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Networked Minds: The History and Future of Collaboration
April 28, 2021 at 4:00 pm EDT
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“The great driver of scientific and technological innovation [in the last 600 years has been] the increase in our ability to reach out and exchange ideas with other people, and to borrow other people’s hunches and combine them with our hunches and turn them into something new.”― Steven Johnson in Where Good Ideas Come From
Why do some collaborations result in creative explosions? In this salon, we’ll discuss the theory and practice of collaboration. We will start by considering the history of famous “scenes” throughout the world and across the centuries. Are there common conditions that can explain the efflorescence of philosophy in Ancient Athens, the output of the Bloomsbury Group or the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in London, the Beat Generation in New York and San Francisco, or the Dadaists in Switzerland? Why do musical genres sometimes erupt with such energy — with the wild power and pathos of the Punks in the 70s? How is it that so many scientists came from the same handful of Hungarian high schools? Is there a code to the constructive alchemy or competitive pressure produced in the close (and often fraught) famous partnerships — Lennon and McCartney, Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Freud and Jung, Bogart and Becall, Gauguin and van Gogh, Marx and Engels, Kahneman and Tversky?
In the second half of the salon, we will explore whether the principles that made creative collaborations so productive in the past might shed light on how best to approach the affordances and pitfalls of the digital age. We will cover the pragmatics of collaborative thought on the internet. Which tools are useful, and which are distractions? What can we learn from enormous collaborative efforts like Wikipedia, Github, and the Linux kernel? Could tools or processes provide scaffolding for collaborations which reliably exceed the potential of any of its individual members? How can we capture ideas in writing without impeding the energy and speed of thinking aloud together?