Evolving Collective Intelligence by Tom Atlee

Exploring how to generate the collective wisdom we need

Exploring how to generate the collective wisdom we need

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June 27, 2005

Blog Power vs Media's Breathless Irrelevancies

The Downing Street Memo story provides an object lesson in
(a) skewed media coverage -- especially when compared with the Michael Jackson story -- and
(b) the competitive dynamics between blogs and mass media.

The Downing Street Memo is one of several high-level British documents which showed that the UK and the US created the Iraq war on fudged evidence, started it months before it was announced or approved, and gave little thought to the likely consequences.

How the Leaked Documents Questioning War Emerged from 'Britain's Deep Throat' by Michael Smith in The Sunday Times UK explains the sequence of leaked documents in the Downing Street Memo story. Most interesting from an "evolving collective intelligence" perspective, is that it describes the story of how bloggers made these memos public in the U.S., where the mainstream press was ignoring this obviously newsworthy story.

Along these same lines, Arianna Huffington notes in Just Say Noruba the idea that, "blogs have become the news cycle's appeals court, and that the Downing Street Memo story is still alive because it won on appeal."

However, she also notes that the mass media have powerful antibodies to certain substantive news stories like this -- including their power to focus for many days, weeks or months on distractingly dramatic stories of celebrities like Michael Jackson or people whose fate is barely a ripple in the tsunami of world affairs, like Natalee Holloway, who disappeared in Aruba.

Huffington chronicles a disturbing pattern in the number of stories run on these three subjects -- Downing St., Jackson, and Holloway -- in the six primary news networks. For example, between May 1 and June 20, CBS News ran zero segments on "Downing Street Memo" -- compared to 70 on "Natalee Holloway" and 235 on "Michael Jackson". Hello?

We can wait and see who wins this media battle over whether we citizens get the vital information we need to make collectively intelligent democratic decisions. But this isn't a horse-race. We're talking about our fate and the fate of our communities, nations and world. Ultimately the success of things like blogs depends totally on us ordinary people...

So pass the word on....


posted by Tom Atlee on Monday June 27 2005
updated on Saturday September 24 2005

URL of this article:




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Readers' Comments


If I were in the desired future appreciating where we were and wanting to understand how we got there I'd ask a couple questions like.....

"What finally stimulated the mass exodus away from old style journalism and into blogging as a primaary news source for much of the world's population?"

"How were the imaginations of a critical mass of people stimulated by blog culture?"

"How did blogs become hip to the mainstream culture?"

It's not too outlandish to suggest that blogs are in their infancy now and might be expected to become as commonly used as the internet and cellphones. It's more a matter of "when" not "if". Isn't what we're talking about really the question of how to ingage the curiosity and interest of the public in this technology sooner rather than later?

What would it look like to facilitate a collectively intelligent approach to promote blogging as an alternative to contemporary media coverage? Using Tom's model of collectively intelligent interventions, what are the most effective levels to be activated in service of a cultural shift away from reliance on contemporary media and into blog rendered information transfer?

Y'all with me on this?

Don't you think a well conceptualized, concrete and well presented plan would attract adequate funding? Do we really suppose in the circle of friends and associates familiar with this work there aren't organizations and individuals of wealth eager and hungry to be asked to fund a specific and clearly defined project of this type?

Doug Freeman

Posted by: doug freeman on July 16, 2005 06:21 AM


Thanks, Doug. I think such a project would be great, but wouldn't be my focus, personally. I'm interested in building the deliberative capacity of the citizenry. Blogging offers an alternative source of information, but has its own problems re identifying what's dependable. If someone wants to improve the role of blogging in society's collective intelligence, I'd suggest developing more sophisticated ways to evaluate bloggers' info.

As I said in my May 1 entry "Citizen Journalism vs Framing Issues for Deliberation" my interest in blogs is how they provide raw material for framing issues for deliberation (i.e., describing the range of approaches to an issue and the arguments and evidence for and against each approach). I'm not sure if bloggers, themselves, as a group, are the right ones to process that information. But I'd be interested in anyone's ideas for a highly participatory online system for evaluating and sorting "open source information" (including all the blog data) into knowledge usable for public deliberations.

Posted by: Tom Atlee on July 16, 2005 03:59 PM


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