Reconfiguring the sociology of the crowd: exploring crowdsourcing

Mark N. Wexler (Segal Graduate School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Publication date: 1 March 2011



The purpose of this paper is to examine the manner in which advocates of crowdsourcing reconfigure the classical sociological treatment of the crowd.


The approach taken conceives of the semantics of crowd theorizing in three phases, each of which makes sense of the power dynamics between the elite and the crowd. In phases one and two, the crowd is conceptualized as a problem generator; in phase three, the crowd is depicted as a problem solver and innovator.


This paper provides a critical look at phase three crowd theorizing. It explores how, by ignoring the disruptive power dynamic, crowdsourcing generates a credible image of the crowd as an innovator and problem solver. The work concludes with a discussion of the implications of phase three crowd theorizing for researchers in sociology.

Practical implications

Advocates of the wisdom of crowds, if interested in the sociological implications of their position, must attend to both the disruptive and costly implications of third phase crowd theorizing.


This paper maps the crowdsourcing process and places it in context. It argues that the distance between the classical social scientific treatment of the crowd is not nearly as great as crowdsourcing advocates would have one believe. Nevertheless, phase three crowd theorizing opens up sociologically relevant questions regarding the future portrayal of collective intelligence as a form of virtual property.



Mark N. Wexler (2011) "Reconfiguring the sociology of the crowd: exploring crowdsourcing", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 31 No. 1/2, pp. 6-20

Download as .RIS





Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.