Lenna is commonly used as an example placeholder image. I also recently used it in an answer on the site. However, as the user Lightness Races in Orbit pointed out, since Lenna is actually a Playboy centerfold image some people might find the usage of the image offensive, or unwelcoming to women (I don't see why women should be more offended by this than men, but let's keep that aside for now).

I tend to agree, and indeed, I changed the picture to a somewhat less offensive picture of Jeb Bush. However, it made me think, that we might want, as a community, to discourage the usage of Lenna, and even maybe add a functionality to the site (or to all SE sites, for that matter) that notifies users who use ExampleData[{"TestImage", "Lena"}] that this is discouraged, and suggest an alternative text image, for example, this one:

enter image description here

Any thoughts or suggestions will be welcome.

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    Two opinion pieces. P.S. Lenna will attend ICIP 2015. – J. M. is computer-less Jul 7 '15 at 13:30
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    Now if we only got Mr. Wolfram to pose with a feather boa to get different texture scales... – Niki Estner Jul 7 '15 at 14:25
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    "I don't see why women should be more offended by this than men" I didn't say they would be "offended". I said it is unwelcoming. It puts women off the sciences when the majority men pump objectification in their faces. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 7 '15 at 14:27
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    I agree that the use of the Lena image belongs in an image processing museum. I don't see it as a matter of offensiveness so much as a matter of reinforcing the atmosphere of gender bias that discourages women from participating in computer science. I don't think it's possible (or desirable) to have an automatic filter for usage of the Lena image, but it's useful for the community to come to a consensus that replacing it with a different image would be a good thing. – Rahul Jul 7 '15 at 14:30
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    @nikie, I hate you for giving me that mental image… :P – J. M. is computer-less Jul 7 '15 at 15:22
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    I wouldn't distinguish between terms like displeasing, unwelcoming, distasteful, discouraging, insulting, etc. and offensive. Offensiveness has a wide qualitative range from mild to strong that can comprise all of these terms. When I first saw the image -- in the docs, no less -- , and did not know its provenance and history, I found it offensive on two grounds. First, what do you expect from a field dominated by boys, and second, aesthetically, "OMG, it's just-so-70s and that color -- yuck!" The image doesn't seem particularly sexy, but being slow, I didn't know it was from a nude. – Michael E2 Jul 7 '15 at 15:29
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    I think this is much ado about nothing. – m_goldberg Jul 8 '15 at 0:08
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    @m_goldberg could you post an answer, I'd love to upvote it. – Kuba Jul 8 '15 at 7:34
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    We receive visitors from all kind of places around the world coming from different cultures and beliefs. As one of them, I don't want anyone to stop posting insulting and impious physics formulae but I will perceive as a due courtesy to my religious sensitivity to add a note indicating that those are mere speculations already proved false by Giordano Bruno's spontaneous combustion more than 400 years ago. Not much effort from the posters, I guess. – Dr. belisarius Jul 9 '15 at 5:31
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit Am I right that your only substantially important contribution to this site is the rant about the Lena image? Really? And this in the light, that you have an avatar image of an Enterprise actress which can be found half naked all around the net? I'm pretty sure you chose your avatar for very same reason why scientists chose Lena back then: Because it's beautiful. – halirutan Jul 9 '15 at 11:00
  • @halirutan: Erm, just because the individual in my avatar can be found "half-naked" if you look hard enough, doesn't mean I'm actually using one of those images. My avatar is tasteful and fully dressed. Your comparison is absurd. As for contributions, just because I have not written content on this particular subsite, if you look at my network profile you will see that my contributions to Stack Exchange in general are far greater than yours. And, guess what? This site is part of Stack Exchange!! As if contribution level matters in this conversation to any degree whatsoever anyway...? – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 9 '15 at 11:12
  • @m_goldberg: The entire point is that while it may not matter to you, it may matter to other people. What is the problem with taking into account what matters to other people in the choices you make and the things you do? It's just basic common courtesy in my part of the world. Sorry to see so many here not understanding that. Though, honestly, I'm not all that surprised. This is, after all, a deep-rooted cultural problem across the sciences (which is rather the point). Guess I was just hoping for better from this particular establishment. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 9 '15 at 11:14
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit I was speaking about your contribution to this site, not the network and yes, I have seen your network profile. That's what prevented me to call you a troll. Considering other cultures, your avatar is the opposite of fully dressed! So all your arguments are true for your avatar too. I always found the Lena image a bit old style, but guess what, I was working several years in image processing before I realized that it was actually a cropped version from a playboy image. – halirutan Jul 9 '15 at 11:20
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    @belisarius Re: edit reason "Changed size of SW image to endure it better" LOL – Mr.Wizard Jul 17 '15 at 9:10
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    The fact that this question has –5 votes (at least it did until I upvoted it) proves the question is important and that our community has deep issues – JeffThompson Nov 6 at 9:09
up vote 8 down vote accepted

First of all, I see @Lightness Races in Orbit's point. (If you don't, imagine you're the only male person in e.g. a painting class, so you feel somewhat isolated and awkward anyway, when you find out what you'll be painting is a nude shot of Burt Reynolds. Wearing a feather boa ;-) You probably wouldn't complain, but you might not feel more welcome, either.)

Second, this isn't about liberty of speech. Suggesting one (or a small set of) sample images makes answers more comparable. That's the point why there are standard test images like "Lena" in the first place.

On the other hand, from a purely technical standpoint, "Lena" is a great test image (or it would have been replaced long ago). It contains a face (humans can detect small errors in images of faces much more easily than e.g. artifacts, animals or aerial images), both sharp and blurry edges, straight edges, round edges and corners, non-uniform background... If you want to test e.g. a sharpening, denoising, inpainting, resizing or compression algorithm, those are all things you want in a test image.

So in a nutshell: I don't mind replacing Lena, I just think it's difficult to find a good replacement.

To make this rant constructive, my suggested alternative would be the "Barbara" test image:

enter image description here

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    Unless I've missed the sarcasm, I don't agree with your parallel. I wouldn't mind painting nude shot of Mr. Reynolds when the shot consists of only his head. p.s. I don't care about which picture I will use too. – Kuba Jul 8 '15 at 7:33
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    ps2 strange that noone feels offended or unwelcomed by the airplane designed to kill people eventually. :) – Kuba Jul 8 '15 at 7:36
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    @Kuba, don't you know violence is more tolerated than suggestive pictures in this current setup? ;) Why else would words associated with copulation and excretion be "dirty", while words like "kill", "maim", and "destroy" aren't? (per George Carlin) – J. M. is computer-less Jul 8 '15 at 11:18
  • @J. M. this conversation won't take me anywhere near good mood so lets cut it here :) – Kuba Jul 8 '15 at 11:33
  • @Kuba, I know; sorry. Just stating what's in front of us. :) – J. M. is computer-less Jul 8 '15 at 11:59
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    Doesn't it make a difference that "Barbara" is not looking at the camera (with respect to detecting errors in faces)? – Michael E2 Jul 9 '15 at 4:50
  • @MichaelE2: It might well make a difference, but whether that's better or worse will depend on the problem. – Niki Estner Jul 9 '15 at 6:32
  • @J. M.: A test image depicting somebody being maimed would also be unacceptable. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 9 '15 at 11:13
  • @Light, my point was to take Kuba's comment to a conclusion people smarter than me (e.g. Carlin) have previously drawn. Personally, I don't care for the fighter jet, but I also know that I do not have the right to not be offended. – J. M. is computer-less Jul 9 '15 at 16:04
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    FWIW: I certainly will take down naked pictures if (hopefully not) they are ever posted here, but don't expect any action from me regarding flags about Ms. Soderberg. – J. M. is computer-less Jul 9 '15 at 16:06
  • @Guesswhoitis.: Of course you do. You don't have the right to take your offence and impose it on the choices of others, though. But that doesn't mean those others don't have at least some responsibility to be nice citizens and consider how their actions make other people feel. None of this is about "rights" so I don't know why everybody keeps bringing them up. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 9 '15 at 16:07
  • FWIW: I didn't flag anything. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jul 9 '15 at 16:07

Seeking the original for context I conclude:

  1. It seems to me a fairly tasteful photograph. There is similar nudity in many pieces of classical artwork that ostensibly have broad appeal. Not only is the cropped headshot only that but it does not allude to anything that a "reasonable observer" would find despicable, in my opinion.

  2. ExampleData[{"TestImage", "Lena"}] exhibits low image quality compared to available sources.

For those who agree with (1) and wish to remedy (2) here is a copy of better quality.

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    I couldn't imagine any other kind of answer from someone who uses a mating dance avatar :) – Dr. belisarius Jul 13 '15 at 22:47
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    @belisarius Hah! I didn't think of my avatar that way. Perhaps my perspective is distorted but I don't see the cropped image as sexual in nature; I simply cannot imagine that we would be having this discussion if this were the chosen test image for example. – Mr.Wizard Jul 13 '15 at 23:01
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    Now seriously. I believe that this site should be kept warm and cozy for incubating professional, scientific and open-minded, respectful and grown-up users and relationships. I won't frown up to anybody saluting me with an "inshallah" or a "shalom" and I won't cry if somebody uses a sacred Buddha image for replacing Lena. There is a blurry line where humor and open-mindness may result uncomfortable for a subset of our users and in those cases we should remind that bigotry and censorship were the forces behind human disgrace and never bad taste. Unless you happened to live in Sodoma, of course. – Dr. belisarius Jul 13 '15 at 23:35
  • Now, that was a sexist joke. Lynch me. – Dr. belisarius Jul 13 '15 at 23:37

If a professor makes a sexist joke, a female student might well find it so disturbing that she is unable to listen to the rest of the lecture [2]. Suggestive pictures used in lectures on image processing are similarly distracting to the women listeners and convey the message that the lecturer caters to the males only. For example, it is amazing that the "Lena" pin-up image is still used as an example in courses and published as a test image in journals today.

— Dianne P. O'Leary, "Accessibility of Computer Science: A Reflection for Faculty Members" (emphasis mine).

Programming as a field already has a reputation of gender bias and non-inclusiveness. Of course you are still free to choose whatever test images you like, but you should consider whether the technical qualities of the image you choose are worth the side effect of making this site feel slightly more like a boys' club.

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    The citation is in itself sexist: it assumes a professor is a male. – anderstood Jun 15 '16 at 17:58

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