line up of workshops at the upcoming ACM Conference on Computer-Supported
Cooperative Work reflects the edge of CSCW research, with profound implications
for the global-scale cooperative work needed to mach global challenges.
Technically, it has become possible to connect constellations of CI pools of any size. That possibility, when coupled with the passion of social innovators and the wizards of social process technologies, is a key enabler of the current and much needed shift in the evolution of how we organize ourselves as societies and as the crew of Spaceship Earth...
Back to the ACM Conference on CSCW, I’ve just learned that
there will be a workshop
on software tools to support Collective Intelligence in organizations. I’m
wondering whether the designers/organizers of the conference envisioned to wrap
it into a blanket of advanced CI tools and methods, as to augment the CI of the
field of CI tool makers, itself?
The program doesn’t say anything about it, probably because the focus is CI in organizations, as it should be, not what it can do for solving world problems. Nevertheless, I believe that there will be a good number of people among the delegates, speakers, panelists, and interactive poster presenters, who feel inspired to address the broader implications of frontier research in CSCW for the world.
What could crystallize that interest so that during the
conference a “Big Picture” caucus can form (under any other name) and explore
research questions of common or adjacent interest? This blog entry is a message
in a bottle, thrown into the digital ocean for someone interested in that question...
I woke up this morning 4 o’clock and not only because the jetlag. Yesterday was the first day of the first World Café Research Conference. Due to the delay of the flight from New York, I arrived late and when I entered the room, I stepped into a conversation about the reflexive nature of knowing and research. It was strangely familiar and excitingly new, at the same time.
It was familiar because a central theme of my thesis, 30-something years ago, was a critique of the objectivist sociology and its claim that its interview methods are neutral. (I suggested that interviewer and interviewee interact and their relationship constructs the meaning of their exchange as much as the words uttered by the second.)
It was also new because the context, the implied assessment that the quality of new knowledge developed in a typical World Café setting is a reflection of the quality of relationship between participants, as well as, the attention they give to the inner space, from which they are listening and speaking. (Bow to Otto Scharmer’s concept of the “blindspot.”)
At the dinner table, I happened to sit next to Fred Steier of the Fielding Graduate Institute and editor of a series of books on reflexivity in research. Fred is a gentle man with deep caring to squeeze out every once of learning from a conversation, with the power of second order self-reflection. In my exchange with him and the others around the table, I discovered this:
If people in conversation are observing and reflecting on both the source and the direction of their attention (the inner and the inter-subjective space), and sharing those reflections, a spontaneous combustion of consciousness can occur. If so, collective self-reflexivity can lead to deeper, more fine-tuned sensing of reality, thus to wiser action.
How well can collective self-reflexivity scale? What does it depend on whether it will grow into a system of influence or wither away, unfulfilled its potential? I feel those questions deserve a focused and rigorous research. My first thought about it is this:
For conversations that matter to grow into communities of practice and social systems at increasing scale, they have to be able to absorb the increased complexity involved with those systems. What does it depend on whether a community or a network of communities is capable to do that? One of the factors seems to be the trust and appreciation that flow among the participants in the conversation, besides their capacity for double loop learning in real-time, on the spot…
That’s what I got out from the bed with. Now, I go to get a breakfast, and continue the conversation, in the 2nd day of the conference.
"The expression 'collective intelligence' relates to an extensive body of knowledge and thoughts concerned with several objects that have been diversely labeled: distributed cognition, distributed knowledge systems, global brain, super-brain, global mind, group mind, ecology of mind, hive mind, learning organization, connected intelligence, networked intelligence, augmented intelligence, hyper-cortex, symbiotic man, etc. Notwithstanding their diversity, these several rich philosophical and scientific contemporary trends have one feature in common: they describe human communities, organizations and cultures exhibiting 'mind-like' properties, such as learning, perceiving, acting, thinking, problem-solving, and so on... Intelligence refers to the main cognitive powers: perception, action planning and coordination, memory, imagination and hypothesis generation, inquisitiveness and learning abilities. The expression 'collective intelligence' designates the cognitive powers of a group." (Frequently Asked Questions about collective intelligence, 2003).
The emphasis on CI's cognitive dimension is strong in the work of Pierre Lévy but he also acknowledges: "[E]mphasis on cognition does not intend to diminish the essential roles of emotions, bodies, medias, sign systems, social relations, technologies, biological environment or physical support in collective intelligence processes. The study of collective intelligence (abbreviated as CI) constitutes an inter-discipline aspiring as much to a dialogue between human and social sciences as with the technical, artistic and spiritual traditions. Its goal is to understand and improve collective learning and the creative process." (Strategy to build a CI network, manuscript by Pierre Lévy, 2003.)
It's not New Year yet but I already have a clear resolution that corresponds to a desire that has been ripening in my heart for the last couple of years. In 2008 and beyond, I will spend more time on research, reflection, teaching, and writing about collective intelligence and wisdom than consulting on their development and use in organizations. (It also means, the consulting projects I'll keep will have to be of high potential impact for the common good.)
As a consequence of that resolution, I'm looking for a part-time Research Assistant with interest to support a Research Fellow at Universiteit van Amsterdam, engaged in the design of cutting-edge action research in the fields of Personal Knowledge Management and Collective Intelligence.
Depending on the resonance with the applicant's own professional interests, tasks may include: managing the Blog of CI, interviewing me on emergent issues in our action research, wiki-fying documents, preparing presentation materials, etc.
It is a great situation for someone who is looking to make a positive difference in the world, by supporting an action research committed to that. The ideal candidate has both research and administrative skills, and is internet savvy.
The office is in Brussels, so living there or willing to travel there once a week, is required. Compensation will be based on mutual agreement about the depth and breadth of the support that the aspirant offers to be accountable for.
If you are interested, send CV and letter of intention to me at George(at)Community-Intelligence(dot)com. I will review all letters and CVs by the end of the year, and notify the applicants by January 7, 2008.
If you know someone who may be interested in the position, please pass on the URL of this entry: http://www.community-intelligence.com/blogs/public/2007/11/research_assistant_in_personal.html .
The French chapter of the Society for Organizational Learning had conference on the "EMERGENCE OF COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: a dialog between Life Sciences and Management of organisations."
Its aim was to explore the state of the art in each of these disciplines, to explore how these disciplines can inspire each other. I couldn't attend because a conflict of schedule, and so far, they didn't make their presentations public on their website. So I can't report on it.
They wrote, "This gathering can be the first step into a range of meetings and a multidisciplinary research program." If they'd think that my action research on "European Governance and Collective Intelligence" fit the bill, and invite me to help designing the next conference, the first thing I'd suggest is to design it for a better synergy between the face-to-face event and web-based tools of CI to be used before, during and after it.
Two vitrioloc attacks in three days, that's how the conservative extremist of The Register welcomed MIT's Center for Collective Intelligence. On Oct. 11, Andrew Orlowksi wrote in his aerticle under the title "MIT opens Junk Science Institute:"
"MIT's Badger School already has a book project in mind - insultingly titled We Are Smarter Than Me - and you may be the next victim of the revolution."
Fortunately, MIT is in good company if we consider all those who are Orlowski's target in the same article: Wikipedia, Google, Linux and Deming's.
Then, two days later, here he came again:
A milestone in the evolution of the CI field occurred on October 13, 2006, when MIT launched its Center for Collective Intelligence, the first major academic center dedicated to our growing disciipline.
The Center's director, Thomas Malone, said, â€œAt CCI, our basic research question is: How can people and computers be connected so thatâ€”collectivelyâ€”they act more intelligently than any individuals, groups, or computers have ever done before?â€ (Seeing Tom Malone at the head of CCI is particularly inspiring, given his values expressed in Otto Scharmer's interview with him, from which he is coming to CI work.)
CCI's research agenda spells out as follows:
We believe that many companies and other groups will be creating new forms of collective intelligence in the coming years. We also believe that research universities like MIT can provide important contributions to this endeavor by:
(a) collecting and distilling the results of experience from the real-world "experiments" many people will be trying
(b) experimenting with innovative new techniques to advance the state-of-the-art
(c) conducting rigorous scientific research to find the reliable patterns underlying subjective anecdotes and accidental successes or failures, and
(d) developing theoretical frameworks to help understand all these things
That's great news to the whole field of CI because MIT entering it, will no doubt legitimize it as worth of academic study and research, as well as action-research in business and other organizations!
One of their first project is a collaboratively written book on "We Are Smarter Than Me," which will be published in hardcover by Pearson Publishing, and sold in bookstores. The process will include forums and the use of a book wiki and royalties will go to charities. I joined that initiative and am curious of emergent possibilities for collaboration between it and the Source Documents for Collective Intelligence Convergence.
Here's the table of contents of "We Are Smarter Than Me":
I've just discovered a fascinating paper on The Hyper-Cortex of Human Collective-Intelligence Systems (.pdf) by Marko Antonio Rodriguez, a Ph.D student at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the Center for Evolution, Complexity, and Cognition at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. His interests lie in collective-intelligence algorithms for societal-scale decision support systems.
I believe his pioneering work on that subject has tremendous importance for realizing the potential of an enlightened society. I know, it is a bold statement about the research of a young scholar but I see Marko as one of the rising stars on the academic field of computationally-supported collective intelligence. I bet, he will soon join in depth and future-responsiveness such pioneers of that field as Francis Heylighen and Pierre LÃ©vy.
Why is their work so pivotal to the emergence of global-scale collective intelligence? Because without computer-enabled CI algorithms and "computer assisted imagination" we (as networks, organizations and humankind itself) will be defeated by the complexity tsunami compunded by unwise decisions of self-centered, individual and collective egos at all scale.
Fourth international seminar on Collective Intelligence at the University of Ottawa
8, 9, 10th of August, 2004
Collective intelligence is a very broad field, with many research programs. The Ottawa seminar is concerned with the research program developed at the CI Lab of the University of Ottawa. The participants of the seminar will discuss the projection of digital information into a 3D virtual world mirroring CI processes thanks to the Digitong semantic coordinate system.
See DRAFT PROGRAM below.
In the new "From States to New Stage" category of blog entries I started exploring what it will take to reach a new, higher plateau of CI not only as a temporary group experience but as a sustainable capacity of human communities. The most exciting and most promising development I know of, which will shed light on the path, is a collaborative learning journey (May 17 -June 20) that will be facilitated by Etienne Wenger about his new research plan, Learning for a Small Planet.
Building on his earlier work as a pioneer of "communities of practice," the new phase of his work expands to "large-scale social learning systems involving complex constellations of communities of practice." It will be hosted online by CPsquare and the best is that you can join us there if you want to. In the blog of the European Collaborative for Communities of Practice (ECCoP), Seth Kahan explains how to.
It will be a unique opportunity to accelerate our learning journey to become more effective facilitators of CI emerging at every level, from workplace communities and their constellations, to global movements and projects. I will be there and hope you too.
Today most intranets and information systems rely on administrator-oriented tools: you must fill in pre-defined forms, upload reports, update databases, provide complete profile information, etc. Such predesigned tools and interfaces are built upon "mass market" rules, i.e. one same item for everyone. Another concomitent aspect of current corporate I.S. is that they rely on the sum of each individual duties. In other words they don't work.
Assumption 1: I.S. should rely on natural and free energies that flow in human environments. The best natural energy, free and inexhaustible, is the permanent need to be in relation with one another. This need generates ongoing streams of actions, reactions and conversations that blow up the whole activity in the information systems and provide exploitable data.
Assumption 2: "Mapping the world" will become a leitmotiv, an obsession for hoisting CI as a science. Modelizing CI theories will to be built upon the analysis of IS layers (there are more than one - see a few thoughts about them here). The IS layer can be considered as a map of part of the human interactions, and we know that maps should not be confused with the ground (they just provide a certain representation of it). Thus Information Systems are destined to serve as observation tools, as harvesters of information drawn from the elusive reality. So it is in any science: it's theoretical corpus gets built from the string of reality collectors.
This leads to an important question: a big part of CI takes place in close geographical spaces where people can directly interact. Of course current tools help them to lever their CI by providing powerful asynchronous conversation extensions. How will the theory be able to collect and count such IC nests? Will these nests be artificialy estimated from their indirect expression, just like the theory allow to "rebuild" astral objects only by watching their attraction on other masses in the neighborhood?
Pierre LÃ©vy, author of Collective Intelligence: Mankind's Emerging World in Cyberspace, is heading the Canada Research Chair on Collective Intelligence at the University of Ottawa. He has graciously accepted my invotation to co-author this blog. I hope he is going to join us here soon. If you can't wait to meet him here, look up his Manifest. Or go to The Collective Intelligence Lab to read about its: General orientation and context; Missions; Approach and methods; Fields of activity.
Pierre visited Paris a week ago, and in a long and inspiring conversation, I accepted with the delight the "job" of designing and facilitating a process for the emergence of a global Collective Intelligence Network.