Sunday, November 8, 2009

Collective Mind?

In reading Terranova's "Network Culture," I found myself particularly intrigued by her discussion of the "collective nature of networked, immaterial labour..." (84), but would like to problematize its sister-notion: "collective intelligence," in terms of today's Internet usage.

One source I consulted wrote the following:

"ComScore Nov. 6 said some 27 billion hours were spent on the Internet by 1.2 billion worldwide Internet users in September 2009. Microsoft Websites led the way, but 70 percent of the time spent on its sites was through Windows Live Messenger. Google came in at No. 2, with 9.3 percent of the minutes (2.5 billion hours). Facebook nabbed the fourth spot, with 5 percent of the minutes, or 1.4 billion hours."

With this last statistic in mind one immediately sees the important role (i know, yes, we all know this already...) social networking sites take in our local/global/global collective intelligence. We spend a huge amount of time on them, looking at ourselves, looking at others, looking at our collective networks.

In describing collective inteligence, Terranova quotes from Pierre Levy's definition of the topic:

"It [collective intelligence] is a form of universally distributed intelligence, constantly enhanced, coordinated in real time, and resulting in the effective mobilization of skills...The basis and goal of collective intelligence is the mutual recognition and enrichment of individuals rather than the cult of fetishized or hypostatized communities."

Combining this rather optimistic definition with the aforementioned statistic of how much time we spend on Facebook, I would like to suggest that collective intelligence is no longer based on the combining, collectivizing of heterogeneous ideas and peoples. First it was Facebook, but before that it was Myspace and before that, Friendster...All of these sites present users with a template to fill out, a same-sized square to put our picture in and the same rubric to fill out about ourselves. It homogenizes the individual for its own terms, it calculates our own person, our self. It collects us.

So then what might be risked in our using the internet (or a huge portion of our time on it) fitting into a mold? What agency are we losing and what sort of inauthentic community (if you believe it might in fact be inauthentic) are we creating? Is our very intelligence compromised by this or might it be strengthened?

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