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Crowdsourcing to make change

April 5, 2012

Hello everyone,

I was watching Bill Moyers on PBS the other day and he was discussing the lack of transparency in regard to political ad expenditures on broadcast television stations. Currently, the individuals or organizations who pay for political campaign television ads have very broad disclosure regulations, and the information is not available online. However, broadcast television stations are required by law to keep physical paper copies of these transactions. Bill Moyers was publicizing a recent effort led by ProPublica and the New America Foundation to utilize crowdsourcing in nontraditional ways to create and advocate for more transparency in the system. They have asked volunteers to sign up to visit their local network station or affiliate, view the public records, copy them and upload them to the web. This effort is not only ensuring that important information is being made available to the public but also calling attention to the absurdity of the current accessibility situation and the networks reluctance to make this information available online to the public. Volunteers are provided with information about how to access the records, what should be copied, and the most effective ways to share the information on the web. I thought this was a perfect example of how crowdsourcing can bring people together to accomplish an important and clearly defined goal. In this case, the crowdsourcing requires a lot of effort on the part of the volunteers, but it is precisely that effort that is being used to illustrate the current obstacles people face when attempting to access information that is supposed to be easily accessible to the public.

Here are the links to the sites explaining the project:

http://mediapolicy.newamerica.net/blogposts/2012/bringing_broadcaster_public_files_into_the_21st_century-63637

http://www.propublica.org/article/if-tv-stations-wont-post-their-data-on-political-ads-we-will

Just some food for thought as we continue to think about what role crowdsourcing projects can play in an expanding digital environment.

Lila Garza

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. mnuesca permalink
    April 5, 2012 9:40 pm

    I think crowd sourcing is definitely an interesting concept and it’s neat to see how it can be used in various ways and situations. For example, I came across the idea of social accessibility, which uses crowd sourcing to help make web pages more accessible to people with disabilities. On the other hand, I came across a quote last night when doing research for another class about how simply making information and images available online doesn’t necessarily make it “accessible” unless the end-user can search for it and find it. So it’s something to consider, whether or not crowd sourcing really aids in accessibility. Sure, it gets the information online, but how do people find it? Cataloging and taxonomies are still important, and that’s not something the crowd can necessarily provide well. More food for thought 🙂

  2. mjhopper permalink
    April 6, 2012 8:14 pm

    I love me some Bill Moyers! John Stewart has also talked about the lack of transparency in the ad expenditures. I think this is a great idea, but I can also see where it can have its problems. I agree with the previous poster, taxonomies and cataloging are important as they provide the way for people to access the documents. But, at least it is a start and a move in the right direction for Crowdsourcing.

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