MIT's Center for Collective IntelligenceYou can get a good introduction to the work being done at MIT's Center for Collective Intelligence (CCI) from a short article by Anne Trafton posted at MIT news on January 13.
For CCI's purposes, collective intelligence is defined as "the harnessing of human kinowledge and intelligence that allows groups of people to act together in ways that seem to be intelligent." Computer and Web technology are key enablers.
The basic research question CCI investigates is:
How can people and computers be connected so that collectively they act more intelligently than any individuals, groups, or computers have ever done before?I was particularly intrigued by the collaborative deliberation tool CCI has developed as part of its Climate Collaboratorium project. The goal of the project is to address the complex issue of global climate change
through the creation of a new class of web-mediated discussion and decision making forum, called the "Collaboratorium". This system, currently under development, will use an innovative combination of internet-mediated interaction, collectively generated idea repositories, computer simulation, and explicit representation of argumentation to help large, diverse, and geographically-dispersed groups systematically explore, evaluate, and come to decisions concerning systemic challenges.As Mark Klein, Principal Research Scientist at CCI, notes, "it's essentially impossible for any one person or small group to be cognizant of all of the issues, ideas and tradeoffs" that must be taken into consideration in analyzing a complex problem like climate change.
In the video below, Klein explains the web-based collaborative deliberation tool dubbed the Deliberatorium mentioned above.
For a brief tutorial on the deliberation map, which serves as the structural framework of CCI's collaborative deliberation tool, you can watch the 3:10 video below.
You can get a sense of the contrast between the CCI tool and a less effective web-based approach to collecting input from a community of users by reading Mark Klein's critique of the Open for Questions page of the change.gov website (which was created during the Obama-Biden transition and is no longer active).
A more detailed (three-page) explanation of the Climate Collaboratorium project is here (pdf, 2006).