“ARE YOU READY… to meticulously annotate 12,000 documents of 18th-century French paleography?!”
Photo by Marc-Olivier Paquin on Unsplash
Researchers in a variety of disciplines are tapping into the possibilities of crowdsourcing and what it can accomplish. This can mean crowdfunding to support scholarly projects (such as a recent campaign to pay for the restoration of Mary of Gelderland’s unique medieval prayer book), or a relatively passive involvement, such as SETI@Home, in which participants allow the project to harness the power of their computer processors when not in use.
More active varieties extend to ‘citizen science’– calling on the public to volunteer their involvement. At one end of the scale, this may mean massive data projects like those Zooniverse hosts, which have attracted over 1 million registered users thus far. Participants are given tasks which are relatively low-skill, but which humans perform better than computers – such as identifying animals from captured video. Current Zooniverse projects range from providing checks on census data to mapping vibration patterns on steelpan drums. Crowdsourcing isn’t limited to the sciences; the Transcribe Bentham project at UCL asked members of the public to transcribe Jeremy Bentham’s letters, and proved wildly successful.