Freitag, November 12, 2010

Mein Traum

Vor 5 Jahren haben wir die Photos eines Offiziers an der Ostfront des 1. Weltkriegs veröffentlicht, von Preußen über Litauen, Estland bis nach Finnland. Eine Mischung aus privaten Aufnahmen und verschiedener damals offizieller Fotos. Einige haben den Weg durchs Internet angetreten. Manche sind nun in Archiven gelandet. Eines auch in der Online-Bibliothek der Oxford Universität. Das Besondere daran: Da es bei Flickr gespeichert ist, können Mitglieder kommentieren. Und die Kommentare drehen sich fast ausschließlich um die Identifizierung des Aufnahmeortes. Ich habe darüber schon einmal gepostet. Das Suchen nach der richtigen Stelle hat schon fast "absurde" (siehe unten) Formen angenommen, inklusive eines Videoclips, einer Aufnahme mit Hilfe eines Flugdrachens mit Kamera. Es geht um die Möglichkeiten der Zusammenarbeit im Internet, die nur in Anfängen genutzt wird. Darüber hat aber jemand einen schönen Post geschrieben:

In 2005 a Flickr. Member, Jens-Olaf Walter, posted a photograph from WWI of German soldiers scrambling across railroad tracks somewhere in Finland. He accompanied it with the phrase: “official army photo, German-Finnish Sign “Haltpunkt”?” It was not long before another (rather eccentric looking I might add) user “timonoko” posted a comment identifying a sign in the photo and noting that it was near Helsinki but that he did not recognize the scenery. Another member took the challenge up almost three years later, using the clue of the railway and Google Maps to suggest a possible location. In response to this both Jens-Olaf and ‘timonoko’ posted photos of Finish maps, one of which indicated a change in the railway line through that particular town. Next, and perhaps even more astonishingly, “timonoko” posts a video clip from a Finish TV series “Memories of 1918” showing the exact same scene of the soldiers in the photograph crossing the railroad—except that it had been caught on film!

The stream of comments and image posts does not end there. The amount of collaborative research recorded on this single photo verges on the absurd. All this to say, examining the photograph and reading the comments was a shocking experience for me. I have not seen as dramatic a display of effective crowdsourcing to describe and identify an historical artifact on the internet to date. Interestingly the First World War Poetry Digital Archive, a project of the University of Oxford, asked to post the image in their archive. And there it sits, where I first found it, bereft of its amazing string of comments.

What the above example says to me is that we have not even begun to reach the potential that collaboration can achieve in the digital humanities. What many of the projects lack right now is the sheer mass of user traffic that something like Flickr generates. This suggests to me that more efforts should be made to integrate digital humanities projects with existing free commercial sites. The sky would be the limit.


Crowdsourcing, Flickr, and the Digital Humanities

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