I wasn’t entirely shocked by Jeff Howe’s article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing.” While I didn’t know all that much about crowdsourcing or even the fact that scientists are being crowdsourced for research, I am not all that surprised that people are turning towards cheaper labor and products to utilize for a profit. This is not an entirely new concept, but it’s manifestation is admittedly new because of the new age in technology where people can teach themselves skills that are traditionally only held by people who have been formally trained. I quite like this aspect of this new phenomenon, because it means there are more opportunities for people to learn these skills and to make a living off them. However, I have to wonder if the products they are providing to companies at a lower cost are actually of comparable to quality to those provided by the formally trained. And – if they are – wouldn’t that mean that these companies are taking advantage of the people who are using their skills to provide a quality product? I was especially intrigued by Ed Melcarek’s story as a “solver” for Innocentive; while researcher for the pharmaceutical company would normally get paid several times the amount that Ed is getting paid – even though he must be providing high standard of research work to be working for such a successful pharmaceutical company. Is he not being taken advantage of and exploited for his work, then?
Sure, a formal education is a great thing that can open so many doors, but if a job doesn’t require that formal education for someone to do the work very well, why is the pay any different? To me, that would be like McDonald’s hiring a college dropout and a college grad for the same job of making food and taking orders, but paying the college grad a significant amount more. It’s not like the skill hinges on the degree, so what are we saying about formal education by having this discrepancy of pay in crowdsourcing? To me it seems that this is just another way to reaffirm the “prestige” of formal education that is often used to justify exploitation and inequality, because so many people cannot afford to get that education and therefore their pay will suffer – even if they’re doing the same exact job as those who are formally educated. Therefore, I am wary of this phenomenon of crowdsourcing as it applies to jobs within companies.
While I am still not entirely sure what my ebook project will end up looking like, I think crowdsourcing will play a role if I choose to include, for example, stock photos. I may not one hundred percent convinced by the idea of crowdsourcing as it is being used by corporations and companies, but I think it will be necessary to turn to this manifestation of crowdsourcing for this project so that I can include decent quality photos in the ebook that are affordable and accessible enough. However, I’m worried that I’m going to now be part of the problem I find with crowdsourcing!