What is the cultural image of our society nowadays?
What powers are main in influencing the vector of history?
The power of Freedom. The power of Ideas. The power of Independence. And everybody should take the responsibility.
Nowadays quite a big part of every person life is going online. We spend a lot of time with our devices, surfing the web, doing work or just killing the time. And I, being an Engineer, a Web Developer, find an important task for myself to turn this into a benefit. We can make use of peoples everyday actions.
For my Master thesis, I’ve chosen topic about creation a game for receiving annotations.
To explain it in more details, I’d like to introduce you 3 important approaches: Games with a Purpose, CrowdSourcing Science and Annotations themselves. And of course, I’d like to discover what pathways to sustainability they cover, as I find it incredibly important – to shift to sustainable way of living.
In this, introductory article I’m going to speak about general things and ask tricky questions, just to make you, my reader, interested in this topic. And in the next articles I’ll talk more about the sustainability itself, its pillars and connection to my researches.
Most online games promise players only entertainment and distraction. But Games with a Purpose (GWP) are offering more – to influence modern science, to help make your computers smarter and web surfing – faster. Such games usually are designed to be fun and perform tasks that are easy for humans but beyond the capability of today’s computers.
You can find a lot of interesting GWP here.
But when speaking about GWP it is important to take into consideration possibility of unfair results. Can you be sure that all gamer are really trying to help? How can you evaluate their answers? Wouldn’t it be subjective opinion of somebody who may be not familiar with the topic at all? All these questions are increasing difficulty of such games development.
GWP are the part of bigger definition, CrowdSourcing science. I’m, sure that nowadays everybody heard about crowdsourcing or crowdfunding. But what does crowdsourcing science mean?
Official definition of crowdsourcing says it is a process that involves outsourcing tasks to a distributed group of people. These tasks could be online or offline, paid or for free, and they are outsourced to an undefined public, in opposition to traditional outsourcing. So, speaking general, the idea behind crowdsourcing is: the more people working on your project, the better or faster or more varied results you will get.
For scientific experiments it is incredibly important to have big variety of results from different source, as it ay help to be more precise. One can face quite a lot of crowdsourcing science projects in everyday life, sometimes even not paying attention that he is involved into them.
Examples of crowdsourcing projects may be found in really different spheres. For example, Starbucks is using My Starbucks Idea to collect ideas from their customers about products, shops, and company values. Another way is to publish a question or a problem on a web, and open a discussion for a general public. A classic example of this approach is Tim Gowers, who posted in his blog a mathematical question and in a matter of days the commenters had solved it. From this case, Polymath Project, an online effort to solve some mathematics problems, started.
But of course, Crowdsourcing science is not just public problem solving or decision making. What is more interesting for my research is a way for high performance computing. Nowadays, distributed computing may be found in the following projects: Marsenne Prime Numbers (GIMPS), process radio signals to detect alien trasmissions (SETI@home), or calculate protein foldings (Folding@home). The idea is that users are installing screensaver, which are running calculations while they don’t need their computers. In this way of research, thousands of computers where involved.
And of course, GWP is a clear example of crowdsourcing science. Lots of people are doing useful tasks just for free.
First benefit of this approach is of course money saving. Even small payment per task may result in huge amounts if you need a lot of experiments. And now, thousands of people / computers are participating in researches for free!
And the second one is more benefit for the end user – you can fill yourself a part of something bigger, of something important. You can contribute to making world a better place to live! And moreover, you can do this without some big efforts!
Another important economical aspect is growing popularity of crowdfunding science projects. That is sometimes hard to get some finances form government or funds. Crowdfunding is being used not only for startups, it is increasingly considered as an alternative funding source for research projects. One of the examples may be sciflies.org. It is raising not huge amounts yet, but still enough to get finances for small research.
Few more website with the similar purpose are: Europe-wide Public Lab, Science Starter in Germany, Walacea in the UK and Experiment in the USA.
This approach may be called Science 2.0. But this raises the question of what traditional government-financed funders will do in response to the growth in crowdfunders. Will this end up with instant competition between two sides? Or probably they may exist together, helping each other to improve and find out better practices and ways of improving science?
And the last thing you need to be familiar with to understand my research are annotations. What are they for?
This is a process when computer captures main keywords or metadata from an image. And nowadays computer systems are ‘clever’ enough to recognize objects or colors. But the main question is how to teach computer understand what do people feel, when looking at the sea, for example?
This is the task where GWP may be useful. By allowing people to annotate data, huge work may be done.
If you don’t believe that this is gonna work, I recommend watching nice TED talk from re-Capture creator. People are recognizing scanned books, helping to digitalize them, by doing their daily stuff in the internet. And results are impressive.
I hope, that till now those of you who are familiar with Sustainability definitions can already find some connections and pathways from what I’ve just described. In my next articles I’m going to talk about my vision of them.