Back in January, when I demonstrated the Mechanical Turk to my Crowdsourcing students, I would show to them one particularly cryptic project.  What it was was simply two boxes.  The one on the left held an apparently zoomed-in image, while the one on the right was blank.  With a simple brush, you were asked to redraw the image on the right.  Colours were chosen with a colour dropper, and an adjustable ghost image in the right box made tracing easy.   We all knew that we were creating a larger image, guessing it was an art project, but I did not think it could possibly turn out too effective.

I was wrong.  The results of that project have surfaced, in the form of “Ten Thousand Cents“.  TUrns out we were drawing a one hundred dollar bill.

The total labor cost to create the bill, the artwork being created, and the reproductions available for purchase are all $100. The work is presented as a video piece with all 10,000 parts being drawn simultaneously. The project explores the circumstances we live in, a new and uncharted combination of digital labor markets, “crowdsourcing,” “virtual economies,” and digital reproduction.

This project serves as a brilliant metaphor of the normalizing power of crowds.  When you open up a project to the masses, governance becomes extremely difficult.  Anybody is given the ability to contribute erroneous information.  However, as you gain a larger community of contributors, things balance out despite the fouls.  Consider opinion-based efforts, such as Digg and Travelocity: eventually, the best items shine through.  That is why Wikipedia is so reliable considering the circumstances: because thousands of editors are better than one.  So how is Ten Thousand Cents relevant?

Still Ben, right?