"What is ROI on Crowdsourcing?"SlideShare.
Accessed April 5, 2017. https://www.slideshare.net/
"The problem with crowdsourcing is that it’s been conclusively proven not to function in the way we imagine it does: a handful of users end up contributing massive amounts of labour, [...] we could’ve hired subject experts to consult, and given them a living wage to do so, instead of building platforms to dehumanize labour. It also means our systems rely on privilege, and will undoubtedly contain and promote content with a privileged bias[.]" – Allana Mayer, "Crowdsourcing, Open Data and Precarious Labour"
I decided to return to the Activism & Organizing Timeline on OutHistory.org that I helped to research last year. As of now, it is crowdsourcing contributions. However, it has not been updated since last fall. Though this project was intended to
Mayer makes the excellent observation that the bulk of our knowledge production and the systems within which it takes place are dominated by a small collection of specialists (or even hobbyists) that have the time and interest to actively seek out crowdsourcing projects. (I only superficially toyed with this issue back in October.) However, Mayer makes it very clear that the core agenda of this work – to democratize the exchange of information (facts and/or ideas) – is undermined by its own process, be it the (pseudo-)privatization of the platforms through which we contribute or the very nature of "niche knowledge" and the sorts of people it attracts.
I would, however, like to present an alternative argument on the very real ways in which crowdsourcing continues to support the dominant (meta)narrative. Consider queer historiography. The field was originated in tandem with LGBT activism and grassroots archival work in the community continues to grow. The preservation of our own legacy is essential to building unity and maintaining institutional memory; our records practically provide a roadmap to effective (and ineffective) political organizing – where we were, where we are going, etc. Now, consider sites like Equaldex and OutHistory.org. Who do these sites attract? It is highly unlikely that the contributors (at least most of them) are cishets.
Yet, within our community itself, knowledge of and engagement with our histories is very stratified. To put it bluntly, there's a pantload of gay white men out there – writing our histories and having histories written about them. Though OutHistory.org has made an effort to create separate transgender, African American, Native American, Latinx American, and Asian American LGBTQ history timelines, they all remain empty. Is this anyone's fault in particular? Maybe it is the biases that compose the historical record itself, the gaps in our own narratives, the internalization of that voicelessness by QTPOC or the valorization of the white (hu)man. Maybe it is all of these things.
Bearing these issues in mind, I decided to contribute some small points of interest that I came across in my independent study work on tongzhi ("LGBT") activism in Hong Kong. What I liked about re-adding to this Euro/Americentric project is that it felt reparative – like I was breaking into the monolith. What I did not like was that it also felt insignificant – trying to edit something to which I once had complete access, through the backend. I will probably not be notified of any updates (if there are any). I do not know how my contributions will be assessed by "the powers that be." However, the process is opaque by necessity; the "free-for-all" method really only works as an ideal, not as a reality. (For some inexplicable reason, I am reminded of the PublikFacebook™ experiment from two years ago.)
This project was opened to the public because that is what OutHistory.org and other grassroots initiatives are (or ought to be) about. Indeed, the note at the end of the timeline declares: "Our aim is to create a thorough representation of queer history that pays attention to the many conversations about what sexuality has meant in various communities across time." Everyone is invited to participate, and citations are, of course, required.