Talk: Planning for big data (lessons from cultural heritage)

Slides for an hour-long talk on Planning for big data (lessons from cultural heritage) for the Association for Project Management’s Knowledge Management SIG event on ‘What does big data mean for project and knowledge managers?’

[slideshare id=69965021&doc=201612apmbigdatamridge-161208192853]

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.

Lecture: ‘A pilot with public participation in historical research: linking lived experiences of the First World War’, Trinity College Dublin

Trinity lecture poster
Trinity lecture poster

As part of my Visiting Research Fellowship at Trinity College Dublin’s Long Room Hub I gave a lecture on ‘A pilot with public participation in historical research: linking lived experiences of the First World War‘.

The abstract and podcast are below, and there’s further information about my CENDARI Fellowship here.

Abstract: The centenary of World War One and the digitisation of records from a range of museums, libraries and archives has inspired many members of the public to research the lives of WWI soldiers. But it is not always easy to find or interpret military records. What was it like to be in a particular battalion or regiment at a particular time. Can a ‘collaborative collection’ help provide context for individual soldiers’ experience of the war by linking personal diaries, letters and memoirs to places, people and events? What kinds of digital infrastructure are needed to support research on soldiers in the Great War? This lecture explores the potential for collaborating with members of the general public and academic or amateur historians to transcribe and link disparate online collections of World War One material. What are the challenges and opportunities for participatory digital history?

Thursday, 04 December 2014 | 13:00 | Trinity Long Room Hub

A lecture by Visiting Research Fellow at the Trinity Long Room Hub, Mia Ridge (The Open University). Mia is a Transnational Access fellow, funded by the CENDARI project (Collaborative European Digital Archive Infrastructure).

Keynote ‘Enriching cultural heritage collections through a Participatory Commons’ at Sharing is Caring

Photo of glider plane against blue sky
Image: Library of Congress

I was invited to Copenhagen to talk about my research on crowdsourcing in cultural heritage at the 3rd international Sharing is Caring seminar on April 1. I’ve posted my notes on Open Objects: Enriching cultural heritage collections through a Participatory Commons platform: a provocation about collaborating with users.

Much of this comes from my PhD research and my previous work in museums, and I’m grateful to everyone who’s commented in person or on twitter so far, particularly as it helps me understand the best ways to explain the Participatory Commons and the research underlying it for different audiences.

VALA 2014 Keynote: Open Objects: ‘Bringing maker culture to cultural organisations’

In February 2014 I was invited to Melbourne to give a keynote on ‘GLAM making’ at VALA2014 (VALA – Libraries, Technology and the Future). I’ve shared my slides and a storify of tweets from my session at Open Objects: ‘Bringing maker culture to cultural organisations’ at VALA 2014.

Seminar paper: ‘Messy understandings in code’

I was invited to present at Speaking in Code, an NEH-funded symposium and summit to ‘give voice to what is almost always tacitly expressed in our work: expert knowledge about the intellectual and interpretive dimensions of DH code-craft, and unspoken understandings about the relation of that work to ethics, scholarly method, and humanities theory’. I’ve been writing about this for a while, so this event was both personally and professional important.

From my opening slide:

‘There’s a fundamental tension between available tools and cultural heritage data: we’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Do you craft the tools to the data or the data to the tool?

So what do you do with square pegs and round holes? You can chop off the interesting edges to fit something into a round hole, you can reduce the size of the entire peg so it’ll slip through, or you can make a new bespoke hole that’ll fit your peg. But then how do we make the choices we’ve made obvious to people who encounter the data we’ve squeezed through various holes? It’s particularly important if people are using these collections in scholarly work to make the flattenings, exclusions that shape a dataset visible.

The choices you make will depend on your resources and skills, the audience for and the purpose of the final product… Will look at some examples of visualisations for exploring collections where I had to tidy the mess to make them work, and an example of designing software to cope with the messy reality it was trying to reflect.

I want to set the scene with my own experiences with cultural heritage data, but am curious to hear about your own experiences with messy data in your respective fields, and the solutions you’ve explored for dealing with it and conveying your decisions.’

Messy Understandings Speaking in Code (PDF)

Talk: ‘Digital challenges, digital opportunities’ at MCG Play

MCG Play logoAs Chair of the Museums Computer Group, it was a pleasure to attend the MCG’s Spring meeting, ‘Engaging Visitors Through Play‘, at the University of Ulster’s Centre for Media Research in Belfast on May 30.

I spoke on ‘Digital challenges, digital opportunities’, and my aim was to introduce the Museums Computer Group, discuss some of the challenges museums and their staff are facing and think about how to create opportunities from those challenges.  I’ve posted my notes at ‘Digital challenges, digital opportunities’ at MCGPlay, Belfast.

I blogged about the event at ‘Engaging Visitors Through Play’ – the Museums Computer Group in Belfast and my post was picked up and re-posted as a guest post, ‘Game on’, for the Museums Association blog.

Keynote: ‘A Brief History of Open Cultural Data’

I was invited to give a talk (which seemed to turn into a plenary then a keynote along the way) for the GLAM-Wiki 2013 conference. I thought it might be useful to put current discussions around opening cultural data for use on Wikipedia and other projects that require content to be licensed for re-use in context (for the museum, library and archive professionals in the audience) and some of the contradictory instructions issued to institutions with cultural, scientific or historical content (for the Wikipedians in the audience, though of course there was a huge overlap between those groups).

I’ve blogged my talk notes as ‘An (even briefer) history of open cultural data‘ at GLAM-Wiki 2013 at Open Objects or there’s a video of my talk.

Paper: ‘A thousand readers are wanted, and confidently asked for’: public participation as engagement in the arts and humanities

I was invited to give a paper on my research at Digital Impacts: Crowdsourcing in the Arts and Humanities, convened by Kathryn Eccles and the Oxford Internet Institute.

I’ve also posted Notes from ‘Crowdsourcing in the Arts and Humanities’ on Open Objects.

(My title comes from the Oxford English Dictionary’s 1879 call for contributors to help them get through their backlog of words that needed sources and definitions. Yes, I do spend a bit too much time thinking about Victorian precursors to modern crowdsourcing.)

Paper: ‘On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a historian: exploring resistance to crowdsourced resources among historians’ at DH2012

I presented a short paper ‘On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a historian: exploring resistance to crowdsourced resources among historians’  (abstract, video) at Digital Humanities 2012 in Hamburg, Germany.

I’ve posted a version of my research as it was at that stage as a post on Open Objects: Early PhD findings: Exploring historians’ resistance to crowdsourced resources.

My abstract (written a long time previously) is below:

Crowdsourcing, the act of taking work once performed within an organisation and outsourcing it to the general public in an open call (Howe 2006), is increasingly popular in memory institutions as a tool for digitising or computing vast amounts of data, as projects such as Galaxy Zoo and Old Weather (Romeo & Blaser 2011), Transcribe Bentham (Terras 2010) and the Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program (Holley 2010) have shown. However, the very openness that allows large numbers of experts and amateurs to participate in the process of building crowdsourced resources also raises issues of authority, reliability and trust in those resources. Can we rely on content created by pseudonymous peers or members of the public? And why do academics often feel that they can’t? This paper explores some of the causes and forms of resistance to creating and using crowdsourced resources among historians.

‘Participant digitisation’ is a specialised form of crowdsourcing in which the digital records and knowledge generated when researchers access primary materials are captured at the point of creation and potentially made available for future re-use. Through interviews with academic and family/local historians, this paper examines the following: the commonalities and differences in how these two groups assess the provenance, reliability and probable accuracy of digital resources; how crowdsourcing tools might support their working practices with historical materials; the motivations of historians for sharing their transcriptions and images in a public repository; the barriers that would prevent them from participating in a project that required them to share their personally-digitised archives; and the circumstances under which they would selectively restrict content sharing. From this preliminary investigation, the paper will go on to consider implications for the creation of digital humanities resources for academic and amateur users.


Holley, R. (2010). Crowdsourcing: How and Why Should Libraries Do It? D-Lib Magazine 16(3/4).

Howe, J. (2006). The Rise of Crowdsourcing. Wired 14.06. [Online] Available from:

Romeo, F., and L. Blaser (2011). Bringing Citizen Scientists and Historians Together. In J. Trant and D. Bearman (eds), Museums and the Web 2011: Proceedings. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics.

Terras, M. (2010). Digital curiosities: resource creation via amateur digitization. Literary and Linguistic Computing 25(4), 425-438.