Collaborative work: characteristics and examples of this form of production
Summary of the characteristics of collaborative work, with several examples of real cases.
There are many ways of carrying out a task, but it is clear that this action will be easier if it is done in a group.
But it is not enough for there to be several people for this coordination to happen automatically; a series of premises must be met. Let's find out what are the fundamentals of collaborative work and see some related examples.
What is collaborative work?
Collaborative work is a way of producing elements or services, the key to which is the formation of a community of people who coordinate in the performance of the different tasks necessary to achieve, together, the common result that the group is seeking. This form of work is also known as peer production. In some places it is also called mass collaboration.
In order to carry out collaborative work, it is necessary to establish beforehand a socio-technical system by which all individuals can connect their activities to achieve the necessary level of cooperation.. Of course, today, the factor that has made this form of activity possible is none other than the Internet. Thanks to the network of networks, people in geographically separated places can collaborate with each other without any difficulty.
Another characteristic of collaborative work is that there is no strict formality between the collaborators and the resulting project, but rather a kind of tacit pact between all of them. between all of them. Therefore, the final result does not have the authorship of anyone in particular, but all those who have contributed their effort, as a whole, as a true community of equals.
This methodology is reminiscent of organisms that work as a kind of hive mind, bees and ants being the clearest examples. In the societies of these animals there is no individual, only the community of all of them. Therefore, all the tasks contributed are part of a common goal, and are equally important for the purposes and needs of the whole.
Etymologically, the term collaborative work was proposed by Harvard University Professor of Business Law Yochai Benkler. In order to establish the definition of this new concept, Benkler stated that two fundamental pillars had to be taken into account.
One would be the common good, which is sought by all the individuals in the group who are collaborating in the task. The other would be altruism, since there is no selfish end to anyone's actions, but rather it is done for all. Hence, there is no individual authorship in this type of projects, since no one is more important than anyone else.This is why there is no individual authorship in this type of project, since no one is more important than another, regardless of whether some people have dedicated more time or more effort than others, since it is understood that each individual contributes what he/she can or wants, without this being a problem.
Differences with teamwork
There are several characteristics that make collaborative work and teamwork similar, but very different concepts. To begin with, the team is made up of a group defined for that task.In collaboration, a number of subjects decide to pool their knowledge and effort. The team also has a clear leader, a figure that is not necessary in collaborative work, since everyone has the same status, with no hierarchy among them.
Responsibility for tasks in the team is shared among all members; In a collaboration, on the contrary, each subject is responsible for the task he/she is doing at that moment..
Another concept that also varies is the objective sought, since in a team this is reflected in an optimized result, and in collaborative work it is an optimized output. in collaborative work, it is a production of new knowledge, thanks to the unionthanks to the union of the contributions of each one.
The last point in which both styles differ is the existence of a coordinator. the existence of a coordinatorthe one in charge of assigning and connecting the tasks of each team member. This position does not fit the definition of collaborative work, since when an individual decides to join one of these projects, he or she selects the part to be developed at that moment, without the need for a manager to indicate it to him or her.
It is interesting to observe the psychological processes that occur in collaborative work and that we do not necessarily find in teamwork. Knowledge is built among all project collaborators, and all tasks are regulated by all members, in what is known as meta-group activity. Motivation comes from the collaboration itself, since the individual wants to be part of the whole, through his participation.
An example: free and open source software
The best example of collaborative work is the different free and open source software projects that hundreds of programmers from all over the world have developed, working as a community even though they are thousands of kilometers away from each other. Thanks to their altruistic work, today there are a multitude of programs that allow all of us to perform a multitude of tasks, some of them quite complex, using a computer, without having to use a computer.using a computer, without having to pay an economic cost for it.
Of course, this does not imply that anyone who wishes to do so, can make the contribution he/she considers, as a donation. Many times this money is reinvested to pay for the cost of servers and other necessary elements in the development of software, and thus be able to continue offering new products to all citizens, in a totally free and altruistic way.
In this type of work enter such as Wikipedia, a global encyclopedia where anyone can become an editor and contribute their knowledge, always with properly referenced sources.a global encyclopedia in which anyone can become an editor and contribute their knowledge, always with properly referenced sources. It is currently one of the main sources of knowledge worldwide, and can even be downloaded on a pendrive (logically up to the point where it is edited at that time) to take it to places without internet connection and thus provide access to a rich source of knowledge.
Linux, as well as its different variants, is also very popular.. It is an open source operating system that breaks with the limitations of the classic Windows or macOS, and in which everyone can contribute their technique to continue improving it every day, thus offering a free alternative for anyone who decides to install it on their computer.
There are programs such as LibreOffice or OpenOfficeThe difference is that the first ones are free of charge and anyone can download and install them without the slightest problem. Being compatible with the classic Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other programs, many users choose this alternative to create and open their documents.
Other examples of collaboration
Although collaborative work is an altruistic mechanism and therefore free of charge, some organizations and companies have been able to take advantage of this type of activity to achieve other types of benefits. This is the case, for example, of NASA, the American space agency. NASA asked the collaboration of anonymous citizens for a very important, but at the same time long and tedious, task, such as mapping an area of the Earth's surface.The task was to map a certain area of the cratered surface of the red planet.
This proposal turned out to be a complete success, since more than 85,000 people decided to lend their help, in very short time intervals, but which, added together, allowed NASA doctors to free up hundreds of hours of effort, which they were able to dedicate to other types of issues for their research. This is an example of the potential and strength of collaborative work, even with very small contributions from its various components.
IBM also succeeded in this, although from a different perspective.also succeeded, albeit from a different perspective. In this case, the technology giant decided to make financial contributions to different free and open source software projects, such as the examples we have seen above. But what was the benefit of this practice? Was it a sunk investment? Nothing could be further from the truth. In the long run, this practice returned IBM a good profit.
By helping to expand the supply of free software and making the use of computers simple and very affordable for the average citizen, many people would decide to purchase a computer for their home (and even work) use, and in many of these cases they would opt for one of the computers that IBM would offer them. A masterful plan, demonstrating how everyone can benefit from collaborative work, even in the long term.
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(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)