Law in the Internet Society

Educating Collaboration

By UriHacohen - 23 Nov 2014

“Think Different”

The free software community taught me a new way to think about creation and maintaining a community based product. I will attempt to elaborate on the concept of "community", why I find it important and what we should do, in my opinion, to promote further change.

Community: Legal and Social Perspectives

At the beginning of the course, we talked about legal methods created in order to maintain a community, GNU GPL for example. In this essay, I will focus on the social aspect of community, meaning a formulation of a group that collaboratively works to create together, for the benefit of the group while regulating the conduct of the individuals within the group based on community norms. These norms are constantly in interaction with other forms of conduct regulations, among them the law. Professor Lessig in his book on free culture elaborates about how law and norms interact. For example, I am free to choose my driving speed limits, but the law may tilt my judgment by forcing speed limits and community’s norms may restrict me if I am speeding next to a school. For the purpose of our discussion, it is enough to focus on the norms. It is my belief that upon adopting a functioning community with an established moral code, an applicable legal regime will follow.

Community: what is it good for?

The model of the free software community can teach us a lot about the advantages of collective creation. One lesson we have learned is that software collaboratively made is simply better, and is destined to overcome any proprietary based competition. Martin Fink expressed that free software supremacy is inevitable due to its community-based nature: “A community is the most imperative aspect of open-source. Even if you think your product is perfect, remember that good enough is always the enemy of perfect. When the open-source community crosses the line of good enough, then no one will pay for your product”. Another lesson we learned is that collaborative creation is also inherently more efficient since people are aware of one another’s work and will not waste resources doing the same labor twice. Another notion, as stated in the previous section, is the fact that communal norms incentivize acceptance of community based legal regime. I wish to focus here on another advantage that we had not yet discussed: the intrinsic educational virtue of working inside a community for its benefit. This is to suggest, that the value acquired from working together on a product is more substantial than the value possessed from having a final product created by others. Scholar John Seely Brown said in the context of open education that “Social learning [is] based on the premise that our understanding of content is socially constructed through conversations about that content and through grounded interactions around problems or actions. The focus is not so much on what we learn but on how we learn”. One of the benefits of communal creation is what Brown calls “Immersion”. In his words: “Immersion comes from being surrounded by others talking and interacting with us and is furthered facilitated by our deep desire to interact, be understood and express our needs”. I think that the free-software community enjoys many of the attributes mentioned here and I see no reason why not to implement this model into other mediums we are taking part in.

Community: for who?

The technology of the Internet unleashed an extraordinary possibility for collaboration and it seems to make sense that the first and best models for successful collaboration will come from those that understand and able to enjoy technology. But, the collaboration that the Internet enabled is no longer restricted to Internet related activates like open-source and Wikipedia and should be applied broadly and intensely. The challenge we are facing is not to invent the technology that enables collaboration, but to extend its reach to those who are unaware of its existence. Brown's words are relevant to this context: “In today’s high tech, graphically rich world we now have almost limitless opportunities…. Our challenge becomes how to share the vast simulations and data bases that already exist and share them in a way that others can extend, remix and compose them in order to expand their reach and scope”.

Collaborative poetry

The poetic community demonstrates how lack of collaborative behavior damages quality, promotes inefficiency and incentivize individualistic proprietary legal regime. As of present day, poets vastly write as individuals. Nonetheless, collaboration exists in poetry, in the workshop model. In a poetry workshop, each poet distributes the poem for the entire group, followed by a group meeting in which the poem is analyzed. During these meetings, the participants suggest improvements to the poem product. This process may take up to several weeks (depending on the poem) and include several meetings. Moreover, this process in multiplied by the number of poems being analyzed and by the number of poets that are working together on the project. It doesn’t take a strategic advisor to understand that this is an inefficient way of working. Further, the creation is largely based on the self, the ego, the individual, where the social input arrives at a later stage, and is sometimes "too little, too late". Collaborative poetry, in real-time, may produce more efficient, and arguably better, poem products. The poets can add their suggestion while the process of writing is being forged. In which case, the ego is vastly eliminated, and the social component, which is admittedly advantageous, can arrive at a sooner time to better the poem product.


I agree with Alice that education is an important tool to “eradicate ignorance”. I think that a good way to start doing that is by changing the way people are currently interacting. I trust that the notion of collaborative work can be implemented into many mediums and communities. I believe that the way to do that is to start small, to introduce a specific community to alternative options for creation.


Webs Webs

r2 - 24 Nov 2014 - 15:45:58 - UriHacohen
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