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The Contours of Crowd Capability

The Contours of Crowd Capability

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Published by: Crowdsourcing.org on Sep 14, 2013
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08/04/2014

 
The Contours of Crowd Capability
John
Prpić
Prashant ShuklaBeedie School of Business, SFU Beedie School of Business, SFUprpic@sfu.ca pshukla@sfu.ca
 
Abstract
 
In this work we use the theory of CrowdCapital as a lens to compare and contrast anumber of IS tools currently in use byorganizations for crowd-engagementpurposes. In doing so, we contribute to boththe practitioner and research domains. Forthe practitioner community we providedecision-makers with a convenient and usefulresource, in table-form, outlining in detailsome of the differing potentialities of crowd-engaging IS. For the research community webegin to unpack some of the key properties of crowd-engaging IS, including some of thediffering qualities of the crowds that these ISapplication engage.
1. Introduction
The existence of dispersed knowledge hasbeen a subject of inquiry for more than sixdecades [12]. Despite the longevity of this
rich research tradition, the “knowledgeproblem” has remained largely unresolved
both in research and practice, and remains
the central theoretical problem of all social
science”
[12]. However, in the 21
st
century,organizations are presented withopportunities through technology topotentially benefit from the dispersedknowledge problem to some extent. One suchopportunity is represented by the recentemergence of a variety of crowd-engaginginformation systems (IS).In this vein, Crowdsourcing [5, 6] is beingwidely studied in numerous contexts, and theknowledge generated from these ISphenomena is well-documented [2, 13, 30].At the same time, other organizations areleveraging dispersed knowledge by putting inplace IS-applications such as PredicationMarkets [11] to gather large sample-sizeforecasts from within and without theorganization. Similarly, we are also observingmany organizations using IS-tools such as
“Wikis” [14]
to access the knowledge of dispersed populations within the boundariesof the organization. Further still, otherorganizations are applying gamificationtechniques [10, 24] to accumulate CitizenScience [8] knowledge from the public atlarge through IS.Among these seemingly disparatephenomena, a complex ecology of crowd-engaging IS has emerged, involving millions of people all around the world generatingknowledge for organizations through IS.However, despite the obvious scale and reachof this emerging crowd-engagementparadigm, there are no examples of research(as far as we know), that systematicallycompares and contrasts a large variety of these existing crowd-engaging IS-tools in onework. Understanding this current state of affairs, we seek to address this significantresearch void by comparing and contrasting a
 
 
number of the crowd-engaging forms of IScurrently available for organizational use.
 
To achieve this goal, we employ theTheory of Crowd Capital [22] as a lens tosystematically structure our investigation of crowd-engaging IS. Employing thisparsimonious lens, we first explain howCrowd Capital is generated through CrowdCapability in organizations. Taking thisconceptual platform as a point of departure,in Section 3, we offer an array of examples of IS currently in use in modern practice togenerate Crowd Capital. We compare andcontrast these emerging IS techniques usingthe Crowd Capability construct, thereinhighlighting some important choices thatorganizations face when entering the crowd-engagement fray. This comparison, which wete
rm “The Contours of Crowd Capability”, can
be used by decision-makers and researchersalike, to differentiate among the many extantmethods of Crowd Capital generation. At thesame time, our comparison also illustratessome important differences to be found inthe internal organizational processes thataccompany each form of crowd-engaging IS.In section 4, we conclude with a discussion of the limitations of our work.
2. Theoretical Background
From both the resource based view [3] andthe knowledge based view of the organization[26, 27], unique knowledge is viewed as avaluable commodity for organizations,potentially endowing organizations with anadvantage over their competitors.Furthermore, more recently, Innovationscholars have reasoned that organizationsshould give equal importance to internal andexternal knowledge sources for their R&Dactivities [7], while others have argued thatthe utilization of external knowledge givesorganizations a competitive edge throughdecreased R&D costs [23]. Using theseperspectives,
Prpić
and Shukla [22] bound andexplain the dynamics and mechanisms thatenable organizations to engage crowdsthrough IS, and in doing so, supply a coherentand parsimonious model explaining how andwhy organizations engage in these disparateknowledge sources. The result is the Theoryof Crowd Capital (see Figure #1 belowadapted from [22]).
Figure #1- The Theory of Crowd Capital
 
Figure #1
 –
The dispersed knowledge of individuals is engaged and processed by theCrowd Capability of an organization, generating aheterogeneous Crowd Capital resource.
The Theory of Crowd Capital suggests thata new form of heterogeneous knowledgeresource is available to organizations that useIS to engage a crowd. The authorsconceptualize that Crowd Capital is anorganizational-level knowledge resourcegenerated by an
organization’s Crowd
Capability. In turn, Crowd Capability is anorganizational-level capability, defined by thestructure, content, and process of anorganizations engagement with the dispersedknowledge of individuals
a Crowd [12, 22].The structure component of Crowd Capabilityis always an IS-mediated
 
phenomenon anddenotes the technological means employed
CrowdCapabilityCrowdCapitalDispersedKnowledge
StructureContentProcess
 
by an organization to engage a crowd
 
population. The content dimension of CrowdCapability constitutes the knowledge,information or data that an organizationseeks from a crowd population. Whereas theprocess dimension of Crowd Capabilitydefines the internal procedures that anorganization will use to organize, filter, andintegrate the incoming knowledge,information, or data.Further,
Prpić & Shukla [22]
also delineatethat the structure dimension of the CrowdCapability construct can be found to functionin episodic or continuing forms, depending onthe design of the IS used to engage a crowd.For example,
Google’s ReCaptcha, the Iowa
Electronic Prediction market or Foldit;illustrate the episodic nature of CrowdCapability structure, where no community,collaboration, interaction or relationshipsamong the participants is needed through theIS, for Crowd Capital to be generated.On the other hand, peer production [4] co-creation [20] and innovation communities[28] underscore the importance of socialcapital in efforts to engage an IS-mediatedcrowd. These efforts are continuing in nature,as there is interaction, community,collaboration and relationships among theparticipants using the IS to generateknowledge for the organization. In theensuing section of this work, we will use thistheoretical perspective to compare andcontrast more than a dozen different IS toolscurrently in use for crowd-engagement.
3. The Contours of Crowd Capability
In this section, we present numerousexamples of IS currently in use byorganizations to generate Crowd Capital. Wediscuss the different crowds that these formsof IS engage, and we further compare andcontrast these IS applications along thestructure, content, and process dimensions of the Crowd Capability construct. Table #1 (seenext page) summarizes the different
“C
ontours of Crowd Capability
” that we areobserving in today’s business enviro
nment.We will discuss these differing dimensions inturn, below.
 
3.1
 
Differing Crowds
As is evident from Table #1, the differentIS tools analyzed here are designed to engagedemonstrably different populations of participants.Some efforts, like those of ReCaptcha andWikipedia, engage individuals from the publicat large, where contributions can be made byanyone. Other forms of IS analyzed here, suchas Crowdflower, M-Turk, and Hiretheworldalso engage individuals from the public atlarge, though these applications curate theindividuals who participate.Curation [25] occurs when the individualsparticipating are
vetted
in one way oranother, and such curation is often actuatedthrough symbols or information in the ISdirectly associated with an individual
’s screen
name and/or profile.
This “vetting”
can occuras a result of historical performance measures(such as leaderboards), through techniquessuch as peer-evaluation, the award of badgesfor certain services rendered, or by themutual assessment of participants [25]. Dueto the accrual (or not) of these symbolsassociated with a user in the IS, curationprovides signals [16, 25] relative to the otherparticipants. Although curation techniqueshave also been used specifically for contentpurposes in other settings [18, 17], for thepurposes of our investigation we focus onlyon the curation of individual participants.

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