The world is in transformation. It always has been. Yet it is difficult to grasp the potential impact and power of transformative processes while they are emerging. Often these transformative processes involve a rediscovery of long-held social practices and traditions that have been repressed by public institutions, laws and systems. These practices surface again when new opportunities free them from the constraints they have been subject to. They gain momentum when the time is ripe. The Internet and Web 2.0 technologies have supported radical transformation. They have

contributed to a trend of public involvement in problem-solving, idea generation and work that Jeff Howe dubbed “crowdsourcing” in an article in the June 2006 issue of the magazine Wired. Crowdsourcing has been widely hailed as an innovative business model and democratic form of co-creation among business partners, including consumers (Surowiecki 2005; Tapscott and Williams 2006; Howe 2008; Tapscott 2008). Yet, the phenomenon as such is not new. As Belk (2010) has observed, sharing expertise, labor, ideas, and more is quite a common practice in people’s private domains, and increasingly online. The Internet as a technology and open space has provided a potent infrastructure for sharing on a global basis. Crowdsourcing was quickly embraced by management research and practice for its obvious

advantage of “putting consumers to work” (Zwick et al. 2008). Some have expressed moral concerns, seeing it as a typical exploitation strategy with the aim of misusing the brand enthusiasm of consumers for innovation and marketing purposes (Zwick et al. 2008; Cova and Dalli 2009; Kozinets et al. 2010). Crowdsourcing remains controversial. Crowdsourcing has become a buzzword with a myriad of connotations. Most of the managerial

literature on crowdsourcing, for instance, is mainly of a tactical nature; its strategic implications are still under-theorized (Hemetsberger and Kozinets 2010). This chapter attempts to partly fill this void. I will, first, offer a brief history and a definition of crowdsourcing before I describe its different forms. Several examples will demonstrate the broad range of initiatives subsumed

under the umbrella term “crowdsourcing.” Subsequent sections will suggest a theoretical approach for organizing crowdsourcing. A critical discussion of the limits and promise of crowdsourcing for the future concludes this chapter.