I Saw You in the Crowd: Credibility, Reproducibility, and Meta-Utility

I Saw You in the Crowd: Credibility, Reproducibility, and Meta-Utility

By Nate Breznau, University of Bremen

Crowdsourcing is a new word. Google Books’ first recorded usage of “crowdsourcing” was in 1999. 1 It originally referenced Internet users adding content to websites, the largest example being Wikipedia (Zhao and Zhu 2014). As a scientific practice, its roots go back to open-engineering competitions in the 1700s, when the collective ideas of many overcame otherwise insurmountable problems of the few. Openly tapping into a large population breaks down barriers of time, money, and data. The solution is simple. A centralized investigator or team poses a question or problem to the crowd. Sometimes tasks are co-creative, such as the programming of packages by statistical software users and the development of Wiki content. Other times, they are discrete, such as asking individuals to donate computing power, 2 respond to a survey, or perform specific tasks. Using crowdsourced methods, scientists, citizens, entrepreneurs, and even governments more effectively address societies’ most pressing problems (e.g., cancer and global warming) (Howe 2008).

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