I think the open source software movement is an excellent example of
collective creativity. It is interesting that this and other similar ways of
working and creating have developed. There is a zeitgeist which seems to
continue to gain momentum, a social understanding.
Distributed agency is clearly linked to this and as we develop more powerful
technologies that function to augment our capacity to perceive or act upon
the world the better we understand that agency need not be, nor has ever
been, restricted to the human. I am not familiar with Mayer-Schonberg¹s work
but find the insight that most peer to peer work is incremental in character
interesting. That has not been my own experience of collective working
(committee drafting of a policy document is another example), where sweeping
changes can occur to how a document or other artefact is structured and
oriented. This capacity for paradigm shifts in collective working is one of
the more exciting outcomes of learning to see with other¹s eyes. The kind of
working that Mayer-Schonberg describes sounds less like intensive collective
activity and more like networked individual activity which of course is a
completely valid way of working but is very different.
You mention models of working employed in business and industry. As you are
aware, these models have found their way into and have been further
augmented within other large scale institutional contexts, such as
education. A lot of research today involves numerous individuals and
departments across diverse institutions, often in different countries,
working together on complex problems. How the work is organised is critical
to its success and an important part of such work is determining which
organisational model will be employed. It is a matter of finding those
structures and methods most likely to deliver against the aims of the
project. Many research teams now incorporate experts in such processes, from
anthropology, psychology, economics and other relevant areas.
The eMobil-art project you describe sounds like an example of this type of
working that could have benefitted from the involvement of such an expert.
You are aware of the art/science collaborations that Arts Council England
and the Arts and Humanities Research Council initiated in the early 2000¹s.
I had been involved in a number of similar initiatives like this over the
years and what made this particular series of projects interesting and
successful was the role played by expert facilitators who were embedded in
the the trans-disciplinary research teams. This did cost money but the
outcomes more than justified it. As a result of the confidence built in
those early experiments in placing a few artists in research environments
there is now an annual programme of such publicly funded projects across the
UK. Numerous artists and scientists have benefitted from the opportunity to
work together in an environment that is supportive and able to focus
appropriately on the aims of each project. That applicants to the programme,
from all sides, have to articulate from the outset how they will organise
their work and what methods they will employ, justified against their stated
aims and objectives, helps here. However, this highly calculated way of
working does not suit everyone, at least all the time. It might be nice if a
higher tolerance was set to allow for productive failure. Research/practice
should be fun and the open source model does seem to sustain this option.
From: roger malina <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Reply-To: YASMIN DISCUSSIONS <email@example.com>
Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2009 14:32:45 -0700
To: YASMIN DISCUSSIONS <Yasmin_discussions@estia.media.uoa.gr>
Subject: [Yasmin_discussions] collective genius
in your critiques of the concept of genius you state:
I do not think there is such a thing as genius. As I have already
I have a lot of time for Newton's idea of team-work.
I regard individuality as a contingent characteristic, preferring the
Foucauldian notion of the distributed self or Latour's of expanded and
diffused agency. In these models the individual is regarded as an instance
of the collective and enabled through that context, drawing on and defined
by the resources within and without them (there is no notion of an essential
or irreducible self .
A contemporary example of diffused agency/distributed self is found of
in open source software development groups. Many of us think of
open source software development as a source of innovation and creativity
as compared to commercial development or very institutionalised contexts
but a recent article by Viktor Mayer=Schonberg in Science on
Can We Re Invent the Internet
he points out that in general social network topologies are not
conducive to radical innovation- and he suggests that the value
of a 'node''s value in a social network is not proporitional to the
number of links (facebookers beware) but the connections to
disparate groups=which span 'structural holes' and enable
radical approaches= he argues that much peer produced code
is rarely altered except in an incremental manner= he suggests
that one needs to create incentives to form network structures
that, structurally, stimulate and enable innovation-and he suggests
its an interesting thought that the actual 'structure' of the network
of a collaboration can in itself determine whether the collaboration
is inventive, and can make radical non incremental innovation
but it also higlights how even in team work, individuals can play
key roles in enabling radical innovation by a group= there are
organisational geniuses ?
which brings me to Nina Yankowitz comments on the emobilart
collaboration groups:- have added my comments in CAPS
As an emobilart participant>> list some of my thoughts re:
collaborative projects / establishing good conditions for problem
1. Inviting prospective participants - distributing details of all
participants proposals and profiles at least one month in advance of
meeting, to ponder, can better prepare invited collaborators to make
efficient choices when deciding with whom to collaborate.
ONE OF THE STRENGTHS OF EMOBILART WAS THAT THE COLLABORATORS DID NOT
KNOW EACH OTHER
BEFORE THE FIRST WORKSHOP WHEN THE COLLABORATION TEAMS FORMED= BUT THE
LIMITED AMOUNT OF TIME INDEED MADE THE GROUP FORMATION PROCESS PERHAPS
NOT AS GOOD AS IT COULD BE=AT THE SAME
TIME THE FACT THAT MOST OF THE GROUPS WERE ABLE TO COMPLETE A PROJECT=
TESTIFIES TO THE POWER OF THE COLLABORATION IMAGINATION DRIVE !
2. Clearly establishing a non-hierarchal relationship between all
participants and organizers, with special attention to this when
participants from each category are creating and exhibiting in the
I THINK WE WOULD AGREE THAT WE DIDNT THINK ENOUGH AHEAD OF TIME ABOUT
BETWEEN THE ORGANISERS THEMSELVES AND BETWEEN THE ORGANISERS/CURATORS
AND THE ARTISTS.
PERHAPS A RECOMMENDATION WOULD TO DO ACTUAL TRAINING IN COLLABORATIVE
TECHNIQUES=THESE ARE WIDELY USED IN THE BUSINESS WORLD FOR INSTANCE=
ACTUALLY TRAIN IN COLLABORATION TECHNIQUES
3. All members should, I believe, have equal access to all meetings
about the projects and networking meetings too, equally sharing in the
decision making process and the potential networking benefits that
these meetings can provide.
IN STRATEGIC ALLIANCE METHODOLOGY IN THE BUSINESS WORLD, IT IS KNOWN
THAT ONE MUST ESTABLISH THE CLEARLY ARTICULATED VALUES AND
METHODOLOGIES AHEAD OF TIME AND IN WRITING
= IN EMOBILART WE LEARNED BY DOING WHICH IS HIGH RISK !
4. I do believe the future, as I think Roger is suggesting, is in
collaborative pooling of resources.
A CLEAR PROBLEM WAS THE HUGE AMOUNT OF DONATED AND CONTRIBUTED
RESOURCES NEEDED TO COMPLETE THE PROJECTS. THE COLLABORATION TEAM
ITSELF WAS GROSSLY UNDERFUNDED=BUT IF WE HAD
SUBMITTED A PROPOSAL WITH THE TRUE COSTS IT PROBABLY WOULD NOT HAVE
BEEN FUNDED. CATCH 22
5. Whether small or large groups - formations need structure,
mutual clarification of goals, and how to best meet specific group
needs. Assumptions about how projects may get funded by participants
in respective groups can be problematic and would best be detailed
within each. Also addressing how grants can / should be fairly
disseminated if received when individuals apply for project funding
and are awarded?
PER MY DISCUSSION ABOVE RE OPEN SOURCE NETWORK STRUCTURES=YES=THE
STRUCTURE CAN DETERMINE WHAT KINDS OF OUTCOMES ARE POSSIBLE
6. Personal aspects - Although numerous snags abound when initially
cross-connecting myriad cultures, uncovering ingrained biases, intense
egos that non-cyborgs nurture, that we all succumb - I found flying
with my teams very valuable to my personal and spiritual growth and
growth for the future of the planet in general. I look forward to
THE INTERPERSONAL TENSIONS ARE PERHAPS PART OF THE CONTEXT OF CREATIVE
FRICTION ? IT MIGHT
HAVE BEEN USEFUL TO HAVE A GROUP SOCIOLOGIST OR PSYCHOLOGIST ON THE TEAM !!
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