Dmc Session 03: Crowdsourcing

Digital Media Culture / Digitaalinen mediakulttuuri (KDVCL01)

03: Torstai 27.11.2008 13:00 – 16:00

Crowdsourcing labour and action

Stone Soup Story

"According to the story, some travelers come to a village, carrying nothing more than an empty pot. Upon their arrival, the villagers are unwilling to share any of their food stores with the hungry travelers. The travelers fill the pot with water, drop a large stone in it, and place it over a fire in the village square. One of the villagers becomes curious and asks what they are doing. The travelers answer that they are making "stone soup", which tastes wonderful, although it still needs a little bit of garnish to improve the flavor, which they are missing. The villager doesn't mind parting with just a little bit to help them out, so it gets added to the soup. Another villager walks by, inquiring about the pot, and the travelers again mention their stone soup which hasn't reached its full potential yet. The villager hands them a little bit of seasoning to help them out. More and more villagers walk by, each adding another ingredient. Finally, a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by all."


1. We can all work together, co-operate and end up better off.

2. If you want to get people to do something, don't tell them how desperately they are needed. Don't try to appeal to their sympathy and kindness. Instead, create the impression that you are giving them the opportunity to be part of your success.

3. (Nail Soup version) Beware of strangers offering nothing in exchange for a little something.



Crowdsourcing = Talkoot?

See also Barn-Raising traditions of 18th & 19th Century North America


Jeff Howe says:

"The White Paper Version: Crowdsourcing is the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.

The Soundbyte Version: The application of Open Source principles to fields outside of software."

Crowdsourcing Blog

Cambrian House: “Home of Crowdsourcing”

2005: “the idea for a new Internet startup. To discover and commercialize software ideas by harnessing the wisdom and participation of crowds.”

“Cowdsourcing is when people gather via the Internet to create something and share in the profit, often without ever meeting each other in person. Cambrian House is a community that enables people and businesses to harness the wisdom and participation of crowds – for commerce.”

“You Think It
Crowds Test It
Crowds Build It and Fund It
You Sell It
You Profit”


Linux (1991)

NASA Seti@Home: Outerspace Scanning (1999)

Threadless T-Shirts (2000)

iStockphoto (2000)

Firefox (2004)

Bring Your Own Film Festival (2004)

Zeros 2 Heroes Comics (2006)

Witness: The Hub: Citizen Journalism (2006)

Wreck-a-Movie (2007)

Vocalo Radio (2007)

A Million Penguins wikinovel (2007)

RYZ Shoes (2008)

Ushahidi: Crisis information in South Africa (relaunched 2008)

Quake Catcher Network: Earthquake Predictor (2008)


Convergence Culture

Henry Jenkins says:
Convergence culture “occurs when people take media into their own hands…”

“extension”: their efforts to expand the potential markets by moving content across different delivery systems

“synergy”: refers to the economic opportunities represented by their ability to own and control all of those manifestations

“franchise”: refers to their coordinated effort to brand and market fictional content under these new conditions

Jenkins, Henry (2006), Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, NYU Press, New York.

Authors@Google Talk by Henry Jenkins, November 5, 2007 at Google in Cambrige, MA.


Valued Added / Created

A Message From Chad and Steve


Ethics of Web 2.0
Intellectual property and content issues in 'Web 2.0' services,
According to Lawrence Lessig, October 2006, there are..

Fake Sharing Sites: eg YouTube
True Sharing Sites eg Flickr

YouTube: From Concept to Hyper-growth

Co-founder Jawed Karim will explain the thought process and the events that led to the development of YouTube. This talk was given on Oct 21st 2006 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ACM Conference.


User Labour

Terranova notes a beginning of the awareness of "free labour" online: “In early 1999, seven of the fifteen thousand "volunteers" of America Online (AOL) rocked the info-loveboat by asking the Department of Labor to investigate whether AOL owes them back wages for the years of playing chathosts for free."

She is interested in "connections between the "digital economy" and what the Italian autonomists have called the "social factory." The "social factory" describes a process whereby "work processes have shifted from the factory to society, thereby setting in motion a truly complex machine."

And is "concerned with how the "outernet" - the network of social, cultural, and economic relationships that criss-crosses and exceeds the Internet - surrounds and connects the latter to larger flows of labor, culture, and power. It is fundamental to move beyond the notion that cyberspace is about escaping reality in order to understand how the reality of the Internet is deeply connected to the development of late postindustrial societies as a whole."

Terranova, Tiziana (2003). "Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy"

User Labour Markup Language: A framework for sustaining user labor across the web.

Meta Markets


Mechanical Turk Exercise

Amazon Mechanical Turk


Call For Participation in Art and Cultural Projects

"The 'call for participation' - in recent times a common meme within socially engaged art and media projects - invites participants to act as both creators and consumers of the process, creating valuable cultural/institutional/social capital.

“Have I been co-ordinating peer-production; or have I been crowdsourcing?"

Online crowdsourcing examples as art projects

Phantom Captain: Art and Crowdsourcing

Learning To Love You More

The Sheep Market

Double Happiness Manufacturing


Andrew Paterson, Tähtikuvitelma: The Parable of Participating in the Night Sky 2.0
Essay published in 'PixelACHE Festival of Electronic Arts and Subcultures 2007' catalogue 03.2007,


Crowd-funding examples

'The Age of Stupid': eco-activist film crowd-funded (UK, 2008)

Ebbsfleet/MyFootballClub - 'Inside Out' BBC TV [08.55 mins]



Critical Perspectives

Caution should be applied in the ethics of this activity, as Kleiner and Wyrick remind us in the article 'Info-Enclosure 2.0', that '[p]rivate appropriation of community-created value is a betrayal of the promise of sharing technology and free cooperation' [1].

Meanwhile, reinforcing this perspective, Michel Bauwens recently wrote about the importance of making a distinction between peer-production processes and 'crowdsourcing' - a buzzword of 2006 in business circles regarding the political/economical model of outsourcing labour to the public online multitude.

Whereas peer-production is mostly defined by 'voluntary engagement, a production process under the control of the participants [including] universal access property regimes: Most corporate-driven 'crowdsourcing' will only apply the very first principle, i.e. voluntary engagement; they will aim to drive the production process, and the results will be proprietary. In terms of hierarchy of engagement, 'crowdsourcing' is more akin to swarming than to the collective intelligence of an intentional community' [2].

[1] Dymtri Kleiner & Brian Wyrick, 'Info-Enclosure 2.0', MUTE Magazine Vol 2 #4, January 2007:

[2] Michel Bauwens, 'Why Crowdsourcing isn't Peer Production', accessed 03/2007:

Trebor Scholz:
"Who benefits from the value that individuals create through their online actions?
(information about yourself, choices you make -or dont make- in directing your attention, ratings you assign to other users or content)."

Trebor Scholz, Participatory Media: (Un)ethical Capitalism and the Sociable Web,
Beyond Broadcast 2007: Participatory Media
Download mpeg-4


Peter Watkins's La Commune Film (2000)

“Working with Agathe Bluysen, one of our main researchers, and our casting crew - principally my elder son Patrick, and Virginie Guibbaud - I enlisted over 220 people from Paris and the provinces to take part in the film; approximately 60% of them had no prior acting experience. Among the cast were a number of people from Picardy and other regions of France, with specific dialects and accents (since many migrants from the provinces took an active role in the Commune). Through the conservative press in Versailles, and newspapers like Le Figaro, we also recruited people from the Paris area to join the project specifically because of their conservative politics (to act in roles opposed to the Commune).”

“Broadly speaking, our ‘process’ manifests in the extended way in which we involved the cast in the preparation for, and then during the filming, and in the way that some of the people continued the process after the filming was completed.”

“Before the filming we asked the cast to do their own research on this event in French history. The Paris Commune has always been severely marginalized by the French education system, despite - or perhaps because of - the fact that it is a key event in the history of the European working class, and when we first met, most of the cast admitted that they knew little or nothing about the subject. It was very important that the people become directly involved in our research on the Paris Commune, thereby gaining an experiential process in analyzing those aspects of the current French system which are failing in their responsibility to provide citizens with a truly democratic and participatory process.”

“During the filming the cast were also engaged in a collective experience, constantly discussing - between themselves, and with myself and members of the team led by Agathe Bluysen - what they would say, how they might feel, and how they would react to the events of the Commune which were about to be filmed.”

Peter Watkins

Documentary 'The Universal Clock: The Resistance of Peter Watkins' by Geoff Bowie (2001)

“Watkins' directing style was to set a loose outline of events and then to encourage the actors themselves to discuss and decide on the spoken lines and actions which would advance the story. They also talked about their characters as ancestors who were dealing with issues still of concern in present times: anti-government demonstrations, rich versus poor, the fate of immigrants. One actor comments about the power of involvement in creating a story to the understanding of history: "When [students] see what happens on tv, do they feel what they learned in school relates to that?" Clearly those involved in the making of La Commune (from adults to primary age children) were very involved and speak persuasively about their new understanding.”

Sample: 00-32.20 mins (32 mins)
Sample: 39-37 mins (9 mins)
Sample: 47-67 mins (20 mins)
Sample: 67-68.30 mins (1.5 mins)

Watch when you wish:
'La Commune' (in French)

English subtitles:

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