The Process of Collaboration

The People of Paper remix offers some insight on how people collaborate or are programmed to work together.  These insights are best revealed when the process of creating the document is viewed in its entirety.

The Google doc started out as a space which anyone could make their own, which is precisely what we in class started doing.  Everyone wrote down their own individual thoughts, establishing tiny kingdoms of interpretation, usually separated from others’ by hits of the “enter” key.  I think this was the result of respect for others’ work , a fear that one’s own work could be violated, and perhaps a tiny bit of arrogance.  A similar phenomena occurred with the Generation X criticism: what was supposed to be a cohesive, creative yet analytical narrative quickly became a flurry of loosely related snippets.  This time we had to make all these different threads come together, and, in trying to do so, initially the document quickly became an anarchic mess.

After being informed that we had spent the first half of our time writing and not organizing or even talking, we were advised to decide on a way to coordinate ourselves and arrange the paper.  The first suggestion was that we all vote on something, and the second, which we half-heartedly embraced, was assigning everyone a section or task.

What strikes me here is that the two systems first suggested were a democracy and a bureaucracy.  I wonder now if this is because these two are the systems we are used to (though a republic and a bureaucracy would be more accurate in this regard), and therefore the first things which popped into our heads to suggest, or if we believe that these systems are actually the best way to accomplish something.

The first thought that occurred to me was that someone should just take complete control and delineate orders, since we obviously have a hard time organizing ourselves (a process I liken to an attempt at herding cats).  However, as more distributed methods of systematization were said out loud, I kept my autocratic thoughts to myself (which may have been the best course of action since I do not think anyone would have stepped forward as high lord tyrant).

But, here almost a week later, the document is largely as it was on Monday night.  This is unsurprising, as the majority of blog posts (including my own) are not done until late Sunday, so similar projections about the google doc can be made.  However, this also says something about the democratic model we have chosen here, namely that without commitment or at least activity from members, it fails. 

This is not meant to be a political rant or analysis on actual politics, as I consider myself unfit to make serious commentary in that arena.  But the idea of multiple or co-authorship is often linked to idealistic rhetoric about democracy and liberation, yet, in two instances in this class, it has not brought much more than chaos and failure.

Perhaps a different yet still democratic method would have worked better(such as everyone writing one sentence, one after the other, with the provision that these sentences have to make sense with the ones that came before it), or a tighter bureaucratic method (with some sort of means for forcing members to participate).  Or maybe, instead of relating these liberatory claims to notions of democracy, this new technology and the possibilities it opens up for authorship and creation could lead to a method or model which is truly liberatory and revolutionary. 


-Zack Manko


~ by gottgeist501 on April 3, 2010.

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