Crowdsourcing as connection: a constant star over a sea of change / Établir des connexions: un invariant des projets de crowdsourcing

As I'm speaking today at an event that's mostly in French, I'm sharing my slides outline so it can be viewed at leisure, or copy-and-pasted into a translation tool like Google Translate.

Colloque de clôture du projet Testaments de Poilus, Les Archives nationales de France, 25 Novembre 2022

Crowdsourcing as connection: a constant star over a sea of change, Mia Ridge, British Library

GLAM values as a guiding star

(Or, how will AI change crowdsourcing?) My argument is that technology is changing rapidly around us, but our skills in connecting people and collections are as relevant as ever:

  • Crowdsourcing connects people and collections
  • AI is changing GLAM work
  • But the values we express through crowdsourcing can light the way forward

(GLAM – galleries, libraries, archives and museums)

A sea of change

AI-based tools can now do many crowdsourced tasks:

  • Transcribe audio; typed and handwritten text
  • Classify / label images and text – objects, concepts, 'emotions'

AI-based tools can also generate new images, text

  • Deep fakes, emerging formats – collecting and preservation challenges

AI is still work-in-progress

Automatic transcription, translation failure from this morning: 'the encephalogram is no longer the mother of weeks'

  • Results have many biases; cannot be used alone
  • White, Western, 21st century view
  • Carbon footprint
  • Expertise and resources required
  • Not easily integrated with GLAM workflows

Why bother with crowdsourcing if AI will soon be 'good enough'?

The elephant in the room; been on my mind for a couple of years now

The rise of AI means we have to think about the role of crowdsourcing in cultural heritage. Why bother if software can do it all?

Crowdsourcing brings collections to life

  • Close, engaged attention to 'obscure' collection items
  • Opportunities for lifelong learning; historical and scientific literacy
  • Gathers diverse perspectives, knowledge

Crowdsourcing as connection

Crowdsourcing in GLAMs is valuable in part because it creates connections around people and collections

  • Between volunteers and staff
  • Between people and collections
  • Between collections

Examples from the British Library

In the Spotlight: designing for productivity and engagement

Living with Machines: designing crowdsourcing projects in collaboration with data scientists that attempt to both engage the public with our research and generate research datasets. Participant comments and questions inspired new tasks, shaped our work.

How do we follow the star?

Bringing 'crowdsourcing as connection' into work with AI

Valuing 'crowdsourcing as connection'

  • Efficiency isn't everything. Participation is part of our mission
  • Help technologists and researchers understand the value in connecting people with collections
  • Develop mutual understanding of different types of data – editions, enhancement, transcription, annotation
  • Perfection isn't everything – help GLAM staff define 'data quality' in different contexts
  • Where is imperfect, AI data at scale more useful than perfect but limited data?
  • 'réinjectée' – when, where, and how?
  • How does crowdsourcing, AI change work for staff?
  • How do we integrate data from different sources (AI, crowdsourcing, cataloguers), at different scales, into coherent systems?
  • How do interfaces show data provenance, confidence?

Transforming access, discovery, use

  • A single digitised item can be infinitely linked to places, people, concepts – how does this change 'discovery'?
  • What other user needs can we meet through a combination of AI, better data systems and public participation?

Merci de votre attention!

Pour en savoir plus:

Essayez notre activité de crowdsourcing:

Nous attendons vos questions:

Screenshot of images generated by AI, showing variations on dark blue or green seas and shining stars
Versions of image generation for the text 'a bright star over the sea'
Presenting at Les Archives nationales de France, Paris, from home

Experimenting with Mastodon

I'd signed up to during an earlier twitter kerfuffle in 2017, then with in January last year, and on a whim. [Edit to add, I've taken the plunge and migrated to as my main account].

2008-era Nokia phone with a tweet on the screen: @miaridge 'those twitters on screen are really distracting me at #mw2008'
Tweet from Museums and the Web 2008 'complaining' about being distracted by a twitterfall (remember that?) screen

This week I've gone back and taken another look. (So that's me, me and me). The energy that's poured in must be quite disconcerting for long-term users, but making new connections and thinking differently about how I want to post on social media has been quite exhilarating. It's also been a chance to think about what twitter's meant for me in the nearly 15 years I've been posting.

I've realised how constrained my tweeting has become over time, and in particular how a sense of surveillance has sucked the joy out of posting. The idea that an employer's HR, a tabloid journalist, or someone on the lookout to take offence could seize on something and blow it up – the uncertainty about how things could be taken out of context and take on a life of their own – had a chilling effect.

[Edited to add, also I've never stopped being annoyed about the way Twitter turned 'stars' into 'likes' or hearts, then shared them into timelines, as described well in this guide to Mastodon. I also acted defensively against the worst changes in twitter – my location is set to Jordan so that trending topics are in Arabic and therefore unreadable to me (except when BTS fans take over); I use the 'latest' view if I have to use Twitter's own client; and I normally use clients that only show things that people I follow have consciously tweeted, not random 'likes'.]

15 years is a long time, and I've also had to be more thoughtful about what I post as my job titles and institutions have changed. Lots of us have grown up while on the site, and benefited hugely from the conversations, friendships, provocations and more we've found there.

Twitter completely transformed events for me – you could find like-minded folk in a crowd as talks were live tweeted. Some of those conversations have continued for years. I have fond memories of making good trouble at events like Museums and the Web (and of course the Museums Computer Group's events) with people I met via their tweets.

I'll also miss the sheer size of Twitter that made random searches so interesting. You could search on any word you liked and get so many glimpses into other lives and ways of being in the world. I've never understood the 'town square' thing but it was a brilliant coffee shop. [Edit to add: that ability to search out very specific terms is also part of the surveillance vibe – it's easy to search for terms to get upset about, or to find a tweet posted to a few hundred people and pull it out of context. Mastodon apparently only allows searches on hashtagged terms, as explained in this post, so the original poster has to consciously make a word publicly searchable]

Over time, we've lost many voices as some people found twitter too toxic, or too time-consuming. Post-2016, it's been much harder to love a platform so full of harmful misinformation. At the moment this definitely feels like the last days of twitter, though I'm sure lots of us will keep our accounts, even if we don't go there as much.

If twitter doesn't last, thank thanks to everyone who's kept me entertained, changed how I think about things, commiserated, cheered me up, shared wins and losses over the years.