Collective Creativity: Tapping the Irish Diaspora and Beyond

By Maura Kelly (Adapted from Irish Echo article Feb, 2011)

“IRISH people have a long and proud tradition of creativity. From the poems of Yeats to the invention of Boolean Algebra – the foundation of modern computer science – Irish ideas have changed the way the world thinks,” says Matthew Greeley, CEO of Brightidea. He would know. Last year, the Irish government used his Brightidea software to power the global brainstorming project “Your Country, Your Call.” The call to action sponsored by President Mary McAleese was created to find innovative ideas to fuel economic recovery in Ireland. The project used Web 2.0 technologies to tap into the Irish Diaspora and received over 9,000 entries. It’s no surprise that the winning ideas deal with positioning Ireland firmly in the growth of the knowledge economy. The creation of an International Digital Services Centre and the construction of a mega green data centre on the island took top prizes.  

“Your Country, Your Call” is a great example of tapping into “collective creativity” or crowdsourcing (the wisdom of the crowd) to tackle specific problems and come up with solutions. Back in 2006, journalist Jeff Howe coined the term in a Wired magazine article, and since then it has grown in application and innovation.

Crowdsourcing is already used extensively in various sectors: the World Bank used it in Haiti to raise funds, the firm InnoCentive has thousands of scientists on tap to solve problems for a fee, and the familiar Wikipedia allows users to write and edit entries for its online encyclopedia. Not everyone is enamored with the idea however, and there can be negatives. What intrigued me is the renewed interest from folks in the media and entertainment industry.

 While I was researching the future of documentary filmmaking for an upcoming panel, I came across several media projects using crowdsourcing to create new interactive stories. One Day on Earth is my favorite.

This global documentary participatory project captured thousands of stories around the globe during a 24-hour period on Oct 10, 2010. Volunteers ranging from teens to award-winning directors filmed their experiences in an effort to create a rich picture of life on earth. Their stories explore everything from the triumph and tragedy that unite us, to the unique culture traditions that inspire us. The footage includes a bride in Dublin having her make-up applied for her wedding, babies in Norway taking swimming lessons with their mothers, to scientists in Antarctica sharing a unique peek into life at the South Pole.

 Day on Earth Participant Trailer –http://vimeo.com/11214910

The project is one step closer to completion and last month it launched its geo-tagged video archive at www.onedayonearth.org- where users can access a database of stories.  Folks who contributed media are also allowed to download One Day on Earth footage for non-commercial use (with credit). A feature documentary is slated for fall 2011, and make note, plans for a second worldwide participatory media event is planned for 11.11.11. 

A similar project self-dubbed “the world’s first user-generated feature film,” Life in a Day premiered this January at the Sundance Film Festival. This time, Google crowdsourced submissions from the public who recorded a slice of their lives on camera. The project is a partnership between YouTube, and producer Ridley Scott of Blade Runner and Thelma & Louise fame. With heavy hitters like that on board, you can see how it beat One Day into the theatre. They do say timing is everything.  

Also at Sundance, director Lance Weiler’s “transmedia” project, Pandemic 1.0 was one of the most talked about experiences at the festival. The project takes the ideas of interactivity and collaboration to another level and involves mobile phones, social gaming, a scavenger hunt for storyworld objects, Twitter, Facebook, and viral videos. The Pandemic 1.0 experience unfolded over the course of 120 hours and audiences both online and offline worked to stop the spread of a mysterious virus that was affecting attendees (played by actors who provide updates through their own Twitter feeds.) The sprawling work was a hugh social experiment and highlights the interconnected future of technology and storytelling.

http://vimeo.com/19167285— Learned to Start a Pandemic

Meanwhile, back in Ireland the politicians are experimenting with a form of participatory government. In January Fine Gael revamped its Website www.finegael2011.com – so citizens could send in ideas on job creation, the economy, the health service, and other issues. Stateside, New York City and other major US cities are launching a number of tools to crowdsource information on ideas to help their city run more efficiently and much more.

Crowdsourcing is evolving and in the right context with the right tools it is a strategic way for organizations to work together for mutual advantage. They say your expertise is in your network and one of my favorite groups is the Irish Business Organization. Join the IBO on February 9th at the Irish Arts Center for a special evening with Brian Tracy International on “Achieving Your Goals Faster.” And on Feb 15th, the popular business networking breakfast will be at the Fitzpatrick Manhattan Hotel. For more information go to www.ibo-ny.com.

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