Spreading the load – volunteer computing

Martin Mueller and James Chartrand both pointed me to an article in the Economist on volunteer computing, Spreading the load. The article nicely covers a number of projects that enlist volunteers over the web, like those I noted in Tagging Games. They don’t really distinguish the projects like BOINC that enlist volunteer processing from the ones like BOSSA (and the Mechanical Turk) that enlist volunteer human contributions, and perhaps there isn’t such a difference. It is always a human volunteering some combination of their time and computing to a larger project.

What Martin has suggested is that we think about how humanities computing projects might be enabled by distributed skill support. Could we enlist volunteer taggers for electronic texts with the right set up? Would we need to make it a game like ESP to check tagging choices against each other? The only example I can think of in the humanities is the Suda On Line (SOL), a project where volunteers are translating the Suda, “Byzantine encyclopedia known as the Suda, a 10th century CE compilation of material on ancient literature, history, and biography.” (From the SOL About page.) Can that infrastructure be generalized to a translating and enrichment engine for language, literature, history and philosophy?

One thought on “Spreading the load – volunteer computing”

  1. I think it might be fair to include the Gutenberg Project’s volunteer proofreading system as an example of a collaborative humanities computing project.

    As for the question of how to enlist volunteer skill support, what about all those students reading things? What if they were each encouraged/required to add a tag (or something?) to a relevant text related to each assignment?

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