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Seven interactive essays on digital nonlinear storytelling
edited by Matt Soar & Monika Gagnon

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What is Crowdsourcing?

In a June 2006 article in Wired, Jeff Howe added a new term to the new media lexicon, crowdsourcing. The new term rose from two simultaneous global developments: Multiple authors/participants (the crowd) from different regions, backgrounds and companies contributing to an idea or a work via the Internet; and, the rise of companies outsourcing their production. Howe continued to write a blog, book, and articles on the subject and further defined the term using two definitions:
  • The White Paper Version: Crowdsourcing is the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.
  • The Soundbyte Version: The application of Open Source principles to fields outside of software. (
Crowdsourcing became possible through the information sharing capabilities of Web 2.0. In the Wired article, Howe further uses the example of iStockPhoto. Previously companies and mediamakers alike had to purchase stock footage through large corporate stock footage agencies, such as Getty and Shutterstock. However, what started as an amateur photo sharing site quickly became a repository for stock images at a fraction of the previous, professional, prices. Howe’s example of the photography site appealed to filmmakers who were already working loopholes in the traditional production model. Getty, eager to stay in business, subsequently bought the site.

The following resonated for mediamakers with the rise of accessible content:
  • Accessible stock footage for low budget filmmakers
  • Access to international footage without traveling to the location
  • Global collaboration without leaving your own location, studio, or living room
In addition to the use of new and emerging business models, the development of crowdsourcing for the amateur or independent mediamaker was much more organic and made use of rising developments in social networking. For instance, when filmmaker Ali Samadi Ahadi was looking for footage to create his documentary, The Green Wave, his team combed Twitter and Facebook. For such filmmakers, the importance of the quality of footage took a back seat to the content of the footage. And, in turn, the filmmakers captured emotionally riveting moments that resonated with mainstream audiences despite (or, perhaps, in part because of) the lo-fi origins.
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