Skip to main content

Frequently Asked Questions by librarians,
archivists, and other cultural heritage scholars


Q: Who owns the tags?

All metadata collected through Metadata Games are available following Creative Commons’ CC0 public domain dedication. For more information, see our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.


Q: How does Metadata Games access media from my institution? Can Metadata Games access media from external sites such as library archives?

To provide institutions access to tag data, we upload media to a Metadata Games Content Ap installed at your institution and connect it with a Game App that we are currently hosting. Alternatively, we can first set up a test Content App for you to try out. Either option provides you access to the tag data gathered for the media collections you provide to the Metadata Games system.


Q: How can games be used to help enhance metadata for a growing archive of online images?

We actively collaborate with the Boston Public Library to define ideal ways an institution may utilize user-generated tags to increase access to digital collections. One method consists of adding tag data provided by Metadata Game users to institution search engines. Because the games entice a diverse cross-section of players (from a wide array of backgrounds and perspectives) to tag institutions’ media collections, the tags game-generated tags can vastly improve institutions’ search functionality by ensuring representation of a wide range of descriptors. In the process, everything from colloquial folksonomies to formal, specialized terms can be collected and represented. Metadata Games provides users the freedom to describe and classify media in their own ways, capitalizing on their unique knowledge and insight about items.

For more information about our research and how folksonomies
can augment controlled vocabularies, check out the following articles:


Goh, Dion Hoe-Lian; Ang, Rebecca; Lee, Chei and Chua, Alton (2011). “Fight or Unite: Investigating Game Genres for Image Tagging.” Journal of the America Society for Information Science and Technology.

Syn, Sue Yeon and Spring, Michael (2013). “Finding Subject Terms for Classificatory Metadata From User-Generated Social Tags.” Journal of the America Society for Information Science and Technology.

Maggio, Lauren; Bersnahan, Megan; Flynn, David; Harzbecker, Joseph; Blanchard, Mary and Ginn, David; (2009). “A case study– using social tagging to engage students in learning Medical Subject Headings.” J Med Libr Assoc 97(2).

Grey, April (2012). “So You Think You’re an Expert: Keyword Searching vs. Controlled Subject Headings.” Codex: the Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL.

Petek, Marija (2012). “Comparing user-generated and librarian-generated metadata on digital images” OCLC Systems & Services, Vol. 28 Iss: 2, pp.101 – 111.

Flanagan, Mary & Carini, Peter (2012). “How games can help us access and understand cultural artifacts.” American Archivist 75(2), pp 514-537.
This paper reports on Tiltfactor lab’s pilot study of Metadata Games, a free and open-source software system that uses computer games to collect information about archival images in libraries and museums. By inviting mass participation, Metadata Games opens the door for archivists, researchers, and the public to unearth new knowledge that could radically enhance scholarship between and within many different disciplines. Authors Mary Flanagan and Peter Carini – the Director of Tiltfactor Lab, and the Dartmouth College Archivist, respectively – describe the qualitative and quantitative benefits of using crowdsourcing to generate knowledge.

Flanagan, M., Punjasthitkul, S., Seidman, M., Kaufman, G. and Carini, P (2013). “Citizen Archivists at Play: Game Design for Gathering Metadata for Cultural Heritage Institutions.” Proceedings of DiGRA 2013, Atlanta, Georgia.
This paper details the design process for the Metadata Games project, highlighting several of the challenges that the Metadata Games team encountered along the way. These include: how to attract a broad audience, how to ensure high replayability, how to foster a curiosity about the humanities, and how to verify the accuracy of publicly generated data. The authors ultimately present the “Outlier Design” model they used to identify and to address these challenges.

Owens, Trevor (2013). “The Metadata Games Crowdsourcing Toolset for Libraries & Archives: An Interview with Mary Flanagan.” The Signal Digital Preservation blog, Library of Congress.