Theory of Crowd Capital - Model

The Crowd at HICSS 2013 Series – #2

The Theory of Crowd Capital

in Proceedings of the Hawai’i International Conference on System Science 2013

 John Prpić & Prashant Shukla

Beedie School of Business

Simon Fraser University

We are seeing more and more organizations undertaking activities to engage dispersed populations through IT. Using the knowledge-based view of the organization, this work conceptualizes the theory of Crowd Capital to explain this phenomenon. A diagram of our model is shown immediately below.

Diagram of Crowd Capital Creation Theory of Crowd Capital - Model

Crowd Capital is a heterogeneous knowledge resource generated by an organization, through its employ of Crowd Capability. An organization’s Crowd Capability engages the Dispersed Knowledge (Hayek 1945) of individuals –the Crowd.

Crowd Capability includes three dimensions by which an organization engages Dispersed Knowledge: a structure (some form of IT), content (the knowledge that the organization desires), and a process (internal work which sorts, filters, synthesizes, the incoming information).

Crowd Capital is always IT-mediated. In other words, forms of IT (web pages, mobile apps, sensors, software etc.) are always employed by organizations to engage the antecedent condition of Dispersed Knowledge.

Organizations exist in an environment of Dispersed Knowledge, hence, Dispersed Knowledge is not only external to the organization, but also  can be engaged internally, externally or both simultaneously.

Crowd Capital can be generated through episodic or continuous forms of IT.  Here we distinguish between forms of IT that necessitate community and collaboration to function, and those that do not. For example, we reason that Google’s ReCaptcha and Citizen Science applications like Foldit, do not require community and collaboration to generate Crowd Capital, whereas Innovation Communities (von Hippel 2005) and Peer Production (Benkler & Nissenbaum 2006) do.

If you’re interested, you can find a preprint copy of Prpić & Shukla (2013) here:

We very much look forward to your comments!

About the author

John Prpić

PhD student at the Beedie School of Business,
Simon Fraser University

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  • Great stuff! Nice to see work that focuses on underlying models.

    When you say that the structure behind the engagement of dispersed knowledge is always IT, are you focusing on a specific kind of knowledge (or interaction)? Surely companies accessed the distributed knowledge of their employees before IT was part of the structure – is the idea that this new concept of crowd capitol is in part a result of the new structure?


  • Hi Walter,

    Nice to meet you, and we’re really glad to see that you found the focus of our work useful!

    I’m also really glad that you commented, as it gave me some exposure to you and your work, which is very cool. It seems upon initial review that your work (ie the Legion system) is serving to blur the distinction that we make between the continuing and episodic forms of IT, and so in future works we’ll certainly take note of that!

    You raise an interesting question… and according to the dictates and bounds of this current work, the short answer is yes, Crowd Capital is always IT-mediated. Though it’s not only the IT, as Crowd Capability also includes the dimensions of process and content, which together serve to generate the knowledge resource.