Click! A Crowd-Curated Exhibition
One of the striking things about the wisdom of crowds is that even though its effects are all around us, it’s easy to miss, and, even when it’s seen, it can be hard to accept.
—James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds (2004)
Inspired by James Surowiecki’s critically acclaimed book, The Wisdom of Crowds, this exhibition explores whether the author’s premise—that a diverse crowd is often wiser at making decisions than expert individuals—can be applied to visual art. Click! began in March 2008, with an open call for photographs depicting the “changing faces of Brooklyn,” a theme that allowed for a wide variety of interpretations by contributing photographers. After the submission period, there was a two-month online evaluation—the public assessed the 389 photographs that were submitted, using a sliding scale from most to least effective, and taking into consideration aesthetics, the photographic techniques used, and the work’s relevance to the exhibition’s theme. Evaluators were asked to self-select their knowledge level (from “none” to “expert”) and designate their geographic location.
The online evaluation tool was designed to promote fairness. Works were presented at random, and our algorithm ensured that all photographs were seen an equal number of times. To minimize influence, works were displayed without the artist attribution; evaluators were unable to skip past images or to forward links to individual works.
3,344 people participated in the evaluation process by casting 410,089 evaluations. Each of the 389 works was viewed approximately 1,054 times. What you see here are the photographs curated by the crowd—the top 20 percent of the 389 submitted works, which are displayed by size according to their relative ranking within this percentile.
A museum is rarely in the position of knowing so little about the content of an exhibition. In this case, the institution has provided a framework, but it was the collective effort of the crowd that determined which images should be on view today. Was the crowd wise in its evaluation? Do these photographs represent the “changing faces of Brooklyn”? We present the results here, and invite you to draw your own conclusions.
Manager of Information Systems