Early Mapping of “Electronic Hive Minds” on the Web and Internet

Early Mapping of “Electronic Hive Minds” on the Web and Internet

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9369-0.ch001

Abstract

An “electronic hive mind” (EHM) is conceptualized as a type of temporally limited social consciousness (held by people, cyborgs, and robots) around shared interests, enabled by social media and information and communication technology (ICT). EHMs may be understood partially through combined prior research in the areas of social psychology and social media. Other research work is novel and requires the application of a range of methods and technologies to identify EHMs from publicly available social media residual data in various digital modalities. To this end, some initial mapping techniques to understand EHMs will be shown in this chapter.
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Introduction

It was the summer of 1999, and people were starting to realize that the internet and the web were becoming a new, dynamic circulatory system for information, coordination, and life itself. - David Auerbach’s Bitwise: A Life in Code (2018, p. 4)

The idea of an “electronic hive mind” emerges as a natural convergence between information and communication technologies (ICT) and people, who have in the past decades have used such technologies to intercommunicate, socialize, follow / like / emulate (meme-ing) / troll each other, share digital contents, collaborate, co-design, and co-act (Figure 01), as expressed in this Venn diagram. A part of this intersection has been referred to as the “cyber-physical convergence” (Conti, et al., 2012) or cyber-physical confluence. Whatever people have done and do in the real world, they often have some equivalency in the online one. Researchers have found that people tend to build egocentric social networks online that mirror the offline world (Dunbar, Arnaboldi, Conti, & Passarella, 2015). For many, their online existence may be even more salient and top-of-mind than their physical one. An early and tentative definition of this electronic hive mind (EHM) describes it as “a sentient and potent mass entity with potential for various types of concentrated mass action as well as dispersed smaller-unit actions, among others” (Hai-Jew, 2019, p. 210). This early work suggests a nascent view of a notional and practical EHM.

An electronic hive mind is enabled by humanity’s hyperconnectivity through ICT technologies that enable them to share information and digital contents (and moneys and physical contents) in near real-time. This history-making enablement enables people from a wide geographical area (global) to interconnect. The human tendencies to filter information to see generally what they prefer and their confirmation bias (a form of built-in cognitive bias) may mean that people may “mind-meld” with other homophilous thinkers (those who prefer others with similar likes) regarding particular in-world phenomena, for short bursty periods or for longer term ones. The “hive” aspects of this suggest some sort of organization, with people and small groups and larger groups playing unique roles within the hive—to enable information collection, decision making, and leadership, among other needs. Another aspect of a “hive” may be its busyness, potentially bordering on frenzy, depending on particular social issues and senses of focus. And there is also something of the sense of swarm logic, the thinking and acting as a group, with the subsumation of the individuals into the hive and potentially mass suggestibility and mass action—that is so alluring about this concept.

Broadly speaking, EHMs are thought to coalesce around shared interests, based in part on individual and group/social motivations, which are sufficiently inspiring to encourage continuing engagement, at least for a time.

Figure 1.

“Electronic hive mind” from a confluence of ICT and people

More formally, an early working definition of an “electronic hive mind” (EHM) is the following:

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.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Reification: Act of making an abstract idea real or concrete.

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.

Homophily: A human tendency to associate and bond with others who are similar to themselves.

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