Competing or aiming to be average? Normification as a means of engaging digital volunteers

Chris Preist, Elaine Massung, David Coyle

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

65 Citations (Scopus)
773 Downloads (Pure)


Engagement, motivation and active contribution by digital volunteers are key requirements for crowdsourcing and citizen science projects. Many systems use competitive elements, for example point scoring and leaderboards, to achieve these ends. However, while competition may motivate some people, it can have a neutral or demotivating effect on others. In this paper we explore theories of
personal and social norms and investigate normification as an alternative approach to engagement, to be used alongside or instead of competitive strategies. We provide a systematic review of existing crowdsourcing and citizen
science literature and categorise the ways that theories of norms have been incorporated to date. We then present qualitative interview data from a pro-environmental crowdsourcing study, Close the Door, which reveals normalising attitudes in certain participants. We assess how this links with competitive behaviour and participant performance. Based on our findings and analysis of norm theories, we consider the implications for designers wishing to use normification as an engagement strategy in
crowdsourcing and citizen science systems.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProc. 17th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781450325400
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2014


  • citizen science
  • crowdsourcing
  • gamification
  • competition
  • social norms
  • personal norms
  • normification


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  • Digital Green Doors

    Preist, C. W.


    Project: Research

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