Collect + intelligence = $$

In the information age barely anything is a monologue. In 2011 we love to like, dislike, share, comment, blog, check-in, bookmark, tag, rate, rank, review, and tweet everything we hear, see, feel, smell, taste and want.

Web 2.0 has provided a platform, which now offers everyone the opportunity to participate in content production. “Social network services such as Twitter or Facebook are also huge enablers of this kind of behaviour … information can be shared and/or published from a mobile phone and published instantly with global reach and multimedia support” (Colombino, Grasso, & Martin, 2007, p. 2).

This results in large-scale manifestations of collective intelligence, which Wikipedia defines as “a shared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals” (Wikipedia, 2011). Collective intelligence has always existed, but today is “occurring on a scale and in a way that never would have been possible before the Internet” (Malone, 2009). Wikipedia is the ultimate display of collective intelligence online, as “thousands of people all over the world create a very large and very high quality intellectual product with almost no centralized control, and for free” (Malone, 2009).

The infrastructure provided by the Internet has meant that collective intelligence is becoming increasingly beneficial for businesses. An example of this was seen when Vitamin Water connected with its online audience to develop a new drink. The first step of the competition run by Vitamin Water was choosing the flavour. The more chatter about a flavour, the higher it was rated on the Facebook page. This created the top ten flavours when fans could then vote for the best. The second step was the design of the packaging, where “Facebook fans were able to use the app to design the packaging” (Rhodes, 2010). Finally, the black cherry and lime Vitamin Water was named ‘Connect’, through another branch of the competition. The result of Vitamin Water embracing collective intelligence was one million individuals that felt like they had impacted the development of ‘Connect’, equating to one million customers.

Collective Intelligence is also being embraced in journalism, “the process through which news is created [is] moving away from a clear distinction between readers and writers” (Colombino, Grasso, & Martin, 2007, p. 2). More often, news networks are using “content provided by non professional users” in prime time news (Colombino, Grasso, & Martin, 2007, p. 2). This form of journalism is often tagged citizen journalism, which is continuing to prove that it can “cover some issues more effectively than the mainstream media, mainly because of the limited time and space that the mainstream media can devote to any one issue” (Macdonald, 2008, para. 1).

Collective intelligence and citizen journalism is proving to be the most effective and important during times of crises. The following examples highlight this:

1. In May of 2008 a killer earthquake hit the Sichuan province of China killing 68,000 people. A popular Chinese blogger, Ai Weiwei, visited the area and decided to make a list of all the children who had died. When Weiwei formally announced his campaign volunteers assisted him all around the country by visiting the villages to uncover the truth. The campaign succeeded in publishing the names of all the children that had died in the area and highlighted the power of collective intelligence for the greater good (Joyce, 2009).

2. When the London Bombings occurred in 2005, BBC News provided features “for witnesses to submit their videos photographs, and words, which became an integral part of the BBC report of the unfolding events. Within six hours, the BBC received more than 1,000 paragraphs, 20 amateur videos, 4,000 text messages, and 20,000 e-mails” (Rajaram, 2010).

3. During the Iranian election protests, journalists were banned and computers and mobile phones were blocked. In response, protesters and journalists sent messages, photos and video via Twitter to the outside world showing the atrocities that were occurring in Iran.

These examples are just a small selection of situations where collective intelligence through citizen journalism “go far beyond ‘have your say’ instructed comments or simple collection of photos and video about an event, but actually become a structural part of the content” (Colombino, Grasso, & Martin, 2007, p. 4) and highlights that “we are all becoming a larger part of the information dissemination mechanisms that were once reserved for formal media channels” (Joyce, 2009).

The professional press is starting to explore means to make the collective intelligence that emerges from citizen journalism useful and profitable. For example, many newspapers “host social networks where readers can publish photos and blog posts” (Online Journalism, 2010) and The Guardian is even “experimenting with other means of participation like crowdsourcing, by asking the readers to help with little pieces of investigation that may contribute to mainstream news topics” (Colombino, Grasso, & Martin, 2007, p. 3).

In conclusion, collective intelligence is being used in journalism to provide insight into situations where professional journalists are unable to go through citizen journalism. Furthermore, traditional news structures are embracing the collective intelligence of readers to increase their sources and add more photos, videos and comments to stories.


Colombino, T., Grasso, A., & Martin, D. (2007). Collective Intelligence and the Creation, Use and Management of Citizen‐Led Journalism. Retrieved February 25, 2011, from Parc:

Joyce, M. (2009, May 21). Chinese campaign reports quake victims. Retrieved Fabruary 26, 2011, from Digiactive:

Macdonald, H. (2008, April 11). Adenece of collective intelligence in media making. Retrieved February 24, 2011, from New Media Mogul:

Malone, T. (2009, February 4). Thomas Malone speaks on Collective Intelligence. Retrieved February 26, 2011, from YouTube:

Online Journalism. (2010, January 15). What is User Generated Content? Retrieved February 27, 2011, from Online Journalism Blog:

Rajaram, D. (2010, November 24). Citizen Journalism and User-generated Content. Retrieved February 25, 2011, from Suite101:

Rhodes, M. (2010, January 11). Social Media Case study: Vitamin Water’s newest flavour created by Facebook fans. Retrieved February 27, 2011, from Fresh Networks:

Wikipedia. (2011, February 14). Collective Intelligence. Retrieved February 24, 2011, from Wikipedia:


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