Digital scholarship blog

11 February 2020

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

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

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