<before I get going here, I hate the new editor. Tumblr sort it> 

So we were chatting at the splendiferous pre-show for our radio show and Jim asked us why we do it – ‘it’ being DS106 #4life. We said for fun and he joked he was talking to a bunch of fun junkies. It was hard to have a serious conversation as we laughed at Uncle Jim futzing the log in to DS106 Radio’s servers, we had so much fun and the show rocked. Please ignore unfounded reports that DS106 is an immortality cult, we just make art. This post is not about that, though. This post is about this: is it something bigger than fun that makes us collaborate across continents and work hard at producing something nobody is asking us to produce?

I have been reflecting on this question for the last few days, it is something bigger than just fun. I have spent a lifetime supporting groups in various contexts become a ‘team’ ‘work collaboratively’ ‘manage a virtual teams’. I can, and often do, drone on about best practice in group facilitation.

Yet, this question echoed to the learner in me not just the educator. 

I could go to my usual space of creativity theory and the environment that makes creativity possible to answer the question.  Or the place of ‘hard fun’ a la Papert and say DS106 is all that and more and paraphrasing Papert’s kid say: "It’s fun. It’s hard. It’s DS106.“ 

All the above would speak to the why, but there is more.

Today I was grading papers on Bohmian dialogue; one of my students answered the question for me as she quoted Bohm on Koinonia,

And perhaps in dialogue, when we have this very high energy of coherence, it might bring us beyond just being a group […] Possibly it could make a new change in the individual and a change in therelation to the cosmic. Such an energy has been called ‘communication’. It is a kind of participation. The early Christians had a Greek word koinonia, the root of which means ‘to participate’ – the idea of partaking of the whole and taking part in it; not merely the whole group, but the whole .

The other day, with another group of students, we talked about how hard it was to collaborate virtually when your team is spread out around the world. In the context of business, this seems almost impossible to do and people mostly complain about it and pay consultants to help them do it. For the first time, since I have been involved in DS106, I thought about DS106 in the context of my work in my business school – in DS106 we sign up on a Google doc and make it work. 

The holly grail of large businesses – what is the difference that makes the difference? My students and I had a conversation about DS106 and they immediately said: Well, but that is not work! There are no problems likely to arise in that situation. I disagreed, but I could not put my finger on why. I took it to my reflection space. 

rockylou22 and I were talking about the show this week, as we discussed work and play and expectations,  Frame Analysis and Goffman came to mind. We use unconscious frames as a way of explaining "what is going on” and determining salience in a given experience. We filter important information, discard noise and build basic cognitive structures to guide us in our understanding of what is going on in a given situation. We do not manufacture these ‘life frames’ but adopt and adapt them depending on the situation. As we receive the email ‘shall we do a Radio Show?’ we put one frame around it: This is play. When my students get an email ‘shall we collaborate on this project?’ they put a different frame around the event ‘This is work and will be hard’. 

Play carries with it a very different set of expectations than work. We treat people differently in one context or the other. Problems do not arise because there are no expectations, we ask unconditionally for what the end result might need and somebody may or may not step up to help. We marvel at the potential for partaking in the whole. In the pre-show with Jim we kept saying we had no idea how it would all come together. We are genuinely creating in the unknown space of possibility. As Bohm said, we participate to create not to impose our view or idea on the situation. We attend to the situation, and notice how ‘it’ is shaping. We support and participate within that. There is a sense of connecting to something that is even larger than Jim’s ego 🙂 – there is a sense of participating in a whole larger than the group and larger than individual ideas. 

Why do we do it? Because it is a place where we can create together without expectations. What is the difference that makes the difference? The play frame we put around it allows us to check the ego at the door and work together in the service of something more. What? Making art, damn it! 

For those of you wanting a clear how-to, the google obliges: The spirit of Koinonia offers some steps to follow, but this is beyond steps and skills – it is a way to be in the world that is truly precious. #4life