The concept of crowdsourcing in libraries

Definition of crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing literally means outsourcing to Internet users, according to Jeff Howe’s expression proposed in Wired Magazine in June 2006 [HOW 06]. According to an authoritative definition:

“Crowdsourcing is a type of participative online activity in which an individual, organization or company with enough means proposes to a group of individuals of varying knowledge, heterogeneity, and number, via a flexible open call, the voluntary undertaking of a task. The undertaking of the task, of variable complexity and modularity, entails mutual benefit. The user will receive the satisfaction of a given type of need, be it economic, social recognition, self-esteem, or the development of individual skills, while the crowdsourcer will obtain and utilize to their advantage that what the user has brought to the venture, whose form will depend on the type of activity undertaken.” [EST 12]

Contrary to these authors, we think crowdsourcing can also exist as participation that is not necessarily and strictly voluntary, as is the case with projects where Internet users contribute by playing games, which are qualified as gamification. We even think crowdsourcing can also call on the involuntary or unconscious participation of Internet users, as is the case, for example, with the reCAPTCHA project. The millions of books digitized by Google Books are OCRized. Words not occurring in dictionaries are then sent to Internet users who, for security reasons, are forced to reassemble jumbled words to prove that they are not robots. In doing this, by creating their accounts on websites, they involuntarily contribute to OCR correction for Google Books and Google Maps. We qualify this involuntary participation of Internet users as implicit crowdsourcing.

Having defined crowdsourcing, all that remains is to explain what it is not. Crowdsourcing must not be confused with outsourcing, for there is indeed a sort of call for bids in the form of a call for contributions; the relationship with the contributor, however, is not contractual. It also must not be confused with “user innovation”, as the undertaking remains at the project’s initiative, not with the open source since the contribution method is not necessarily collaborative, but can, quite the opposite, appeal to competition.

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