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Collaborative futures part I

I’m always at a loss where to start with these blog posts since reading the collaborative futures segments I think I’ll begin with a summary of the major background concepts and include my thoughts as I go along without reproducing what Christina has already posted.

In itself, the composition of the book was a collaborative exercise, employing the crux of it’s own content in it’s production. It begins by situating itself in a context we are all familiar with after our readings in ITP core1 where we delved into Copyleft and free culture and the ideas of new media production exceeding the conserved and traditional social, academic and legal scaffolding that solidly served printed media before the internet.

I found that the somewhat initial abstract way of taking apart the concept of collaboration, by addressing who is collaborating and what makes collaboration, collaboration, interesting and a perfect segue into the background concepts of “what is collaboration?”


Collaboration is not new and not rare. It is innate in our socialization amongst ourselves that we network and create things with the inclusion of others. There is the beginnings of a definition here where the emphasis lies on expanding beyond geographic limits, this networked effort to produce something open and progressive while ending on the distinction that while it may be printed, the book is unfinished as preposed by its content. (it requires expanded collaborative effort from future additions and edits)

On the invitation:

(this was by far the most garrulous introduction to any chapter) The invitation to produce something  “in connectedness with society” p15. How should someone be invited to collaborate and exactly who and why? The inviters duty becomes an important one when you consider evaluating the project at hand and the invitees, given their willingness and availability, equally so. However, why would someone collaborate?

I particularly enjoyed the Moglen metaphor to Faraday’s discovery of the dynamo,

[on incentives]: ” if you wrap the Internet around every person on the planet and spin the planet, software flows in the network. It’s an emergent property of connected human minds  that they create things for one another’s pleasure and to conquer their uneasy sense of being too alone”

Again, the inherent nature of humans to work together is implied while making the distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic rewards (incentives) for human creativity.

“Amongst, the internal motivation identified as important are: the cultivation of self determination (control over action); enhancement of self esteem.. What unites these elements is their importance in the formation of identity” This builds to the point that creating software requires some self selection on the part of the creators, where you build what you want, not because you can sell it, but because you need it and you can do it and you release it because someone else may need it and use it and build on it too.

Inevitably, it boils down to the fact that there is no singularity in humanity, we share the world with one another, with each of us having different needs and means to fulfill them. Our innate interconnectedness answers the question of “why collaborate?”, with “because we inherently do”

Social creativity:

Every creative act is in someway shape or form, a product of many preceding acts. In the digital world, attribution and ownership become questions that reach beyond the pragmatics of historically instituted copyrights. In the context of massively collaborative projects, how do we address these questions? We don’t, because we can’t if we follow what isn’t applicable today. Instead, creative commons and GPL provide us with some solution for this (as it is in the book) resurgent collectivity.

Open Relationships:

There is a need for some structure to what holds a collaborative effort together. There is now the question of whether it is possible to have this kind of structure in an open manner that is coordinated, transparent, generous and respectful of freedom without it being litigious and endemically bureaucratic?..  honestly.. i have no idea.. the suggestion is that the answer lies in friendship and otherness, though I don’t know if that is applicable in every effort.  Thoughts?

Participation and Process:

The more you invest in the project you are working on, the more worth you ascribe to it and managing this investment by a team becomes vital to any project’s completion. Invitations to collaborate become a means of critically reassessing the trajectory of a project and its creators’ workflow from the outside. Dissent becomes the anti-passivity mechanism that pushes a collaboration beyond cyclical re-validations of contributions, to something that challenges its members to do something beyond their individual capacities. Founders may retain significant power over a project, but the meritocratic nature of online collaboration allows for more horizontal than vertical authority within a project.

The idea of process fetishism struck a cord with me. That the act of open collaboration becomes the goal more so than the project itself. Kinda like a jam band, where the musicians have a great time but listeners do not. The question of whether greater online collaboration is a product of itself in earlier forms, and does that transpose to creating a goal of being relevant and up to date requires more collaboration? Does the process beget its future? More or less, collaborators must outline the goal of their effort.


more to come…

Posted in Motivations.

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