Collective Intelligence: Content Curation + Social Collaboration

For all the negative criticism the internet receives, it has enabled us to bring together more minds, thoughts, and ideas in one collective space than we ever thought possible. Howard Rheingold’s (2012) examination of collective intelligence combines content curators and collaborators, essentially a digital “think tank” that is available for the masses. “If you tag, favorite, comment, wiki edit, curate, or blog, you are already part of the web’s collective intelligence” (Net Smart, p. 148)

I’m intrigued with “content curator” from Rheingold’s (2012) chapter on participation, the process of collecting, organizing, and sharing information. This filtering process not only narrows down information, but it also allows you to become a sort of expert. Once you become a seasoned curator, you’ll build trust with followers who will likely contribute more to the conversation. With this collection of content and knowledge, you can share with others to create a collective knowledge. Because we know that “two heads are better than one” to solve a problem.

Social network sites, not only limited to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or a blog, but also anywhere that you’re able to contribute via a comment or share feature is considered social collaboration. Rheingold says the important elements of collective intelligence is combining participation and collaboration skills from virtual communities (p. 161).

collaboration concept. Chart with keywords and icons

Elements of collaboration. Courtesy of

Social collaboration and collective intelligence is how we’re able to create and improve everything. Matt Ridley, author of the Rational Optimist, says “collective intelligence produce the items we use in our everyday lives” (Collective Intelligence, 2015, YouTube). For example, improving cell phone technology. I remember the first cell phone I had was about the size of a walkie talkie and I could only use it for calling and texting. Through collaboration and collective intelligence, cell phones became compact and added technology to take digital pictures, connect to the internet, send photos via text,  GPS mapping, and so much more. Ridley and others share their ideas about collective intelligence in the video Collective Intelligence (start at the 2:40 mark).

What I found most interesting about collective intelligence is how it has enabled more people to participate and contribute to sites such as Wikipedia, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding (


Rheingold, H. (2012). Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.

“Collective Intelligence.” (5 Jan. 2015). OnEnglish Online. Retrieved October 29, 2016, from

Posted on October 29, 2016, in Digital, Social Media and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I definitely agree with your point about how collaboration and collective intelligence presents a huge opportunity through the Internet. In some ways, it seems like we’ve only begun to see the tip of the iceberg. We’ve started exploring the possibilities through wikis and crowd sourcing sites for funding, but I wonder if we’ve just begun to tap into the potential. How can we leverage the intelligence of the masses to tackle the hardest problems or to produce more results?

    I think Rheingold’s example of using thousands of people to search through the ocean pictures for the missing man is a very interesting application (even though it sadly didn’t work), and I remember hearing about something similar when MH370 went down in March 2014. I’ve also seen more websites lately dedicated to solving patients’ medical mysteries. Patients provide their symptoms and medical history and doctors and other self-deemed experts attempt to diagnose them. It kind of comes back to the old cliche that “none of us is as smart as all of us,” and for the first time in human history, the Internet actually gives us the tool to combine the knowledge of “all of us.” Any particular areas you’d like to see it go?

    • Agree online collaboration and collective intelligence haven’t been tapped yet. I’m not sure of the possibilities myself. I’m researching on this topic more. I see more health and science inquiries to help solve something. Would this also apply to unsolved/cold case files? Collective intelligence could solve these cases too.

  2. Once you become a seasoned curator, you’ll build trust with followers who will likely contribute more to the conversation. With this collection of content and knowledge, you can share with others to create a collective knowledge. Because we know that “two heads are better than one” to solve a problem.

    This reminded me of how Jimmy Wales, creator of Wikipedia, describes their “governance model.”

    I wonder if his quality of work and passion point at the end [see transcript here: could inspire further discussion, particularly since this TED talk is from 2005. What has changed, if anything? How might Wikileaks compare? Other crowd-inspired projects?

  3. I think you’re so right about how social collaboration and intelligence have helped us create and improve things. I think that is a major factor in the way things change “so quickly” now. It doesn’t take as long to improve on things, or come up with new ways of doing things when there is such a vast pool of resources, knowledge, and networks.

    • I think we’ve also gone through the Gartner Hype Cycle with some of the social collaboration/collective intelligence. At the time of the TED talk above, most people were enthusiastic about all of the new opportunities. Since then, we fell into the “trough of disillusionment,” which is where Keen’s position in this week’s reading is coming from. Instead of new frontiers, he sees collaboration resulting in a mess. Over the last couple of years, I think we’ve evened out and are figuring out more ways where mass collaboration can be helpful, such as in crowdsourcing funding for innovative projects, but no longer necessarily see it as the panacea to all of humanity’s ills.

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