Research Update: Technology Planning in Crowdsourced Exhibition

Crowdsourcing was coined as a term in 2006 by Jeff Howe, editor of Wired Magazine, when he wrote, “Crowdsourcing represents the act of a company or institute taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined network of people in the form of an open call. The crucial prerequisite is the use of the open call format and the large network of potential laborers.” Within a visual arts setting, crowdsourcing can be used to curate exhibitions, meaning that an art organization outsourced some or all of the curatorial duty of an exhibition, generally defined as “the organization, discussion and presentation of information including objects, facts and opinions, in order to create value and meaning to be understood by the public.”


In my last research update, I discussed the importance of planning when seeking to utilize technology in a crowdsourced exhibition. My recent research, exploring the pros and cons of launching a crowdsourced exhibition, attempts to help arts organizations make informed decisions regarding if they should implement crowdsourcing strategies to curate an exhibition and how to do so.


Although unjust to criticize crowdsourcing as a publicity stunt, crowdsourcing does play an important role in marketing. Functions include enhancing an organization’s branding, broadening its audience base, and driving online traffic. Crowdsourcing is an especially great approach to engage younger generations since the Millennials reportedly “want to lend their knowledge, expertise, and time to help nonprofits,” “prefer to connect via technology,” and “give to have an impact,” according to The 2013 Millennial Impact Report.

In order to build an organization’s image as friendly with Millennial audiences, arts organizations need to meet that generation’s desire to connect and interact with nonprofits via technology. One approach is for arts organization to consider creating a microsite when launching a crowdsourced exhibition. A microsite has several potential advantages: First, a microsite provides arts organizations with the opportunity to build a brand, introduce new concepts, and highlight ongoing efforts. Second, unlike adding new webpages to an organization’s website, designing a microsite doesn’t have to follow the style, interface, or layout of the organization’s official site. This flexibility enables marketers and web designers to experiment with new styles and technological features on a microsite. That flexibility leads to the third potential advantage, that the style and features of a microsite can be tailored to fit the persona and preferences of the particular exhibition’s target audience.


After considering the benefits of a microsite, arts organizations should analyze its potential drawbacks. A microsite sometimes confuses visitors and can create an inconsistent user experience. In addition, microsites are expensive to build and maintain. While a campaign microsite can be temporary and needs little or zero maintenance after the campaign is over, a microsite for a crowdsourced exhibition is recommended to be maintained for ongoing educational purposes.


My upcoming white paper will provide further insights on how arts organization can use technology to launch crowdsourced exhibitions, with a concentration on the utilization of online platforms and social media channels as facilitating tools. Stay tuned.