by Julius WiedemannMar 30, 2021
There is a theory that says that there are four types of love. The first one is by admiration or interest. The second one is by being taken care of. The third one is by sharing. And the last one is by doing together. If we are indeed social beings, doing together is a must. It is also a necessity to our survival. The human species cannot survive alone immediately after birth. It takes us a long time to be independent. The search for community and community value is essential to our understanding of existence. Milton Glaser, in the short documentary for Domestika launched this year, also stated that the more we work, the more we realise that we co-create things. Everyone’s inputs and contributions are important. In the philosophy of the Vedas, we are all co-creators. It seems undeniable that doing things together is a response to our most basic instincts.
Cooperatives have existed for a long time out of the necessity for people to fight for rights or to join forces to establish relevance and bargaining power. The cooperative movements gained force in the 19th century, especially in Britain and France. However, the Shore Porters Society claims to be the first corporative to have been established in the world, in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1498. The idea is pretty simple. It is to look outside someone’s ability to understand or to resolve a problem, and to seek help from other parties.
But what happens to us when digital tools are available to an extent that interdependence becomes the very fabric of what we can create next. And not only that, when that interdependence is put on a global scale so that people do not even know each other can collaborate in depth and scale never seen before. Is this the new form to imagine and build new realities? The good news is that we are already there.
In the digital era, we give collaboration many names and forms. Co-working, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, collabs, collaborative documents, among many others. We are now writing legislation in collaboration with citizens, we are deciding on city budgets with the help of their stakeholders, we are financing publications of new authors through collaborative funding, we go to work in places where we do not know the people at the next desk, but we are happy to share a collaborative environment. Through the possibility of acquiring data and monitoring availability, we are creating products and services that can no longer be disentangled from our lifestyle. Co-everything has become a value for more productivity, more understanding, more peaceful, and more engaging environments.
I deposit a lot of hope in the idea that the best products and services in the future are not simply based on an on-demand and transactional priority. Most of them will rely on the mutual understanding of an equilibrium between availability and necessity. Take gyms during the COVID-19 period for instance. You login to your gym to schedule when you will be able to go for a one-hour workout, understanding that if all spots are full you are late to book your reservation. You then look for other spots without complaining. But most importantly the idea of collaboration is changing education. The best schools now are not prioritising teaching raw skills such as maths, physics, literature or arts, and are instead creating groups that need to work together to solve problems and will in turn understand the necessity of those skills. They will also need to defend their position collectively, and will need to debate to resolve their differences, make concessions, put themselves in other people’s positions, and realise that collaboration is a fundamental resource that we need to harness.
Crowdsourcing is a very underestimated strategy, apart from technical circles, that we use every day and have little idea of the impact that they have in our lives. From websites like TripAdvisor to playlists made available on Spotify, we are feeding ourselves from other people’s attention, time and work. As long as we are limited in resources and creativity recurring to other people is the best strategy. Apple has done the same thing with its App Store. Instead of creating apps themselves, what they did was to create a developers’ kit and outsource creativity. Ultimately, collaboration is a form of creating synergy by finding resources that can come both surprisingly and unexpectedly. It is the form of letting randomness play its part in an organised framework. Digital technologies function as a great tool to find interest, and to offer a connection into the next step. It is now an inherent value of our social construct.
Read more from the series Digital Legacies where our columnist Julius Wiedemann investigates the many aspects of digital life.