Raw Authenticity

Why crowdsourcing is upping the ante for academic publishers.

GUEST COLUMN | by Petri Rahja

CREDIT Scoopshot imagesUntil recently, user-generated content (UGC) was used strictly for marketing and news media. The ubiquity of smartphone cameras has made it easy for citizen marketers and journalists to participate in the exciting ad campaigns and breaking news of the day. Now, for the first time, academic publishers are exploring the possibility of crowdsourcing UGC photos and videos for their content. At a business level, crowdsourcing will capture visual content at a fraction of the price a professional photographer would charge. From an educational perspective, UGC will improve the quality of learning materials in three distinct ways. 

Now, for the first time, academic publishers are exploring the possibility of crowdsourcing UGC photos and videos for their content.

First, UGC makes ‘native’ content possible. Rather than relying on the same stock photos for every market, publishers can cost-efficiently source images from students’ own countries and local communities. This means that all students will finally see images and videos that depict people they can relate to personally.

Second, UGC can build stronger engagement with academic materials. For example, reading about an historical event is one thing – seeing mobile videos crowdsourced from eyewitnesses is a far more captivating and authentic experience. At the recent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, the Charlie Hebdo marches in Paris, and the refugee crises in the Middle East and Ukraine, millions of images have been taken by everyday people who, unwittingly, will shape historical memory. They can now shape the next generation of educational content, too.

Third, crowdsourcing enables publishers to be more adaptable. Yes, publishers can collect visual content as events and discoveries unfold, just by incentivizing local eyewitness to capture images. This model has been proven in marketing and news media. But publishers can also be creative. They can challenge thousands of mobile photographers to capture the emotions, social situations, nature, industry, technology and aspects life that we see in textbooks. These photographers can capture life in ways that surprise and delight viewers.

The results will resemble the raw authenticity that students appreciate in Instagram feeds and Facebook posts. The deluge of UGC content will also allow publishers to rapidly update their digital materials far ahead of paper editions.

Image crowdsourcing will differentiate publishers from their competitors who rely on generic stock photos. UGC presents an opportunity to improve the quality of educational materials and make the experience far more relevant and personal for students. The human experience can now be taught through the perspectives of all people who bear witness to it.

Petri Rahja is the founder and CEO of Scoopshot, a leading mobile platform for photo and video crowdsourcing with over 600,000 app downloads across nearly 200 countries.

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