Editors’ Choice: Crowdsourcing, Undergraduates, and Digital Humanities Projects

Crowdsourcing could be a silver bullet for integrating digital humanities methods into the undergraduate curriculum.  Why?

Crowdsourcing means getting the general public to do tasks. Jeff Howe explains the phenomenon in “The Rise of Crowdsourcing” (Wired Magazine, June 2006) by analogy with outsourcing.  This method of labor is growing for scholarly and cultural heritage projects, and that’s where it intersects with the undergraduate curriculum.  Collaborative manuscript transcription projects, like Transcribe Bentham, have received quite a bit of the attention, but there are a variety of opportunities out there for motivated students to engage in the process of digitizing, preserving, and studying collective resources and data.  For example, the Perseus Digital Library (whose flagship collections covers the history, literature and culture of the Greco-Roman world) has drafted a call to

Advance our understanding of the Greco-Roman World! Contribute to the Scaife Digital Library — improve existing materials and to create new ones! If you want to understand the present and invent the future then FREE THE PAST!

This call lays out a variety of ways to contribute, including translation, definition, citation, text correction, manuscript transcription, text markup, mapping, and clarifying ambiguous names, words or grammar. If your students answer this call or one like it, what will they gain?  Is this just grunt labor or are their potential learning outcomes? Why is this a silver bullet for DH in the classroom?

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This content was selected for Digital Humanities Now by Editor-in-Chief based on nominations by Editors-at-Large: