At the heart of any digital humanities project is the team involved in creating the project. This team consists of leaders, experts, researchers, computer programmers, and designers to name a few. In addition to professional people working on the sites, many digital humanities projects rely on a technique called crowd sourcing. Crowd sourcing is the contribution of volunteers to digital humanities projects. These volunteers, for better or for worse, do not need to be experts in the material. Sometimes this can cause problems when information is inaccurate. We see this a lot today with the nature of the Internet. Anyone can post or comment on the Internet regardless of merit. This idea is explored in the article Citizens as Sensors: the World of Volunteered Geography. The author Michael F. Goodchild defines crowd sourcing as “the widespread engagement of large numbers of private citizens, often with little in the way of formal qualifications, in the creation of geographic information, a function that for centuries has been reserved to official agencies. They are largely untrained and their actions are almost always voluntary, and the results may or may not be accurate” (Goodchild 212).

However, Goodchild goes on to argue that the benefits of volunteers outweigh possible misrepresentations of information. Crowd sourcing is essentially costless and is efficient since the more people working on the project means more information is available sooner. For these reasons, there are many digital humanities projects that use crowd sourcing. Projects range from the North American Bird Phenology Program, which allows users to contribute information about bird sightings, leading to a record of migratory patterns, to The Great War Archive, which collects World War One objects from the public and organizes them into an online archive.

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To me, one of the most interesting projects is The Listening Project, a collaborative project between BBC Radio 4, BBC radio stations, and the British Library. In this project, people submit “intimate conversations” between themselves and a “close friend or relative” in order to share human experiences. The website divides the collective audio files into categories based on topic and based on radio station. It provides a step-by-step guide for submitting conversations, making it easy for volunteers to contribute. The website also contains conversation topics, encouraging viewers of the website to submit their own stories. The entire purpose of this project is based on every day people who do not have backgrounds in digital humanities or another specific field but contribute a small part of their lives in order to find common ground in humanity.

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Samantha Donohue



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