Crowdsourcing Symposium


Exploring promises and problems of collective intelligence methods in humanities and social science research



ORGANIZED BY THE Humanities and Social Sciences Association


The Division of Arts and Humanities
and Digital Humanities at Berkeley





Academic research has long depended on the public for data collection and interpretation, as in the case of citizen science, where local expertise is vital to understanding environmental phenomena. The Internet has produced new forms of collective intelligence, which industry and other actors have been quick to recognize.  Companies like Threadless and iStockphoto, as well as sites like Google and Wikipedia, are models built on the “wisdom of crowds” that emerge from what Yochai Benkler calls “hybrid media ecologies.”  Virtual collaborators fill out surveys, transcribe audio, code video, and provide editorial content.

Increasingly, humanities and social science research is turning to networked knowledge production, enabling new scales and modes of public participation in academic research.  This symposium will explore the state of crowdsourcing in the social sciences and humanities.  What are its premises, promises, and risks?  How rigorous and reliable is crowd intelligence?  What are the implications for meanings of expertise?  What labor practices does it generate or displace? What communities are formed by academic crowdsourcing?  And how does it change the relationship between the public and academic research?

The half-day event will open with an introductory keynote presentation, to be followed by two panels, and close with a buffet lunch.

Keynote speaker Daren Brabham, University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, will trace the evolution of crowdsourcing and its various forms, and address most recent developments.

Panel 1, “Talking from experience,” will feature scholars discussing their work using crowdsourcing methods, and the relationship between project designs and outcomes.  (See the Call for Proposals link below for an invitation to submit an abstract.)

Panel 2, “Theoretical considerations,” will explore the cultural and social implications of crowdsourcing in the humanities and social sciences.  A central aim of the sessions is to theorize the connection between concrete aspects of project design and the ramifications in academia and the civic domain.

We invite all levels of scholars interested in or already engaged in crowdsourcing projects in the humanities and social sciences.  The aim is to educate, question, provoke, and foster exchange between practice and theory.  We look forward to your participation!


This event is FREE! Due to limited seating, attendees will be required to pay a refundable $10 place holding fee. This ensures that as many people as possible have the opportunity to participate. On the day after the symposium, the $10 holding fee will be refunded to participants who have attended the event.  Therefore, please make sure to register atthe event.


Important Dates:

September 18, 2015        “Talking from Experience” panel proposals due

September 23, 2015        Notification of selected panelists

November 6, 2015           Day of symposium




Keynote speaker

Daren Brabham
Assistant Professor
Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
University of Southern California


Panel 1: Talking from Experience

Improving Crowdwork with Small Group Discussions
Marti A. Hearst (presenter) Professor School of Information, UC Berkeley
Bjoern Hartmann, EECS (co-author)
Armando Fox, EECS (co-author)
The Adventures of Hashtag the Snail
Ioana Literat (presenter)
Assistant Professor of Communication, Media and Learning Technologies DesignTeachers College
Columbia University
Perseids Project and Open Philology Project
Tim Buckingham (presenter)
Simona Stoyanova (co-author)
Senior Research Coordinator
Perseids Project
Deciding Force Project
Nick Adams (presenter)
Berkeley Institute for Data Science
UC Berkeley

Panel 2: Theoretical considerations

Lilly Irani
Assistant Professor of Communication, Science Studies
UC San Diego

Trebor Scholz
Associate Professor of Culture and Media
Eugene Lang College
The New School for Liberal Arts

R. Stuart Geiger
PhD Candidate
School of Information (ISchool)
UC Berkeley


Lina Eklund, Visiting Scholar, Department of Sociology, UC Berkeley, Member of the Stockholm Internet Research Group

Wanda Katja Liebermann, Visiting Scholar, Department of Architecture, UC Berkeley,

Isabell Stamm, Postdoc, Department of Sociology, UC Berkeley,



This call for abstracts for the panel “Talking from experience” targets an audience of scholars, educators (of all academic levels), practitioners, and designers currently or recently engaged in crowdsourcing projects. Contributions are welcome from all fields in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, on all aspects of crowdsourcing research, including, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • Digitization of data through crowdsourcing
  • Gathering data through crowdsourcing
  • Analysis and interpretation of data through crowdsourcing
  • New ways of communicating research results using crowd labor

We ask panelists to speak about their experiences of engaging with the crowd: What research possibilities are opened up by it? How is the project designed? How is responsibility distributed? How is reliability of information defined? What challenges does crowdsourcing pose?

Please submit a brief abstract in pdf format, no later than SEPTEMBER 18, to

Include the following information:

  • Name of the project and hosting institution
  • Project participants and contact information of presenter
  • Project website, if available
  • A description of the project (no more than 400 words) that briefly describes the project, methods and objectives
  • A brief professional biography (not exceeding 500 words)

Selected panelists will be notified September 23, 2015.