Mindshift: how crowdsourcing allows for disruption and new ideas



In a recent Memeburn article, Preshan Segers sheds light on where ideas come from and how they are ultimately crowdsourced. But it was only when websites started using social data and networks of collaboration that popular organizations like Wikipedia and social media sites started to use the idea of sourcing data from the crowd.

Drawing on familiar concepts such as the popular Kickstarter platform and open sourcing, these initiatives ultimately serve the communities by the communities.

Steven Johnson’s TEDx talk on ‘Crowd Sourcing Ideas’ lays the fundamental importance of using the crowd and the tools in which goals are achieved. Terms like ‘open source’ and ‘crowdsource’ are becoming more and more prominent as new and interesting initiatives such as Citizinvestor, MedStartr and Watsi have originated in the past year.

Although one can say that the internet has become a leverage tool to provide a hive-like mechanism from which ideas are created and spread, it has also allowed us to act and disrupt and ultimately adapt new ideas.

This paradigm shift in philosophical thought can create leeway in providing solutions to some of the world’s many pressing issues. For example, with the onset of the recent Hurricane Sandy disaster in the US, Cuba and the Caribbean among others, ‘crises information’ was highly valued and in great demand. One such example was crowdsourcing crisis maps: the documentation, classifying and rating of enormous amounts of satellite imagery assessing the damage done by the hurricane was a few clicks away with more than 6 000 volunteers.

Anyone can simply log on to the website and start tagging images based on simple “good”, “ok” or “bad” ratings, which in turn then ultimately achieves a complete satellite assessment of areas which had the most visibly damaged areas. This project is only one of many examples the organization, MapMill has undertaken relying on the crowds (better to tag photos making a difference than skimming through Facebook all night I thought). Other initiatives such as Ushahidi also take advantage of the rapid and easy spread of data during times of crises in creating understandable data and in using the crowd in scraping up necessary and relevant information.

Given networks that are moving in similar directions such as Citizinvestor, we can now start crowdfunding public projects for the better of the whole community. Either through petitions or financial funds, we can enjoy the benefits of crowdfunding the plantation of 15 000 new trees in the City of Philadelphia or a graffiti mural in an urban community in Tampa, Florida for example.

Although the concept of Citizenvestor is still limited in terms of the open source ideals, it does provide us with inspiration to invest and build upon. These are modern examples of how good ideas are ultimately formed. By having a goal or direction, collaborating and networking across borders and ultimately using technology (i.e. coding, data collection, data collection, etc.) to scrape what is necessary for adaptation and the realized objective in question.

These initiatives are mostly products adapted to the modern world’s gradual evolving environment. An environment where organizations such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter have blossomed. Mostly, successfully so, due to the relaxing and passing of certain laws, such the JOBS Act of 2012 in the US.

The act allows greater encouragement for technological startups. Startups like MedStartr and Watsi, offer projects and legitimate information that are directed to funding “low-cost, high-impact medical treatments for people in need” around the world. They also go hand in hand with initiatives that are not sorely seeking profit but rather allowing networks for and of cooperation aimed at individual goals.

With the onset of the 3D printers becoming popular, we can now share and improve material objects. One relevant example includes Thingiverse, which is a network where you can share your digital designs for the purpose of making physical objects using a 3D printer.

Ventures like Open Source Ecology allows an open source network of farmers and engineers to share and distribute low-cost DIY industrial machines with the ultimate goal of building and sustaining a modern civilization.

Some strange yet amusing initiatives have also risen to the spotlights. Something like Honeyfund which provides people to help fund or ‘gift’ newlyweds’ honeymoons has become popular among certain niche circles. Though not necessarily carrying the swag of something like Kickstarter, but successfully provide us with a credible example of how the concept of crowdsourcing is being used for innovative solutions. Not to mention the rise of MOOC e-learning courses readily available out there discussed in my previous article.

It is theoretically possible to create and sustain communities using crowdsourced health care, infrastructure and material products. To only name a handful, it would be interesting to see how new initiatives become trends in changing the fundamental mechanisms of how ideas, goods and services are adapted in modern societies.

Learn more about these concepts by listening to the following:

Marcin Jacubowski — The Open Source Economy:

Steven Johnson — Where good ideas come from:



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