Playing with science: Exploring how game activity motivates users participation on an online citizen science platform

Greenhill, Anita; Holmes, Kate; Woodcock, Jamie; Lintott, Chris; Simmons, Brooke D.; Graham, Gary; Cox, Joe; Oh, Eun Young and Masters, Karen (2016). Playing with science: Exploring how game activity motivates users participation on an online citizen science platform. Aslib Journal of Information Management, 68(3) pp. 306–325.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/AJIM-11-2015-0182

Abstract

Purpose
The purpose of this paper is to examine intrinsic forms of motivation and particular incidents of play, socialisation, fun and amusement on an online crowdsourced citizen science platform. The paper also investigates gamised activity (Greenhill et al., 2014) as a form of intrinsic motivation adding a sense of play to work and tasks (Xu et al., 2012). These concepts are explored through close scrutiny of the online citizen science platform Zooniverse.org.

Design/methodology/approach
Qualitative techniques with an interpretivist approach are used to analyse online content found within citizen science platforms, related forums and social media by examining incidents of play, socialisation, fun and amusement to investigate how these aspects are applied as a form of user motivation.

Findings
The authors find that when users classify crowdsourced tasks voluntarily it does not matter how users are classifying as long as it is accurately. However, what does matter is why they are doing it particularly because of the complex processes that builds relationships between users and the platform. The authors present a conceptual model to enable deeper understandings of how forms of social interaction and play are motivating users contributing to citizen science project to participate in the online processes.

Practical implications
The findings of this paper provide practical implications for how citizen science, and also other crowdsourcing platforms, can engage with notions of play and gamification to motivate participation.

Originality/value
Using detailed examples of online content, the authors reveal how participants of the Zooniverse.org demonstrate aspects of “gamised” behaviour. The authors argue that the exploration of gaming as well as play provides evidence that contributing to citizen science projects can be both utilitarian and hedonic.

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