"We will surely get to our destination if we join hands." ~ Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese political leader (1945- )

Collaboration as a norm

One of the most striking take aways of my research with theatre ensembles was that self-interest and collaboration stand side by side, and this is just one of the examples I would cite of how the 'cultural underpinnings of the arts' creates the environment where 'collaboration' thrives, informed not by pep talks, but rather embedded in the culture. It is a given, a norm, it is the way things are done. (rtmucha)

Collaboration and brain science

We define collaboration as work together in which A proposes, and B, instead of arguing or modifying, includes the proposal as material for the next idea or iteration, thus making the new iteration something neither A nor B could have predicted.

There may be a reason collaboration can happen this way, a biological and irresistible reason, beyond the lore and mystique of theatre work. Francis Fergusson (The Idea of a Theatre) called it the “Histrionic Sensibility,” the faculty we have of understanding what another person is doing by seeing and hearing their activity. He rightly points out that this faculty is the heart of the theatrical experience, both among the artists, and between the artists and spectators.
The brain guys recently (as in early 1990s) identified “mirror neurons” in us, after accidentally discovering them in monkeys. “Mirror neurons” are the brain transmitters which, when we see a person doing something (laughing, crying, lifting, dodging, etc), replicate the brain activity of that actual behavior. So, in this particular part of our brain, doing and witnessing an activity are experienced as the same. This is why, as Lee’s son says, you don’t want to watch water skiing while you’re on the treadmill.
The mirror neuron effect works on emotions too. They “fire” the same way whether we snarl or see a snarler. As the brain scientists argue, this has implications for how we learn from and relate to one another, and for how we empathize with and understand one another. Also, we suggest, for how we work together. If seeing and doing are to one part of our brain the same experience, we can incorporate another person’s point of view into our own immediate experience, as we generate our response.
When theatre folks work together in rehearsal, we reinforce this natural tendency by training and occasion. Person A proposes, preferably by doing something new, then B incorporates the experience of that action into the next action. A can experience, imitate, empathize with B’s response and incorporate that experience into the next action. We collaborate in such a way that we can’t, even if we wanted to, avoid including what our partners do in what we do. (ld and sod)

Technology to support collaboration

"Microsoft unveils hands-on vision of the future," CNN, 13 Dec 2007 Technology supports collaborative work: "One key area that's set to change, says Microsoft, is user interface. MD of Microsoft Research, Cambridge, Andrew Herbert told CNN, 'Sitting at a keyboard with a screen in front of us is an old-fashioned view of computing. Technology is going to be around us, it's going to be much easier to use.' Developments in touch-screen technology have resulted in large screens that can be used by multiple people, creating table-top tools for collaboration at work. And along with touch-screens, voice recognition will make our interaction with computers much more natural. Herbert told CNN, 'Interactive surfaces are making it easier for people to use computers with gesture and touch. It will make it easy for people to collaborate together. Speech will be an important part of that, too.' 'We'll think less of one person, one computer,' he continued. 'It'll be people working together in an environment with lots of computers that you can interact with.'' (ph & sod )