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Crowdsourcing, or participatory production, one of the emerging areas of knowledge management, is the use of creativity, intelligence and know-how of a large number of people, outsourcing, to perform certain tasks traditionally performed by an employee or contractor.

This is done by making target calls (when a minimum level of expertise is required) or open to other players call. The work is eventually paid. It may be simply outsource duties outside the core business of the company, or more innovative approaches.

There are many forms, tools, goals and strategies of crowdsourcing. The work can be collaborative or otherwise be made purely in parallel. In an economic approach, it may be to complete a task at the lowest cost, but there are more collaborative , social or altruistic approaches, using dedicated or public networks. Some approaches to citizen science are used to acquire more data to geographic scales that would otherwise be inaccessible to many researchers insufficient or unable to be ubiquitous (eg in the field of astronomy or environmental sciences).

Crowdsourcing can be “active” (people working together to find a solution to a problem) or “passive” (eg can deduct, from the amount of research on a topic on the internet, the popularity of a subject, and to make an interest information , eg. Google “found a significant association between the number of people doing a search on the topic with the word “flu”and the number of people with flu-like symptoms”. The number of searches on the word flu increases. during epidemics and from people with influenza, which may be of interest to epidemiologists or WHO, taking into account also the possible effects of buzz raised by media coverage of a subject).

Ethical, limitations, and controversies

Crowdsourcing is rich with potential to make the Internet more durable or sustainable, and to create a global innovation society, but there are also questions on the status and expertise of the expert, or the intellectual property of a work, or use that will be made (crowdfunding, principle derived from crowdsourcing, is also sometimes used to collect the money presented as required for a project or business) or can – when it does not set the ethical rules – give rise to certain abuses.

A question often asked is whether the responsibility for any errors or malice on the part of some players. For proponents of crowdsourcing, the law of number provides a powerful statistic, which eliminates a lot of questionable results or allow to make the same calculations and observations of the same type, by different people, and so validate them. But this is not always possible (when trying to observe a rare event, for example).

Sometimes, especially in the humanities, the professional experts make errors in copying unverified data, and the accuracy is not guaranteed by the mere status of editors.

If it is sought to serve science, the validity and legitimacy of a work based on crowdsourcing require a clear scientific and technical protocol, transparent, rigorous and credible, and sometimes tools and human resources and statistical validation techniques.

These practical limitations are found in the theoretical study of the phenomenon of crowdsourcing, including an approach by the theory of transaction costs.

Crowdsourcing, and some underlying economic or political models, drew criticism and controversy.

  • Some forms of crowdsourcing can indeed deprive people of paid employment. The principle that “everything deserves fair labor wage” is in question.

  • In some areas, the drifts are possible. For example, websites could manipulate the public they flatter by offering an expert role, with hidden, commercial or indoctrination intentions. Offenses can be achieved, although undesirable, especially with current legislation regarding the protection of personal data.

  • Using files for GPS or people tracking via mobile phones raises questions of respect or protection of privacy.

  • Sites offer the public to monitor, via webcams, areas regarded as dangerous or known for traffic drogue, and report any abnormal activity identified in these areas. Denouncement, risks that can be taken to some observers, or replacement of work of police or security officers in these cases, pose new ethical and philosophical issues.

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