Web theorist Clay Shirky posed mass collaboration as the holy grail of the crowdsourcing movement. If the web can bring people jobs, why not have them work on more challenging tasks and collaborate, rather than just perfoming menial tasks? The promise of collectivism is the social outcome when individuals collaborate on a big project with others, motivated by social rewards. In my other participatory environmental work, I had recently observed that people who care about "green" like to not just act on and talk about solutions to environmental problems, they often love to brainstorm and tinker. Unfortunately, I found that much of this testing was leading only to more commentary on the experts' work. What if citizens felt they had "permission" to do some of this green R&D themselves? Having real folks' input sooner in the process might save a lot of money invested in big institutional ideas that fail because they meet with social friction at implementation.
The project is to collectively identify environmental problems caused by city-dwellers and collaborate online to develop solutions. R&D-I-Y operates on a collaboration framework as simple as: propose> implement tests> report > propose tweaks > assess solutions> publish instructions.
I first presented R&D-I-Y at the DIPLO art/tech conference in Chile in Nov 2008. I have poured all of my time and life savings into implementing this idea since.
DrinkPee: a first attempt, looked at nutrient pollution of waterways by city dweller's pee. We got far with a solution but experiments with chemistry were too high a barrier to entry for most city dwellers.
Windowfarms: selected as an alpha test case for R&D-I-Y, windowfarms have been very popular and people are contributing like crazy, so now we are having to refine our tools to facilitate better coordination amongst them.