Meta Collab

This is the open, collaborative research page for developing a general theory of collaboration (GTC).

Please use the above discussion page tab for questions, proposals and criticisms. On the discussion page there is also a position statment by the initiator of this LDI, Mark Elliott.

An LDI "Let's Do It" is a collaborative project management concept developed at Open Project Development.


  • To develop a general theory of collaboration - core theoretical principles which can be found to apply in most, if not all collaborative situations.


A set of observable (first class) dynamics and components exist which are common to all collaborative scenarios.

Additional (second class) dynamics and components exist and arise as collaborative scenarios branch and diversify in their applications, contexts and complexity.

These additional, second class elements exist parallel to and/or nested within the first class elements.

First and second class dynamics and components may be different for collaborative scenarios enacted by non-human participants, i.e. computational agents etc.


  • Identify core dynamics.
  • Expand out from core dynamics, identifying additional dynamics for varied contexts and applications.
  • (In parallel) catalogue and link to examples of collaboration which illustrate the proposed dynamics.

To do[]

Proposed theoretical components[]

Below is a list of proposed theoretical components to a GTC. This initial list is not meant to be exhaustive and authoritative, rather it should serve a starting point for further development and discussion. Please contribute on this page, or on the pages which the titles link to. Once this listing and their individual pages become more stable, a summary page should be created.

If you are not sure about your contribution, or simply wish to discuss and or give some feedback or an opinion, on some particular or general aspect, you can do so on this page's discussion page, or on the discussion pages associated with the individual components below.

Definition of collaboration[]

Collaboration is the process of two or more people co-engaged in processes such as acting, thinking, planning, deciding and working which result in the emergence of shared understandings and a creative output. The emergent shared and the creative output may be one in the same (as in the case of a collaborative discussion), or, the understandings may be focused towards an output ranging from and ongoing process (such as an intimate relationship, or organisational management), a discrete result (such as a book, or an acquisition), or a mix of both process and result (such as the running of a business).

Orders of collaboration[]

First order collaboration[]

First order collaboration is a collaborative process characterised by synchronous, turn-taking social interactions to evolve and guide its emerging process and output. This restricts the group size to most commonly between 2-6, but in rare cases, may be as large as 25 participants.

Second order collaboration[]

Second order collaboration (sometimes referred to as mass collaboration) is characterised by stigmergic, asynchronous, computer-mediated cultural interactions (that may or may not also include synchronous and or asynchronous social interactions) which evolves and guides its emerging process and output. Because participants in stigmergic systems only engage their local environment, their capacities are not exceeded and the system can scale well. Therefore, in second order collaborations, the number of participants may exceed the limits of first order collaborations, ranging well into the thousands, tens of thousands and beyond.

Types of collaboration[]

Traditional collaboration[]

See First order collaboration

Stigmergic collaboration[]

Stigmergic collaboration occurs when one or more shared media is co-manipulated through some part or all of the collaborative process. Stigmergic collaboration is common in first order collaboration and is the enabling dynamic in second order collaboration.

First class collaborative elements[]

To fall into this category, the below dynamics and components should be apparent in all human collaborative situations.

First class components[]

Please update the first class collaborative elements page as new ones are listed here and vice-versa.

  • Collaborative media – the medium in which a collaboration takes place (For instance a word document or wiki in the case of coauthoring, vocalisations, body language, auditory and visual perceptions in face-to-face collaborations, or a mix of many media as in the case of the production of a play.)
  • Collaborative incentive – an explicit or implicit, cost benefit oriented motivation for collaborating. Linked to trust (explore how), this may be a shared objective (like making a profit) or an individualistic motive (like furthering one’s career by working with someone who has a valuable social standing, or other forms of building social capital).
  • Collaborative output – this may be tangible, objective and finite (such as winning a war or writing and publishing research paper), or intangible, subjective and ongoing (such as cultivating and maintaining a successful relationship), or a combination and/or gradation of these qualities (such as the total activities of Meta Collab).

First class dynamics[]

Please update the first class collaborative elements page as new ones are listed here and vice-versa.

  • Information exchange – the exchange of information regarding the Collaborative domain and/or throughout the collaborative process which includes many different forms of information and knowledge exchanges (such as the second class dynamic, experiential sharing) and contributes to the collaboration’s successful outcome. Many types and instances of information exchange may appear unnecessary in a collaborative context, but may become more important at a later date, or may be important in a peripheral manner, for instance assisting in cultural and/or social negotiation (such as behaviour which leads to relationship building or acts of good will).
  • Trust – a tacit, experiential judgment tied to a mix of explicit or implicit reputation histories, agreements, alignments, shared objectives or incentives (make a comprehensive list) which help to trigger a tipping-point like threshold required for a participant to contribute to a collaborative process. (For instance someone’s social reputation or publication and research histories in academic and scientific collaboration, the GPL FDL licence in wiki collaboration, past behaviour in close relationships, cultural standing in artistic collaborations etc.) (find trust reference)

Second class collaborative elements[]

These dynamics and components may appear in some but not all collaborative situations.

These dynamics are not to be seen as less worthy or secondary to first class dynamics in any way other than that they are not evident in all collaborative situations. (In fact they may predate many first class dynamics in terms of collaboration’s biological evolution.)

Second class components[]

Please update the second class collaborative elements page as new ones are listed here and vice-versa.


Second class dynamics[]

Please update the second class collaborative elements page as new ones are listed here and vice-versa.

  • Experiential sharing, a subset of the first class collaborative element, knowledge sharing, is the exchange of experiential information regarding a collaborative domain and/or throughout a collaborative process which precludes explicit symbolic communication methods such as speech, focusing upon tacit, implicit and often unconscious information exchange such as shared observations and moments of realisation, body language and kinaesthesia.

Additional articles and aspects to explore[]

Relevant MetaCollab Categories[]

External resources[]

GTC LDI Members[]

Please add your name to this list if you have contributed in any way to this collaboration (implicitly, explicitly, through discussion or editing) if you wish to receive credit for your contributions (in Mark Elliott’s PhD).