Panel: Build the Crowdsourcing Community of Your Dreams, SXSW

Having successfully passed the SXSW ‘panel picker’ process, I went to SXSW Interactive 2016 to discuss ‘building the crowdsourcing community of your dreams’ with Ben Brumfield, Meghan Ferriter and Siobhan Leachman (aka @benwbrum, @meghaninmotion and @SiobhanLeachman). We were in the ‘Art, Science, & Inspiration’ track, and while it may have been luck with timing or our title, the venue was standing room only for a while.

Our slides are online, and we put together a list of further resources to tweet during the panel at

Siobhan storified our session and also posted her talk notes. She’s such a passionate volunteer, and you couldn’t get a better account of ‘How cultural institutions encouraged me to participate in crowdsourcing & the factors I consider before donating my time‘.

Panel photo
SXSW crowdsourcing panel photo by Effie Kapsalis @digitaleffie


If you’re interested in our panel, you might also be interested in the later ‘SXSW 2016 – Give It Away to Get Rich: Open Cultural Heritage‘.

Everything SXSW - lamp posts protected from extreme flyering, pedicabs, sunshine and a lounge
Everything SXSW – lamp posts protected from extreme flyering, pedicabs, sunshine and a lounge

Talk: St. Edwards University, Austin

View of downtown Austin
The view of downtown Austin from St Edwards

As part of my trip to Texas for SXSW, I was invited to present on ‘Crowdsourcing, learning and citizen scholarship’ at St Edwards University on March 10, 2016.

Having given an online seminar for Rebecca Frost Davis in a previous role, it was a pleasure to meet her at last, and hear about her work as Director of Instructional and Emerging Technology.

My talk discussed how crowdsourcing projects might offer an opportunity for students to contribute to both cultural heritage and citizen science projects.

Talk: Crowdsourcing in Cultural Heritage, iSchool, UT Austin

As part of my trip to Texas for SXSW, I was invited to present on ‘Crowdsourcing in Cultural Heritage’ at a colloquium at a School of Information Research Event at UT Austin on March 8, 2016.

My thanks to the organisers for their excellent hospitality, and to the attendees for their thoughtful and probing questions!

My abstract: Why and how are museums, libraries, archives and academic projects creating crowdsourcing projects to help digitize collections or enhance their knowledge about them? Based on a review of hundreds of heritage crowdsourcing projects, this talk will highlight examples of successful projects, discuss why members of the public volunteer their time, and consider the different outcomes possible.

Austin's Capitol building
Austin’s Capitol building

Workshop: Crowdsourcing and Cultural Heritage, Rice University

As part of my trip to Texas for SXSW, I was invited to give a workshop on ‘Crowdsourcing and Cultural Heritage’ in the Fondren Library at Rice University’s Humanities Research Center Sawyer Seminar series on March 7, 2016. My slides are below. My visit was a great chance to find out more about the teaching and projects at the Research Center, and my thanks go to the organisers for their excellent hospitality.

Abstract: This workshop will provide an overview of crowdsourcing in cultural heritage and consider the ethics and motivations for participation. International case studies will be discussed to provide real life illustrations of design tips and to inspire creative thinking.

Photo of campus gate
Rice University

Exercises for CHASE’s Introduction to Information Visualisation

These exercises were prepared for the CHASE Arts and Humanities in the Digital Age event’s workshop on Information Visualisation but they’re also useful for people who want to learn more about data visualisations in cultural heritage and the humanities.

Exercise 1: compare simple text tools

Time: c. 5 minutes.

Goal: compare the ability of two different tools to help you understand a new text corpus

1.     Load the word cloud site

2.     Then, grab some text:

  • Open another browser tab
  • Go to
  • Select and copy the 8 lines of text. The easiest way is to click into the box under ‘RAW Paste Data’
  • Paste them into the text box on the Wordle site and hit ‘go’
  • You can customise your visualisation using the menu. Which options create a more informative visualisation?

3.     Load the word tree site

  • Go to
  • Paste the text into the ‘Paste Text’ box and hit ‘Generate WordTree!’ (Grab the text again from Step 2 if necessary)
  • You can click on words on the screen – which words produce the most options?

4.     Discuss

Bearing in mind that this is an unusual corpus, which tool gave you a better sense of its content? Why?

Are these tools better for exploring or explaining data? Why?

If tidying up the data provided – removing punctuation, making spelling consistent, etc – would improve the visualisation, then try editing the text and re-running the visualisation. Did it help? What else could you do?

Exercise 2: exploring scholarly data visualisations

Time: c. 10-15 minutes.

Goal: get hands-on experience and practice critical analysis.

Pair up with your neighbour to explore and discuss one of the visualisations listed on the following page.


  1. In your browser, go to one of the sites below
  2. Take a few minutes to explore the visualisation
  3. Then discuss with your neighbour:
    • What do you think is being presented here?
    • Can you easily see where to start and how to use it?
    • What stories or trends can you start to see?
    • Does it work better at one scale over another?
    • Do you find it more effective at aggregate or detail level?
    • Does it present an argument or provide a space for you to explore and develop one?
    • What arguments (statements about the data) does the site present?
    • What have you learned from visualisation that you might not have learned from looking at the data or reading a description of it?
  4. Be prepared to report back to the group. e.g. summarise the site’s purpose, visualisation formats and data types, or share unresolved questions or the most interesting parts of your discussion

University of Richmond, ‘Visualizing Emancipation’

Further information:

Stanford ‘Mapping the Republic of Letters’

Further information:,

Locating London’s Past

GAPVis Ancient Places

Further information:

Digital Harlem :: Everyday Life 1915-1930

Further information:

Digital Public Library of America’s timeline, map, bookshelf

Further information: and


Further information:

Lost Change

Further information:

The State of the Union in Context

Further exercises

Learn more: explore and analyse more visualisations

Sketch out ideas for a visualisation

  • Work out what data you need and the best way to prepare and present it. has some lovely examples of creative sketches.

Create your own visualisations

These sites can be used with your own or public data:

If you have sensitive data you must check whether any data you load will be made public.

Talk: Designing Successful Heritage Crowdsourcing Projects, Berlin

I was invited to Berlin to give a public lecture on ‘Designing Heritage Crowdsourcing Projects’ at the Friedrich-Meinecke-Institute of the Free University of Berlin on 7 December 2015.

Abstract: Based on a review of the most successful international crowdsourcing projects, this talk will look at the attributes of successful crowdsourcing projects in cultural heritage, including interface and interaction design, participation in community discussion, and understanding participant motivations.

Report: Wellcome Library Transcribing Recipes crowdsourcing project

A report that Ben Brumfield and I wrote for Wellcome Library about possible solutions for a culinary and medical recipes crowdsourced transcription project. It was finalised in September, and in the way of things marks a particular moment in time as well as a specific context. The report is available at
Christy Henshaw, who commissioned the report, has kindly made it available online for reference by other organisations. Her blurb is below:
The Wellcome Library, in considering a project to digitise and transcribe recipe manuscripts using crowdsourcing technologies, commissioned this report from Ben Brumfield and Mia Ridge in Summer 2015. The report addresses issues specific to this project, and to the Wellcome Library’s digital infrastructure.


Talk and workshop: Crowdsourcing in the Cultural Sector: approaches, challenges and issues, Glasgow

Slides for the Crowd-sourcing, Co-creation and Co-curation in the Cultural Sector workshop by the Scottish Network on Digital Cultural Resources Evaluation

[slideshare id=55672365&doc=glasgowcrowdsourcingtalk-151130222216-lva1-app6892]

I was also invited to run a workshop on the basics of crowdsourcing in cultural heritage for a Knowledge Exchange Event, jointly organised by the Scottish Network on Digital Cultural Resources Evaluation and the Museums Galleries Scotland Digital Transformation Network. Aimed at cultural heritage professionals, it was a hands-on exploration and exchange of different approaches to crowd-sourcing and co-creation.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the discussion at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum!

Talk: Crowdsourcing, scholarship and the academy

I was invited to give a talk on ‘Crowdsourcing, scholarship and the academy‘ for the School of Advanced Study, University of London ‘Social Scholar’ seminar series in October 2015.

[slideshare id=54515792&doc=201510miasascrowdsourcing-151029095108-lva1-app6891]

Talk: Choosy crowds and the machine age: challenges for the future of humanities crowdsourcing, KCL

I gave a presentation on ‘Choosy crowds and the machine age: challenges for the future of humanities crowdsourcing’ at Kings College London for Citizen Humanities Comes of Age: Crowdsourcing for the Humanities in the 21st Century (9th – 10th). This lead to a co-authored publication, Citizen Humanities Comes of Age: Crowdsourcing for the Humanities in the 21st Century Event Summary.

Some of the points I raised are discussed in ‘How an ecosystem of machine learning and crowdsourcing could help you‘ and ‘Helping us fly? Machine learning and crowdsourcing‘.

[slideshare id=52623443&doc=futureofcrowdsourcingmridge-150910101922-lva1-app6891]