Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Crowdsourcing a solution to the illicit antiquities trade?

The Punching Bag (Larry  Rothfield)

Jason Felch, lucky dog, will be speaking at Google today about "crowdsourcing a solution to the illicit antiquities trade." Sounds promising, though too vague to evaluate before the fact. If the idea is just to put the power of the crowd to work monitoring auction-house catalogs and eBay, however, that is not going to solve the problem of market-driven looting of archaeological sites. Not that catching Sotheby's or the occasional antiquities dealer holding stolen pieces is without value; the market needs this kind of policing. But the market is global, and most of it is not going to be visible to the crowd. Moreover, the antiquities most in need of protection, unexcavated ones, by definition lack the photographic information (or any other information) that Google is designed to share.

Google might, on the other hand, assist in a different mobilization of crowd-policing, by creating in-country means for locals to report looting in progress to their antiquities police. 

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