• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Stop wasting time looking for files and revisions. Connect your Gmail, DriveDropbox, and Slack accounts and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio will automatically organize all your file attachments. Learn more and claim your free account.


Super Organism Discussion

Page history last edited by David Shutkin 8 years, 11 months ago

FYS-Digital Media                  Discussion Questions for “Superogranism”


In the note to the general reader, the authors describe how insects can recognize each other’s castes and even individuals by the combination of chemicals (hydrocarbons) present on the outer surface of others.  This is a form of instant recognition and classification that can be used to dictate interaction with that individual.  Describe from your personal experience immediate impressions that you get about other humans from your first look at their Facebook page.  In what ways do those initial impressions dictate your interactions with those individuals?


In the article from The Superorganism, the authors argue that humans, the most successful mammalian species, and ants, the most successful insect species, have about the same global biomass.  From these facts can we infer that the survival benefit of individual, brain-based intelligence is no more effective than communal, swarm-based intelligence?


In the social networking that you participate in (either dependent on digital media or not) what are the levels of organization that you observe?  In other words, are all participants equally influential?  Are there groups that you belong to?  Are there groups that you explicitly do not want to belong to?  How do the groups that you do participate in distinguish themselves from others?


William Morton Wheeler wrote a list of four characteristics that describe an insect superorganism: (Presented here in biologically neutral language)


1.)   Behaves as a unit

2.)   Different colonies exhibit different characteristics

3.)   Grows adaptively

4.)   Members are differentiated by their tasks


What are the four characteristics that describe the digital media enabled social “Organisms” for the Facebook, Twitter or other social media collective?


In the footnote on page 11, the authors acknowledge that some scientists disagree with the term “Superorganism” because in some instances conflicts arise within a colony to exert genetic superiority.  These scientists prefer the term “Community of Interests” to encapsulate the cooperative and competitive behaviors.  Which term better describes the current state of digital-based social networking?



Are Twitter’s hashtags the digital equivalent of ant pheromones? Do retweets correspond to ants touching antennae and passing along gathered information?


Can you identify and describe any instances of Emergence within the digital social networking communities that you participate in?


Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.