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THE MYTH OF AMATEUR CROWDS

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This paper analyzes the discourse of amateurism as it relates to crowdsourcing, a now relatively common model where organizations engage online communities to design goods and solve problems. This paper's findings are twofold: (1) crowdsourcing is discussed in the popular press as a process driven by amateurs and hobbyists, yet empirical research on crowdsourcing indicates that crowds are largely self-selected professionals and experts who opt-in to crowdsourcing arrangements; and (2) the myth of the amateur in crowdsourcing ventures works to label crowds as mere hobbyists who see crowdsourcing ventures as opportunities for creative expression, as entertainment, or as opportunities to pass the time when bored. This amateur/hobbyist label then undermines the fact that large amounts of real work and expert knowledge are exerted by crowds for relatively little reward and to serve the profit motives of companies. The myth of amateur crowds thus has critical implications for labor rights in the digital age. To support this claim, a critical discourse analysis was performed on a corpus of more than 100 popular press articles containing ‘crowdsourcing’ and ‘amateur’ in the LexisNexis database. This paper argues that a discourse about crowdsourcing more focused on the truth that these crowds largely comprise professionals and experts would refocus the attention on individuals in the crowd as laborers, and thus people deserving of worker's rights, ethical treatment, and fair pay.
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Keywords: amateurism; critical discourse analysis; crowdsourcing; labor; professionalism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Journalism and Mass Communication,University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carroll Hall, CB 3365Chapel Hill,NC,27599, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2012

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