Since the development of the World Wide Web led to public access to the internet in the early 1990s, the technology has been accompanied with promises about the democratization of knowledge. Claims that more citizens can be heard in more (effective) ways, ultimately bringing society closer to participatory and democratized knowledge production have grown even stronger with the increasing popularity of so-called 'Web 2.0' applications and 'social media'. Such claims seem to suggest that the possibility of making an active contribution automatically leads to everyone having an equal say, where information coming from various sources is given equal consideration. The implications of this suggestion are especially important for fields such as medicine and health care, where expertise is primarily considered to fall under a professional domain that privileges evidence-based knowledge (i.e. developed during randomized controlled trials) as the only 'valid' form of knowledge on which to base practice. In this article, the author examines claims regarding democratization of knowledge production in relation to the practice of crowdsourcing - where tasks such as problem-solving and quality control are 'outsourced' via the Web to specific target groups ('the crowd') - in the specific context of health care. Drawing on a study of the site ('my medicine'), the author questions how the mediating/knowledge brokering role of such sites influences the nature and structure of the information exchange on the site. How does the information produced via such sites 'fit' with existing information/knowledge hierarchies and infrastructures? How do Web 2.0 sites/applications simultaneously complement/reinforce and challenge traditional forms of knowledge production?.

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Information, Communication and Society
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Adams, S.A. (2013). Maintaining the collision of accounts: crowdsourcing sites in health care as brokers in the co-production of pharmaceutical knowledge. Information, Communication and Society, 1–14. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2013.808362