Digital scholarship blog

11 February 2020

Call for participants: April 2020 book sprint on the state of the art in crowdsourcing in cultural heritage

[Update, March 2020: like so much else, our plans for the 'Collective Wisdom' project have been thrown out by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have an extension from our funders and will look to confirm dates when the global situation (especially around international flights) becomes clearer. In the meantime, the JISCMail Crowdsourcing list has some discussion on starting and managing projects in the current context.]

One of the key outcomes of our AHRC UK-US Partnership Development Grant, 'From crowdsourcing to digitally-enabled participation: the state of the art in collaboration, access, and inclusion for cultural heritage institutions', is the publication of an open access book written through a collaborative 'book sprint'. We'll work with up to 12 other collaborators to write a high-quality book that provides a comprehensive, practical and authoritative guide to crowdsourcing and digitally-enabled participation projects in the cultural heritage sector. Could you be one of our collaborators? Read on!

The book sprint will be held at the Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture from 19 - 24th April 2020. We've added a half-day debriefing session to the usual five day sprint, so that we can capture all the ideas that didn't make it into the book and start to shape the agenda for a follow-up workshop to be held at the British Library in October. Due to the pace of writing and facilitation, participants must be able to commit to five and a half days in order to attend. 

We have some confirmed participants already - including representatives from FromThePage, King’s College London Department of Digital Humanities, the Virginia Tech Department of Computer Science, and the Colored Conventions Project, plus the project investigators Mia Ridge (British Library), Meghan Ferriter (Library of Congress) and Sam Blickhan (Zooniverse) - with additional places to be filled by this open call for participation. 

An open call enables us to include folk from a range of backgrounds and experiences. This matches the ethos of the book sprint model, which states that 'diversity in participants—perspectives, experience, job roles, ethnicity, gender—creates a better work dynamic and a better book'. Participants will have the opportunity to not only create this authoritative text, but to facilitate the formation of an online community of practice which will serve as a resource and support system for those engaging with crowdsourcing and digitally-enabled participation projects.

We're looking for participants who are enthusiastic, experienced and engaged, with expertise at any point in the life cycle of crowdsourcing and digital participation. Your expertise might have been gained through hands-on experience on projects or by conducting research in areas from co-creation with heritage organisations or community archives to HCI, human computation and CSCW. We have a generous definition of 'digitally-enabled participation', including not-entirely-digital volunteering projects around cultural heritage collections, and activities that go beyond typical collection-centric 'crowdsourcing' tasks like transcription, classification and description. Got questions? Please email digitalresearch@bl.uk!

How to apply

  1. Read the Book Sprint FAQs to make sure you're aware of the process and commitment required
  2. Fill in this short Google Form by midnight GMT February 26th

What happens next?

We'll review applications and let people know by the end of February 2020.

We're planning to book travel and accommodation for participants as soon as dates and attendance is confirmed - this helps keeps costs down and also means that individuals aren't out of pocket while waiting for reimbursement. The AHRC fund will pay for travel and accommodation for all book sprint participants. We will also host a follow up workshop at the British Library in October and hope to provide travel and accommodations for book sprint participants. 

We'll be holding a pre-sprint video call (on March 18, 19 or 20) to put faces to names and think about topics that people might want to research in advance and collect as an annotated bibliography for use during the sprint. 

If you can't make the book sprint but would still like to contribute, we've got you covered! We'll publish the first version of the book online for comment and feedback. Book sprints don't allow for remote participation, so this is our best way of including the vast amounts of expertise not in the room.

You can sign up to the British Library's crowdsourcing newsletters for updates, or join our Crowdsourcing group on Humanities Commons set up to share progress and engage in discussion with the wider community. 

New project! 'From crowdsourcing to digitally-enabled participation: the state of the art in collaboration, access, and inclusion for cultural heritage institutions'

[Update, March 2020: like so much else, our plans for the 'Collective Wisdom' project have been thrown out by the COVID-19 pandemic. We have an extension from our funders and will look to confirm dates when the global situation (especially around international flights) becomes clearer. In the meantime, the JISCMail Crowdsourcing list has some discussion on starting and managing projects in the current context.]

We - Mia Ridge (British Library), Meghan Ferriter (Library of Congress) and Sam Blickhan (Zooniverse) - are excited to announce that we've been awarded an AHRC UK-US Partnership Development Grant. Our overarching goals are:

  • To foster an international community of practice in crowdsourcing in cultural heritage
  • To capture and disseminate the state of the art and promote knowledge exchange in crowdsourcing and digitally-enabled participation
  • To set a research agenda and generate shared understandings of unsolved or tricky problems that could lead to future funding applications

How will we do that?

We're holding a five day collaborative 'book sprint' (or writing workshop) at the Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture in April 2020. Working with up to 12 other collaborators, we'll write a high-quality book that provides a comprehensive, practical and authoritative guide to crowdsourcing and digitally-enabled participation projects in the cultural heritage sector. We want to provide an effective road map for cultural institutions hoping to use crowdsourcing for the first time and a resource for institutions already using crowdsourcing to benchmark their work.

In the spirit of digital participation, we'll publish a commentable version of the book online with an open call for feedback from the extended international community of crowdsourcing practitioners, academics and volunteers. We're excited about including the expertise of those unable to attend the book sprint in our final open access publication.

The book sprint will close with a short debrief session to capture suggestions about gaps in the field and sketch the agenda for the closing workshop. 

In October 2020 we're holding a workshop at the British Library for up to 25 participants to interrogate, refine and advance questions raised during the year and identify high priority gaps and emerging challenges in the field that could be addressed by future research collaborations. We'll work with a community manager to ensure that remote participants are as integrated into the event as much as possible, which will lower our carbon footprint and let people contribute without getting on a plane. 

We'll publish a white paper reporting on this workshop, outlining emerging, intractable and unsolved challenges that could be addressed by further funding for collaborative work. 

Finally, we want this project to help foster the wonderful community of crowdsourcing practitioners, participants and researchers by hosting events and online discussion. 

Why now?

For several years, crowdsourcing has provided a framework for online participation with, and around, cultural heritage collections. This popularity leads to increased participant expectations while also attracting criticism such as accusations of ‘free labour’. Now, the introduction of machine learning and AI methods, and co-creation and new models of ownership and authorship present significant challenges for institutions used to managing interactions with collections on their own terms. 

How can you get involved?

Our call for participants in our April Book Sprint is now open!

Our final workshop will be held in mid- or late-October. The easiest way to get updates such as calls for contributors and links to blog posts is to sign up for the British Library's crowdsourcing newsletters or join the Crowdsourcing group on Humanities Commons

03 February 2020

2019 Winners of the New Media Writing Prize

On Wednesday 15 January 2020 it was the 10th Anniversary Awards Evening of the New Media Writing Prize (NMWP) at Bournemouth University. This international prize encourages and promotes the best in new media writing; showcasing innovative digital fiction, poetry and journalism. The types of interactive writing that we have been examining and researching in the emerging formats work at the Library.

NMWP logo
New Media Writing Prize logo

Before the NMWP winners were announced there was a fun hands-on session in the afternoon, for guests to experience Digital Fiction Curios. This is an immersive experience; re-imagining selected Flash-based digital fiction by the One to One Development Trust in Virtual Reality, made in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University. Here in the Library we are interested in their playful and innovative approach to preserving the experiences of reading their digital works, and last October the project team were invited to showcase this work to British Library staff for them to try in VR.

Dreaming Methods: Digital Fiction Curios Teaser from One to One Development Trust 

On to the main NMWP awards event, like in previous years, the 2019 competition had attracted strong entries from many parts of the world. With submissions from six continents, the event’s host Jim Pope pointed out that Antarctica was the only geographic area not to have participated yet.

Congratulations to all the 2019 winners:

  • The if:book UK New Media Writing Prize, the main category, was won by Maria Ivanova and her team of volunteers: Anna Gorovaya, Alexey Logvinov, Mike Stonelake, Anton Zayceve and Ekaterina Polyakova, from Belarus for ‘The Life of Grand Duchess Elizabeth’. A stunning biographical narrative, featuring open source archive photographs and quotations from the memoirs of generous philanthropist Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia. A granddaughter of English Queen Victoria, who lived during several key events in the history of Russia: including the Russo-Japanese War, the First World War, the revolutions of 1905 and 1917.She became one of the brightest philanthropists of Russia.
  • The Future Journalism award was won by Mahmoud El Wakea’s ‘Made in Prison’, an investigation of Jihadi radicalisation in Egypt.
  • The Unicorn Training Student award was won by Kenneth Sanchez for ‘Escaping the Chaos’. An emotive portrayal of Venezuelan migrants in Peru, with video footage of individuals telling their personal stories.
  • The Dot award for 2019 went to Clare Pollard, editor of Modern Poetry in Translation, the award will enable them to digitise their magazine and to grow their magazine internationally.
The Life of Grand Duchess Elizabeth
Still image from 'The Life of Grand Duchess Elizabeth', Winner of the 2019 if:book UK New Media Writing Prize.

It was gratifying to see that Lynda Clark featured on the main prize shortlist for her work ‘The Memory Archivist’, which was made during her Innovation Placement at the British Library in 2019. Also previous Eccles Centre Fellow, J.R. Carpenter, for the hydro-graphic novel ‘The Pleasure of the Coast’, created in partnership with the Archives Nationales in Paris.

Full shortlists were: 

The 2019 if:book main prize shortlist:

 The Unicorn Student Award 2019 shortlist:

Escaping the Chaos
Still image from 'Escaping the Chaos', Winner of the 2019 Unicorn Training Student award

The Future Journalism Award 2019 shortlist for the best digital interactive journalism, awarded by Future PLC:

Made in Prison
Still image from 'Made in Prison', Winner of the 2019 Future Journalism award 

If reading this blog post is inspiring you to consider entering the Prize in 2020, please do keep your eyes peeled for their call for submissions later in the year. You can follow NMWP on twitter and Facebook. Also do check out the Competition Rules and the FAQs to make sure your creative output fits the competition's criteria. 

This post is by Digital Curator Stella Wisdom (@miss_wisdom