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Archive for the 'cooperation' Category

Can crowds fill the void left by defunct newspapers? Reflections on our experiments with locative crowdsourcing

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Write up by Andrés Monroy-Hernández and Elena Agapie, building on the work of J. Nathan Matias

Motivated by the disappearance of local newspapers, this past summer, we started to explore new ways of supporting community news production through collaborative writing tools. The first incarnation of this is NewsPad, a system for neighborhood communities to collaboratively to report on local events such as festivals and town hall meetings.

One of the first challenges we encountered when testing NewsPad in the wild, was the difficulty of bootstrapping these collective action efforts to produce even lightweight articles in the form of lists, also referred to as listicles.

We decided to explore this challenge using on-demand, location-based labor through TaskRabbit. We were able to produce articles about the events in under an hour, and for less than $100. Here we we share some of initial reflections after running a few experiments.


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The Remixing Dilemma: The Trade-Off Between Generativity and Originality

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

This post was written with Benjamin Mako Hill. It is a summary of a paper just published in American Behavioral Scientist. You can also read the full paper: The remixing dilemma: The trade-off between generativity and originality. It is part of a series of papers I have written with Mako Hill using data from Scratch. You can find the others on my website.

Remix Diagram

Remix Diagram

Remixing — the reworking and recombination of existing creative artifacts — represents a widespread, important, and controversial form of social creativity online. Proponents of remix culture often speak of remixing in terms of rich ecosystems where creative works are novel and highly generative, however, examples like this can be difficult to find. Although there is a steady stream of media being shared freely on the web, only a tiny fraction of these projects are remixed even once. On top of this, many remixes are not very different from the works they are built upon. Why is some content more attractive to remixers? Why are some projects remixed in deeper and more transformative ways?

We try to shed light on both of these questions using data from Scratch — a large online remixing community. Although we find support for several popular theories, we also present evidence in support of a persistent trade-off that has broad practical and theoretical implications. In what we call the remixing dilemma, we suggest that characteristics of projects that are associated with higher rates of remixing are also associated with simpler and less transformative types of derivatives.

Our study is focused on two interrelated research questions. First, we ask why some projects shared in remixing communities are more or less generative than others. “Generativity” — a term we borrow from Jonathan Zittrain — describes creative works that are likely to inspire follow-on work. Several scholars have offered suggestions for why some creative works might be more generative than others. We focus on three central theories:

  1. Projects that are moderately complicated are more generative. The free and open source software motto “release early and release often” suggests that simple projects will offer more obvious opportunities for contribution than more polished projects. That said, projects that are extremely simple (e.g., completely blank slates) may also uninspiring to would-be contributors.
  2. Projects by prominent creators are more generative. The reasoning for this claim comes from the suggestion that remixing can act as a form of cultural conversation and that the work of popular creators can act like a common medium or language. People want to remix famous pop stars because people will be more likely to appreciate the remix if they recognize the remixed track.
  3. Projects that are remixes themselves are more generative. The reasoning for this final claim comes from the idea that remixing thrives through the accumulation of contributions from groups of people building on each other’s work. Read the rest of this entry »

Project Idea: an Internet Rube Goldberg Machine

Monday, February 6th, 2012

The other day I was chatting with some folks at Berkman and this idea came up as a possibly fun and quirky experimental project. It’s not fully fleshed out,  but maybe this can inspire more conversations to turn it into something feasible.

The goal of the project is to crate an Internet contraption that, in the spirit of a Rube Goldberg machine, runs on its own after having started it. It will be completely funded, defined, and carried out by the Internet using today’s micro-funding and micro-tasks platforms.  The project would be the embodiment of crowdsourcing — it will both celebrate it and problematize it.

The creators of the contraption, will have very little say in the final project itself.  Their role would be to define its stages and to set the structure that will hopefully lead to something awesome. Here is how it might work: Read the rest of this entry »

In Defense of Friction

Monday, November 21st, 2011

There is no doubt that technology has made my life much easier. I rarely share the romantic view that things were better when human beings used to do the boring tasks that machines now do. For example, I do not think there is much to gain by bringing back the old telephone operators. However, there are reasons to believe social computing systems should not automate social interactions.

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Is Information Technology Beneficial?

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

We often assume that information technology is beneficial to society, however, this is rarely backed by empirical evidence. Last week in our cooperation reading group, we discussed a fascinating paper by Jeremiah Dittmar that examines the link between information technology and economic growth. Despite the title, the paper is not about the Internet or even computers, it is about the printing press. The author used data from the fourteenth and  fifteenth centuries to show how that the printing press indeed had a positive effect on economic growth.

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