Teaching Talia

Creativity, Collaboration and Emerging Online Trends By Andy Polaine

Posted on: March 24, 2010


Socrates and Plato would have been bloggers.

I disagree. Socrates never wrote anything down, Plato wrote down everything he said (and then what he thought himself).

So, yes, trends come and go in cycles, but another thing also happens quite often and that is the emergence of something large seemingly from not much at all. This lecture examines some trends emerging at the moment (early 2008) and why they are significant. But first, let’s take a look at some examples of emergence.

hopefully this lecture isn’t too outdated then…. early 2008? It’s early 2010….

Slime Moulds and Suburbs
Slime moulds are an unusual kind of mould that exists as spores spread like dust across a forest floor. sometimes the mould coagulates into a single blobby entity and moves across the ground as if it was a single organism.

individual spores leave chemical trails that attract or direct the other spores
An interesting human example of this are suburbs getting absorbed by a city
The Internet is an obvious example of course, but there is one online manifestation of this process that has even been given a trendy name. You might know it as ‘Web 2.0’, first coined by Tim O’Reilly back in 2004 O’Reilly, Tim. 2005. What is Web 2.0? (O’Reilly, 2005)
it describes the idea that the users and the audience create the content and form communities around this content.

I think that web 2.0 is about using jacascrip frameworks (ajax or j query) and about using CSS based layouts as opposed to table based layouts. It’s more about the look, feel and technology underpinning the website and less abou the actual purpoe of the website. Web 2.0 commonly features APIs which allow other web technologies to interface with the web technology that’s being used. A perfect example is twitter applications, or google maps applications. These sites are updated dynamically- for example, google maps. It gets updated dynamically, without having to re-load the page. Myspace for example, is definitely NOT web 2.0.
Convergence, Online Collaboration and Creativity
There are currently a set of trends that are thriving independently but also starting interact with each other more and more.
Current trend: online creative collaboration
That digital layer of communication was important at Antirom because many of us were often either working from home or traveling for clients, guest workshops, lectures and performances. Sometimes the communication was e-mail, other times via some form of instant messaging and bulletin boards. That layer of communication existed even if we were sitting next to each other in the studio, so that when we were overseas we still felt plugged into what was going on. It was and remains and important social glue.
Certain trends emerge because lots of people are making similar connections between disciplines, technologies and culture all at the same time
For this generation, these technologies are now so everyday that we need to take account of the new ways of working, socialising and collaborating that have emerged.
One of the interesting emerging areas is the manner in which these ways of thinking and interacting online are making their way into the face-to-face ‘real world’ in significant ways. US$36 billion of debt relief makes a real difference to real people’s lives in Third World countries – it’s far from virtual.

There are four overlapping areas that are both merging and emerging and may well become a unified form:

• Social networks and communities
• Collaboration, open-source and the rise of the pro-ams
• Organisational change
• Collective campaigning and sustainability

Social Networks and Communities

In recent years the rise of portable or time-shifted media (such as podcasts, downloadable music and video), blogs and social networks has created an interesting shift in traditional relationships to everything from media and education to consumer and political behaviour.

the individualistic nature of design has radically changed, as has the craft of using the tools.

Access to information online, the expertise of others and collaborative projects suggested that the way in which our students learn is possibly far more important than what they learn

The strength of social networks and communities is that they provide both a way through the enormous amount of information out there as well as creating social bonds and capital. The collaborative filtering of Amazon.com and iTunes (“people who bought Madonna also bought Kylie“) or recommendations from social networks like Last.FM [http://www.lastfm.com] are very different from the paradigm of searching.

you find what you never knew you were looking for

Indeed, the idea spurs on the technical progress and vice versa – technology often presents new ideas and connections.

A final aspect to this is that people who are used to working in socially networked communities often harbour a set of values that are worth encouraging. In a presentation about developing social software applications, Yahoo!’s Tom Coates sums up their three main requirements:

• An individual should get value from their contribution
• These contributions should provide value to their peers as well
• The organisation that hosts the service should derive aggregate value and be able to expose this back to the users (Coates, 2006)

Collaboration, open-source and the rise of the pro-ams

the Pro-Ams are a powerful force and one in which collaboration is key.

open-source: By creating an open environment in which anyone can contribute changes and fixes, thousands of workers and testers are brought into play and they can apply multiple minds to the complexity of the problem.

The open-source and pro-am value system is not only a great process for situations in which groups are collaborating, but also a powerful social charter that ripples upwards into the professional world as much as the corporate landscape is starting to change from above.

Organisational change

Human Resources directors from FTSE200 companies rated these top four employee qualities most highly:

• Communications/communicating ideas
• Problem-solving
• Team-working
• Creativity and Innovation (Gillingson & O’Leary, 2006, p. 38)

Anyone can learn how to use Photoshop or Illustrator – just as anyone can learn to use a pencil. Knowing what to do with the tools is the hard part. Learning about design, creativity and collaboration is about process more than craft skills (although at some point you need to be able to actually create something).

Collaboration is almost always enlightening too

Collective campaigning, sustainability and Creative Waves 2007

the Web has been a fantastic tool to make that invisible abstraction and interconnectedness visible.

How might our understanding of online communities and creative collaboration create positive change in the ‘real’ world and what experiences have you had (positive or negative) of this being the case?


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Just finished my Graduate Certificate in Cross Disciplinary Art and Design with UNSW.




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