Crowd sourcing: a phenomenon of co-operation

I recently read a blog post by a Digital Humanities lecturer named Stuart Dunn who wrote in his post an overview of the academics in crowd sourcing. He also tries to make the post a guide to making an academic crowd source based on his own experiences.

Crowd sourcing is where members of the public contribute to development of a large project. The purpose of allowing the public to contribute is to complete a task quicker and more efficiently. Dunn clarifies that there are two types of crowds sourcing one being for profit and the other for knowledge. Private companies looking for profit will use crowd sourcing to complete task that require a lot of funding and time to do if they employed a small group of people to do it. Academic crowd sourcing which is what Dunn focuses on is for the purpose of creating knowledge or making knowledge available to the public.

I have taken part in academic crowd sourcing before such as open street map which is in my opinion an example of academic crowd sourcing gone right. In other cases academic crowd sourcing could go from good to bad depending on various factors including those that Dunn describes in his post. One of the obvious factors is the contributors who are creating the knowledge. Dunn says that contributors are either the norm that do it just for a short amount time contributing to not much while the other is what Dunn calls the super contributors. The super contributors are people who are dedicated to contributing to the crowd source project. Their dedication would be the result of interest in the project, the community surrounding the project and how easy it is to contribute.

The super contributors relate to another factor Dunn thinks is important with crowd sourcing which is the addition of a forum to the website used in the crowd sourcing. Forums create a community for the crowd source allowing users to interact with one another and exchange knowledge as “crowdsourcing is reconnecting workers with their work and taming the giants of big business by reviving the importance of the consumer in the design process” (Brabham 2008, 84). I see the importance of a forum as every big website these days has its own forum. I usually end up in a forum looking for help with something technical so I personally know how useful they can be for people. Dunn says the most important thing about the forum is that it keeps the crowd source going after the group behind the project are done so that the project can go on.

The third factor is funding by universities for academic crowd source. To get funding from a university you would have to convince them that results are possible. Dunn highlights that universities are not keen on crowd sourcing because members of the public are likely not qualified academics. This usually results in funding being short if they do go through with it but the chances of success are lower. I don’t think this factor is important seeing as the point of crowd sourcing is to have the public do work that you are not going to pay for, Dunn even mentions that a lot of successful academic crowd sources go without funding supporting my opinion.

Daren, C.B., (2012) ‘Crowdsourcing as a Model for Problem Solving’, Sage Publications, pp. 84

Stuart Dunn – “More than a business model: crowd-sourcing and impact in the humanities”


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