Beware Social Media’s Surprising Dark Side, Scholars Warn CEO’s

Jeffrey R. Young has an article in the Technology section of The Chronicle of Higher Education enjoining us to Beware Social Media’s Surprising Dark Side, Scholars Warn CEO’s (March 20, 2011). The article is about a South by Southwest Interactive conference that brought together researchers and industry.

One of the big trends is using crowdsourcing or micropayments to get work done for free or very little. Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard law professor warned that this could be exploitative.

Mr. Zittrain began his argument against crowdsourcing with the story of the Mechanical Turk, a machine in the 18th century that was said to play chess as well as a human. But the contraption was a showy fraud; a man hidden inside moved the arms of a turban-wearing mannequin. Amazon, the online shopping giant, now offers a crowdsourcing service it calls Mechanical Turk, which lets anyone, for a fee, commission unseen hands to work on tasks like proofreading documents or identifying artists in musical recordings.

The similarity of crowdsourcing to a man shoved inside a box means the practice isn’t exactly worker-friendly, the professor argued. “In fact, it’s an actual digital sweatshop,” he said of the many sites that use the approach.

Fees paid for crowdsourced tasks are usually so meager that they could not possibly earn participants a living wage, Mr. Zittrain argued. He is familiar with one group drawn to the services: poor graduate students seeking spending money.

I wonder if anyone has proposed a code of ethics for crowdsourcing? Thanks to Megan for sending this to me.

A Vision Of Digital Humanities In Ireland

I just got back from a conference in Ireland titled, A Vision Of Digital Humanities In Ireland (this link is to my conference report). The conference was preceded by the announcement and unveiling of DHO Discover. Shawn Day (in photo above) demonstrated the new discovery tool that brings together metadata about 6000 objects across different digital collections in Ireland. The conference was a capstone event for the Digital Humanities Observatory which is now coming to an end.

HuCon 2011: Current Graduate Research in Humanities Computing

Next week is HuCon 2011, our graduate research conference at the University of Alberta for humanities computing. See HuCon 2011: Current Graduate Research in Humanities Computing for more.

The keynotes will be Ray Siemens from Victoria and MilenaRadzikowska from Mount Royal. It is a one day conference that is catered. Come and see what the next generation of graduate students is doing.

Alberts: On Becoming a Digital Humanist

This week I was invited to give a number of talks at the University of North Dakota. Dr. Crystal Alberts organized the talks (along with others). At UND I spoke on:

  • Incorporating the digital in the humanities. This talk was about incorporating the digital into humanities teaching.
  • Supporting the Digital Humanities. This talk was for librarians and discussed mostly how libraries can support our work.
  • Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities. This talk was delivered by videoconference and went out to a larger state audience discussing cyberinfrastructure in North Dakota.

Crystal has a nice long blog post on participation and inclusion the digital humanities. The post,On Becoming a Digital Humanist talks about Steve Ramsay’s MLA comments and what I wrote on inclusion.