Citizen Science: Understanding Online User Behaviors and Technologies

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The success of online crowdsourcing and peer production platforms depends on the voluntary participation of people to make contributions – in Wikipedia people write and edit articles, in free/libre open-source software (FLOSS) projects people compile software code and documentation, and in online citizen science projects people assist scientists in the collection and analysis of scientific datasets. A persistent problem plaguing crowdsourcing and peer production platforms is encouraging people to join, and once they join to remain active contributors. The research reports on the findings of an online field experiment where novelty cues were used to motivate volunteers. Novelty is a characteristic of objects and environments frequently associated with increased human attention; however, a dearth of empirical research exists exploring its effects on human behaviors in online settings. I provide an overview of novelty unpacking its theoretical origins, neurological processes, physiological responses, and the results of an experiment where the behaviors of volunteers to three citizen science projects were assessed. Such descriptions are necessary to understand the basis, mechanisms, and purposes of novelty and its effects on human behavior.