May people act constructively as a collective without being conscious about it?
Nowadays we can witness numerous situations where humans contribute to collective problem solving and sense making by publicly sharing information enabled by means of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Examples include natural disasters (e.g. the Haiti earthquake) or political crises (e.g. the Kenyan election) but also sports events, election campaigns and scientific discoveries.
Studying those exemplars shows that even though there is some common topic or goal hovering above the information sharing activities of the individuals (e.g. coordinating help in disaster response or optimising travel routes of people being affected by traffic disruptions), people are not necessarily talking with each other or along social ties. Instead we can see an upgraded importance of information broadcasting and coincidence, especially when the time to make decisions is limited (e.g. in life threatening situations).
It was the swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung - amongst others - who did some early and influential reasoning about “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events”. Revisiting Jung's ideas in the context of the Internet and the World Wide Web may help us to create meaning out of coincidence and capture a kind of implicit algorithm or digital subconscious, that is the substrate of the accumulated information sharing behaviour of individuals.
To understand and formalise this phenomenon is the purpose of my research. It involves investigating the fundamental relationship of time and information as well as the question where information actually resides in a multi-dimensional space.
Recent debates about our increasingly selective view to information - a result of content personalisation in search results and social network timelines due to the commercial interest of the social network providers - are an additional motivation for this kind of data analysis, which aims at avoiding the amplification of some biases that lie in digital social structures (e.g. gender imbalances but also deliberate spread of misinformation).
Luczak-Roesch, M., Tinati, R., O'Hara, K. and Shadbolt, N., 2015, February. Socio-technical computation. In Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference Companion on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing(pp. 139-142). ACM.
Luczak-Roesch, M., Tinati, R., Aljaloud, S., Hall, W. and Shadbolt, N., 2016, June. A Universal Socio-Technical Computing Machine. In International Conference on Web Engineering (pp. 559-562). Springer International Publishing.