What is collaboration anyway? – Adam Hyde et al.

It seems that we collaborate in a whole range of different ways. From online collaboration through a medium like Wikipedia, to artistic collaboration (think Un Chien Andalou).

Yet it can get a little confusing. Are we collaborating, or sharing? Can something not be deemed a collaboration if there is a strong content-author link? Therefore counting out Un Chien Andalou?

Hyde et al. suggest that there is a ‘friction of collaboration’. Whereby many factors contribute to the formation of a collaboration.

They go on to suggest the initial author offers both the ‘initiative for the collaboration’ and also ‘a leading guide-line that implicitly coordinates the contributions that follow”. So too, they qualify a collaboration by stating that ‘contributions… cannot exist outside of the context in which they are made’.

Hyde et al. posit that all of this hinges on the question of intent. After all, someone could start an idea and it could be taken out of context and mixed with content the original author may never have intended (see Kutiman mixes YouTube). An aggregation. Yet without the intent to collaborate, no agreed effort, Hyde et al. believe it cannot constitute the same thing.

So too, Hyde et al. suggest ‘we must acknowledge the inherent conflict between individual identity and group identity’ in the formation of a collaboration. To a certain extent, the individual must be forsaken for the identity of the group.

A platform such as Twitter navigates this grey area relatively well. The existence of a user allows an identity of sorts, a profile, and the platform allows each user to share through posts and collaborate through hash tags. They add ‘an additional layer of coordination’. Yet undoubtedly, “Web 2.0 lacks… the technique of antagonistic linkage’, and as such, the individual identity will always be foregone to make way for a tangible identity of the group. Technology cannot solve this tension.

As a result, online collaboration is a tenuous thing. It seems that online collaboration is forever going to have it’s sticking points. Is it an aggregation? Is it merely sharing? Or by placing content online are you implicitly stating your willingness to take part in collaboration?

The answers to these I do not know. What I do know is the online platform is perhaps the most accessible form of accessing collaboration we have ever seen. So lets stop worrying about how to term these things, and start collaborating. Whatever that means.

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