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

2017: an overview

This page is a work in progress…

2017 was an unexpectedly challenging year, as much of it was taken up with treatment for cancer. (I'm fine now).

In February 2017 I did a workshop in Edinburgh for Dr Anouk Lang's Beyond the Black Box: Building Algorithmic and Statistical Literacy through Digital Humanities Tools and Resources and in Santa Barbara for Always Already Computational: Library Collections as Data. I keynoted at DIGIKULT 2017 in Sweden in March, and in June I was in Sydney for the Future Library Congress at EduTECH. I was in Taiwan in August and in October I spoke at the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC and gave a keynote on crowdsourcing in Angers, France.

Conference presentation: Crowdsourcing in libraries and museums: Challenges, opportunities and digital impacts

I was invited to do a presentation for a conference organised by the Chinese Association of Museums in Taipei, Taiwan. I gave a version of 'Crowdsourcing in libraries and museums: Challenges, opportunities and digital impacts' tailored for their audience.

Abstract:

Crowdsourcing in museums and libraries involves asking the public to help with tasks that contribute to a shared, significant goal or research interest related to cultural heritage collections or knowledge. This talk will introduce some key examples of successful crowdsourcing projects that have transcribed, categorised, linked and researched millions of cultural heritage and scientific records, and discuss some of the reasons for their success. Digital technologies have enabled exciting new forms of public participation in cultural heritage and the sciences, but they can also challenge museums, libraries and archives to manage the changes that these new opportunities bring. Audience expectations have changed as social media and digital technologies have encouraged greater organisational transparency, and more flexible digitisation and information management practices. How can museums and libraries work with the public to make collections more accessible while making room for people to explore and enjoy collections in new ways?

Conference presentation: Cross-sector collaboration on digital museum and library projects

I was invited to do a presentation for a 'VIP workshop' for the Chinese Association of Museums in Taipei, Taiwan. They asked me to talk about 'Cross-sector collaboration on digital museum and library projects'.

In my talk, I discussed collaboration through:

  • MCG, MCN: informal support through practitioner groups
  • Culture24's Let's Get Real: action research
  • Finland100, BnF: selective digitisation
  • Sharing audience data: MHM, Audience Agency segments
  • UK Libraries taskforce
  • Sector-wide approach: DCMS #CultureIsDigital
  • Europeana – international collaboration on shared infrastructure

As I had to make extensive notes on my slides for the translator, I'm able to share my slides with notes: https://www.miaridge.com/wp-content/uploads/CAM-afternoon-Taiwan-2017-Collaboration-M-Ridge.pdf

The talk lead to some wide-ranging discussion and gave me the opportunity to hear from several directors of Taiwanese national museums and libraries.

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Chapter: 'The contributions of family and local historians to British history online'

Participatory Heritage, edited by Henriette Roued-Cunliffe and Andrea Copeland, has just been published by Facet.

A pre-print is online at https://hcommons.org/deposits/item/hc:38017

My chapter is 'The contributions of family and local historians to British history online'. My abstract:

Community history projects across Britain have collected and created images, indexes and transcriptions of historical documents ranging from newspaper articles and photographs, to wills and biographical records. Based on analysis of community- and institutionally-led participatory history sites, and interviews with family and local historians, this chapter discusses common models for projects in which community historians cooperated to create digital resources. For decades, family and local historians have organised or contributed to projects to collect, digitise and publish historical sources about British history. What drives amateur historians to voluntarily spend their time digitising cultural heritage? How do they cooperatively or collaboratively create resources? And what challenges do they face?

My opening page:

IN 1987, THE Family History Department of the Church of the Latter Day Saints began a project with the British Genealogical Records Users Committee to transcribe and index the 1881 British census. Some community history societies were already creating indexes for the 1851 census, so they were well placed to take on another census project. Several tons of photocopies were distributed to almost 100 family history societies for double transcription and checking; later, a multi-million-dollar mainframe computer created indexes from the results (Young, 1996, 1998a; Tice, 1990). This ‘co-operative indexing’ took eight years – the process of assigning parts for transcription alone occupied 43 months – and while the project was very well received, in 1998 it was concluded that ‘a national project of this scope has proved too labour intensive, time consuming and expensive’ to be repeated (Young, 1998b). However, many years later, the US 1940 census was indexed in just four months by over 160,000 volunteers (1940 US Census Community Project, 2012), and co-operative historical projects flourish.

This example illustrates the long history of co-operative transcription and indexing projects, the significant contribution they made to the work of other historians and the vital role of community history organizations and volunteers in participatory heritage projects. The difference between the reach and efficiency of projects initiated in the 1980s and the 2010s also highlights the role of networked technologies in enabling wider participation in cooperative digitization projects. This chapter examines the important contributions of community historians to participatory heritage, discussing how family and local historians have voluntarily organized or contributed to projects to collect, digitize and publish historical sources about British history. This insight into grassroots projects may be useful for staff in cultural heritage institutions who encounter or seek to work with community historians.

The questions addressed in this chapter are drawn from research which sought to understand the impact of participatory digital history projects on users. This research involved reviewing a corpus of over 400 digital history projects, analysing those that aimed to collect, create or enhance records about historical materials. The corpus included both community- and institutionally led participatory history sites. Points of analysis included ‘microcopy’ (small pieces of text such as slogans, instructions and navigation) and the visible affordances, or website interface features, that encourage, allow or disable various participatory functions.

Bio

Mia Ridge is a Digital Curator in the British Library’s Digital Scholarship team. She has a PhD in digital humanities (2015, Department of History, Open University) entitled Making Digital History: the impact of digitality on public participation and scholarly practices in historical research. Previously, she conducted human-computer interaction-based research on crowdsourcing in cultural heritage.

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