Notes on Big Picture, User Participation Projects and Crowd-Sourcing

Blue bar

We are now continuing to look at available digital tools, and user participation projects are characterized by their large scale and the involvement of a lot of people (volunteers). Wikipedia immediately comes to my mind as a great example of a user participation project. In future versions of the course, I may split this unit into separate units, but for now I'm going to lump together crowdsourcing and user participation projects, although there is a slight difference between the two.

Participation Projects

One of the fascinating new uses of online digital technology has been the phenomenon of crowdsourcing (sometimes also called user participation) projects. Basically, that means tapping into the knowledge and abilities of the "crowd" (all the people out there in the world who are paying attention at any single moment) to solve a problem. This has been facilitated by the quick rise of communication techniques which have made tapping into the crowd's expertise very easy, often through such devices as twitter and Facebook. (Let's not forget that an even more "successful" crowd-sourcing project is Wikipedia, and that doesn't rely on any specific means of communication.)

With regard to twitter and Facebook, I have seen numerous examples of their use (in educational settings) as crowd-sourcing problem solvers. For example, a professor can tweet out a historical problem (say, for example, on opposition to the entry of the US into World War I) and twitter users can communicate with one another until a single answer has been resolved.

There are quite a few different kinds of user-participation projects out there now, and as I come across more, I will add them to this list of examples that I have right now. (Some of these I already have listed on the schedule, and others I have listed on the Transcription assignment page.)

My last comment here is really a question, could we consider the field of genealogy as a type of user participation endeavor? Well, I think that the phrasing of the question itself provides a hint at the answer. In particular, I thought of genealogy as digital user participation in the case of the public, one-world family trees that are online in I have some more notes on genealogy.