In 1994, the philosopher Pierre Lévy defined “Collective Intelligence” as "a coordinated distributed intelligence, constantly revalued in real time, leading to the effective mobilization of all our capabilities." Levy adds that this Collective Intelligence is generated by the information technologies in the realm of Internet, then termed as "Cyberspace".
Collective Intelligence was developed decades ago with data networks like Arpanet and through the connections between researchers from different universities in the United States. And later in virtual communities like The WELL (Whole Earth Electronic Link) founded by Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant in 1985.
Even before the creation of the World Wide Web (Tim Berners-Lee also thought calling it "The Information Mine"), The WELL gathered the advice, opinions and information provided by its users in a real "pit “ of information that benefited the entire community.
While communities such as The WELL grew exponentially in the next years and more and more people connected to the Internet, it was not until the popularization of authoring tools, content editing, blogs, social networks and the hosting platforms for videos and photos (as YouTube or Flickr) that the impact of Collective Intelligence became evident.
In 2001 Wikipedia shaped the "Cosmopedia" imagined by Lévy and shortly after Howard Rheingold (a member of The WELL in the eighties) writes about the "smart mobs", formed by groups of people with the ability to act together without prior coordination through the use of information technology, particularly of mobile devices.
Clay Shirky discusses the impact of the contributions made every day by millions of users across multiple channels of communication that shape our information society and indicates that digital media allow, what was called the public before, to become be valuable creators of contents.
The existence of a distributed and coordinated real-time intelligence is revealed as a characteristic of a time when we enjoyed an unprecedented capacity of access to information and participation in collective action.