Stigmergy in Human Practice: Coordination in Complex Work

Stigmergy is a concept of coordination that may be employed to analyse human practice in complex work settings such as the building process. However, the concept of stigmergy was not originally developed in order to describe human practice, rather it was developed within the field of entomology i.e. the study of social insects. Transposing the concept of stigmergy from the field of entomology to the study of human practice raises a central question: Does the concept of stigmergy adds anything to our ability to account for the coordination of human cooperative work? We will argue that it does. We will (1) explicitly compare and delimit the concept of stigmergy to well-established concept describing human coordinative practices and show that it differs from these concepts, and we will (2) apply the concept of stigmergy to an analysis of the coordination of construction work in order to explore the utility of the concept in the analysis of human practice.

This study has raised and addressed a question central to any attempt to introduce the concept of stigmergy to the study of human practice: Does the concept of stigmergy add anything to our ability to account for the coordination of human cooperative work or is it simply interchangeable to already existing concepts? We have argued that it does add a new analytical perspective.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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