Crowdsourcing in cultural heritage: balancing productivity and engagement

In October 2017 I went to Université d’Angers, France, for a conference on Le crowdsourcing pour partager, enrichir et publier des sources patrimoniales / Crowdsourcing as a means to share, enrich and public heritage sources.

My abstract: Ideally, cultural heritage crowdsourcing projects enable participants to explore new interests that arise as they encounter historical and scientific collections, but they must also be able to justify the resources required to run projects designed to enhance collections. This can put pressure on projects to focus on productivity at the expense of enjoyment. Beginning with an overview of successful crowdsourcing projects that introduces typical tasks and project types, this talk will discuss the tensions between designing for productivity – the number of items processed and rate of data production – and public engagement.

Historical thinking in crowdsourcing and citizen history projects

In October 2017 I went to DC for a conference 'Creating Historical Knowledge Socially: New Approaches, Opportunities and Epistemological Implications of Undertaking Research with Citizen Scholars' at the German Historical Institute.

Two conference reports, one by Patrick Manning and the other by Matthew Hiebert for the GHI provide more information about the discussions there.

My abstract: This 20-minute presentation examines the extent to which crowdsourcing and 'citizen history' projects and discussion platforms enable and encourage the practice of historical thinking. It takes the definitions of historical thinking set out by scholars and institutional bodies and the American Historical Association's 'core competencies' for students in history courses and degree programs as cues for an extensive trace-ethnographic analysis of participant discourse on crowdsourcing and digital community history platforms. This analysis found evidence for the development of historical thinking, situated learning and collective knowledge creation through participation in online communities of practice. Crowdsourcing project forums support many of the behaviours considered typical of communities of practice, including problem solving, requests for information, seeking the experience of past behaviours, coordinating actions, documenting shared knowledge and experiences, and discussing developments. This paper draws on research undertaken for my 2015 PhD, Making digital history: The impact of digitality on public participation and scholarly practices in historical research, in which I explored the ways in which some crowdsourcing projects encourage deeper engagement with history or science, and the role of communities of practice in citizen history.