Our first Geothoughts Conversations piece takes a look at crowdsourcing, the topic of the 2015 Summer Institute.
By Drew Bush
One of the hallmarks of any academic conference are the conversations that take place in-between sessions, in the hallways and over meals. In our first Geothink Conversations we aim to give you a flavor of these discussions at Geothink’s now concluded 2015 Summer Institute.
Each day of the institute alternated morning lectures, panel discussions and in-depth case studies on topics in crowdsourcing with afternoon work sessions where professors worked with student groups one-on-one on their proposal to meet a challenge posed by the City of Ottawa. For more on the Institute, check out our web site at geothink.ca.
To start us off, Brabham gets the group rolling on what exactly defines the boundaries of crowdsourcing, the topic of many conversations overheard during the three-day conference.
If you have thoughts or questions about this podcast, get in touch with Drew Bush, Geothink’s digital journalist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our first three Geothoughts Talks come from the 2015 Summer Institute.
By Drew Bush
Geothink’s Summer Institute may have concluded over a month ago, but, for those of you who missed it, we bring you three talks to remember. Run as part of Geothink’s five-year Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) partnership grant, the Institute aimed to provide undergraduate and graduate students from the partnership and beyond with knowledge and training in theoretical and practical aspects of crowdsourcing.
Each day of the institute alternated morning lectures, panel discussions and in-depth case studies on topics in crowdsourcing with afternoon work sessions where professors worked with student groups one-on-one on their proposal to meet a challenge posed by the City of Ottawa. See our first post on this here.
Below we present you with a rare opportunity to learn about crowdsourcing with our experts as they discuss important ideas and case studies. A short summary describes what each talk covers.
Geothoughts Talk One: In-Depth Case Studies in Crowdsourcing (1hr 3min)
Join Sieber and Brabham as they discuss two case studies that examine the actual application of crowdsourcing technologies and techniques to real-world situations. First Sieber describes the work of her Master’s Student Ana Brandusescu in applying crowdsourcing technologies to chronic community development issues in three places in Montreal, QC and Vancouver, BC. Next, Brabham discusses one of his first efforts to research the application of crowdsourcing technology to public transportation planning during a design contest he held for a bus stop at the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City, UT.
Geothoughts Talk Two: A Deeper Dive into Crowdsourcing: Advanced Topics in Crowdsourcing and Civic Crowdfunding (1hr 8min)
Goodspeed spends the morning covering three topics of inherent interest to anyone involved in crowdsourcing work. During this talk, he focuses in on three areas new to his own research including crowdfunding, formal crowdsourcing and the tool Ushahidi. Each of these topics helps prepare listeners for being a crowdsourcing professional.
Geothoughts Talk Three: Discussion on the Future of Crowdsourcing in the Public Sector (35 min)
Brabham and Goodspeed lead a discussion on where the future for crowdsourcing lies in the public sector. In particular, Goodspeed begins with an opening statement on how crowdsourcing can be used to help government agencies gain legitimacy by actually seeking input which can guide their actions. Brabham then challenges students to consider that crowdsourcing applications do fail and, even when they succeed, often can challenge whole professions that exist to collect the same data by other means.
If you have thoughts or questions about these podcasts, get in touch with Drew Bush, Geothink’s digital journalist, at email@example.com.
Each day of the institute alternated morning lectures, panel discussions and in-depth case studies on topics in crowdsourcing with afternoon work sessions where professors worked with student groups one-on-one on their proposed solution to the City of Ottawa’s challenge. As the institute progressed, more time was given to the seven student groups to work on their solutions and prepare a final pitch to the city on day three.
Not sure what constitutes crowdsourcing? The goal of the institute, run as part of a five-year Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) partnership grant, was to provide undergraduate and graduate students from Geothink’s partners with knowledge and training in theoretical and practical aspects of crowdsourcing. And that’s a topic Brabham has been studying, as he puts it modestly, for “several years.”
“And I’ve been trying to look at how to take this model, which I define as connecting organizations with online communities to mutually solve problems or produce goods,” he told Geothink. “Taking that model which as been used in business and a number of for profit endeavours and trying to translate it for governments, for non-profits, for public health.”
On Day 1, students at Geothink’s Summer Institute worked together to solve Ottawa’s crowdsourcing problem using the knowledge gained in earlier sessions as well as individual areas of expertise. Much like many real-world challenges that crowdsourcing has been used to address, the presentation from the City of Ottawa made clear that the problem the city faced was complex and multifaceted. Goodspeed helped to summarize some elements of what was expected of students.
“What a wonderful, rich context, I mean, who knows what the problem is?” he told students. “Is it that people are going to too many parks or the wrong parks, or which people are we talking about? We have no idea…And I think this is very typical for a lot of problem settings you’ll encounter. And, in that sense, almost any month they showed could have been itself a crowdsourcing application.”
Watch a clip of Goodspeed’s introduction here:
After they’d been given a chance to start discussing ideas for crowdsourcing applications in their groups, Sieber and Stephens helped students to begin thinking about the geographical aspects of the applications they were designing as well as technical limitations they might face.
“So, this is a summer institute on crowdsourcing, why do we even talk about geography?” Sieber told students later in the first day. “Because most open data, most data that comes out of government has some geographic component in it somewhere. So it’s useful often to tie crowdsourcing to geography.”
“If nothing else, that implies there is a jurisdictional aspect to the way that people communicate with government, that is that people are bounded in place,” she added.
Stay tuned for more iTunes podcasts from the Summer Institute here, check back on Geothink for synopses of days two and three, and, of course, watch more of our video clips (which we’ll be uploading in coming days) here.
Watch a clip of the presentation the City of Ottawa gave our students here (Beware, for the technophobic, it was conducted over videoconference).
If you have thoughts or questions about this article or the video content, get in touch with Drew Bush, Geothink’s digital journalist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.