Currently in our Digital Humanities lectures we have been focusing a lot on ‘Data Curation’. It is defined as follows; ‘ Data curation is a broad term used to indicate processes and activities related to the organization and integration of data collected from various sources, annotation of the data, and publication and presentation of the data such that the value of the data is maintained over time, and the data remains available for reuse and preservation’. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_curation. It’s an interesting concept to think that each one of us, in our own way, can contribute to these global projects. But the question is how do we get involved? Have you ever heard of a website called ‘Zooniverse’? I didn’t until recently but it is a hidden gem. This is a digital archive of ongoing projects which people from all over the world can help contribute to and complete. I made a profile on the site which asked for minimal details such as; username, password, and email address after that I was ready to play around with the site and discover projects under an array of topics.
The first title I chose was ‘Social Science’ I was then linked to another website called ‘Measuring the ANZACS’ where you could choose to begin a new project or help with transcribing a project which someone else has already begun. The aim of this project was as follows; ‘Measuring the ANZACs builds on work done by Archives New Zealand to complete an organized digital collection of all the pages in the personnel files for people serving in the New Zealand military in South Africa and World War I. Complete copies of personnel files are available on this website, the Archives New Zealand website, and Discovering the ANZACs. They can be downloaded free of charge on the Archives New Zealand website.’
On this website, they gave you links to their blog so you could see the daily progress that is being made and what is the end goal of the whole project. This website was very accommodating for people like myself who wouldn’t know a great deal about the Australian and New Zealand history, they have a section donated completely to the background of the war. I decided to begin with transcribing part of the project. This involved me reading official documents from New Zealand which have been originally hand written and then scanned onto a computer. I attempted to salvage any information I could retrieve from these documents. I didn’t fully understand the purpose of some of these because I was asked to give descriptions of the documents and there were a few which only had a name on them, like someone had attempted to fill out the file but gave up half way through. I still took as much information as I could. I ran into a few difficulties during my period of transcription. Some of the documents were so faded you couldn’t make out any words on the sheet, because all these files were hand written some of the file are illegible. There was a solution on the page if these problems arose. They had two options if you found yourself in my position which were as follows; ‘Bad Mark’ and ‘Illegible?’. If clicked on either of these buttons it took you to a new document which may be of better quality where you could continue your transcribing work.
I found it easier when the project asked me to transcribe specific information. At the beginning, they asked me to give a brief description of each document but as I moved on they asked me more specific information like to transcribe highlighted parts of the document and particular dates they were looking for. This was much easier for me because it gave me more guidance as to what they were looking for and I knew exactly what I had to do. I enjoyed this exercise and liked how this Zooniverse project encouraged interaction.
The second project I looked at was chosen from the creative category. It is called ‘AnnoTate’. This project study’s the sketch books of artists. I scrolled through a selection of artists and chose one which stood out to me, Donald Gladstone Rodney. It gave me a short synopsis of Rodney’s life so I could understand him better before I transcribed his journals. Rodney was a British artist who initially based his work around pop culture and radical racial issues which where topical at the time. Later he became fascinated with his sickle cell anaemia and cleverly used this as a metaphor for his political and social opinions. I thought he was an intelligent and interesting person to learn more about. To be frank, I preferred this project in Zooniverse because I learned more about someone in a different era and received a first-hand opinion of what was going on at the time all whilst helping contribute to a wide scale project.
As you go in to transcribe the information it is presented to you in a journal format. You open the cover and go through the book page by page. You highlight which part you are going to be transcribing and you enter it line by line. There is no pressure to transcribe the whole book, you can contribute a sentence or the whole page it is entirely up to you. If an artist’s writing is illegible you are able to just move onto the next page at the click of a button, the website continually says ‘Don’t worry if it’s not complete’. It’s important that you much annotate the text exactly as you read it, the project wants this to be exactly how the artist wrote it this includes all grammatical, spelling, and punctuation mistakes. I enjoied that this project actually enabled you to zoom into the documents as much as you wanted this helped me a lot when I was transcribing because it provided clarity. Many of these artist’s entries include images. It is also possible to annotate images in this project from what I gathered they don’t actually want you to describe what is happening in the picture but instead form a discussion around the image by using hashtags. Art can be interpreted in a multitude of different ways that’s why I really enjoy the idea of generating opinions and iteration with your chosen artist’s work. When you want to continue to the next page of the sketch book a notification appears which asks you would you like to discuss your transcription on ‘Talk’. If you click yes it will link you back to the Zooniverse website where you can discuss the piece you just transcribed with fellow data curators. I really enjoyed reading and contributing to these discussion boards because some people preserved something completely different to me even though we just wrote about the exact same extract.
My third and final project that I looked at was called ‘Shakespeares World’.
Honestly, I found this to be the most challenging transcription task. When you begin it tells you only transcribe what you can confidently read. This was tricky seeing as the writing was quite extravagant in most cases and I did not comprehend some of the words. I believe that the makers of this project are aware of these challenges so they tell you that it is ok to transcribe up to one word on a page, in comparison to the other projects I participated in they were looking for a like or full sentence. They did not want any modernisation or alteration with capitalisation of spellings and so forth. The purpose of this project is the expand the Oxford English Dictionary with words which could improve the English language which is a really interesting project to peruse, I just wish I could’ve helped with the transcription a bit more.
I truly enjoyed my experience with the Zooniverse website and would recommend everyone to take some time out to explore all it has to offer because this accommodates to all tastes, from medical to creative to climate related topics. There’s something there for everyone to get involved with. A lot of my time on this website was trial and error based but it’s a new and exciting digital tool which helps with global research. My favourite aspect of it was the way they had a space to compare and contrast opinions on a discussion board its always good to learn from others, especially my fellow humanitarians . This websites offers you the opportunity to be a part of creating a collaboration of research which is valuable and I’m honoured to be included in it.