Crowdsourcing

By Jon Hillenbrand In Photography

The White Party

I love the term “crowdsourcing”.  In a nutshell, it involves giving a problem to an undefined group of people to solve, similar to outsourcing but specifically to an undefined group rather than a specialized party or team.  Companies can do this on the web in order to create solutions to problems they can’t solve in-house, problems that no one seems able to solve.  On wikipedia, a particular sentence stuck out to me:

“The web provides a particularly good venue for crowdsourcing since individuals tend to be more open in web-based projects where they are not being physically judged or scrutinized and thus can feel more comfortable sharing. This ultimately allows for well-designed artistic projects because individuals are less conscious, or maybe even less aware, of scrutiny towards their work. In an online atmosphere more attention is given to the project rather than communication with other individuals.”

Something that every individual has to deal with in the workplace is having a presented idea judged based on the package it arrives in.  The idea is judged based on the presenter’s physical appearance, temperature of the room, time of day, audience distance to or from lunch, etc.  Seldom is the idea based on the actual merits of the idea.  I myself have confronted this quite often several times in the past.  At brainstorming sessions in a very corporate environment, new ideas are given lip service.  Announcements are made that “no idea is too crazy”.  But in practice, many of the most radical ideas are not given an ounce of consideration.  People know that at the end of the meeting, the regular rules will apply like a ton of bricks.  So any idea that sprouts and grows out of the brainstorming session will eventually have to be chopped down to fit out of the door and into the corporate hallway.  So often, the ideas that are put forth in the brainstorming meeting get chopped down soon after leaving the mouth of the presenter.

I’ve also had the experience of someone telling me that I have great ideas in brainstorming sessions, but that I am shackled by the fact that I’m the company photographer.  So I could come up with the most ground-breaking earth-shattering idea that would send the company up a glittery rainbow of success.  But because I create beautiful pictures instead of sit in meetings, my voice has less weight.  I’ve often countered this by giving evidence from things I’ve read about the successes of other companies.  That way, it’s not my crazy idea, but the tried and tested experience of a group of others.  In essence, I’ve crowdsourced the idea to another company and presented the results to my own.

I’ve often crowdsourced ideas by making new websites of things I’m into like taking pictures of cars or creating stuff for computer games or  drawing comics.  I’ll use these sites to help me judge what people would like to see me create.  I guess it’s a marketing approach to creativity, which is sometimes a journey toward failure.  But it’s also good if you want to interact with an audience.  When I was back in college making student films, I would make films that I thought people could get excited about.  Other people seemed to try to make the most outlandish crazy film they could imagine.  Luckily my films were popular and developed a small cult following.  But I was always confused by the films that were basically abstract visual poems that could seldom be related to in the venue of a classroom.  I learned then that if you wanted to receive positive feedback and maybe make a living off of your art, you had to appreciate the viewpoint of your audience.

Recently a friend of mine told me about a photographer she grew up with who recently received great success by photographing dogs underwater in swimming pools.  She concluded with, “Dogs and kids, man.  People will pay tons of money for that stuff.”  It’s funny because I’ve always been a strong supporter of creating artwork that sells and that people can latch onto and get excited about.  But when anyone asked me if I wanted to shoot pets or weddings or kids for a living, I somewhat cringe.  Those ideas seem so commercial to me that I don’t want to engage in them.  I’ve photographed kids before and I’ve gotten some results that I very much love.  But doing it for a living is something I can’t seem to limit myself to.  I’m not sure if I am coming full circle, doing a 180, spinning in circles or just spinning my tires.  I guess I feel close to some sort of success that I can be proud of while doing a job that pays the bills for now.  Part of me feels that too much happiness will lead to a satiated id which will make me lazy.  Part of me feels like I should just take my talents and make as much easy money as possible while I still can.  I guess I’m still searching for balance and happiness.

Kid and Dad at Wagner Farms Brady Family Reunion

Dog and Owner - Lake Michigan, Chicago

 

 

What do you think?