What is CI? – a community approach to define it

In a recent conference call of CI practitioners somebody brought up the question “what collective intelligence really IS”. Here, I suggest an approach to define CI in terms of a domain of practice shared by a community of peers.


A domain, in the context of communities of practice, is a “domain of knowledge worthy of the collective attention of a group of peers.” (Etienne Wenger) Suggesting the “communities of practice” approach to describe what CI is, we recognize that the definition of no domain of knowledge is separable from the community using and developing it. It helps us avoiding the trap of semantic debates, abstract theorizing, and the typical misunderstandings when practitioners of very different disciplines try to describe an object common to all.
In that sense, the question is not what is CI but what is CI to us as a potential community? What is our shared sense of the domain that we are engaged in? “What makes our domain a coherent body of knowledge? Where does it fit in the broader scheme of things? What exactly is our domain? Where does it stop?” (Etienne Wenger) There are as many definitions of CI as different kinds of discipline-oriented or mission-oriented communities practicing it. I imagine that CI for the intelligence community, or marketers using it for predicting consumer trends, has a meaning quite different from what I suggested (see upper left corner), in an evolutionary perspective, to use by a potential community of evolutionary agents.
This differentiation does not imply that either of those definitions is wrong or right. It just means that they reflect different domains of practice engaged by different communities of practitioners.
Of course, there are community straddlers with membership in multiple communities, and tools and techniques that can span and help cross-fertilizing multiple domains. All that becomes possible on the basis that each community defines CI as a domain of knowledge and practice that attracts the learning edge of, shared attention and stewardship by its members.

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4 Responses to What is CI? – a community approach to define it

  1. emrgnc says:

    This raises all sorts of questions about how we define knowledge communities and their way of knowing. If we should group not by identifying opposing paradigms of thought (or practice), perhaps instead then by a classification of intent.
    By being completely clear in recognising there are other perspectives and why we have chosen one – integrity of perspective then gives us a community with unity (such as in this space).
    But in moments of harmony I always fall back on Karl Popper’s essay on the Myth of the Framework refuting that we need to know what we are talking about using a shared langauge in order to have a meaningful and productive conversation towards a collective insight. The alternative is more mess – sure – but he had a point.
    Does the purpose behind the knowing then guide the perception of what is known – and what is the ‘intelligence’ that is then created?

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  2. pad says:

    Efforts to pin down a precise definition of “What CI Really IS” seem to suggest there is one correct answer and maybe risks turning it into an unliving, albeit exciting, thing. Of course for those of us who experience CI in our daily lives we know it to be animated and very alive. That’s why it can evolve.
    In the journeying spirit of discovery … perhaps a more compelling and fertile phrasing of the question is “What might CI BE?”
    This gives CI the mystery of a life we can all share and enjoy as we grow with and in it.

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  3. Defining “Collective Intelligence”

    DEFINING “COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE”
    “Collective intelligence” is a richly diverse domain of study and practice. Having an inclusive definition may help diverse practitioners work and explore together. One such definition might be simply:
    Colle…

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  4. soulsoup says:

    Decentralized Intelligence

    What Toyota can teach the 9/11 commission about intelligence gathering.from MSN Slate Collective intelligence in action. the secret to their success was not so much that any individual had anticipated the need to build up emergency problem-solving capa…

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