As I noted in my previous post, Assignment Zero will be producing feature stories on a reduced number of topics. In true crowdsourcing fashion, our contributors made this decision for us. If there's one similarity among all crowdsourcing models, it's that you do not control your contributors. That's the tacit contract in crowdsourcing: The crowdsourcer can't delegate work. It can only provide opportunities. The crowd decides the rest.
I can't exactly argue with the crowd's verdict, and in most cases I agree with it. We've had tremendous response to a handful of subjects, including the creation of Citizendium (we recently published the resulting article on Wired.com); and crowdsourcing in the novel, journalism and film. Clearly there's a thread to be teased out here. People get enthusiastic about culture, and how participatory technologies are changing the way it's produced and distributed. Likewise the topic of crowdsourcing in religion has drawn thoughtful, insightful reportage, and this too is understandable and to be applauded. I look forward to the results from all these projects.
But that said, I fear we're being forced to discard a few topics that I view as indispensable to any exploration of this phenomenon. Chief among these lacunae is the rise of the microstock industry. Stock photography has been irrevocably changed by the emergence of cheap, royalty-free photography, much of it shot by amateurs and sold through the so-called "microstock" agencies. Microstock undercuts its traditional stock photo competitors by well over 90 percent, and comprises, as far as I can tell, the most mature development of a crowdsourcing model in any industry. Anyone interested in how user-generated content is going to transform mass media needs to pay serious attention to the roiling waters in the photography world.
I know that a lot of photographers subscribe to my feed, or check this blog out regularly, and I'm hoping a few of you will agree with me and decide to contribute. We need people to interview key players involved with iStockPhoto, Fotolia, and ShutterStock, et. al. in an effort to determine how these companies have helped transform the world of stock photography. Who else should we interview? Are you ready to take some time to pitch in and increase our coverage of micostock houses? Let the editors of Assignment zero know here.
I know this subject inspires considerable passion (and divisiveness) in the photography community. This is your chance to transfer some of that passion into a researched, widely read and hopefully influential work of journalism.