Mass Collaboration as Coevolution of Cognitive and Social Systems

  • Ulrike CressEmail author
  • Insa Feinkohl
  • Jens Jirschitzka
  • Joachim Kimmerle
Part of the Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning Series book series (CULS, volume 16)


When individuals and masses of people interact on online platforms in a collaborative effort, they enter into a bidirectional relationship and exert mutual influence on each other. Individuals determine the characteristics of the mass of users, but the masses also shape the behavior of the individual users. We present our “coevolution model of individual learning and collaborative knowledge construction” as a theoretical framework to describe and analyze the processes going on in this interaction. The model takes a systemic and cognitive view and describes mass processes as a dynamic and bidirectional process of structurally coupled self-organized systems. We propose two key processes that take place between the masses (as social system) and the individual (as cognitive system): (1) border-crossing processes that describe the exchange of information between an individual and a mass of people and (2) system drifts that capture long-term changes in the knowledge base of each system through internalization of new information as well as “forgetting” information over time. We apply the model to two examples of online platforms in the field, namely, Wikipedia and a specialist forum on nutrition (“Urkost forum”), as well as to supplementary laboratory studies, in order to demonstrate the processes underlying mass collaboration. We identify likely facilitative factors and flag potential dangers that occur in such processes of self-organization. Finally, we discuss potential implications for classroom settings and education.


Mass collaboration Collaboration Cooperation Coevolution Learning Knowledge construction Self-organization 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ulrike Cress
    • 1
    Email author
  • Insa Feinkohl
    • 1
  • Jens Jirschitzka
    • 1
  • Joachim Kimmerle
    • 1
  1. 1.Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien (IWM), Knowledge Construction LabTuebingenGermany

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