Collective Intelligence

We’ve read some compelling theorists on the political and social potential of collective intelligence in this section of the course.  Consider Henry Jenkins’ analysis of user-created content and fan fiction.  How do collectives emerge around established mass-marketed and trademarked stories and what new creative potentials do fan-based groups introduce?  Also, consider Jane McGonigal’s arguments about harnessing the skills of massively-multiplayer online gamers to think through larger and more pressing contemporary issues.  You might think about how “players” worked as a community to imagine virtual solutions  to the looming oil crisis in her alternate reality game, World Without Oil.  Finally, you might consider how the logic of the internet informs the self-organizing structure of groups like Anonymous.  What does it mean to have a political organization without top-down hierarchy?  Think about Deleuze’s concept of the rhizome and how this might relate to these issues.

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13 responses to “Collective Intelligence

  1. Collective intelligence might be a good way to help solve global problems. Things like McGonigal’s World without Oil and freerice.com can help. The main problem with this type of online games is getting people to play them. There is a huge population of online gamers but are these games that they’re playing? I think the collective intelligence games that work to solve problems are games that could become huge in the future if the makers find ways of marketing them to the masses.

  2. pferd von Gestreift

    Because the internet is available to anyone who wishes to access it, and with the exception of highly protected information like identity and financial information nothing is off-limits to users, the internet is clearly a sort of collective intelligence. It is almost limitless in its potential for creation of a mass movement where resources of all types and levels of power can be collected, assembled and used in ways unimaginable in any other media because the internet is all media. This power grows literally every day, every hour, because there is a constant flow of new users, new programs and every second some new bit or byte of new information is released into this limitless space where any user can access it with little effort or use of time.
    This potential is sadly not being capitalized by the collective itself, but by outside forces. These forces are companies, corporations, and little men in thousand-dollar suits who find diversion in manipulating the masses to act in ways that will buy more of those thousand-dollar suits. These outside forces are really not outside of the collective, or otherwise they would have no access to it. They are inside it through several little connections no one notices that work together from different places to steer mass thought and actions. This sounds so devious, but really it is possible because of the natural structure of the internet. The internet is described as rhizomatic, or as a tuber with lots of little branching roots that continue to branch out into many more smaller roots. It is a fractal, and like true fractals, it is endless.
    Mostly, this is not a bad structure for a media that serves and is served by the collective. To keep up with the ever-changing mass that breaks up into infinite smaller groups or massses, the internet has to be this way. If it was completely linear or even somewhat linear, like Atari Adventure, the collective would move on from it very quickly and there would not even be a collective to begin with. Of course other media would serve and continue with their collectives and collective intelligence would function under their rules, but the internet’s collective is already a part of those other media’s groups and so broadens them into the world as it is seen now- an intensely infintely-connected, constantly changing system of connections. It is a rhizome, “…the rhizome pertains to a map that must be produced, constructed, a map that is always detachable, connectable, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entryways and exits and its own line of flight.” (Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus, page 3) The rhizome is the only way the internet could function in such a spectacularly versatile, accommodating way to the ever-adapting, changing collective.
    This frame, however, allows for figures such as Anonymous to be very powerful, even more so because while corporations have sway over opinions fed to the public through major sites and webcasts, their power is indirect. Anonymous is direct in their manipulation, whether thought to be negative or positive, and so the effects they have on the collective is quicker. Anonymous is actually an example of members of the collective using their knowledge to control and use collective intelligence to their own ends. And while it seems they have little backing them and are being debased very visibly, Anonymous is making paths for future groups to control collective intelligence from the inside.

  3. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robot

    French philosopher Deleuze developed the concept of rhizome which depicts theory and research that allow multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points in data representation and interpretation. He wrote in A Thousand Plateau, “the rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, offshoots” and that it “pertains to a map that must be produced, constructed, […] always detachable, connectable, reversible, modifiable.” This concept of multiple entrances and exit points works very well in the age of hypertext and internet which eventually allows us to be part of the process, constantly contributing what we find profound and necessary. A good example of this concept is the creation of Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that functions simply by having just about anyone with access to the internet to input information, modify it, or even eliminate everything and replace it with something else. Over a period of time, the primary information will be reconstructed and reconnected to some other resources depending on how many online users care to edit it. This concept is the essential foundation for what Pierre Levy later called “collective intelligence,” or world brain, and the dynamic of constant changes in knowledge by having people network with each other globally for useful purposes. The interesting fact about the word ‘rhizome’ is that it is a stem with nodes that branch out and plant its roots in multiple different locations. This also precisely defines the process of internet and global connection – linking people together and plant something purposeful.

  4. I am really intrigued by the concept of collective intelligence (CI). Part of our conditioning by society is to believe that ideas are “owned” by the person who thought of them. Our intellectual property entitles us to solely reap the rewards (i.e. monetary royalties, recognition, etc.) of what we sow. However, CI complicates this idea by saying several things.

    1) We are able to solve problems more efficiently and with more innovative ideas. Enter, Jane McGonigal’s World Without Oil. Hundreds of strangers from around the world came up with clever ways to react to a potentially real situation and shared them with this created cyber community, as consequently, with the world. When can we ever say that an individual has been able to harness that kind of change so quickly and across so many countries?

    2) CI perpetuates the idea that top-down hierarchy endangers the equal distribution of power in society. CI says that everyone has an opinion and thus, can be a collaborator. In “The Matrix”, we saw that the strength of the agents came from their existence in a world of rules. When we bend these rules, or redefine them entirely, we create a new type of freedom which can be enjoyed by everyone.

    3) “I am anonymous but a powerful force to be reckoned with nevertheless.” CI shields individuals from backlash for their actions as autonomous beings, and instead puts the group as a whole under scrutiny. Groups such as Anonymous are so powerful because they are so difficult to control. They are an “enemy” because we can’t pinpoint exactly who or what they are. Structured as a rhizaomatic network in which there is no leader or single person to be held accountable, we can easily say that they are criminals or terrorists. However, perhaps the root of the issue is that CI threatens a status quo which will strip power from those traditional authority figures (Big Brother/government) and put it into the hands of those most affected by the rules made by this authority (ordinary citizens).

    CI has its advantages as well as its problems. How do we tap its potential while avoiding the eruption of chaos? The group has yet to decide.

  5. I have to say that Jane McGonigal has got to be the most genius chick on the planet with a love for video games. I was looking for more information about her and the other games she has come up with when I stumbled upon Cryptozoo.
    This game, I think it said on the website that is came to be around May or June of this year so it is pretty recent, is an alternate reality game just like World Without Oil but instead of challenging people to come up with solutions to a future problem, Cryptozoo is trying to solve a problem right now. OBESITY!
    McGonigal teamed up with the American Heart Association to create a game that would make physical activity fun and social, giving people more incentive to get up and play!
    The premise is that there are these animals hanging around called cryptids. By joining the cryptozoo community, which is a worldwide online community akin to facebook but only more awesome, you can get together with other peeps and search and lure cryptids out to play.
    Have to go to class now, so I will finish this post when I get out!

  6. bluedays_bluejays

    According to Jane McGonagall in “Super Better- or how to turn recovery into a multi-player experience”, she states “I’m either going to kill myself, or I’m going to turn this into a game. After the four most miserable weeks of my life, those seemed like the only two options left.” This article discusses how she felt the need to either kill herself or deal with the issue. Her way of coping with the issue was making it into a game (a multiplayer game). When mentioning gaming systems and people who play online games and video games one may think of someone who is not in to anything else plays games all day. This is very stereotypical. In fact there are people who are Video games are in fact beneficial to society. There are actually video games that help solve problems in society. Take for instance war games; these are games that soldiers play to help them with preparing for the war. This is the whole idea of collective intelligence, this is taking collectively allowing a group to put their input to solve a problem.

    • I think it’s really interesting that you brought up this particular point. I think that a lot of us overlooked it, including myself. It seems that what McGonigal could mean by that is that games are a 21st century coping mechanism. Yes, we have Prozac and Ben & Jerry’s to quell our sorrows, but these are individualistic approaches to a problem. Instead, even personal problems have gone hi-tech. By that I mean that the way we cope with emotional issues that are private and only affecting one person (or even a minute portion of the population, if you believe in that Ripple Effect) can be “treated” collectively.

      Despite being a relatively encapsulated society, in which everything is self-serve, individually packaged, and we freak out if someone sits in the seat next to us, we use technology as a means to connect. I know that doesn’t sound earth-shattering, but please bear with me a bit longer. Social networking and gaming insert us into a group setting in which we can interact with one another, in fact, we have to in order to reap the benefits of the experience. Like the “World without Oil” simulation, we invite others into our lives to solve a problem. Who says that they necessarily have to be cognizant that they are problem-solving per se? Was this not the case with WwO? People played along but weren’t necessarily aware of the great impact they were having on others. The same can be said of challenging a stranger to a game of Mario Kart on xBox 360 to take your mind off a miserable situation. It beats gaining 10 pounds from a pint of Cherry Garcia.

      I see collective intelligence as a means to not only solve the world’s problems but also our own personal struggles of everyday life. Rather than self-medicating or wallowing in frustration, play a RPG online and blow up stuff for an hour. You can talk to a real live human being 24/7 online in a multitude of chat rooms or forums for any situation. Technology and digitization have changed the way that we relate to one another as people. And I can’t honestly see that as a bad thing. If it means we’ll have more gamers (whose skills we could tap) and fewer suicides, then so be it.

  7. Collective intelligence is the ideas of many different people of a group coming together to achieve a goal. Within our society it is common for us as primates to work in groups. It is an evolutionary trait that has been passed down. Now that our world is becoming more digital, we would naturally bring this trait with us. Jane McGonigal states in Gamers have skills. Let’s tap ’em. that “[Gamers compiled what they’d collectively learned – secrets, tactics, lessons – on discussion forums, blogs, and wikis. They uploaded and annotated maps, videos, and screenshots.” The outcome of this is that we are now coming together online to form organizations.

  8. In a talk given by Jane McGonigal in 2008 she states that “massively multiplayer games will become the new modus operandi” or the new way of functioning. Game such as these have presented themselves as being very helpful in the creation of collective intelligence on very real situations. This becomes especially true when discussing major crises such as an extreme shortage of oil. Her example of this is the overwhelming response by gamers to her game “A World without Oil”. People from all different backgrounds joined in and worked together to collaborate new ways to survive without oil. This simulation is important because it was just that, a simulation, not an actual crisis, so people where able to experience what their lives would be like without the chaos. However, an oil shortage is a very real possibility today, and people should learn how to come together to survive before it actually occurs. Thus, alternate reality multiplayer games are very important in the aspect of promoting collective intelligence, and could be the answer to solving the world’s problems just as Jane said.

  9. The logic of the internet in relation to groups such as Anonymous demands more attention than previously thought. Without a top-down hierarchical structure, the internet takes on a sort of Anarchy, allowing freedom within a system that directly affects real and tangible social realities. This aspect of the internet is related to the formation of a rhizomatic structure. Deleuze notes in “A Thousand Plateaus” that “The rhizome itself assumes very diverse forms, from ramified surface extension in all directions to concretion into bulbs and tubers” (409). The internet has the ability to take on many forms and extends in all directions, while also establishing itself in concrete ways through structures like Anonymous, which, again, directly impact social realties within our current society.

  10. I did my last blog entry on kind of a negative note, so I thought that today I’d try to expand on the more positive aspects of collective intelligence.

    After further exploring the Jane McGonigal site, I believe she ‘s always known that having a collective intelligence isn’t enough, which is why she focuses so strongly on gaming. In a blog entry about her experience with head trauma and its more serious side effects, she quoted Herodotus, “When you’re playing games, you’re not suffering.” So when she created a World Without Oil, I don’t think it was just to prove the power of collective intelligence; I think another big part of it was making a huge problem approachable, and even fun because of the added social aspect and the challenges, effectively turning one of the more serious sides of life into a game.

    A different example of collective intelligence would be Anonymous; a massive online community that garnered no real interest until it began organizing protests against Sciencetology and, because of the scandal, was able to transition to the mainstream. While games are a beloved medium to an ever growing number of people, their arborescent infrastructure and boundaries may lose out to the rhizome in the end. It kind of turns into a battle to see which human traits will be the strongest. On one side there is the social group collective, working together, forming relationships, and solving puzzles. On the other, there is an odd sort of freedom, a large group of people collaborating, but with a total lack of personal responsibility. Maybe it will breed a new wave of humility, or it will become a place for the dregs of society to air their repressed emotions. Can it effectively be both? I think I’ll be rooting for games, lol.

  11. Collective Intelligence social organization where individual decide to combine their knowledge, know-how and experience in order to generate a higher individual and collective benefit than if they remained alone. It is also a form of networking enabled by the rise of communications technology, namely the internet. There is no leader so if someone feels like something needs to be said about a certain topic or a protest needs to be held they can send a message via the internet and have many of their group members to show up. Anonymous has no leader or controlling party, and relies on the collective power of its individual participants acting in such a way that the net effect benefits the group. We learned that the organization Anonymous uses collective intelligence for the benefit of boycotting Scientology or any other things they feel are against their belief. I feel collective intelligence could be a good thing if used for the right reason and not abused which causes chaos. It is ok to point of your views but tapping into someone’s computer, as Anonymous has done, is unacceptable.

  12. As the internet evolves it has become a place where large groups of people can congregate and communicate on web sites, such as Facebook and YouTube. These various virtually formed groups can assemble and accomplish tasks that have positive results, like raising money for charity and advancing awareness of important issues. At the same time, groups created on the internet can also band together and use the anonymity and collectiveness of an internet group to foster negative results. This turn towards a more participatory culture where people will work with others to accomplish a common goal has a great impact on the future, as well. In “Convergence Culture”, Henry Jenkins discusses the possibilities of this idea by stating that “the collective meaning-making within popular culture is starting to change the ways religion, education, law, politics, advertising, and even the military operate”. We are starting to form a “convergence culture”, where interactivity and participation becomes more important every day.

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