Authorship vs. Intelligence

One more thought about this idea of collective intelligence (see prior two posts, and forgive my lapse in writing…just settling back in after a week away).

Reflecting back on what I’ve written on this topic, I sense that I may have been conflating collective authorship with collective intelligence. There are a whole host of practical and conceptual issues that come up when multiple authors jointly create a single work–a scenario that almost always defines media-making projects. How do participants negotiate conflict and critique? What conditions are in place to ensure reciprocity and some measure of fairness in terms of who does the heavy lifting when it’s time to deliver, and who gets credit? Once the story circulates, who “owns” the production? These are serious and sometimes daunting questions that youth media producers have to pose, answer, and re-think with every project.

But they may not be exactly the questions that cut to the heart of collective intelligence, which isn’t so much about joint production as it is about shared knowledge, not so much about who deserves credit for the product, but how various minds/bodies/imaginations inform and derive “smarts” from the process.

It’s hard to find a more fraught concept than intelligence in the education literature. Scholars like Howard Gardner decades ago refuted the idea that individuals possess fixed and measureable levels of intelligence narrowly defined, and yet America can’t quite seem to let go of this view. And so I’m wondering what the notion of “collective intelligence” as a property of “new media literacies” contributes to debates about intelligence in a more general sense. For one thing, when I reflect on my own creative methods as both a writer and producer working together with youth and adult colleagues, I can see how “intelligence” can be displaced from the people in the room to the project underway, to the literal and metaphorical “space” or “site” that takes shape throughout the time it takes to complete a given piece of work. If that’s true, it makes me wonder what happens to that collective and perhaps temporary or contingent intelligence once the group disbands or the project ends?

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