Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Crowd-sourcing everyday decisions

For once I'm going to actually keep it (relatively) short with a blog post.  I recently stumbled across this new smartphone app called "Seesaw" which allows you to crowd-source your everyday decisions.

I'm kind of fascinated by this for a couple of reasons, but mostly I'm thinking about it because I spend every day teaching students how to model decision making using economic theory, and I'm realizing that (outside of some game theory and public choice topics) there is very little economic theory that I am teaching them that is capable of modeling this increasing area of decision making in modern societies and economies.

From Kickstarter crowd-sourcing new investment decisions to Facebook polls and Qualtrics surveys, increasingly our decision making is becoming data-driven and crowd-driven.  Traditional "cost-benefit analysis" type models are taking a back seat to (what I would generally consider the lazier version of decision making) just asking other people to decide for us.

Kickstarter has even become a source of economic research funding.  An economist has recently started a Kickstarter for funding of a research project.  It is an interesting (if somewhat troubling) idea - the project is to analyze which aid programs have been most successful and the kickstarter donors get to vote on which types of programs are going to be researched.  I suppose this is fundamentally no different from applying for many other kinds of research funding, but it seems a bit unseemly and ethically troubling to me. (more on the project here and here)

On my summer reading list are The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki and Crowd Storm by Shawn Abrahamson, among other things, but I think I need to be figuring out how to start incorporating more models of social capital, group-think, peer effects, and other relevant topics to crowd-sourcing of decisions into my teaching of economics. 

I suppose I can just engage in active learning here:

  • Crowd question: What literature I should be reading in this area?

  • And students:  Any volunteers to do some research with me and download the Seesaw app and try documenting your decision making choices using it?  Would make a really interesting research project I think!  Only 364 days until the next Research Day ... time to start working on your papers/posters :)

1 comment:

  1. Per what we've been learning about computational social network analysis, it sounds like a power law distribution issue possibility here. For further reading (for all of you reading this blog post- Chris I know you know this):