Abstract

Graduate student fellows of the Praxis Program at the University of Virginia Library have created Prism, a digital project to explore the possibilities of collaborative interpretation of texts, or ‘crowdsourced interpretation’. Prism was developed by two discrete teams of 1-year fellows with the Scholars’ Lab and is freely available at http://prism.scholarslab.org. This article describes Prism’s intervention into current crowdsourcing debates. First, we demonstrate that where other crowdsourcing projects have tended to ask users to compile data or perform other mechanistic tasks such as optical character recognition correction or manuscript transcription, Prism enables community-generated interpretation along discrete parameters. In addition, we describe how Prism challenges two common approaches to crowdsourcing in the digital humanities that are characterized as microtasking and macrotasking. We also explore the ways in which Prism’s user interface and design respect the role of the individual in crowdsourcing and how future developments of the tool might expand on these possibilities.

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