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A sneak peak at 'The Collective Wisdom Handbook: perspectives on crowdsourcing in cultural heritage'

After ten days of intense work over several timezones by 16 co-authors, we have a book! We've gone from 0 to over 90,000 words, with over 50 case studies throughout 14 chapters, conceptualised and written remotely by 16 participants (with the support of the Book Sprints team). The images down the side show some early book cover ideas as we finalised the name and chose a style. That team is now turning our manuscript into a beautifully designed PDF and epub book. When that's ready to share, we'll open a call for comments and feedback as we think about formal publication options.

While that's happening, I thought I'd share part of the Introduction, outlining what's in the various chapters of 'The Collective Wisdom Handbook: perspectives on crowdsourcing in cultural heritage'.

Excerpt from the Introduction and Colophon

Crowdsourcing has helped to provide a framework for online participation with, and around, cultural heritage collections for over a decade. It will continue to change and we look forward to seeing where that journey takes us.

Overview of chapters

The structure of this book is designed around the key stages of planning, implementing, and running a crowdsourcing project. Threads woven through that structure include understanding and matching activities to participant motivations, articulating and embedding your values, planning for the eventual uses of the data, and recognizing the institutional, social, and technological context in which you are working. Each chapter contains perspectives and case studies that summarize or exemplify the ideas discussed in the text.

Planning cultural heritage crowdsourcing projects

In "What is crowdsourcing in cultural heritage?" we shared our hope that a crowdsourcing project can create joy, inspire curiosity, foster new understanding, encourage wider social connections, promote learning, and help people cultivate new skills and expertise — while also producing results that improve cultural heritage collections and knowledge. To help illustrate those possibilities, this chapter offers an introduction that lays the groundwork for other chapters. We define and discuss where crowdsourcing in cultural heritage sits in relation to other fields. We provide an overview of key concepts, including types of crowdsourcing projects, and some of the complexities you will encounter. 

"Why work with crowdsourcing in cultural heritage?" outlines the mutual benefits of this method for project teams and participants in working towards shared goals. It considers how power operates and whose voices are heard in the process, and the need to plan to reduce barriers to participation and increase inclusion and accessibility. This chapter also addresses situations in which crowdsourcing is not the answer, a theme picked up elsewhere in this book.

In "Identifying, aligning, and enacting values in your project," we discuss how establishing values can empower decision-makers and others in upholding shared principles. We consider what happens if you do not consciously establish values, how to set shared values in dialogue with project goals and objectives, and what they look like in practice. We close with a discussion of productive tensions, then reflect on how values were discussed while writing this book. 

In "Designing cultural heritage crowdsourcing projects," we provide a high-level guide to planning projects that helps them meet broader values and strategic objectives. It includes questions and prompts designed to elicit clarity and anticipate practical and resourcing issues relevant to your particular context. 

"Understanding and connecting to participant motivations" highlights the reasons that people start and continue working with crowdsourcing projects, and how your project can link motivations to design choices and concrete activities. It also discusses issues around non-voluntary participation, publishing statistics, and enabling collective competition.

Implementing cultural heritage crowdsourcing projects

"Aligning tasks, platforms, and goals" helps you map the components of your project onto available tools and platforms for crowdsourcing. We offer framing questions to help you focus on the platform features that will be essential for your project, discuss collecting, analyzing, and reviewing tasks, front- and back end interfaces, and the role of pipelines or workflows in building your project.

Following that, "Choosing tasks and workflows" guides you through designing effective tasks, emphasizing the work of finding a match between your participants, tasks, data, and goals. We note the role of learning and developing skills and the benefits of interaction around tasks. We look at collecting, analyzing, and reviewing tasks in more detail, consider workflow design, and working with different languages. We consider task size and selection, the use of AI, and how you could combine the unique abilities of both humans and computers. 

"Supporting participants" helps you plan and deliver projects with transformative benefits to all parties in a crowdsourcing project. We focus particularly on how you can care and advocate for the participants’ experience when planning invitations and outreach activities. It discusses common questions from participants, issues around working with students, creating spaces for discussion and connection, and introduces the 5Cs — care, convening, connection, communication, continuation — for supporting participants.

In "Working with crowdsourced data" we focus on planning to use the data that results from your project. We provide a framework for thinking about data management, including where it intersects with project values, legal requirements, and data ethics. We discuss data management and lifecycles, then delve into quality control and methods for evaluating and validating crowdsourced data. Finally, we discuss processing, accessing, and re-using data.

Running cultural heritage crowdsourcing projects

In "Managing cultural heritage crowdsourcing projects" we look specifically at the challenges of managing digital heritage crowdsourcing projects once they have gone "live." This chapter will guide the reader through the considerations, planning, and strategic decisions needed to make their crowdsourcing project a success throughout its lifecycle. It includes organizational issues grounded in practice, including addressing questions frequently asked by colleagues. This practical information is supported with examples showing how others have successfully overcome these challenges. 

People are the alchemy that creates a project. In "Connecting with communities," we provide practical tips and proven strategies for organizing and engaging a community around a crowdsourcing project. We discuss sustainable and equitable community building and management and look at the role of governance, different types of partnerships, and building spaces for the community. We look at inclusive outreach and organizing at and beyond Predominantly White Institutions.  

Online and in-person events can deliver, enhance, or complement other crowdsourcing activities. In "Planning crowdsourcing events," we provide insights into reasons for running events and list common event formats that can create specific types of experiences, communities, or data results. We describe partnerships and distributed organizing, then close with practical tips for event planners.

In our final chapter, "Evaluating your crowdsourcing project," we share the benefits of evaluating your projects at different points, encourage you to define success and to evaluate as a purposeful exercise, and to be ready to respond to discoveries. We discuss planning, reporting, and the role of successful failures.

We are grateful to the Arts and Humanities Research Council for their funding of 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) through an AHRC UK-US Partnership Development Grant.

Please cite as: Ridge, Mia, Samantha Blickhan, Meghan Ferriter, Austin Mast, Ben Brumfield, Brendon Wilkins, Daria Cybulska, Denise Burgher, Jim Casey, Kurt Luther, Michael Haley Goldman, Nick White, Pip Willcox, Sara Carlstead Brumfield, Sonya J. Coleman and Ylva Berglund Prytz. ‘A Sneak Peak at “The Collective Wisdom Handbook: Perspectives on Crowdsourcing in Cultural Heritage”’. Collective Wisdom (blog), 4 April 2021. https://collectivewisdomproject.org.uk/a-sneak-peak-at-the-collective-wisdom-handbook/.

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