Until the middle of the 20th century, a reader would have stumbled against the phrase “Human Computation” because, at that time, computers were humans carrying out calculations, not machines. Back then, a special issue on “Machine Computation” would have aroused much interest. Nowadays, things are the other way around: A reader is likely to stumble against the phrase “Human Computation” because it is, nowadays, common knowledge that machines outperform human beings in a wide range of tasks; one might even wonder how humans could contribute to computations in a useful manner!
Indeed, many human skills are far away from being fully taken over by machines. For example, reading comprehension, image recognition, or finding heuristic solutions for complex computational tasks like the traveling salesman problem still is beyond the capabilities of machines. Such tasks still are within humans’ reserved domain. It therefore seems natural that combining both the skills of humans and of machines can result in a higher problem solving competence both in quantity and quality. This insight paves the way for “Human Computation” as we know it today. This special issue introduces “Human Computation” through presentations of current research projects.
The first article, “Mobile Learning in Environmental Citizen Science: An initial survey of current practice in Germany”, reports on a survey of mobile learning among environmental citizen science projects. This first article offers a good overview of why projects of very different types rely on “Citizen Science”, a form of “Human Computation”.
The second article, “Design and Implementation of a Platform for the Citizen Science Project Migraine Radar”, describes a Citizen Science platform based on a software architecture with different front-ends and a back-end. The scope of the project, Migraine Radar, is to establish a large data collection on migraine attacks so as to explore the triggering factors of such attacks.
The third article, “Collective Organization of Discourse Expertise using Information Technology – CODE IT!”, introduces a Citizen Science platform that helps to analyse and review press releases using the technique called “coding” in social sciences. The platform usage has been verified within a Citizen Science project where the participants reviewed articles on vaccination against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
The fourth article, “Not-So-Distant Reading: A Dynamic Network Approach to Literature”, describes a novel approach to analysing the occurrence of characters in Victorian novels relying on a prototype system offering various visualizations. The article reports on a user study demonstrating the effectiveness of the approach.
A fifth and final article, “Optimising Crowdsourcing Efficiency: Amplifying Human Computation with Validation”, is dedicated to investigating whether crowdsourcing, and therefore Human Computation, can be optimised with a validation process. The authors suggest a simple agreement validation step to enhance the quality of crowdsourcing’s outcomes. They prove the proposed technique with the Game With A Purpose (short GWAP) “Phrase Detectives” by measuring the quality, cost, noise, and speed of the collected validations.
We hope that this special issue on Human Computation provides with a good, even though non-exhaustive, introduction to “Human Computation” and to its subfield “Citizen Science”. These fields are rapidly evolving and it is very likely that, in the forthcoming months and years, many novel applications of, and approaches to, “Human Computation” will be developed and tested. We therefore recommend the interested readers to keep an eye of forthcoming results and project reports!
About the article
Prof. Dr. Francois Bry, born 1956, works since 1994 as professor with the Institute for Informatics of Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, Germany. His current interests include declarative programming, human computation, computing in finances and economics, technology enhanced learning, and ethics of computing. Before joining the University of Munich, he worked from 1985 to 1993 on deductive databases, logic programming, and automated reasoning at ECRC (European Computer-Industry Research Centre), Munich, from 1982 to 1983 on statistic databases at the research center IRT (now INRETS) in Paris, France, and he contributed from 1979 to 1981 to the development of a text processing system at Transac-Alcatel (now Alcatel) in Paris, France. He received a doctoral degree in mathematics in 1981 from the University Paris 6 Pierre et Marie Curie, France.
Dr. Clemens Schefels, born in 1977, is Enterprise Application Integration Developer at IT4IPM/GEMA (IT for Intellectual Property Management / Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte), a German collecting society and performance rights organization based in Germany. Before joining GEMA, he worked as research assistant with the Institute for Informatics of Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, Germany. In July 2013, he received a doctoral degree in computer science with his thesis “Analyzing User Feedback of On-Line Communities”.
Dr. Christoph Wieser, born 1979, is Enterprise Architect at IT4IPM/GEMA (IT for Intellectual Property Management / Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte), a German collecting society and performance rights organization based in Germany. Before joining GEMA, he worked as architect in the global solution enablement team of TIBCO for telephone service providers. Christoph Wieser holds a doctorate in computer science from the University of Munich, where he studied Informatics and Statistics.
Published Online: 2018-02-28
Published in Print: 2018-03-01