Crowdsourcing, short paper help


After reading the article “Crowd-Powered: Why Doritos Lets Fans Make
Its Super Bowl Ads” choose one of the other
articles (“Crime solving by crowdsourcing”, “Science by crowdsourcing:
MIT researcher creates online game to gather help unlocking brain’s
mysteries”, or “Should we trust the wisdom of crowds?”) that interests
you. Discuss how the Internet has influenced the power and pitfalls of
crowdsourcing, citing the two articles to support your case. Be sure to write using APA Writing Style.
As FBI officials worked to identify a suspect in the Boston Marathon
bombing, parallel investigations were being conducted on the Internet,
where -amateur sleuths have been identifying their own cast of potential

There’s the guy with the dark backpack. The man with mangled pants
running from the blast. The shadowy figure on the roof of a Back Bay
building, moments after the explosion.

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On Internet message boards and -viral image websites, do-it-yourself
detec-tives have taken up the mantle of investigating, uploading photos
from the moments before and after the explo-sions and analyzing them for
clues on who might be responsible.

Many of the photos being scrutinized have also reached federal
officials, who have asked spectators to send in any photos they may have
from the day’s events.

“There has to be hundreds, if not thousands, of photographs, videos, and
other observations that were made down at that finish line yesterday,”
-Timothy Alben, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, said
at a press conference Tuesday, in asking for the public’s images. “You
might not think it’s significant, but it might have some value to this

Because the explosions occurred in the most-photographed stretch of the
race, some civilians hope that the key to solving the investigation may
come from one of those iPhone snapshots or stills from amateur video,
and they -believe their guesswork may unearth that critical clue.

Reddit’s “Find Boston Bombers” -forum already has more than 1,700 users,
who have highlighted suspicious persons and objects through collected
photographs and videos. On, dozens have uploaded snapshots of
the crowd close to the 26-mile marker.

In bold red circles, Internet commenters identified ominous black
backpacks and drew yellow arrows to highlight individuals in the crowd
perceived as shifty. With annotations added, they pointed out bystanders
who appeared to be alone, using a cellphone, appearing to pay no
attention to the finish line, or carrying a bag that could be big enough
to hold a bomb.

“This guy is bent over looking through a bag near the area where the bomb detonated,” wrote one.

“Thought: Has anyone looked at people with strollers?” wrote another.

Hunting for clues in crowd photos in the wake of a national disaster is
not a new phenomenon, said Mark Fenster, professor of law at the University of Florida, and author of “Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power In American Culture.”

After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Fenster pointed
out, many civilians took to scouring photos of the Dallas motorcade
route. Some unearthed significant clues, he said.

“There is a sense of powerlessness from events like this that I think
invites us to try to make sense of who did it,” Fenster said.

For many, the appeal of sharing and scrutinizing images from before and
-after the tragedy, Fenster said, comes out of an honest desire to help.

Others may also be drawn to the idea of proving themselves smart and
savvy, finding a nugget of information that no one else may have noticed
and impressing others with their perceptiveness.

“It’s kind of like a fun video game,” Fenster said. “There’s a real
excitement and energy involved in taking these photographs and
connecting the dots. It’s like solving a puzzle.”

But some are concerned that the -efforts will lead to unfounded accusations against innocent bystanders.

“So far, I’ve seen about 40 individuals labeled as ‘suspicious,’ ” wrote
one commenter on Reddit. “By using a loaded term like that, people are
already asso-ciating those individuals . . . with something nefarious.
They’re not suspicious — they’re people watching the end of a

The moderators of the Reddit comment thread tried to allay the concerns,
by discouraging users from spreading the photos on Facebook and
Twitter. Members, they said, simply wanted to help. Any clues
identified, they said, would be forwarded to federal detectives. “We do
not condone vigilante justice,” one user wrote. “Our aim is simply to
provide tips for the FBI, not to take matters into our own hands.”

Fenster said that there can be real damage from premature speculations,
as in the case of Richard Jewell, the -police officer and Olympic
security guard falsely accused of planting a bomb at the 1996 Summer
Olympics in Atlanta.

Internet accusations can be fueled by prejudices based on race or religion.

But, Fenster said the phenomenon may, in some ways, be positive. With
hundreds of photos of the crime scene before and after the blast, it is
possible curious civilians may identify pieces of information that
federal officials overlook, he said.

“To have all these eyeballs looking at these photographs is potentially enormously helpful,” Fenster said.

Still, others have taken to the Internet in an effort to prevent undue
speculation. Hours after the bombing, word spread of a just-created
website called

It’s a simple white page with plain black text that initially read, “I
bought this domain to keep some conspiracy theory kook from owning it.”

On Wednesday, the site only read, “Please keep the victims of this event and their families in your thoughts. Thank you.”

Martine Powers can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.

Credit: By Martine Powers Globe Staff


Caption: FBI investigators combed Boylston Street near Berkeley Street
for clues. Cautioned not to accuse the innocent, many civilians hope to
assist by examining scores of amateur images. Bill Greene/Globe Staff

Word count: 893(c) The Boston Globe Apr 18, 2013

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