According to Noubel (2004) groups that denote collective intelligence have the following dynamic properties in common. These include transparency, a gift economy, a collective awareness, a polymorphic social structure, a high learning capacity, a convergence of interest between the individual and collective levels, interactions characterized by human warmth, and, above all, an excellent capability to handle complexity and the unexpected.” 1 Noubel offers several observable phenomena inherent to intelligence practices in typically small. well-trained groups. For the sake of brevity I will paraphrase them. He outlines seven characteristics : 1) the emergence of a notable group singularity (a style, a form,); 2) a holoptical space, a way for each participant to have an ever updated perception of other participants and the emerging work of the collective2; 3) an agreed upon social contract (operating protocols); 4) a polymorphic architecture to map changing relationship ; 5) circulating object-links (collectively pursued objects); 6) a learning oriented organization (processes for individual growth which can become useful for others; and 7) a gift economy where people give first, then potentially receive later on when the collective has increased its wealth. 3 In addition, collective intelligence is deemed to be based upon the necessity of : a) group diversity, independence, and decentralization and a well documented group memory or knowledge base with aggregation functionalities. Finally there is repeated insistence to promote creative thinking and to ensure solutions undergo critical peer review.4
But what happens to collectives (and their potentiality for intelligence) when interactions occur on radically open, dispersed, digital interfaces ? For example, what happens to a given group singularity (the Whole) when interactions -and even interfaces- can be synchronously altered, remixed, even undone? Or, how are holopitcal space affordances5 affected given large scale6, often fleeting, unidentifiable, fractionnary participation? It may be too soon to know whether these dynamic, open space-related changes lead to a different kind of collective (emerging ontological entity) or whether they are evoking differences at the level of degree. Nevertheless digitally-based collectives are said to share some common principles7: (a) Openness or crowdsourcing b) Peering8 c) Sharing 9 and Acting Globally10; to function via collaborative intelligence (or CQ) or connective intelligence11 ) and to require new skills : transmedia navigation, prosumerism practices, curation engagement (how to become invested in collecting, annotating and archiving data for self as well as others)12; wise very public participation principles13; and perhaps most importantly, how to participate as if your presence matters14. What it means to “effectively” (intelligently?) participate and co-create within and across digitally-based, shifting, non linear, complex, perhaps even contradictory, large-scale repositories is an increasingly emerging question. Some answer with the concept of Learning 2.015 .While there are a plethora of questions pertaining to open digital collectives (authorship, ownership, durability, etc.) and what constitute skills therein16 I will briefly discuss two in the next section.
Digitally-based collectives : two issues
The first question relates to group manageability : How to network dynamic expansive and expanding repositories, that is innumerable and indeterminable connections out of anyone’s control? The second is related to power : How to actualize radically open digitally-based Collective Intelligence (Governance 2.017)?
To address issue number one, how to manage knowledge navigation-curation-production practices within and across digital collectivities, Clay Shirky18 (among others19) suggests we workin small world networks. Small world networks have two characteristics: they are both densely and sparsely connected at different scales20.
“You let the small groups connect tightly, and then you connect the groups. But you can’t really connect groups – you connect people within the groups. Instead of one loose group of twenty-five, you have five tight groups of five.” (Shirky, 2008, p. 215).
“This “friend-of-a-friend networking” means that people “don’t simply connect at random. They connect in clusters, ensuring that they interact with the same people frequently, even in large networks.” .(Shirky, 20008, p. 214-215) What does this do? First, Shirky says that this reduces the Prisoner’s Dilmena and helps create social capital. Shirky notes two distinctions (upheld in sociology) with respect to social capital : bonding capital and bridging capital. “Bonding capital is an increase in the depth of connections and trust within a relatively homogeneous group; bridging capital is an increase in connections among relatively heterogeneous groups. Bonding capital tends to be more exclusive and bridging capital more inclusive. In small world networks bonding happens within the clusters, while bridging happens between the clusters.” (Shirky, 2008. p. 222) Second, when one ranks the number of connections per participant the graph approximates a power law distribution – or the “80/20” rule –. This allows us to explain how it is that a few people can account for a widely disproportionate amount of overall connectivity. So small world networks can help us manage connections, create social capital and explain distributions. However, Shirky suggests that the most significant effect of digital networking tools “… lies in the increased leverage they give the most connected people. The tightness of a large scale network comes less (my emphasis) from increasing the number of connections that the average member of the network can support than from increasing the number of connections that the most connected can support.” (Shirky, 2008, p 225) So, the most connected have the most leverage and affect the tightness (or perhaps singularity) of the network. “Connectors”21 are the people who “link us up with the world … people with a special gift for bringing the world together.” (Galdwell, 2002, p. 38). Connectedness varies : we can witness connections (consult Wikipedia), create connections (bonding capital) and/or be Connectors (bridging capital). Developping “connectness expertise” is evidenced in the development of Personal Learning Networks (PLN’S)22 and Professional Learning Networks (PfLN)23 . However, while the development of “connectness expertise” is thriving outside of institutions, its integration into educational practices is still quite rare.24
The second issue relates to power. Digitally networking collectives power share across horizontal (non pyramidal) interfaces. Cloud computing, open access, and folksonomy ( to give but a few Web 2.0 examples), bypass – some might say usurp the pyramidal-type operational – perhaps panoptical- power structures that have proliferated along industrial style organization. New models are emerging for organisations that wish to enter into a Governance 2.0. The one presented here is that of holacracy.
Holacracy™ is a comprehensive practice for governing and running our organizations – a new organizational operating system. With its transformative structure and processes, Holacracy™ integrates the collective wisdom of people throughout the company, while aligning the organization with its broader purpose and a more organic way of operating. The result is dramatically increased agility, transparency, innovation, and accountability. Holacracy™ takes the principles, ideas, and emerging mindset articulated by cutting-edge thought leaders, and instills them in the actual structures and processes of the organization. It grounds them in practice and brings them to life.25
Briefly, holacracy suggests that (institutional) problems with respect to effective communication, power distribution, constant change, increasing complexity, role ambiguity, low trust thresholds prevalent fear stances and rigidity are outcomes of our design. Modes of “predict and control”, “figuring it all out then locking it down” lead to even greater rigidity and more planning. Holacracy outlines horizontally-based (inclusive) “sense and respond” structures based on a distributive authority paradigm , notably open regulation via distributed governance. It presents a (what we might call a web 2.0) framework of intertwined problematization (steering) processes to systemically (architecturally embedded) help unfold the purpose of the group (work to be done) and to ensure integrative decision-making therein. Autonomy , differentiation, transparency are key underlying principles of holacracy. Unlike democracy where there is often a “tyranny of consensus”, tensions figure prominently in holacracy. Unlike sociocracy, the purpose is not the people, but rather the work to be accomplished. (The idea being to be at the service for something other than ourselves.) In holacracy, creative response-ability from all participants is assumed, regulation is emergent (continually negotiated) and inclusion is sustainable (operationalized architecturally).