Some of my colleagues at QUT are involved in a new project they describe as 'cultural science' - a combination of cultural studies, economics, and other scientific methodologies, in order to arrive at a more rigorous and testable framework for the study of cultural activity. I've posted some more about this over at snurb.info, and there's now a Cultural Science Website which has more information. I've cross-posted the following blog post on the Cultural Science blog.
I was lucky enough to attend part of the Brisbane meeting which officially kickstarted the project of cultural science, and I've been trying to trace the connections from here to my own work since then. I know little about economics, but for a couple of years before switching to media studies, I trained as a physicist, and a recent blog post by Yihong Ding has made me believe that some fields of physics, too, have valuable models to contribute to cultural science. In particular, it might be worth examining the way that particle and fluid dynamics describes the transition from random interaction at a micro level to orderly and predictable behaviour at a macro level.
But first, some background: the focus of my research is on user-led collaborative content creation, or what I've come to call produsage. One of the fundamental challenges in this field is to understand the processes of collective intelligence that arise in large-scale collaborative environments, and the conditions under which they flourish best. What makes Wikipedia work, for example? What would make it work better? What enables The Wisdom of Crowds to emerge, as James Surowiecki describes it?