Transcription maximized; expense minimized? Crowdsourcing and editing the collected works of Jeremy Bentham

Tim Causer*, Justin Tonra, Valerie Wallace

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


This article discusses the crowdsourced manuscript transcription project Transcribe Bentham, and how it will impact upon long-established editorial practices at the Bentham Project, University College London, which is producing the new and authoritative edition of The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham. We site Transcribe Bentham in the burgeoning field of scholarly crowdsourcing projects, and, by detailing our experiences of running and administering the project, attempt to assess the potential benefits of engaging the public in humanities research. The article examines the conceptualization and development of Transcribe Bentham, and how editorial practices at the Bentham Project may change as a result. We account for the design of the bespoke transcription tool which is at the project's heart, and which allows volunteers to transcribe the material and encode it in TEI-compliant XML. We attempt to answer five key questions: is crowdsourcing the transcription of complex manuscripts cost-effective? Is crowdsourcing exploitative? Are volunteer-produced transcripts of sufficient quality for editorial use and uploading to a digital repository, and what quality controls are required? Does crowdsourcing ensure sustainability and widen access to this priceless material? And finally, should the success of a project like Transcribe Bentham be measured solely according to cost-effectiveness or the volume of work produced, or do considerations of public engagement and access outweigh such concerns?

Original languageEnglish
Article numberfqs004
Pages (from-to)119-137
Number of pages19
JournalLiterary and Linguistic Computing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


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