Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thinking Out Loud...

It has been way too long since I last posted and one of the reasons behind this blog was to map my own learning and thinking in relation to my dissertation research. But in a funny way I was discouraged because there have been so many changes that I didn't want to look like some wacko... but the truth is, when everyone gets wind of my work as it stands today, I don't think I will be able to get around that.

So anyway, I was told by my PhD committee that I need to get theoretical and stop focusing on just solving problems. So I got theoretical...lol! I'm currently taking a class in Sociology of Agriculture and Food Systems and one of the final projects for the course is to write a full research proposal. Well, tomorrow we are supposed to turn in a short synopsis of the topic we are pursuing and so here is my tentative synopsis... Some of the language might need to change but here it is in its current form.


The Collective Brain of the Global Local Food Movement: Descriptions and Prescriptions for Recursive Intelligent Action

For the final semester project assigned for the Sociology of Agriculture and Food Systems, I propose to develop a thorough research proposal that will form the foundation for my formal dissertation proposal. The topic of focus will be interdisciplinary to the extreme in that I propose to integrate concepts and theories from sociology, cybernetics, cognitive neuroscience, information theory and ecology. The proposal will set forth a theoretical interpretation of social movements as an emergent “collective brain” which exhibits recursive thought and intelligence across a network where information, knowledge and action exist both in physical as well as virtual space.

The conception of social movement as collective brain is embedded in a larger theoretical discussion on society as supraorganism, collective intelligence and global consciousness. We can trace the roots of such conceptions from Herbert Spencer (1969, original publication 1876-96), in his "Principles of Sociology" in which he first proposed the thesis that "society is an organism." In addition to Spencer, James Miller’s Living Systems Theory (1978), Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis, and now most recently Francis Heylighen’s work on the 'Global Brain' have all made critical contributions to this growing, yet still contested field of inquiry.

Although there exists a modest number of works on social networks, autopsies and collective intelligence, none of the past, nor present discussions have yet to consider the role of social movements within this supraorganism, nor has their been a thorough discussion on the potential for numerous ‘collective brains’ functioning as constituents within this larger “world-brain.” As a result, this research will attempt to address the absence of an articulate conception on the role of social movements by focusing on the global local food movement as a type of collective or distributive brain, which exhibits intelligence and a form of active-reflective consciousness within the larger world-brain.

In addition to engaging in the debates on social cyborgs, collective intelligence and world-brain, this work will put forth a modified methodology drawn from the foundations of actor-network theory. This will not only serve to help map the networked organization of people-machine-information interactions across geographic physical space and placeless cyberspace, but will also serve to identify the quality of actions, as the distributed collective attempts to remake our world for the better.

Overall, the goals of this research are multifaceted in that it attempts to build both on the theoretical and empirical investigations for the potential of a collective brain(s), distributed intelligence and the larger world-brain as suggested by H.G. Wells (1981), Douglas Schuler (2001) and Francis Heylighen (1997). However, in addition to addressing ‘grand theory’ the research seeks to identify specific ways in which to support ameliorative social and environmental change efforts based upon the conceptions of nerves, neurons, synaptic learning, neural networks, neural memory and higher order consciousness that lead to a recursive process of collective knowledge creation, meaning creation, and intelligent action.


Anyway, I have already had been some pretty heated discussion on this topic and I find them way more receptive than I anticipated... In fact they considered it one of the most coherent ideas I have put forth yet! Scary!

2 comments:

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Sorry for offtopic

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