The Zooniverse, the “Special One”?

This is a guest post written by Markus Luczak-Roesch, a computer scientist and long-time friend of the Zooniverse.

When Jose Mourinho claims to be “a special one”, the Zooniverse shall claim it likewise.

Amongst the online communities in action on the World Wide Web, the Zooniverse takes a remarkably unique spot. It is not a classical peer-production system, such as Wikipedia, but it has a knowledge producing capacity of huge importance. In its architectural as well as community design it values the basic principles of the Web: It is open and participatory! Even more so since the shift to the Panoptes platform, which allows anyone to build a citizen science project.

But the Zooniverse is also remarkable in another sense, related to the communication that happens on Talk. The community of participants shows that in times of collective work towards a dedicated goal, it is not a matter of any pre-engineered planning or social process. It is the accumulation of purposeful individual signals that lets a solution to the problem emerge. To be more specific, we can observe that people on the Zooniverse are not necessarily directly talking with each other or along fixed social ties. They are broadcasting messages about the same topics, which upgrades the importance that things that happen in coincidence are picked up.

Studying this kind of accumulated information sharing, is the focus of a line of research under the headline “Understanding Intelligence Rooted in Coincidence”. Kicked off in the context of the Zooniverse, we are now reaching out to further systems, even formulating the vision to enable information access on the entire World Wide Web in a way that avoids the amplification of some biases that lie in the digital social structures many commercial players support and exploit for their business interests.

 

Pasted image at 2016_08_24 04_50 PM

 

If you want to support our work targeted to tackle our increasingly selective view to information, you can watch our short video entry to the #180Science competition and vote for it (votes possible until Saturday, 21st August 2016): www.thinkable.org/submission_entries/PJvdO5ZV.”

 

Markus’s research on the Zooniverse platform over the last 3 years was funded by SOCIAM. You can find out more about that project at sociam.org.

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