Collective Intelligence

April 19, 2008

To me, collective intelligence is the intelligence of a group. The knowledge of one person is shared amongst the group. This concept is shown most clearly in the form of wikis.

The blog Wikinomics (a great blog that everyone should subscribe to, by the way) had a great article called Wikinomics Applied to Traffic that showed this concept working in the real world. While this is an odd article, and it might be a stretch to reference it for class, it does show how people working together create their own entity, in this case safer streets. As the article says, “It’s a great model for how pushing out central authority and decisonmaking to end users can result in more optimal behavior.” This sort of test is applicable to other parts of real life, including online wikis. Though, in a wiki it is information that is monitored instead of the actions of others. The people gathered their collective intelligence to form what they wanted themselves.

In Expert or Amateur? Both the author reasons that the web is taking a shift from collective intelligence, but not a complete shift. He quotes Tony Dokoupil from Newsweek, showing that while “everyday” people edit Wikipedia, the majority of articles are being edited by experts in the field the article is about. The author reasons that, while everyone submits content to Web 2.0 websites, it’s the experts that really shine through, that, “Today, an expert is someone who is expert in the network; connecting, sharing, sifting, ordering, and always taking the pulse of the wisdom of the experts and the crowd.” This is collective intelligence. The expert lends his knowledge to the group so that they, too can gain such knowledge.

Personally, this shows a much more open way of sharing information. For me, this means that much more knowledge is available to me than would have been years ago. In my PLE, networking is vital. I remember back when I used to always frequent message boards. We would share our knowledge amongst each other, and I learned so much more from them than I would have ever from a book. They would give advice on what to read, what to expect, who’s the expert in the field, as well as information on whatever we were discussing. It was a treasure trove of information. My PLE works in the same way (well, those message boards in a way were my PLE, even though I didn’t think of it that way), where others deal out whatever they know and can recommend and I do the same back. Looking up facts and discussing them among others is a much better way to learn than having a teacher lecture because it forces everyone to know the facts they are discussing (or writing about in a wiki).

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3 Responses to “Collective Intelligence”

  1. wayne said

    It is interesting how you are integrating several of the topics we have been exploring as well as activities and events from your life. Collective intelligence, group learning, PLE’s and BBS’s and all that we have collected as our learning process seems to all come together. I also began with early online communities such as the Well and tech boards and this was way before the internet. But the concept was the same, finding others with like interests and growing my “knowledge” through others.

  2. jdbosley said

    What I though was interesting when reading about collective intelligence was a series of low tech experiments someone conducted to research it. They asked a group of people to estimate something (how many jelly beans were in a jar, what temperature a room was, etc.) as individuals and then as a group without consulting with each other. Of the individuals 1 or 2 would come closer to the right answer than the average of the group, however, the individuals that guessed closest were not the same when it came to the next question. So in the course of a series of tests the group always out performed the individual, without collaborating on their answers, even though on a single test one or two individuals might out perform the group. I think this is a pretty good example of experts vs. amateurs. The experts can’t be right about everything all the time but overall the group will chose correctly, especially if they are able to communicate and collaborate on the answers.

  3. jlphannah said

    Funny how we think alike on the subject of forums/message boards. I used to use them all the time, mainly http://www.howdesign.com/forum. I’d ask questions, submit design work and interact with all these people, never for a moment did the idea of Personal Learning Environment come to mind for that very interaction. Its also intriguing to me how that same environment is a form of collective intelligence. Its really exciting to see all these details coming together and it helps to further understand just how much we are expected to know as designers.

    I have to say I really love coming to your blog you are always soo informative and fun to read. Keep up the great work. πŸ˜€

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