So what about trust? If we’re colloaborating with one another, are we counting on each other too? At least in context to our small Collaborative Studio, there’s an expected level of contribution for each person, or is there? This ‘expectation’ may mean more for some people than it does to others, but in either case, I think collaborating is a way of exhibiting trust.
Would we willingly collaborate with someone thought to be incapable of actually achieving the ‘mutual’ goal? What if someone has an ulterior motive, or a plan to subvert the entire collaborative agenda. After all, in a political context, a “Collaborator” has very negative connotations, often referencing a person suspected of betrayal and deception. Yet the ‘open forum environment’ which is the keystone to many large collaborative projects, allows almost anyone to join the effort. That said, I think its contradictory to the very nature of “Collaboration” to exclude certain people from any one project. In a way this invites a certain degree of failure or at least presumes and accepts that there will some who merely ride the coat tails of others but still reap the same reward. Of course this all is based on the perspective of the collaborative project as being Goal orientated and not just a community exchange. In any event though I think we assume that if someone willingly chooses to participate in a collaborative environment, we are trusting that their motivations will be the same as ours. This certainly is not always the case. Leaving the question of what degree of discrimination should we have for our fellow collaborators, and if we discriminate, are we actually even collaborating at all? It may also be important to consider this concept, especially in an educational environment, where grades assigned to each individual, are both directly influenced and also affected by one another.
Yesterday, I observed art classes at a bilingual elementary school in Arlington,VA. One of the classes I observed was a kindergarden class who was making large backdrops for the school's Spring Arts Festival. The students were all gathered around two large pieces of paper on the floor and everyone was painting on the paper. It was amazing to see such young students being able to use the materials (paints, brushes, etc.) responsibly and also to work together successfully to produce collective works of art. From a developmental standpoint, even the concept of sharing a tangible physical object, let alone creative space or a creative product, is challenging for young children. There were a couple squeals and protests of "hey, you can't paint on/over my picture" but for the most part they worked together remarkably well. This probably isn't collaboration in the traditional sense. There was no over-arching strategy for creating a cohesive final project and the majority of the students simply worked on their own drawings side by side. However, I thought the idea of students sharing a large piece of paper (in a sense a common creative space) was pretty innovative and something that I would like to use in my future classroom. I saw it as a warm-up for future collaborative activity. If you get used to the idea of sharing paper when you are young then, later, sharing thoughts and ideas to create works of art somehow seems more natural.