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From the wisdom of crowds to going viral: The creation and transmission of knowledge in the citizen humanities

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCitizen Inquiry
Subtitle of host publicationSynthesising Science and Inquiry Learning
EditorsChristothea Herodotou, Mike Sharples, Eileen Scanlon
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781315458601
ISBN (Print)9781138208681
Published1 Jan 2017

King's Authors


Written in the mid-2000s, in the midst of the emergence of Web 2.0, The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki is an iconic and divisive study, which contends that - under certain conditions - collective decision making among groups of individuals is, on balance, better than decision making undertaken by individuals themselves, however expert they may be (Surowiecki, 2004). While this thesis, and the title which encapsulates it - a direct reaction to Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (1841) - have polarised opinion, The Wisdom of Crowds undoubtedly forms an important part of the discourse on crowdsourcing, a term that emerged 2 years after Surowiecki’s book, in an article in Wired by Jeff Howe. In noting that many companies in western countries were taking advantage of the emerging capabilities of the web to ‘out-source’ production tasks to cheaper labour markets overseas, Howe (2006) observed: All these companies grew up in the Internet age and were designed to take advantage of the networked world…. [I]t doesn’t matter where the laborers are - they might be down the block, they might be in Indonesia - as long as they are connected to the network. Technological advances in everything from product design software to digital video cameras are breaking down the cost barriers that once separated amateurs from professionals…. The labor isn’t always free, but it costs a lot less than paying traditional employees. It’s not outsourcing; it’s crowdsourcing.

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