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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Connecting the Collective

Posted by Alex | June 18th, 2007 | Filed under Design, Positive Change

Besides being the coolest thing I’ve seen on the internet in a long time, this sweet little video blows wide open the potential that collective networks have to leverage the shared assets of the online community to create something spectacular. Here, Blaise Aguera y Arcas demos Photosynth, a photo-mapping software unlike anything you’ve ever seen. By linking the common elements of images taken from a photo-sharing site such as Flickr, Photosynth builds 3-D interactive models of those photos’ subjects. Frame by frame, merging thousands of individuals’ photos, it recreates landscapes, buildings”potentially whole worlds. The result, says Aguera y Arcas, is a “metaverse,” an incredibly detailed representation of every interesting place on earth.

Photosynth leverages shared photography, but what’s really exciting is how designing around such network effects has the power to change far more than digital mapping. It’s already reshaping philanthropy: organizations like Kiva.org leverage the online community to offer micro-finance loans to individuals in developing nations. The potential is obvious: if a snapshot from your phone can create a cathedral, imagine what a ten spot can do.

This video comes to us from TED (the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference), whose website hosts many such talks by inspiring and thought-provoking thinkers. Check out their blog here.

2 Responses to “Connecting the Collective”

  • June 19, 2007 at 12:36 pm | Diane van Rens says

    Very interesting video and amazing idea. Can you explain the statment further…
    “It’s already reshaping philanthropy: organizations like Kiva.org leverage the online community to offer micro-finance loans to individuals in developing nations.”? I visited Kiva.org and I’m I couldn’t see the connection.


  • June 19, 2007 at 6:56 pm | Alex says

    Hi Diane,

    Thanks for the question. I think what I find so exciting about the new concepts we’re seeing on the web, both philanthropic and technological, is the way in which they leverage the modest contributions of individuals to create something massively useful and positive. Take Photosynth’s model of Notre Dame: Without this “Web 2.0″ concept of collective collaboration, imagine how much work it would have taken an individual or organization to build the photo library used in that model. Now imagine how much more work it would take to create similar maps of Paris! Currently, only the most massive corporations have the resources to create such kinds of models. Google, for example, relies on satellite imagery and expensive street-level photo-trucks to provide real images of the places on its maps. Yet even such a great tool as Google Maps can’t offer the detail or richness of a photosynth model.

    So what’s the connection to Kiva.org? I think Kiva.org provides a much needed supplement to the satellite-level aid provided by major humanitarian organizations. By empowering individuals to offer loans themselves”Kiva.org loans are paid back to lenders so that you can lend the same $25 again”Kiva.org creates individual micro-donors who are directly connected to the recipients of their micro-loans. Sure, you could donate $25 to a humanitarian organization. But in many cases part of your money would go into overhead, and I’ll bet it wouldn’t have the same richness of personal connection and investment. In the end, I think it means a lot when you don’t need to be a big spender to see the difference your contribution makes.


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