My workshop, Collaboration 3.0, took place on Saturday, June 9 at the East Side Institute‘s offices at 99 Madison Avenue New York City. There were 15 attendees the youngest being 16 years old and the oldest being senior citizens. Participants came from international locations such as Canada and from other states such as New Jersey and Massachusetts. The attendees were diverse in every sense of the word. There were former Wall Street executives, educators, students, theater folk, and long-time community organizers. The goal of the workshop was to support and organize participants to use their personal Internet and communications technologies in collaborative ways. The organizing task of the group was to playfully create an environment where a social media campaign promoting the Performing The World Conference could be developed.
In order to prepare to take on the task part of the workshop involved playing a few improvisational performance games to help develop the group and create environment where giving and receiving help around technological issues was re-created in the following way: The group was asked to set aside, for the purpose of our activity, their prior relationships and feelings about giving and receiving help, and try out getting or giving help without using a deficit view of the person being helped. In other words, I asked everyone to view helping as supporting the capacity of others to do more than they could do on their own. The 2nd notion that I asked the group to challenge was that of digital natives versus digital immigrants, the highly publicized generational gap between young people born in an Internet culture and those of us born prior to the 1990s. I argued that such distinctions were not useful in developing a group. These distinctions discourage supporting individuals that are labeled “immigrants” from having ownership of the fact that human beings use all sorts of technologies to create culture and that prior cultures and technologies can, in fact, be found in the ones that we use today. The digital natives and digital immigrants dichotomy denies our history as tool makers and creators of culture. Finally, I presented some of the characteristics that social media campaigns had in common with viral videos and located those characteristics within the social therapeutic performatory framework. In short, things that go viral tend to be creative, playful, unexpected and easily shareable performances. With those ideas in hand participants went about the business of friending each other, tweeting about the workshop, creating new accounts and discovering new social media apps for their smart phones, tablets and laptops.
After about an hour of work in collaborative groups, where everyone was helping and talking to everyone else, three groups presented their ideas on ways that individuals could support a social media campaign for the PTW conference in New York City. Interestingly enough, the young people felt that a face-to-face word-of-mouth campaign was as important as an Internet-based social media campaign, something that I think the seasoned community organizers in the room appreciated. Other ideas included regular tweeting in recruiting in personal networks, organizing the digital media from past conferences and making that available on the social networks, and scheduling informational conference calls that you could recommend to your personal networks for more information.
We ended the afternoon with some time for group reflection and participants spoke about how the performance games and made them feel uncomfortable and somehow despite the discomfort they were able to enjoy and get out a lot out of the group activity. Other participants echoed the sentiments and added that the anxiety and humiliation related to needing help with technology was something that they still experienced, and yet it was noted that those emotions did not stop individuals from participating. There was also some discussion on how common understandings of help i.e. as a deficit needing to be addressed, constrained both those needing help and potential helpers in different contexts such as work and school. We ended on a positive note recognizing that the activity of creating learning environments and organizing others to participate in them with us is helpful in creating new possibilities in the environments that we work, learn, and play in.