Crowdsourcing a Solution for Sharing Educational Resources

Study.com talks to Anne Jonas of the Participatory Culture Foundation about applying crowdsourced captioning and video aggregation platforms to the open education movement.

Study.com: Can you describe what the Participatory Culture Foundation does?

Anne Jonas: We're a non-profit organization, and we create mainly video-based open-source software primarily for media, education and activism non-profits. One of our main products is Universal Subtitles, which is a collaborative crowdsourced captioning and subtitling platform that makes videos more accessible to hard-of-hearing folks, folks who don't speak the original language of the content and to those of us who just don't want to play our videos out loud. People can put any video out there for volunteers or the community to subtitle. But there's also a more professional version where people can review subtitles before they appear.

One of the other things we do is called Miro Community, and it's a video aggregation platform. You can take videos from across the Web, curate them and provide context around them. Say you wanted to have an open education video site. You could pull together all the different videos about open education, add information to the page, things like that.

We've been thinking about how we could apply those two things to the open education space to provide more of a cohesive context for educational videos. That's very much in the thinking stage.

Study.com: Miro Community sounds like something that could be used for mashing-up content, to use a buzzword. Is that one of its applications?

AJ: Yes and no. We don't do editing and we don't do hosting. We're really trying to make things accessible and to create a context in which you can use all sorts of content. You can only mash-up content legally if you have a DMCA exception or if it's Creative Commons (CC) licensing or fair use. Certainly you could use Miro Community for that if you did have something that was CC-licensed.

Study.com: You mentioned Miro Community can provide context for videos. How does that work?

AJ: Videos are embedded, and you can search and categorize them. You could have a short review of relevant information in a sidebar. One of our original aims focused on providing information and context around things happening in local communities.

Study.com: How did this get started?

AJ: We started about six years ago. Our first product was originally called Democracy Player, an open-source video player for your desktop. It was really trying to provide a more grassroots media option than something like iTunes, which is very hierarchical, very controlled. We were trying to provide a really good user interface without those restrictions. It's now called Miro. You can use it to subscribe to video and audio podcasts. You have your music, which you can send to your Android phone.

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I got involved through the AmeriCorps Vista program on this Miro Community project, particularly looking at supporting alternative models for grassroots media as a way to support more diverse voices than local media consolidations typically do. We want direct access, where anyone could be speaking to their community.

Study.com: What's been your biggest challenge?

AJ: We try to do something that's really lightweight; we often start from the perspective of making things really simple for end-users. Sometimes the institutions or the people who'd be putting these things together are used to much more complicated models and they have some concerns. Sometimes, I think you don't really need more than simplicity.

I also think there's some institutional fear about crowdsourcing, where sometimes people let the perfect be the enemy of the good. With Universal Subtitles, yeah, you might not get perfect subtitles for the whole video right away, but maybe with something like a crisis situation it's really important that something just happen fast. Maybe it doesn't need to be perfect every time.

Study.com: What's been the most interesting thing you've done?

AJ: On the Miro Community front, I've just been excited to see people create random cool sites and have them take off. On the Universal Subtitles side, I think for me the most exciting thing is to see people connecting around these crisis situations. It's really exciting to see cross-cultural communication happening. The State of the Union got translated really quickly into a bunch of languages. We partnered with PBS NewsHour, so that was a situation where people who spoke other languages were really quickly able to see what the president was saying.

I'm excited about the idea of transparent and cooperative subtitling. When people see something wrong, especially in something that's sensitive or something they're passionate about, they really want to change it. Giving people that opportunity, everyone benefits.

Study.com: Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

AJ: Encourage people to play around with tools and adopt them to their own uses. Just try things out, see how they work, think about how you could use them and adapt them to that purpose.


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