The Law and Ethics of Human Rights
crowdsourcing, public participation, local governance, public law, smart cities, digital platforms
This article explores the meaning and context of crowdsourcing at the municipal scale. In order to legitimately govern, local governments seek feedback and engagement from actors and bodies beyond the state. At the same time, crowdsourcing efforts are increasingly being adopted by entities – public and private – to digitally transform local services and processes. But how do we know what the “the right to the city” (RTTC) means when it comes to meaningful and participatory decision-making? And how do we know if participatory efforts called crowdsourcing—a practice articulated in a 2006 Wired article in the context of the tech sector—when policy ideas are sought at the municipal scale? Grounded in the ideals of Henri Lefebvre’s RTTC, the article brings together typologies of public participation to advance a conceptualization of ‘crowdsourcing’ specific to local governance. Applying this approach to a smart city initiative in Toronto, Canada, I argue that for crowdsourcing to be taken seriously as a means of inclusive and participatory decision-making that seeks to advance the RTTC, it must have connection to governance mechanisms that aim to integrate public perspectives into policy decisions. Where crowdsourcing is disconnected to decision-making processes, it is simply lip service, not meaningful participation.
Alexandra Flynn, "The 'Right to City' in the Era of Crowdsourcing" (2023) 17:1 L & Ethics HR 1.