Crowdsourcing Governance
August 10th, 2009

This blog was an early supporter of peer-to-patent, and I’m proud to have introduced Beth Simone Noveck to her early funder, Omidyar Network. Henry Jenkins showcases a post by Daren C. Brabham, based on his Ph.D. dissertation, about Get Ready to Participate: Crowdsourcing and Governance:

Crowdsourcing is a killer business model, effectively stitching the market research process into the very design of products, minimizing overhead costs, and speeding up the creative phase of problem solving and design. Theories of collective intelligence and crowd wisdom help to explain why crowdsourcing works: broadcasting a challenge online taps far-flung genius in the network and aggregating that talent can, for some types of problems, be just as effective as solving the problem in-house.

What I have argued for a few years now, and what I am trying to make clear in my dissertation, is that crowdsourcing has the potential to work outside of for-profit settings. In fact, it may be a suitable model for solving government problems, supplementing traditional forms of public participation to help government make better decisions with more citizen input.

Though you’d be hard pressed to see them ever use the word “crowdsourcing,” one such example of crowdsourcing in governance is Peer-to-Patent. Begun in June 2007, Peer-to-Patent is a project developed by New York Law School’s Institute for Information Law and Policy, in cooperation with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The pilot project engages an online community in the examination of pending patent applications, tasking the crowd with identifying prior art and annotating applications to be forwarded on to the USPTO. The project helps to streamline the typical patent review process, adding many more sets of eyes to a typical examination process.

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