Crowdsourcing—Harnessing the Masses to Advance Health and Medicine


A Systematic Review of the literature in the Journal of General Internal Medicine: “Crowdsourcing research allows investigators to engage thousands of people to provide either data or data analysis. However, prior work has not documented the use of crowdsourcing in health and medical research. We sought to systematically review the literature to describe the scope of crowdsourcing in health research and to create a taxonomy to characterize past uses of this methodology for health and medical research..
Twenty-one health-related studies utilizing crowdsourcing met eligibility criteria. Four distinct types of crowdsourcing tasks were identified: problem solving, data processing, surveillance/monitoring, and surveying. …
Utilizing crowdsourcing can improve the quality, cost, and speed of a research project while engaging large segments of the public and creating novel science. Standardized guidelines are needed on crowdsourcing metrics that should be collected and reported to provide clarity and comparability in methods.”

Participatory Democracy in the New Millenium


New literature review in Contemporary Sociology by Francesca Polletta: “By the 1980s, experiments in participatory democracy seemed to have been relegated by scholars to the category of quixotic exercises in idealism, undertaken by committed (and often aging) activists who were unconcerned with political effectiveness or economic efficiency. Today, bottom-up decision making seems all the rage. Crowdsourcing and Open Source, flat management in business, horizontalism in protest politics, collaborative governance in policymaking—these are the buzzwords now and they are all about the virtues of nonhierarchical and participatory decision making.

What accounts for this new enthusiasm for radical democracy? Is it warranted? Are champions of this form understanding key terms like equality and consensus differently than did radical democrats in the 1960s and 70s? And is there any reason to believe that today’s radical democrats are better equipped than their forebears to avoid the old dangers of endless meetings and rule by friendship cliques? In this admittedly selective review, I will take up recent books on participatory democracy in social movements, non- and for-profit organizations, local governments, and electoral campaigning. These are perhaps not the most influential books on participatory democracy since 2000—after all, most of them are brand new—but they speak interestingly to the state of participatory democracy today. Taken together, they suggest that, on one hand, innovations in technology and in activism have made democratic decision making both easier and fairer. On the other hand, the popularity of radical democracy may be diluting its force. If radical democracy comes to mean simply public participation, then spectacles of participation may be made to stand in for mechanisms of democratic accountability.”

The Future of Co-Creation and Crowdsourcing


New paper by Nick van Breda and Jan Spruijt: “This article reviews how co-creation is developing over the world and how different businesses are able to use co-creation. To give a clear sight of that, stories of companies, marketers and trend watchers will be used to tell about this phenomenon called crowdsourcing and co-creation. Marketers found a method to combine co-creation with the existing method of creating something new. Based on research we can now predict how co-creation will develop over the following years.
The evolution of co-creation is more exciting than we previously thought and we think that these results have to do with how the internet and social media have developed. A revolution is coming up and organizations will see an increase in turnover based on fast innovation and participation by the crowd.
We are living a world with a new dimension: a dimension where large organizations have no reason for existence when customers aren’t satisfied with their purchase, the organization’s service and most of all their feeling of participation. Consumers feel that they should have the power to change visions and missions of the old fashioned marketing way: the manipulative way to earn money. A dimension where 24/7 online is the key to succeed, fast responses to questions and remarks. In this time if continuous changes, creativity is a must.”

Citizen Science Profile: SeaSketch


Blog entry from the Commons Lab within the  Science and Technology Innovation Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: “As part of the Commons Lab’s ongoing initiative to highlight the intersection of emerging technologies and citizen science, we present a profile of SeaSketch, a marine management software that makes complex spatial planning tools accessible to everyone. This was prepared with the gracious assistance of Will McClintock, director of the McClintock Lab.
The SeaSketch initiative highlights key components of successful citizen science projects. The end product is a result of an iterative process where the developers applied previous successes and learned from mistakes. The tool was designed to allow people without technical training to participate, expanding access to stakeholders. MarineMap had a quantifiable impact on California marine protected areas, increasing their size from 1 percent to 16 percent of the coastline. The subsequent version, SeaSketch, is uniquely suited to scale out worldwide, addressing coastal and land management challenges. By emphasizing iterative development, non-expert accessibility and scalability, SeaSketch offers a model of successful citizen science….
SeaSketch succeeded as a citizen science initiative by focusing on three project priorities:

  • Iterative Development: The current version of SeaSketch’s PGIS software is the result of seven years of trial and error. Doris and MarineMap helped the project team learn what worked and adjust accordingly. The final result would have been impossible without a sustained commitment to the project and regular product assessments.
  • Non-Expert Accessibility: GIS software is traditionally limited to those with technical expertise. SeaSketch was developed anticipating that stakeholders without GIS training would use the software. New features allow users to contribute spatial surveys, sharing their knowledge of the area to better inform planning. This ease of use means the project is outward facing: More people can participate, meaning the analyses better reflect community priorities.
  • Scalability: Although MarineMap was built specifically to guide the MLPA process, the concept is highly flexible. SeaSketch  is being used to support oceanic management issues worldwide, including in areas of international jurisdiction. The software can support planning with legal implications as well as cooperative agreements. SeaSketch’s project team believes it can also be used for freshwater and terrestrial management issues.”

Visualizing the Stunning Growth of 8 Years of OpenStreetMap


new yorkEmily Badger in Atlantic Cities: “The U.S. OpenStreetMap community gathered in San Francisco over the weekend for its annual conference, the State of the Map. The loose citizen-cartography collective has now been incrementally mapping the world since 2004. While they were taking stock, it turns out the global open mapping effort has now mapped data on more than 78 million buildings and 21 million miles of road (if you wanted to drive all those roads at, say, 60 miles an hour, it would take you some 40 years to do it).
And more than a million people have chipped away at this in an impressively democratic manner: 83.6 percent of the changes in the whole database have been made by 99.9 percent of contributors.
These numbers come from the OpenStreetMap 2013 Data Report, which also contains, of course, more maps. The report, created by MapBox, includes a beautiful worldwide visualization of all the road updates made as OpenStreetMap has grown, with some of the earliest imports of data shown in green and blue, and more recent ones in white. You can navigate the full map here (scroll down), but we’ve grabbed a couple of snapshots for you as well.”

Weather Could Be Next On The Auction Block For Crowdsourced Data


Darrell Etherington in TechCrunch: “Waze’s big exit to Google proved one thing: if companies can harness the power of the crowd to deliver real-time, granular data, big tech corporations will be watching them closely as potential acquisition targets. There’s another category ripe for the picking, even if the problem being solved isn’t as apparent or immediately useful as traffic and navigation data: weather. A few apps are trying to harness the crowd to provide accurate, ground-level forecasts and conditions, and they’re catching on with consumers, too.
Montreal-based startup SkyMotion is one such firm, and it recently launched its 4.0 update, which not only harnesses crowdsourced weather reports, but also allows other businesses to plug into that data using a public API, to integrate real-time reporting data from SkyMotion’s users into their own products. That provides an up-to-the-minute forecast, one that probably won’t show you weather conditions completely dissimilar from the ones you’re actually feeling outside at any given moment, as can still be the case with apps that pull weather data only from specific weather monitoring stations….
SkyMotion isn’t alone in crowdsourcing weather data. There’s also Weddar, the “people-powered” weather service and mobile app that encourages location-based reporting with a very human element, since it asks people how conditions generally feel on the ground, instead of seeking out specifics…”

Open Data Is Re-Defining Government in the 21st Century


Kevin Merritt, the founder and CEO of Socrata, in Next Gov: ….a new movement, spurred by digital and social activism, is taking root to renovate and redefine the public sector.
This movement is based on democratizing the vast treasure trove of data that governments have accumulated over the years, transparently releasing it so citizens and companies can drive meaningful change and solve problems that government, on its own, cannot solve…. This emerging digital collaboration between the public sector and scores of entrepreneurs across the nation has the potential to profoundly transform the role of government….
As a software entrepreneur, I see open data as the transformation of governments from monolithic service providers to open innovation platforms, fueled by data. This shift may hold the answers to some age-old problems in government, like chronic inefficiency and a citizen experience that’s out of step with the modern consumer era.
“This is the right way to frame the question of Government 2.0,” explains O’Reilly, a leading open data advocate. “How does government become an open platform that allows people inside and outside government to innovate? How do you design a system in which all of the outcomes aren’t specified beforehand, but, instead, evolve through interactions between government and its citizens, as a service provider enabling its user community?”
The answers to these questions are still taking shape; but one thing we do know is that the strategic use of data is clearly re-defining government’s role in the 21st century.

Socialstructing


Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future (IFTF),  released a book entitled The Nature of the Future: Dispatches from the Socialstructed World. According to the IFTF website, the book “offers an inspiring portrayal of how new technologies are giving individuals so much power to connect and share resources that networks of individuals—not big organizations—will solve a host of problems by reinventing business, education, medicine, banking, government, and scientific research.” In her review in the New York Journal of BooksGeri Spieler argues that, when focusing on the book’s central premise, Gorbis “breaks through to the reader as to what is important here: the future of a citizen-created world.”

In many ways, the book joins the growing literature on swarmswikinomicscommons-based and peer-to-peer production methods enabled by advances made in technology:

“Empowered by computing and communication technologies that have been steadily building village-like networks on a global scale, we are infusing more and more of our economic transactions with social connectedness….The new technologies are inherently social and personal. They help us create communities around interests, identities, and common personal challenges. They allow us to gain direct access to a worldwide community of others. And they take anonymity out of our economic transactions.”

Marina Gorbis subsequently describes the impact of these technologies on how we operate as “socialstructing”:

“We are moving away from the dominance of the depersonalized world of institutional production and creating a new economy around social connections and social rewards—a process I call socialstructing. … Not only is this new social economy bringing with it an unprecedented level of familiarity and connectedness to both our global and our local economic exchanges, but it is also changing every domain of our lives, from finance to education and health. It is rapidly ushering in a vast array of new opportunities for us to pursue our passions, create new types of businesses and charitable organizations, redefine the nature of work, and address a wide range of problems that the prevailing formal economy has neglected, if not caused.

Socialstructing is in fact enabling not only a new kind of global economy but a new kind of society, in which amplified individuals—individuals empowered with technologies and the collective intelligence of others in their social network—can take on many functions that previously only large organizations could perform, often more efficiently, at lower cost or no cost at all, and with much greater ease.”

Following a brief intro describing the social and technical drivers behind socialstructing the book describes its manifestation in finance, education, governance, science , and health.  In the chapter “governance beyond government”  the author advocates the creation of a revised “agora” modeled on the ancient Greek concept of participatory democracy. Of particular interest, the chapter describes and explains the legitimacy deficit of present-day political institutions and governmental structures:

“Political institutions are shaped by the social realities of their time and reflect the prevailing technological infrastructure, levels of knowledge, and citizen values. In ancient Athens, a small democratic state, it was possible to gather most citizens in an assembly or on a hill to practice a direct form of democracy, but in a country with millions of people this is nearly impossible. The US Constitution and governance structure emerged in the eighteenth century and were products of a Newtonian view of the universe….But while this framework of government  and society as machines worked reasonably well for several centuries, it is increasingly out of sync with today’s reality and level of knowledge.”

Building upon the deliberative polling process developed by Professor James Fishkin, director of the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University, the author proposes and develops four key elements behind the so-called socialstructed governance:

The chapter provides for an interesting introduction of the kind of new governance arrangements made feasible by increased computing power and the use of collaborative platforms. As with most literature on the subject, little attention however is paid to evidence on whether these new platforms contribute to a more legitimate and effective outcomes – a necessary next step to move away from “faith-based” discussions to more evidence based interventions.

Great groups: What 15 things do breakthrough genius teams share?


Barking Up The Wrong Tree: “Warren Bennis and Patricia Biederman studied a number of breakthrough great groups to see what made them so successful. They compiled the results into their book, Organizing Genius.
They looked at the Disney’s Animation division, the Manhattan Project (developed the nuclear bomb), Xerox PARC (designed the modern computer interface), the 1992 Clinton campaign (pulled off an enormous victory), Lockheed’s Skunk Works (created the U2 spy plane and the Stealth Bomber), and others.
Highlights from Organizing Genius summarized by Erik Barker can be found here.”