Dartmouth Creates Game to Tag Archival Gems






There’s no shortage of fabulous archival material lurking in college and university collections. The trick is finding it.

Without good metadata—labels that tell researchers and search engines what’s in a photograph, say—those archives are as good as closed to many students and scholars. But many institutions don’t have the resources or manpower to tag their archives thoroughly.

Enter Metadata Games, an experiment in harnessing the power of the crowd to create archival metadata. A team of designers at Dartmouth College, working with archivists there, has created game interfaces that invite players to tag images, either playing alone or with a partner (sometimes a human, sometimes a computer). Solo players think up tags to describe the images they see; in the two-player scenario, partners try to come up with the same tag or tags.

Metadata Games is the brainchild of Mary Flanagan, an artist-designer who’s a professor of digital humanities at Dartmouth. She also directs the Tiltfactor laboratory, which is dedicated to exploring “critical play—a method of using games and play to investigate issues and ideas.” Talking to Peter Carini, the Dartmouth college archivist, about the challenges of tagging special collections got Ms. Flanagan thinking about whether an open-source game interface could help solve the problem....




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