A Rave on Collaboration & Learning

Lately I have been working on several interesting collaborative initiatives here at work involving dance, engineering, animation, biology, anatomy, physical education, physics. The seeds of these projects came out of several experiences. readings and observations. When thinking about the power and potential of collaborative projects, I cannot help but to think of the story of the blind men and then elephant. Each individual feels one specific part of the elephant, and describes the elephant based on that feeling. But none of them can actually feel the complete beast. I can also think of other relevant models, such as building construction. It is very, very difficult for one person to build a multi-story house completely by themselves. Foundation, framing  are possible,  but  raising a roof  really requires assistance. Also, if one thinks of the specialty trades involved- framing, electrical,  plumbing, cabinetry, etc. one begins to see the strength of the collaborative effort.

The same is true in academia and private sector workplaces. When I first became involved with Interactive Multi-media (now ofter referred to as “new media”), one person could do everything- design, graphics, programing. Interactive projects were able to fit on a disc. Within a relatively short time, projects became more complex and began to require specialists in video, audio, graphic design, interface design and of course programming (Macromind’s “Lingo” for Director was one choice). The same process happened with the Web. In 1995, one person could build and design a web site. Although still possible, Web development now requires a host of technical and design skills- database. back end design and taxonomies, GUI, image, video, audio, etc.

Rather that look at this as being a daunting enterprise, this is really quite exciting. The need for collaboration creates richer rich-media, with better quality graphics, audio, video and interface that really can engage the visitor in an interactive experience. The social network of Web 2.0 that has evolved out the growth of this technology and process continues to promote collaboration and cooperation.

This spirit of cooperation is (or can be) reflected in both academia and the workplace, Blackboards are often interactive whiteboards, research is done online using tools like GoogleScholar as well as databases of articles from  professional journals. Cut and paste is digital that does not require scissors and glue (tell the digital natives about these thing sof the past). Not only the tools are new (and rapidly changing), but the approach to the process of research and creativity reflects the tools. Cross-discipline is not only interesting, but required. In some ways, it harkins back to some of the ideas developed in the Bauhaus, where form and function were promoted as necessary and important. All good design required communication between the artist/designer and the fabricator. This required the artist/designer to have a basic understanding to fabrication and the fabricator to understand basic design theory. Many of the designs and objects are still in use and produced today.

Later- More on learning and web 2.0 as well as links to a couple of fun sites.


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