Crowdsourcing: Unpaid innovators and consumer employees

18 Apr

Crowdsourcing can be defined as the act of taking a job that was formerly conducted entirely by a designated agent and outsourcing it to the general public, particularly online communities. Crowdsourcing represents a marked shift in the relationship dynamic between consumer and producer. Traditionally, the consumer’s role in a goods/service exchange was  an extremely passive one. The entire purchase process, from start to finish, was coordinated and overseen by the product institution. Apparently, the notion of self service was unprecedented until essentially the 1970s, when areas of retailing such as home improvement, pharmacy, and automotive supply had become commonplace.

In this day and age consumers are also being given increasing degrees of responsibility for service provision, taking it upon themselves to voluntarily provide substantial contributions to the design and distribution of the product under the notion that they are, collectively, creating a more customized and superior merchandise. Consumers have ditched the passive roles and have become more like co-workers, who “oversee specific parts of a production process that ultimately remains under the control of a commercial enterprise” (Kleeman).

However, consumers are shifting from passive roles to integral positions necessary for the making or marketing of the product. Consumers are adopting a new role known as the working consumer. The working consumer is defined as the instance during which a consumer voluntarily takes an active and integral role of product development or distribution. Expert Frank Kleeman defines working consumer as:

working consumers are active in the production process and can be utilized as value adding workers; b) the capacities they possess are valuable economic assets; and c) they are systematically integrated into cor-porate structures, where their actions can be monitored and manipulated by corporate managers much as if they were employees.

It’s interesting to see the increasingly apparent shift toward individual automation and self-service in most aspects of every day life. Machines such as self-checkouts and online ticket venues, attempt to get the consumer to naturalize and complete fundamental steps required to fulfill a service, a tactic known as ‘McDonaldization’.

Crowdsourcing, the act of obtaining relevant product information through the voluntary contributions of massive online user communities, is simultaneously a risky and savvy business strategy. As expert Frank Kleen claims, “firms engage in crowdsourcing to inexpensively mobilize the creative work of some-times highly skilled persons as a re-source for the generation of value and profits”.

click for image source

Visual metaphor for the idea potential of collective user contributions

Crowdsourcing is a double-edged sword. Although companies cut costs by reducing required personnel, the inherent risk lies in depending on consumers to provide consistent and substantial product information of their own volition. Services like Amazon bookstore rely heavily on consumer generated reviews and rankings to supplement their book information.

Crowdsourcing is primarily an affordance of the connectivity capabilities that accompanied the emergence of “Web 2.0”. Web 2.0, Kleeman believes, “is about interactive and collaborative structures that enable users to create ‘user-generated content'”.

Crowdsourcing comes in myriad forms, however, the consumer manages to play an integral role in practically every single adaptation. Strategies such as Permanent Open Call which are jobs such as amateur news reporters, positions that can are permanently available to the general public. Other strategies include product and seller ratings/reviews (Amazon), and competitive expertise during which a specific task or demand is requested of a mass user community and the most able-bodied individual among them would ideally complete the task, and receive financial compensation.

As Internet technologies and connections improve, it’s hard to imagine that forms of business and corporate marketing strategies won’t draw or expand upon user generated information such as Crowdsourcing.


Human Computation: A Symbiosis of Man and Machine

16 Apr

Human Computing can be considered the effort to more effectively solve problems through the collaborative efforts of human and computer. The idea of humans and computers as complementary forces, each compensating for the other’s limitations. There exist human  ideologies and behaviors, such as risk and motivation, that prove difficult to translate into binary taxonomies required for a computer system to interpret and elicit appropriate information.

Man or Machine? Perhaps, one day Machine-Man

Quinn believes that human computation encompasses “problems that fit the general paradigm of computation, and thus might someday be solvable by computers” (2). This idea is akin to Licklider and Engelbart’s vision of computers acting as “tools”, essentially extensions of humans that can augment our intellect. Engelbart envisions

“…a way of life in an integrated domain where hunches, cut-and-try, intangibles, and the human ‘feel for a situation’ usefully coexist with powerful concepts, streamlined terminology and notation, sophisticated methods, and high-powered electronic aids” (Laue, p.9)

The notion of using computers to supplement and improve our own human abilities appears to have been incepted alongside computation itself. The potential limitations and possibilities of fusing logistical machines with human intuition always an attractive thought, with scientific attempts from as early as the 1950’s to instill human-like capabilities, such as language and reason into computers.

As Quinn points out, it is “only recently have we have begun to combine machine capabilities with the natural talents of the billions of Internet users around the world” (Quinn, p.1). Thus, Human Computation is actually one of several online, en-masse phenomena. These phenomena are identified by Quinn as Human Computation, Crowdsourcing, Social Computing, Data Mining, and the all encompassing Collective Intelligence.

What distinguishes these from each other is that while they all have a base group of amassed online entities, the goals and methods of each collective online presence vary wildly. For example, while both Social Computing (i.e., blogs & wikis) and Data Mining both require online activity from users, the former fosters rich inter-user dialogue and information exchange while the latter merely requires user browsing history.

All of these activities fall under the umbrella term of Collective Intelligence. Collective intelligence refers to this ability of virtual communities to leverage the combined expertise of their members. Quinn defines Collective Intelligence as “the notion that large groups of loosely organized people can accomplish great things working together” (4).

Quinn has developed classification systems of what he considers to be six of the most distinguishing and reoccurring factors found within most human computation systems. These factors include Motivation (user participation), Quality Control (maintaining information standards), Aggregation (compilation of research & data), Human Skill, Process Order (worker, computer, requester) , and Task Request Cardinality (flow of work effort from creators to end-user).

Human Computation is considered a burgeoning field in that only recently has technology developed substantially enough to pique our interests as to what the potential future of human/computer symbiosis may yield. It is generally accepted that computers can bolster and enhance our methods of intellect, yet the myriad ways that they already do are easily overlooked and sometimes difficult to discern from one another. Quinn believes in the potential for “systems of computers and large numbers of humans that work together in order to solve problems that could not be solved by either computers or humans alone” (2).

An NPR news story about computers learning to mix flavors better than chefs aligns itself well  with Quinn’s claim about problems that fit the general paradigm of computation. Flavors and tastes could potentially be assigned numerical values and algorithms could be developed so that computers could create appetizing foods.

TED talk in which Shyam Sankar discusses the rise of human-computer cooperation.

Convergence Culture: Relationship between CBS & “Survivor” Investigation Communities.

9 Apr

CBS’s reality show “Survivor” premiered in May of 2001. Survivor was a elimination style reality competition that marooned a group of strangers in a wild and uncivilized environment and prompted strangers to work together to endure the elements, win challenges, and ultimately produce a million dollar winner. The drama and excitement of the show stems from the unpredictability of the game’s winner. In fact, “The Survivor winner is one of television’s most tightly guarded secrets. Enormous fines are written into the contracts for the cast and crew members if they get caught leaking the results” (25).

Executive producer Mark Burnett understands that the “contest between producer and fans is part of what creates Survivor’s mystique” (25). These large online fan communities, named “spoilers”, sift through volumes of aired show material, cross reference them with their own investigations, and produce theories regarding the show’s development, as well as disseminating their findings and theories amongst other members of the forum community.  Survivor’s Executive Producer, Mark Burnett understood the importance and impact of investigative communities such as “Survivor Sucks”, communities that revolved around the free exchange of outcome theories event patterns, and hypothesized game results. Burnett knew that the popularity of the show came from the desire to know what will occur next, and that online forums would foster collective discussions and pooled knowledge in order to try and decipher the show’s next series of events, generally increasing the amount of people invested in the show.

CBS began to see potential research value within these online communities, “CBS had admitted that they, like many other production companies, monitored the discussion lists for information about the audience” (46). In other words, CBS has admitted to not only monitoring these online discussion forums, but oftentimes plants red herrings amongst the communities, in an attempt to generate more discussion about the show in general, as well as gauge their reactions to rumors in order to more effectively market the show.

The show functions off the thrill of the unexpected, Spoilers operate from the notion that the show has already been shot, prompting these “investigators” to scrutinize elements/hints from aired portions of the show and evaluating their meaning, using the forum communities collective knowledge as a gauging tool, challenging themselves to decipher the results of the show before they are revealed.

These investigative communities establish stringent rules and conventions to sift through unreliable misinformed posts and valuable speculations. As seen on this Survivor Sucks forum, season specific spoiler rules are stickied and prominently displayed so that all members of the community may familiarize themselves with communal protocol.

These kind of collaborative effort and informations exchange between Internet communities and TV Broadcast networks may be indicative of the increasingly pivotal role that Internet has on the successful promotion of a show and its longevity.


Richard Hatch, winner of Survivor season one, is actually depicted winning the show during the show’s opening title sequence. A critical hint overlooked or dismissed by spoilers.

CGI & VFX and Memes & Internet Culture.

1 Apr



The reason I chose my specific boards was that both are aspects of New Media culture that I feel are often overlooked. People watch movies/tv, browse the internet, and are subjected to this kind of digital stimuli nearly every day and rarely question its origin or purpose.

Memes and Internet Culture, I feel, is indicative of contemporary culture. Memes are clever visual metaphors that are meant to compress the general sentiments of the populace, in terms of social engagements, down to a picture or two. They are also subsequent products of the era of the Web, in which websites have become so dynamic, fluid, and engaging that its digital media content is beginning to cross over from the realm of cyberspace into physical  reality.

CGI and VFX use within films and television is becoming more standard. It’s rare to find a film in this day and age that doesn’t use CGI or VFX to accentuate their film. It’s only when the film industry becomes over saturated with CGI intensive movies that forsake narrative complexity for technical superiority. Increasingly, live action shots are being substituted and replaced with computer generated imagery, a dangerously slippery slope. If it becomes more financially viable to use CGI generated characters over traditional actors, how long until everything in films becomes digitally generated?

The goal behind my Memes & Internet Culture board was to shed light on increasingly complex internet subcultures that operate under subtle conventions of behavior and etiquette that greatly resembles contemporary society. Being an avid user of multiple image-hosting sites allowed me to access my own record of thoughts and interactions when participating amongst a variety of online based communities. I was able to recall specific instances in which memes and internet culture had transcended my computer and into real life application. I decided on my specific examples by determining the amount of influence or precedence the particular meme had on internet culture, otherwise most of my choices reflect the few fundamental natures from which almost all memes derive (i.e., dark humor, neutral humor, positive humor, etc). I feel that as our society becomes more inter-connected through the internet, the more that the internet becomes a scaled down version of society itself. The development of profession social networking identities reflects this very notion and being able to interact positively with various “society members” is a crucial part of modern society and may very well be true for the future “internet society” that will have interactions take place in cyberspace.

I approached the topic of CGI and VFX with a more inquisitive process. Being a supporter of traditional cinema as well as modern cinema, I can clearly see the shift that is occurring within today’s audiences and producers. I was hoping to find information that might be indicative of the path cinema is taking in order to satisfy an evolving consumer market. Cinema has changed widely over the it’s century or so of existence, from black and white 16mm film to 1080p 3-D IMAX. Although the methods vary, cinema remains a staple of American entertainment and while it may change and evolve, it will certainly never falter. I found content by dividing up films and shows by the degree to which they depended on CGI and VFX technologies. I did my best to include the most diverse examples of CGI and VFX use, in all its pros/cons, on the media industry thus far in order to try to predict the patterns of where it might be going. As a result, it’s apparent that as our CGI and VFX becomes more sophisticated, director’s being to rely on them more heavily, potentially hindering cinematic innovation and replacing human intuition and thought.

Pinterest is excellent at portraying images that are accompanied by concise descriptions. This allows for the rapid accumulation of visual data that pertains to the users central theme (i.e., board). It’s ergonomic and user-friendly design makes it a overwhelmingly simple to use the platform to its maximum potential. This is good until you want discuss complex topics or attach two images two one pin in an attempt to compare and contrast their qualities or create stark juxtapositions. There is also limited customizability, such as an overarching theme or personalized “pushpins” or any other nuances that would give the platform a more intimate interaction with its user. I would particularly enjoy being able to combine or blend photo elements so that their similarities, difference, and general associations with each other can be more apparent.

Prior to this assignment I never had anything more than a Facebook, however, the ease with which I was able to utilize Pinterest and it’s vast integration with a myriad of image hosting sites allows me understand how it could be the third most popular SNS behind Facebook and Twitter. It allows for the basic visual representation of a central theme, along with suggestions and updates on people who share these similar qualities. Pinterest promotes visual iconography and the representation of oneself through a collage of user-selected images. The structure of Pinterest is automatic enough that almost any image is available to added to your list of interest, with the potential to find more equally suitable ones. In short, Pinterest combines virtual collaging, user networking, and visual organization to create an alluring social media platform.


“The problem wi…

12 Feb

“The problem with using quotes on the internet is that you can never determine their authenticity” – Abraham Lincoln

New Media

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