2023: an overview(ish)

January began with a bang, with the publication of a collaboratively-written book by Cambridge University Press's Elements in Historical Theory and Practice. Collaborative Historical Research in the Age of Big Data: Lessons from an Interdisciplinary Project by Ruth Ahnert, Emma Griffin, Mia Ridge and Giorgia Tolfo.

In February I had a chapter, Scaffolding Collaboration: Workshop Designs for Digital Humanities Projects by me and Eileen J. Manchester in Digital Humanities Workshops: Lessons Learned, edited by Laura Estill, Jennifer Guiliano, another open access publication. I was also invited to India to do a keynote on libraries, AI and machine learning at the Library Technology Conclave 2023.

In April I was invited to give a lecture at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Library, School of Humanities & Social Science, and spoke on Facing the Future: Machine Learning and AI in Libraries, Archives and Museums. My abstract: 'Every week brings a new headline about AI, or ‘artificial intelligence’. Major search engines and social networks are competing to integrate AI, despite serious concerns about inaccurate results from AI chat bots.

In the last year alone, significantly improved AI, machine learning (ML) and data science tools have changed how information is processed and generated. ML and data science methods have the potential to connect library collections,  and to enable better discoverability and support innovative research. But libraries, archives and museums (GLAMs) face challenges in finding resources to meet AI-hyped expectations, and in implementing new forms of information provenance and digital preservation. How will changes in AI externally change expectations about GLAMs? And how can we build on what we already know about the role of technologies in cultural organisations to think strategically about integrating AI into GLAM wor

I also wrote a position paper ahead of the Collections as Data Summit in Vancouver: Toddlers to teenagers: AI and libraries in 2023.

In May I put together a workshop on 'AI and historical newspapers' with Beth Gaskell and the Living with Machines team.

In June I chaired a session on 'ChatGPT, AI, and the future' in a packed tent at the British Academy's Summer Showcase with Tim Gordon (Co-founder, Best Practice AI) and Hetan Shah (CEO, British Academy).

I was at DH2023 in Graz in July, speaking on 'Challenges, opportunities, and recommendations for the future of crowdsourcing in cultural heritage: a White Paper' with Meghan Ferriter and Sam Blickhan. Our session was 'Engaging the public'.

In August I took part (remotely) in the CAS 2023 Summer Symposium on Harry Shearer's "Le Show" at Penn State University. I've blogged 'Resonating with different frequencies' – notes for a talk on the Le Show archive. My slides for 'Resonating with different frequencies… Thoughts on public humanities through crowdsourcing in a ChatGPT world' are online at Zenodo.

In September I gave a keynote, 'Hype and hope: machine learning, AI and special collections', for CILIP's Rare Books and Special Collections Group's 2023 'Old Hands, New Ideas' conference.

I was on a panel on what's 'needed for public sector organisations to make text data more accessible for analysis' at DataConnect23. I also blogged, asking Is 'clicks to curiosity triggered' a good metric for GLAM collections online?.

In October I was in Den Haag to give the opening keynote at EuropeanaTech's 2023 conference, and took part in a panel on Keeping pace with technology: A discussion on copyright and AI .

I also spoke at the Open and Engaged conference at the British Library.

In November I spoke at events in London, including CILIP's Libraries Rewired event, discussing lessons in implementing AI in libraries from Living with Machines and travelled to Vancouver to do a solo paper and two workshops for the Fantastic Futures conference. My blog post about the conference is Fantastic Futures 2023 – AI4LAM in Vancouver.

I also blogged about 'Finding Digital Heritage / GLAM tech / Digital Humanities jobs / staff'.

Forthcoming: a chapter 'The Minimum Research Outcome: A Mechanism for Generating and Managing Projects in Labs' with Giorgia Tolfo, Emma Griffin, Mia Ridge, Ruth Ahnert and Kaspar Beelen in Digital Humanities and Laboratories: Perspectives on Knowledge, Infrastructure and Culture.

I'm also working on a chapter on 'accidents involving machinery' for Living with Machines' final collaborative book. This will bring together our work on crowdsourcing, data processing and analytics, visualisation and natural language processing (NLP).


2022: an overview(ish)

A work-in-progress post about what I got up to last year.

The biggest thing I did in 2022 was co-curate an exhibition at Leeds City Museum for the British Library and Living with Machines project.

November: I was invited to the Archives nationales de France conference 'Crowdsourcing et patrimoine culturel écrit', where I spoke on Crowdsourcing as connection: a constant star over a sea of change / Établir des connexions : un invariant des projets de crowdsourcing par Mia Ridge, British Library, Royaume-Uni

In December I gave an online keynote on 'Citizen Science as Public History?' for the conference 'When publics co-produce history in museums: skills, methodologies and impact of participation' at The Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH), University of Luxembourg.

Crowdsourcing workshop activities: ideation and elaboration

I've been working on structures for online workshops for people working on crowdsourcing and other digital participation projects for museums, libraries and archives for over a decade now, learning from each institution I work with. I thought I'd share one of the slide decks I'm currently using.

The deck is labelled 'Coming up with and developing crowdsourcing ideas'. In a workshop or class on crowdsourcing it usually comes after sessions that explain the whats and whys of crowdsourcing in cultural heritage. It's designed to get people quickly working on practical ideas, anticipating issues and ensuring that their projects will fit into their specific institutional context.

The prompts currently include: What does success look like? Which audiences are interested? Why? What could you learn from trying this? Which collections are involved? Links to mission? Pros? Cons? How could you ensure data quality? Costs  (staff, tech)? Dependencies / assumptions? What problem does it address? Questions, concerns? What volunteer skills, experience needed? What will they learn? What tech, data is needed?

You can develop your own prompts based on the attributes that are important to you. The Collective Wisdom Handbook is a useful guide to figuring out what's important to you, from data quality to integration with existing workflows.

I mostly recently used this for a Europeana-funded workshop for the Estonian War Museum – General Laidoner Museum in March 2022.

The museums have shared some lessons from the workshop in a post for Europeana. Their report 'Estonian museums' experience in the field of crowdsourcing' not only provides some background on volunteering and crowdsourcing in Estonian museums, it also shows how they applied the prompts.

Crowdsourcing workshop activities: ideation and elaboration by Mia Ridge is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Living with Machines exhibition launched

For the past year I've been co-curating the Living with Machines exhibition with John McGoldrick and working intensively with many others at Leeds Museums and Galleries and the British Library. It's inspired by the Living with Machines research project, and very much shaped by my interactions with volunteers on our Zooniverse crowdsourcing projects.

I've written a blog post These are a few of my favourite things… in the Living with Machines exhibition for the Living with Machines blog that explains something of the challenge.

I've also deposited our interpretation for wall panels and object labels for 'Living with Machines: human stories from the industrial age' at the British Library research repository.

The Living with Machines exhibition was open until January 2023 at Leeds City Museum.

Spot me and an exhibition object on the front page of the weekend Yorkshire Post
LwM team absorbed in the loom demonstration - Living with Machines exhibition opening
My Flickr album of installation and opening night photos

Official photography from Leeds Museums and Galleries

Me and co-curator John McGoldrick

Hidden REF nomination for crowdsourcing at the British Library

In September 2021 year I was delighted to be nominated for a Hidden REF award. The Hidden REF is a project that celebrates the work of people who are vital to the success of research, but who may go unrecognised by traditional academic criteria for research outputs. 

I'm sharing a copy of the nomination for LibCrowds, the platform and community on which In the Spotlight, a project crowdsourcing the transcription of historical playbills, was built:

LibCrowds is a platform dedicated to hosting crowdsourcing projects aimed at enhancing access to British Library collections. Since launching in 2015, it has hosted 171 projects, drawing in 265,000 contributions from nearly 3,000 registered volunteers, and many more anonymous individuals. The crowdsourcing projects greatly enhance the discoverability of library collections.

Our community of volunteers have contributed to projects such as: Georeferencer‚ providing more accurate, diverse metadata about digitised historic maps; In the Spotlight‚ transcribing 18th-19th century playbills (making them more findable and searchable); Convert-a-Card‚ retro-converting printed card catalogues into electronic records, particularly improving access to Chinese and Indonesian collections.

The platform is carefully designed for productivity; it's easy to use and interact with images. However, engagement with collections is also a key outcome. LibCrowds has built a strong community. Our surveys indicate that most contributors participate because it's enjoyable, and some take a personal interest in the subject matter. They can discuss discoveries with others through a forum, and can easily share images via social media.

LibCrowds has enabled important research findings. For instance, the playbills project has allowed research on plays which were previously important but which waned in popularity, and has revealed details about marginalised groups including women and Black actors. We are aware of multiple doctoral students working on aspects of theatrical history and researchers in several universities that have used the transcribed collections in their publications.

The scholarly and professional literature recognises LibCrowds to be an extremely valuable case study of a successful crowdsourcing project. It's referenced in dozens of articles and conference papers. Recently, insights from LibCrowds have been integral to the planning of research in the Library and Turing Institute's Living with Machines project, using crowdsourcing to engage the public with data science methods and produce effective and timely results about 19th century newspapers.