Wisdom innumbers –or massignorance?
ver since James Surowiecki wrote his ostentatiousbestseller
The Wisdom of Crowds
, arguing thatthe aggregation of information in groups quiteoften leads to smarter decisions, this term has been used asa panacea
for innovation through the almost spontaneousgeneration of collective wisdom. But is he right and, if so, why didn’t he prepare his book in the same manner? Admittedly, my personal information space hassubstantially changed into the direction of collectivity:from finding information based on Google’s page rankalgorithms and buying books more relying on Amazon’sthan on the publisher’s recommendations, to the use of social software like del.icio.us’ bookmarking and wiki’s asco-operative teaching aids. My confidence in expert-basedinformation is complemented with conditional trust in self-regulating, mass-based mechanisms: a step organisationsstill hesitate to take, locked in as they are by their control-based trust in primarily internal sources of information.But is this shift the forerunner of a wider and above alldeeper belief in the wisdom of crowds or simply theapplication of time-saving, versatile tools? Do these aidshelp me in containing my information overload or do they,on the contrary, contribute to it? Do they save time, or amI wasting my time in using them? Does the alleged wisdomof the crowd contribute to my own wisdom?Maybe we just have too high expectations of crowd-based, participative organisational models as alternativesfor hierarchical, bureaucratic organisations. In a straightinterview
with three leading practitioners of Wikipedia,“the encyclopaedia that anyone can edit” and flagship of crowd-based inventiveness, it is said that “creating fewerarticles as time goes on seems fairly common, as people
convergence vol 7 no 3
Ever seen a wise crowd?Aplea for personality and against shallowness, by guest editor