Title: Intentional Crowds: Using Goal-Aligned Microtasks to Bring Together and Mobilize Groups
Speaker: Aaron Shaw (Communication Studies, Northwestern University) 
Date: Wednesday, March 20th
Time: 12-1pm
Room: GHC 6501 

Many approaches to crowdsourcing and crowd work treat participants as some sort of unruly mob. According to this point of view, a crowd exists to be harnessed, controlled, filtered, or otherwise directed -- often completely irrespective of the goals or intentions of its members. While this makes sense in certain contexts, I argue that the presence or absence of goal alignment in crowd-based systems reveals a design opportunity in the form of crowd participants' intentionality. Building from goal alignment, I develop the idea of intentional crowds as a means of both mapping previous systems and conceptualizing a novel approach to the design and deployment of microtasks. An intentional crowd is a distributed collective with a common set of interests or objectives, which are defined through shared affiliations, resources, or needs. As I illustrate with two early stage projects, intentional crowds can be brought together and their members mobilized through the performance of microtasks that advance their shared goals. With intentional crowds, in other words, goal-aligned microtasks are not only a product of crowdsourcing, but also a means to promote greater interaction, connection, and engagement.

Aaron Shaw studies collective action, collaboration, and mobilization online. Current projects address the the organizational factors that determine whether peer production communities (like Wikipedia) succeed or fail; mobilization and engagement in online systems; and the dynamics of crowds. Currently, Aaron is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University and a Research Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Beginning Fall, 2013, he will be an Assistant Professor at Northwestern. He holds degrees from Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.