Collaboration in the Digital Humanities

  1. Introduction
  2. What is Collaboration in DH?
  3. Project Bamboo
  4. King’s College London – PERICLES
  5. Wikipedia and Crowdsourcing
  6. Final Analysis
  7. Conclusion
  8. Bibliography


Collaboration is a concept that on the surface is simple enough because the idea of the community contributing to one shared goal is a part of human nature. The complication appears when questions surface concerning what practices form collaboration as its own research method in the field of Digital Humanities. What makes collaboration different from cooperation or teamwork involves a number of factors depending on the individual or group’s perspective. Digital Humanities is no different in that regard because the field has its own needs to consider for collaborative projects. However at the core there are certain conditions that have to be met in order for a project to be considered collaborative. The first condition is that multiple people are workings towards a similar goal. Second, each person in the group has something valuable to contribute to the project and is recognized for their contribution. Finally, for a project to truly be considered collaborative no one person can complete the project on their own. Collaboration in essence is so difficultfor DH to define because of the differences in understanding what process make up the concept of collaboration.

The first point is a self- explanatory condition for collaboration. The term collaboration is already associated with phrases such as “cooperation” and “teamwork.” In order for collaboration to take place, multiple be are involved. The reason for this is because collaboration is a merging of different concepts and for that to succeed, those concepts should come from multiple different sources. In the academic world those sources are other people, or academics. The third point is what makes the field of Digital Humanities so unique within academia. By DH’s very nature it is collaborative because the work is done on such a scale that different people are needed for their expertise. There is already the assumption collaboration that will take place for any project because it is a traditionally interdiscinplinary field. The assumption is so ingrained in the field that the terms of successful collaboration are rarely questioned.

The second point is more difficult to define because there are many ways that people can work together and contribute something to a project but not all of them result in collaboration. One such example is crowdsourcing because it is and it is not collaboration. This will actually be explored later on in the paper with the look at crowdsourcing projects such as Wikipedia. Another example comes from the Industrial Revolution and that is production line manufacturing. This manufacturing process was developed by Henry Ford in order to increase efficiency in automobile production. One person was responsible for a small part in the process and the person next to them responsible for the next step and so on until an entire car was manufactured.

On the surface the process does seem to contain collaborative elements, but it is not true collaboration. This is simple because an individual has nothing more to contribute than what has been delegated to them from an authority figure. If they are replaces, the replacement is expected to contribute in the same manner and do so easily. This was the purpose of production line manufacturing, it was easily to replace an individual because they were just a cog in the machine. The individuals involved in the process could not claim a part of the ownership to the final product the way the academics can for DH projects. What an individual has to contribute, what they can claim ownership of, is a very important part of collaboration. For Ford Motor Vehicles the collaboration did not take place in the production line but rather in the boardroom with Henry Ford himself, his engineers, designers, and business experts. These people had individual skills and perspectives to contribute and were not easily replaceable.

This also ties back to the third point and how collaboration comes down to scale. The bigger the scope, or scale, of a project the more talents are required for it to succeed. For all intents and purposes, a single person can fix or restore an old car. It would be time consuming and costly but it can be accomplished. However, the process of designing a car, creating a manufacturing plan for mass production, and then settling on a business model requires collaboration between individual experts. This process if not something that is unique to the automotive world, it is ingrained in the digital world as well. This paper will focus on a couple of examples of this process as it applies to the DH community.

Instead of cars, DH designs and builds databases and data tools. Instead of production line manufacturing, DH uses crowdsourcing. One person can build a database. but to build it with the scope and detail that academics desire requires a collaborative effort that goes beyond using crowdsourcing. The academic standards for validity are traditionally measured and set by a group of people leading a project. This is something that is not traditionally done outside of academia so it is important to keep in mind the differences in perspectives that the scholarly community will have when approaching a digital project.

This paper will analyse three main case studies that focus on different forms of collaboration. The first is the Bamboo Project mainly because the project was created to improve collaboration between academics. Also because those involved took a self reflective approach to their own struggles and successes with collaborative research. The second case study will analyse a project from King’s College London to see how they approach collaboration with other institutions as well as the community. The final case study will examine more at the role that crowdsourcing has to play within DH and the differences that it has compared to traditional examples of crowdsourcing, such as WIkipedia.

What is Collaboration in DH?

In order to better understand what collaboration means in the DH community, and in general, it is perhaps best to look at some of the discussion that is already taking place in the field. It is difficult to tease out the true concept of collaboration because it has become a catch all term for any kind of work involving more than just the lone scholar. Not just that but collaboration can also be seen as something that is done with technology as well. While this might be collaboration in a sense, it is not the same as the type of collaboration described in the introduction.The reason is because on the surface crowdsourcing appears to be collaboration but in reality it is not because the nature of crowdsourcing is closer to tools such as outsourcing.

Perhaps one of the reasons why it is difficult to tease out the meaning of collaboration in DH is because the field has developed from an interdisciplinary tradition. There is a different meaning to collaboration depending on the scholars involved. It would be imprudent to not acknowledge the ties that DH has with interdisciplinary studies along with digital technologies because the field is a merger of humanities disciplines with modern digital tools. Based on that, it would make sense that some academics in the field also consider collaboration to take place with those same digital tools. This purpose was brought up in the book Collaborative Research in the Digital Humanities by Deegan and McCarty (2012), “… the pivotal role of the digital humanities: to help figure out this new ‘machine’ in its encounters with the study of human cultural artefacts, and to figure out what these artefacts now mean in an intellectual world permanently altered by its presence.” (McCarty, 2012, pg. 7)

However that idea of collaboration with technology only makes sense if both parties are aligned with the same goals. If the goals are different but the means to accomplish the goal align with two parties then a cooperative agreement is established. Technology is still a tool that is used to accomplish a task, it is not the method itself. It is the same with crowdsourcing and how it is used in DH. When a task is designated to the crowd for the curpose of  crowdsourcing they are given a set task which others have decided is necessary to accomplish. Later on in this paper there will be a more involved discussion pertaining to the differences and similarities between collaboration and crowdsourcing. One of the case studies focuses specifically analysing the Wikipedia model and the role that it plays as a crowdsourcing experiment.

In some ways, Wikipedia is more similar to collaboration than what the DH considers to be crowdsourcing. For DH crowdsourcing is a tool that is used to accomplish a specific task within a larger project managed by a group of individuals, or institutions. There are many different examples of crowdsourcing in DH because it holds so much potential. Projects such as the Bentham Project, which has the goal of digitizing and publishing the complete works of Jeremy Bentham. (UCL, n.d.) In order to accomplish this they have reached out to the “crowd” to go through and digitize his works. Something that would be costly and time consuming on a small scale, but by getting more people involved to break up the task it becomes much more manageable. Especially for academic institutions that might not receive as large a budget at private corporations would have.

Most cultural institutions adopt that “type” of crowdsourcing however it is still difficult to separate that tool from collaboration. Part of the struggle could be that that by comparing the crowdsourcing that happens in the  DH community to the Wikipedia model we are doing the field a disservice. The reason it is not the same process is because the investment that people have in DH projects is not equal to what people invest in Wikipedia. All of this leads back to working towards defining the meaning of collaboration for the DH community. According to Flanders,  “… collaborations are so often aimed at building something that works – a tool, a resource, and online collection – the collaborative activities are typically mediated through things like software tools and data standards that are quite uncompromising.” (Flanders, 2012, pg. 67) The problem arises when the tool is not able to accomplish whatever task DH, or those that created the task, wants to be completed. This could happen for a variety of reasons but perhaps the most common, and difficult to manage, is that there is a misunderstanding of what the tools can actually accomplish.

This is looked at more closely in the case study about Project Bamboo because that project was founded in order to develop some commonality between tools used with the DH community. The problem was that for every project that came forth new digital tools were developed, and this was due to multiple reasons, and that hindered communication and even collaboration within the field. One of the core facts about academia today is that technology is becoming more incorporated into research. For that reason developing some level of digital literacy among academics is important in order to properly collaborate with other individuals. There are limits to what technology can do and what programmers can code. There are limits to how a tool can be used. A tool can be reshaped for a different purpose but just like a hammer cannot do what a wrench can do, a coded program can only accomplish what it was designed to do.

One of those programs that Project Bamboo was interested in was XML and the TEI frmework. It is one of the main programs used to digitize large amounts of linguistic data and TEI was developed to provide a standard to digitixing texts within XML.  XML as a program is rather rigid and in order for it to work the code has to be well formed and follow a certain structure. This is not unique to XML, as a matter of fact most computer programs are limited by the language structure within the code they are built upon. There is a lot of potential in what programs can do but the limits that exist are not the kind of limits that humanities scholars usually face. The problem then is what happens when the tool cannot accomplish what it is expected to accomplish. This problem Project Bamboo had to face early on in their discussions because the academics were expecting the programmers to create tools that were not feasible. This disconnect between the scholarly and technological expectations is one that DH tries to bridge from project to project. It is why collaborations is so important for the field, because it gives both sides a chance to lay out their expectations for the project.

Those expectations vary depending on the goals of the project and the parties involved and for that reason different approaches are developed. “Emerging from the experience of the last thirty years are without doubt two central qualities or modes of working: the collaborative and interdisciplinary.” (McCarty, 2011) This is another reason why collaboration in DH is difficult to define, because of its interdisciplinary nature. The way that any project is approached will be from an interdisciplinary view because that is the nature of the field. It does not mean that the approaches are either interdisciplinary or collaborative.

In most cases it is more fluid than that and the modes of working overlap with one another. That fluidity between the modes of work in DH does not translate to technology itself because of the programming rules. However it does show in how the field embraces technology and research for its own purposes. “The complexity of Digital Humanities as a ‘field’ comes partly from its disciplinary and institutional diversity, and its multiple modes of engagement with information technology.” (2010, Svensson) Perhaps this is one of the reasons why DH values the open source and open standards community. By making material accessible to those who need it, it promotes a method of sharing from within the disciplines. “Within the Digital Humanities, adherence to (open) standards is framed as a kind of good citizenship, the necessary precondition for a free interchange of data.” (2012, Flanders, pg. 72) Already there is the expectation that work and progress is to be shared so that others can benefit from it in the future.

Collaboration definitely guides this process because of the need to communicate across disciplines and to know where or who the previous work came from. Collaboration has always been a part of academia because an outside opinion is always valued. Scholarly work builds upon previous work and incorporates new findings into their research. However the method of collaboration DH uses today is different because of the scale of those involved. There is also the ideas that “collaboration in its canonical form follows the model of the Manhattan Project, each discipline or specialization, tending to be represented by a separate person or persons.” (2011, McCarty) This makes sense because it is easier to follow who contributes what and give credit to those contributions. The Manhattan Project is an example of collaboration within a scientific community and how it was first managed during the beginning of the computing era. Therefore there will be some differences in how the groups approach a project compared to how a group of humanities scholars in today’s DH community will approach a collaborative project.

There are different goals for each discipline and DH is there to provide the tool to mediate the exchange between disciplines. Later in the paper when we take a closer look at PERICLES there will be more discussion about collaboration between sciences and the humanities. Some of the problems that the sciences are facing now are challenges that the humanities has been managing for a long time. The reason why disciplines choose to seek out the advice and expertise from others is because those others might have already faced those same problems. “In a strong collaborative ecology, the corollary of respecting each others differences is respecting the commonalities that draw us into joint work in the first place.” (2012, Flanders, pg. 79)   Knowing the tools that they used to solve the problems is why collaboration is so important. There is a mutual understanding of the shared goal and that not just one approach will work to accomplish that goal.

Alongside the need to collaborate in order to accomplish goals, or complete large scale projects, is the scholarly need for individual recognition. Scholars, and people in general, by nature want to be credited for their contributions.  Perhaps this is why the ideal of the ‘lone scholar’ is portrayed in academia. It is easier for someone to receive recognition for any scholarly work produced if they have been the only one to complete that work. That does not mean that the ‘lone scholar’ portrayal is the opposite of collaboration. McCarty (2011) argues that “It should also be clear that when we define the meaning of collaboration in contrast to the pernicious caricature of the ‘lone scholar’ we damage its value irretrievably.” (2011, McCarty)  By this he is making the point that both modes of work have a place. When they start to be compared against each other the understanding of their research purpose is lost.

Developing an understanding of how DH uses collaboration in its research endeavors is the next step to refining the research process. In order to accomplish that the nature of collaboration has to be defined without taking out the role that the individual has in contributing to collaborative scholarship.  The reason is because without the individual recognition it is no longer true collaboration. “Collaboration, too, walks this precarious line between ego and altruism, between private insight and public communication, between local nuance and common ground.” (2012, Flanders, pg. 79) There has to be a balance between what the individual, or lone scholar, contributes and the team contribution. When the individual’s contribution is no longer recognized as such then they become a tool instead of a resource.

This balance is something that DH works to achieve from project to project. Since each project is different, with different goals and people, the approaches to accomplish the project goals vary depending on project needs. The next part of the paper will look at three case studies and how (or if) they fit into requirements of collaborative work. Those requirements were based on the scale of the project, the number of individuals involved, and whether or not it the exists individual recognition for those working with the project.

The reason that these projects were chosen is because they address collaborative work from different angles. Project Bamboo is a humanities project with the actual focus of improving academic collaboration in the digital age. PERICLES is a project that is more science based but chooses to work within the DH context in order to make sure their research is preserved in the digital age. Finally, the look at Wikipedia is because it is an example commonly used to explain the success behind crowdsourcing. Using Wikipedia to explain the differences between collaborative work and crowdsourcing will be helpful in order to better understand the place that both the concept and tool have in supporting DH research.

Project Bamboo

The first case study that will be analysed in this paper is Project Bamboo. Project Bamboo is an interesting case study because it was developed with the intention to address current research issues within the field of Digital Humanities. One of the main goals of the project was to address the lack of core infrastructure supporting DH projects. The project analysed and held workshops to understand why this was happening and what can be done to fix it for the long term.

Not only is the process that Project Bamboo used to approach the current issues within DH interesting to analyse, but the outcome as well. The project had ended before it really had a chance to take off and one of the project leaders, Quinn Dombrowski, published a reflective piece on the process. It is his paper, “Whatever happened to Project Bamboo?” that has led to more discussion on the nature of collaboration in the field. In it he discusses the challenges in creating collaborative projects with other academics as well as the success and failures of Project Bamboo. The project was unique in many ways especially because it was created as a response to what digital humanists believed the humanities needed at the time.

There was a sense that scholarly institutions were not taking an in depth look at the impact that digital tools can have on the field. New tools were being created without any centralized system to incorporate it all. Those tools were then lost as those projects were declared as complete. (Dombrowski, 2014, pg. 2) In a sense, Project Bamboo was a response to those concerns and was founded with the goal of enhancing “arts and humanities research through the development of infrastructure and support for shared technology systems.” (Dombrowski, 2014, pg. 1) Judging by just the project statement it is immediately apparent that the scope of this project is quite large. In some ways it was almost too large because it led to a lack of clear vision for the project. (Dombrowski, 2014, pg. 7) Nonetheless there was still a value to promote a project, especially if there was the possibility of developing new technological services in order to improve current research and collaboration practices in the DH field.

This theme of developing infrastructure services rather than digital tools resurfaces throughout the literature about Project Bamboo. In their piece TEI + Project Bamboo, it is mentioned again that “rather than developing new tools for curating or analysing data, Project Bamboo aims to provide core infrastructure services including identity and access management, collection interoperability, and scholarly data management.” (Dombrowski and Denbo, 2013) So it is a key component to the project itself, it is also the only central vision that the project had to hold it together. The first step in the process was to bring together academics, scholars and technologists from a variety of fields. Then a series of workshops were held to identify research needs for the scholars and how technologists could support those needs.

For the purpose of Project Bamboo there were five key communities defined in the first proposal: humanities researchers, computer science researchers, information scientists, librarians, and campus technologists. (Dombrowski, 2014, pg. 2) Later in the project the groups were merged into the following three categories: humanities researchers, information scientists/librarians, and campus technologists.  In the spirit of collaboration these individual groups were brought together because they all had a different perspective and something to contribute to the project. The fact that these groups had different perspectives was recognized and each group was assigned different roles in the development of the project. The humanities scholar were responsible for outlining current research methods and outlining areas for improvement. The librarians and technologists were then supposed to draft a proposal for the “development of services and underlying infrastructure” to support the humanities research needs. (Dombrowski, 2014, pg. 3) Unfortunately it did not go as planned because the humanities scholars focused on research needs and areas for improvement that could not be address through technological development.  (Dombrowski, 2014, pg. 3)

This disparity in focus between the groups does not need to be detrimental to any research project but later on it was compounded with the lack of effective and clear communication from the leaders. It was that combination which created a schism between the groups that could not be repaired and contributed to the collapse of the central vision that held the groups together. (Dombrowski, 2014, pg. 7) The main problem was that the technologists and humanists had different concerns regarding the integration of digital tools and services in humanities research. Technologists were concerned about developing central frameworks to support community research. On the other hand, humanists worried about the impact of decontextualising humanities scholarship. (Dombrowski, 2014, pg. 4) In normal circumstances this would not be a huge problem for a collaborative project as long as both concerns were heard and recognized as an important contribution for research.

In fact, the workshops held during the first phase of the project were designed solely for the purpose of understanding what scholars and technologists felt today’s academic institutions needed in order to make complete use of modern technology when conducting research. In 2008, Project Bamboo decided to start a “demonstrator project” to pull the planning and discussion together. It was supposed to be a simple project to develop “an XSLT web service to transform XML-Marked up bibliographic entries into HTML.” (Dombrowski and Denbo, 2013) The plan was to use texts already marked-up with TEI because it is already prevalent and widely used in the DH community. It was an example of standards already being applied to techonological tools support DH research so it made sense to start with TEI. They originally wanted it completed within three weeks, but took a year to develop the web service to the point that it complied with the scholarly requirements of the project. (Dombrowski and Denbo, 2013) It was discovered that there was a number of inconsistencies in the source code which hindered the development of the coding framework.

The most important conclusion from the demonstrator project was that it “made the program staff reconsider how easy it would be to develop agnostic service implementations that directly serve scholars’ specific needs, at least in relation to processing TEI.” (Dombrowski and Denbo, 2013) Since there was so much custom work needed in order to create something minimally useful for scholars, they had to reconsider what research needs the scholar’s had that can and cannot be supported with current technology. Figuring out what those needs are through collaboration helps but it is a lengthy and difficult process and sometimes leaves projects with a feeling that the research is unresolved and somewhat incomplete. This was the road that Project Bamboo was following when certain elements holding the project together fell apart.

The project has the three main facets needed for successful collaboration, at least on the surface. Probably the loftiest goal in the project was the sheer scope of what it hoped to accomplish. The project leaders recognized that “foundation funds were being directed toward the development of software that would likely not be reused and the creation and presentation of data that could spread no further that a single website or database, rather than substantively furthering humanities scholarship.” (Dombrowski, 2014, pg. 2) To create a centralized method of redefining what humanities scholarship needs in the digital era requires a concentrated effort from multiple parties. The project had that by developing the workshops so that the humanities researchers, information scientists/librarians, and campus technologists could all contribute their perspective of what their field needed and could develop.

The weakness in the project was that the scope was so large that it meant different things to the different parties involved, the vision that was supposed to hold them together was in fact fragmented by their individual views. This would not be a problem if there was a central group that managed the opinions and communications between the group and in the beginning Project Bamboo had this central leadership. However in 2009, there was a series of staffing changes between those who were involved in the management of the planning process. Their roles were subsequently not replaced and “these staffing changes led to a loss of the project’s organizational memory.”  (Dombrowski, 2014, pg. 7) The largest consequence of this led to a mismanagement of communication with the scholarly communities. Updates had ceased on the website and the lack of a clear vision between the technologists and humanists because more apparent. Questions were asked about what Project Bamboo actually is and what it has accomplished. (Dombrowski, 2014, pg. 7) Even though many digitals tools were developed to help with research, because of the lack of clear focus the project could not obtain the needed funding so it came to a quiet close.

The project did leave it’s own sort of legacy, although a bit different from what was originally intended. Since the project was defunded early they did not accomplish everything they had hoped to do. However along with other smaller projects they completed, they developed the basis for the idea of collection interoperability. That is “defining standard methods for making digital content available to web services.” (Dombrowski and Denbo, 2013) The reason why this was so important is because it helped establish a solid foundation for future collaboration within DH. Part of what makes academia so reliable is that there are standards in place to regulate the quality of scholarship produced. The same standards are needed for the newer digital age of academia because those standards enable good quality digital scholarship to be produced and reused. It sets up expectations of what different people need or can gain for participating in various digital projects. That expectation that everyone has something to give is an intrinsic part of any collaborative project.

The other concept that Project Bamboo developed is one called “Copora Space.” Basically it is designed to, “enable professional humanists and citizen scholars to work on dispersed digital corpora using an integrated set of sophisticated curatorial, analytic, and visualization tools.” (Dombrowski and Denbo, 2013) It is similar to the idea of a think tank where scholars can come together and develop research based on various topics. In this case it is about the management and use of digital tools within DH. To also further develop and refine those digital tools based on the research needs of digital humanists. This all ties back to the original mission that Project Bamboo set out to accomplish; to address the lack of core digital infrastructure with the the DH community.

The reason why this is important for DH is because it also affects the approach to future digital preservation. It is much simpler to information and data in a digital environment if only one program is needed in order for a human researcher to understand it. It is also logistically easier to maintain that stored information and keep it updated if it needs only one program to read the encoded data. This is why collaboration plays such a prominent role in DH; to make sure that whatever research is produced has the capability of being read and reused depending on who needs it. Open accessibility has always had a role in the development of knowledge and it is no different today. Creating a balance between the constant changing happening with technology, the need for reliability and standards within academia, and the role that open accessibility plays in collaborative research is the ongoing goal of DH. Project Bamboo was able to open the discourse on the topic but there is still a lot that needs to be done in order for that balance to be achieved.

King’s College London – PERICLES

The next case study is similar to the Bamboo Project in that they both wanted to address challenges specific to the field of DH so that DH can continue to establish itself as digital medium to understanding the humanities. While the Bamboo Project was concerned with developing a solid infrastructure for the field, PERICLES is focused on making sure the content created remains accessible. (PERICLES, n.d.) This case study is interesting to look at because even though it does not directly focus on collaboration, the project itself is an example of how collaboration is applied within academia and the sciences. For that reason it is useful to compare some of the challenges that PERICLES is currently facing and comparing them to what the Bamboo Project went through. As mentioned in the first case study, the challenges that the Bamboo Project faced were related to its scope and breakdown in effective communication with those researchers involved.

This project is also interesting since the focus is based on scientific material and the merging of two different schools of thought, humanities and the sciences. Conservation is a term that is typically applied to the humanities fields. The humanities is seen as being the ones responsible for the understanding, preservation and cataloguing of humanity’s history and culture.  This is in contrast to the sciences which are focused on developing new questions and conducting research experiments to learn about the world. However as more data is stored and created digitally, that data has to preserved so that it is not lost as new technologies continue to be developed. For this reason the sciences have to look towards one of the things that has been at the forefront of DH research: Digital Preservation. In this case the collaboration is on multiple levels: EU, two scholarly schools of thought, those actively involved in the project, and now the Communities of Practice.

In May, PERICLES launched a program called the Communities of Practice. The program was originally mentioned in their dissemination because they wanted to introduce a way to create an open community for discourse. For PERICLES it is important to include the community and an outside perspective as a sort of failsafe to contain risks in the Project. For them they needed to guarantee “regular communication and close collaboration between case study providing partners and technology providers and developers.” (Waddington, Sauter, 2014, pg. 10) This reflects on the academic idea of creating a neighborhood of distributed knowledge in the digital world. If an open discourse can be arranged and guided by designated authority figures then a collaboration with the community takes place. This is not the same as crowdsourcing because the focus is to build a discourse to facilitate discussion. This is also different from the Wikipedia model introduced later because the purpose is for collaboration to take place within the community (CoP) and analysis to take place. Wikipedia’s goal is to gather and acquire information from the crowd and distribute it so that the information is available for use outside of Wikipedia’s main contributors.

In its dissemination plan PERICLES is quite clear in establishing the importance of the community, and the discourse it provides to the program goals. As outlined below:

“These virtual communities will function as social networks that provide coordination points for seeking input from external groups, for promoting the findings of the project, and for extending collaborations to new communities. These communities will assist with peer review tasks (i.e. determining whether the project is addressing the right issues and whether the results are practical). In this role, the communities will serve as a critical party who will review requirements and solutions. The CoP leader will additionally engage and involve community members in conferences, workshops, and events where a test bed is examined.” (McNeill, Sauter, 2014, pg. 18)

The reason why it is so important for PERICLES to get the community involved is because it will be the community that is responsible for preservation in the future. It is the community that decides the best (or most user friendly) technologies to use when working with preservation initiatives. Similar to how Project Bamboo was working on creating core infrastructure to support DH projects, PERICLES wants to create core preservation rules to support that advancement of scientific knowledge. The way to accomplish this is by opening the means of communication between both parties. For PERICLES opening those communication channels provide an opportunity to reflect on their “existing disciplinary frameworks and develop new conceptual frameworks to help [the scholars] to move practice in long term digital preservation forward and also inform the research undertaken within PERICLES.” (PERICLES, 2015)

That last quote was a piece from their email release where they are announcing their Communities of Practice initiative. Not only is it an example of PERICLES practicing the approach of open communication but it is letting the people know exactly what influence and how they will be contributing to the project. The reason why this is important is because those people involved in the project are not people who work in the traditional academic world. Since PERICLES is an endeavour between the EU, the scientific community and the field of DH open communication is important to face the challenges that each group has based on their research needs. In the case of PERICLES those needs are specifically tied to digital preservation and saving research in file formats that will continue to be accessible in the future.

It is one thing to develop and support research initiatives but if 30 or 40 years from now the data is rendered inaccessible because proper digital preservation did not take place then all of the projects will be useless. It all returns to the importance of proper collaboration and communication between those groups involved today so that planning can place to prepare for the future. Like Project Bamboo, creating a standard in technology data storage is also important for the PERICLES project. In fact they deal with this by working on standards to support encoded metadata. “The situation on standardisation for the descriptive part of the RI is more complex due to the different needs of different communities, although many approaches contain the Dublin Core metadata element set as a core.” (Corbubolo, Eggers, et al, 2014, pg. 2)

PERICLES is an example of collaboration on multiple fronts. It is an academic project working in tangent with the EU. The DH field is also supporting the sciences in their preservation effort. Finally the project is also reaching out to collaborate with the community for a reaching a better understanding of the needs that different groups might have now or for the future. The individual contribution is also valued because it is recognized that each group has a different perspective that can benefit other groups. It is also important for future digital preservation. The nature of the project the scope is larger than usual so creating a community agreement of digital preservation requires a joint effort of communication within the community. “It is also vitally important that outputs from the PERICLES project are appropriately applied by users and thus provide value to the wider preservation communities.” (McNeill, Sauter, 2014, pg. 19) There is no use for collaboration if the community does not choose to apply the results. For that PERICLES has the following goal for their Communities of Practice initiative:

“Each CoP is composed of invited expert practitioners who are ideally placed to engage dynamically and actively on topics fundamental to issues and challenges in digital preservation. The principle behind these Communities of Practice is that they function as coordination points for promoting the findings of the project, for seeking input and feedback, and for extending collaborations to other communities.” (PERICLES Communities of Practice, 2015)

Perhaps it is too soon to see what kind of legacy the PERICLES project will have for the field of DH and the science community. However it does have a place in furthering the use of collaboration in the digital age. Especially since through collaboration witht he community a better discourse is created on the kind of problems that current scholars are facing with digital technology. In the end what separates this kind of collaboration from the crowdsourcing that will be talked about in the next case study is that the discourse from the community is what it most valued. When it comes to crowdsourcing it is the task that is the focus. For PERICLES and their Communities of Practice initiative it is the discourse and the different views that the community might have that is important.

When those that are involved are giving something more than just completing a task, and being recognized for the contribution, then they are collaborating. It all seems to be straightforward but the distinction between what is a crowdsourcing task versus a collaborative community is blurred in an example such as Wikipedia because Wikipedia has a hidden community supporting the task to create the world’s most comprehensive encyclopedia. There are other differences to consider between what Wikipedia has been able to accomplish and what PERICLES and Project Bamboo have hoped to foster by creating these projects. The next section will take a closer look at those differences and what they mean for digital collaboration.

Wikipedia and Crowdsourcing

While collaboration can develop through many different ways the method that has truly gained a foothold in the DH community is crowdsourcing. It is difficult to study anything related to the digital humanities, or even museum studies, without hearing a mention of crowdsourcing. Over the last decade or so there has been numerous articles and books published on the role of crowdsourcing and what it can accomplish.  There is no way of mentioning crowdsourcing without mentioning its prime example: Wikipedia. Wikipedia has accomplished what encyclopedias of the pre-digital world could not do simply through crowdsourcing. It developed a user inputed knowledge repository that would take years to read through everything that is available. The scale of what Wikipedia has done, through crowdsourcing, caught the imagination of scholars and humanists. It is a new research tool used to manage the broad scale of what academists hope to accomplish within their own professional fields.

The next case study will be a look at what crowdsourcing and the Wikipedia example means in relation to collaboration. The reason why it is important to look at is because while crowdsourcing is a type of collaboration, it is not collaboration in its entirety. It can almost be compared to how socialism is a form of government, but it is not the only government. Not only that, but the government is not the same as socialism. Perhaps there are more similarities to socialism than just the structure and relationship crowdsourcing has with collaboration. For one, it has captured the imagination of many different scholars and people from different areas because it strikes a chord in how we work as a human race. People are community driven, they want to help the community and give something back to the community. In her article, The Role of Open Authority in a Collaborative Web, Phillips likens this nature to the concept of barn raising:

“The online usage of barn raising is derived directly from the literal action of a community coming together to build a barn, something that cannot be done alone but can be completed efficiently as a collective action. An important part of barn raising is the celebrating social aspect – a community completes an action and shares in that accomplishment.” (Phillips, 2014, pg. 250)

She brings up the fact that whatever action is being performed is something that cannot be completed alone because the scale is too large for one person to manage. So multiple people, or a community of people, are brought together to “raise the barn” or complete the task at hand. This does meet two out of the three requirements for collaboration, and if you give credit to the community then the third point is met. The problem is that the community becomes the individual, so that distinction between what the individuals can accomplish is lost. This is why it is a type of collaboration, not all of what collaboration encompasses. DH then celebrates and recognizes the community and their contributions. However by doing so, they become the authority and part of the draw of crowdsourcing is that there is no central authority. Or is there?

Engels and Marx struggled with this as well and actually wrote that, “whoever mentions combined action speaks of organization; now is it possible to have organization without authority?” (Marx and Engels, 2003, pg 78)  This is something that anyone who wants to use crowdsourcing struggles with as well. How to let the crowd work on their own free will, but still guide it towards the direction you want? Perhaps that is one of the reasons why Wikipedia was and remains so successful. It created the central space with a large idea and a couple of policies for the community to follow so that they can contribute their knowledge and resources to the reference work. (Wikipedia:About, 2015) Wikipedia created a community the self governs and regulates what is aggregated. If a user goes through and vandalizes a page the page is soon restored by another member of the community. The idea is that there are more eyes to find errors and fix corrections. Granted there are some pages that have been locked down by the central authority because they have been subject to repeated abuse. For that Wikipedia has developed a protection policy to place restrictions on the editing of pages that have a “specifically identified likelihood of damage resulting if editing is left open.” (Wikipedia:Protection Policy, 2015)

As it is, Wikipedia remains one of the core examples or the successes behind crowdsourcing. There have been other initiatives to use the crowd as well, some more successful than others. Linux is an example of it used within a more technically focused sphere and Project Bentham is an example of a DH promoted project. Although those behind project Project Bentham make the case that their project relates more to crowdsifting than true crowdsourcing. They use the term ‘Super Transcribers’ to describe the “dedicated, skilled participants [that] submit high-quality work on a regular basis.” (Causer and Terras, 2014, pg.73) There are even examples of using the intelligence of the crowd to accomplish tasks such as digitising books or even translating parts of the internet. (von Ahn, 2011)

However the crowd is being sourced, there is one thing that is seen as valuable, their collective intelligence. It is what makes the Wikipedia model so invaluable and what Google algorithms run on. It is fascinating that we can type in a non specific search phrase into the Google search bar and it will return the exact result we wanted. In a more practical sense what Wikipedia does and what Google does in use the crowd wisdom in different ways. Wikipedia is more centralized while the Google bots lets people organize data for themselves. In his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, Surowiecki (2004) actually brings up various conditions that have to be met for successful collaboration. “The real key, it turns out, is not so much perfecting a particular method, but satisfying the conditions – diversity, independence, and decentralization – that a group needs to be smart.” (Surowiecki, 2004, pg 22)

The reason why Wikipedia was successful in developing such a large repository of knowledge is because those who contribute to it have many diverse interests. It is also somewhat easily accessible to those who wish to contribute to an article about what they know. This is why the information that Wikipedia has can range from more common interests such as WWII or the Superbowl to something very niche like what the “drop shot” is in racquet sports such as tennis. Those who do contribute to various Wikipedia articles do so while maintaining their independence from the organization. These are not employees who have agreements on how they will represent a company but rather volunteers who contribute their own time and knowledge. Wikipedia is also decentralized because the volunteers can contribute and edit pages without consulting a central authority. Naturally there are still rules and regulations but for the most part the community is responsible for peer reviewing contributions.

In some ways by not acknowledging the complexity of the community involved in supporting Wikipedia, DH is misconstruing the actual place that crowdsourcing has in the field.  By not acknowledging the collaborative parts of the community supporting Wikipedia then DH is not opening a proper discourse to be able to fully understand the role collaboration has in the digital academic environment. The way that DH has used crowdsourcing as a tool is not with the same principles that Wikipedia has used it. The reason is that academia has a standard to adhere to so by nature the same crowdsourcing community is not created. This could be for other reasons as well. For one thing DH projects are not built or created on the same scale that Wikipedia was created on. It is easier to to track the validity behind the material that the crowd produces.

Open authority has been another standard within DH. “Within our fast-paced, digital world, institutional authority should be leveraged to facilitate and validate user-generated content on digital platforms.” (Phillips, 2014, pg. 247) In her article The Role of Open Authority in a Collaborative Web Phillips (2014) is focuses on the role that museums and similar institutions should have in facilitating crowd generated content. For her the museum is the centralized source that guides the crowd towards working on certain knowledge and also reviewing what the crowd produces. For Surowiecki (2004) the crowd and the independence they have when they operate “keeps the mistakes that people make from becoming correlated” (Surowiecki, 2004, pg. 41) is enough. However, within academia it is not feasible to hope that the crowd can produce quality scholarly material without it being regulated.

This is why collaboration is so important to the DH field. It is the way for the DH community to bring in different academics from various fields who have different perspectives and needs. As long as those differences are respected (even the idea of the lone scholar) then beneficial collaboration takes place. Collaboration that has the purpose of further expanding knowledge in the field. Digital knowledge that builds upon previous work and projects. Without that communication between scholars and then the field does not progress. It really is a “coming together of institutional expertise with the experiences and insights of our communities, both online and on-site.” (Phillips, 2014, pg. 248)

While the private world has the freedom to create a system that has the “ability to generate a lot of losers and recognize them as such and kill them off.” (Surowiecki, 2004, pg. 29) The scholarly community does not have that same freedom because it is responsible for producing quality knowledge and be an authority on the subject. The reason why Wikipedia is not seen as a reliable resource in the academic world is because it does not have a system of authority to regulate the content produced. That system that academia is founded upon. That does not mean academia does not have a place or a role for the crowd. In fact it is quite useful because it creates an open dialogue between the crowd and academia.

A dialogue that for the most part has been absent or only open to a select few in the past. However now the digital medium has made communication between parties much easier than before. “The ability to take collective action on such a grandscale has led to the public’s ability to complete tasks of greater duration, scope and complexity than any one individual could complete alone.” (Phillips, 2014, pg. 253) DH has to develop the role it has in guiding how that collective communication takes place in the academic community. It has been as seen through projects such as Project Bamboo, Project Bentham, PERICLES, and others. DH will continue to work on such projects and establish collaborative discourse along with using crowdsourcing tools.

One of the ways that is happening is with the reCaptcha project and their process of digitizing books. The idea is the computer picks the most common solution from a group of answers and acknowledges that as the correct answer. (von Ahn, 2011) This is a project that does use the crowd but most are not aware of their contribution. For DH that acknowledgement is important because it is a way to establish validity in a largely anonymous sphere. So DH creates a forum that is open for contributions and creating an open discourse between the authority and community. “The purpose of the forum is to allow others to have a voice and provide a means for reflective and critical dialogue.” (Phillips, 2014, pg. 252) That critical dialogue is something that takes place within the Wikipedia community. While forums are a part of DH projects they are more so designed to provide support or have a purpose in mind because the role that the crowds have is involved in is usually narrow and very structured in nature.

The projects are established and guided based on what scholars in the field have dictated to be researched. The scholars are the mayors that are guiding the community towards the direction it should go. It is not as free as the Wikipedia model and it can never be so because without those scholars, those experts, the sense of authority is not reflected in the project. To return to how collaboration is measured Wikipedia does follow the structure since multiple people are involved in one shared goal. Wikipedia wants to create an encyclopedia of all human knowledge and this is obviously something that no one person can accomplish on their own. Finally, within the Wikipedia forums and it’s community there is the recognition of work contributed but outside of that space that authority is not there. For DH and academia there has to be some kind of authority in order to have a project be seen as a valid scholarly contribution to the field. For that reason crowdsourcing is a tool that is to be used and guided by those that academia sees as having the authority to do so.

Final Analysis

In some ways what we are doing right now is building a neighborhood. A recurring theme in collaboration is that it takes a community to actually do it. The people involved know each other or at the very least respect others opinions. Since each individual has a different outlook, or skills, they all have something to contribute. The struggle comes in when scholars was to make sure that their work is valid according to their field standards. Since DH attracts scholars from a variety of fields they all have different standards and definitions of validity. There is no one right answer, yet the whole neighborhood of scholars will not be always pleased.

This puts the DH community in a bind and opens up even more questions for consideration. Should projects follow guidelines and practices in DH or in the field that the projects would fall under? Even so, many projects need to be accessible and valid for multiple academic  fields. Historians will have different needs and expectations from analysing digital texts than literature scholars. The struggle DH has is whether or not it is possible to create a single resource that scholars can use and collaborate with that meets all of the individual requirements of their respective fields. If it is not possible does that mean that digital knowledge repositories are doomed to be fragmented by nature? This is the biggest challenge that DH has because the best mode of preservation is to make sure the source material is not fragmented in the first place. This is why collaboration is so important because without the perspectives that scholars bring then their is no way of knowing what different academic fields require.  

Project Bamboo focused on the challenges in creating a common set of digital practices for all of DH to use in order to promote better communication. That would then stabilize the field and the practices and methods of DH research. The PERICLES project also is dealing with open communication so that they can work on creating preservation practices that are used throughout the science community. This all goes back to establishing the groundwork to make collaboration easier in the future. The challenges today are about identifying what groundwork should be created in order to build a constructive neighborhood. One of the ways this is happening is through the identifying the needs of the virtual research cycle. For Kirkham (2007) in Building a Virtual Research Environment for the Humanities those need consisted of: Research administration, Resource discovery, data creation use & analysis, collaboration and communication, and finally Publication, curation & preservation. (Kirkham, 2007, pg. 12)

Collaboration is important to DH because of the unique tools used to conduct research and to develop long lasting preservation techniques. It also is important because while the world is smaller in how we communicate, physical objects and people are still in a variety of places. “The need for tools to support collaborative work in this way is characterized by the fact that the physical objects of research are often in widely dispersed locations, as are the researchers themselves.” (Kirkham, 2007, pg. 12) The challenge for DH is to build a neighborhood and community centered around the ideal of incorporating new age digital technology into research while the community is not in one place. Since the community is not in one place then there are preexisting standards that are fragmented in nature. Before computer technology this was not as much of a problem because the scale was smaller when conducting research and it was simpler to adopt tools based on the researcher’s needs. However since today there is a need to have the right technology in order to understand the data being presented there is a greater chance for the researcher not having the right tools to conduct their research.

As the humanities looks towards adopting more digital tools for their research they also have to think about adopting some of the practices that the sciences have on conducting research. The sciences also have challenges in thinking about long term digital preservation so they have to look towards the humanities for preservation advice. This is new territory for both fields because usually it is the “scale of scientific research often requires scientists to collaborate with each other, humanities scholars typically only need something to write about.” (Spiro, 2009) Collaboration that is taking place at the scale that DH is something new to the humanities but the principle that typically are associated with collaboration (communication, cooperation, partnership) are not new to the field. Even though only “2% of articles published in American Literary History between 2004 and 2008 were co-authored,” (Spiro, 2009) historic research is far from an activity that only happens in isolation.

One of the first places that historians, and humanists, turn to when undertaking a new research focus is the library. It is not a coincidence that Library Sciences have also become an important part in the digital academic age. They are the central “laboratory” for the humanities. “Libraries are an important part of the infrastructure of the humanities, and in a sense a kind of humanities laboratory placed outside the departments and schools.” (Svensson, 2010) In the sciences collaboration traditionally takes place in the science lab. Whereas the humanities equivalent of a lab or “shared space” is the library or even museum institutions where artefacts and knowledge is stored. For the humanities, knowledge is not created in the library but rather through individual research and interpretation of artefacts and the texts that are stored in such places. This is in contrast to the sciences, where knowledge is created in the shared space or the laboratory.

This idea that knowledge in the humanities is something that is something to be observed and not manipulated is changing. More and more classroom and institutions are working on developing spaces like sandbox classrooms or the Copora Space to encourage thinking about digital media in new ways. An exploratory laboratory as a form of research for the humanities can incorporate the use of digital materials and tools and explore them “in an experimental fashion.” (Svensson, 2010) The idea is that “modern information technology can have a significant role in facilitating the type of exploratory space – cultural laboratory.” (Svensson, 2010)  A safe place where researchers can come together and collaborate on developing new tools and methods to further support humanities research.

This is not something that is projected to happen in the future, it is taking place right now. This is why developing a discourse on what successful collaboration in the DH consists of is important. Without reaching an understanding of how to best work together using the current tools that the field has access to then it is more difficult to focus on the needs of the field in developing long term preservation and communication methods. Technology changes at a rapid pace and it is all too easy to lose digital research because it was not properly stored and is rendered unreadable by the machine. Even though is in the traditional humanities disciplines co-authorship and collaboration is not as popular, it is making ground in DH.

At a 2008 conference for Digital Humanities there were 116 poster abstracts for which 41% included the word “collaboration.”  Out of the papers and posters 64% that were presented had more than one author. (Spiro, 2009) For Spiro, DH collaboration falls into the following examples: facilitating communication & knowledge building, sharing & aggregating content, and finally collaborative annotation, transcription, & knowledge production. While traditionally “the humanities is often portrayed as not having a predicative or intervening role, whereas the sciences are said to attempt to both explain and predict natural phenomena.” (Svensson, 2010) It is no longer the case in the age of digital scholarship.

As shown by the case studies in this paper there is work to create communities that are centered on building a constructive collaborative space. That was one of the goals for Project Bamboo and it continues the ongoing support of Copora Space as part of their legacy. Traditionally, mentioning the idea of a community centered around creating standardized digital research methods (and rules) also means drawing upon the TEI framework. The Bamboo Project wanted to base part of their project on TEI because thanks to TEI some rules to streamline the digitization process in text based scholarship have been established. However they found that even within the structure there was a lot of room for variation because digital researchers adapted those rules based on their own research needs. Facilitating knowledge building is not just about identifying what technology is capable of but also knowing what it is not capable of replacing. Those who do not have as much experience working with digital tools might expect too much from the tools. So communicating the limitations in the field is just as important as conveying the possibilities.

Perhaps with PERICLES it is more obvious to see the community aspect with the development of their Communities of Practice (CoP). It is an effort created for the sole purpose of developing discourse between sources about their project. This is in contrast to Project Bamboo which is more focused on creating a space for shared technology development to happen. There are so many different forms of collaboration to work with so it is in DH’s best interest to work out the type of collaboration that is taking place. In order to work that out identifying the goal of collaboration is what is important. Those goals based on whether or not it is to support knowledge building, content aggregation, or knowledge production. Most projects fall within part of all three of these categories but they do tend to focus on one in particular. PERICLES CoP is knowledge building, Project Bamboo is content aggregation, and finally Wikipedia centers on knowledge production.

Wikipedia fits into the role of knowledge production because that is what it was developed to do. Produce knowledge for the world to analyze and build upon. Crowdsourcing as tool is useful when the concern is over knowledge being produced but not analyzed. The moment that knowledge or data starts to be analysed by a group is when it is no longer considered crowdsourcing. To give input on an idea or piece of data sets the individual apart of the crowd and then they are recognized for their contribution. Wikipedia does in fact have two layers to it, and perhaps so do most other crowdsourcing projects of this nature. On the surface is very much a crowdsourcing platform because the knowledge just appears by an anonymous source. However once the focus shifts on who is contributing the knowledge, and that can be found by following the user’s edits and history, a community begins to emerge. From within the community it is a large scale collaboration project.

It is not as organized or streamlined as a DH collaboration project would be, for one thing there is no real central authority that guides the content produced. It is all managed by the crowd and follows a pattern closer to what Surowiecki (2004) outlines in his book the Wisdom of Crowds. The theme of “it is but it is not” has been recurring throughout the paper. These case studies were selected because they all took different approaches to using collaboration as part of their project. As more projects are funded and ideas for research approaches are developed the nature of collaboration and its definition will continue to change. Identifying the core conditions that explain what collaboration should consist of establishes a base of what to look for in future project endeavors.

The conditions for a project to be considered collaborative were that it first has to have multiple people working towards a similar goal. Second each person involved is individually recognized for any contribution they make towards completing that goal. Finally, the goal has to be one developed on a scale that no one person can accomplish it on their own. Project Bamboo meets that because the project was developed to focus on identifying the needs to develop technologies in DH that makes working collaboratively easier for the humanities. PERICLES itself is a joint effort with the EU and various academic institutions so it is already a large scale collaborative project. However, they also have the CoP  which is focused on developing a collaborative discourse on topics related to the PERICLES project.

Both of these projects have a central authority responsible for guiding the project that is common in academic research projects. Wikipedia was selected because while it is can be a form of collaboration, it is not true collaboration on the surface. It lacks the transparency that the other projects have when discussing the community involvement. DH is building a digital neighborhood (or community) and also working towards identifying the roles for each member of the community. Not only that but DH is also trying to understand what role it has in the community as a digital mayor of the neighborhood.


This all ties back to identifying the role that collaboration will have in supporting DH projects. Since DH is an interdisciplinary field collaboration is important in order to better understand the research needs and goals of other scholars involved. The beginning of this paper mentioned collaboration in other aspects as well and DH is far from the only field that uses collaboration. It is human nature to want to consult and communicate with others about shared ideas, topics, and opinions. Collaboration happens when there is the desire to take an idea and make it a reality for the group while valuing the individual contributions. Cooperation is different again because while two people or groups might work together, each group has it’s own goal. Cooperation is a temporary objective that takes place when a task to completing a goal might be similar to another group. There is a mutual benefit to both of the groups if they helped each other.

Collaboration is a mutual benefit to those involved as well but does not have the separate individual objectives that are part of a cooperative effort.  The project that DH undertakes varies from developing tools for developing a better understanding of geographical landscapes to creating programs that can digitize texts and make them machine readable or searchable. They are complex in nature and involve many different people who have expertise in a variety of fields. Perhaps it is easier for DH to undertake collaborative projects because there is already one goal that is shared by all individuals involved. It is one that is familiar to all scholars and those within academia and that goals is to continue to advance knowledge to help understand our world. It is a lofty goal that one person cannot accomplish so collaboration happens without there being a direct guide for it. The only guide is the one that was assigned to knowledge institutions. They set the course for how that can be accomplished.

For DH however the scale is much smaller. There is the main goal to advance knowledge by better understanding digital technologies and how they can help DH in pursuing that goal. Also each project and each institution will have their own goals and missions to accomplish. In the future it is up to each project to continue to identify those goals and how collaboration will work to support those goals. Spiro (2009) had brought up that along with collaboration, DH specifically focuses on facilitating communication & knowledge building, sharing & aggregating content, and finally collaborative annotation, transcription, & knowledge production. These goals might be similar to other fields within academia but in the private or business sector the goals change.

The reason why this paper always return to Wikipedia is because it is an example of a private institution working to solve a traditionally academic concern. Categorizing Wikipedia as a crowdsourcing community without understanding the difference it has to academia and what means oversimplifies its role. It also messes up the definition for crowdsourcing and collaboration within DH community because DH is so ready to compare their work to what Wikipedia has accomplished. There can be many reasons for this including the fact that incorporating digital tools into academic scholarship has been a relatively new concept. There were not that many examples of crowdsourcing or using the larger community to help with research endeavors in the early years of DH. The success of Wikipedia was romanticised as an example of what could be accomplished if the DH community adopted similar practices. Now however there needs to be a shift away from such thinking and towards collaborative projects that DH has produced.

As mentioned before in the paper there is the start of a discourse on “crowd sifting” as it applies to DH based projects. This idea came from Project Bentham which is currently underway at UCL. It is a reminder that the academic community will always have a role in guiding research endeavors because they have a vested interest in pursuing certain goals related to knowledge creation. In order for there to be validity to work produced it has to meet standards that are set by the academic institution. For Wikipedia the standards are set by the public demands which are not the same as academic ones because they both have different research goals and objectives. Wikipedia focus on distributing general knowledge to the public about various topics, while academics focus more on answering to more detailed research questions. Since there are different objectives there are bound to be differences in how the crowd is used.

It is not just evident in Wikipedia but also for other areas of interest as well. Businesses might support collaborative efforts but with a different goals in mind from academics looking to create a database for old manuscripts. The goals, resources that are available and procedures in accomplishing the collaborative task will all be different depending on the field and area of interest. The world is a much different place from compared to when Henry Ford introduced his production line manufacturing. However the need to collaborate with other people is very much still there. While crowdsourcing can be likened to the production line manufacturing – or even outsourcing, collaboration as DH experiences it is most similar to the Manhattan Project and other war time efforts.

Another area to research in the future would be how changes in technology specifically impacted communication and collaboration within academia. The way that scholars interact with the machine for research and communication purposes is different today than it was 50 or 70 years ago. The Manhattan Project is worth looking into because of the scale it took to coordinate the scientists and military personnel while keeping it confidential required a true collaborative effort. There have been other projects that required collaboration between multiple parties but the Manhattan Project was underway when computing machines, and the beginnings of the digital age, were just unfolding. Since that was the case the project had set the precedent for how researchers interact with the machine and those that use them. Now it is time for DH to establish a solid foundation for what collaborative projects are expected to contribute to the field so that they can be best used to support future research objectives.


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