A critical look
14109867 | Digital History | 16. mars 2015
Crowdsourcing has made it possible to get a lot of work done in a short amount of time by dividing the “tasks” between volunteers interested in whatever the crowdsourcing sites are offering. It is about sharing and utilizing the creative and competitive soul of people from all over the world so they can solve problems, both big and small (Wadhwa, 2014). It is giving people an opportunity to help with something they are interested in while also being a part of something bigger. People get to use their creativeness to solve problems and their competitive side might also come out especially when there are rankings involved. Feeling proud for helping to achieve something is probably one of the most important things participants get for dedicating their time and knowledge to help.
There are several different types of crowdsourcing sites. Old Weather is a site looking for specific information and it has a ranking system, while in the Australian ‘Trove’ newspaper project you are looking for mistakes to fix. What you get out of the different projects is probably quite individual.
There are both pros and cons to crowdsourcing. Having a ‘choice of ideas’ is a pro. This means that instead of having to use the ideas from one person or agency you can choose between several ideas from a “crowd” of people (NFIB.com, 2010). Lower cost or no cost at all is also a big pro, especially for companies with big projects to transcribe.
Some downsides to crowdsourcing, like with pretty much everything else, is that it is easy to make mistakes. Some might even make mistakes intentionally as some kind of “boycott” of the project. This can be solved by having someone look over the transcribed pages, like Old Weather (2013) does, to correct mistakes or “slips” of the keyboard.
I found that even the supposedly easy manuscripts to transcribe on the Transcribing Bentham website were hard to understand, which is a problem when it comes to crowdsourcing. For volunteers to help they have to be able to understand what they are transcribing and there are probably quite a few people out there who can’t read old handwritings like the one on Transcribing Bentham.
Both Old Weather and the Australian ‘Trove’ newspaper project give you a sense of how the culture was at those times in history, what was important and what was not. Getting to see/experience the different scripts is something both projects have done well. Old Weather also has a ranking system which I think appeals to the competitive side most of us humans have. The Australian site could probably put a ranking system on their site as well to appeal to a wider crowd. Old Weather is looking for specific information, but have several tabs to fill out that I didn’t need to use. This is something they should fix as it is confusing to people who don’t know much about boats or what info they are looking for.
Both projects could probably also benefit from making people more aware that they are out there, cultivate a broader audience (Gibbs and Owens, 2012). This way more people would participate and be encouraged to be historians or at least make history more available to participants (Frankle, 2011).
Frankle, E. (2011) Center for the Future of Museums: More Crowdsourced Scholarship: Citizen History,Futureofmuseums.blogspot.no/. Available at: http://futureofmuseums.blogspot.no/2011/07/more-crowdsourced-scholarship-citizen.html (Accessed: 18 March 2015).
Gibbs, F. and Owens, T. (2012) DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly: Building Better Digital Humanities Tools: Toward broader audiences and user-centered designs, Digital Humanities Quarterly. Available at: http://digitalhumanities.org:8081/dhq/vol/6/2/000136/000136.html (Accessed: 16 March 2015).
NFIB.com (2010) The Pros and Cons of Crowdsourcing: Is it for Your Small Business?. National Federation of Independent Business. Available at: http://www.nfib.com/article/the-pros-and-cons-of-crowdsourcing-is-it-for-your-small-business-52166/ (Accessed: 17 March 2015).
Wadhwa, V. (2014) ‘Benefits of Crowdsourcing’, The Wall Street Journal. WSJ. Available at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/benefits-of-crowdsourcing-1414625224 (Accessed: 18 March 2015).
Zooniverse (2013) Our Weather’s Past, the Climate’s Future, Old Weather. Available at: http://www.oldweather.org/ (Accessed: 17 March 2015).