(From Stuart Dunn, King’s College London)
The increasingly networked nature of the academic world is raising important questions about how the humanities can interact with wider communities outside the academy. ‘Crowd-sourcing’ is a term that has come to encompass a range of activities involving such interaction.
It has been used in the past by physical scientists, principally to process very large datasets. It also relates – in different ways – to humanities data, including, but not limited to, transcribing, classifying, proofreading, tagging and commenting.
More recently, some humanities researchers have begun to experiment with ways of crowd-sourcing interpretative and creative material. This is a complex and partially-understood area, and to investigate it, the Centre for e-Research in KCL’s Department of Digital Humanities has received funding from the AHRC’s Connected Communities programme to conduct a research review of crowd-sourcing in the humanities. We hope this will uncover a range of ways in which the academy-based humanities can collaborate with wider audiences. The project website can be found at http://humanitiescrowds.org/.
We are currently seeking to identify contributors to crowd-sourcing projects, and are conducting a survey. This asks some questions about contributors’ backgrounds, the nature of the crowd-sourcing work they undertake, and about their motivations for doing so. Please forward this link to anyone who may have relevant experience or knowledge to share.
We are also aware that research and other relevant information in an area such as this is often to be found outside traditional academic publications, in blogs, tweets, project sites etc. We would welcome the contribution of any such links to our Delicious stack so that they can be included in our review.
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Despite its ubiquity as a website, Wikipedia is still underused as a mechanism for exposing digitised content. In a recent survey from the Enumerate project only 3% of digitised collections expose their content via Wikipedia.
However, Wikipedia, or rather the suite of platforms under the Wikimedia Foundation, offers universities and cultural heritage institutions a complementary approach to broaden access to the collections and content that they have digitised.
Another way of increasing traffic to digital content is by involving subject experts in creating, editing or enriching Wikipedia pages within their own subject discipline, as organisations such as Cancer Research UK , The Geological Society and lately JISC have done with support from Wikimedia.
This not only improves the quality and reliability of the content hosted within Wikipedia but can help surface content from relevant digital collections.
This interesting blog post on how the University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library has engaged with Wikipedia and a network of contributors gives some idea of the benefits this can bring. A number of references to the John Rylands collections are now present in Wikipedia entries, including a whole entry focusing on one specific item, the Rylands Library Papyrus P52, “also known as the St John’s fragment (illustrated) which ranks as the earliest known fragment of the New Testament in any language”.
Recognising the value of such collaborations, the AHRC has funded a Wikipedian in Residence based at the British Library.
Over next few months, Andrew Gray will be working to help establish ties between the Wikimedia community and staff within institutions who are interested in contributing expert content to Wikipedia.
As part of the residency program, Andrew will be running a series of workshops around the country aiming to provide training and support to specialists who are interested in contributing to Wikipedia or other Wikimedia projects, or learning more about engaging and collaborating with the Wikimedia community.
So, if you’d like to know more about the programme and how expert Wikipedians could help you raise the profile of your digital collections, you should contact Andrew – andrew.gray AT bl.uk.
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“How many lifetimes?” was the recurrent question that the authors of the One Culture report kept on coming up against in their investigations of the work of the first round of projects that took part in the Digging into Data Challenge.
The projects were all founded on a high degree of international collaborations and set off to analyse and extrapolate patters of meaning from huge data sets, including tens of thousands of audio files, trail transcripts, spoken word, and hundreds of thousands of primary and secondary text sources.
The programme was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) with the support of partners such as JISC in the UK, the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) in Canada, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the US.
The report offers a number of “urgent, pointed, and even disruptive” recommendations that highlight how the digital research landscape is changing and how institutions and research activity should adapt to support these new emerging practices.
The top 5 recommendations are:
1 Expand our concept of research and what expertise is required for computationally intense research projects (eg domain (or subject), expertise, analytical expertise, data expertise, and project management expertise.)
2 Expand our concept of research data and accept the challenges that digital research data present, both in terms of how much data is used in research and how much is produced, and the need to look after it.
3. Embrace interdisciplinarity and work across academic communities and
traditionally bounded fields.
4. Take a more inclusive approach to collaboration and work outside own academic departments and institutions by involving library, information technology (IT), and other academic staff; graduate and postdoctoral fellows; undergraduates; and even citizen scholars.
5. Address major gaps in training for faculty, staff, and students through training programmes that correlate sound methodological strategies with appropriate new technologies.
JISC is also involved in phase 2 of the Digging into Data Challenge which has funded 14 projects, currently running.
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Just in case you hadn’t heard, seen or talked enough about the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, a recently launched JISC-funded website, Media and the memory in Wales, has collected people’s memories of seeing the coronation of Elizabeth II on television in 1953.
The coronation of Queen Elzabeth II in 1953 was one of the key events that inaugurated the age of mass television in Britain. It was the first large royal event to be televised. For many in Wales and elsewhere it was their first experience of seeing television at all. The coronation therefore played an important and formative role in defining the way television recorded national events.
The project, lead by Aberystwyth University, recorded oral histories of people from different part of Wales about what television meant for them, their families and their communities at a time when it was rapidly becoming the main medium for the consumption of popular culture and national and international news and current affairs.