Article ‘Creating Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives through Design’

Creating Deep Maps and Spatial Narratives through Design with Don Lafreniere and Scott Nesbit for the International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing, based on our work at the Summer 2012 NEH Advanced Institute on Spatial Narrative and Deep Maps: Explorations in the Spatial Humanities.

Ridge, Mia; Lafreniere, Don and Nesbit, Scott (2013). Creating deep maps and spatial narratives through design. International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing, 7(1-2) pp. 176–189.

Abstract: An interdisciplinary team of researchers were challenged to create a model of a deep map during a three-day charette at the NEH Institute on Spatial Narratives and Deep Maps. Through a reflexive process of ingesting data, probing for fruitful research questions, and considering how a deep map might be used by different audiences, we created a wireframe model of a deep map and explored how it related to spatial narratives. We explored the tension between interfaces for exploratory and structured views of data and sources, and devised a model for the intersections between spatial narratives and deep maps. The process of creating wireframes and prototype screens—and more importantly, the discussions and debates they initiated—helped us understand the complex requirements for deep maps and showed how a deep map can support a humanistic interpretation of the role of space in historical processes.

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Article: ‘From tagging to theorizing: deepening engagement with cultural heritage through crowdsourcing’

Peer-reviewed article ‘From tagging to theorizing: deepening engagement with cultural heritage through crowdsourcing’ published in Curator journal

Ridge, Mia (2013). From tagging to theorizing: deepening engagement with cultural heritage through crowdsourcing. Curator: The Museum Journal, 56(4) pp. 435–450.

Proof copy available at

Abstract: Crowdsourcing, or “obtaining information or services by soliciting input from a large number of people,” is becoming known for the impressive productivity of projects that ask the public to help transcribe, describe, locate, or categorize cultural heritage resources. This essay argues that crowdsourcing projects can also be a powerful platform for audience engagement with museums, offering truly deep and valuable connection with cultural heritage through online collaboration around shared goals or resources. It includes examples of well-designed crowdsourcing projects that provide platforms for deepening involvement with citizen history and citizen science; useful definitions of “engagement”; and evidence for why some activities help audiences interact with heritage and scientific material. It discusses projects with committed participants and considers the role of communities of participants in engaging participants more deeply.

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Guest post ‘Tips for digital participation, engagement and crowdsourcing in museums’ for London Museums Group

I was asked to share some of the lessons I’ve learnt from building digital participation projects in museums and from my research on crowdsourcing in cultural heritage for the London Museums Group blog following my talk at their “Museums and Social Media” event on 24 May at Tate Britain.

They’ve now been published at ‘Tips for digital participation, engagement and crowdsourcing in museums | by Mia Ridge‘.

To pinch from my headings, I discuss the advantages of digital engagement; challenges for museums | new relationships, new authorities, dissolving boundaries; 6 tips for designing digital participation experiences in museums; 2 bonus tips for designing crowdsourcing projects in museums.

There are other event reports at A round up of the LMG Museums and Social Media Event.

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Workshop: ‘Designing successful digital humanities crowdsourcing projects’

I ran a half-day workshop on ‘Designing successful digital humanities crowdsourcing projects’ at the Digital Humanities 2013 conference in sunny Lincoln, Nebraska.

Workshop attendees: download the slides (2mb PDF) DH2013 Crowdsourcing workshop slides and exercises handout (Word doc): DH2013 Crowdsourcing workshop exercises.

I’ve started a braindump of ‘emerging best practice’ tips and questions from the workshop below…

Tips for designing humanities crowdsourcing projects

  • No worms without eggs. One participant reviewed Zooniverse’s Worm Watch, but got bored and moved on after watching six videos in which the worm didn’t lay an egg. The moral of this story is to give new participants a task item with a known payload first. You may want to do this anyway to check the quality of their contribution (e.g. testing for accidental or intentionally bad data that doesn’t match the known value) or test their skills, but another reason to do it is to give participants an early win to inspire them.
  • Go small to solve problems. Microtasks seem to trump bigger tasks, and breaking a design problem into the smallest possible parts is a good way to get unstuck. Once you’ve decomposed it, you can look for creative solutions to the little problems you’ve uncovered as part of the bigger one.
  • Pilot your idea on existing platforms – put photos on Flickr and ask people to transcribe, identify or tag them, ask people to map things on HistoryPin or Ushahidi, etc.
  • Learn by doing, not by reading – as far as possible, show people what they need to do rather than making them wade through text before starting.
  • A strong tagline makes a big difference. It’ll take time to find the strapline that perfectly summarises the what and why of your project – keep at it until you’ve got a compelling description that’ll make people want to take part in your project.

Tough love

  • If you can’t think of a great tagline, it might mean your project isn’t making an important contribution – if you can’t answer the question ‘who’s desperate to use the results of this project?’, maybe the project shouldn’t go ahead.
  • The barbarians aren’t at the gates. In online projects, credentials derive from actions, not institutional affiliation. Borrow data validation models from citizen science and judge people’s input on its correctness, not on whether they’re an ‘amateur’ or an invited contributor. If ordinary people can transcribe ancient Greek letters, they can probably manage your task. I know it’s quite difficult for academic projects to cope with this, but think of it like learning to ride a bike without training wheels – perhaps start by inviting known communities to help you test your project, then invite related external groups, refine your models, then take off those training wheels and open it up!

Sources and further reading are listed at ‘Resources for ‘Crowdsourcing in Libraries, Museums and Cultural Heritage Institutions” so check there for sources and further reading.

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Designing successful digital humanities crowdsourcing projects by Mia Ridge is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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Keynote: Participatory Practices: Inclusion, Dialogue and Trust

Pavillion 0 at the Sigma Foundation's palazzo on Campo San Paolo, VeniceI was invited to present with Helen Weinstein at the We Curate kick-off seminar at the Pavillion 0 at the Sigma Foundation’s palazzo on the opening weekend of the Venice Biennale. Our slides for Participatory practices: inclusion, dialogue and trust in museums and academia are online, and I blogged about our talk and the event for Historyworkstv: Participatory Practice Presentation at the Venice Biennale.

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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.

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Paper: ‘Digital participation and public engagement’

I gave a short paper on ‘Digital participation and public engagement’ at the London Museums Group‘s ‘Museums and Social Media’ at Tate Britain on May 24. A version of my notes is now posted online at ‘Tips for digital participation, engagement and crowdsourcing in museums | by Mia Ridge‘, see Guest post ‘Tips for digital participation, engagement and crowdsourcing in museums’ for London Museums Group for details.

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NITLE ‘Crowdsourcing’ seminar

Discussion Guide for NITLE Crowdsourcing seminar

Wednesday, May 8, 2013, 1-2 pm EDT, online via NITLE’s desktop videoconferencing platform

Slides (8mb PDF).

Discussion Questions

  1. Have you ever participated in a crowdsourced project? What did you enjoy about it? Were you motivated to continue? Why/why not?
  2. How well do the tasks presented in the seminar and represented in the ‘Suggested Projects’ below match your students’ interests, knowledge and skills? Can you find projects that are a closer match?
  3. What else is required for undergraduate participation in crowdsourced projects to help meet liberal education learning outcomes?
  4. If crowdsourced projects are designed to meet intrinsic or altruistic motivations for voluntary participation, what are the ethical and practical implications of asking students to participate?
  5. What are some of the challenges of collaboration, credit and attribution in scholarly crowdsourcing, and how might you start to resolve them in your work with students?

Suggested Projects

Suggested Reading

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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.

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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.)

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