Thursday, October 27, 2011
When something becomes one of the latest media obsessions, it's hard to find anyone criticizing it. That is a problem with crowdsourcing itself: if millions of google hits say it's brilliant it's hard to find the few who say otherwise. But evaluating something like crowdsourcing requires the negative, as well as the positive experiences.
Twitter demonstrates some of the problems. The more you use it, the less valuable it may be to you. If you want to communicate with like-minded people and organizations, you follow them and, hopefully, they follow you. But by the time you follow several hundred the number of communications you receive is far higher than anything you can get through, unless you do nothing else. Others following several hundred are also less likely to be reading tweets, including yours.
So when UNAIDS announce, very loudly because they can afford to, that they are 'crowdsourcing' youth about their views on HIV/AIDS, you know lots of people will take part. Who knows what the result will be, but to UNAIDS, who cares? They get lots of publicity, because using a word like 'crowdsourcing' gets media attention. They can publish whatever they want, regardless of what young people actually say. They have been publishing whatever they want for fifteen years, regardless of the evidence.
So the publicity says "Young people to write new UNAIDS strategy on youth and HIV". I just wonder, if some whippersnapper happens to question the HIV industry orthodoxy about Africans, especially young African females being highly promiscuous, how UNAIDS will respond. Because some have been urging them to investigate this highly racist assumption for years, without any result. Will those taking part share the UNAIDS meme about African sexuality, or will they fight it?
So far, UNAIDS have created a Facebook page. Their CrowdOutAids website just links to this page and there doesn't appear to be a lot going on yet. No doubt there will continue to be rave press releases about the success of the exercise. Again, UNAIDS can afford lots of 'successes'. But will the flabby, overfinanced institution do the one thing it has failed to do for the fifteen years since its establishment, shed light on why HIV transmission is so high among certain groups of people whose sexual behavior is by no means extraordinary?
By the way, there is a good article on crowdsourcing that raises questions about its use just after the Haiti earthquake, questions that were not raised by the subsequent flood of mainstream media articles. It's quite a different use of crowdsourcing than the UNAIDS program, but very enlightening. However, the author of the article received a lot of abusive comments because he dared to question the use of the technique.
I can't see UNAIDS risking such negativity. I'm confident that whatever we do hear, it will all be good news, and the media will report it accordingly.