Crowdsourcing

For my crowdsourcing project, I contributed to two different projects: The New York Public Library’s Building Inspector and MIT’s Moral Machine. Building Inspector is a very easy to use ( almost mindless so) project where one helps identify buildings from old New York atlases. Contributing to this project helps created search maps, which will add in research and understanding of the city of New York and how it has changed over the years. This project uses overcrowding since the amount of data to input and check would be beyond the funds of the library, plus while not requiring much thinking, it does have users engage with history in a way they would not likely have otherwise. While some activities like the footprint checker and the color IDer require very little thought or understanding, others like the place names are more engaging. Indeed, the place name was the most interesting since it was possible to real understand how the space was used and who owned it. However, some more historical content would have been appreciated, for instance one building I had to identify was an “lying in for destitute females,” however, the site gives no means of exploring this more depth. However, this deeper exploring is outside the goals of the project since the ease of use is a major draw because it is something that one could do one the train to work while actually helping a history project.

The other project, MIT’s Moral Machine, is not a history project, rather it is an attempt to gather information on moral decision making processes to help inform AI for use in self-driving cars. This project uses crowdsourcing in order to build up enough data to base programed ‘moral’ decision making for AI. Similar to the Building Inspector, it is very easy to use, you don’t have to sign in, only click on one of the two options for the car to do. However, unlike the Building Inspector, this project requires much more thinking on the contributor’s side. Indeed, a number of the scenarios can make the user very uncomfortable as the project will ask to determine which group of people should die or live. This makes the project feel much more serious than the Building Inspector, which makes the contribution feel more meaningful since it could be used in real life to affect future technological advances.

Overall, both crowdsourcing projects are a unique way to engage with the public to gain input into a project they would not otherwise been able to. Furthermore, both are easy to use encouraging multiple uses and leave the users with a sense of contribution and accomplishment.

(Also an update since I took the screenshot of the building inspector. I have done another 175 footprint checks and 150 places identified. It is very easy to lose track of time and do dozens of entries without realizing it.)

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