Greater good, empowerment and democratization? Affordances of the crowdsourcing transcription projects

Joanna Iranowska

Abstract


Digital technology and Internet access have created new possibilities for museums and archives for digitization of their collections. Steadily, more museums are experimenting with inviting their audiences to participate in tagging images, annotating, transcribing historical texts or cropping photographs. This article is an exploration of visual and functional aspects of various digital interfaces frequently being used in crowdsourcing projects involving transcribing manuscripts. The empirical material has been collected through interviews with the editors of the projects and systematic technical walkthroughs of MediaWiki platforms (Edvard Munch’s Writings and Transcribe Bentham) and Zooniverse platforms (AnnoTate and Shakespeare’s World). The analysis aims to explore platforms’ affordances (Gibson 1978), in other words the opportunities that the layout and design offer to users interacting with facsimiles of manuscripts (‘digital networked objects’) (Cameron and Mengler 2015). The questions raised are whether and how the interfaces empower users and perform as a democratic actor providing the volunteers with agency. The platforms’ interfaces have emerged as an important and undervalued actor-network of elements which configure heterogeneous relations among actors and influence users’ engagement.


Keywords


digitization, crowdsourcing, text collections, online participation, interfaces

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.29311/mas.v17i2.2758



Copyright (c) 2019 Joanna Iranowska

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360