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The ever growing need for information and documentation, as well as the development of social media and digital literature for Digital Humanities have stirred the need, among the online community, to be able to access, read, study and comment online texts and documents. Thus, the need to collect and store these informations, may they be those of the texts or those added through annotations and marginalia, have been increasing.

This blog post will therefore focus on the digital archiving of texts, and on how, through methods such as crowdsourcing, it is possible to enrich the content of the archives, and to optimize the user’s experience and understanding of the documents.

For that purpose, 3 abstracts will be analyzed. They will focus on the subject of digital archiving, and/or crowdsourcing, and to what extent these tools can be efficient and easy to use.

The first abstract considered is entitled “Traces of Lives in Digital archives: Life writing, Marginalias, and Google Books“. It focuses (as given away by the title) on the digital archiving tool Google Books, showing that there are limits to it (such as the sometimes poor quality of the digital documents), but also positive points to it, such as the fact that it can allow, through marginalias and annotations scanned with the document, a new and different point of view on the text. The second abstract is entitled “Beyond the Library  Walls: The National Library of Wales Research Program in Digital Collections” , and focuses on the National Library’s (NLW) adoption of digitalization and network technologies, in order to provide a greater access to the various elements of the Library, and also to promote itself. The abstract is also about the ways found by the NLW to enhance the content of the archives, to adapt them to study and research. The third, and last abstract considered in this study is entitled “KinDigi Social: A Mobile-centered Social Annotation Platform for the Kindai Digital Library” and is about the ways, found by the Kindai Digital Library (KDL) to use the principle of crowdsourcing (here, a tool called KinDigi Social) to allow amateurs and professionals to study the online documents in the library, and to share tags, annotations, and more generally explanations on the documents.

First of all, one can notice, through the read of all three abstracts, that the main reasons presented for the development of digital archives is the desire to provide a fair access to knowledge to a greater number of people. There is also a desire, for both libraries in the 2nd and the 3rd abstract aforementioned, to be more widely known, and expand their digital archives. However, except maybe for Google Books, these projects are not yet fully developed, and concern a limited range of documents.

The other point that is highlighted through the reading of the abstracts is that the “quality” of the digitized books or documents varies from one tool to the other. In fact, for Google Books for example, the process of digitization highly modifies the original documents, leaving traces of the people who have handled the books before, such as annotations through the texts and in the margins for example. The third article, on the other hand, shows that the KinDigi has been developed in order to facilitate as much as possible the reading of the texts; detecting the edges of the scanned documents, and removing unnecessary margins, making it an easier read than the Google Books example. For what concerns the 2nd abstract, about the National Library of Wales, it was mentioned that the creation of digital texts (especially those from historical sources) is challenging, for the text are often important for research, but appear imperfect in their digital versions.

But the idea behind these archives were not only to collect digital documents together. It was (and is still) also to be able to enhance the content of the archives, making them more study and research “friendly”. In order to do such a thing, the KDL have been using the KinDigi social, that is a social platform that works in a similar fashion to Twitter. In fact, it allows the user to share comments, tags and annotations around a document, and to store these explanations in the archive’s database; But also to work privately. The National Library of Wales, on the other hand, had been a collaboration between scholars, and is starting, in the same fashion as the KinDigi Social, to work with crowdsourcing, in order to develop an online community “around the library”. However, when compared one can notice that Google Books , on the other hand, does not have a way for an online community to share their work. on can work privately, but cannot annotate and share his/her comments on the text he or she is working on. This is, in my opinion, one of the drawbacks in the use of Google Books. However, Google Books has, in some books, “live” annotations, that have been scanned along with the texts. These annotations and marginalia may allow two different readings of the documents associated, and may also prove, in some way, useful guides to the analyze and study of the documents.

To conclude, one can say that Digital Archives have been developing over the past few years, in order to widen the reach of the libraries to people, and that of people to information and knowledge. Some of these libraries have been using, in order to enhance the content of their archives, a system of crowdsourcing, allowing people (amateurs or scholars without distinction) to share their understanding of the texts and to study them together. However, this system is not yet fully developed, and the libraries are working to expand their reach and enrich the content of their archives.

  • References:

[1] Traces of Lives in Digital Archives: Life Writing, Marginalia and Google Books Tully Barnett, Flinders University, Australia.

[2] Beyond the Library Walls: The National Library of Wales Research Programme in Digital Collections  Rhian James, National Library of Wales, United Kingdom; Paul McCann, National Library of Wales, United Kingdom.

[3] KinDigi Social: A Mobile-centered Social Annotation Platform for the Kindai Digital Library Yuta Hashimoto, Kyoto University, Japan; Yasuyuki Araki, National Diet Library, Japan.