Collaboration usually occurs along with such notions as assist, ally, fraternise – the implication that there is some form of two-way relationship with other members of a voluntary group. But what happens when this relationship is invisible to the group’s participants? Can you collaborate while not being aware of the collaborative process itself?
This interesting article on Crowdsourcing and Community Engagement prompted me to consider how the social relationships we commonly understand in collaboration are absent in this communal creation of artefacts – an absence rendered unnecessary by the use of technology.
Participants might be transcribing ‘analogue’ artefacts such as photos or handwriting into a digital “mineable” format for sharing, searching, tagging etc. Individual effort is automatically pooled without the need for teams or ‘social negotiations’ necessary within groups.
Some form of agreement is usually given regarding the future use of the (typically small) amount of data the individual produces, but, other than that, it’s entirely possible that they remain unaware that they are ‘collaborating’ at all. Nonetheless, collaboration is taking place.
As the article says, crowdsourcing works best with simple repeatable tasks – not necessarily with more complex collaborative problem-solving. For that we need teams and some form of social interaction. We know that technology is able to help here too (e.g. with rapid formation of groups and exchange of data) – and that it’s success depends on collaborators who are very aware of the collaborative process they are engaged in.