My response to Stuart Dunn’s Crowd-sourcing and impact in the digital humanities.

I really liked this reading because not only was it short and straight to the point, but it also spoke a lot about my minor subject – Economics. Dunn explains how crowd-sourcing is such a broad term but is always taught of as a business model.

Around 2006, the phrase was coined and was mainly about furthering the aims of different profit businesses. These businesses only needed to have the time, the enthusiasm and more importantly, the internet. I believe these concepts of furthering aims may be used as fundamentals to further anyone in any aspect of life not just businesses.

The main point of crowd-sourcing is for the public to have an impact. This, in my opinion, is a fairer way to work. Crowd-sourcing is for the public.  Dunn puts it very well when he explains that crowd-sourcing is about the public impacting projects and reaping the rewards instead of them being impacted on.

When speaking of crowd-sourcing in academic contexts, we need to ask ourselves the question – What do the public have in common with academics? Dunn points his focus to the occasions where there is a alignment of intellectual interests and outlooks shared by both academics and the public. I think this is an excellent and proven way to lead to success but only when crowd-sourcing isn’t taught of as a business model. Early success was caused by the business model working but this was only chance. I feel we need to get completely away from the idea of crowdsourcing as a business model.

Dunn explains the early successes in academic crowd sourcing in two ways;

1 – There was a chance alignment between the aims of a research group and those of the public

2 – The application of intelligent means to bring together a small group to do the majority of the work

In the second case, crowd-sourcing begins to break down due to scale. There is very few crowd-sourcing success stories where there are loads of people doing straightforward tasks. For them to work, they need to reach out and collaborate with the public if they wish to have an impact. I believe that collaboration is obviously the key here. The ‘super-contributors’ in projects participate for many reasons. The main three are;

  • They want to feel useful
  • They want to see how the ‘inner circle’ works and how it’s organised
  • They want to actively participate

Above all I believe these contributors like everyone feel they want to be involved and have some sort of impact in this world.

It is undeniable that there will always be a conflict on some level between crowd-sourcing as a business model as Dunn said, this is inevitable. But if this view was to change even the slightest bit to involve more collaboration with the public then many projects would strive. Dunn also concludes by telling us his three key practices for ensuring reciprocated impact when working on crowd-sourcing projects, they are;

  • Pick your battles
  • Do not mistake large numbers for high impact
  • Out a mechanism in place for your contributors to talk to each other and you

I will try to remember these guidelines if and when I should collaborate on crowd-sourcing projects.

(1) Crowd sourcing and impact in DH


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