What's next for Crowdsourcing?

In July I had the pleasure of attending the expert workshop "What's next for Crowdsourcing?" at the Digital Humanities Conference 2016 in Krakow. Several topics relevant for all involved in crowdsourcing were covered in the full-day workshop.

As part of the Digital Humanities Conference in Krakow, Poland - #DH2016 a number of workshops took place, one of them was the expert workshop "Beyond The Basics: What Next For Crowdsourcing?" on the 12th July arranged by Mia Ridge (British Library), Christy Henshaw (Wellcome Library), Ben Brumfield (FromThePage) and Meghan Ferriter (Smithsonian Transcription Centre). 

Crowdsourcing is reasonably well established in the humanities and cultural heritage sector, e.g. through projects like Transcribe BenthamOld Weather and the Smithsonian Transcription Center. The workshop aimed to gather international experts and senior project staff to document the lessons to be learnt from projects to date and to discuss issues we expect to be important in the future.

By invitation around 30 participants took part in the unconference style workshop. The workshop included a brief round of introductions, a shared agenda-setting exercise, discussion sessions, and a final session for closing remarks. 

We started by mapping out and deciding on the topic that would structure the sessions for the rest of the day. The main topics covered was: 

  • "Where to start"
  • Ethics, Labour, sensitive material
  • Workflow, lifecycle, platforms
  • Education, what’s unique to humanities crowdsourcing
  • Options, schemas and goals for text encoding
  • UX, flow, motivation
  • Finding and engaging volunteers
  • Ecosystems and automatic transcription

In crowdsourcing spirit all material was documented live and open for all, and can be found here.

As the name "Digital Humanities" rightly states, the conference and the workshop were targeted particularly towards the humanities. However, I think that several of the issues covered are relevant for all engaged in crowdsourcing. 

Something we discussed related to humanities is the need to further explore crowdsourcing to go beyond fact-finding and observation mapping. Whereas crowdsourcing within (natural) sciences typically has had participants help in mapping observations, e.g. counting species, with accuracy being a goal, humanities want to capture also complexity. The humanities are contestable. There might not be just "one correct answer", multiple relationships can be recorded, not just one. This is also relevant in the context of the iResponse-project; environmental challenges and urban sustainability, which is at the core of the iResponse, are complex processes. So, there could be lots to learn here from looking into ways of crowdsourcing that's being explored and applied within the humanities.

The material from the workshop can help future projects benefit from the collective experiences of the participants. Further outcomes from the workshop might in the future include a whitepaper and/or the further development of a peer network for humanities crowdsourcing.

Thanks for the opportunity to attend the workshop. Looking forwards to continued discussions. 


About the Author: Line Barkved is one of the co-principal investigators of iResponse and leads WP2 on "Dialogue, Social Participation and Learning". She is a research scientist at NIVA working on water management, technology, and governance. She's interested in collaborative design and innovation. Twitter: @linebarkved