Be it crowd funding or crowdsourcing or anything else of a successful viral nature, the Internet is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to organizing a movement or getting like-minded individuals together for a common cause and/or purpose.
The idea behind crowd sourcing/funding is quite simple. Because of the connectivity of the Internet, organizing group efforts for projects is so much easier than ever before. Examples of this are all over the place, but one of the most powerful occurred during the Haiti earthquakes and the subsequent crowdsourcing led to an incredibly accurate recreation of up-to-date Haitian maps, which were absolutely necessary after the infrastructure of the country was destroyed.
In fact, the Haitian crowdsourced map projects is one of the more famous, and perhaps best examples of how effective the power of an Internet crowd is, especially when they have a like-minded goal.
One of the latest examples of the power of an Internet crowd with a shared goal may not be for something as important as recreating maps of an area that's been destroyed by a natural disaster, but the end result is fun, if nothing else. What we have, as pointed out by Laughing Squid, is The People of Burning Man book, which was created thanks to the power of an Internet grassroots movement.
For those who are unaware, Burning Man is a week-long festival that takes place in the Nevada desert. The attendees, for lack of a better term, are an example of the freaks Whodini was referring to in their timeless song, "The Freaks Come Out At Night," and that is meant as a compliment.
In the case of the Burning Man "picture book," the term "crowd funding" comes into play. When the concept was initially floated, it was shot down because of the sensitive nature of the content. For an example, just do a Google Image Search for "Burning Man" and you'll see why some publishers were unwilling to go with project. Undeterred, the book's creators went straight to the Burning Man community, via the Internet, of course, and because of their efforts, we now have an awesome book of images that does a great job of capturing different aspects of the attendees.
The book's site has more, and it provides a perfect description of how crowd funding works:
This project was shown around to all the main photo-book publishers by a seasoned agent. The publishers all said "no." They also asked to keep their copies! Despite their own interest, they said the content was too extreme, and that here would not be enough demand. It became clear that we were asking the establishment to publish something that was largely anti-establishment. So we appealed to the community, asking for enough funds to do the printing. Within 15 days, several hundred people had pledged their support, already totalling the full amount. By the time the funding period was complete, the community had contributed well over the amount for which we had asked. This proved that there was a lot of demand and support for the project, and it enabled us to do a larger print run of a book of good length and quality. This print run exists thanks to the support of over 500 fantastically wonderful human beings, whose names are all listed in these back pages.
While there are some people, the kind of folks who might comment on Fox articles about atheists, who would probably disapprove of the images and the people in them, the book does a great job of showing the world the United States is not just a nation of consumerists who are largely apathetic to anything outside of their bubble.
To commemorate the book's release, there's a highlight/trailer video of what you can expect from the images. It's a tad NSFW, due to brief nudity, but even the video itself is a testament to fantastic user-generated content:
After watching that, one thing's for sure: I have to attend at least one Burning Man festival before I expire.
What are some other examples of Internet grassroots movement you can think of? Does the clean up of Vancouver following the Stanley Cup Finals count? Let us know in the comments.