What is collective intelligence

Can we speak today of a “collective intelligence”?


One of the most famous concepts theorized (and practiced) following the spread of the internet in the 1990s is that of “collective intelligence”. This concept, in fact, is closely linked to the new social dynamics that emerged with the “network” in the virtual space of the web.

Here we propose to define collective intelligence, but this is not possible without briefly dwelling on the history of the internet and some concepts and phenomena related to it.

What is the internet. Short hints of history
Internet is a means of mass communication with multiple potentials: ranging from information to services. Technically it is a network that can connect devices and terminals around the world.

There would have been no internet without ARPANET. ARPA is the Agency for Advanced Research Projects for Defense. The ARPANET network was built in 1969 based on theories developed in the immediately preceding years. It connected four nodes on a client / server architecture. The basic idea was to connect computers and time-sharing systems in a continental network.

The transition to the Internet took place in the 1970s: the knots were enlarged and Europe was reached. The first European countries to connect to the network were the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway and Italy.

On the Internet, data packets are moved through links and network nodes. The Internet is a complex of networks: private, public, corporate, university and commercial.

What is the WEB


WEB is the acronym of World Wide Web.

It is an internet service thanks to which it is possible to “browse” and access multimedia and non-multimedia content (mostly text, graphics, audio, video) connected via links.

The link is a hypertext link, that is a link between a page and another or between parts of the same page that can be activated by clicking on part of the text, on an icon or on an image.

Web browsing is facilitated by the use of search engines, ie systems able to quickly analyze a large amount of data and through which it is possible, through the use of keywords, to have a link index.

The WEB was created in 1989 at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), a European physics laboratory.

Officially the WEB was born on 6 August 1991, the day of publication of the first website by an English computer scientist, Tim Berners-Lee.

Tim Berners-Lee had created the name of the World Wide Web (W.W.W) in October 1990. He had also invented the document formatting language with hypertext link capabilities, or HTML.

The Nineties WEB is characterized by the production of static internet sites, which limit the interaction with the user to the use of links, emails and search engines.

Web 2.0 is an evolution of the web that progressively happened in the Zero years thanks to the development of new programs that have improved the experience of the “network”. Users are increasingly gaining opportunities to intervene and modify websites and the like. Blogs, forums, feedback systems and the like are born. With the passage from web 1.0 to web 2.0, a real revolution in the use of the internet occurs: from the simple use of content to sharing, to a new social dimension.

What is cyberspace

The word “cyberspace” was coined in 1982 by the science fiction writer William Gibson (1948). Gibson used it for the first time in the story The Night that Burned Chrome and made it famous with the novel Neuromante (1984).

It is a word macedonia: it is in fact composed of cybernetics (a field of research that connects natural and artificial systems) and space.

Cyberspace is the space in which people interact through the internet. It is a space of immersion and sharing.

What is the network
Today the word “network” is commonly used to indicate the space of interaction between users, namely cyberspace, or the Internet in general. In reality the term has a technical meaning.

The “computer network” is the complex of hardware devices with communication software. Simply stated: it is the set of nodes linked together through the links. This system allows users to exchange information, resources and other types of data. The various computer networks (LAN, WLAN, WAN, GAN), interconnected, make up the internet.

The context in which the concept of collective intelligence is born
The above is the context in which the concept of “collective intelligence” emerges.

The study by Pierre Lévy (1956) The collective intelligence. In fact, for an anthropology of cyberspace (1994), it is based on the development and diffusion of the internet in the early nineties and on the theoretical reflections that ensue.

In those years, many studies were published on concepts such as “cyberspace” and on the new internet space. These studies were philosophical, anthropological and sociological analyzes from which it was possible to deduce the social mutation in progress. The possibility of access to the Internet extended to everyone, a process that at the time was in its infancy, generated a series of new phenomena. One of the most interesting phenomena was that of the development and multiplication of virtual communities, that is, groups of people who formed online communities.

Lévy’s theory owes much to the phenomenon of virtual communities.

Who is Pierre Lévy

Pierre Lévy was born in 1956 in Tunis.

He studied history and history of science, after which he was a student of the philosopher Michel Serres (1930) and the philosopher, sociologist, economist and psychoanalyst Cornelius Castoriadis (1922-1997) at the University of Sorbonne.

Lévy immediately became interested in the consequences of computerization on culture. This is indeed the theme of his first book: La Machine univers. Création, cognition et culture informatique (1987).

In the second book, The technologies of intelligence (1992), he treated the topic of hypertext from a philosophical point of view and focused on the concept of “cognitive ecology”.

In the same year the book The Trees of Knowledge, written in collaboration with the sociologist and historian of sciences Michel Authier (1949). Here the two scholars have put to good use the common reflection on the “cosmopedia”, a virtual encyclopedia that can be updated and constantly improved thanks to user interactions. The “knowledge trees” constitute an open system that connects individuals, trainers and employers, recognizing their diversity in terms of skills.

From 1993 to 1998, Lévy taught at the “Hypermédia” department of the University of Paris-VIII in Saint-Denis.

He continued to work on the concept of “virtual” (The virtual, 1995) and of cyberculture.

Today he holds a chair of collective intelligence at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

Collective intelligence. For an anthropology of cyberspace. The book

Published in 1994, Collective intelligence. For an anthropology of cyberspace it is the work in which Lévy theorizes “collective intelligence”.

Levy starts from the rapid changes taking place in the field of information technology and stimulated by the spread of the internet. The paradigm shift in progress and the new anthropological space are at the center of the analysis. The scholar identifies new subjects: the “collective intellectuals”. These subjects, which the new technologies have made “nomads” in the sense given to the concept by the philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995), interacting and exchanging knowledge can also reach new forms of “democracy in real time”.

Lévy imagines a virtuous process in which the exchange of knowledge through computer tools can lead to further progress in human civilization.

Collective intelligence: a definition
Lévy defines collective intelligence in the introduction to the book of the same name:

“It is an intelligence distributed everywhere, continuously enhanced, coordinated in real time, which leads to an effective mobilization of skills. We add to this definition this indispensable clarification: the foundation and purpose of collective intelligence are the mutual recognition and enrichment of people, and not the worship of fetishized or hypostatized communities. “

(Collective intelligence. For an anthropology of cyberspace, translation by Maria Colò except for the VI chapter translated by Donata Feroldi, Feltrinelli, 1996, p. 34.)

Immediately afterwards Lévy explains the various points that make up the definition.

No one has all the knowledge, but knowledge is distributed, everyone has specific skills and knowledge.

In the face of times in which waste also concerns intelligence and skills, Lévy states that society must be able to enhance the individual bearers of their own cultural heritage.

Thanks to the constantly growing media offered by digital technologies, it is possible to coordinate subjects’ interactions in cyberspace in real time. In this way, in the shared space it is possible to organize, decide and act in such a way as to constantly transform the common virtual place.

Once knowledge is recognized and valued, it is possible to act in an ethical-political dimension for the improvement of the community.

Lévy, having clarified the definition, states that “the ideal of collective intelligence implies the technical, economic, juridical and human exploitation of an intelligence distributed everywhere, in order to trigger a positive dynamic of recognition and mobilization of competences” (pp. . 35-36).

From collective intelligence to connective intelligence
The sociologist Derrick de Kerckhove (1944) takes up the concept of “collective intelligence” of Lévy modifying it into “connective intelligence”.

Lévy’s project is humanistic, so de Kerckhove puts it into concrete reality.

Intelligences must connect, connect, relate; the multiplication of intelligences, through connection, can become a concrete practice. Thanks to the development of the “network” the connections between intelligences can happen with ease and speed.

Web 2.0 and collective intelligence
Web 2.0 can be seen as a field of application of collective intelligence.

At the base of the development of web 2.0, in fact, there is the idea that users can create value by networking, interacting in cyberspace. The processes of collaboration and sharing spread rapidly, bringing a clear improvement to the experience of using the internet.

Two examples of virtuous processes based on the concept of collective intelligence are filesharing (file sharing) and wikis (software that allows users to create and modify a website collaboratively).
What is collective intelligence

Can we speak today of a “collective intelligence”?
One of the most famous concepts theorized (and practiced) following the spread of the internet in the 1990s is that of “collective intelligence”. This concept, in fact, is closely linked to the new social dynamics that emerged with the “network” in the virtual space of the web.

Here we propose to define collective intelligence, but this is not possible without briefly dwelling on the history of the internet and some concepts and phenomena related to it.

What is the internet. Short hints of history


Internet is a means of mass communication with multiple potentials: ranging from information to services. Technically it is a network that can connect devices and terminals around the world.

There would have been no internet without ARPANET. ARPA is the Agency for Advanced Research Projects for Defense. The ARPANET network was built in 1969 based on theories developed in the immediately preceding years. It connected four nodes on a client / server architecture. The basic idea was to connect computers and time-sharing systems in a continental network.

The transition to the Internet took place in the 1970s: the knots were enlarged and Europe was reached. The first European countries to connect to the network were the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway and Italy.

On the Internet, data packets are moved through links and network nodes. The Internet is a complex of networks: private, public, corporate, university and commercial.

What is the WEB
WEB is the acronym of World Wide Web.

It is an internet service thanks to which it is possible to “browse” and access multimedia and non-multimedia content (mostly text, graphics, audio, video) connected via links.

The link is a hypertext link, that is a link between a page and another or between parts of the same page that can be activated by clicking on part of the text, on an icon or on an image.

Web browsing is facilitated by the use of search engines, ie systems able to quickly analyze a large amount of data and through which it is possible, through the use of keywords, to have a link index.

The WEB was created in 1989 at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), a European physics laboratory.

Officially the WEB was born on 6 August 1991, the day of publication of the first website by an English computer scientist, Tim Berners-Lee.

Tim Berners-Lee had created the name of the World Wide Web (W.W.W) in October 1990. He had also invented the document formatting language with hypertext link capabilities, or HTML.

The Nineties WEB is characterized by the production of static internet sites, which limit the interaction with the user to the use of links, emails and search engines.

Web 2.0 is an evolution of the web that progressively happened in the Zero years thanks to the development of new programs that have improved the experience of the “network”. Users are increasingly gaining opportunities to intervene and modify websites and the like. Blogs, forums, feedback systems and the like are born. With the passage from web 1.0 to web 2.0, a real revolution in the use of the internet occurs: from the simple use of content to sharing, to a new social dimension.

What is cyberspace

The word “cyberspace” was coined in 1982 by the science fiction writer William Gibson (1948). Gibson used it for the first time in the story The Night that Burned Chrome and made it famous with the novel Neuromante (1984).

It is a word macedonia: it is in fact composed of cybernetics (a field of research that connects natural and artificial systems) and space.

Cyberspace is the space in which people interact through the internet. It is a space of immersion and sharing.

What is the network


Today the word “network” is commonly used to indicate the space of interaction between users, namely cyberspace, or the Internet in general. In reality the term has a technical meaning.

The “computer network” is the complex of hardware devices with communication software. Simply stated: it is the set of nodes linked together through the links. This system allows users to exchange information, resources and other types of data. The various computer networks (LAN, WLAN, WAN, GAN), interconnected, make up the internet.

The context in which the concept of collective intelligence is born
The above is the context in which the concept of “collective intelligence” emerges.

The study by Pierre Lévy (1956) The collective intelligence. In fact, for an anthropology of cyberspace (1994), it is based on the development and diffusion of the internet in the early nineties and on the theoretical reflections that ensue.

In those years, many studies were published on concepts such as “cyberspace” and on the new internet space. These studies were philosophical, anthropological and sociological analyzes from which it was possible to deduce the social mutation in progress. The possibility of access to the Internet extended to everyone, a process that at the time was in its infancy, generated a series of new phenomena. One of the most interesting phenomena was that of the development and multiplication of virtual communities, that is, groups of people who formed online communities.

Lévy’s theory owes much to the phenomenon of virtual communities.

Who is Pierre Lévy

Pierre Lévy was born in 1956 in Tunis.

He studied history and history of science, after which he was a student of the philosopher Michel Serres (1930) and the philosopher, sociologist, economist and psychoanalyst Cornelius Castoriadis (1922-1997) at the University of Sorbonne.

Lévy immediately became interested in the consequences of computerization on culture. This is indeed the theme of his first book: La Machine univers. Création, cognition et culture informatique (1987).

In the second book, The technologies of intelligence (1992), he treated the topic of hypertext from a philosophical point of view and focused on the concept of “cognitive ecology”.

In the same year the book The Trees of Knowledge, written in collaboration with the sociologist and historian of sciences Michel Authier (1949). Here the two scholars have put to good use the common reflection on the “cosmopedia”, a virtual encyclopedia that can be updated and constantly improved thanks to user interactions. The “knowledge trees” constitute an open system that connects individuals, trainers and employers, recognizing their diversity in terms of skills.

From 1993 to 1998, Lévy taught at the “Hypermédia” department of the University of Paris-VIII in Saint-Denis.

He continued to work on the concept of “virtual” (The virtual, 1995) and of cyberculture.

Today he holds a chair of collective intelligence at the University of Ottawa, Canada.

Collective intelligence. For an anthropology of cyberspace. The book

Published in 1994, Collective intelligence. For an anthropology of cyberspace it is the work in which Lévy theorizes “collective intelligence”.

Levy starts from the rapid changes taking place in the field of information technology and stimulated by the spread of the internet. The paradigm shift in progress and the new anthropological space are at the center of the analysis.

The scholar identifies new subjects: the “collective intellectuals”. These subjects, which the new technologies have made “nomads” in the sense given to the concept by the philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995), interacting and exchanging knowledge can also reach new forms of “democracy in real time”.

Lévy imagines a virtuous process in which the exchange of knowledge through computer tools can lead to further progress in human civilization.

Collective intelligence: a definition
Lévy defines collective intelligence in the introduction to the book of the same name:

“It is an intelligence distributed everywhere, continuously enhanced, coordinated in real time, which leads to an effective mobilization of skills. We add to this definition this indispensable clarification: the foundation and purpose of collective intelligence are the mutual recognition and enrichment of people, and not the worship of fetishized or hypostatized communities. “

(Collective intelligence. For an anthropology of cyberspace, translation by Maria Colò except for the VI chapter translated by Donata Feroldi, Feltrinelli, 1996, p. 34.)

Immediately afterwards Lévy explains the various points that make up the definition.

No one has all the knowledge, but knowledge is distributed, everyone has specific skills and knowledge.

In the face of times in which waste also concerns intelligence and skills, Lévy states that society must be able to enhance the individual bearers of their own cultural heritage.

Thanks to the constantly growing media offered by digital technologies, it is possible to coordinate subjects’ interactions in cyberspace in real time. In this way, in the shared space it is possible to organize, decide and act in such a way as to constantly transform the common virtual place.

Once knowledge is recognized and valued, it is possible to act in an ethical-political dimension for the improvement of the community.

Lévy, having clarified the definition, states that “the ideal of collective intelligence implies the technical, economic, juridical and human exploitation of an intelligence distributed everywhere, in order to trigger a positive dynamic of recognition and mobilization of competences” (pp. . 35-36).

From collective intelligence to connective intelligence
The sociologist Derrick de Kerckhove (1944) takes up the concept of “collective intelligence” of Lévy modifying it into “connective intelligence”.

Lévy’s project is humanistic, so de Kerckhove puts it into concrete reality.

Intelligences must connect, connect, relate; the multiplication of intelligences, through connection, can become a concrete practice. Thanks to the development of the “network” the connections between intelligences can happen with ease and speed.

Web 2.0 and collective intelligence
Web 2.0 can be seen as a field of application of collective intelligence.

At the base of the development of web 2.0, in fact, there is the idea that users can create value by networking, interacting in cyberspace. The processes of collaboration and sharing spread rapidly, bringing a clear improvement to the experience of using the internet.

Two examples of virtuous processes based on the concept of collective intelligence are filesharing (file sharing) and wikis (software that allows users to create and modify a website collaboratively).