Comments on Crowdsourcing re: amateurs, artists and money

February 12, 2008 at 1:23 am Leave a comment

Jeff Howe (of Wired Magazine and coiner of the phrase “Crowdsourcing”) is asking for feedback on the second chapter of his book on Crowdsourcing (Chapter Two: The Rise of the Amateur). I posted my comments on his site, but thought I would also post them here:

Love this chapter, Jeff, as it reads beautifully.

My chief concern is with the “money” statements. Though compensation is not key (passion often is more of a motivator, it appears, for the crowd to contribute) it is in some respects very important and integral, and quality sometimes, is linked to this element. Someone with great skills but only a small amount of spare time, may contribute sporadically to a site from which they will earn nothing or very little, but proportionally, they are more apt to contribute more if they are better compensated. In particular, someone like Nick Monu, while he may love taking photos, may have provided far less of his work to Istock during the busy period of his education, if it wasn’t in fact paying for that education.

I agree with a few commenters above that it is unfair to paint the entire crowd of non-professionals with the amateur brush, especially in the case of artists, where only a small percentage of talented people tend to make a living with their art. Further, it is important to remember that while some people may be quite experienced and proficient at a specific career, they may not (or may no longer) be employed in that area professionally (e.g. people who have transitioned from one occupation to another). [Another category, which I neglected to note in my comment to Jeff, involves someone who is retired.] They have expertise and knowledge in areas related their previous vocation, even though they do not pursue it full time. While both these categories are not defined as “professionals”, they should certainly not be classified as amateurs.

And, although I certainly have my own concerns about Crowdsourcing, another aspect that I think is missing here (though that might be coming up in another chapter)is that in some cases (especially with Istock) this “rise of the amateur” can give power back to the artists and allow them to be successful on their own terms (e.g. Lise Gagné). In these instances, hardworking artists are able to focus on producing the content (and in many cases also helping their peers by critiquing their work), enjoy a community and leave the business elements of exposure, promotion and payment to someone else (in this case the Crowdsourcing company). The artist is visible to many possible purchasers with minimal time investment. Crowdsourcing and social media in general can sometimes even the playing field and give artists more avenues to sell their work (e.g. deviant art and others ) and allow closer/direct contact with the consumers.

And while it would be ideal for photographers to be paid handsomely for each photo they sell, many would rather have the option of earning $1000 for their photo to be purchased by many rather than have their photo be priced at $400 and sold only once.

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