Social Media and Collective Intellegence

This article introduces the discussion of Twitter having the potential to act as a medium that allows the masses to both follow and contribute to a collective intelligence. This collective intelligence could, because of the nature of Twitter and the nature of how it is used, can be highly relevant in the pursuit of what is import to the public now, what will be important very shortly, and even a view at how these two areas change, grow and develop through the space of a given time period.

These potentials, the article continues, are the basis for Congress’ decision to archive information provided by Twitter, financial experts now using this data as a suggestion for financial activities, and schools of scientists now seeing how this data can change the approaches they use in some of their sociological studies.

The article, in addition to proposing Twitter’s potential, suggests possible shortcomings of the platform. Firstly, it states that Twitter’s existing population only represents a fraction of the world, suggesting that the findings gathered from Twitter may not be representative across all areas. Secondly, it dicusses how the nature of Twitter’s communication methods more than noticeably curb the range of topics that can be dicussed, hashtagged, etc. via Twitter. Longer, more involved subjects and opinions may never have a place on Twitter’s platform which reduces all communication to 140 characters.

Many of the points the article introduces closely connect to the discussion our class began in which we discussed the advantages and disadvantages of social media and traditional news sources. If my memory is correct, I think our class arrived at many of the same conclusions: that social media has the potential to be a great resource in efforts to understand the public, and that social media still has a ways to go before it can do so perfectly.

My question though is, although I agree that many of these shortcomings do exist, for how long do we see them being a real issue? All types of research requiring a population for which to base its data are vulnerable to some amount of inaccuracy, and reasonable minds can differ on the amount of vulnerability that exists with Twitter. How long do we see these inadequacies persisting? Twitter, as its users know, is evolving at an alarming rate; a rate almost as fast as its growth. Its users are also evolving: sites like TwitPic allow users to share pictures, bit.ly links allow for longer conversations, etc.

Twitter may not yet be the source of collective intelligence that it has the potential to be, but how soon before it is?

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