Imagine a website that helps you to find and learn about someone's open project, to fill in their missing or sought-after bits of information, to contribute materials and tools, and even to offer on-site expertise and assistance.
Imagine that just by joining such a website, you too receive those benefits in turn. Furthermore, imagine you can participate in this wonderful exchange of information, expertise, support, and resources for free!
Now... keep imagining! I haven't finished it yet. :P
I don't mean to pretend like I've invented Internet-facilitated collaboration and cooperation. It does seem to me, however, that the application of those principles could use a boost. But before I get into more detail, I beg your indulgence as I confess my hubris through a brief retelling of the genesis of COLLABORATRON. (Make sure you use your epic echo-voice when reading those italics.)
I have (and have had, for as long as I can remember) a strong desire to build and to experiment. However, I feel uncomfortable with and constrained by the institutions and organizations which one typically joins or affiliates with in order to do so. Though I have shut myself in a bit, I know enough about people to guess that there exist many more like me. Therefore, it seemed to me that instead of submitting to the weight of tradition and bureacracy, we wild creatives could directly help each other learn/acquire/build the things we imagined. Of course, those institutions existed for some valid reasons. Without their support, we would still need some common infrastructure...
That sounded like a job for a website! But it would need a name... From "Collective Study" (yes, noun and verb meanings) to "Science Exchange" and through a couple of others, I finally settled on "Collaboratron" after reading about collaboratories.
All through this name-picking (and the early development it accompanied), the scope gradually expanded. Features creeped in, generalizations got generalized... and I bit off more than I could chew.
After a few failed attempts at launching the site, I gave up. It has sat idle for a couple of years now.
(Get your echo voice on:) Now, at last, those days now draw to a close. The Age of COLLABORATRON approaches!
Ahem. I like to think I've matured a bit. For one thing, I've pretty much abandoned any ambitions at a big, dramatic launch of a big, feature-packed site that covers everything under the sun. Keeping my scope a bit more local (you know, where I can actually act effectively), I've turned from away from abstractions and generalizations and toward a few simple social groups:
- Sessions of Learning
- Free S[ch/k]ool
- BAARF (Burlington-Alamance Activities and Recreation Force)
- "Hacker Space"
It goes something like this: 1) invite everyone somewhere cozy, 2) several volunteers present something they have an interest in (ideally, something that makes them excited), 3) free-flowing discussions follow, and then sometimes a meal and movies or video games or sword fighting in someone's back yard.
A good friend of mine introduced me to this a few years ago, and I've intended (and feebly attempted, once) to start it up where I live. I guess I just need to try harder!
(Apparently, anarchists spell it with a 'k'.)
If everyone can learn, then everyone can teach. This seems like a natural outgrowth of 'Sessions of Learning', and in any case, I'd really like to take part in something like this.
Doesn't this sound like the kind of group you want to join? Heck YEAH it does! The part of me that will never grow up really needs to play capture-the-flag and similar games on a regular basis. I think yours does, too.
These have their own movement, which you can read about here. The gist: a workshop for building/modifying/exploring technological artifacts.
(Have any rad name ideas? 'haxpace' apparently means something in Latin... applicable?)
You can see that instead of a science/experimenting/building focus, I've adopted a theme of pure (ie non-commerical, non-political, etc.), constructive and fun socialization, open to all. I think that targeting the non-conformists and contrarians would've not only presented significant difficulty, but would have excluded those who also have strong creative instincts but don't act as rabid about it as people like me do.
These groups still capture the general idea expressed in the beginning of this entry. They cover the informational/learning, scientific/experimental, and mutual-support aspects I had previously tried (and failed) to generalize.
With this approach, I can accomplish something on a minimal budget, get direct benefit, and not have to worry about supporting a huge site with a huge user base. (Not that I had or have the funds and experience to support such a site to begin with.)
As for the actual site itself, I plan to just build it up slowly. No delusions of grandeur this time. (At least not until I've completed this phase. After which, of course...)
At the present moment, though, I need to find a source of income. The great COLLABORATRON still has more waiting to do. While I have your attention, though (and mine), I feel like I should write a bit about the growing 'Do-It-Yourself/selves' scene into which COLLABORATRON fits nicely.
I realize that this "scene" probably goes back as far as human history. In our time, however, it seems like it could complete an unprecedented (but not unforeseen) transition from a movement/subculture into an entirely new social and economic order.
...And with that, I've changed my mind. I won't try to write more, I'll just start a link dump. (Though I might indulge in some commentary.) Come back to this entry from time to time! (And if you have good links on the topic, send 'em along!
Global Guerrillas by John Robb
MiiU ("me:you", a project of the above author)
Maneki Neko, a short story by Bruce Sterling that captures the spirit of COLLABORATRON (as I originally intended it) quite well. (I only heard about this story this year. I guess I should read more if I want to stay ahead of the curve...)