Game adds metadata to digital collections

By Jin Lee, The Dartmouth Staff

Tiltfactor offers games that are both competitive and fun while also promoting social good.

Academic institutions nationwide have digitized their archives for years, but many lack a way to catalogue their collections efficiently. Dartmouth’s Tiltfactor Laboratory created Metadata Games to solve this problem and is launching its newest version of the program, Metadata Games: Mobile, today.

Metadata, or data embedded in or around images, allows people to search for specific subjects, Tiltfactor game designer Max Seidman ’12 said. Many recently digitized collections have no metadata on them, making it difficult to perform searches quickly. In the game, players help label collections by “tagging” images in entertaining and competitive formats.

Tiltfactor, led by digital humanities professor Mary Flanagan, created Metadata Games to help libraries, universities and museums organize their digital archives without burdening institutions. The program also connects players to the institutions that provide the images.

The Boston Public Library began using Metadata Games approximately one year ago. While it wanted to create a comprehensive digital library, it lacked the workforce and resources to do so by more traditional means, the library’s digital projects manager Tom Blake said. Metadata Games could engage the public and crowdsource the work, Blake said.

Although the Rauner Special Collections Library has not used Metadata Games, it supplied materials to Tiltfactor as part of the laboratory’s initial experiment, College archivist Peter Carini said. Rauner hopes to launch the program by the beginning of the next academic year.

Rauner’s collection of 8,000 to 10,000 images has little or no metadata. Digitizing the material would make it more accessible to researchers.

Carini said that a core group of devoted players can make a definite impact on the process. The games, he said, are “oddly addicting.”

In 2012, Tiltfactor and Rauner collaborated to create the game “Alum Tag,” which sought to convince alumni to tag Rauner artifacts with the names of people and scenes they recognized.

Not only are Metadata Games competitive and fun, they serve a useful purpose, Seidman said.

The mobile game builds off the original, online version of Metadata Games but allows users to play whenever and wherever they can.

The mobile project makes the games more accessible to players and institutions, Tiltfactor game designer Sukdith Punjasthitkul said in an email.

Tiltfactor’s other initiatives include games to combat social bias, promote public health and change attitudes and behaviors regarding climate change, Seidman said.

Metadata Games: Mobile, along with a number of other games, presentations, and volunteer-based studies will be on display at Tiltfactor’s open house at the Black Family Visual Arts Center from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. today.