Virtual collective consciousness

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Virtual collective consciousness (VCC) is a term rebooted and promoted by two behavioral scientists, Yousri Marzouki and Olivier Oullier in their 2012 Huffington Post article titled: “Revolutionizing Revolutions: Virtual Collective Consciousness and the Arab Spring”,[1] after its first appearance in 1999-2000.[2] VCC is now defined as an internal knowledge catalyzed by social media platforms and shared by a plurality of individuals driven by the spontaneity, the homogeneity, and the synchronicity of their online actions.[3] VCC occurs when a large group of persons, brought together by a social media platform think and act with one mind and share collective emotions.[4] Thus, they are able to coordinate their efforts efficiently, and could rapidly spread their word to a worldwide audience.[5] When interviewed about the concept of VCC that appeared in the book - Hyperconnectivity and the Future of Internet Communication - he edited,[6] Professor of Pervasive Computing, Adrian David Cheok mentioned the following: "The idea of a global (collective) virtual consciousness is a bottom-up process and a rather emergent property resulting from a momentum of complex interactions taking place in social networks. This kind of collective behaviour (or intelligence) results from a collision between a physical world and a virtual world and can have a real impact in our life by driving collective action."[7]


In 1999-2000, Richard Glen Boire [2] provided a cursory mention and the only occurrence of the term[citation needed][original research?] "Virtual collective consciousness" in his text as follows:

The trend of technology is to overcome the limitations of the human body. And, the Web has been characterized as a virtual collective consciousness and unconsciousness

— Richard Glen Boire, Journal of Cognitive Liberties, 1999/2000

The recent definition of VCC evolved from the first empirical study that provided a cyberpsychological insight into the contribution of Facebook to the 2011 Tunisian revolution. In this study, the concept was originally called ‘‘collective cyberconsciousness”.[8] The latter is an extension of the idea of ‘‘collective consciousness’’ coupled with ‘‘citizen media’’ usage. The authors of this study also made a parallel between this original definition of VCC and other comparable concepts such as Durkheim's collective representation, Žižek’s ‘‘collective mind’’[9] or Boguta’s ‘‘new collective consciousness’’ that he used to describe the computational history of the Internet shut down during the Egyptian revolution.[10] Since VCC is the byproduct of the network’s successful actions then these actions must be timely, acute, rapid, domain-specific, and purpose-oriented to successfully achieve their goal. Before reaching a momentum of complexity, each collective behavior starts by a spark that triggers a chain of events leading to a crystallized stance of a tremendous amount of interactions.[11] Thus, VCC is an emergent global pattern from these individual actions.

In 2012, the term Virtual Collective Consciousness has resurfaced and was brought to light after extending its applications to the Egyptian case and the whole social networking major impact on the success of the so-called Arab Spring.[1][12] Moreover, the acronym VCC was suggested to identify the theoretical framework covering on-line behaviors leading to a virtual collective consciousness. Hence, online social networks have provided a new and faster way of establishing or modifying “collective consciousness” that was paramount to the 2011 uprisings in the Arab world.[13][14]

Theoretical underpinnings of VCC[edit]

Various theoretical references ranging from sociology to computer science were mentioned in order to account for the key features that render the framework for a Virtual Collective Consciousness. The following list is not exhaustive, but the references it contains are often highlighted:

  • Durkheim's collective representations[15] are at the heart of VCC since collectivity taken decisions according to Durkheim's assumptions will approve or disapprove individuals’ actions and help them eventually reach their final goal.[1]
  • McLuhan's global village: The shrinking of our big world to a small place called cyberspace is made possible by technological extensions of human consciousness.[16]
  • Jung’s collective unconscious: When a society is witnessing significant changes, the anchoring of archetypal images (e.g., political leaders) seems to be deeply rooted in individuals' collective unconscious that is likely to bias their political choices.[17][18] Individual memories of public events were also supposed to convey a "collective awareness" that can be subconsciously altered by the instantaneous spread of information through social networking around the world.[19]
  • Wegner’s Transactive Memory (TM):[20] social networking platforms such as Facebook during the Tunisian revolution or Twitter during the Egyptian revolution served as placeholders of a VCC where information can be harnessed and steered to the highly specific revolutionary purpose.[21] Although research on TM has been originally limited to couples, small groups, and organizations, recent studies strongly suggest that an effective TM can operate on a very large scale too.[8]
  • James Surowiecki's wisdom of crowds[16]
  • Collective influence algorithm: The CI (Collective influence) algorithm is effective in finding influential nodes in a variety of networks, including social networks, communication networks, and biological networks. It has been used to identify influencers on social media platforms, to identify key nodes in transportation networks, and to identify potential drug targets in biological networks.

Some illustrations of VCC[edit]

Besides the studied effect of social networking on the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, the former via Facebook and the latter via Twitter other applications were studied under the prism of VCC framework:

  1. The Whitacre's virtual choir: A compelling example of the degree of autonomy and self identity members of a spontaneously created network through a VCC is Eric Whitacre's unique musical project that involved a collection of singers performing remotely to create a virtual Choir. The resulting effect of all the voices illustrated a genuine virtual collective empathy merging the artist mind with all the singers through his silent conducting gestures.[22]
  2. The Harlem Shake dance:
  3. The Bitcoin protocol: It was questioned whether or not the Bitcoin protocol can morph into Virtual Collective Consciousness.[23] The Byzantine generals problem[24] was used as an analogy to understand the behavioral complexity of the community of Bitcoin's users.
  4. Artificial Social Networking Intelligence (ASNI): refers to the application of artificial intelligence within social networking services and social media platforms. It encompasses various technologies and techniques used to automate, personalize, enhance, improve, and synchronize user's interactions and experiences within social networks. ASNI is expected to evolve rapidly, influencing how we interact online and shaping their digital experiences. Transparency, ethical considerations, media influence bias, and user control over data will be crucial to ensure responsible development and positive impact.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Marzouki, Yousri; Oullier, Olivier (July 17, 2012). "Revolutionizing Revolutions: Virtual Collective Consciousness and the Arab Spring". The Huffington Post US. Retrieved July 17, 2012.
  2. ^ a b Boire, Richard G. (2000) [1999]. "On Cognitive Liberty (Part I)". Journal of Cognitive Liberties. 1 (1): 7–13.
  3. ^ P2P Foundation. "Virtual Collective Consciousness".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ von Scheve, Christian; Salmela, Mikko (2014). Collective Emotions: Perspectives from Psychology, Philosophy, and Sociology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199659180.
  5. ^ Howard, Matt C.; Magee, Stephanie M. (2013). "To boldly go where no group has gone before: An analysis of on-line group identity and validation of a measure". Computers in Human Behavior. 29 (5): 2058–2071. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2013.04.009.
  6. ^ Cheok, Adrian David (2015). Hyperconnectivity and the Future of Internet Communication. Lambert Academic Publishing. ISBN 978-3659544156.
  7. ^ "Hyperconnectivity and the Future of Internet Communication". City University London. January 23, 2021.
  8. ^ a b Marzouki, Yousri; Skandrani-Marzouki, Inès; Béjaoui, Moez; Hammoudi, Haythem; Bellaj, Tarek (2012). "The Contribution of Facebook to the 2011 Tunisian Revolution: A Cyberpsychological Insight". Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. 5 (15): 237–244. doi:10.1089/cyber.2011.0177. PMID 22524479. S2CID 2546451.
  9. ^ Gutmair, Ulrich; Flor, Chris (1998). "Hysteria and Cyberspace: Interview with Slavoj Zizek" (Interview). Telepolis. Retrieved July 23, 2011.
  10. ^ Boguta, Kovas. "Visualizing The New Arab Mind". Retrieved June 12, 2011.
  11. ^ Lindsea. "collective consciousness: The Intentionality of the End-User in a System". Retrieved May 26, 2013.
  12. ^ Khatib, Lina; Lust, Ellen (2014). Taking to the Streets: The Transformation of Arab Activism. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  13. ^ "Revolutionary or rebooted?". Retrieved July 22, 2012.
  14. ^ Carvin, Andy. "Will the Internet be the next Hollywood?". Retrieved December 12, 2013.
  15. ^ Durkheim, Emile (1982). Rules for the sociological method. New York: Free Press.
  16. ^ a b Marzouki, Yousri. "Revisiting Whitacre's "Cloudburst" Through the Wisdom of the Crowd". The Huffington Post US. Retrieved December 27, 2013.
  17. ^ Marzouki, Yousri (January 12, 2012). "Tunisian Citizens Are Akin to Choosing a "Father-like" Leader". Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  18. ^ Marzouki, Yousri (2013). "Facebook and public empowerment in Tunisia". International Relations and Security Network. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
  19. ^ Dvantassel. "Where were you the day JFK died?". Retrieved November 20, 2013.
  20. ^ Wegner, Daniel M. (1995). "A computer network model of human transactive memory". Social Cognition. 13 (3): 319–339. doi:10.1521/soco.1995.13.3.319.
  21. ^ Marzouki Yousri (2013). "Facebook Contribution to the 2011 Tunisian Revolution: What Can Cyberpsychology Teach Us About the Arab Spring Uprisings?". Computer Systems Experiences of Users with and Without Disabilities: An Evaluation Guide for Professionals (Rehabilitation Science in Practice Series ed.). CRC Press. pp. 85–86. ISBN 9781466511132.
  22. ^ Marzouki, Yousri (November 24, 2012). "From Whitacre's Virtual Choir to Virtual Collective Empathy". The Huffington Post US. Retrieved December 24, 2012.
  23. ^ Marzouki, Yousri; Bailey, John; Oullier, Olivier (July 3, 2014). "Can the Bitcoin protocol morph into Virtual Collective Consciousness?". The Descrier. Retrieved July 14, 2014.
  24. ^ The Byzantine Generals Problem. "The Byzantine Generals Problem".

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