Crowdsourcing Design: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Politics & Society
re:publica 2014

Short thesis: 

This talk looks at the ethics and aesthetics of the crowdsourcing industry, its dark side and silver linings, with a focus on the crowdsourcing of design. What distinguishes the crowd design from micro tasking? And is crowdsourcing inherently exploitative or can it be done in a way that is sustainable for all stakeholders?


Crowdsourcing Design: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Once merely one of these buzzwords, crowdsourcing has developed into a rapidly growing global industry. Today’s sweatshops are “in the cloud” and a plethora of crowd based projects reaching from the weird to the worrisome calls for a differentiated analysis and critique.

Crowdsourcing is a very controversial concept, especially because it is now applied to so many fields. The crowd has become the source for a great variety of tasks and the incentives are heterogenous as well. The lack of boundaries between work and play makes it so difficult to evaluate crowdsourcing and it gets particularly tricky when the projects are profit-oriented. 

For some, crowdsourcing is “just like Wikipedia, but with everything” — a seemingly utopian idea. However, when the so called wisdom of the crowds turns into precarious crowd-labour, with all risks being outsourced to the workers, it becomes indistinguishable from exploitation. While a large section of the crowdsourcing industry is organised the way that workers get micro-payment for mirco-tasks, the crowdsourcing of design is characteristically organised through contests.

In this model, the platform providers take a forty percent cut upfront from the money paid by external clients while the designers compete, with a chance of one in a hundred, to eventually get paid for the work they have done beforehand. But there are also platforms that try to organise crowdsourcing in a way that is fair for all stakeholders.

stage 3
Thursday, May 8, 2014 -
12:30 to 13:30