Defining Collective Personalities, Dispositions, Temperaments, and Moods of Electronic Hive Minds

Defining Collective Personalities, Dispositions, Temperaments, and Moods of Electronic Hive Minds

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9369-0.ch003


An electronic hive mind, a temporal shared consciousness (or massmind) of people interacting through online communications technologies and other means, may be thought of as having collective personalities, dispositions, and temperaments. These human-based features may be seen from various dimensions: the public (and private) messaging (textual, imagistic, audio, video, and multimodal elements), the collective culture(s) and practices, the human membership and member motivations, the group actions (virtual and in-world), the sociotechnical systems, and others. This early work explores some dimensions of collective and more stable personality, dispositions, and temperament that may be inferred form EHMs, as well as more transitory moods. These aspects of EHMs may inform on future actions and provide a predictive function.
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An electronic hive mind (EHM), the collective consciousness of a group of people interacting via online means (Hai-Jew, 2019), may be conceptualized as having a shared massmind (over a particular period of time), but also as having a collective personality or sense of personhood. A “folk” definition of personality involves the set of qualities that form a distinctive individual, and applied to a collective, a group personality involves the observed person-similar characteristics of the group. Personality is comprised of “a multitude of continuous and orthogonal constructs” (Akhtar, Winsborough, Ort, Johnson, & Chamorro-Premuzic, 2018, p. 91). Those who engage actively on social media and build vibrant social networks tend towards extraversion (Wehrli, 2008), based on their enjoyment in engaging socially with others. More recent research suggests that “increased social media use (SMU) has been linearly associated with increased real-life social isolation,” but “extraversion and agreeableness were associated with lower odds of SI” (social isolation), and “neuroticism” was associated with higher odds of social isolation (Whaite, Shensa, Sidani, Colditz, & Primack, 2018, p. 45). So individuals engaging on social media may be extraverted but also subjectively and experientially socially isolated. Individual personality traits—“extraversion, emotional stability and openness to experiences—play a role in the uses of interactive social media” (Correa, Hinsley, & de Zúñga, H. G., 2010, p. 251). In the transient and semi-permanent collectives that form online, certain aspects of human personalities are valued, resourced, supported, and come through in the shared intercommunications and actions. An EHM, comprised of linked human consciousnesses, can be perceived as having a certain macro-level mindset, some shared values, motivations, impetuses for action (or non-action), and other patterned tendencies. If language and multimedia expressions are the repository for people’s ideas, and their interactions represent the growing connectivity of people around shared interests, then it may be possible to collect and analyze some of the residual artifacts on social media around particular topics and interests and endeavors and reverse-extract a collective personality, disposition, and temperament around a particular electronic hive mind (EHM). The general abductive logic suggests that EHMs are made up of people empowered through sociotechnical technologies and those enablements and so may be seen to have a common shared state at various times that may be informative of personalities. In the same way, natural swarms of social insects may be seen to act as one based on shared interests—for various acts of hive interest, like survival, like foraging, like reproduction, like collective defense, like hive building, and others.

The initial analytical approach will draw on five main sources of information:

  • The public (and private) messaging (textual, imagistic, audio, video, and multimodal elements)

  • The collective culture(s) and practices

  • The human membership and member motivations

  • The group actions (virtual and in-world)

  • The sociotechnical systems, and others.

This initial work explores some early methods at understanding EHM personalities, dispositions, and temperaments (as fairly stable features), as well as the more transient moods (as emotions, states of mind, feelings). One established EHM is analyzed based on digital residua from user-generated data, especially text (using computational text analysis) and scraped social imagery (using manual coding). This approach involves a remote psychological reading of a collective EHM, without data from direct interactions. This particular work takes an “etic” or “from outside” approach, instead of an “emic” or “from within / inside” or “sousveillance” (surveilling from within, from bottom up, per Steve Mann’s term) approach.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sousveillance: Observation from below, from within (as compared to “surveillance” or observation from above, as in “eye in the sky”).

Collective Mood: Group feeling, as a temporary and transient affective state (including states of contemplation, excitement, frustration, engagement, and others).

Collective Personality: Distinctive combination of group dimensions (characteristics) that coalesce as an identity (with the dimensions aligning with aspects of human personality).

Collective Disposition: Inherent group mind and character.

Mass Mind: Collective consciousness.

Electronic Hive Mind: A synchronous temporal and informal patchwork of emergent shared social consciousness (held by geographically distributed people, cyborgs, and robots) enabled by online social connectivity (across a range of social media platforms on the web and internet), based around various dimensions of shared attractive interests.

Big Five Personality Traits: The so-called “big 5” personality traits from the 5-Factor Model include openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Collective Temperament: Foundational group nature, which affects group behavior.

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