Crowdsourcing and Weblog Entry for This Week

There has increasing discussion in recent years, in academia, in business, and in popular discourse, about the importance of social and technological networks for producing, evaluating, and disseminating information. Crowdsourcing is one example of a term that draws on network theory to describe (and also to advocate) new ways of producing information using social and technological networks (or perhaps socio-technical networks).

At the Crowdsourcing weblog, Jeff Howe defines the term as follows:

“Crowdsourcing is the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.”

The term draws on the idea of outsourcing: an organization turning to sources outside the organization in order to carry out essential organizational tasks. For example, a car manufacturer might outsource some (or all) of the production tasks involved in constructing a particular car to factories owned by someone else, often located in a foreign country where production costs are lower.

Crowdsourcing is closely connected to the ideas of open source and collaborative production. It also relies on research into social networks (recently given the popular term The Wisdom of Crowds) that suggests that the collective judgment of diverse groups of people acting independently often produces better decisions than any single individuals in the group, including experts.

New information technologies are not required for taking advantage of “the wisdom of crowds” or for engaging in crowdsourcing, but the design of many NITs can help promote the independent collaboration these ideas rely on.

Today in class we will discuss the idea of crowdsourcing and look at a few examples of crowdsourcing in action:

This is an idea we will discuss further this week.

In your weblog for this week, write one entry (two-three paragraphs) in which you discuss something related to the idea of crowdsourcing. Note: Because our discussion on this issue has been delayed, you may have until Wednesday 11 April to produce this entry.

Here are a few suggestions you might consider for your entries:

  • Look at the journalism sites above and find examples of “crowdsourced” journalism. Describe an example and write something about it. Do you think it is an example of good journalism? Why does the example work (or not)?
  • Look at the non-journalism sites. Do any of the projects there interest you? Write about one.
  • How do you think you might apply the idea of crowdsourcing to something you might try to accomplish, whether in journalism or another field?

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