Citizen Engineering: Evolving OSS Practices for Engineering Design and Analysis

Authors: 
Zhi Zhai, Tracy Kijewski-Correa, Ashan Kareem, David Hachen, Greg Madey
Citation: 
Zhai, Zhi, et al. "Citizen Engineering: Evolving OSS Practices to Engineering Design and Analysis." Open Source Systems: Long-Term Sustainability. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2012. 61-77.
Publication Date: 
September, 2012

Open Source Software (OSS) development has much in common with concepts such as crowdsourcing, citizen science, collective intelligence, human-based computation, and what we call “Citizen Engineering (CE)”. We report on several pilot projects that apply these shared principles of OSS development to engineering activities beyond software engineering. CE models harness human computing power from open communities, which commonly consist of a cohort of geographically and/or institutionally scattered citizens - professionals or amateurs - to collaboratively solve real-world problems. In most cases, the problems targeted are challenging to computers, but manageable or trivial to human intelligence. In these systems, while humans play fundamental roles, whether they are project architects or problem solvers, the implementation of CE is greatly facilitated by the advance of information technology, particularly the Internet, considered as “creative mode of user interactivity, not merely a medium between messages and people” [10]. In this paper, we characterize existing citizen engineering practices into 6 major categories, followed by a discussion of 4 ongoing projects, aiming to provide new perspectives and insights for achieving successful CE project designs.