what’s the secret to establishing a sense of enthusiastic, self-propelling creative energy in a collaboration? if it was mere intention, than all types of collaborative work (academic, corporate, artistic) would be wildly endowed, for we’d all rather enjoy our work than work to enjoy it. it is a sense progressive corporations may go to great lengths to stimulate or stage, knowing its effect on productivity.
but hopefully we’re all lucky enough to know that this type of collaboration occurs without intention, as if by sheer luck of right people, right time, right project. this ideal form of collaboration resists methodology, especially if its goal is given from the top. the elusiveness of this ideal form of collaboration is a great regret for both organizations and individuals, for it makes the quotidian collaboration seem lacking, burdensome, busyworkish, a waste of time. the experience of an ideal collaboration is the subject of much nostalgia for it gives an energy impossible to find elsewhere, a sense of community, joy and innovation beyond the imagination. collaborative members find themselves doing and thinking what they could not previously.
while reading collaborative futures i am struck that this so-called ideal form of collaboration i’m musing about (a term to be picked apart later of course) always involves at least a small peppering of middle fingers. notice the joyful use of “bullshit” in the collaborative futures book when critiquing the rhetoric of “web 2.0”. the critique of capitalism, the liberal subject and traditional modes of organizing creative output are not incidental content of this book’s collaborative energy, but precisely what produces this energy. looking back on my own semi-idyllic past collaborations i would say that they are always energized to the extent that they rebel against another way of thinking or doing. a collaboration’s vitality, so to speak, is based on the extent that it organizes against another dominant system of organization. that is precisely the thrill that motivates.
but motivates what? for awhile now i have been thinking about collaboration in terms of what it produces: science! technology! conversation! art! etc! when trying to figure out if one might paradoxically plan for this unplannable ideal form of collaboration, i thought one must first decide what one is trying to produce by such collaboration. it occurs to me now, however, that the products of such collaborations are really byproducts of the true fruit of collaboration which is the personal and earnest engagement with others, an intimate meeting of minds. wild things happen when a group of individuals are suddenly organized by their personal relations with each other rather than the way society/university/workplace has mandated. these inexpressibly rich, bottom up, organic connections are most powerful in the way they re-imagine the social organization of the world rather than the commodities or art forms they produce.
so, is there any worth in thinking about collaboration in terms of its social activity rather than what it produces? and if such “rebellious” energy is a necessary ingredient for the ideal form of collaboration, how do we utilize it within the academy which demands professionalism and formality?