Crowdsource transcription critical reflection

This post will critically reflect on two crowdsourcing projects; Transcribe Bentham and Old Weather and analyse what these projects offer to those who participate, and how these projects can improve the experience for their audience.

Transcribe Bentham is an award winning project aimed at publishing the works of Jeremy Bentham. [1]Bentham was a prominent philosopher and advocate of representative democracy, [2] and the digitisation and increased availability of his works are important as they are becoming increasingly relevant to modern life. [3] The Old Weather project is looking at how the climate has changed by transcribing ship logbook entries. [4]

Both websites allow members to join for free, meaning that all a volunteers would need to participate in these projects in as Internet connection. Old Weather provides a tutorial for those interested in participating, which walks the volunteer through how to contribute to the project. The Old Weather website offers a forum where volunteers can discuss the project and get advice from other contributors. The forum encourages discussion between volunteers and fosters a sense of community. For volunteers of the Old Weather project, transcribing provides an opportunity to be a part of a community.

To encourage participation Old Weather gives its volunteers titles. For example, when you first begin transcribing you are a ‘Cadet’, and once you complete a certain number of transcriptions, a volunteer can be promoted to ‘Lieutenant’.  This is an effective way to encourage participation, and inspire users to keep transcribing.

Transcribe Bentham’s website is a bit more difficult to navigate. However, you can pick what document to transcribe by subject matter, difficulty, or the period in which it was written. This engages users as they can pick which documents to transcribe based on subjects the interest them. This is particularly useful as Bentham’s handwriting can be rather difficult to decipher. Once you familiarise yourself with the layout of the website, the actual mechanics for transcribing documents are easy to use.
Both websites are limiting volunteers to those who can speak English, and as a result the amount of people willing to volunteer for these projects are dramatically restricted. Transcribe Bentham’s website is difficult to Navigate. Provide more of a historical background to the sources. The Old Weather website is a more modern website, and Transcribe Bentham’s website looks rather anachronistic in comparison.

Overall, both websites offer a unique experience to those who choose to volunteer for the projects. Users are able to interact with history in a more direct way, than they would by reading a journal article for example. Volunteers are playing an active part in ensuring these documents are available for years to come.

Bibliography

Causer, Tim, Terras Melissa, ‘Crowdsourcing Bentham: beyond the traditional boundaries of academic history’, International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing, Vol. 8, No. 1. (2014)

Causer Tim, Justin Tonra, and Valerie Wallace, ‘Transcription maximized; expense minimized? Crowdsourcing and editing The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham’, Lit Linguist Computing, Vol.27, No. 2 (2012)

Brumfield, W. Ben, ‘Collaborative Manuscript Transcription’, Manuscript Transcription, http://manuscripttranscription.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/what-does-it-mean-to-support-tei-for.html,

[1] Tim Causer, Melissa Terras, ‘Crowdsourcing Bentham: beyond the traditional boundaries of academic history’, International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing, Vol. 8, No. 1. (2014) P2

[2] Tim Causer, Justin Tonra and Valerie Wallace, ‘Transcription maximized; expense minimized? Crowdsourcing and editing The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham’, Lit Linguist Computing, Vol.27, No. 2 (2012) P120

[3] Tim Causer, Transcription Maximised, P120.

[4] Ben W. Brumfield, ‘Collaborative Manuscript Transcription’, Manuscript Transcription, http://manuscripttranscription.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/what-does-it-mean-to-support-tei-for.html, consulted 4 March 2015.

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Crowdsource transcription critical reflection

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