What motivates someone to participate in Crowdsourcing?

I’ve been reading John Hartley’s paper ‘Silly Citizenship’ this week.  Hartley talks about DIWO (Do IT With Others)  participation, involving collaboration and knowledge sharing online.  Through ‘doing it with others’, great things can be achieved.  Putting aside the association of teamwork with imminent death and destruction(!), this video:

illustrates the point well.

Crowdsourcing is an interesting example of DIWO:  I’ve often wondered, having taken part in citizen science projects via Zooniverse, what does motivate people to volunteer their time to online projects, such as Zooniverse or Wikipedia, for no clear reward other than personal satisfaction.

It does seem that meaning plays a large part in motivation – Chandler and Kapelner (2013) found that the higher perceived meaning of a task, the more motivated workers were to carry it out.  Although their study looked at short term paid work (via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk), I believe the results can be used to understand volunteer tasks as well.

For myself, Zooniverse holds meaning as I am interested in natural history, and I feel that by helping with animal identifications, I am making a valid contribution to research.  If I were asked to carry out a task where there was no obvious result, I would be much less inclined to take part.

Kuznetsov (2006) looked at Wikipedia contributors and their motivations in 2006 – this was early in the life of the site (it was established in 2001), so it may well be there was more opportunity for freedom of expression and original work at that time.  Nevertheless, she notes that contributors “work is often anonymous, their time is unpaid, and their edits are impermanent”(Kuznetsov, 2006, p.1) and yet they continue to contribute.  Why?  She identifies a sense of accomplishment and collectivism as essential, as well as altruism and autonomy.

This idea of a collective or community comes up again and again: “The rhetoric of community is to found everywhere (on Wikipedia)” (Rafaeli and Ariel, 2008).  If you look at the about pages of Wikipedia, there is a strong emphasis on community, with a portal to the following sections:


The use of the term ‘village pump’ is particularly pertinent, giving the impression of a village of inhabitants, gathered around a central area, where the pump, instead of dispensing water, this time dispenses information on the issues, policies and operations of Wikipedia.

Barnstars are also shown – these are awards which users of Wikipedia can give to contributors. They are awarded from within the Wikipedia community, and thus reinforce the idea of a group working towards the same aims and ideals.  They also give further motivation for contributors (more stars = more respected contributor = greater accomplishment).


Chandler, D. & Kapelner, A. (2010). Breaking monotony with meaning: Motivation in crowdsourcing markets. University of Chicago mimeo.

Hartley J. 2010. Silly citizenship. Critical Discourse Studies. 7(4),pp.233–248

Kuznetsov, S. (2006) “Motivations of contributors to Wikipedia,” ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society (36) 2, Article 1

Rafaeli, S., & Ariel, Y. (2008). Online motivational factors: Incentives for participation and contribution in wikipedia. In A. Barak (Ed.), Psychological aspects of cyberspace: Theory, research, applications. Cambridge University Press.

Video Inspiration.  2015. Funny Motivational Video TEAM = Together Everyone Achieves More.  [Online]. [Accessed 16th October 2016]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMt2uShZ67g

Wikipedia. 2016.  [Online]. [Accessed 16th October 2016]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

Zooniverse. 2016.  [Online]. [Accessed 16th October 2016]. Available from: https://www.zooniverse.org/


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