Collective intelligence spontaneously arises among ARG players — paper from I Love Bees creator

Jane McGonigal, who helped develop the groundbreaking Alternate Reality Game "I Love Bees," has written a fascinating paper on the way that "collective intelligence" spontaneously arises among collaborative players of games like I Love Bees. There's a real insider's perspective here, the view from the game's cockpit as the players moved all around the complex puzzles, winkling out the creators' secrets and puzzles (even as the creators eavesdropped on them players, changing the puzzles in response to the ingenious theories that the players emerged):

Not all players were familiar with these concepts, however, and so some individuals took the
lead in explaining them. One player attempted to explain all of the hive mind references: "You
know how an individual bee isn't too intelligent, but the entire hive acting as a whole can display
a remarkable cohesiveness — becoming more than the sum of its parts, so to speak? And you
know how an individual silicon computer chip can't do a darn thing, but if you put enough of
them together in the right way, whoa, you get the Internet?"43

What is it about scale and complexity that supports inclusive participation? How, in the case
of the I Love Bees GPS coordinates, can a single data set support such a vast range of
interpretations and yet also directly inspire such a rigorous course of collective analysis? I would
argue that the primary puzzle of I Love Bees embodied a meaningful ambiguity. That is, the data
set lacked the clarity of formal interactive instructions, yet maintained a distinctively sensical
nature. That is, the choice and ordering of the coordinates did not seem nonsensical. Instead, its
arrangement was structured and seemingly intentional enough that it promised to mean
something, if only approached in the right way. This meaning was implied through the
specificity, volume and overtly designed presentation of the data.

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