Research Paper

Here is my research proposal for Theory and Audience Analysis:

Crowdsourcing and the Public Good

“Simply defined, crowdsourcing represents the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined, and generally large, network of people in the form of an open call. This can take the form of peer-production when the job is performed collaboratively, but is also often undertaken by sole individuals. The crucial prerequisite is the use of the open call format and the wide network of potential laborers.”[1]

Crowdsourcing is now an often-used technique to solve problems, complete projects, and compile resources. Most of the prominent examples of crowdsourcing are for its use in the for-profit sector. The purpose of this investigation is to complete a case study of prominent examples of crowdsourcing from both sectors, for and non-profit, and from it devise high impact practices for its application to the non-profit sector in particular. In addition, the study looks to explore the possible advantages and disadvantages of crowdsourcing’s application to the world’s biggest problems today. The hope of this investigation is to illustrate many possible positive applications of crowdsourcing impacting public good.

For the case study, the investigation will explore many examples of crowdsourcing. Examples in the for-profit sector will include, iStockphoto, crowdSpring, and Kickstarter. iStockphoto is an example of a “microstock” agency that looks to provide cheaper stock photography by allowing anyone to upload photos and charge what they think it is worth, essentially lowering the price of stock photography. crowdSping is a “spec design” site where clients can post prompts for graphic design they need, and users can submit graphics to the client. The client chooses from numerous submissions and the user whose design is chosen receives a monetary sum from the client. Essentially the site increases the number of proposals to the client, without increases the time, effort, or cost to the client, combined with a lowering of the overall cost of the graphic itself. Kickstarter is “the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world. Every week, tens of thousands of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields.”[2] Non-profit examples will include the Pepsi Refresh Project, The Fun Theory, and the HopeLab.

One issue the investigation will cover is the debated helpfulness versus hindrance of crowdsourcing in the for-profit world. This debate hinges around whether crowdsourcing is beneficial or just another form of outsourcing. The investigation will explore both sides of this debate and compile the opinions of experts on each side. Then look at how it might be applied to crowdsourcing’s implementation to the non-profit sector and how that might affect the debate itself, as monetary compensation might be removed from the discussion.

Overall, this study looks to explore what makes crowdsourcing efficient, effective, and how it can be applied to the pursuit of impacting the public good.

[1] Schenk Eric et Guittard Claude , « Towards a characterization of crowdsourcing practices » , Journal of Innovation Economics, 2011/1 n°7, p. 93-107. DOI : 10.3917/jie.007.0093

[2] Taken from Kickstarter:, 9/15/11


Since turning it in I have shift my focus from a generalized look at crowdsourcing, to actually executing a full case study on the Pepsi Refresh Project itself. In doing research for the above proposal I found that this was a significant gap in the research and I am proposing filling that gap.

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