From alienation to relation: Examining the modes of production in crowdsourcing
European Society for Socially Embedded Technologies (EUSSET)
While crowdsourcing is increasingly used for data gathering and problem solving, the power relations in crowdsourced processes remain largely unexamined. Especially in crowdsourced public policymaking, an understanding of these processes is essential for verifying the data. For understanding the social processes behind the data and designing crowdsourcing technologies and processes suitable for public policymaking, it is important to understand power structures and relations within the crowd and between the crowd and the sourcer: Who has the power, what is being produced through crowdsourcing, and especially how and under which conditions. In this paper we develop a typology of worker relations in crowdsourcing by using Marx theory of alienation. The theory serves as a lens to compare and contrast tools for crowd- engagement in public policymaking. We show how different types of crowdsourcing can be described as levels of alienation where the worker, the consumer, their relations, and products are connected in modes of production representing different ontologies. In doing so, we contribute to the body of knowledge about crowdsourcing as a specific type of computer-supported cooperative work. For the research community we introduce a critical perspective on information systems as part of a relational system, whereby both external communications and personal identities are acknowledged. For the practitioner community, namely, decision-makers, we provide a useful resource, outlining in detail the differing potentialities of crowd-engaging in CSCW.