Sharing, play, collaboration

November 17th, 2010 |

It’s coming. There are so many threads to tug on later this week, I can’t wait to see what we’ll unravel. Allow me to toss some ideas into the ring.

First, a selfish one. My major work in recent years has been in the area of crowdsourcing: most basically when disparate groups of people organize toward the accomplishment of a common goal, usually and most effectively online. What I’m curious about these days, however, is the role of expertise in such systems. Even in functionally egalitarian systems, how do users elect authority or recognize expertise? Do such actions work to the benefit or the detriment of the task, and is there a balance that can be struck?

Luddic labour. Along the crowdsourcing line, how can the spirit of play be captured toward meaningful task. Systems like ReCaptcha and the ESP Game were inspiring early examples, but there has not been nearly enough attention on such things in the traditional venues.

Caged omniscience. How do video game players, accustomed to structure, deal with games that give the unusual amounts of freedom over the narrative? Games like Scribblenauts and Sleep is Death: there appear to be very particular reactions to games that offer such freedom, and these ways of play do not match the spontaneity of gameplay when a user subverts the regular rules of the game through glitches, tricks, or hacks.

If the splendor of an unconference is exploring the parts of a community behind the professional mask, one curiosity of mine is discussing the ways that humanists hack together solutions to their needs with popular, non-function specific tools. Have you found Google Spreadsheets to be your tool of choice for processing data, or do you have a script for splitting double page PDF scans? These tips and tricks are nearly always useful, but there’s few ways of sharing them.

Speaking of sharing, I fear that among technocentric humanists, we have a tendency to re-tread ground and create similar tools over and over. There needs to be a communal space for documenting and discovering tools, code, and processes. I think small versions of such a website have often been attempted, but nothing has emerged as a repository of record. At the very least, it’s worth a discussion how such an implementation could succeed: my impression is most of it is would simply be PR and careful community management.

I must apologize for the random selection of thoughts, in the spirit, I simply typed what was on the surface of my thoughts, without much second thought. I look forward to Saturday, by which point I’ll certainly be enthusiastic about something else.

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