arts


I came across a post in the Through the Kaleidoscope blog that got me thinking. “Crowd science – where masses of people participate in data collection for science projects – is growing … Astronomy is the area in which crowd science has been most frequently used, which makes sense given the field’s massive scale and large datasets. One example is the ten-year old SETI@home project …” I must admit here that I’ve been participating in the latter project since May 1999—which puts me in the 89th percentile of all 1.1 million SETI enthusiasts  :-)  I run the project using UC Berkeley’s BOINC, a commonly-used, multiplatform open-source program for volunteer computing and grid computing. BOINC facilitates running several projects at the same time according to selected settings. For instance, I’m also active in other projects: Einstein@home, MilkyWay@home (astronomy), Climateprediction.net (climatology), Rosetta@home, Malariacontrol.net (medical research), SZTAKI Desktop Grid (math), Quake Catcher Network (seismology). At one time, I also participated in non-BOINC projects but that was too cumbersome. The BOINC projects have attracted a lot of creative programmers so that there are for example at least seven websites where you can easily access your statistics both by project as well as combined. Each project awards credits for work done, allowing cross-project comparison and combination of your “scores.” It all serves to involve the participants, make them feel invested. There is even a way to have important milestones in you efforts posted on your FaceBook account, e.g., on September 3, I passed the 6,000 credit milestone for Climateprediction.net.

So what could we do with this crowd-sourced/distributed-computing approach in archaeology? After all, just like astronomy and medical research, we too have a lot of goodwill from the general public directed at us. There has to be a way to channel some of this. Surely, we can find some huge data sets that need processing and whose results can be appealing to a general audience? In the above blog post, another angle is also discussed, e.g., Galaxy Zoo, a project in which people help classify galaxies from Hubble Telescope images, a task that is hard to computerize. Some museums are letting the public tag artifacts online, a way to enhance the often-brief information available in the database (see the Steve Project). This is still primarily for art though, not archaeological artifacts. We all know that our budgets won’t increase in the near future, on the contrary. Let’s get creative!

The Brooklyn Museum continues to push the envelope:

“When it comes to progressive, public-friendly copyright policies, few art museums can match The Brooklyn Museum. In 2004, it was the first art museum to adopt a Creative Commons license, allowing any non-commercial copying of any image in which the museum holds the copyright. In 2008, it was the third institution to join the Flickr Commons, making available high-resolution images of Public Domain artworks from its collection. Last week, the musuem published the detailed copyright status of every image in its online collection–that’s over 12,000 artworks–and made this information available through its API so that anyone can easily cross-reference the data with their own copyright research. It also switched to a less restrictive Creative Commons license, allowing non-commercial remixing as well.” (Jonathan Melber in The Huffington Post).

The museum possesses many archaeological artifacts from the Middle East, Latin America, etc. Here’s an example:

Bahía. Seated Figure, 500 B.C.E.- 500 C.E. Clay, post-fire pigment, 17 3/4 x 13 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. (45.1 x 33.7 x 21.0 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Tessim Zorach, 88.57.7. Creative Commons-BY-NC

Bahía. Seated Figure, 500 B.C.E.- 500 C.E. Clay, post-fire pigment, 17 3/4 x 13 1/4 x 8 1/4 in. (45.1 x 33.7 x 21.0 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Tessim Zorach, 88.57.7. Creative Commons-BY-NC

A quick note to draw attention to an article in the latest issue of The Art Newspaper: “Facebook is more than a fad—and museums need to learn from it.”

A few quotes: “Social networks and blogs are the fastest growing online activities, according to a report published in March by research firm Nielsen Online. Almost 10% of all time spent on the internet …” “… a major factor in the success of social networks is that they allow people to select and share content. This has become a hobby, even considered by some to be a serious creative outlet, with web users spending time ‘curating’ their online space. Museums are well placed to appeal to this new generation of ‘curators’because they offer rich and interesting content that can be virtually ‘cut-up’ and stuck back together online in numerous different ways to reflect the individual tastes of each user. If remixing, reinterpreting and sharing interesting content is, as Nielsen suggests, the kind of engaging interaction that draws people to social networks, then museums should embrace the idea that ‘everyone is a curator’, both online and offline.” “For example, the Art Museum of Estonia has gone against convention by actively encouraging visitors to photograph its collection; the MoMA website helps users to co-create content and share these creations with friends.”

I’m at the iCommons iSummit and will be blogging periodically about it.

I just a saw a clip of “Star Wreck“, a Finnish science fiction movie made for something like $20,000. The movie is available for free download and has been since pirated(!) in Russia and China. According to the producers, the piracy and free download helped spread a buzz about the movie, and it has got the attention of major studios and distributors. They made 20X more money by giving it away.

What a model for the future of scholarly publishing.