PPE Speaker Series: Douglas Noonan

Douglas Noonan, a PPE Visiting Research Scholar from Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, will give a talk on the topic “Freeing the Freelancers: Innovation, Crowds, and Markets.”

The talk is co-organized with the Center for Humanities and will take place on February 6, 2019, from 4-5:30pm in the Squires Student Center (Brush Mountain A). The talk is tailored to appeal to both students and faculty, with plenty of time for discussion and interaction with the guest speaker. You are cordially invited to attend.

Here is the abstract of the talk: Crowdfunding has grown in popularity in recent years, and it offers a useful vantage point to observe some major forces at play in our economy and communities. How does crowdfunding tap into the wisdom of the masses and leverage the crowd? What kind of entrepreneurship uses crowdfunding, and how does that relate to more conventional entrepreneurship? As an innovation itself, how and where might we expect crowdfunding platforms to spur more innovation? Examining crowdfunding platforms as new marketplaces can help highlight some important insights about the power of markets, crowds, and geography.

This talk brings together several studies about entrepreneurship among freelancers and how and where new platforms like Kickstarter can catalyze innovation. Preliminary data analysis indicates a stronger draw for marketplaces like Kickstarter in markets where labor regulations are more restrictive. Further, smaller markets are disproportionately drawn to Kickstarter as it expands the audience for niche products thereby reducing minimum scales needed to launch. Expanding markets and reducing frictions enables these new ventures, and freeing these freelancers reflect the wisdom (and power) of the crowds. The crowd’s influence in individual projects can also be seen in the aggregate when examining where crowdfunding activity occurs. The world is still not flat, and clusters of economic activity – crowds – still drive successful crowdfunding locations.

Yet the geography of crowdfunding is not merely a mapping of people, wealth, human capital, and industry concentrations. First, the number of Kickstarter campaigns in any given city or town is rather evenly spread around the U.S. and Canada, while the total amount of funds raised or the total number of backers for campaigns in those cities and towns is far more geographically concentrated. Ideas can be found anywhere, but successful ideas tend to cluster where economic activity does. Second, digital media projects (e.g., music, videos) tend to geographically cluster more than location-specific projects (e.g., community gardens, theaters). Third, the hotspots of crowdfunding map onto pre-existing clusters of population and economic activity differently for digital media projects than for location-specific projects. The digital media projects cluster more than economic activity does, making a spiky world spikier. Crowdfunded innovations in digital media tend to concentrate more in a few big markets, as creators have freedom to relocate to key hubs while still being able to reach global markets. Conversely, the local projects tend to flatten out the already spiky world. For these location-specific projects, the new online crowdfunding marketplace tends to serve more geographically dispersed crowds.