Friday, August 04, 2006

Stigmergic Collaboration

Mark Elliott in his work “Stigmergic Collaboration: The Evolution of Group Work” (published 2 May 2006) writes about analogies of termites colonies collaborative behavior studied by Pierre-Paul Grasse and discribed as stigmetry (it was in the 1950s) and collaborative behavior in the internet in projects like Wikipedia as well as open source SW projects. Also this work explores nature of collaboration. Examples of “Non-Textual Mass Collaboration” are provided.
Grasse showed that a particular configuration of a termite’s environment (as in the case of building and maintaining a nest) triggered a response in a termite to modify its environment, with the resulting modification in turn stimulating the response of the original or a second worker to further transform its environment. Thus the regulation and coordination of the building and maintaining of a nest was dependent upon stimulation provided by the nest, as opposed to an inherent knowledge of nest building on the individual termite’s part. A highly complex nest simply self-organises due to the collective input of large numbers of individual termites performing extraordinarily simple actions in response to their local environment. Since Grasse’s research, stigmergy has been applied to the self-organisation of ants, artificial life, swarm
intelligence and more recently, the Internet itself.


As stigmergy is a method of communication in which individuals communicate with one another by modifying their local environment, it is a logical extension to apply the term to many types (if not all) of Web-based communication, especially media such as the wiki. The concept of stigmergy therefore provides an intuitive and easy-to-grasp theory for helping understand how disparate, distributed, ad hoc contributions could lead to the emergence of the largest collaborative
enterprises the world has seen.

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