Supporting and Transforming High-Stakes Investigations with Expert-Led Crowdsourcing

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Virginia Tech

Expert investigators leverage their advanced skills and deep experience to solve complex investigations, but they face limits on their time and attention. In contrast, crowds of novices can be highly scalable and parallelizable, but lack expertise and may engage in vigilante behavior. In this dissertation, I introduce and evaluate the framework of expert-led crowdsourcing through three studies across two domains, journalism and law enforcement. First, through an ethnographic study of two law enforcement murder investigations, I uncover tensions in a real-world crowdsourced investigation and introduce the expert-led crowdsourcing framework. Second, I instantiate expert-led crowdsourcing in two collaboration systems: GroundTruth and CuriOSINTy. GroundTruth is focused on one specific investigative task, image geolocation. CuriOSINTy expands the flexibility and scope of expert-led crowdsourcing to handle more complex and multiple investigative tasks: identifying and debunking misinformation. Third, I introduce a framework for understanding how expert-led crowdsourced investigations work and how to better support them. Finally, I conclude with a discussion of how expert-led crowdsourcing enables experts and crowds to do more than either could alone, as well as how it can be generalized to other domains.

expert-led crowdsourcing, crowdsourcing, experts, investigations, sensemaking, human–computer interaction, computer-supported collaborative work, HCI, CSCW