Madison: Semantic Listening Through Crowdsourcing

Madison: Semantic Listening Through Crowdsourcing by Jane Friedhoff.

From the post:

Our recent work at the Labs has focused on semantic listening: systems that obtain meaning from the streams of data surrounding them. Chronicle and Curriculum are recent examples of tools designed to extract semantic information (from our corpus of news coverage and our group web browsing history, respectively). However, not every data source is suitable for algorithmic analysis–and, in fact, many times it is easier for humans to extract meaning from a stream. Our new projects, Madison and Hive, are explorations of how to best design crowdsourcing projects for gathering data on cultural artifacts, as well as provocations for the design of broader, more modular kinds of crowdsourcing tools.

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Madison is a crowdsourcing project designed to engage the public with an under-viewed but rich portion of The New York Times’s archives: the historical ads neighboring the articles. News events and reporting give us one perspective on our past, but the advertisements running alongside these articles provide a different view, giving us a sense of the culture surrounding these events. Alternately fascinating, funny and poignant, they act as commentary on the technology, economics, gender relations and more of that time period. However, the digitization of our archives has primarily focused on news, leaving the ads with no metadata–making them very hard to find and impossible to search for them. Complicating the process further is that these ads often have complex layouts and elaborate typefaces, making them difficult to differentiate algorithmically from photographic content, and much more difficult to scan for text. This combination of fascinating cultural information with little structured data seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore how crowdsourcing could form a source of semantic signals.

From the projects homepage:

Help preserve history with just one click.

The New York Times archives are full of advertisements that give glimpses into daily life and cultural history. Help us digitize our historic ads by answering simple questions. You’ll be creating a unique resource for historians, advertisers and the public — and leaving your mark on history.

Get started with our collection of ads from the 1960s (additional decades will be opened later)!

I would like to see a Bible transcription project that was that user friendly!

But, then the goal of the New York Times is to include as many people as possible.

Looking forward to more news on Madison!

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