5 thoughts on “Is collective the right name?

  1. I did suggest an alternative – ‘collection’.

    My use of the term ‘collective’ last year was as an adjective, not a noun.

    The term ‘collective’ – used either way – connotes the many becoming one. This is the fourth definition of the four you list above – but also the first and second. And also by the Borg. Where group identity subsumes individual identity.

    The distinction between a group and what you call a collective is subtle (and the use of the word ‘collective’ masks that distinction). Groups have properties of their own, but collections (sets) have no properties other than the aggregated properties of their members.

    For example, suppose we had 50 people in a classroom, and suppose they took a vote. If we say “the class decided ‘no'” then the class is being treated as a group. But if we say “most people in the class voted ‘no'” then it is being treated as (what I would call) a collection.

    In the example above, we would say “the collective voted ‘no'” and it would make sense. That’s why I think the word ‘collective’ refers to a type of group. To use ‘colection’ we would have to sy “Most members of the collection voted ‘no'”.

    Now if this doesn’t capture the distinction you had in mind, then I’ll come back to that and question the distinction itself, for then I would find an increasingly narrow space between a ‘collective’ and a ‘group’.

  2. The Borg analogy was suggested to me by a student who had been using some of my social software a few years ago and it struck me as quite insightful. I think that what we are talking about is actually a kind of cyborg, formed partly from the collection of people and partly from the software.

    A collection of people voting is not an actor (it is just a collection of people voting), though it may have an influence on one that does act.

    In social software, the collection _combined with_ the software (i.e. the algorithms and the presentation) makes choices and suggestions that materially affect how people behave. The behaviour of this actor both shapes and is shaped by the behaviour of its participants.

    This strange hybrid cyber-organism needs a different name – I don’t think ‘collection’ quite covers it!

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