Thursday, August 03, 2006

Human Stigmergy Part 1

(An illegal tyre dump, near Newcastle, Australia estimated to hold over 10,000 tyres.)

As far as my explorations have uncovered, little to no research has been done on applying stigmergy to human activity and communication. There have been a few very brief mentions here and there, the most significant in some ways being by Theraulaz & Bonabeau in "A Breif History of Stigmergy" from Artificial Life journal, Volume 5, Issue 2 - Spring 1999, page 102:

Chemical trails that are produced by some ants species [10, 23] muleteer trail networks, and even dirt tracks and trail systems in man [31, 32] result from interactions of this kind.

[31 refers to Modelling the evolution of human trail systems, Dirk Hebling, Joachim Keltsch & Peter Molnar; while 32 refers to Active walker model for the formation of human and animal trail systems, Dirk Helbing, Frank Schweitzer, Joachim Keltsch, Péter Molnár]

Another excellent mention of human stigmergy, although less formal, is in the comment posted by Dylan Shell to Joe Gregorio's great blog post on stigmergy. Here he says:

Another example, perhaps just as old, and even more damaging in some cases, is the process with which people choose illegal dumping grounds. A necessary feature is some degree of seclusion, or at least shelter from the prying eyes of the law. However, we find that once a place has been chosen by some offender, their dump adds a stronger justification to others for that site.