In This Story:
- Boston College
- Temple University
- University of Michigan
- University of Minnesota
At first, Stephanie Costa was stunned. The 21-year-old Boston College communications major remembers attending a wedding ceremony, which asked guests to use the hash tag #steveandkylawedding when uploading any pictures to Instagram. As the day progressed, she decided to embrace the idea of crowdsourcing guests to photograph such an important milestone.
“It makes you feel a little responsible [for making] sure the couple has an album to go through,” Costa says. “I think it adds a level of permission and opens the door and makes you want to document the experience.”
Costa shared her thoughts in a blog post for her Social Media for Managers course. The class, taught in BC’s Carroll School of Management, seeks to discover the various ways social media can affect business and society. Among those ways is crowdsourcing.
The word’s definition has broadened enough to become “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers,” according to Merriam-Webster.
Janel Martinez is a technology editor for the entrepreneurial website blackenterprise.com and has observed the development of crowdsourcing.
“It’s been an impressive evolution. The very notion of crowdsourcing came about in the mid-2000s and has evolved ever since,” Martinez says. “With greater technology and the Internet’s endless offerings, crowdsourcing has been able to grow tremendously.”
Many look to those endless offerings for help in making a wide range of decisions — like what to name a baby. Canadian software developer Stephen McLaughlin recently created a website that allows anyone to have a large part in determining what he and his wife’s unborn daughter will be called. So far, the winning first name contenders are Amelia and Cthulhu while the favorite middle name is All-Spark.
Jineen Carcamo, 21, an advertising major from Temple University, has never crowdsourced for something as significant as a name. When she reaches out to her peers online, it’s to get information on books, makeup, movies or deciding which classes to take next semester.
“I am always looking for reviews from anyone who can give me some insight about what I’m thinking about spending my money on,” Carcamo says.
Ravi Bapna, an information and decision sciences professor at the University of Minnesota knows much of crowdsourcing is spending related.
“It’s more prevalent in the consumer shopping space. Product recommendation is definitely widely used,” says Bapna.
Bapna believes the inclination to ask anonymous individuals online for assistance with personal matters has a good chance of growing over time.
“This generation’s sense of privacy is very different,” Bapna says. “I certainly think that we’ll see boundaries keep getting pushed. Typically however, the information being searched for is pretty tame.”
Michael Barera, 23, a master’s student at the University of Michigan double majoring in archives and records management and preservation of information would agree.
A former Wikipedian-in-Residence, Barera usually crowdsources when in need of a copyeditor, checking a translation or reviewing the copyright status of a work of art he’s photographed. He’s excited to see how the site continues to grow as the number of contributors does.
In regards to other forms of crowsourcing, the potential topics and subject matter will become increasingly diverse and creative, Barera says.
Of course, crowdsourcing is not without its potential drawbacks. Students must have an internal filter to wade through all of the information available online, Bapna says.
“There’s a trade-off of encouraging diversity of thinking digitally and it getting easier to get some value in things to move on to bigger, better problems,” Bapna says. “But that can encourage laziness and not solving our own issues. Only time will tell.”
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