Monday, 26 September 2011

Crowd-sourcing ancient transcription

There's a really great project going on which you can help with. Here's the text from the website telling you what it's about:

For classics scholars, the vast number of damaged and fragmentary texts from the waste dumps of Greco-Roman Egypt has resulted in a difficult and time-consuming endeavor, with each manuscript requiring a character-by-character transcription. Words are gradually identified based on the transcribed characters and the manuscripts' linguistic characteristics. Both the discovery of new literary texts and the identification of known ones are then based on this analysis in relation to the established canon of extant Greek literature and its lexicons. Documentary texts, letters, receipts, and private accounts, are similarly assessed and identified through key terms and names. Furthermore, an immense number of detached fragments still linger, waiting to be joined with others to form a once intact text of ancient thought, both known and unknown. The data not only continues to reevaluate and assess the literature and knowledge of ancient Greece, but also illuminates the lives and culture of the multi-ethnic society of Greco-Roman Egypt.
The data gathered by Ancient Lives will allow us to increase the momentum by which scholars have traditionally studied the collection. After transcriptions have been collected digitally, we can combine human and computer intelligence to identify known texts and documents faster than ever before. For unknown documents, we can isolate them and begin the long process of identification.
Like any other scientific project, the data will require a lengthy process of vetting and analysis. There are no quick answers or discoveries. We want to make sure our findings are accurate. However, instead of just a few scholars going through the collection one fragment at a time, users of Ancient Lives are allowing professionals to process large batches of data at any given time. These papyri, as owned and overseen by the Egypt Exploration Society, will then be published and numbered in the Society’s Greco-Roman Memoirs series in the volumes entitled THE OXYRHYNCHUS PAPYRI.
They're just getting lots and lots of people to transcribe the hard-to-read texts into digital text, so that they can read them much more quickly. And it doesn't matter if a few get it wrong, because there'll be enough that those are easily spotted and ignored. This is a brilliant use of crowd-sourcing for research purposes.

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