What’s the difference between collaboration and cooperation?

forums screen In our course Toward a Literacy of Cooperation we are now somewhere between the first synchronous session about the biology of cooperation and the second about the Evolution of Cooperation.

The group of co-learners is extremely active in our forums (we use the socialmediaclassroom, the “place” in which our esteemed facilitator, Howard Rheingold, also organizes the course wiki, the blogs and social bookmarks. We use Blackboard Collaborate for synchronous sessions).

The forums are for registered students (and we do pay a fee). This makes this experience different from a Massive Online Open Course. However, our proceedings are not secret, so I’ll report on the course here, on this very open blog of mine.

Be warned: my selection is rather arbitrary, as my time and attention span are limited. I just mention two discussion threads. There are many more, but even though the course is still in the early phases, the discussions are very rich and challenging – just looking at the links and references, making a selection, doing some reading and watching for one single discussion thread takes quite some time. But yes, it’s very worthwhile.

Autoethnography

Did you ever learn about autoethnography? I did not. Yet, one of the co-learners started a thread about ‘narrative inquiry, autoethnography, personal narrative and collaboration.’ Wikipedia explains:

Autoethnography is a form of self-reflection and writing that explores the researcher’s personal experience and connects this autobiographical story to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings. It differs from ethnography —a qualitative research method in which a researcher uses participant observation and interviews in order to gain a deeper understanding of a group’s culture— in that autoethnography focuses on the writer’s subjective experience rather than, or in interaction with, the beliefs and practices of others. As a form of self-reflective writing, autoethnography is widely used in performance studies and English.

Collaboration or cooperation

Another thread is a discussion about the big picture of cooperation while examining the details. But first of all, what’s the difference between cooperation and collaboration? A learner suggested:

coLABORation – labor, or work synchronously, toward a shared, identical goal. This seems better and more fun to me. I love collaborating (as I understand it).
coOPERATion – operate synchronously toward the same goal, toward similar but individual versions of shared overall goal. More attainable in terms of what’s possible in the world?

Howard’s take on this:

People who have shared interests can cooperate without agreeing on specific goals, but collaboration involves some kind of signalling or communication about what the shared goal is. People know what their interests are without needing to confer with others.

Yet another student:

I think somewhere along my journey through Howard’s work I read: coordination is what it takes to get on the dance floor and actual throw down some funky dance moves (dance solo), cooperation is two people navigating the dance floor together and collaboration is a flash mob of dancers.

This student referred to an interesting book by Peter Corning, Nature’s Magic: Synergy in Evolution and the Fate of Humankind (summary). A quote:

Synergy, “the combined or cooperative effects produced by the relationships among various forces, particles, elements, parts, or individuals in a given context – effects that are not otherwise possible,” is a key driver of biological and human cultural evolution by providing immediately useful packages of benefits.

The participants then started to think about design of communities and about mechanisms and environments which facilitate participation or make it harder. Another quote:

I think communities fall apart when there isn’t a process where people take quick steps to get over whatever fear keeps them out of the process. Making a post, asking a question in chat, writing on the map in the first class like last night… I believe there are a lot of people who are actually more fearful of participation-even those teeny acts.

At this point it became obvious that the discussion in the forum is already looking forward to sessions we’ll have in a few weeks – most notably about the question of how people work together to get things done. And this question is not only about idealistic people working together explicitly to make the world a better place. Students get also inspired by Daniel Pink for instance and his work To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others (it seems the answer is beyond being introvert or extrovert, but being ambivert – understanding your partner’s thinking and creating the best outcomes for both sides.)

But how do we experience our participation in a collaborative community – and maybe more to the point, how do we remember it? One student mentioned a TedTalk by Daniel Kahneman, how our “experiencing selves” and our “remembering selves” perceive happiness differently. This new insight has profound implications for economics, public policy — and our own self-awareness. Other references which were exchanged in the discussion were Thinking Fast and Slow (Kahneman again), and Why Plans Fail: Cognitive Bias, Decision Making, and Your Business by Jim Benson.

 

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Exploring the biology of cooperation

image of the course environmentIs there something like a biological underpinning of cooperation? We’re used to the idea that there is competition for scarce resources, but what about cooperation? Biology was very much the topic of the first session of our course Toward a Literacy of Cooperation: Introduction to Cooperation Theory, facilitated by Howard Rheingold.

The interesting fact about the course is that while the subject is cooperation, the meta-experience here is about co-learning. How do we cooperate as a community of learners? The process of learning to inquire together, so Howard explained, is more important than the product.

We started out with Lynn Margulis and endosymbiosis. Allow me to quote Wikipedia:

The underlying theme of endosymbiotic theory, as formulated in 1966, was interdependence and cooperative existence of multiple prokaryotic organisms; one organism engulfed another, yet both survived and eventually evolved over millions of years into eukaryotic cells. Her 1970 book, Origin of Eukaryotic Cells, discusses her early work pertaining to this organelle genesis theory in detail. Currently, her endosymbiotic theory is recognized as the key method by which some organelles have arisen (see endosymbiotic theory for a discussion) and is widely accepted by mainstream scientists. The endosymbiotic theory of organogenesis gained strong support in the 1980s, when the genetic material of mitochondria and chloroplasts was found to be different from that of the symbiont’s nuclear DNA.

Margulis had to struggle to challenge the very strong emphasis on competition in biology. Cooperative arrangements are as important and maybe even precede competitive arrangements, so she maintained.
Stuart Kauffman even says that molecules can co-evolve cooperatively, becoming self-sustaining chemical factories of higher levels of complexity in which the product of one reaction is the feedstock or catalyst for another (read also this article at technologyreview).

But then again, as Howard said, we have to be careful about how far we want to extend any metaphor. These studies are providing frameworks and lenses we can use to look at our societies, but I guess this is just the start of an inquiry about human cooperation. Anyway, we discussed plants (mustard seedlings) knowing, and liking, their relatives. In this study, it seemed that siblings did not compete among each other but shared resources.

Or what to think about a symbiotic relationship in which each organism derives a benefit such as the red-billed Oxpecker eating ticks on the impala’s coat. There even is speculation that the mechanism of sexual reproduction may have started as a defense against parasites… The Red Queen’s Hypothesis suggests that co-evolutionary interactions, between host and parasite for example, may select for a sexual reproduction in hosts in order to reduce the risk of infection. Of course, of you look for it, there is mutualism everywhere: not only the birds and the bees but also domestication is an important kind of mutualism.

Leafcutter ants don’t actually eat leaves, they cut up the leaves, bring them to their nests and use them to grow a fungus, like farmers – or one could think they use the fungus as an external gut. In this arrangement bacteria are a third partner.

((While Howard was presenting some of the course materials, we had a text chat running in which participants shared interesting links such as this one about the book When Species Meet by Donna Jeanne Haraway. Yet another one: “Dogs Decoded” reveals the science behind the remarkable bond between humans and their dogs and investigates new discoveries in genetics that are illuminating the origin of dogs—with surprising implications for the evolution of human culture.)).

In Commensalism one organism benefits without affecting the other (fish-eating particles falling out of the mouth of larger fish, organisms that grow from the excretions of other organisms).

Yet another example are superorganisms such as we, humans: we carry twenty times as many living bacteria as human cells. We have 40,000 species of bacteria in the human gut and probably a hundred trillion bacteria in a human – we would not be able to digest without them.

The examples in biology we discussed tended to illustrate the notion that instead of competing for a resource, there is a lot of cooperation going on to multiply the resource. Not only a Californian expert in virtual communities and cooperation such as Howard is using this lens to look at nature, the very business-like The Economist recently ran a story about Me, Myself, Us, “Looking at human beings as ecosystems that contain many collaborating and competing species could change the practice of medicine.”

Rhizobia are yet another classical example of mutualism and show how complex the relationships can become:

The legume–rhizobium symbiosis is a classic example of mutualism—rhizobia supply ammonia or amino acids to the plant and in return receive organic acids (principally as the dicarboxylic acids malate and succinate) as a carbon and energy source—but its evolutionary persistence is actually somewhat surprising. Because several unrelated strains infect each individual plant, any one strain could redirect resources from nitrogen fixation to its own reproduction without killing the host plant upon which they all depend. But this form of cheating should be equally tempting for all strains, a classic tragedy of the commons. There are two competing hypotheses for the mechanism that maintains legume-rhizobium symbiosis (though both may occur in nature). The sanctions hypothesis suggests the plants police cheating rhizobia. Sanctions could take the form of reduced nodule growth, early nodule death, decreased carbon supply to nodules, or reduced oxygen supply to nodules that fix less nitrogen. The partner choice hypothesis proposes that the plant uses prenodulation signals from the rhizobia to decide whether to allow nodulation, and chooses only noncheating rhizobia. There is evidence for sanctions in soybean plants, which reduce rhizobium reproduction (perhaps by limiting oxygen supply) in nodules that fix less nitrogen. Likewise, wild lupine plants allocate fewer resources to nodules containing less-beneficial rhizobia, limiting rhizobial reproduction inside. This is consistent with the definition of sanctions just given, although called “partner choice” by the authors. However, other studies have found no evidence of plant sanctions, and instead support the partner choice hypothesis.

Of course, further on in the course we’ll discuss the commons and the tragedy of the commons (and how societies deal with that) in a human context.

Trees and roots are other important examples/metaphors such as mycorrhizal networks connecting trees.

So ecosystems are complex cooperative arrangements demonstrating mutualism and commensalism at work – typically, if key species are removed, the whole structure collapses – once again, this can be used as a lens for looking at human societies.

This session with Howard and hyper-active co-learners was done in Blackboard Collaborate, using shared screens, text chats, audio and video. This week the discussion continues on the course forums and blogs.

Also have a look at the resources at cooperationcommons.com.

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Open source communities meet… in real life!

Not sure I’ll understand very much of the seminars about “The Anykernel and Rump Kernels” or “Porting Fedora to 64-bit ARM systems” but then again they’ll talk also about “Open Science, Open Software, and Reproducible Code” and “the legislation in the European Union affecting free software”.

Anyway, FosDem gathers more than 5,000 hackers in Brussels, Belgium, February 2 and 3:

FOSDEM is a free event that offers open source communities a place to meet, share ideas and collaborate.
It is renowned for being highly developer-oriented and brings together 5000+ geeks from all over the world.

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The new world we build with sensors is cool and creepy

More interesting footage from the CES at Las Vegas. Robert Scoble presents PrimeSense, the company which is best known for the 3D sensors in the Kinect. Very Mixed Realities, transforming a table into a keyboard, a piano etc. The second part of the video is fascinating as it demonstrates how retailers can use sensors to interact with customers. Also, it’s a bit creepy, but I guess we’ll get used to it.


You find more videos and stuff on my Tumblr blog.

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Ask Jamais Cascio about the future of the world

At The WELL we’re having a discussion these days with Jamais Cascio. This is how Jon Lebkowsky presented this thinker:

In a followup to our State of the World discussion for 2013, we’ve invited Jamais Cascio to join us for a couple of weeks for more of a “future of the world” conversation. Selected by Foreign Policy magazine as one of their Top 100 Global Thinkers, Jamais writes about the intersection of emerging technologies, environmental dilemmas, and cultural transformation, specializing in the design and creation of plausible scenarios of the future. His work focuses on the importance of long-term, systemic thinking, emphasizing the power of openness, transparency and flexibility as catalysts for building a more resilient society. Among other things, Jamais is a master of scenario development.

You can participate via http://bit.ly/cascio-well.

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How one second every day can change a life

Sometimes an idea is very simple, yet very deep. Like this idea of recording one second of every day of your life. That’s what Cesar Kuriyama did when he stopped working. He learned a lot by doing so. The BBC interviewed him and he was invited for a TED presentation.



This is not an automatic capturing of some shots during your everyday life. The procedure Kuriyama proposes, involves decision-making. What are the images of the day you want to keep, so you’ll watch them one year from now, or ten years, or when you’re very old and about to pass away? To me it seems like an exercise in mindfulness. One might also wonder whether this recording ritual influences what one actually does during a particular day. Kuriyama himself says this whole procedure stimulates him to do at least one interesting thing each day.
Kuriyama also runs a blog, One Second Every Day, on which he published some of his favorite reactions on his TED talk. Someone had a very interesting vision: suppose that many people would start recording one second every day and that something very important on a worldwide scale happened, and one could look at that day through the eyes of ‘the human race’ just by telling the computer to make a selection from the accumulated recordings for that day. Or, less dramatic, suppose you could filter those recordings and tell the computer to show you a particular place through the eyes not of institutional reporters and communicators but again through the eyes of random people recording on that place their seconds of existence.
Anyway, Kuriyama launched a Kickstarter project for developing an app enabling us to record our life seconds. This app will be available in the next few days on iOS and later also on Android.
And this is the video of one year of Cesar Kuriyama:

1 Second Everyday – Age 30 from Cesar Kuriyama on Vimeo.

Update: the app is now available for iOS.

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Three courses, three experiences of education and digital cultures

Three courses, three different formats. The first two courses are about education and digital media. It seems the first one is a MOOC along the connectivist ‘tradition’: distributed on various web media, putting the learners in charge of their own experience, facilitated by what is called in this case ‘conspirators’. The second one is organized on the Coursera-platform, which normally means a more classical, top-down learning experience. However, the participants are invited to co-create course content and the organizers want to involve the “wider social web”.

The last course is not necessarily about education, but about literacies of cooperation. The organizer, the virtual communities and digital culture expert Howard Rheingold, does not want this to be a ‘massive’ experience, instead the course is limited to 35 learners (and you’ve to pay a fee). I participated in previous editions, and I can assure you it’s pretty intense.

#etmooc is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) about educational design and media.
Welcome (Jan 13-19): Welcome Event & Orientation to #etmooc
Topic 1 (Jan 20-Feb. 2): Connected Learning – Tools, Processes & Pedagogy
Topic 2 (Feb 3-16): Digital Storytelling – Multimedia, Remixes & Mashups
Topic 3 (Feb 17-Mar 2): Digital Literacy – Information, Memes & Attention
Topic 4 (Mar 3-16): The Open Movement – Open Access, OERs & Future of Ed.
Topic 5 (Mar 17-30): Digital Citizenship – Identity, Footprint, & Social Activism

At Coursera: E-learning and Digital Cultures – Jan 28th 2013 (5 weeks long). This course will explore how digital cultures and learning cultures connect, and what this means for e-learning theory and practice. Follow this course at #edcmooc. This course will consist of viewing short film clips alongside associated readings, as well as discussions and group collaborations amongst participants. Interesting: “E-learning and Digital Cultures will make use of online spaces beyond the Coursera environment, and we want some aspects of participation in this course to involve the wider social web. We hope that participants will share in the creation of course content and assessed work that will be publicly available online.”

Howard Rheingold is convening “Toward a Literacy of Cooperation: Introduction to Cooperation Studies,” January 24 -March 1.
A detailed syllabus: http://socialmediaclassroom.com/host/cooperation4 a six week course using asynchronous forums, blogs, wikis, mindmaps, social bookmarks, synchronous audio, video, chat, and Twitter to introduce the fundamentals of an interdisciplinary study of cooperation: social dilemmas, institutions for collective action, the commons, evolution of cooperation, technologies of cooperation, and cooperative arrangements in biology from cells to ecosystems.

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Toward a Metaverse Future Society!

AvaCon announces:

AvaCon has exciting things planned for 2013!

We are working on new initiatives to connect and support the communities and people involved in co-creating and using the metaverse, including new events, a new membership-led community organization (coming soon!), and our latest call for proposals for the recently launched Metaverse Cultural Series.

Metaverse Cultural Series 2013

The Metaverse Cultural Series 2013 is a set of events featuring performances and lectures that highlight unique aspects of metaverse culture. The events will take place in multiple virtual world spaces and the series will showcase innovative artists, thinkers, performers, and academics whose work is on the forefront of exploring what it means to work, play, and live in the emerging metaverse.

If you are interested in performing or speaking in the Metaverse Cultural Series 2013, or hosting an event in your virtual space, we encourage you to submit your proposal at: http://avacon.org/blog/events/metaverse-cultural-series/

Hosts and performers will receive a $50 USD stipend for their participation in the program!

Metaverse Future Society – Coming Soon!

There are many places on the web where communities of interest gather around a particular technology or virtual world platform, but there are few places where those communities can come together to discuss the broader metaverse concept, where it converges with gaming and the web, and where we want it to go.

We envision a new kind of membership-driven organization where those passionate about the metaverse can help shape its future. Through issue advocacy, collaborative working groups, technical standards, and policy development, we can tackle the challenges of the fledgling metaverse today while also growing the career opportunities and professional skills of those working to create the platforms, content, and experiences for an exciting metaverse of tomorrow.

Stay tuned for more information about the Metaverse Future Society and how you can get involved!
Volunteer Opportunities & Open Staff Positions

AvaCon has exciting plans for the new year, and we’re on the lookout for people passionate about the metaverse and virtual worlds to help us showcase all of the terrific work being done in Second Life, Opensim, Unity3D, Open Wonderland, CloudParty, Utherverse and other metaverse-y platforms and technologies. We especially need volunteers with great organizing skills who love to meet and work with people in multiple worlds.

If this sounds like you, then join our organization today and help us help the people making the metaverse a reality! See our open positions and volunteer opportunities at: http://avacon.org/blog/positions/

Donations to AvaCon Now Tax Deductible

We are very pleased that AvaCon received formal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS as a public charity organization, so donations and sponsorships for AvaCon events and activities are now tax deductible!

It’s never too early to start planning for your next year’s taxes, so please consider giving a donation to support AvaCon’s mission as we work towards the growth and development of the metaverse, virtual worlds, augmented reality, and 3D immersive and virtual spaces.

Donate today at: http://avacon.org/blog/donate/

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year!

We want to personally wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year and we look forward to supporting, sharing and helping shape the future of the metaverse with you as we start an exciting 2013.

Sincerely,

Joyce Bettencourt, President
Chris Collins, Vice President
Kathey Fatica, Treasurer

Interesting. It’s not the first time efforts are being launched for this kind of metaverse-wide approach. I remember roadbooks being feverishly discussed, and of course we have MetaMeets and the folks around the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research. I think it’s neither too late nor too soon for this latest initiatieve – knowing some of the people involved, I’m sure new and passionating ideas will emerge and lead to new and unexpected projects.

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