Crowdsourcing was a thing before the internet. I know it’s hard to believe that anything remotely important took place before the internet graced our lives, but bear with me for a moment. Although the term “crowdsourcing” wasn’t coined until Jeff Howe’s article “Rise of Crowdsourcing” in 2006, people have been using the power of the multitudes to get stuff done since the 1700’s. English kings offered financial compensation to anyone who could complete certain tasks. The Oxford English Dictionary used approximately 800 workers to form the first version of the “New English Dictionary” as it was then called. Today we have things like mturk.com or Laborers of Love (NSFW!). It isn’t a big stretch. The internet just made it bigger and better.
Historically, it has been a tangible exchange. You do A, I give you B. Usually a task is exchanged for monetary compensation. However, modern-day crowdsourcing has brought back– and, in a way, improved–the concept of patronage. It’s basic role reversal. Instead of one person giving small amounts of money to many people to accomplish many small tasks, now many people are donating small amounts of money for one person to accomplish one big task. Instead of getting something done directly for you, you are getting something you can share with a community: a YouTube video, a piece of art, a book, or a technological advancement. It is important to recognize that you are still gaining something. It is still an exchange of money for something.
However, now there is a phenomenon of people donating money to strangers and not really getting anything in return. It’s basically charity but for individuals. Remember that potato salad guy? Well, there are thousands of others like him. One look at gofundme.com will show you just how many people are willing to donate to make strangers’ wishes come true. Now, you can help people you’ve never met have things from extravagant trips to a custom-built stroller for a handicapped daughter. There was even one where a guy wanted to buy a teepee for his friend.
I suppose the only real question is “Why am I not getting other people to pay for my life?” I mean… seriously.