An old proverb claims that “two heads are better than one”. Crowdsourcing research and practice have taken this to heart, attempting to show that thousands of heads can be even better. This is not limited to leveraging a crowd’s knowledge, but also their creativity—the ability to generate something not only useful, but also novel. In practice, there are initiatives such as Free and Open Source Software communities developing innovative software. In research, the field of crowdsourced creativity, which attempts to design scalable support mechanisms, is blooming. However, both contexts still present many opportunities for advancement.
In this dissertation, I seek to advance both the knowledge of limitations in current technologies used in practice as well as the mechanisms that can be used for large-scale support. The overall research question I explore is: “How can we support large-scale creative collaboration in distributed online communities?” I first advance existing support techniques by evaluating the impact of active support in brainstorming performance. Furthermore, I leverage existing theoretical models of individual idea generation as well as recommender system techniques to design CrowdMuse, a novel adaptive large-scale idea generation system. CrowdMuse models users in order to adapt itself to each individual. I evaluate the system’s efficacy through two large-scale studies. I also advance knowledge of current large-scale practices by examining common communication channels under the lens of Creativity Support Tools, yielding a list of creativity bottlenecks brought about by the affordances of these channels. Finally, I connect both ends of this dissertation by deploying CrowdMuse in an Open Source online community for two weeks. I evaluate their usage of the system as well as its perceived benefits and issues compared to traditional communication tools.
This dissertation makes the following contributions to the field of large-scale creativity: 1) the design and evaluation of a first-of-its-kind adaptive brainstorming system; 2) the evaluation of the effects of active inspirations compared to simple idea exposure; 3) the development and application of a set of creativity support design heuristics to uncover creativity bottlenecks; and 4) an exploration of large-scale brainstorming systems’ usefulness to online communities.