A Conceptual Introduction to the Concept of Crowdsourcing in Libraries: A New Paradigm?
1.1. A rapidly growing economic model
1.1.1. What made this new economic model possible
Internet users are growing more and more numerous and the time that they spend surfing the Internet is growing. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia required 100 million cumulative hours to be constructed. As Clay Shirky stated on August 28, 2008 at the Wiki-Conference NYC, if Americans, who watch 200 billion hours of television every year, used that time for creative activities instead, they could create 2,000 projects such as Wikipedia each year instead of watching television.
During a 2011 TED conference, Luis Von Ahn1 claimed that using only 100,000 people, humanity succeeded in building pyramids and digging the Panama Canal, and that because of the Internet and social networks, it is now possible to assemble 750 million people, for example, for a project correcting the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) such as reCAPTCHA. An amazing “reservoir of goodwill” is therefore potentially available for cultural institutions if they know how to benefit from it.
Participatory models came about with the development of the Web 2.0. The term was invented by DiNucci in 1999 [NGU 12] or by Dale Dougherty in 2004 [SAR 14] and popularized by Tim O’Reilly in 2005 [TRA 08]. Crowdsourcing now means that Internet users no longer have to be content with passively consuming Web content within a hierarchical, unilateral and static diffusion model (Web 1.0), but can actively participate in its development. The diffusion of information has become reciprocal, interactive and dynamic. The Internet user therefore ceases to be a consumer, a reader and a passive receptor who is content to browse, and becomes a producer, an author, an active emitter of information, a contributor who can participate in the writing and modification of content on the Web (comments, tags, wikis, social networks, etc.) and in the production of data and metadata. The authority of data has thus been moved from the server to the customer [BAI 12]. As telecommunications expert Benjamin Bayart emphasizes, if printing taught people to read, the Internet is now teaching them to write2.
Well before Web 2.0, the invention of “self-service” which granted the consumer direct access to merchandise without the intermediary of a vendor and which was applied to libraries in the form of open access collections, was an early form of the integration of the consumer into the production process. This economic model was invented by Aristide Boucicaut in his department store “Le Bon Marché” whose slogan was “self-service, free to touch” giving customers, as described in Zola’s Au bonheur des dames (translated into English as The Ladies’ Delight or The Ladies’ Paradise), the opportunity to access the merchandise actively and freely, without a shopkeeper as an intermediary, and, in fine, to take over part of the merchants’ and store owners’ jobs. Broadly speaking, production seems to have thus progressively lost the central place that it occupied in favor of consumption and the consumer society that developed after the Second World War.
Later, the “just in time” model, developed at Toyota, consisted of producing products “on demand” for the customer in order to avoid unsold stock by producing just-in-time supply in a way that is synchronized with and driven by demand. This model of “manufacturing without waste”, “lean manufacturing” or “fat-free manufacturing” consists of producing only what you strictly need, with the necessary correct means, at the time when it is needed and at the least possible cost to the producer to externalize the decision to begin production with the consumer. This model was born from the difficulty Japanese stores had in stocking merchandise due to insufficient space and the necessity of resupplying only when stock ran out. It was also significantly inspired by the way in which supermarkets operate. In the same way, the clothing chain Zara keeps only a single month worth of inventory and thus better adapts its production to trends in the market, producing models depending on sales [SUR 04]. Advertising itself participates in the integration of the consumer into the production process. Indeed, when we view a television program or website, we produce statistics and data, or when we view advertisements, we also produce value. We can therefore talk about an economy of attention [CIT 14]. The decision to visit this or that site could therefore be likened to a vote, a vote that participates in production and revenues of the producers. This model has found its application in libraries, in on-demand digitization by participatory financing (crowdfunding) and in printing on demand, which will be addressed in this book.
Today, crowdsourcing continues the relatively old movement of integrating the consumer into the production process. It was made possible by the development of the technologies of Web 2.0. Born from a cultural evolution toward more participative and collaborative approaches, crowdsourcing was made technologically possible by Web 2.0, that is to say, the possibility of having a large number of people, who have free time available on the Web, work remotely on collective projects. It is especially inspired by the way communities of freeware developers work. By calling on a crowd of Internet users, it is possible to carry out, in very little time, tasks that previously would have been impossible to complete or even imagine, or that would have required huge amounts of time. In short, crowdsourcing “is a way to find a needle in a haystack”, as Lebraty and Lobre [LEB 15] state. Sagot et al. [SAG 11] talk about “myriadization of divided work” and microworking. We could also talk about the “taskification” of work. Crowdsourcing has some similarities to the construction of medieval cathedrals, which required the capacity to “think big”, to delegate, to organize every task and above all to mobilize a large number of people around a common vision and goal, as Levi [LEV 14] recalls. It is also, to take a more recent example, what Alfred Sloan of General Motors described as “group management”, which consists of the solicitation of numerous collaborators to make the most important decisions.
We illustrate this idea with contemporary works of art in Figures 1.1 and 1.2.
Figure 1.1. The artwork Ten Thousand Cents3. For a color version of the figure, see www.iste.co.uk/andro/libraries.zip
Figure 1.2. An artwork juxtaposing sheep4
In addition to art, crowdsourcing has already found applications in many areas. For example, in the field of video, YouTube and DailyMotion could not function without content posted online by Internet users. Crowdsourcing has also found applications in music, politics, fashion, banking, tourism, innovation, cartography, the search for missing planes, medicine, scientific research, publishing, translation and journalism. Using crowdsourcing is also topical in the field of GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) and digital libraries in particular, which is the subject of this book.
1.1.2. Application to digital libraries
For libraries, digitizing and diffusing their collections on the Web means that they find themselves in the same space as their users. This situation makes possible multiple synergies and collaborations. Among cultural institutions, the amount of content that they make available on the Web has grown exponentially and there is no lack of painstaking work in indexing, describing and correcting this content. However, their budgets and their workforce have experienced an opposite trend which often leaves them sorely lacking. This state of affairs makes many goals impossible and the carrying out of other projects unimaginable without external aid. In addition, the real or virtual publics of these institutions are less and less content with the role of passive consumer of cultural information and would increasingly like to get involved in service to heritage and culture. In cultural institutions, the idea of being receptive to interaction with a participating public and volunteers largely preceded the emergence of the Web 2.0. However, the Relational Web has fostered the emergence of a participative culture on which the model of crowdsourcing in libraries feeds.
In digital libraries, crowdsourcing thus makes it possible to complete tasks that would be impossible to undertake without the help of volunteer Internet users, in the absence of financial and human means. This means, for example, to improve the quality of metadata or to enrich it (comments, tags, analyses, etc.), to benefit from the knowledge and skills of scholars, to develop communities around projects, to increase visits to the resources produced, to make the general public more aware of the conservation of common cultural heritage, to generate more interactions, innovative ideas and collaboration. For example, within the online public, there might be someone who would know how to identify a church in a photograph, a scholar could provide information about its construction and its history, an elderly villager able to identify a person in the photo, etc. The knowledge that teams of librarians have access to is much too limited to be able to respond to all of these questions. The...