On Collaboration

Before I started making and sharing stuff, I always thought it was the maker who had power and authority to dispense knowledge. After I started making and sharing stuff, I began to understand that readers and users, not makers, had far more power, to take in that knowledge, critique it, and use it in new ways. At some point, though, if you’re as fortunate as I have been, the lines between makers and users, teachers and students, become so porous that you just have collaborators.

It’s kind of frightening to realize how much you don’t know, and once you realize this, it then becomes frightening to make and share something. But I’m starting to understand, more than I ever have, that this is all part of the process of collaboration, that it’s good to feel this way, and that it shouldn’t debilitate us from learning and doing. Collaboration should provide some relief, even confidence, but it should not abdicate us from learning how to do new things. It demands that we pay attention when we don’t know something, and obligates us to look for further clarification. It requires us to respect the skills and perspectives our collaborators bring to the table. It doesn’t mean you have to learn everything. That’s impossible and silly. But it also doesn’t mean you should avoid learning something. Collaboration is yaking and hacking, then yaking and hacking some more, all the way down.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve never been more uncomfortable about things, and more excited by that feeling, than I have the last few months working in the Praxis Program. Most of the stuff we covered was brand new to me, too, so I was every bit as much a student during the process. My lack of comfort with many of the technical topics was completely countered by the studio-like atmosphere the Praxis Program team managed to create by simply working together.

We’re all collaborating, all the time; if you don’t think you’re collaborating, you’re probably not paying attention. In the spirit of that, the folks in the Praxis program have made a thing and shared it. I hope I speak for everyone when I say, I hope you’ll collaborate with us.

As Design Architect, I focus on front-end development, user interface, user experience, and aesthetics for Scholars' Lab projects, but I know enough programming to cause trouble for the folks in R&D. In addition to helping faculty and students on their research projects, I keep office hours and do research and teaching for our Makerspace. I'm…

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