What is this buzzword, Collaboration? There are so many different ways in which we can define, describe, strategize, theorize, and analyze it. Natalie Jeremijenko once described to us that she likes the word “participation” over “collaboration.” Regardless of its subtle nuance, perhaps the struggle of this word comes because we perceive it as a noun and not a verb. What happens when we achieve to collaborate? Does the action become a shared indescribable experience? Perhaps it is a place where ideation truly harmonizes with implementation…
The meaning of collaboration:
A. work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor
B. process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals
C. development of integrative solutions that go beyond an individual vision to a productive resolution that could not be
accomplished by any single person or organization.
D. exploration of ideas among divergent disciplines
E. all of the above
Recently, our Transdisciplinary Design class had the opportunity to collaborate with students from KISD (Köln International School of Design) on an exhibition, “The Critical Gift of Design” in the Parsons Aronson Gallery. Prior to the exhibit, much apprehension was present due to the intense time frame and organizational structure in which the project was delivered to us. However, once we started joining forces, everything seemed to come into place. It was as if Steve Johnson was sprinkling dust of Emergence onto us to be a self-organized system.
The vinyl installation on the corner window of 5th Avenue and 13th Street was a tricky endeavor. The measurements we originally gathered from the window were off by a good amount. The graphic design had been designed according to the original measurements so the proportions were inaccurate when it came time to cut the vinyl for installation. Ben, a Trans Design student and Mattias, a KISD student meticulous worked closely together to get these measurements re-proportioned and correct.
When is it was time for us to install, we naturally gravitated toward our abilities to get the vinyl up. Ben and Mattias lead the process by showing us how each piece came together. I was in charge of showing everyone the techniques of applying water onto the vinyl and installing it onto the window with a squeegee – a technique I had learned the day before from Andreas, another KISD student. Aaron documented the whole process as well as assisted installing the vinyl. Howard ran outside to make sure each vinyl pieces was straight and balance. Rene helped us ease the bubbles in the vinyl where we couldn’t reach. It helps to be 2m!
Perhaps this success was due to what Bland Hoke mentioned in his earlier blog post regarding humans relying on memory. Perhaps the common thread here was play. Even though each of us has different memories playing with water, (slip-and-slide, water ballons, etc.) the act of playing with water is universal. Perhaps this memory enabled us to empathize with each other at that particular moment.
In retrospect, we collaborated not by planning so much but by the mere act of implementing the design. It was a self-organizing system that harmoniously all came together because we trusted one another. We motivated, respected, and communicated. I can keep listing all the attributes, but there is something intangibly real when you successfully collaborate –you really feel it.