Sunday, August 05, 2007

Adventures in Crowdsourcing

Particularly after the conclusion of Assignment Zero, I have become increasingly wary of the genuine benefits of crowdsourcing -- particularly within the context of journalism and other creative processes that require a degree of continuity. A few recent projects, however, have caught my eye for their singular ability to harness the occasionally useful residual energy of the masses:

1. You know that distorted word that pops up when you try to create an e-mail account or leave a blog comment? Usually, it's a nonsensical string of characters designed to foil spambots and the like. With reCAPTCHA, however, the site's visitor is required to enter two separate words: one that the computer recognizes and actually uses for verification, and another that actually comes from a book that is in the process of being digitized. reCAPTCHA takes the words that aren't easily identified by computers and has you blog readers and e-mail sign-up-ers do the work. Brilliant!

2. The Border Film Project provides packages with disposable cameras to both Minutemen and Mexican migrants attempting to enter the US. When the cameras are returned, the best photos are selected and added to a traveling exhibition. They've posted a number of the images on the site, and some of them are quite stunning.

3. And most recently, Google just launched a video project encouraging people to make short clips showing the trademark Gmail envelope passing across the frame from one hand to another. On August 13, Google will stitch the best into a single film. Pretty convenient if you can crowdsource even your advertising campaigns!

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