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[Xmca-l] Re: Collaboration

Hello esteemed XMCArs!

This is something of a summary of what I have read in the thread so far up to the time of my post anyway. So it's long and addresses several members' posts. I hope it's not to laborious to read, and there might be further collaboration in parsing the answer to Michael's originating question. :)

Initially, as I followed the course of this thread, my thought about notions of collaboration and its differences from cooperation, I consider cooperation to mean that there is sacrifice involved if conflict arises, specifically I mean in the sense of accommodation. It isn't distressing, nor need it be a surrendering of identity, even in a more hierarchical social structure. Also, cooperation can be very ambitious, so I seem to have a 180 definition to Andy's distinctions between the two words. In collaboration, there is a community effort to complete something and it is more democratic in nature, in the sense of oughts, not is's. So to summarize, I don't believe that for either cooperation or collaboration that conflict is an essential ingredient, for the reason that they can exist without conflict.

That's why I'm in more agreement with Michael's definitions when he speaks of Downes' distinctions in reference to community :

"Right now I think I like Stephen Downes' distinction which is cooperation is engaging in community work for your own needs - so you never really give yourself up to the learning community, while collaboration involves actually creating a community.  Others I think see collaboration as the development of shared meaning while cooperation is simply (shared isn't the right word, right?) action towards a goal.  I think both to a certain degree reflect your thinking."

I also support Micheal to pose the question, "what do we mean my conflict?" As I indicated already, collaboration can be non-adversarial.

It is interesting that Andy brought up marriage. Unfortunately not everyone on this list might know what marriage means in the everyday concept of the word, but might understand marriage as a scientific concept! :) Still, it does seem germane that commitment is a requirement to any collaboration, perhaps because of the potential for conflict, as Micheal points out.

But I'd also like to state something that we are missing when considering marriage as an example of collaboration: there also must be present in a marriage something called love and care, which is joyful sharing. I imagine also, in the creation of a family there is an ideal objective to a create a sense of continuity and community of care for all members, and that is an ongoing collaboration.

I'm not sure it makes sense to focus a notion of collaboration around conflict. But I understand why conflict comes up. I don't think marriage is something that is usually considered in reference to conflict, though for many who are divorced or who fear repeating a bad marriage, they seem to orient to marriage as a daily ordeal in conflict. :/

Helen's comment about distributed cognition I find also relevant, because successful collaboration requires members who have complimentary ways of thinking about or skill for doing things. Sometimes having too many people who have expertise or skill in identical domains creates competition, and competition not only creates conflict, but also has the potential become violent. I say that because competition creates an illusion of scarcity rather than abundance, sharing, or beneficial opportunity.

I also like Greg's comment that hints at a nice definition of collaboration as "playing well with others." Also his mention that there are gendered tendencies about what collaboration means in groups made up solely of one gender or mixed; all male, or all female, or mixed, or even LBGT- to offer recognition of those identities, as more diffuse manifestations of gendered expression, which of course are still being understood by all of us. 

There's also the cultural implications, whether having to do with class or race, the preferred language of discourse, vocabularies, signifiers, histories, and so on.

Can there be differences between capital-C Collaboration and little-c collaboration? How does creativity relate?

I don't think it makes sense to create an equivalent to Myers-Briggs for collaboration, but there was that study in Google that studied internal work groups and they couldn't find anything to identify until they were able to measure the amount of time that a team member was allowed to talk. (search "Google" and "groups" the NYT and you should find it). They found that in groups where there was equal-billed time for each member to speak, in other words no individual or individuals dominated leaving others silent, those groups possessed the most productivity, and also each member felt good about being in that group. When they looked more closely to get to the bottom of all that, it ended up that the only feature that really counted was whether or not the group offered psychological safety for each member. 

I have one word for this: Duh.

A modicum of psychological safety really hits the nail on the head when it comes to what collaboration requires. Can there be valid collaboration without any psychological safety? 

Can members experiment? Can they fail safely without ridicule? Is there humor in the group? Forgiveness for mistakes? How is improvisation regarded as a site for discovery and imagination?

Following our thread, distributed cognition just by being distributed doesn't mean that it is decentralized, something that Michael mentioned. For example, Hutchins study on navigation took place in the Navy, a highly hierarchical organization and highly centralized. The study of cultural practice of navigation (plotting the fix), on the naval ship is still distributed despite these organizational features.

Another example:  when I make a grocery shopping list with a post-it note and pen, that is also distributed cognition exercised in solitude, from the time I search my fridge to learn what I've run out of, in order to make my list, and how I bring the list with me to the store as I search the aisles and then remember that I'd forgotten to add tomato sauce to my list, because I keep that in the pantry not the fridge, and so forgot to put it on my post-it note, which is sticking to the handle of my grocery cart. It's all distributed cognition.

Bouncing off of Christopher's post, who is bouncing off Andy's previous posts on cooperation, as I said initially, I see cooperation as more about accommodation, rather than being conflict free. That's what I meant by sacrifice to a cause, which could be conflict aversion. I agree with Andy that suppressing conflict is not good, but neither is being conflict averse, which feels to me to be more "internal" than "external." Your mileage may vary.

I do think we've identified a possible need for a different word than "conflict" though, for its negative or adversarial connotation. I wonder if professional diplomats use any words for what we are conceptually circumnavigating? 

How about "negotiation"? would that be a better word than "conflict"? Negotiation coincides with cooperation and collaboration.

I was super happy to hear from Vera! I like what she says about distributive and integrative aspects in collaboration, which possesses a non-adversarial rendering of collaboration. It implies search, comparison, identification of differences and similarities, these words provide opportunity for simulation, as in rehearsal or testing, then negotiation and finally integration. And the cycle can start once again, as needed.

So maybe we are considering martini preferences around differences between shaken and stirred? :)

I also like the phrase "dignified interdependence" very very much. Thanks for that one, Vera.

In reference to Alfredo's post, that collaboration is a skill to cultivate. That seems right. Such a skill is not something inherently done without guidance from a more-knowledgeable or more-experienced peer, but it does appear to be inherently necessary for all of us to be successfully human.

Also, can we freely make the assumptions we do about individuals and collaboration? I say this because we have these "western" notions of individuality that we take for granted. For example, the notion of dividual makes the case that some cultures have members who see themselves closely tied to others in a "dignified interdependence," if I might exercise Vera's nice coupling of words. So perhaps we might not be too hasty about normalizing individualism as we experience it, and pose it as a universal human trait. 

It is interesting to consider collaboration as a primary human phenomenon, since that is inclusive of the individual and the dividual (as a spectrum). I suppose that is the burgeoning anthropologist in me! :)

I still must read the Tomasello article Mike offered up (thanks Mike), he is a favorite of mine. But Rod also brings up a very nice word "collusion," when taken in a constructive fashion. Sometimes two parties in a group can't be too obvious that they are working together because they must wait for others to catch up or warm up to an idea or new turn in the flow of events. Or, if a subgroup needs to quietly work off to the side to experiment and solidify an idea before presenting it to the group. That seems to be a valid use of the word "collusion."

Of course, Larry's observations that collaboration is highly influenced by the environment is also worth further discussion too, as I don't believe that collaboration can happen in a non-space or a non-environment or even a non-culture. There has to be a there there. So the reference of "dwelling in the world" is also very delightful.

Here's a list I made of words that jumped out to me, going down my post. There are a lot of "C" words:

but also some non-C words:
-dignified interdependence
-distributed cogniton

Of course this is all about that "great C in the sky": C-O-N-C-E-P-T! We appear to be collaborating quite earnestly upon the concept of collaboration.

I'd like to thank everyone for such a nice (and quite cordial) thread and tapestry!

Kind regards,