What is Collective Intelligence?

Collective intelligence is a term for the knowledge embedded within societies or large groups of individuals. It can be explicit, in the form of knowledge gathered and recorded by many people. The tacit intelligence that results from the data generated by the activities of many people over time is extremely powerful. Google uses such data to continuously refine its search and ad results. Discovering and harnessing the intelligence in such data — revealed through analyses of patterns, correlations, and flows — is enabling ever more accurate predictions about people’s preferences and behaviors, and helping researchers and everyday users understand and map relationships, and gauge the relative significance of ideas and events. Two new forms of information stores are being created in real time by thousands of people in the course of their daily activities, some explicitly collaborating to create collective knowledge stores, some contributing implicitly through the patterns of their choices and actions. The data in these new information stores has come to be called collective intelligence, and both forms have already proven to be compelling applications of the network. Explicit knowledge stores refine knowledge through the contributions of thousands of authors; implicit stores allow the discovery of entirely new knowledge by capturing trillions of key clicks and decisions as people use the network in the course of their everyday lives.

One increasingly common form of explicit collective intelligence is crowd sourcing, which refers to a set of methods of marshalling a community to contribute ideas, information, or content that would otherwise remain undiscovered. Its rapidly growing appeal stems from its effectiveness in filling gaps that cannot be bridged by other means. (An example might be asking a community to name the people in a period photograph. Family members are often the most authoritative source of this kind of information, but there is no easy way to know who to ask — so the call is issued community wide.) In the museum and academic sectors, crowd sourcing refers to an institution drawing from public knowledge to provide missing links on specific subject matter, complete large-scale tasks, or solve inherently complex issues. For many tasks, institutions are finding that amateur scholars or even people whose lives simply were contemporary to the event, object, images, or other focus being documented are remarkably effective in providing deep level detail around a topic or in documenting a large body of materials.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the museums you know best?

  • - holly holly Oct 9, 2012Coming from the content side of museums crowd-sourcing new content and using crowd-sourcing (including expert content providers) to hone, better-define, and validate existing information and data is in alignment with our missions and could ensure continued relevance for deep, rich content.
  • I agree that crowd-sourcing is in alignment with the missions of museums, but I believe only the most progressive curators will utilize this approach because of the type of exhibitions they currently organize. For crowd-sourcing to really take off in museums, I sense that it will have to be a higher level strategic initiative from EDs and boards. - alex alex Oct 15, 2012
  • Crowd-sourcing is popularised by and usually brought to museums from the digital realm. The challenge is not necessarily collecting the data, which is something digital practitioners can devise quite easily. It is a question of where and how to store the crowdsourced information, maybe not your existing DAMS or CMS, and who is best placed to collate, process and integrate the data/media.- rbarrettsmall rbarrettsmall Oct 16, 2012

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Behavioural or passive collective intelligence, whereby intelligence can be gathered from observing or tracking visitor behaviour, in the physical and digital realm. In turn, probabilistic statistical methods can be used to extract more specific intelligence from these raw data. - rbarrettsmall rbarrettsmall
  • Another perspective here.

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on education and interpretation in museums?

  • Seems to be a lot of potential for a range of approaches to involving people in crowdsourcing activity. It can address increasing expectations for interactivity with museums, can be an important research tool, harness valuable dialogue and focus visitor energy on something which has meaning - lorna.obrien lorna.obrien Oct 15, 2012
  • I like the idea of using crowd-sourcing as a two-way process; to gather info for the organisation whilst sharing more with the participant. Perhaps the participant learns some "curatorial" skills when taking part.- rbarrettsmall rbarrettsmall Oct 16, 2012

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

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