Crowdsourced Participation on Zooniverse



I recently had a look at Zooniverse which is a website that allows users to participate in many different collaborative projects. I browsed the site where a lot of the projects caught my eye. In the end I only fully collaborated in two of the projects “Operation War Diary” & “Chicago Wildlife Watch”.

When using Zooniverse I had to make an account to have input on the projects available which only took a few seconds. The site had many projects that required users of Zooniverse read something or take statistics. I chose “Operation War Diary” & “Chicago Wildlife Watch” as they were the ones that most intrigued me and were ones where I felt as a user I can do the best input. Other projects I found on Zooniverse had one of the following issues. The topic of the project did not appeal to me, the interface was not really good and some projects required the users to know some knowledge about the topic of the project.

The project “Operation War Diary” allows users to access the diaries belonging to soldiers on the front lines. The diaries come from national archives and have not been available to academics till recently. The aim of the project is to get users to transcribe the large amounts of data to make is usable for academic use. I found the project interesting as I am a fan of world war history and I see the importance this project has in developing an understanding of a key part in history. The users will read scanned diaries and highlight important pieces of information using tools provided. The types of information a user can isolate includes basic details like dates names and places to more specific details such as soldier Id numbers and ranks.

When using “Operation War Diary” I choose one of the diaries to analyse after going through a very informative tutorial. The diary I choose was a diary of a soldier who was stationed at a hospital in France in 1915. The first thing I did was tag the various dates on the page followed by any names I could see. The tags I used for names had sub tags that included the person rank in the military and their number and other minor details. By putting in these details I am helping academics gather a story about the soldiers under those names and number so that their entire story can be tracked through many other diaries. The other things I was able to tag where the patient numbers and events such as resupplies and casualties.  My only difficulty in participation was that I had a very difficult time reading some of the handwriting.

The second project I got involved with was “Chicago Wildlife Watch” that ask collaborators to look at photos captured in certain areas of Chicago that have been affected by urbanization. The users must look at a photo and if they see an animal weather it is a small bird or a raccoon they must add a tag to the photo for that animal. The photos are captured on motion cameras that are deployed multiple times during the year for the purpose of capturing the local wildlife.

In my participation for the project I was shown a photo that was taken from one the cameras. Since they are automated motion cameras my job is to go through the photos and say if there is an animal in the photo and what animal is it. A majority of the photos given to the users to look over are empty as they were photos that where taken as a result of something else moving other than an animal such as a branch. Through my participation I have contributed in the sorting of these photos to make the data within them easier to access for researchers interested in the distribution of animal species in different areas in urban Chicago.

In the use of the Zooniverse I learned that collaborative projects could be very appealing depending on what they ask of their users. If I were to make my own collaborative project in the future using something like Zooniverse I would think of the following based on my own experiences. The task given to users should not require users to have an equal level of understanding as the people behind the project. The point of a collaborative project is that users are any member of the public and not someone of a certain profession. Some projects failed in this category as they assume all users to be of a certain profession and have made it difficult for a majority of users to participate in their collaborative. If my project was to create an archive for a certain group of documents, I would have it so users can point out that key data in similar fashion to how it was done in “Operation War Diary”.


The Single Story A.K.A Not The Whole Story.

I recently watched a Ted talk where the talk was given by a Nigerian Novelist named Chimamanda Adichie who is a Nigerian Novelist. In the talk they discussed what was known as the danger of the single story.

The single story is a story that represents a person before you meet them based on various things about that person that can include country of origin and race which is what is mainly discussed in various forms of media. Adichie begins talking about the books they read from childhood that where British and American in origin.  These stories become then what the author identified to in their early years until they read African books. The African books were very different to the books they previously read because they only knew stuff of Nigeria from British and American text. In the text their people are poor and uneducated and need a white character to pick them up.

This development in her childhood creates a single story for others in her society, when she encounters them they are yes poor but not uneducated or useless. The same happened in here later years in Mexico when she encountered Mexicans. The key factor is she had other opinions of them before she met them which were negative only. The single story as seen is negative opinion for all powered by continuous negative stories. This fits with what the French historian Voltair once stated “The history of human opinion is scarcely anything more than the history of human errors” (Kreiger 2007, 112).

According to Adichie the single story is powered by when it was told, how many times it was told and how it was told. In this respect I feel Adichie is truly correct with this concept of the single story because I myself see examples of it every day.  As of the time I write this there are multiple single stories about immigration in Eastern Europe, law related problems in America and locally homelessness. I see people every day recently talk about people as they have heard from multiple news stations who only focus on the negatives. The stories I hear are every day being told multiple times by many news stations and told in various ways each day that are majorly negative.

I would try to avoid the worst of it but you can’t escape the single story if such scenarios exist around you in a time where the internet is vast enough to give the news to all. I believe I am prone to the single story and have fallen for it based on what I read, see and hear on the screen each day each week.  The single stories create what I believe is a negative stereotype that I see as unfair by the way it manipulates people’s minds to believe some are only capable of creating problems for themselves and for others.

I feel that the single story is virus like the cold that spreads from person to person. I believe that the cure would be to actually talk to the people being victimised and know how they truly feel. The true problem is I believe that once you are cured you are only going to get sick again.

Voltair Quote – Richard Alan Kreiger  (2007) “Civilization’s Quotations: life’s Ideal”,  Algora Publishing , pp. 112

Ted Website

The “Cyborg Manifesto” My Thoughts.

I recently read a paper known as the “Cyborg Manifesto” by Donna Haraway which discusses the topic of us one day becoming cyborgs. The paper is about 30 years old and very hard to read due to the way Haraway wrote it out. The way it is written out leaves it open to many different interpretations for the reader. This leaves some terrified about the possibility of cyborgs while other fascinated. While I am scared of the world of the cyborgs I am bit more fascinated in some aspects of the world of the cyborgs Haraway has described.

Firstly after reading the cyborg manifesto I was intimidated by the cyborgs described by Haraway for the reason that if we became cyborgs we would lose aspects that would make us human. In the manifesto it is said that a cyborg society is the ultimate control. This factor is what terrifies me about the human race becoming cyborg because it is said ultimate control is possible due to certain human traits being removed to ensure control is kept which was also noted to in the manifesto as a possibility. Even though the article does make the cyborg society look sinister to me I can’t help but compare it with our times where we cause bigger problems due to the traits the cyborgs would remove. Haraway made some notes on how our society has its own bad’s and after reading I have come to reflect on these.

The Cyborgs might sound like restricted creatures but compared to us they are more logical and are possibly more attached to nature then we are now. The “Cyborg Manifesto” discusses a lot about feminism in terms of cyborgs because gender equality means not basing someone’s ability’s based on their gender. A cyborg as stated by Haraway will not judge the abilities of other cyborgs based on gender because it would not take note of gender. I agree with all these statements and I note that cyborgs are the better as we still have issues with gender equality in times we live in now and more so in the times Haraway wrote the paper.

It was also stated with gender cyborgs do not judge another unequally based on race, religion and history. I think this is what is personally best about the Cyborgs because that type of thinking does not cause problems or conflict in relationships. I see the communication of the cyborgs like our social networks today which are a collection of minds that discuss topics and correct each other. The social networks I see as an example of ourselves becoming more like cyborgs because when someone states something that is not logical or morally wrong the majority would state why it’s in the wrong. I see the cyborgs having a society without opposition or where opposition can’t survive like in the social networks as I stated. As stated by philosopher Eric Fromm “The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots. True enough, robots do not rebel.” (Fromm  1956, 360)

This whole Idea is what fascinates me most about them but it is also what causes concern. The fact that there is no opposition means things can’t really change either or humane actions might be avoided in certain situations for the more logical approach. I think this is in the case of a decision where luck, chance and risk is involved to get something good but with a loss if there is failure. I can see the cyborgs not making that type of decision rather avoid it and that is another issue of the cyborgs I could see happening.

The Cyborg Manifesto – Donna Haraway

Quote – Eric Fromm (1956) ‘The Sane Society’ , Henry Holt and Company, pp. 360