Collective Wisdom

The state of the art in cultural heritage crowdsourcing

Collective Wisdom is led by Principal Investigator Mia Ridge (British Library) and Co-Investigators Meghan Ferriter (Library of Congress) and Sam Blickhan (Zooniverse).

Our overarching goals are to:

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

Activities and objectives

We planned two activities to reach our goals:

  • holding two week-long collaborative ‘sprints’ (or writing workshops) designed to produce an authoritative book within a month
  • holding a follow-up workshop to interrogate, refine and advance questions from this thematic area and agree upon high priority issues for future work, laying the foundations for future collaboration and providing input for the white paper

Moving these events online has meant changes to our timelines, but may also create opportunities for wider participation in some parts of the project. We’re now running the online Book Sprints over March 15-19 and March 29-April 2, 2021.

These activities are designed to produce the following results:

  • An open access book that provides the definitive guide to designing, managing and integrating crowdsourcing activities, created during the above event
  • A white paper that outlines emerging, intractable and unsolved challenges that could be addressed by further funding for collaborative work.

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.

We want this project to help foster the wonderful community of crowdsourcing practitioners, participants and researchers by hosting events and online discussion. Adapting to the global pandemic – and the increased interest in crowdsourcing, digital participation and access – makes this more important than ever.

How can you get involved?

We held a call for participants in our Book Sprint, and will launching a call for case studies soon.

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 newsletter or join the Crowdsourcing group on Humanities Commons. If you’re generally interested in crowdsourcing and online participation in digital cultural heritage, the JISCMail Crowdsourcing list has some discussion on starting and managing projects in the current context.

Funded by the AHRC

We are grateful to the Arts and Humanities Research Council for funding as an AHRC UK-US Partnership Development Grant for our proposal, ‘From crowdsourcing to digitally-enabled participation: the state of the art in collaboration, access, and inclusion for cultural heritage institutions’, AH/T013052/1.