Crowdsourcing and Action Research. Fostering people’s participation in research through digital media.

By:  Chiara Certomà, Michel Pimbert

Web 2.0, mobile applications, big-data systems, virtual environments and simulations, geographical information systems and social networks are nowadays affecting our way of understanding and acting in the real world. The way people cooperate with scientists in coding, decoding, recording, interpreting and transforming information through web 2.0 software and interactive technologies is changing the methods for doing social research itself.

Most of these processes go under the definition of “crowdsourcing”, an online, distributed problem-solving process based on web-technologies, mobile applications and social media tools. This enables the harvesting of crowd-generated data and makes them available via open access databases and open-source software. Crowdsourcing processes offer several opportunities to conduct on-line fieldwork research by using dedicated tools (such as social mapping, multi-users research forum, volunteered geographic information, geo-referenced social networks, co-design, clouding data-recording devices, etc.).


Crowdsourcing through social mapping drawing together unconventional notes about people’s encounter with wine and places, ChiantiExperiences project(

In line with AR’s intent to generate actual change in the real worldwhile producing a theory on the process of change, crowdsourcing activates collective intelligence to design and enact new collaborative solutions to common concerns by providing spaces for dialogue and creative development. It advances bottom-up strategies for the collection and elaboration of qualitative and quantitative data that emerge from a plurality of knowledge forms, including informal and daily experiential knowledge.

As the hidden driving force behind these phenomena is the philosophy of open-source governance and open-content movement aimed at directly enabling the agency of ordinary citizens, crowdsourcing can also provides people with tools and procedures to engage in adaptive processes of discovery of needs and capabilities, skill development, and negotiation of values and identities.