Introducing the Communities Lab

Written by Mia RidgeJuly 5, 2019Comments: 0

The Communities Lab will tackle two distinct but related challenges that will require the project team to embrace transparency and radical collaboration: outreach and engagement with the public(s), and with academic disciplines. We’re working to ensure that the legacy of the project includes datasets and digitised sources for public use, an increased awareness of and confidence with the application of data science to historical collections, and new and stronger networks between researchers and projects working in the same area.

Our first ‘public engagement’ challenge is finding ways in which volunteers can meaningfully contribute to some of the tasks of the project. We’ve posted about how we’ll build on our Lab Lead’s experience with crowdsourcing in Why is the Communities Lab asking people to read old news?.

We also seek to contribute to the emerging field of Human Computation by collaborating with other labs to create systems that integrate crowdsourcing and public engagement activities with data science processes. A related research question is how we design public interfaces for the most efficient collection of data (because we’re working at scale) while supporting public engagement with the source collections and research questions (because we believe curiosity and learning are important).

We’re tackling questions within the project and our wider academic circles such as: how can we structure our project so that data scientists, software engineers, historians, linguists and curators can radically collaborate on specific, iterative and emergent research questions while providing an infrastructure that enables open-ended exploration of digitised sources via computational methods? What’s the best way to document our work as we go without precluding other forms of publication? What’s the best way to produce and share tutorials and workshops on our methods so that a wide range of people feel able to use and adapt them? And finally, how do we ensure that the data created during the project will be accessible in British Library systems in the future?

And who are ‘we’? For now, Mia, Ruth and Daniel VS with Mariona, Daniel W, Emma and Kasra.

Living with Machines has big ambitions for public engagement and for impact on disciplines related to our research outputs. The Communities Lab helps ensure we reach the widest possible range of people, and is leading the challenge of making crowdsourcing and public participation an integral part of this academic research project.

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