Crowdsourcing Knowledge: Interactive Learning with Mapping Historic Skies

App Crit

Saturday, April 06, 2019: 11:00am - 12:30pm - Grand Ballroom: App Crit

Jessica BrodeFrank, Adler Planetarium, USA, Samantha Blickhan, Zooniverse, USA, Becky Rother, Zooniverse, USA

Published paper: Crowdsourcing Knowledge: Interactive Learning with Mapping Historic Skies

As Zooniverse has grown, so have the Adler’s hopes for using the platform for bigger projects. One such project came out of multi-year digitization project funded by the National Endowment for Humanities. The Adler digitized over 4,000 image files of constellation maps and depictions covering six hundred years, spanning across the world. The hope was to use these images to help depict how the constellations we know today have been represented throughout time and throughout various cultures. The biggest challenge to this goal was the sheer size of our dataset. With only one curator on staff, and one full-time digital collections employee, an undertaking of this size would have spanned years if not decades.  This is where the citizen-science department at the Adler stepped in. Working in tandem, a project emerged; an interactive app that would break down the identification of these star maps into multiple, simple tasks, achievable by anyone, without requiring previous knowledge of astronomy. The end goal was to narrow down the large dataset into images of single constellations that visitors to the Adler’s upcoming “Night Sky” exhibit could identify using a guiding hierarchy phrased in yes/no answers, narrowing in specificity until volunteers are able to determine exactly what constellation they were assessing. To get to this point, however, many other workflows would need to be enacted, and several guiding questions would need to be answered. As the collections team prepared to load the content to the Zooniverse platform (resizing images and identifying which objects would work well), a beta version was created, asking volunteers whether an image depicted a single constellation (if so, swipe left), or multiple constellations (swipe right).