The Civic Epistemologies project had a meeting and workshop in Budapest, in the lovely environment at the National Széchényi Library, (who is a partner in the Civic Epistemologies project), on July 8-9. Whilst the meeting on the 8th was confined to project partners, the workshop was the occasion to discuss with European Cultural Heritage organisations about how by the participation of citizens and the use of e-Infrastructures, can lead to innovation in the cultural heritage domain. Edel Jennings, from the Data Mining and Social Computing group, in TSSG, attended to discuss WIT’s work in the Civic Epistemologies project, and participate in the workshop.
The workshop was opened by Katalin Bánkeszi, with a welcome message from the director of the Hungarian Library Institute, which was followed by a brief presentation from the Italian Ministry of Economic Development on the importance of the project for economic development by Mauro Fazio, the Italian Project Coordinator. Antonella Fresa, the Technical Coordinator from Promoter, then gave an in-depth presentation on the Civic Epistemologies project goals, processes, work and roadmap.
Roxanne Wyns from KU Leuven, then shared her research with some inspiring crowd sourcing examples, and discussed how citizen science fits into the move towards Open Science in European research saying:
“This direct, active involvement of citizens and stakeholders in both the steering of science as well as the provision of data and knowledge for advancing research reflects a trend towards the societal embedding of science and the orientation of scientific research agendas towards addressing societal challenges. This is linked to an underlying normative dimension of democratisation of science, in connection with advances in ICT and social innovation. Furthermore, citizen involvement in the scientific endeavour contributes to furthering interactive processes of knowledge utilisation and knowledge valorisation and to making research more relevant to society.”
Two successful projects presented their experiences of engaging citizens – COOP – by Katalin Toma, from Budapest City Archives, and Topotheque, by Alexander Schatek. Tomothek described their mission “to make a platform for the public, to save the local historically relevant material and knowledge that is kept in private hands, to index and to make visible online”.
Gillian Oliver, from Victoria University, Wellinton, New Zealand, shared her insights into the use of technologies in cultural institutions to enable a better use for the citizens. Gillian outlined the many benefits of citizen science, more often examplified from life sciences projects but adaptable to digital humanities, such as sharing of information, broadening of community pubic education, increased social capital, increased inclusivity of citizens in decision making processes and improved responsiveness to government aims. She stressed the importance in aligning institutional goals with motivations for citizens to get involved. She also told a cautionary tale regarding citizen sabotage and malicious interference with project goals from a MIT DARPA project. She emphasized the importance of recognizing the ‘crowd’ as a group of individuals, and warned against homogenization, whilst still recognizing great potential in engaging citizens.
Gabriella Ivacs, from the Open Society Archives, shared her insights and experiences working with citizens, for public cultural history projects. She explored the concept of the mnemonic actor whose memories are reconstructed across distributed digital infrastructures and how these processes extend into real-time public spaces. She outlines work done with citizens to rediscover houses used for Jewish people in the city, in a now often overlooked stage of pre-ghettoization of the Jewish people in Budapest during the Second World War. She spoke of the results demonstrating that the process across both physical and virtual spaces, provided a new means for negotiating meaning and processing trauma, through public history, while also emphasizing the relevance of “sites of history” for citizens mediating their histories and identities.
Zoltan Szüts from the Kodolánvi jános University of Applied Sciences, Budapest, gave a Prezi presentation, on crowd sourcing: benefits, limits and futures. In this he outlined the sociotechnical structure of crowdsourcing projects, with a distributed problem solving collective intelligence harnessing model. He identified criteria for suitable projects – such as access to experts, access to talent, and tasks where human computers are better than machines. He emphasized the role of social media as a game changer for the X,Y and Z generations, whilst also indicating the need for balancing the loci of control between top down and bottom up approaches. He proposed proceeding with cautions regarding violations of copyright, and intellectual property, small language communities who would struggle to reach required scale, and managing the existing digital divides in access, maintaining that some projects would fail to engage citizens successfully, in cases where they failed to attract the talent, hurt quality of data collection, had processes too complicated for simplification or were susceptible to vandalism. He envisioned opportunities for citizen-powered projects with flexible crowdsourcing platforms, interdisciplinary collaboration, non-formal education, and professional crowd.
Nuria Ferran-Ferrar from the Open University of Catalynia, Spain, then presented her research based on a through content analysis of four citizen science platforms, regarding the engagement of citizens. She chose to share some of her concerns about Arts, Humanities and Social Science (AHSS) citizen science projects. She discovered that the some of the original benefits of sharing democratic access with citizens, may be sidelined in some projects where citizens have a limited role in just collecting or contributing data but are not centralized in sharing ownership of results. She suggests that all three praxis of engagement, identified by Lewenstien (2004) need to be maintained which are:
1. Participation of the non-scientist in collection and analysis stages,
2. Participation of the non-scientist in decision-making
3. Engagement of research scientists in the democratic and policy process.
She outlined some methodical and ethical challenges related to citizen engagement in social research, which require further investigation and consideration.
Andás Török illustrated the impressive journey of Fortepan from a private hobby to public change making project. Fortepan is a free online curated photo achieve operating according to creative commons 3.0 standard, supported by the Open Society Archives. It began a place for sharing photographs, and providing unlimited access (including for commercial use) to otherwise hidden images, has led to an opening of private collections, and deepening of cultural historical understandings. He showed many images, including one of the river in Budapest with many enclosed swimming area, and another of swimmers diving in, demonstrating how citizens could at one time closely integrate with unpolluted natural resources right in the heart of the city. He explained how Fortepan grew over many years, through volunteer activity and with a mission for social activation, rejecting business offers and surviving and expanding on basic family donations. As its popularity increased it led to a unique relationship with an Iowa based Summa Artium Foundation, which had led to the launch of the Fortepan Iowa Project, and a new alliance with the local Municipal Archives in Budapest. Tellingly its success lies in the joys volunteers express in their finds, and cooperation with the project.
Finally, Börje Justrell from the Riksarkivet (National Archives) in Sweden, presented the Civic Epistemologies Roadmap – 2nd draft. He outlined the work done to date and was pleased that the examples from the earlier presentations to would extend the document. He invited all the workshop delegates to participate in a discussion and editathon session for the rest of the afternoon. The group divided to discuss different aspects in parallel before reporting back via Neil Forbes (Conventry University), Monika Hagedorn-Saupe (Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz), and Saskia Willaert (Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels).