Plenary: "Crowd Building" | MIT Center for Civic Media

Plenary: "Crowd Building"

For years, news organizations have been ambivalently confronting the idea of crowdsourcing. In contrast to other forms of "user innovation" that feature collaborations by highly skilled professionals, crowdsourcing exploits a largely untrained group of contributors. Is crowdsourcing a solution to declining revenue or a symbol of the decline of western civilization? Either way, it is just one of the many new styles of collaboration and coproduction that the lowered costs of electronically mediated communication have fostered – and that many organizations have embraced.

But how might news organizations have responded over the last five years if, instead of crowdsourcing, they had taken their cue from the free software community and engaged in other forms of skilled collaborative coproduction? What challenges will new innovators and entrepreneurs face as they try to create new enterprises that help to sustain increasingly informed and engaged communities? Can crowdsourced information satisfy these engaged communities?

This panel brings together Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist who studied the Debian Linux community (which has built one of the largest and most influential operating systems) and Karim Lakhani, a business professor who studies collaborative user innovation to explore the question: How can we move from crowdsourcing to crowdbuilding?


  • Gabriella Coleman (bio), New York University, is an anthropologist who examines the ethics of online collaboration/institutions as well as the role of the law and digital media in sustaining various forms of political activism. She is completing a book manuscript Coding Freedom: Hacker Pleasure and the Ethics of Free and Open Source Software and is starting a new project on peer to peer patient activism on the Internet.
  • Karim Lakhani (bio) is an assistant professor in the Technology and Operations Management Unit at the Harvard Business School. His research is on distributed innovation systems and the movement of innovative activity to the edges of organizations and into communities. He is co-editor of Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software (MIT Press, 2005) and co-founder of the MIT-based Open Source research community and web portal.

Building 10, Room 250

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 -
4:30pm to 6:00pm