Meta Collab

This article has been cited as a source by a media organization. The citation is in: Damon D. Judd (April 28, 2005), Geocollaboration using Peer-Peer GIS", Directions Magazine.

"Nuances" section[]

Hi! I've added to the main article on Collaboration, with a citation in "References", a "Nuances" subsection under "Etymology" as shown below. The historical use of the word in these two contexts gives it more than a pure neutral meaning of working together.

"Collaborate" implies "to work together on a project". When individuals work together as in an academic setting, "collaborate" includes the nuance "to be jointly accredited" for the work completed. When individuals and organizations work together, or organizations with other organizations, nuances include "usually willingly" and "with another organization with which one is not normally connected".

Glad to discuss! -- Sitearm | Talk 16:18, 2005 August 13 (UTC)

Collaboration's broader contexts?..[]

This comment was moved here from Category_talk:Academia

“Collaboration may be instinctive and selected-for in evolutionary terms because it succeeds. But we collaborate not because it succeeds, necessarily, but because it's fun. True collaboration, in hunting, in the arts and music, in sports, in raising children, is a joyous experience, and gives you a feeling that you cannot get from any individual pursuit. That feeling is the remarkable sense of collective accomplishment. We did that.”

That is cart before horse. The first sentence is right: it’s fun because nature has made it fun through differential reproduction. "We" didn’t do anything. Behaviours which are conducive to maximising individual genetic legacy will tend to be things we feel are fun. Copulation is the most primitive and outstanding example but the pleasures of raising children and cooperating with others are pleasures because nature made them so. Crudely put, if they weren’t pleasures (ie release serotonin or whatever it is into the brain) we wouldn’t do them (as much) and we wouldn’t be here. “We” did nothing for this.

I wonder if a broader context is missing from these hopes for a theory of collaboration. For example, restricting the biology to us is very narrow. The animal and plant kingdoms are rife with symbiotic organisms and among animals intra-species cooperation is normal. Employees, economics – perhaps a trifle parochial for the context of a general theory? Think of armies, nations.

I don’t know what the distinction between cooperation and collaboration is. Do the bacteria in my gut collaborate or cooperate? I looked at the Wikipedia entry and am not enlightened.

It seems to me that cooperation (or collaboration) is one of three general modes of interaction: competition, cooperation, and coercion. It seems to me that all three are pervasive, operating at the macro level (lions, daffodils), the micro level (germs, blood cells), and at the molecular level within living cells (viruses, hormones). It seems to me that there are no other modes of interaction.

Further, it seems to me that of the three competition is paramount, that the other two serve and moderate competition, that competition may occur without the other two but the other two cannot occur without competition being present. For example you coerce (say, point a pistol) in order to extract something (money, sex) that will give you competitive advantage. For example you cooperate (say, in a fishermen’s coop) in order to better compete (in the fishing industry).

Those personal peregrinations (which I have posted to the cooperation and competition Wikipedia sites in the hope of finding someone else who might have discussed them) are the raw outline of a general theory of interaction. A subdivision of it would be a general theory of human interaction and a subdivision of that would be a theory of cooperation – but if I am right it looks like cooperation can’t be really split off from competition and coercion.

The recognition that cooperation is derived from Darwinian selection is an implicit recognition that competition is playing a role but coercion seems to be forgotten.

From the two links given at the end of the entry, a few comments…


“Wood and Gray say that current collaboration theory suggests that a convener must be able to identify stakeholders and induce them to participate.”

“What is the basis of the convener's influence?”

The general tells the artillery and the infantry to collaborate. The general thinks that will help him win. His basis is coercive.

“Wood and Gray say that the articles reviewed confirm the basic assumption that stakeholders collaborate in order to reduce complexity and uncertainty to managable proportions.”

The infantry and artillery collaborate because that way they think they’ll win and because the general might court-martial them. “Complexity and uncertainty” is just waffle. All cooperation will be seeking some sort of a win. The word “win” is revealing: it implies a competition.

“Wood and Gray say their review shows that it is difficult to separate the stakeholders' self-interest and the problem domain's collective interests.”

Which confirms that competition is at the bottom of cooperation.

From Wood and Gray’s definition:

“Collaboration occurs when a group of autonomous stakeholders of a problem domain engage in an interactive process, using shared rules, norms, and structures, to act or decide on issues related to that domain.”

“Wood and Gray say that this definition is general enough to include a wide array of collaborative forms but specific enough to exclude others, such as blue ribbon panels that never meet, corporate mergers, and clubs that have no specific problem-solving objectives.”

If it excludes some forms of collaboration then surely it couldn’t be suitable for a general theory, would it?

There’s a fair way to go I think. – Pepper 07:14, 12 February 2006 (UTC)

Pepper - you have raised some very interesting issues, many of which I am very interested in. However, from the evolutionary perspective, I feel there is even more to consider than just 'selection of the fittest' when considering the origins of collaboration, cooperation & competition (or anything for that matter). Two dynamics especially to consider - group selection, and cultural evolution. I think the initial comment you responded to, "we collaborate not because it succeeds, necessarily, but because it's fun." is probably talking more about the conscious engagement with options available to us (i.e. cultural evolution). That's not to say that this or any other aspect of cultural evolution didn't arise from genetic evolution (and isn't still influenced by it), but that it is just another contributing factor. But I agree completely that this discussion should be framed fundamentally as a biological phenomenon.
This brings me to the second point - group selection. I wonder if you've come across Robert Wright's book Non-Zero, The logic of human destiny? If not, I think you might like it. It's fundamental thesis is that evolutionary competition is flanked by a second dynamic - cooperation. He explores these notions through the perspective of game theory - zero sum interaction: competition, non-zero sum interaction: cooperation. A fantastic read which has become fairly influential these days. It would be interesting though to bring in the notion of cohersion (which might be an aspect of compeditive dynamics - while collaboration being one of cooperative dynamics?). I've often seen the four of these behaviours as exisiting on a spectrum, cohersion->competition->cooperation->collaboration (moving from left to right). You can't get to the next without having the capacity for the previous, and once the following capacity is reached, all of the previous are possible.
I agree that there is a long way to go - this is precisely the reason I established Meta Collab. I would like to encourage you to join our mailing list by clicking here - these are precisely the type of discussions I'd like to be having there! Cheers, and thanks for the great input! -- Mark Elliott 22:38, 13 February 2006 (UTC)

Okay - I joined the list. I'm not sure that my evolution discussion ruled out other influences. I don't think the idea of "group selection" is useful. Selection operates on individuals and hence on genes - no matter how successful a group is at out-competing other groups. Group selection always seems to be put forward by people who also like the idea. I believe in cultural evolution and am in thrall to the Dawkins meme, particularly the part about hunting down the truth whatever the (putative) consequences.

I had a look on Amazon and Wikipedia at discussion of Wright's book. I kept thinking of Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel which seemed very sound. I gather Wright WANTS his thesis to be true. A thesis has more credibility if its promoter states clearly what would prove it wrong and then looks everywhere for such evidence. This, I gather is not what Wright did.

You say you have often seen coercion-competition-cooperation-collaboration as a sequence on a spectrum. Have you any reference you can give me? In terms of a sequence I would have put competition, not coercion, first for the reasons given in my previous post. In that primeval soup it would have been competition for a billion years (or whatever) and when coercion came it was a significant social advance - and it occurred in order to enhance the coercer's competitive edge. - Pepper 06:29, 18 February 2006 (UTC)

I think this page needs alot of work[]

I have spent the last 9 years working on finding ways of making the collaboration process work quicker and cheaper......I am do not believe you have define collaboration tighly enough. I think this is why you seek to explain the difference betweem communication and coordination.

Can you please check out the work being done on the main wikia site under collaboration?

Thanks for the feedback. I personally have a lot of ideas for redeveloping the page, but, I'm all tied up with my phd (on collaboration actually) for the next few months. After this, I'm going to get stuck straight into it. What are you referring to re "work being done on the main wikia site under collaboration" - can you paste in the url here? - just not sure what article and where you are referring to. Cheers! --Mark Elliott 04:09, 12 March 2007 (UTC)