Shifting the spotlight: understanding crowdsourcing intermediaries in transparency and accountability initiatives

Shifting the spotlight: understanding crowdsourcing intermediaries in transparency and accountability initiatives

Crowdsourcing intermediaries form part of a new wave of technology-enabled collaborative transparency initiatives where the information that is required to effect change is generated by citizens themselves. This report highlights the ideas and practices that underlie the work of crowdsourcing intermediaries: actors who collect and analyse citizen feedback using digital platforms, and use it to support positive change. Most studies of crowdsourcing initiatives in the transparency and accountability field are primarily concerned with representation (whose voice is being heard?) and impact (what kind of change is being supported?). By contrast, this study shifts the spotlight onto crowdsourcing intermediaries themselves, their motives, and their theories of change and action.
 
The picture that emerges from the research, which combined content analysis of website text with qualitative case studies, reveals a great deal of fluidity and experimentation in the way that crowdsourcing is defined and used as part of the political strategies of crowdsourcing intermediaries. Equally varied were the roles and relationships that crowdsourcing intermediaries engaged in as collectors and analysts of citizen feedback.
 
A key finding is that in crowdsourcing initiatives, it is difficult to distinguish between the interpretive aspects of intermediation, which comprise the collection and analysis of citizen feedback, and political aspects of intermediation, which involve using the collected information to support positive change. Put more simply, crowdsourced information is inherently political.
 
 
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