The NMC/EDUCAUSE 2008 Horizon Report (.pdf) is a great resource. Educators and administrators will do well to consider its contents in their planning. I have a small concern. Something about the notion of collective intelligence doesn’t sit well with me. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I can (and have) used the term myself to explain the combined efforts of “the many” in achieving an outcome, solving a problem, or determining the value of a resources (such as voting/rating systems in Amazon and Digg). As a term, it resonates with people – the value of being part of a larger community and sharing and creating information together is valuable, if not necessary today.
I’m not comfortable with collective intelligence – I prefer the notion of connective intelligence.
Derrick de Kerckhove explored this concept in 1997, well before we had the distributed collaboration tools we’re using today. James Surowiecki explored a similar concept in Wisdom of the Crowds. Surowiecki’s book is often misunderstood. He makes the point that people do not think together in coming to certain conclusions, but rather than people think on their own and the value of the collaborative comes in the connection and combination of ideas. Each person retains their own identity and ideas, but they are shaped and influenced by the work of others. The concept here is related somewhat to Stephen Downes’ discussion of groups vs. networks. At stake in these discussions (Surowiecki, Downes, de Kerchove) is how we are to perceive the individual in a world where the collaborative/collective is increasingly valued. Collective intelligence places the collective first. Connective intelligence places the individual node first.
At this point, the distinction between collective and connective intelligence may not be very pronounced for most people. As we continue to engage in collaborative work, I think the distinction will become vital. For reasons of motivation, self-confidence, and satisfaction, it is critical that we can retain ourselves and our ideas in our collaboration with others. Connective intelligences permits this. Collective intelligence results in an over-writing of individual identity. In fairness to the Horizon Report, their focus is more on self-correcting attributes of collective activities, while my criticism is leveled at what happens to the individual in the process.