OpenFutures, Citizen Science and the Co-Creation Landscape

1. legodiagram2.brokerdiagram

(See end of post for more info and diagrams)

A few months back I was involved in researching and writing a paper for Sense Worldwide entitled ‘The Spirit fo Co-Creation’ focusing on the way organisations and the public are collaborating to get things done in more provocative, democratic and relevant ways.   Some might say that this so called co-creation is a research & insight process to bring practitioners, individuals and stakeholders together. Others might say that it is a business model and can be the strategy to crowdsource production, knowledge and value. Some also might say design by committee can impact on the quality of truly provocative ideas and others might call it open innovation and encourages organisations to finally share their knowledge for the benefit of all.

What interests me the most is the fact that there are many examples of what co-creation can be and has been (from Open Source to Pro-Am) and in particular I became interested in how it can now be applied to the OpenFutures and Citizen Science arenas.

OpenFutures or ARGs (alternate reality gaming) could be one way to describe various approaches that IFTF have found to aggregate collective perspectives on futures related info. For example Signtific, an online open futures lab,  encourages individuals to report weak signals of future related changes in science and tech issues as well as participate in trial forecasting games. IFTF set up the platform in early 2009 to encourage an open approach to scanning and collating info online, which they then use to funnel into their own strategic recommendations and 10year scans.

Superstruct was another openfutures/ARG platform or as IFTF called it, ‘the world’s first massively multiplayer forecasting game’  that ran for 6 weeks in October 2008. By inviting people to play the game, they were asked to help chronicle the world of 2019–and imagine how problems we may face will be solved. In doing so IFTF’s 10 year horizon scanning unit could observe how people invented new ways to organize and augment collective human potential.

One more recent openfutures/ARG approach was set up by Stuart Candy (phd researcher at Hawaii Research Center for Future Studies) and Jake Dunagan (Research Director, Tech Horizons program at IFTF) entitled CoralCross. In order to open a dialogue about Hawaii’s pandemic preparedness and allocation priorities, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded To help encourage public dialogue and illicit input for decision-makers on Hawaii’s pandemic priorities, the Hawaii State Department of Heath commissioned  the Hawaii Research Center for Future Studies to produce the “playable scenario” on the island of Oahu. The ARG was so prescient that it had to be delayed in its implementation due to the actual global swine flu pandemic alert in May 2009. Other ARG/OpenFutures platforms set up by IFTF include World Without Oil, After Shock and Ruby’s Bequest.

Citizen Science is another way to crowdsource information via the help of others on a large-scale with the power of the internet. Some examples include the SETI@home project, a scientific experiment that invited the public to run a free program that downloads and analyzes radio telescope data in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Or Gwap, a set of games that train computers to “solve problems for humans all over the world”, by understanding users perceptions of tags. BirdPost is a website to post sightings of birds, along with mapping and rare bird alerts. FoldIt is a game that enables the public to contribute to important scientific research by testing proteins and how they fold. The Galaxy Zoo files contain images of almost a quarter of a million galaxies. In order to understand how these galaxies formed, they use the public to help to classify them according to their shapes.

One of the most exciting and groundbreaking approaches to citizenscience for me is George Church’s Personal Genome project; who have been recruiting volunteers who are willing to share their genome sequence and many types of personal information with the research community and the general public over the pat few years and 23andme’s recent ‘Research Revolution’; A voting platform on their site asking the public to vote on which disease the 23andme  predicitve risk gene testing research company should be targeting next.

You could say that the current co-creation landscape is broad and varied and can stretch and hence blur strict co-creation definition boundaries. As way to understand this landscape I began to create diagrams to help visualise how and what was going on . The diagrams below outline several different models of collaborative creation that have been employed to help develop products, services or knowledge.

Below each diagram you will find a link to an organisation/initiative that represents an example of collaborative creation of some sort:



5cuusoo6 klusterdiagram

1. Large corporations who engage with a community of advocates to co-create on an ongoing basis. (Lego Mindstorms)
Large corporations who call for agencies to submit ideas to then partner with or broker a deal. (P&G with NESTA)
3. Consultancies or agencies who set up and facilitate the whole co-creation project to act as a bridge between a network of collaborators and a corporation. (Sense Worldwide)
4. Large corporations who call for ideas by offering a one-off contest with prize money or a manufacturing run. (Muji Design Award)
5. Large corporations who outsource briefs to communities that are fostered online. (Innocentive, Kluster, Crowdspirit)
6. Large corporations that host an online platform where individuals submit ideas or requests based on the brand, which that business can then select for development. (Cuusoo with Muji)



3 responses to “OpenFutures, Citizen Science and the Co-Creation Landscape

  1. I like the idea of visuals to demonstrate the concept. Personally have a complete dedication to collaborative efforts, despite what seems to be usually a long kick-off phase.

  2. It’s short, but you might be interested in a piece Darlene Cavalier (the Science Cheerleader) and I wrote on the growth of citizen science for the N.Y. Academy of Sciences.

  3. Pingback: plus six » links for 2009-11-13

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