Event: Howard Rheingold Webinar Augmented Collective Intelligence Theory and Practice 3 May – 7 June Online

Howard Rheingold

Augmented Collective Intelligence: Theory and Practice (Draft)

This course introduces the intellectual framework for augmented collective intelligence, from the invention of writing to the emergence of global multimedia networks, and, in parallel, introduces online practices that can extend the knowledge-gathering and sense-making capabilities of individuals and groups.

Complete Course Description & Registration Link Below the Fold

The digital media and networks billions use today were originally conceived as tools for augmenting human intellect and supporting collective intelligence in service of solving civilization-threatening problems. Although the dark sides of social media behavior, surveillance capitalism, and consumer culture have occluded the view of these original motivations, tools and techniques for using digital media to amplify minds and communities exist — although methods for using them are not widely taught.

In five weeks (May 3, 2019- -June 7) we cover:

  • Fundamental augmentation texts from the invention of writing to the creation of the personal computer;
  • The why and how of online curation;
  • Practices of social bookmarking and online annotation;
  • Mindmapping and concept mapping; and
  • The cultivation of personal learning networks.

A small group of 20-30 strangers from all over the globe will use our dialogue about these ideas and technologies to coalesce an online learning community in six weeks. We use written texts and videos, weekly synchronous multimedia lecture and discussion sessions, individual blogs, an asychronous forum, social bookmarking and annotation tools, curation and concept mapping applications, and collaborative document creation. Co-learners are encouraged to get started on the texts well in advance. We cover one of our five main subjects each week. Meaningful engagement in this course requires several hours of reading, writing, and conversation each week. In addition to these learning goals, we have an additional meta-goal: coalescing a co-learning community from strangers in a matter of weeks. The successful coalescence of a co-learning community requires a critical mass of participation: we discourage read-only members and encourage a commitment to cooperative, participative co-learning.

How The Course Works:

Tuition is $250 ($500 if your company pays), payable via PayPal a week before we begin. If you are seriously interested, email howard@rheingold.com. Co-learning requires a critical mass of participation, with a group small enough for us to get to know each other a bit, so l will conduct the course if I get a minimum of 25 co-learners, and will limit participation to 30 co-learners. The course will require several hours per week, so co-learners are encouraged to go through the texts in advance. I discourage read-only participation — this is not about me delivering knowledge (although I will lecture and facilitate and respond) but about cooperative inquiry and discourse.


Each week-long module starts with a live audio-video-chat session (recordings of previous live sessions of other courses are available for replay here) of approximately one hour (first session runs an hour and a half to enable us to introduce ourselves and for me to orient the cohort to our media and methods, as well as presenting the first week’s material). I frame the texts that we will be discussing for the following week; after the live session, during the following week co-learners blog individually, participate in group forum conversations, collaborate on our lexicon, and engage in learning activities (“missions”)

Origin & History of Augmentation & Mind Amplifiers One;Curation for personal knowledge management and collective intelligence (May 3-10)

Origin & History of Augmentation & Mind Amplifiers Two; Curation for personal knowledge management and collective intelligence (May 10-17)

Social bookmarking and online annotation for group knowledge discovery and refinement (May 17-24)

Mindmapping and concept mapping (May 24-31)

Cultivating personal learning networks (May 31-June 7)



Each week will feature a specific mission, but co-learners are expected to participate in the following activities every week:

  •  Post in the forums! At least once, preferably twice, but there is NO LIMIT to how much you can post.
  •  Blog and comment on blogs
  •  Edit the lexicon: you can add words, define words, correct, edit, expand definitions, add links, alphabetize, correct typos.


(Link to Recommended Texts)

One: Ancient Origins of Augmentation texts: (required)

Howard Rheingold, Mind Amplifier: Can Digital Tools Make Us Smarter? (TED Books, 2012) (Through “The Alphabet Effect” chapter)

The TED Books app contains embedded multimedia that the other editions don’t. TED Books app edition as well as Kindle, iBook, Nook editions are all $2.99.

Denise Schmandt-Besserat: The Evolution of Writing

Schmandt-Besserat solved the mystery of the numerous clay tokens found at Mesopotamian archeology — and solved the mystery of how writing originated. This brief article on her website summarizes her discovery.

Duffy on Eisenstein, ‘The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early-Modern Europe’

Eisenstein’s two-volume masterwork established the intricate connections between technology (the printing press), social practices (literacy), cultural change (the Protestant revolution). This article is a good brief summary.

One: The Practice of Curation texts: (required)

Robert Scoble on online curation (video)

Howard Rheingold’s video interview with Scoble about curation and curation skills.

Robin Good on online curation  (video)

Howard Rheingold’s video interview with Robin Good about curation and curation skills.

Robert Scoble, The Seven Needs of Real Time Curators (blog post)

Scoble is a master curator. Here he codifies the emerging craft of online curation.

Robin Good, Content Curation Complete Guide

Robin Good isn’t kidding when he calls this “The Complete Guide.”

Harold Jarche, “Sensemaking with PKM [Personal Knowledge Management],” (blog post)

Social bookmarking, Evernote, curation tools, personal knowledge management tools fit into a process. Jarche does a great job of outlining the process simply.

One: Curation Missions (Required)

Two: Modern Augmentation texts: (required)

Douglas Engelbart, Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework, SRI 1962. pp 1-41 (instructor’s highlighted version)

If you want to know where it all started, you have to start with a young electrical engineer who started looking for a better way for people to solve the 20th century’s problems and hit upon the notion that computers and television screens could be hooked together to make tools for amplifying human thought and communication. It took him ten years until J.C.R. Licklider, another believer in the possibility of designing mind-amplifying machinery, began to fund his work. This paper is fundamental. It’s about how humans think together, not just about a new kind of computing. You don’t have to read the whole thing. But as you read the first 40 pages, keep in mind that Engelbart was starting from scratch, explaining to a world in which the computer business and computer scientists saw computers as strictly meant for scientific computation and business data processing. In 1968, in San Francisco, Engelbart and his team demonstrated a new method of using computers that introduced most of the components of today’s personal computers — the mouse and point-and-click, word processing, hyperlinks, multimedia communication — in a demonstration that has come to be known as “the mother of all demos.” The film of the original demo is available as a Youtube video.

Highlights of The Mother of All Demos

Very short excerpts of Engelbart’s famous 1968 demo

Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think,” The Atlantic Monthly, August, 1945)

As a young sailor in the Philippines,  awaiting the expected invasion of Japan, radar operator Doug Engelbart saw a copy of the August, 1945 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. Vannever Bush, who was in charge of the  USA’s wartime scientific effort (including, among other things, the Manhattan Project and the creation of the first electronic digital computer), was concerned about the need for new information tools for the postwar world. In this visionary essay, written decades before the invention of the transistor, Bush imagined a machine that used telephone connection, miniature cameras and specially marked paper cards and microfilm to create an extension of the human mind, which he called “the Memex.” A few years later, as an electrical engineer in California, when Engelbart started thinking about using computers for group problem-solving, he knew from his experience as a radar operator that complex patterns could be painted with light on cathode ray screens — which led to the device you are using to read this text. A case of prophetic futurism that got the big ideas right — hypertext, in this case — even if his guesses about technical implementation were way off. If you want to see where the creators of intellectual augmentation got their inspiration, it’s a good read — like an old science fiction story that came true. It’s also the foundational document of infotention: information technologies as ways of enhancing human capacities for dealing with the increased information that information technologies make possible. This process, called “bootstrapping” by Engelbart’s team, guided the process of designing thinking tools that could be used to design more powerful thinking tools. Infotention looks at this process from the cognitive level as well as the technological and informational. The title of the article is a clue.

J.C.R. Licklider, Man-Computer Symbiosis, IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics, volume HFE-1, pages 4-11, March 1960   (instructor’s highlighted version)

A vital link between Vannevar Bush’s Memex and Douglas Engelbart’s thinking machines was J.C.R. Licklider’s 1960 vision of a future in which “human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly.” Just as Bush saw in his own work as a grand coordinator of applied research the need for better information-navigation techniques in order to make practical use of the knowledge that scientific specialties had started producing at a prodigious rate, Licklider saw in his own work as a scientist the need for better information-navigation techniques “in order to get into position to think.” When the US Defense Department started the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA — now DARPA) in reaction to the Soviet launch of the Sputnik artificial satellite, a small and not very central office looked toward future information processing techniques. Because of his previous work as a psychoacoustician on the design of the SAGE air defense system, MIT scientist Licklider had longstanding ties with Defense Department research funders, and his 1960 paper made him the ideal director of the IPTO. Licklider subsequently funded Doug Engelbart, Ivan Sutherland (who invented computer graphics and graphically-controlled computers), and hired Bob Taylor (who became director of Xerox PARC’s Computer Systems Laboratory in the 1970s) and many others who went on to create what was first called interactive computing, then personal computing, and the research network that scaled beyond the inventor’s initial visions to become today’s Worldwide Web.

Licklider, J. C. R., & R. W. Taylor. (1968). “The computer as a communication device,” (PDF) Science and Technology, April. Republished in SRC Research Report 61, Digital Equipment Corporation, 1990.

You hear that the Internet originally started as a U.S. Defense Department project, but that doesn’t tell much of the story. In the wake of Sputnik, the 1957 Russian satellite that traumatized U.S. beliefs in its technological superiority, the Advanced Research Projects Agency was created, and an MIT scientist was hired to run the small “Information Processing Techniques Office.” At that time, the communications giant (ATT) and computing giant (IBM) weren’t interested in futuristic ideas about computer graphics, interactive computers, and digital communication networks. But Licklider believed that computers and humans could think together in new ways. Licklider and Robert Taylor, his young research director, were smart enough to realize that when their programmers were spending their time sending each other mass messages about their favorite science fiction writers, they weren’t goofing off — they were inventing a new medium. And fortunately, those in charge of building the foundations of what was to become the Internet had a far-reaching vision, way beyond the borders of their military-industrial funders. To what degree are we living in the utopia they predicted? In what ways has reality fallen short?

Two : Augmentation Mission

  • In the forum, no later than DATE TK  noon Pacific time, post a question that you’d like to see addressed by everybody in regard to any aspect of augmentation.
  • Instructor will choose one of the proposed questions by Monday night and announce it in the forum. Each co-learner will  to the instructor by Wednesday, DATE TK Pacific time, a few sentences to a short paragraph addressing the question. Instructor will post all the answers at the same time in the forum on Thursday.

Three: Social Bookmarking and Annotation as Collective Intelligence (required):

Social Bookmarking and Annotating” (wiki)

This wiki page, which appears to be a collective creation, is the most savvy and detailed guide to social bookmarking I’ve found. The authors introduce it with a claim the instructor wholeheartedly endorses: “The driving force behind the Web 2.0 revolution is a spirit of intellectual philanthropy and collective intelligence that is made possible by new technologies for communication, collaboration and information management. One of the best examples of collective intelligence in action are the wide range of social bookmarking applications that have been embraced in recent years.”

Janetta Garton, “Using Diigo for Collaborative Curation” (blog post)

A great, illustrated, step-by-step guide for the group use of Diigo as a collaboration tool. Lightweight collective intelligence.

Jason P. Jones, “There Are No New Directions in Annotation” (web article)

References Hypothes.is

Classroom Collaboration Using Social Bookmarking Service Diigo (web text)

Excellent guide to the collective intelligence features in Diigo.

Three: Social Bookmarking and Annotation as Collective Intelligence Mission

  1.  Create a Diigo account.
  2.  Install a browser bookmarklet, extension or toolbar for Diigo.
  3.  Bookmark and tag 5 resources that relate to your learning about mind amplification and include the tag mindamp
  4.  Join the Diigo group http://groups.diigo.com/group/[TK]
  5.  Find, tag, highlight 3 web pages relevant to think-know tools and share them with the Diigo group. In addition to your other tags, also use “mindamp.”
  6.  Leave a sticky note on a page shared with the group, comment on a sticky note left by others
  7.  Sniff out expertise and start to build a network — search for tags such as “collective_intelligence” or other tags related to your learning in this course; examine resources that are bookmarked by the most people; look at the first people who bookmark these resources; inspect their networks and their tags, adding people and resources when appropriate.
  8. Use hypothes.is to annotate Doug Engelbart’s Framework for Augmenting Human Intellect — add the tag think-know to your annotations. Here is a complete, short, illustrated tutorial on hypothes.is for Think-Know. You can join the hypothes.is think-know group here, and see the stream of all our annotations here. Highlight a passage and/or contribute to a conversation thread about a highlighted passage through the “reply” link in the sidebar passage associated with an annotation.

FOUR: Mindmapping and Concept Mapping texts (required)

Joseph Novak and Alberto Cañas, The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct and Use them (web text)

This is the founding text of concept-mapping. Read this, then download either cMap Tools or VUE. Each of these concept mapping tools have excellent, well-indexed user guides — cMap Tools support and VUE User Guides (English, French, German) and FAQs.. The cMap Tools website is itself a clickable concept map. VUE has a good short screencast. The best way to learn is to get started with the user guide at hand. Although each co-learner should at least try either cMap or VUE, those who are interested could follow this video about using Google Docs Drawing to make concept maps).

Thomas Lancraft, Concept Mapping: A Learning-Theory Based Instructional Tool

A very short page and the pages it links to connect  concept mapping to the learning theories of David Ausubel — for those who want to dig more deeply into the connection between use of this tool and learning theories.

Tony Buzan, rules for Mind Mapping

Buzan created Mind Mapping, as he spells it, and advocates specific rules. It’s OK to transgress the rules, but they are also a very good place to start, with a sensible visual taxonomy and methodology.

Four: Mindmapping and Concept Mapping Mission (required)

  1.  Create a concept map using cMap, VUE, or Google Docs (here is a video about using cMap or VUE and a video about using Google Docs Drawings for concept mapping). Use this entire course, any module, or related subject. Feel free to use resources gathered by the Diigo group. Think about the way nodes are connected, where connections are more hierarchically ordered and where they are more network or mesh-like with lateral connections and multiple interconnections; think about networks nested in hierarchies and vice versa.
  2.  Add resources to nodes.
  3.  Post a link to your concept map in your blog if you have a URL, or take a screen shot of your concept map — under 900 by 900 pixels — and post it in your blog.

FIVE: Personal Learning Networks texts (required):

Shelly Terrell: Global Netweaver, Curator, PLN Builder blog post, video

Dr. Terrell is a shining exemplar of the sharing spirit of educators as well as a capable teacher. My video interview with her conveys something of her sparkle. The blog post that accompanies the video is rich with links to PLN texts, tips, and tutorials.

George Siemens Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age

Howard Rheingold Twitter Literacy blog post

Howard Rheingold’s tips on Cultivating a Personal Learning Network blog post

Will Richardson and Rob Mancabelli, Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connection to Transform Education

A short excerpt from a book published in May, 2011. I know that Richardson knows his stuff. This is oriented to classroom teachers.

Four: Personal Learning Networks Mission (required)

  • Write a blog post of at least 400 words describing the steps you’ve taken and/or plan to take to cultivate and harvest knowledge capital and/or social capital from your personal learning network. Make deadlines for yourself in your plans.
  • Add an example to the forum discussion about examples of social capital online.
  • Reflect on whether or not — and how — your activities with other learners have created or made use of social capital. How much do you think you have, and why? What evidence/criteria can you offer?

Your PLN is part of a larger network of resources that include the digital tools, online communities, networked services you use — your Personal Learning Environment or PLE. Create your own PLE diagram. You can use a mindmapping tool, draw freehand, make collages of images — feel free to be creative. Include collaborative and research tools, networks and communities, media, skills. Here are examples: A, B, C, D, E. Post a link or upload an image of your PLE diagram in the PLE forum topic thread. In the same post, reflect on: What did you learn about yourself when looking at your PLE? How does your PLE compare to other peers in class — similarities and differences between yours and your classmates’ diagrams.