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January 27, 2008


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H. Cloud Northrup

The Rise of Collective Intelligence: Decentralized Co-Creation of Value as a New Paradigm in Commerce and Culture

Interesting that Thomas Kuhn, the guy responsible for the popularization of "paradigms" as concept in "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" specifically argued that notions of "paradigm shifts" were irrelevant to the social sciences (and presumably the social itself).

When you apply the paradigm model to social developments, and advocate a new paradigm, you're basically saying that those who disagree with you are immersed in an old paradigm and therefore you are immune from their judgments. It's a foreclosure of the political.

That's why an analysis like Ellen Wood's is valuable. It helps you understand that the digital commons is just another iteration of a long-standing invocation of "Civil Society" whose primary effect and goal is depoliticization - and there's nothing new about that.

JJ Commoner

Those are very good points, H. Cloud .. and would probably find alignment in the work by Alex Wright in GLUT: Mastering Information Through The Ages.

"Foreclosure of the political", indeed.

Someone once said, I believe, that it seems there's nothing new under the sun.

Helios charioted nearsightedly

GLUT. I've gifted a copy to H Rheingold.


Civil society, then, is part of a bourgeois liberal society? I think so too. As opposed to oligarchy, tyranny, plutocracy, socialism, fascism, communism. A liberal democracy with robust protections for civil liberties, and a space, beyond the family, within which we can be free of demands of both state and business, be ourselves not in roles, except ones we freely choose - is that so bad as an ideal?

Hsasa Cadaso Nadada

A pub is not a polity.

What do they call people who describe the present and call it ideal?


Drunk? "What could be better than this? And what was your name again?"

JJ Commoner

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?...Am I wrong?
And you may tell yourself

Oh, stop making sense ...


In the pursuit of collective intelligence, how do you steer clear of collective stupidity?


pair o' dime = twenny cent. less if they're stuck together.


Folly praising Folly to Fools arranged in solemn rows. That is Erasmus for you.

Jeff Doyle

Beware of geeks bearing gifts? Surely we all believe in the power of markets to allocate resources with maximal efficiency? These folks are working tirelessly to ensure sure that knowledge is too cheap to meter. I feel quite confident that, at the very least, access to the digital commons will be priced not one iota higher than the point at which it would just begin make sense to digitize it all a second time. That is the nature of market pricing. Nobody pays more than fair market value for political influence. Why would knowledge be any different?

Hazel Coronas are Neat

Have you ever done a video conference? If you attempt to look at the person you're talking to, by looking at their window on your screen and engaging their eyes, you have to look away from your iCam. The effect for the person you are conversing with is that you have looked away from them. No doubt there is capital to be culled by the talented arbitrageur who can exploit this differential. A trust gap or something like that.

Walter Ong said

"The orator has before him an audience which is a true audience, a collectivity. 'Audience" is a collective noun. There is no such collective noun for readers, nor so far as I am able to puzzle out, can there be. "Readers" is a plural. For readers do not form a collectivity acting here and now on one another, and on the one speaking to them, as members of an audience do."

This suggests even with the "convergence" of audio/video/text there's still something to be worked out.

If you're talking about collective intelligence, it's probably worth noting the difference between "collective" the adjective and "collective" the noun. Perhaps a collective intelligence consisting of isolated collaborators does not qualify for the status of a collective proper.

I think it's bold and brave of David Collier to have presented in "The Rise of Collective Intelligence" a dystopian vision of the rise of a "Cloud" (a future in which "A small number of utility service providers—combining telecommunications, cable, Internet service providers, and portals—will control 80 percent of the global market by 2020.") which threatens the cause of the commons which he has tirelessly advocated for so long, and applaud the humor with which he mockingly relays the fretting amongst certain interests over the potential thwarting of its arrival.

STREPSIADES: By god, Socrates, tell me, I beg you, who these women are who sing so solemnly. Are they some special kind of heroines?

SOCRATES: No—they’re heavenly Clouds, great goddesses for lazy men—from them we get our thoughts, our powers of speech, our comprehension, our gift for fantasy and endless talk, our power to strike responsive chords in speech and then rebut opponents’ arguments.

STREPSIADES: Ah, that must be why, as I heard their voice, my soul took wing, and now I’m really keen to babble on of trivialities, to argue smoke and mirrors, to deflate opinions with a small opinion of my own, to answer someone’s reasoned argument with my own counter-argument. So now, I’d love to see them here in front of me, if that’s possible.

SOCRATES: Just look over there— towards Mount Parnes. I see them coming, slowly moving over here.

STREPSIADES: Where? Point them out.

SOCRATES: They’re coming down here through the valleys— a whole crowd of them—there in the thickets, right beside you.

STREPSIADES:This is weird. I don’t see them.

SOCRATES: [pointing into the wings of the theatre] There—in the entrance way.

STREPSIADES: Ah, now I see— but I can barely make them out.

[The Clouds enter from the wings]

SOCRATES: There—surely you can see them now, unless your eyes are swollen up like pumpkins.

STREPSIADES:I see them. My god, what worthy noble presences! They’re taking over the entire space.

SOCRATES: You weren’t aware that they are goddesses? You had no faith in them?

STREPSIADES: I’d no idea. I thought clouds were mist and dew and vapour.

SOCRATES: You didn’t realize these goddesses support a multitude of charlatans— prophetic seers from Thurium, quacks who specialize in books on medicine, lazy long-haired types with onyx signet rings, poets who produce the twisted choral music for dithyrambic songs, those with airy minds— all such men so active doing nothing the Clouds support, since in their poetry these people celebrate the Clouds.

STREPSIADES: Ah ha, so that’s why they poeticize ”the whirling radiance of watery clouds as they advance so ominously,” ”waving hairs of hundred-headed Typho,” with “roaring tempests,” and then “liquid breeze,” or ”crook-taloned, sky-floating birds of prey,” ”showers of rain from dewy clouds”—and then, as a reward for this, they stuff themselves on slices carved from some huge tasty fish or from a thrush.

SOCRATES: Yes, thanks to these Clouds. Is that not truly just?


Hazel, welcome to my Cloud. Or, our collective cloud. I too am fascinated by the glance in oratory. The orator meets the eyes of individual audience members and for a moment holds them, speaking to that one person, as the others overhear. The voice modulates to the personal voice, as opposed to a public haranguing voice. Eyes follow the orator's eyes, and see the eyes of the one adressed. Glances meet from one member of the audience to another, the seats are arranged in a semi-circle to make that possible. The orator can work the mood, play off against reactions, so a mob, an audience, a community is formed. Common sense, and common knowledge. Today we do it with brands. They jut out as the protagonist on a stage. We salute by wearing that brand, and others see that we do. A lapel flag is a political version. That the cloud will float inside the miraculous market, as property of the few, is not surprising in an age when the human genome is owned and sold. Bollier should get with the program and get a piece of the action while he can.


Cannot a Multitude be singular and plural at the same time, and what would that mean?

STREPSIADES: Ah, that must be why, as I heard their voice, my soul took wing, and now I’m really keen to babble on of trivialities, to argue smoke and mirrors, to deflate opinions with a small opinion of my own, to answer someone’s reasoned argument with my own counter-argument. So now, I’d love to see them here in front of me, if that’s possible.

Seems to me that this dialog is actually deconstructing itself. What is pointed to is the lack of a channel back from the audience (clouds) to the speaker. This is precisely what is coming within our reach in this digitally mediated world. As individuals step out from the cloud and make their voices heard, the collective can tell whether they are heard or not, and understands instinctively that each singular voice is or is not respected in turn.

One of the campaigns seems to be developing a two way conversation with the voters. To suggest it is a scam, that this one is just like the rest is to ape the cloud that Socrates is ridiculing here. The only way to know for sure is to step forward and ask the candidate what they will do for the issues that concern you and to see what response you get.

Will the candidate speak back to you directly? Yes, but only if you happen to have the opportunity to engage him at a personal appearance on the trail, and then there will not be much time for back and forth unless the event is more of a "town hall" thing. If you contact the candidates organization you will get an organization response, and I will claim that it is more difficult for an organization to fake caring than to really do it.


Obama is the one who listens? You have to ask, though, whose money he takes and on whose behalf he acts behind closed doors. The whole game of identifying with politicians seems pretty desperate. Perhaps they are best considered as front persons for organized coalitions with clout. The coalitions that want buy-in from ordinary people may not be ordinary people themselves. There is a backstage as well as a front stage. The stage has two curtains. One rises, the other does not. Two audiences, one that politician faces, the other for whom he or she performs. The dance is whether the politician can get the visible audience to sway in harmony with the words. Then the people behind the curtain can get their agenda advanced.


Yes, that is exactly the question for Obama as it is for any of them who wants our votes. Do they face the public, or is the primary audience the hidden one. There is no question that both are there. The hero may need to use deception to reach the dragons lair, but if he is a true hero, he is there to slay the dragon.

What I am saying is that is is harder to create a political organization to effectively fake it than to do the real thing. The Rovian tricks only work for a sleeping public audience, and I don't think you can call Obama's audience that. Before Edwards dropped out I was wondering the same for him.

One thing is for sure, we are a lot better off with someone talking the talk, and if they don't walk the walk when it comes to that we have a lot better rhetorical lever to push back with.

Herding Cattle via the Net

I'm not sure what's so laudatory about the multitude. The so-called multitude has been criticized as the ultimate capitalist fantasy (a charge for which Bollier's report could be considered evidentiary), unable to move from resistance to self-rule - self-rule being an illusion, which, if actualized, would manifest itself not as absolute democracy but as terror (perhaps Givewell got a greatly diluted taste of that).

In any case, in all that discussion about the co-creation of value, it's interesting that the word "worker" never appears, as if the entire social body was made of happily productive amateur hobbyists. Even in the intro, there's a passage citing " the
very successful Li & Fong apparel company, in which entities through-
out the value chain learn from each other." This is not so obviously good news for the sweatshop workers.


Herding Cattle, The mulititude makes what per hour, I wonder? Dollars? Pennies? Domestic? Offshored? When and if the rise, I am afraid they may see us as part of the managerial class, or cultural creative class that has been complacent, if not oppressive. As for the cultural creatives, your reference to the Givewell saga is telling.


Hmmm. The "multitude" is a revisionist conception of the working class whose defining feature is that it *includes* the "creative class" - i.e., people engaged in "immaterial labor." So your anxiety about the multitude rising up and striking at people like you is unfounded, if there is such a thing as the multitude.

That's the Hardt/Negri reimagining of democracy extricated from the Schmittian conflicts that liberals and conservative engage in.

This is a controversial move within the left, a controversey which expresses itself in a disagreement among tendencies which can be broadly indentified as autonomist or Leninist.

You can start to approach this by looking at the "commons." Liberals talk about the commons. Leftists talk about "the common" or "the production of the common." The distinction is that they wish to strip the "common" of any feudalist nostalgia which is characteristic of the liberal version.

Hardt/Negri say that the old industrial working class has lost its hegemonic status, and now the hegemonic position is occupied by immaterial laborers. The multitude, intheir conception includes just about everybody - peasants, the unemployed, industrial laborers, affective laborers. There is no "outside" anymore.

There is significant resistance to this conception on the left. It is specious some say. But it appeals to autonomists who believe in the power of self-organization. Hardt/Negri claim that the multitude is not an undifferentiated mass like a crowd, but a collection of singularities. By virtue of this status of singularity, the multitude will be able to move from resistance to self-rule in a manner that the crowd can't.

On the other hand, you get people like Zizek who say the multitude is the ultimate capitalist fantasy.

For instance, what is a "co-creator of value?" Is that what you'd want as an epitaph: "I contributed"? Industrial labor was characterized by "shut up and work." Immaterial labor by "speak up and contribute." That's open source, the creative commons, etc. In both cases one is compelled to a certain activity. For instance, it is not uncommon for a condition of employment these days that one must blog, or create a Facebook account.

and so on...


Well said Mr. nobody. I don't know whether the production of the Multitude and the Commons precedes and anticipates a transformation of the organization of work, or whether this will go on simultaneously. I suspect they proceed together with the former leading the latter by a bit.

Hacking Coughs and Noodles

Developments in paradigmology


O my, Rageboy on Zizek on the Tao of Capitalism. My paradigms are shifting so fast it is making me queasy.


I hope the link lives up to your description, Phil. Here I go. I should be ok, I don't get motion sickness very often.


Hmmm, I'm unimpressed. The New Age meme is so '80s, maybe even '70s, not that paradigms are fads. There are a few limited insights there, but most of it is building a strawman and burning it down.

Sometimes a new paradigm really represents a new way of thinking, a way of looking at many problems, a general tool that can be applied in many domains. The idea of "New Age" really doesn't have any content to speak of, but the ideas that come out of chaos, complex systems, dynamic systems, etc. really is revolutionizing the way we think about almost everything.

Stephen Wolfram's "A New Kind of Science" is dedicated to this idea, and presses it like an evangelist who must witness the truth he has been shown. It's quite a tour de force, but unfortunately he missed that many other people were pursuing the same track and had already covered a lot of the territory.

Of course economics is stuck mostly in the 16th century still, but check out The Origin of Wealth for an excellent treatment of the new paradigm for economics.

The issue with power relations is that the in-group usually doesn't want any reinterpretations.

Halite Crystals Negligible

The word "paradigm" has been invoked so frequently over the last ten years that a reasonable person, capable of distancing himself from the rhetoric, might suspect that its use is symptomal, not analytical.

Thinking about it from that perspective, a person might explore various possibilities. For instance, you could explore whether the invocation of a "new paradigm" functions as a means of obfuscating and enforcing a defensive style of conformism to the present moment whose goal is to project and reproduce already-existing qualities into the future while coating them with a sheen of change.

You might ask if subject submerged within a "new paradigm" could describe his situation any more successfully than a goldfish could describe a goldfish bowl.

and so on...


Better get on board with the new paradigm, because there is no telling whether we can squeeze in one more after that before the world ends. "The Last Paradigm Shift" could be a pretty good movie title.

Hellish Crisis Negotiated

Most likely, contracts can be drawn to ensure the production of new paradigms, on schedule, yet with timely interruptions that prove to be accelerative.


Few are aware of the paradigm shift when you are in the middle of it. Very likely, paradigm shift is one of those scale free, power law, sort of things. Little ones happen on a very short time scale all the time, and the long scale is visible as well. Sometimes things go on for a long time when very little seems to be happening.

I can see many scales of change converging in our age, making it one of the most interesting and challenging times to be alive. Maybe it always feels that way, but I doubt it. We live in a critical time, we will either make it to an entirely new level of social organization that is different from what most of us can imagine, or we will experience horrors that dwarf the scale of any in human existence.

I suspect that we are past the point of no return, like and airplane on the runway with too much speed to stop, either you get airborne or you crash.

Just because it has become another marketing buzzword, doesn't mean that there is not a real phenomenon, and therefore that some of these shift are the real thing. Decerning which is which is the trick.

Hippie Cynara Nintendo

Commonly, scales are only skin deep, although it's worth asking whether the scale in your brother's eye is the artichoke in your own. Battered and braised as we are, we still put our cauliflower ears to the rail, listening for the thump of the engines driving the long kale to market, prognosticating asparagul transformations of chamber-pots into flasks of perfume.

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