Collaborating can be one of the best things to experience and recently I have had some new mindmelding group borg collaborative experiences - mostly due to technology.
Google Docs: The collective editing experience
My colleague and I were editing/creating the same google doc. We were exploring/creating/clarifying a project/article we decided to work on. We're on different sides of the country, three time zones apart and yet when were working on the document at the same time, I felt closer, able to collaborate more effectively than had we been in person. We were interacting fully online - with a text chat/discussion and the document editing and creating. Our places in the document were identified by different colored cursors, but there was not change tracking mechanism. We also did not stick to certain sections of the document. We skipped all around, I working on one section for a bit, then him jumping in (reading) commenting, editing/wordsmithing. The end product was one of the most collaborative documents I have co-created. And I might mention, this is with a colleague I have never met face to face.
Barcamp: Ad-hoc Do-ocracy
Myself and a team of ~8 co-organizers have been bringing back this favorite technology un-conference to Los Angeles since late 2010. What has been interesting to watch is the changing group of active participants. Although I feel there is one person driving the team (with a light hand) the experience I have had is one of "picking up the balls." Meaning, whatever needs to get done, ends up getting done by whomever can do it. Everyone has contributed their skills and expertise when it was needed. This has been a great experience in ad-hoc do-ocracy.
FutrChat: The fastest hour on Twitter
I had not participated in many Twitter Chats before participating in #futrchat. Futrchat is was started by Cindy FrewenWuellner and Jennifer Jarratt for the Association of Professional Futurists (APF), of which I am a (student) member. Each month a new topic around the Future of ____ is chosen. Some framing information is shared before the chat to set the stage. Then the firehose is turned on at a specific pre-scheduled time. In 3-5 minutes, my twitter stream goes from it's usual ticking of random information to lighting up across the globe. Futrchat participants tune in from Australia, UK and all across the US.
Then the hosts begin to pose the questions. (Each chat has 3-6 questions we explore in the hour.) And then the 50 or so conversation participants begin to answer them. In the answering, people respond to each other, chasing down an idea or querying for additional information. And all this is done within 140 characters. If this was a verbal conversation, it would be cacophony, everyone would be "speaking" at once. And online, in text, everyone is speaking at once. But because text has the ability to be linear and allow multiple responses in the same timespace, no one "interrupts," no one has to be silent to allow others their turn. Your turn is always, if you choose to take it.
Of course, one is not always "talking." There is the time needed to read (listen) to other's answers. To see who is responding to you. To think about what your response is to what you are reading (hearing). (And yes, I hear these people's voices in my head as I read their tweets.)
Although, it is generally just me, in my home office with my favorite furry companion during these #futrchats, I feel more stimulated than going to a conference. I'm in the comfort of my home, with high speed connection, able to quickly type, with my dual monitors to have various screens open to slice and dice and display the chatting data in various ways so I can follow and track the "radiowaves." This is ebonding. The intense human interaction that causes you to learn, understand and share more of yourself and others. For that hour, I am in an auditorium, that is can be filled with the voices of many people talking about things I find interesting.
And then the hour passes, and the energy and space dissolves, the twitter stream returns back to it's usual bubbling. The channel has closed, for the moment, but it always accessible.
A quick note about participating in these chats. There is no specific location we go to to have these conversations. It's not like we go to a specific chat room, or IRC or private label login. Yes, we are all on twitter, but besides that, the only thing you need to do to participate is to use the hashtag: #futrchat. It is like tuning into a radio station, but instead of only receiving, you can also send. Additionally, the technology of twitter, allows for both the sending and receiving of the information being sent on the wave (the hashtag #futrchat).
Technology is facilitating a way for the individual, completely and fully as an individual - I, to participate in a collective activity - a community - WE - if only for moments. These collaborations facilitated by technology are profound shifts in how individuals and communities form each other and participate with/in them.