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Crowdsourcing: A Model for Leveraging Online Communities

Crowdsourcing: A Model for Leveraging Online Communities

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Published by: Crowdsourcing.org on May 24, 2012
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Crowdsourcing 1Running head: CROWDSOURCING
Crowdsourcing: A Model for Leveraging Online Communities
 Daren C. Brabham, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Forthcoming in:
The Routledge Handbook of Participatory Cultures
Edited by Aaron Delwiche & Jennifer HendersonCorrespondence to:UNC School of Journalism & Mass CommunicationCarroll Hall, CB 3365Chapel Hill, NC 27599(919) 962-0676 office(801) 633-4796 celldaren.brabham@unc.eduwww.darenbrabham.com
Author note:
Daren C. Brabham, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism andMass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Early iterations of thecrowdsourcing typology presented here were developed through a 2009 white paper with NoahFriedland for the Friedland Group, and presentations at the 2010 Stakeholder Engagement onlineconference and the 2010 American Planning Association conference in New Orleans. Portions of this chapter were drawn from the author’s dissertation at the University of Utah, directed byProfessor Joy Pierce.Date of draft: March 18, 2011
Crowdsourcing 2
Crowdsourcing: A Model for Leveraging Online Communities
 As our understanding of participatory cultures advances, there is a growing interestamong practitioners and scholars in how best to take charge of the creative, productivecapabilities of Internet users for specific purposes. A number of online businesses in the pastdecade have actively recruited individuals in online communities to design products and solveproblems for them, often motivating an online community’s creative output or harnessing theircreative input through the format of an open challenge with various rewards. Organizations thatissue specific tasks to online communities in an open call format engage in the practice of “crowdsourcing.” Crowdsourcing is a model for problem solving, not merely a model for doingbusiness (Brabham, 2008a; Brito, 2008; Fritz et al., 2009; Haklay and Weber, 2008). Thecrowdsourcing model is also well suited to organizations’ marketing and public relations goals,as the process of managing an online community allows organizations to forge closerelationships with publics and allows consumers to participate in the making of brands (Phillipsand Brabham, 2011). Thus, it is important to understand how crowdsourcing works so that thecollective intelligence of online communities can be leveraged in future participatory mediaapplications for the public good. In this chapter, I further define the crowdsourcing model byputting forth a typology of crowdsourcing. Ultimately, these types may inform the design of future participatory media applications for governments, non-profits, and activists hoping tosolve pressing political, social, and environmental problems.
The Basics of Crowdsourcing
Jeff Howe, a contributing editor for
magazine, coined the term “crowdsourcing” ina June 2006 article (Howe, 2006c). In a companion blog, Howe (2006a) offered the followingdefinition of crowdsourcing:
Crowdsourcing 3Simply defined, crowdsourcing represents the act of a company or institution taking afunction once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generallylarge) network of people in the form of an open call. . . . The crucial prerequisite is theuse of the open call format and the large network of potential laborers. (para. 5).It is important to emphasize that this process is one that is sponsored by an organization,and that the work of the large network of people—the “crowd”—is directed or managed by thisorganization throughout the process. This is very different from, say, the online encyclopediaproject Wikipedia, where an open space exists for individuals to work collaboratively. No one atWikipedia, for example, issues specific tasks to the online community there and manages thecreation of articles. It is a process directed and managed by others on the site. Wikipedia, then, isnot crowdsourcing, but rather a different and equally important participatory culturephenomenon that Benkler (2002) calls “commons-based peer production.” The same is true of open source methods, processes most common to software production. Commons-based peerproduction and open source methods share with the crowdsourcing model the notion of opennessand the use of the Internet as a collaboration platform. But while these phenomena may seemquite organized and managed, they are organized from the bottom-up rather than from the top-down by a sponsoring organization issuing the task. Crowdsourcing, on the other hand, blends anopen creative process with a traditional, top-down, managed process.Crowdsourcing is necessarily dependent on the Internet. The speed, reach, anonymity,opportunity for asynchronous engagement, and ability to carry many forms of media contentmakes the Internet a crucial prerequisite for crowdsourcing. Certainly these processes can betaken offline with some success, but the platform of the Internet elevates the quality, amount, andpace of cooperation, coordination, and idea generation to a point that warrants its own

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