Professional investigators in journalism and law enforcement can bring about positive real-world impact such as uncovering disinformation campaigns and catching criminals. However, investigators face daunting analytical and technical challenges, as well as time and resource constraints. In contrast, crowds of novices can be highly scalable and parallelizable, but lack expertise and may engage in vigilante behavior.
To address these challenges, I introduce the expert-led crowdsourcing (ELC) framework to support more effective and ethical investigations. ELC combines professionals’ domain knowledge and guidance with the speed and scale of crowds to produce greater results than either could alone. Through an ethnographic study of two law enforcement investigations, I uncover tensions in a real-world, expert-led crowdsourced investigation. I then instantiate ELC in two social computing 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 mis- and disinformation. Finally, I discuss extending the expert-led crowdsourcing framework to support professionals in other domains such as medicine and law, as well as efforts to empower crowd workers.
Sukrit Venkatagiri is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Computer Science at Virginia Tech. Sukrit is a Human–Computer Interaction researcher who employs a mixed-methods approach: he builds and evaluates social computing systems to support professional investigators in domains such as journalism and law enforcement. His research has won the Best Demo Award at AAAI HCOMP and he has been awarded the AI Journal Fellowship and the Rita Allen Foundation’s Misinformation Solutions Forum Fellowship. His work has been published at top HCI venues such as ACM CSCW, ACM CHI, and AAAI HCOMP, as well as featured by Forbes and Voice of America. Beyond research, Sukrit served as the Student Volunteer Co-Chair for CSCW 2020 and currently serves on the CSCW Steering Committee. In Fall 2022, he will join the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public as a Postdoctoral Scholar, and in Fall 2023, he will join Swarthmore College’s Department of Computer Science as an Assistant Professor.