Wikis or collective intelligence?

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One of the things that's been bugging me for a while is the question of what's behind wikis and WikiSym 2005, the first wiki research conference we will be holding down in San Diego in a couple of days.

The question may seem odd, after all as the conference chair, I should know. But then, wikis are a technology, and the question is always, what is a technology good for?

There are multiple answers. The best one, or maybe the most common one is that wikis are collaboration tools. So wikis and wiki research could be largely about collaboration and collaborative processes.

But then you always collaborate for some purpose, and that's where the power of wikis comes in: You can map basically any kind of collaborative process onto a wiki. That's the beauty of the simple egalitarian shared reading and writing model of wikis.

Still, what I find most interesting about wikis is something that's being called "collective intelligence." This is a form of intelligence that comes about only because people collectively figure out how and what to do. "All of us are smarter than any one of us," they say. Problem is, of course, there are situations where a collective can also be vastly more stupid than any individual. That's why you need to understand the collaborative processes that lead to collective intelligence.

So, what processes support the emergence of superior inter-subject intelligence not owned by any single individual? I think this is a really interesting question worthy its own research conference.

Unfortunately, "collective intelligence" is not a very sexy name. Would you attend a conference on collective intelligence? Or would you rather attend a wiki conference? Or both? Maybe the full conference title should be "International Symposium on Wikis, Collaborative Processes, and Collective Intelligence." Or then, just WikiSym.

Well, if you have any thoughts on this subject, please let me know!

(And yes, I know, I need to upgrade this website to a proper blog with commenting functionality, sigh.)

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