A Crowdsourcing Primer

One word that pops up continuously in both business and tech-based research today is crowdsourcing.  I first came across the word in the work of Clay Shriky, who was talking about it in his book Cognitive Surplus.  The gist behind crowdsourcing, from my contextual understanding, was the collaboration of numerous people on a single purpose — the most obvious example would be Wikipedia, but a great example Shirky references is the charitable work done by an online Josh Groban fan club.

I’m in the initial stages of creating a model for a more accessible museum experience without denying the meaning of the artifacts in the museum, but rather extending them and allowing them to be fully bodied rather than abstracted.  One of the focal points of the model will involve what’s being called crowdsourcing, but I was unhappy with the definition I had mustered on my own, as well as what I was gathering from other people.  Crowdsourcing is not a theory, but instead a model in and of its own. So what is the theoretical base that bore crowdsourcing?  And has crowdsourcing become a marketing and business buzzword, to the point that educational practitioners need to go back to the theory to find the verbiage for their term?

I’m providing a few links on the subject; I will update over the next several days as my studies continue, in the efforts to find the theoretical parents of this orphaned vocabulary.

Crowdsourcing is a skill, not a theory – from Joel West’s Open Innovation blog.  West’s work has a link to crowdsourcing, but this well-cited post puts crowdsourcing in an application strata, not theory.

Crowdsourcing is not a theory (II) – follow-up post from West

AOM 2010 Crowdsourcing Symposium – a powerpoint by Yuqing “Ching” Ren that provides a definition of crowdsourcing from Jeff Howe, who credits himself for creating the term that he folded into his 2006 book. Note – I had heard the term went back to Lawrence Lessig, but have not found that to be the case, and am unable to trace the term past Howe.  

BuzzMachine – the blog of Jeff Jarvis; there is a great deal about crowdsourcing and open source information here.

At this point in the research, having scoured the Internet, been pushed away from research journals that look at crowdsourcing only from a market-based perspective, and seeing crowdsourcing linked next to terms like gamification, I really want to walk away from the term, and find one that knows its theoretical roots.  Otherwise, we’re in a simulacrum, and one of my fears of crowdsourcing is that not only will we not know our history, we won’t give a damn.


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