Monday, January 19, 2009

Is three really a crowd?

For our digital history class this week we are discussing mashups and collective intelligence. The article by Jeff Howe focused on a variety of industries which have moved to outsourcing their work to the general public, aka 'crowdsourcing.' Howe mentions iStockphoto which features amateur photography for cheap, ifilm which is no longer in existence, but was fairly similar to youtube and included an archive of viral videos, and InnoCentive which outsources research and development to 'average' people.

In addition to the companies using crowdsourcing mentioned in Howe's work, there are numerous other industries and companies which are based on this technique. One of the most common ones is reCAPTCHA. You know every time a site asks to type in something to prove you aren't a bot? That is reCAPTCHA, and your entry is used to help digitize information. Similarly, wikipedia is sometimes called a crowdsourcing project as it relies primarily on the information of the general public.

A couple of more interesting uses of crowdsourcing include Galaxy Zoo and Zeros 2 Heroes. Galaxy Zoo is an attempt to classify various types of galaxies, and is based primarily in the work of volunteers who interact with the project through the web. Zeros 2 Heroes is a Canadian site that features comic books and graphic novels by aspiring artists, in the hope that these works will eventually be picked up by mainstream media. The site also includes a community section which holds blogs, message boards, and allows for users to use open source tools for users to create their comics in.

The idea behind all these sites is very similar to the open source concept we have been discussing since September. They have the ability to make information more accessible, affordable, and provide exposure to amateur artists or work for 'average' people. The accessibility and affordability is something which we keep on coming back to, and is one of the main advantages of using digital technologies.

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