How can we all contribute to digital history? (readings 1-4, 2/10/21)

The first reading, “The myth of Amateur Crowds: A critical discourse analysis of crowdsourcing coverage” is a study of the effectiveness of crowdsourcing and who participates in it. The author is arguing that people tend to be dismissive of crowdsourcing because they assume the participants are under-qualified. People tend to assume only amateurs contribute to crowdsourcing, which makes the information or contribution unreliable. However, the author of this article is challenging that notion and arguing crowdsourcing is an effective measure to create a community and it is often professionals who contribute. The research shows that people engage with crowdsourcing and those people are often well educated, professionals in their fields. In terms of digital history, this is an interesting thought for museums. How can museums crowdsource to create communities and have a shared authority? Can crowd sourcing be used within the digital history communities?

The second reading, “Building a Volunteer Community; Results and Findings from the Transcribe Bentham” is a case study on how the online transcription service used crowdsourcing to find participants and create a community. While most participants did not become permanent volunteers, it was still an important study to learn how to engage a community and evidence of how professionals participate. But it also pointed out something interesting in that the volunteers did not engage with each other. What does this mean for digital history? How can a more lasting community be established through crowdsourcing?

“Dark Matter” is an article about how technology and websites are the future of museums because it is a new form to engage with people and share information. It also points to how people contribute to the internet. How they utilize platforms to engage with each other. Because of this it is important to know how museums and histories contribute to this information sharing. In that same vein, how can people engage with museums and contribute their thoughts? Shared authority is important in digital history, so how can online formats crowdsource and interact with viewers?

Finally, “Why I wasn’t Consulted” demonstrates how people want a say in what they participate in. They want to be involved and their opinion to be recognized. It is essential for creating a shared authority within digital history because visitors want to share their knowledge to engage. How can you consult visitors in digital history? Digital history (and public history) is dependent on viewers, and therefore it is essential they are consulted. Can you think of a digital history that you as a viewer were consulted and how you connected to it?

The essential theme to these writings is how can we engage our viewers? How do we share authority and help viewers create meaning? Digital history can reach so many people and they need to feel participatory in the conversations. So, how do we do that?

2 Replies to “How can we all contribute to digital history? (readings 1-4, 2/10/21)”

  1. Amanda, I thought the “Dark Matter” article was particularly interesting, especially in relation to its focus on how much we can underestimate the power and the depth of the Internet and information sharing within it. Edson’s focus on the Green brothers, with their vlog channel and Crash Course series, is close to my heart as an Indianapolis native (where John Green is from and still lives), a past mega-fan of John himself, and a past regular viewer of Crash Course in many high school classes. That being said, it was still surprising and fascinating to me to read through the timeline of the Green brothers’ success in relation to their “experiment” that went from a conversation between two brothers to many YouTube channels with millions of fans, among many other accomplishments. In the end, this is just one case study of many, but I think it is a relevant one to our class. The Green brothers embraced a shared authority and a connection with the people they were eventually producing content for and this rewarded them in the end. Even in a case like this, with two famous brothers and a YouTube channel, museums and digital historians can learn a lesson from the ways people have harnessed the power of the Internet and information sharing.

  2. Amanda–I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about WWIC and I feel like when that question is posed in public history circles it tends to…run in circles. Obviously, outreach/consulting/engaging viewers and visitors is key to the monetary and interpretive success of our field. I think successful ways to consult others on the internet revolve around the idea of sharing creativity. I think a place where we (the “power” holders) create spaces for viewers to voice their opinion, change/edit some materials without exploiting their free labor is a good start. The Children of the Lodz Ghetto project is a good example of this. This question must remain at the forefront of institutions/organizations especially now as we all search for ways to feel connected to things in a pandemic and a (god-willing) post-pandemic world.

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