For Thu 27 Feb – Thu 6 Mar: Crowdsourcing the Humanities

Sir James Murray – Crowdsourcing the OED


As is typical for an emerging area, this effort has appeared under many names, including peer production, user-powered systems, user-generated content, collaborative systems, community systems, social systems, social search, social media, collective intelligence, wikinomics, crowd wisdom, smart mobs, mass collaboration, and human computation. The topic has been discussed extensively in books, popular press, and academia. Crowdsourcing Systems on the World-Wide Web | April 2011 | Communications of the ACM

Video time in class: ▶ Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding Explained – YouTube. Navigation and the OED. Happy happy joy joy. Labor, solutions, finding info, gathering ideas.

For Tue 4 Mar

Wired 14.06: The Rise of Crowdsourcing

Below this point: We’ll review these and choose

James Surowiecki: The power and the danger of online crowds | Video on

Crowdsourcing: A Million Heads is Better than One – ReadWrite

Towards a characterization of crowdsourcing practices –

How Reddit Became A Hub Of The Crowdsourced Boston Marathon Bombing Investigation

The “Dumbness of Crowds”  Some limits of crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing — Digital Humanities Network

More than a business model: crowd-sourcing and impact in the humanities | Impact of Social Sciences

Stanford humanities scholars harness the power of crowdsourcing

AHRC Crowd Sourcing Study » A project of the AHRC’s Connected Communities Programme

Update: Debates in the Digital Humanities, one of the texts I use in this course, is now online as free and open, with crowdsourcing capabilities. The web app looks similar to the enhanced books we were looking at a couple of weeks ago.

App Chat: Social Media Goes Newsy (

Today I was listening to MPR Science Friday and they were discussing the new Facebook application “Paper” which allows Facebook users to centralize all of their news. Interestingly, their discussion follows exactly what were were discussing this week in class in regard to the social media stream becoming the go to place for news, how social media will affect our future reading habits, and digital curating.

Just thought I should pass this information along.

for Tues 25 Feb – Thurs 27 Feb

We started with social media but our discussion has moved us towards social media and knowledge: knowledge as an institution and knowledge as a discussion.

For next Tuesday, a short article, a 60min video lecture, and a pamphlet.

From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able, Michael Wesch

In continuing the discussion on Wikipedia and getting that kind of knowledge into the academy: What’s working against digital humanists?

One of the significant changes involves one of the practices humanists engage in: classifying stuff. It isn’t just Wikipedia that’s uprooting knowledge but tags.

Weinberger, Lecture on Too Big to Know. 60 minutes, but stay with it. Knowledge is what knowledge is when the medium is paper. If the medium is digital, then what knowledge is changes. Knowledge takes on properties of the medium. Linked difference, messiness, inclusive. The social starts to appear on the net.

▶ Authors at Google: David Weinberger – YouTube

And a brief intro to social bookmarking, where Weinberger’s messiness comes from: tagging. Bookmarking sites is the academic activity (See Pinboard Recents), but Pinterest, Tumblr and other sites make use of social categorization and ontology.

7 things about social bookmarking

Optional: Shirky goes headlong into a consideration of what knowledge is with a longish work on ontology:

Shirky: Ontology is Overrated — Categories, Links, and Tags

The Constant Distraction of the e-book Annotation

I’m fascinated by the internet and how readily available it’s vast collection of information is. But the availability is a double edged sword.

This video(2:19) of comedian Aziz Ansari illustrates the danger quite well.

E-book annotations offer up the same double-edge. They are there to clarify the text, which is great, but they are also an endless distraction. A link to a wikipedia page is a trap. You’ll click it, you’ll find out what you needed to know, but you’ll also be given extra information, information that will undoubtedly lead to more questions, and the answers are just a click away. Three hours later, you forgot you were even reading a book, and you know way to much about Joe Pesci.

Editors discuss the e-book annotation distraction problem here.

Excerpts Worth Discussing:

There’s an excellent book titled “What Jane Austen Ate and Dickens Knew” that goes into all the nitty-gritty background: how much was rent, how much did bread cost; if someone has an income of 500 pounds, is that a lot or a little? But it’s a good thing that this information is packaged up in a separate book, not embedded into my copies of Dickens’ books. But if someone could figure out the right way to build this kind of reading experience in a way that wasn’t intrusive, that would be really good.

Still, there are some texts for which the annotations are an indispensable part of the experience. I would have found “Ulysses” to be nearly impenetrable in places if I didn’t have the annotations handy. To have those annotations somehow built in to the ebook so that I could easily flick back and forth between text and annotation sounds very appealing…

The UI problem of all the ancillary material getting in the way of a clean reading experience can be solved easily, by simply making the links/extra info invisible until the user reveals them. That can be done through a gesture, a Ctrl+Click or some other unused-in-ebook-reading action. The reveal would be a toggle, so users could turn it off equally easily. That lets publishers include as much ancillary information as they wish without interfering with the reading experience.

The Primal Chart

The Primal Chart

In this image we see sailors that are more than likely considered “digital natives” yet they are slaves to the primal chart before them, or are they? Is this the United States Navy’s way of transitioning from the primal chart of the digital immigrant to the electronic age of the digital native? Is one currently the primary manner by which the ship navigates, and the other simply a means of confirmation?

I suggest the ship in navigated hand in hand by both the primal and digital manners of navigation. Especially being that a Navy ship is a wartime platform and they must be able to fall back on the manual way of navigating should their electronics suddenly become inoperative.

for Tues 18 Feb and next week

We’re shifting topic to social media: aka new media, Web 2.0, participatory media.

Where networked media meet people they go social. Which is to say, The networked text (book, wikipedia article, …) is social.

Twitter, yes.
FB, yes.
Wikipedia, blogging.

But also the social practices of tagging, remixing, commenting. Fan fiction. Plagiarism. Changes in the state of knowledge and knowing. A crises of knowledge? Distributed knowledge. Changes in ontology. Death of the expert.

Read 3, all starting with the letter B.

Brown and Duguid: The Social Life of Documents

boyd: Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media

Bustillos: Wikipedia And The Death Of The Expert

The “Enhanced” Book

The Original Scroll

The Original Scroll

Bolstered by the commercial success of mobile tablets, smartphones, and e-readers, “enhanced” books are now becoming the publishers’ medium of choice and experimentation.

The “enhanced” book offers publishers the following…
• A new market to increase revenue.
• Creative options to distinguish their products from the competitors.
• Less of a reliance on bookstores to store their wares.
• A way to break the Amazon gridlock.

The “enhanced” book offers the reader a whole new reading experience as well. For an example the author writes about the enhanced version of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, which allows the reader to access “pop-ups” that show snapshots of the writer, characters, the original typed text, scenes (and a map) of the countryside that they traveled through, and a video of a 1959 interview with the author.

I believe that this is an awesome new frontier for literature. Since the dawn of internet for the masses, I have read with a book in one hand and a computer in arms reach if the book was interesting to me. I can only imagine reading On the Road for the first time with this technology. To actually see whom Kerouac was talking about (without the use of his character cipher and an educated guess), a map locating where they were on their journey (with snapshots), and to hear and see the author talk about the book himself, would have been a memorable experience to say the least.

“Cheap Words”



An interesting article came out in the New Yorker ( written by George Packer) about the nature of e-books and Amazon.

“In the era of the Kindle, a book costs the same price as a sandwich. Dennis Johnson, an independent publisher, says that “Amazon has successfully fostered the idea that a book is a thing of minimal value—it’s a widget.”

I didn’t actually know this, but Amazon started as an online bookstore.

From the article:

“Bezos said that Amazon intended to sell books as a way of gathering data on affluent, educated shoppers. The books would be priced close to cost, in order to increase sales volume. After collecting data on millions of customers, Amazon could figure out how to sell everything else dirt cheap on the Internet. (Amazon says that its original business plan “contemplated only books.”)”

This is a prime example of someone capitalizing on the allure of the so-called “primal book”, using the princely status of physical books to gain access to valuable data. Physical books contributed greatly to the inception of, and the consequent global superstore can be traced back to the status that books hold (or held?) in our society. The article really hammers home the ruthless nature Bezos had:

“In the mid-aughts, Bezos,having watched Apple take over the music-selling business with iTunes and the iPod, became determined not to let the same thing happen with books. In 2004, he set up a lab in Silicon Valley that would build Amazon’s first piece of consumer hardware: a device for reading digital books. According to Stone’s book, Bezos told the executive running the project, “Proceed as if your goal is to put everyone selling physical books out of a job.”

And, being ruthless payed off:

“By 2010, Amazon controlled ninety per cent of the market in digital books—a dominance that almost no company, in any industry, could claim.”

The article goes on to address the fact that Amazon has attempted to get into publishing, as to keep it all ‘in-house’, but has failed. Some say that while Amazon is a fast-moving, ever-changing superstore, the publishing industry is something like its opposite: slow, very slow. Super slow. And steady. Publishing a book is usually a process that takes over a year. The nature of an enterprise like Amazon is not very accommodating for long processes. It needs a product, and it needs it immediately.


Reading: From Solitary to Social

“Think about the value of being able to talk about a book while you are reading. You get to a paragraph and love the way the author has described an event. Or, you are shocked by the actions of a character. Instead of waiting to talk with someone else at work the next day about the reading, you can actually talk about it at the moment you are reading and thinking about it. If a friend happens to be reading the book at the same time, you can even have a real-time conversation as you are reading.”

This is taken from a short blog post regarding the social aspect of reading, an aspect that is not actually new, but has risen in popularity with the advent of “screen-reading”. I think it’s interesting how the online, “social” aspect of reading is being compared to book clubs, library discussions, and other interpersonal discussions about books. Is it really the same? I think that to a great extent the use of digital technology might help evolve concepts and ideas that would have initially been disregarded. This means, of course, MORE INFO. Too much info?