I hope more people will be inspired to write about AI in Easy Read, and create and share clear and descriptive images of AI.

As they say,  ”a picture is worth a thousand words,” so we need to choose images that tell the same story as the words we use. At the time I write this blog post, I feel there are very few images to choose from. I am hopeful we can change this, together!

The Easy Read book about AI includes a study guide. It is in Swedish, and is available for free as a pdf on AllAgeHub’s website:

Three new Better Images of AI research workshops announced

LCFI Research Project l FINAL WORKSHOPS ANNOUNCED! Calling all journalists, AI practitioners, communicators and creatives! (Event poster in Better Images of AI blue and purple colours, with logos)

Three new workshops have been announced in September and October by the Better Images of AI project team. We will once again bring a range of AI practitioners and communicators together with artists and designers working in different creative fields,  to explore in small groups how to represent artificial intelligence technologies and impacts in more helpful ways.

Following a first insightful initial workshop in July, we’re inviting anyone in relevant fields to apply to join the remaining workshops,- taking place both online and in person. We are particularly interested in hearing from journalists who write about AI. However if you are interested in critiquing and exploring new images in an attempt to find more inclusive, varied and realistic visual representations of AI, we would like to hear from you!

Our next workshops will be held on:

  • Monday 12 September, 3.30 – 5.30pm UTC+1 – ONLINE
  • Wednesday 28 September, 3 – 5pm UTC+1 – ONLINE
  • Thursday 6 October, 2:30 – 4:30pm UTC+1 – IN PERSON – The Alan Turing Institute, British Library 96 Euston Road London NW1 2DB

If you would like to attend or know anyone in these fields, email, specifying which date. Please include some information about your current field and ideally a link to an online profile or portfolio.

The workshops will look at approaches to meet the criteria of being a ‘better image of AI’, identified by stakeholders at earlier roundtable sessions. 

The discussions in all four workshops will inform an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded research project undertaken by the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, the University of Cambridge and organised by We and AI. 

Our first workshop was held on 25 July, and brought together over 20 individuals from creative arts, communications, technology and academia to discuss sets of curated and created images of AI and to explore the next steps in meeting the needs identified in providing better images of AI moving forward. 

The four workshops follow a series of roundtable discussions, which set out to examine and identify user requirements for helpfully communicating visual narratives, metaphors, information and stories related to AI. 

The first workshop was incredibly rich in terms of generating creative ideas and giving feedback on gaps in current imagery. Not only has it surfaced lots of new concepts for the wider Better Images of AI to work on, but the series of workshops will also form part of a research paper to be published in January 2023. This process is really critical to ensuring that our mission to communicate AI in more inclusive, realistic and transparent ways is informed by a variety of stakeholders and underpinned by good evidence.

Dagmar Monett, Head of the Computer Science Department at Berlin School of Economics and Law and one of the July workshop attendees, said: “”Better Images of AI also means better AI: coming forward in AI as a field also means creating and using narratives that don’t distort its goals nor obscure what is possible from its actual capacities. Better Images of AI is an excellent example of how to do it the right way.”

The academic research project is being led by Dr Kanta Dihal, who has published many related books, journal articles and papers related to emerging technology narratives and public perceptions.

The workshops will ultimately contribute to research-informed design brief guidance, which will then be made freely available to anyone commissioning or selecting images to accompany communications – such as news articles, press releases, web communications, and research papers related to AI technologies and their impacts. 

They will also be used to identify and commission new stock images for the Better Images of AI free library.

To register interest: Email our team at, letting us know which date you’d like to attend and giving us some information about your current field as well as a link to your LinkedIn profile or similar.