Crowdsourcing Changes To The U.S. Constitution?

Crowdsourcing Changes To The U.S. Constitution?

Iceland's bold move to adapt their constitution based on feedback gathered through various social networks has the international community perking up and taking note. Here we debate the relative merits of the process.

Parneet Gosal
  • 21 june 2011

Iceland is a small island nation that achieved independence from Denmark in 1944. In 2008, it achieved global notoriety due to the systemic failure of its banking system. Of late, it has been in global news headlines again for a completely different reason – the Icelandic government’s decision to change the original constitution based on suggestions posted by citizens via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. CNN Host, Editor-at-large at TIME Magazine, and arguably one of the most influential foreign policy advisers of this generation, Fareed Zakaria,  recently suggested that the U.S. Constitution be amended based on similarly crowdsourced suggestions from the American populace, and was met by a storm of vitriol.

Before we decide to support or deride Zakaria’s suggestion, let’s take an objective look at what crowdsourcing means, the impact it has had on business and whether it can be similarly used for government. The term was first coined by Jeff Howe in a 2006 article in Wired magazine but there have been examples of its usage throughout history. As a distributed problem-solving mechanism, the term means using the power of the (faceless) crowd in an open call to submit ideas, funds and even votes as a cost-efficient way to solve problems. The term has increasingly become associated with Web 2.0 and subsequent technologies.

First the more negative aspects of the proposition. Crowdsourcing most often involves getting free advice i.e. those sharing ideas and solutions are not compensated for their efforts, therefore there is less of a filter on scope and utility of the suggestions. There is also the unpredictability in the quality of results, susceptibility to malicious group efforts, lack of suitability for complex projects and the difficulties involved in managing large-scale group projects.

That said, there is undoubted appeal to the model that is particularly suited to the following instances:

  • It’s a great way to get direct feedback from customers for a business enterprise, or for government organizations. New York City agencies have taken advantage of this to obtain feedback from New Yorkers on improvements they’d like to see in the City. In fact, some of these suggestions were successfully incorporated in the NYC Digital Roadmap presented by Chief Digital Officer, Rachel Sterne. It can also be used to garner widespread contribution on problems in science, manufacturing, biotech, medicine and other fields
  • Users as participants is a great way to get broad-based and thorough input on new software services
  • Creative projects such as web design have been much enriched by the crowdsourcing model. Crowdspring is a good case in point
  • Crowdsourced art projects are a wonderful way to democratize art

Possibly one of the biggest benefits for government is that crowdsourcing is one of the best ways to get up close and personal with the people being governed and help reify the notion of democracy that we all hold dear.

Despite having the world’s oldest Parliament, Iceland’s innovative approach and openness in changing the constitution has lessons for other nations. The world will no doubt be watching this experiment closely, as will we.

Originally published on Seedwalker


Lyft Gives Free Rides To Those Who Have Had Too Much To Drink

Syndicated Yesterday

Banned Books Week Urges People To Seek Out Controversial Works

Joining the annual celebration of the right to read, US author Jessica Herthel called for 'more information, more voices' to protect diversity

Augmented & Virtual Reality Yesterday

Outdoor Camp Presented In 360° VR By X Games Gold Medalist

The video features campers riding BMX trails, zip lining through the woods, and performing big-air jumps


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Travel Yesterday

Boeing Wants Passengers To Control Their In-Flight Experience Through Their Phones

The airline manufacturer is embracing automation through a new generation of mobile travel apps

Augmented / Virtual Reality Yesterday

VR Surgery Videos Offer Interactive Medical Education

Dutch startup MDLinking hopes to globalize communication between students and medical care professionals with virtual reality content

Culture Yesterday

Use Twitter To Learn A New Language

tDict is an app that uses the social media platform to help you search for words in local dialects

Mobile Yesterday

This Startup Wants To Digitize The Loose Coins In Your Pocket

CoinOut is a new app that lets you save your extra change from cash transactions as electronic funds

Advertising Yesterday

McDonald’s Is Accepting Trash As Currency In Exchange For Burgers

An initiative in Stockholm is trying to keep streets clean while satisfying hunger


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed september 21, 2016

Creative Agency Founder: Using VR As A Race Relationship Tool

Maurice Bernstein, CEO and Founder of Giant Step, explores the value in transforming headsets from high-tech entertainment tools into empathy machines

PSFK Labs september 22, 2016

The Future Of Work: Why Innovation Is Every Employee’s Job

PSFK Labs sits down with management at Johnson & Johnson to learn how the company comes up with their next ‘big idea’

Culture Yesterday

Google Is Using Virtual Paper Airplanes To Bring People Closer Together

The tech giant released an app that lets people throw their good wishes out into the world on the International Day of Peace

Advertising Yesterday

Get Paid For Traveling In San Francisco After Rush Hour

BART Perks rewards commuters who take early or late trains by giving them extra points to trade for money

Culture Yesterday

Artist Designs Covers For Books That Don’t Exist

Published by the fictional 'Specious Books,' the subversive works facilitate a conversation regarding the artistic integrity of graphic designers

Work Yesterday

Editorial Roundtable: The Arrival Of The People-First Workplace

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX enumerate the reasons why companies need an employee-embracing workforce in order to exist

Food Yesterday

Bringing Food Innovation To America’s Crowded Milk Market

a2 Milk's Blake Waltrip, Chief Executive of the USA region, discusses how the distributor plans on bringing the popular drink for the dairy-sensitive to the States


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Financial Services Yesterday

Device Makes Digital Currency Feel Tangible

The concept gadget wants you to experience the highs and lows of spending money

Design & Architecture Yesterday

Why Building Better Offices Is The Key To Employee Engagement

Interaction Designer and Audio-visual Technologist at ESI Design illustrates the value in creating environments filled with surprise and delight

Augmented / Virtual Reality Yesterday

NBC Is Planning To Stream The Presidential Debates In Virtual Reality

Partnering with AltspaceVR, the broadcaster offers another way for Americans to engage with the election season

No search results found.