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seminar: Internet Swarms and Peer production

May 12, 2008

Today we have in KERG seminar two guests, Petri Kola and Juhana Kokkonen.
Topic is: Internet Swarms and Peer production

Swarm as a structure of very skillful internet users – net natives – who move from service to service using them in a very creative way. Participants have between them lose connections compared to the physical world. Traditionally if you start a volunteer organization officially people first must argue of hierarchy and rules and it slows down the process before anything real happens. In the net it is the opposite – people come together and start to develop some idea and start to put it into action step by step. People are investing a little time to see if the thing goes forward – microtrust, things do not have to succeed.

It is different from common view of web 2.0 users as amateurs, Petri believes the users are more with expertise.

How net is different from physical world?

Our concept of “how internet works” shouldn’t be developed on the basis of metaphors but real research data.

Metaphors can give us totally wrong picture how things are, eg. friction and privacy can be totally different in physical and virtual environment.

Internet happens to be a different kind of beast.

Micro contribution is something that doesn’t exist in physical world.
It is different from traditional participation systems – you can make easily contributions (eg. like in wiki).

Typical life patterns change with micro contributions.

More and more knowledge production is becoming the leading part in creating values and money.
Productivity in cognitive work depends on the right participants and resources meeting together.

Open systems better as information processing systems.

Individual physical differences are not so big as the knowledge work differences between individuals.
Out cognitive ability is different at different times of the day, we are productive when we can choose time and space.

Commons based peer networks: open systems

Compared to hierarchical organizations, it makes a lot of sense to go over organizational borders and give people initiative to choose people to work with and to choose what to do.

Yokshai Benkler: The wealth of networks: how social production transforms markets and freedom (2006).

Essential question: how to combine contributions.

What are the criteria for someone to have the permission to contribute.
In open production model there is no hierarchy about who is more competent. In digital world we have a permanent undo-possibility – if someone contributes what does not fit it can be undone.

Question is how to make difference and separate good and bad contributions.
Community can establish a system where contributions are evaluated.
Contributions can be evaluated by their merit, effect.

There must be some rules:
The rule of neutral point of view: every article should be balanced with point of uses.

Forking makes open virtual immaterial collaboration different from real production.
Community can choose the safe branch and avoid the problematic one.

Forking is an insurance for participants.

How virtual organizing is different?
Organizing to the virtual internet can be differnet from organizing physical reality.

early feedback
do something and evaluate afterwards
emergent rules
unclear borders
focus on action and achievement
short time periods for one goal
rules are more decided on the way
doesn’t look like much effort
doesnt have to succeed
the collaborations do not look like anything
you must be part of it to see the point

In lightweight organizations, if based on volunteer participation, the projects can go to sleeping mode without a problem.

Hacker attitudes from wikipedia, but many of these attitudes seem much in line how participating in swarm.

Produsage= production + usage
If production and consumption cannot be separated, it may change values, it may make to rethink what is the product.

If you are not a contributer now, you are always a potential contributor. A wiki must be constantly monitored all the time to remain the product it is.

stigmery= indirect coordination between agents or actions
It means the way how ants coordinate their action, they change their environment and it changes actions of other sin this environment.

Eric Bonabeau, a complexity theorist and the chief scientist at Icosystem Corporation in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “We’re not used to solving decentralized problems in a decentralized way. “

Crowds tend to be wise only if individual members act responsibly and make their own decisions. A group won’t be smart if its members imitate one another, slavishly follow fads, or wait for someone to tell them what to do. When a group is being intelligent, whether it’s made up of ants or attorneys, it relies on its members to do their own part.

Karsten Heuer, a wildlife biologist, observed in 2003, when he and his wife, Leanne Allison, followed the vast Porcupine caribou herd (Rangifer tarandus granti) for five months. “It was as though every animal knew what its neighbor was going to do, and the neighbor beside that and beside that. There was no anticipation or reaction. No cause and effect. It just was.”

“In biology, if you look at groups with large numbers, there are very few examples where you have a central agent,” says Vijay Kumar, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. “Everything is very distributed: They don’t all talk to each other. They act on local information. And they’re all anonymous.

Charles N. Harper: “When ants bring food back to the nest, they lay a pheromone trail that tells other ants to go get more food,” Harper explains. “The pheromone trail gets reinforced every time an ant goes out and comes back, kind of like when you wear a trail in the forest to collect wood. So we developed a program that sends out billions of software ants to find out where the pheromone trails are strongest for our truck routes.”

ecological niche idea is there!

The text is not only content, but it is also a guide for participating in the project. It is both the content and the participation interface put together.

Projects parvi.fi

Tutkimusparvi: people from social media research

Swarm-like education is the model where people will be representing different stakeholders. There will be learning materials like wikibooks. The idea would be start a peer-learning process, where all the diffrenet groups contribute and learn from each other.

Mauri: when does swarm lose being a swarm, are there characteristics of swarminess

Petri: maybe swarm is a phase of getting more organized

Forking ability gives the swarm-quality.

Learning swarm wiki was started.

My reflections:
i think Petri put two different things into one that are not same at phenomenon level – awareness based dynamic small-particle behaviour centred microblogs, and wikis that are more the broad result centred less than identifying the actors.

1. some swarm phenomena in awareness systems are at particle level dynamic and convey short term feedback type of influence to changing of the ecosystem/niches in the sense why and what the others do, that is socio-emotional and task and process (activity) awareness perhaps

2. more artifact-centred wikis are systems where the long-term feedback (the pages) influences the niche more and is of more ecological impact. Focus is on what changed in the environment where the actors are living in. Maybe it is the broad situation awareness?

In embodied simulation there are some aspects from both: picking up and integrating into your action both the other actors as well as the objects (something in text either as traces of action or triggers of meaning building) that might serve as your action triggers.

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4 comments

  1. […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptSwarm as a structure of very skillful internet users – net natives – who move from service to service using them in a very creative way. Participants have between them lose connections compared to the physical world. … […]


  2. […] Niche Marketing – Andy Beard wrote an interesting post today on seminar: Internet Swarms and Peer productionHere’s a quick excerpt Today we have in KERG seminar two guests, Petri Kola and Juhana Kokkonen. Topic is: Internet Swarms and Peer production Swarm as a structure of very skillful internet users – net natives – who move from service to service using them in a very creative way. Participants have between them lose connections compared to the physical world. Traditionally if you start a volunteer organization officially people first must argue of hierarchy and rules and it slows down the process before anything rea […]


  3. Greeny says : I absolutely agree with this !


  4. […] recently Petri Kola explained at seminar the concept of swarms as a very useful one to explain behaviour in microblogging […]



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