the increasing popularity of crowdsourcing – term coined by jeff howe in wired in 2006 – follows the tremendous force of DIT; do-it-together. it essentially means combining an open call for amateur (or not so amateur) efforts to reach a common goal whether a movie, a party or, as i've heard as the latest, an opera.
the basis of crowdsourcing is in the expansion of professional or semi-pro tools in the hands of amateurs because of their reasonable price and the growing number of freeware. anyone with a computer and a set of software can become a graphic artist, make movies, produce music, etc. as long as the talent and willingness to develop one's skills is there. it is a revolution of a sort, but not entirely unproblematic.
while the cynics claim that crowdsourcing is only a way to employ amateurs instead of trained professionals for work that is of lower but doable quality, those in favor celebrate the possibility of the web-based collaboration to have your talent known and utilized without diplomas or enviable agency jobs. taking part in a collaboration is a more efficient cv of your talent than linkedin or a personal website could ever be.
nonetheless, the downside is that the cynics have a point: it is a slippery slope down the collaboration slide towards exploiting talented people. why pay anyone for a great job if you can get similar quality for free? the phenomenon is more than apparent in interning (especially in the usa) that is a despicable field of abuse of graduate workforce – especially in fields of art, design and marketing. graduates must land internships in order to find a job – to gain practical knowledge of their field – but are increasingly finding it impossible to find start level jobs because agencies use interns for everything imaginable. interns are a free workforce, so why bother actually paying anyone...
the spirit of crowdsourcing echoes elitism, the idea that people can and are willing to work for free or for a minuscule compensation. the underlying assumption is that amateurs, the lovers of their chosen hobbies, are busybees who have a steady income supporting them while they take part in collaborations they feel a calling for. at another level there is a promise of future fame and possible work – as is with interning – which may or may not actualize. the problem is that the more eager to collaborate we become, the less likely it is that those promises will be bought and paid for.
i do, nevertheless, want to believe that crowdsourcing projects are not a way to create an underclass of creatives who depend on other means of making a living – already a familiar status quo for artists. nor do i want to believe the undercurrent that screams for the kinds of feminist critique towards describing some work as "a calling" and, thus, not requiring decent pay.
with results as great as these, i am more than happy to enjoy crowdsourcing projects. moby's competition for a video for his single "wait for me" produced hundreds of entries. what strikes me as odd is that the winner below by nimrod shapira – a cute, naive little flick – is posted on moby's site without any info on the maker or even a link.
another entry by jessica dimmock and mark jackson that moves at a level so fundamental it is impossible to ignore the human suffering. point being: these are great videos that moby did not pay a dime for...
i'm just not fully sold on the idea... what do you think?