THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Digital scholarship blog

11 posts categorized "Writing"

11 September 2020

BL Labs Public Awards 2020: enter before 0700 GMT Monday 30 November 2020!

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The sixth BL Labs Public Awards 2020 formally recognises outstanding and innovative work that has been carried out using the British Library’s data and / or digital collections by researchers, artists, entrepreneurs, educators, students and the general public.

The closing date for entering the Public Awards is 0700 GMT on Monday 30 November 2020 and you can submit your entry any time up to then.

Please help us spread the word! We want to encourage any one interested to submit over the next few months, who knows, you could even win fame and glory, priceless! We really hope to have another year of fantastic projects to showcase at our annual online awards symposium on the 15 December 2020 (which is open for registration too), inspired by our digital collections and data!

This year, BL Labs is commending work in four key areas that have used or been inspired by our digital collections and data:

  • Research - A project or activity that shows the development of new knowledge, research methods, or tools.
  • Artistic - An artistic or creative endeavour that inspires, stimulates, amazes and provokes.
  • Educational - Quality learning experiences created for learners of any age and ability that use the Library's digital content.
  • Community - Work that has been created by an individual or group in a community.

What kind of projects are we looking for this year?

Whilst we are really happy for you to submit your work on any subject that uses our digital collections, in this significant year, we are particularly interested in entries that may have a focus on anti-racist work or projects about lock down / global pandemic. We are also curious and keen to have submissions that have used Jupyter Notebooks to carry out computational work on our digital collections and data.

After the submission deadline has passed, entries will be shortlisted and selected entrants will be notified via email by midnight on Friday 4th December 2020. 

A prize of £150 in British Library online vouchers will be awarded to the winner and £50 in the same format to the runner up in each Awards category at the Symposium. Of course if you enter, it will be at least a chance to showcase your work to a wide audience and in the past this has often resulted in major collaborations.

The talent of the BL Labs Awards winners and runners up over the last five years has led to the production of remarkable and varied collection of innovative projects described in our 'Digital Projects Archive'. In 2019, the Awards commended work in four main categories – Research, Artistic, Community and Educational:

BL_Labs_Winners_2019-smallBL  Labs Award Winners for 2019
(Top-Left) Full-Text search of Early Music Prints Online (F-TEMPO) - Research, (Top-Right) Emerging Formats: Discovering and Collecting Contemporary British Interactive Fiction - Artistic
(Bottom-Left) John Faucit Saville and the theatres of the East Midlands Circuit - Community commendation
(Bottom-Right) The Other Voice (Learning and Teaching)

For further detailed information, please visit BL Labs Public Awards 2020, or contact us at labs@bl.uk if you have a specific query.

Posted by Mahendra Mahey, Manager of British Library Labs.

24 August 2020

Not Just for Kids: UK Digital Comics, from creation to consumption

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This is a guest post by Linda Berube, an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership student based at the British Library and City, University of London. If you would like to know more about Linda's research, please do email her at Linda.Berube@city.ac.uk.

“There are those who claim that Britain no longer has a comics industry.” (John Freeman, downthetubes.net, quoting Lewis Stringer)

Freeman goes onto say that despite the evidence supporting such a view (have you ever really looked at a WH Smith comics rack? He has: see his photo of one here), the British comics industry is not just all licenced content from the United States, and it has continued to produce new publications. Maybe the newsstand is not necessarily the best place to look for them.
For the newsstand does not tell the whole story. Comics are not all kiddie and superhero characters now, if they ever were (Sabin 1993). Not that there is anything wrong with that content, but prevailing attitudes about the perceived lack of seriousness of these types of comics can inhibit a consideration of comics as cultural objects in their own right, worthy of research. Novelist Susan Hill (2017) expresses a widely held view when she stated: "Is it better for young people to read nothing at all than read graphic novels-which are really only comics for an older age group?". No amount of book awards, academic departments or academic journals have eliminated such sentiments[1].

The best place for looking at all UK comics have to offer is online. Digital comics have not only brought a whole new audience but new creators, as well as new business models and creative processes. My Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Programme funded research will take a deep dive into these models and processes, from creation to consumption. For this work, I have the considerable support of supervisors Ian Cooke and Stella Wisdom (British Library) and Ernesto Priego and Stephann Makri (Human-Computer Interaction Design Centre, City, University of London)[2].

A cartoon of a spaceship on the left and a large smartphone screen on the right, showing two people talking to each other
Figure 1: Charisma.ai uses innovative technology to create comics

This particular point in time offers an excellent opportunity to consider the digital comics, and specifically UK, landscape. We seem to be past the initial enthusiasm for digital technologies when babies and bathwater were ejected with abandon (see McCloud 2000, for example), and probably still in the middle of a retrenchment, so to speak, of that enthusiasm (see Priego 2011 pp278-280). To date, there have been few attempts at viewing the creation to consumption process of print comics in their entirety, and no complete studies of the production and communication models of digital comics. While Benatti (2019) analysed the changes to the roles of authors, readers, and publishers prompted by the creation of webcomics, she admits that “the uncertain future of the comics print communications circuit makes the establishment of a parallel digital circuit…more necessary than ever for the development of the comics medium”. (p316)

Screen capture of a website showing the covers of three comics, the first comic shows a rocket leaving earth, the second a Christmas wreath and a pair of crutches, the third 4 people next to a beach
Figure 2: Helen Greetham is part of the international Spider Forest Webcomic collective, one way of distributing and marketing digital comics

Benatti was using the wider publishing industry’s process models and the disruption caused by digital technology as a lens through which to view webcomics. Indeed, historians have discovered cohesive patterns in the development of ideas, especially as embodied in print books. These patterns, most often described as cycles, chains, or circuits, follow the book through various channels of creation, production, and consumption. (See Darnton 1982, diagram of Communication Circuit below, for example). However, they have undergone a significant transformation, disruption even, when considered in the context of the digital environment (Murray and Squires 2013 have update Darnton for the digital and self-publishing age). And at first, it seemed that the disruption would prove terminal for certain types of communication, but most especially books and newspapers in print.

A diagram of Darntons Communication Circuit
Figure 3: Robert Darnton’s Communication Circuit

What about the production patterns for comics within this publishing context? Have print comics given way to digital comics? And are digital comics the revolution they once seemed?
My research, a scoping study in its first year looking at the UK comics landscape and interviewing comics gatekeepers-mediators (CGMs)[3], seeks to address the gap in the understanding of the creation to consumption process for digital comics. This first year’s work will be followed up by research into the creative process of digital comics writers and artists and what readers might contribute to that process. It will be the first such research to investigate cohesive patterns and production models through interdisciplinary empirical research for UK digital comics: analysing how an idea and digital comic object is formed, communicated, discussed and transformed by all the participants involved, from authors to CGMs to readers.

References:

Benatti, Francesca (2019). ‘Superhero comics and the digital communications circuit: a case study of Strong Female Protagonist’, Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics,10 (3), pp306-319. Available at: DOI: 10.1080/21504857.2018.1485720.

Darnton, R. (1982). ‘What Is the History of Books?’ Daedalus,111(3), pp65-83. Available at: www.jstor.org/stable/20024803.  Also available at:  https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/3403038/darnton_historybooks.pdf

Freeman, John (2020).   ‘British Comics Industry Q&A’, downthetubes.net: exploring comics and more on the web since 1998. Quoting British comics creator and archivist Lew Stringer in a 2015 assessment of news stand comics on his Blimey! It’s Another Blog About Comics blog.  Available at: https://downthetubes.net/?page_id=7110).

Hill, Susan (2017). Jacob’s Room Is Full of Books: A Year of Reading. Profile Books.

McCloud, Scott (2000). Reinventing Comics: How Imagination and Technology Are Revolutionizing an Art Form.  New York, N.Y: Paradox Press.

Murray, P.R.  and Squires, C. (2013). ‘Digital Publishing Communications Circuit’, Book 2.0, 3(1), pp3-23. Available at: DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/btwo.3.1.3_1. See also: Stirling University, Book Unbound https://www.bookunbound.stir.ac.uk/research/.

Priego, Ernesto (2011). The Comic Book in the Age of Digital Reproduction. City, University of London. Journal contribution. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.754575.v4.

Sabin, Roger (1993). Adult comics: An introduction. London: Routledge. See Part 1: Britain 1. The first adult comics 2. Kid's stuff 3.Underground comix  4. 2000AD: 'The Comic of tomorrow!'  5. Fandom and direct sales 6. 'Comics grow up!': dawn of the graphic novel  7.From boom to bust 8.Viz: 'More fun than a jammy bun!'  9. The future.


Footnotes

1. For example, the Pulitzer Prize[Maus]; The Guardian’s First Book Award 2001 [Jimmy Corrigan]; Man Booker Prize longlist [Sabrina], not to mention the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. The fact that graphic novels are singled out from comics here is another entire blog post… ↩︎

2. Ernesto does a nice line in comics himself: see Parables of Care. Creative Responses to Dementia Care, As Told by Carers and I Know How This Ends: Stories of Dementia Care, as well as The Lockdown Chronicles. ↩︎

3. The word ‘publisher’, at least in its traditional sense, just does not seem to apply to the various means of production and distribution. ↩︎


 

15 June 2020

Marginal Voices in UK Digital Comics

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I am an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership student based at the British Library and Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London (UAL). The studentship is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Programme.

Supervised jointly by Stella Wisdom from the British Library, Roger Sabin and Ian Hague from UAL, my research looks to explore the potential for digital comics to take advantage of digital technologies and the digital environment to foster inclusivity and diversity. I aim to examine the status of marginal voices within UK digital comics, while addressing the opportunities and challenges these comics present for the British Library’s collection and preservation policies.

A cartoon strip of three vertical panel images, in the first a caravan is on the edge of a cliff, in the second a dog asleep in a bed, in the third the dog wakes up and sits up in bed
The opening panels from G Bear and Jammo by Jaime Huxtable, showing their caravan on The Gower Peninsula in South Wales, copyright © Jaime Huxtable

Digital comics have been identified as complex digital publications, meaning this research project is connected to the work of the broader Emerging Formats Project. On top of embracing technological change, digital comics have the potential to reflect, embrace and contribute to social and cultural change in the UK. Digital comics not only present new ways of telling stories, but whose story is told.

One of the comic creators, whose work I have been recently examining is Jaime Huxtable, a Welsh cartoonist/illustrator based in Worthing, West Sussex. He has worked on a variety of digital comics projects, from webcomics to interactive comics, and also runs various comics related workshops.

Samir's Christmas by Jaime Huxtable, this promotional comic strip was created for Freedom From Torture’s 2019 Christmas Care Box Appeal. This comic was  made into a short animated video by Hands Up, copyright © Jaime Huxtable

My thesis will explore whether the ways UK digital comics are published and consumed means that they can foreground marginal, alternative voices similar to the way underground comix and zine culture has. Comics scholarship has focused on the technological aspects of digital comics, meaning their potentially significant contribution reflecting and embracing social and cultural change in the UK has not been explored. I want to establish whether the fact digital comics can circumvent traditional gatekeepers means they provide space to foreground marginal voices. I will also explore the challenges and opportunities digital comics might present for legal deposit collection development policy.

As well as being a member of the Comics Research Hub (CoRH) at UAL, I have already begun working with colleagues from the UK Web Archive, and hope to be able to make a significant contribution to the Web Comic Archive. Issues around collection development and management are central to my research, I feel very fortunate to be based at the British Library, to have the chance to learn from and hopefully contribute to practice here.

If anyone would like to know more about my research, or recommend any digital comics for me to look at, please do contact me at Tom.Gebhart@bl.uk or @thmsgbhrt on Twitter. UK digital comic creators and publishers can use the ComicHaus app to send their digital comics directly to The British Library digital archive. More details about this process are here.

This post is by British Library collaborative doctoral student Thomas Gebhart (@thmsgbhrt).

10 June 2020

International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling 2020: Call for Papers, Posters and Interactive Creative Works

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It has been heartening to see many joyful responses to our recent post featuring The British Library Simulator; an explorable, miniature, virtual version of the British Library’s building in St Pancras.

If you would like to learn more about our Emerging Formats research, which is informing our work in collecting examples of complex digital publications, including works made with Bitsy, then my colleague Giulia Carla Rossi (who built the Bitsy Library) is giving a Leeds Libraries Tech Talk on Digital Literature and Interactive Storytelling this Thursday, 11th June at 12 noon, via Zoom.

Giulia will be joined by Leeds Libraries Central Collections Manager, Rhian Isaac, who will showcase some of Leeds Libraries exciting collections, and also Izzy Bartley, Digital Learning Officer from Leeds Museums and Galleries, who will talk about her role in making collections interactive and accessible. Places are free, but please book here.

If you are a researcher, or writer/artist/maker, of experimental interactive digital stories, then you may want to check out the current call for submissions for The International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling (ICIDS), organised by the Association for Research in Digital Interactive Narratives, a community of academics and practitioners concerned with the advancement of all forms of interactive narrative. The deadline for proposing Research Papers, Exhibition Submissions, Posters and Demos, has been extended to the 26th June 2020, submissions can be made via the ICIDS 2020 EasyChair Site.

The ICIDS 2020 dates, 3-6 November, on a photograph of Bournemouth beach

ICIDS showcases and shares research and practice in game narrative and interactive storytelling, including the theoretical, technological, and applied design practices. It is an interdisciplinary gathering that combines computational narratology, narrative systems, storytelling technology, humanities-inspired theoretical inquiry, empirical research and artistic expression.

For 2020, the special theme is Interactive Digital Narrative Scholarship, and ICIDS will be hosted by the Department of Creative Technology of Bournemouth University (also hosts of the New Media Writing Prize, which I have blogged about previously). Their current intention is to host a mixed virtual and physical conference. They are hoping that the physical meeting will still take place, but all talks and works will also be made available virtually for those who are unable to attend physically due to the COVID-19 situation. This means that if you submit work, you will still need to register and present your ideas, but for those who are unable to travel to Bournemouth, the conference organisers will be making allowances for participants to contribute virtually.

ICIDS also includes a creative exhibition, showcasing interactive digital artworks, which for 2020 will explore the curatorial theme “Texts of Discomfort”. The exhibition call is currently seeking Interactive digital art works that generate discomfort through their form and/or their content, which may also inspire radical changes in the way we perceive the world.

Creatives are encouraged to mix technologies, narratives, points of view, to create interactive digital artworks that unsettle interactors’ assumptions by tackling the world’s global issues; and/or to create artworks that bring to a crisis interactors’ relation with language, that innovate in their way to intertwine narrative and technology. Artworks can include, but are not limited to:

  • Augmented, mixed and virtual reality works
  • Computer games
  • Interactive installations
  • Mobile and location-based works
  • Screen-based computational works
  • Web-based works
  • Webdocs and interactive films
  • Transmedia works

Submissions to the ICIDS art exhibition should be made using this form by 26th June. Any questions should be sent to icids2020arts@gmail.com. Good luck!

This post is by Digital Curator Stella Wisdom (@miss_wisdom

14 April 2020

BL Labs Artistic Award Winner 2019 - The Memory Archivist - Lynda Clark

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Posted on behalf of Lynda Clark, BL Labs Artistic Award Winner 2019 by Mahendra Mahey, Manager of BL Labs.

My research, writing and broader critical practice are inextricably linked. For example, the short story “Ghillie’s Mum”, recently nominated for the BBC Short Story Award, was an exploration of fraught parent / child relationships, which fed into my interactive novella Writers Are Not Strangers, which was in turn the culmination of research into the way readers and players respond to writers and creators both directly and indirectly. 

The Memory Archivist” BL Labs Artistic award winner 2019, offers a similar blending of creative work, research and reflection. The basis for the project was the creation of a collection of works of interactive fiction for the UK Web Archive (UKWA) as part of an investigation into whether it was possible to capture interactive works with existing web archiving tools. The project used WebRecorder and Web ACT to add almost 200 items to the UKWA. An analysis of these items was then undertaken, which indicated various recurring themes, tools and techniques used across the works. These were then incorporated into “The Memory Archivist” in various ways.

Memory Archvist
Opening screen for the Memory Archivist

The interactive fiction tool Twine was the most widely used by UK creators across the creative works, and was therefore used to create “The Memory Archivist”. Key themes such as pets, public transport and ghosts were used as the basis for the memories the player character may record. Elements of the experience of, and challenges relating to, capturing interactive works (and archival objects more generally) were also incorporated into the narrative and interactivity. When the player-character attempts to replay some of the memories they have recorded, they will find them captured only partially, or with changes to their appearance.

There were other, more direct, ways in which the Library’s digital content was included too, in the form of  repurposing code. ‘Link select’ functionality was adapted from Jonathan Laury’s Ostrich and CSS style sheets from Brevity Quest by Chris Longhurst were edited to give certain sections their distinctive look. An image from the Library’s Flickr collection was used as the central motif for the piece not only because it comes from an online digital archive, but because it is itself a motif from an archive – a French 19th Century genealogical record. Sepia tones were used for the colour palette to reflect the nostalgic nature of the piece.

Example-screen-memory-archvist
Example screen shots from the Memory Archivist

Together, these elements aim to emphasise the fact that archives are a way to connect memories, people and experiences across time and space and in spite of technological challenges, while also acknowledging that they can only ever be partial and decontextualised. 

The research into web archiving was presented at the International Internet Preservation Consortium in Zagreb and the Digital Preservation Coalition’s Web Archiving & Preservation Working Group event in Edinburgh

Other blog posts from Lynda's related work are available here:

06 April 2020

Poetry Mobile Apps

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This is a guest post by Pete Hebden, a PhD student at Newcastle University, currently undertaking a practice-led PhD; researching and creating a poetry app. Pete has recently completed a three month placement in Contemporary British Published Collections at the British Library, where he assisted curators working with the UK Web Archive, artists books and emerging formats collections, you can follow him on Twitter as @Pete_Hebden

As part of my PhD research, I have been investigating how writers and publishers have used smartphone and tablet devices to present poetry in new ways through mobile apps. In particular, I’m interested in how these new ways of presenting poetry compare to the more familiar format of the printed book. The mobile device allows poets and publishers to create new experiences for readers, incorporating location-based features, interactivity, and multimedia into the encounter with the poem.

Since the introduction of smartphones and tablet computers in the early 2010s, a huge range of digital books, e-literature, and literary games have been developed to explore the possibilities of this technology for literature. Projects like Ambient Literature and the work of Editions at Play have explored how mobile technology can transform story-telling and narrative, and similarly my project looks at how this technology can create new experiences of poetic texts.

Below are a few examples of poetry apps released over the past decade. For accessibility reasons, this selection has been limited to apps that can be used anywhere and are free to download. Some of them present work written with the mobile device in mind, while others take existing print work and re-mediate it for the mobile touchscreen.

Puzzling Poetry (iOS and Android, 2016)

Dutch developers Studio Louter worked with multiple poets to create this gamified approach to reading poetry. Existing poems are turned into puzzles to be unlocked by the reader word-by-word as they use patterns and themes within each text to figure out where each word should go. The result is that often new meanings and possibilities are noticed that might have been missed in a traditional linear reading experience.

Screen capture of Puzzling Poetry
Screen capture image of  the Puzzling Poetry app

This video explains and demonstrates how the Puzzling Poetry app works:

 

Translatory (iOS, 2016)

This app, created by Arc Publications, guides readers in creating their own English translations of contemporary foreign-language poems. Using the digital display to see multiple possible translations of each phrase, the reader gains a fresh understanding of the complex work that goes into literary translation, as well as the rich layers of meaning included within the poem. Readers are able to save their finished translations and share them through social media using the app.

Screen capture image of Translatory
Screen capture image of the Translatory app

 

Poetry: The Poetry Foundation app (iOS and Android, 2011)

At nearly a decade old, the Poetry Foundation’s Poetry app was one of the first mobile apps dedicated to poetry, and has been steadily updated by the editors of Poetry magazine ever since. It contains a huge array of both public-domain work and poems published in the magazine over the past century. To help users find their way through this, Poetry’s developers created an entertaining and useful interface for finding poems with unique combinations of themes through a roulette-wheel-style ‘spinner’. The app also responds to users shaking their phone for a random selection of poem. 

Screen capture image of The Poetry Foundation app
Screen capture image of The Poetry Foundation app

 

ABRA: A Living Text  (iOS, 2014)

A collaboration between the poets Amaranth Borsuk and Kate Durbin, and developer Ian Hatcher, the ABRA app presents readers with a range of digital tools to use (or spells to cast) on the text, which transform the text and create a unique experience for each reader. A fun and unusual way to encounter a collection of poems, giving the reader the opportunity to contribute to an ever-shifting, crowd-edited digital poem.

Screen capture image of the ABRA app
Screen capture image of the ABRA app

This artistic video below demonstrates how the ABRA app works. Painting your finger and thumb gold is not required! 

I hope you feel inspired to check out these poetry apps, or maybe even to create your own.

11 February 2020

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

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[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'

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[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