What we’re reading... on collective intelligence #4

This month’s update highlights collective intelligence being used by protesters in Sudan and to address homelessness in Boston. It contains good news for detractors of open plan offices and bad news for women and fans of group brainstorms. As always, if you’ve come across any books, research papers, articles or other resources that you think we should have featured in this blog, please let us know in the comments below.

Collective intelligence in action

How real-time, person-specific data and cross-team collaboration helped US cities end homelessness

A dashboard tracks people experiencing homelessness in real time, enabling agencies to work together to get each person into housing and more nimby test their interventions. [Fast Company]

Location data from digital devices visualises how micro-level segregation manifests in the city

MIT’s ‘Atlas of Inequality’ provides a granular picture of the places in the Boston metro region that are used by people with a wide range of incomes, and those which are more economically homogeneous. Museums and airports are among the most equal places, but schools are among the least. [CityLab]

Using citizen science to learn how the human brain learns and perceives music

The Music Lab at Harvard University has launched a public Beta of their citizen science platform. The team’s findings have previously stirred debate on whether music has universal traits that mean even untrained ears can predict the functions of songs from a variety of cultures. [The Atlantic]

Women in Sudan are harnessing collective intelligence to expose security forces abusing their power

As protests against Bashir’s regime rock the country, women have repurposed facebook groups to name and shame members of his security forces. [Buzzfeed]

How data from mobile phones helped develop a national electrification strategy for Senegal

Reliable data for energy planning is often scarce in Sub-Saharan Africa, so the University of Manchester used mobile phone data to approximate the size of rural villages and electrification needs. [The Conversation]

London school children will carry sensors to monitor air quality

The data from this study will allow scientists to analyse at which point of their journey to school (or which part of their school day) children are exposed to the most pollution. [Smart Cities World]

Collective intelligence insights

Politically polarised teams produce higher quality Wikipedia articles

Analysis of ‘talk pages’ showed ideologically polarised teams engaged in longer, more constructive, competitive and linguistically diverse debates than teams of ideological moderates. [Nature]

Engaging with diversity can improve your creativity

Breaking with the habit of being friends with people who are similar to us can help challenge the heuristic-based thinking that shapes our automatic thoughts. [BBC]

Diverse R&D panels are more likely to fund novel projects

This article from 2017 highlights the biases that stop panels from funding good R&D projects and what can be done to address them - including increasing the diversity of the panel, and reducing its workload. [Harvard Business Review]

Creativity is a solitary rather than a collective pursuit

The new book from advertising and design gurus Stephen Bayley and Roger Mavity says brainstorming and team work won’t help you come up with a breakthrough idea. [FT]

Open plan offices probably don’t increase collective intelligence

Published last year, this study was the first to use data from wearables and electronic communication to measure employee interaction before and after the adoption of open plan office spaces. Spoiler: face-to-face interaction between employees decreased by 70% in open plan. [Royal Society]

The state of digital public engagement

This helpful literature review provides an accessible overview of current academic research into digital public engagement and neatly summarises some important findings [My Society]

Data debates

Why living in a world built on male data can be deadly

Caroline Criado Perez documents a litany of injustice and inconveniences perpetuated by a world where the implicit assumption is that men are the default human. One for all collective intelligence designers to keep in mind. [Guardian]

Ensuring exploitative data practices have no place in civil society work

The World Food Programme’s $45 million partnership with algorithmic intelligence firm Palantir, prompted controversy in the humanitarian sector when it was announced in February. As humanitarian organisations become increasingly reliant on digital data and third party partnerships to process and collect that data, the issue of how far ‘due diligence’ should go is likely to resurface. [The Engine Room]

Digital Defense Playbook educates communities on the impact of data-based technologies

Full of practical tools, Our Data Bodies hopes the Playbook will energise community involvement in tackling surveillance, profiling, and privacy problems rooted in social injustice. [Allied Media]

How will use of data science change decision-making by international agencies and nation states?

UN Global Pulse Lab in Jakarta and the University of New South Wales Sydney have teamed up on a new project ‘Data Science in Humanitarianism: Confronting Novel Law and Policy Challenges’ project. We can’t wait to see the findings. [UN Global Pulse Lab]

News from the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design

Seeking research partners for projects in 2019

We currently have three exciting invitations to tender. If you are interested in researching how institutions can best engage with collective intelligence from crowds; researching how AI can enhance and amplify collective intelligence; or identifying new methods for engaging communities in thinking collectively about the future, these calls might be for you.


Kathy Peach

Kathy Peach

Kathy Peach

Director of the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design

The Centre for Collective Intelligence Design explores how human and machine intelligence can be combined to develop innovative solutions to social challenges

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