Fishbon Santa Barbara

Dress Up, Live Now

The idea of collaboration seems obvious: you work together to achieve a common goal, whether that’s a creative project, or cleaning up the yard. But in this post-hierarchical environment, there are lots of possible interpretations of the idea of working together. Here are a couple of obvious ones:

Scenario One (It’s my idea)

“I have an idea. This is it. Anyone want to help me implement it. Great. Now, here’s what we’re going to do.”

Interaction: I’m willing to listen to your ideas, but I’m making all the final decisions.

How it gets done: I define tasks, recruit and direct helpers and decide when it’s done.

To me, this one seems to be collaborative because the team that I get to work with me can give their ideas, but I have no obligation to consider them. It’s my idea and I get to call the shots. This reminds me of the traditional atelier in which the master defines the project, distributes tasks, reserves the right to modify or eliminate team contributions. Anyone who participates does so knowing that they are not empowered. The end product is the art and the originator controls the vision.

Scenario Two (It’s an evolving group creation)

“I have an idea. This is it. What do you think?”

Interaction: The idea is discussed. Other ideas are presented. Modifications may be made to the original idea. The idea may be scrapped or even re-invented.

How it gets done: Someone takes on the role of project leader. This is largely organizational role similar to the producer in the event world. The project leader may recruit people for different roles. Other people may volunteer. The idea’s originator may have special status as visionary, but the project is an ongoing creative negotiation between members of the crew. It’s a give and  take. No one owns the idea. Together we add our expertise, try new things and trust the process.

This one seems closest to what I think of as “collaborative.” Since we have all had more experience with hierarchy than true collaboration, it may take a “leap of faith” to trust that the result will be as good as the model in Scenario One. It may or may not be. The benefit is that there are far more creative visions available to tap. A “genius” single creator may produce an end result far superior to what is available from the collective, but maybe not. And in the context of Fishbon, which has limited resources in both money and creative energy, relying on individuals would seem to place a limit on what can be achieved. How much work can one person do, however motivated? In Scenario Two, it’s not the end result (the creative product) that’s most important, it’s the collaborative effort itself, the process. The process is the art, and the individual engages in creative play. What they get out of it is the pleasure they experience in that play (being intensely engaged with other creators, seeing their input help to shape the end result–what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls Flow). This model is more consistent with the “crowd sourcing” idea that is emerging from the convergence culture we’re all immersed in, and I think more consistent with the Fishbon idea. It’s not that there is no place for individual genius, it’s just that it may be a less successful model for creative collaboration.

What About Vertical, Horizontal and Diagonal Participation?

vertical=top down hierarchy

This is the “my way or the highway” approach that traditional industrial model uses. The boss hires you, pays you, and tells you what to do. As long as he or she pays you and you need the money, you do what they say. It’s a plus if you like the work.


In this one, either there is some kind of consensus arrived at by selling an idea, listening to debate and operating in an ongoing project conversation. Everyone can participate and is encouraged by the group to do so. There is a sense of empowerment. This model has been derisively called "art by committee" as though it always leads to an inferior result. I'm sure many of us have had experiences where this was true (think PTA fundraiser), but just as many where art by solitary creator was just as flawed.

diagonal=time or money)

This one goes like this: the person who has the most invested in time and/or money “owns” the project. That is, gets final veto over all decisions. Seems only fair, but its really the ultimate justification for the hierarchical model. I’m the boss. Why? Because I’m putting in the most time or contributing the most money. If you don’t have lots of one or both, you’re not a full participant. It’s a kind of hierarchy of means that seems to be collaborative but somehow isn’t. Of course someone who comes in at the last minute shouldn’t be able to change the result, or should they? What if their idea is better and the group agrees that the concept should be modified to include it? If it’s a collaborative project, time and money might give you a seat at the table, but not veto power. If it’s hierarchical, time and money trumps all because I always have the option to take my ball and go home.

Which direction feels optimal? Or is there room for multiple approaches? What do you think?

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This is fantastic, clear and wonderful to ponder. It seems that Fishbon as an arts collaborative is best suited to operate on a democratic model, but I think there is space and need for people to also lead their own secluded projects. This is why the cells are so interesting. Each cell can be its own organism, operation under its own flag, yet cross pollinating with the larger Fishbon community. People becoming experts and leaders in their field of passion can be highly stimulation, as long as there is an understanding that not anybody has to follow, or do as you do.
Room for multiple approaches... Wide open to most, if not all, possibilities and whatever works for any particular idea or project.

In Scenario One, even if having strictly a controlling instigator/ leader, I submit that any ideas from the helpers are obligated to be "considered", (even if summarily rejected). This is kind of automatic if their ideas are allowed to be voiced in the first place. Only if they are not allowed to be voiced would they not have any consideration, and in that case I would consider it not fitting under the definition of "collaboration", and perhaps not fitting with the basic premise of Fishbon. In case such a totalitarian scenario is deemed appropriate for a project, the leader must make it clear, that volunteers are not to have creative input, (which might be difficult for the creative Fishbon'rs!)
Ran across these interesting quotes:

"In a society as complex and technologically sophisticated as ours, the most urgent projects require the coordinated contributions of many talented people. Whether the task is building a global business or discovering the mysteries of the human brain, one person can't hope to accomplish it, however gifted or energetic he or she may be. There are simply too many problems to be identified and solved, too many connections to be made. And yet, even as we make the case for collaboration, we resist the idea of collective creativity. Our mythology refuses to catch up with our reality. We cling to the myth of the Lone Ranger, the romantic idea that great things are usually accomplished by a larger-than-life individual working alone. Despite the evidence to the contrary, we still tend to think of achievement in terms of the Great Man or Great Woman, instead of the Great Group.

"But in a global society, in which timely information is the most important commodity, collaboration is not simply desirable, it is inevitable. In all but the rarest cases, one is too small a number to produce greatness. A recent study of senior executives of international firms published by Korn-Ferry, the world's largest executive search firm, and The Economist resoundingly confirms the thesis that tomorrow's organizations will be managed by teams of leaders. Asked who will have the most influence on their global organizations in the next ten years, 61 percent responded 'teams of leaders'; 14 percent said 'one leader.' That does not mean, however, that we no longer need leaders. Instead, we have to recognize a new paradigm: not great leaders alone, but great leaders who exist in a fertile relationship with a Great Group. In these creative alliances, the leader and the team are able to achieve something together that neither could achieve alone. The leader finds greatness in the group. And he or she helps the members find it in themselves."

"Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration," by Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman
Madmx would function quite well inside in a collaborative work group. Team Work is most satisfying. Have you seen Jackass 3D yet. There's always a crazy rabbit on the team. MX
Here's an interesting quote from a recent column by New York Times columnist David Brooks:

"Howard Gardner of Harvard once put together a composite picture of the extraordinarily creative person: She comes from a little place somewhat removed from the center of power and influence. As an adolescent, she feels herself outgrowing her own small circle. She moves to a metropolis and finds a group of people who share her passions and interests. She gets involved with a team to create something amazing.

Then, at some point, she finds her own problem, which is related to and yet different from the problems that concern others in her group. She breaks off and struggles and finally emerges with some new thing. She brings it back to her circle. It is tested, refined and improved.

The main point in this composite story is that creativity is not a solitary process. It happens within networks. It happens when talented people get together, when idea systems and mentalities merge. "
"Let's Take an Elegant Foldable Chariot to BM2012!" 
My contact info:  808-419-8421 

And here is my latest design plan for building a Sk8boardhopper.  It may look strange at first glance, yet this is a true 'land plane' that uses a fraction of the energy necessary to transport the same amount of weight!  

This latest Chariot design will also fold-up, to become a flatbed trailer and carry all of the gear to Burningman 2012!  



Mission and Purpose

Fishbon’s Purpose:
Fishbon's purpose is to provide a forum, education and support for creative collaboration, mentorship and the visceral experience of visual, aural and performance-based art.  It is also to provide exhibition media for the artists and their art forms.

Fishbon’s Mission:
Fishbon's mission is to encourage collaboration between artists, technologists, writers, designers, performers and participants to create unique, real-time, compelling aesthetic experiences that speak to contemporary audiences.  Fishbon believes the synergy (sharings of perspectives and skills) made possible in a collaborative space creates a unique and special context for art.  By providing context, physical infrastructure, tools, mentoring support and encouragement for creative collaboration, Fishbon is an experiential incubator for emerging cooperative working models.  Much more about the process experience than final product, Fishbon creates a diverse "interactive" learning community that would be difficult to achieve in isolated individual working environments.

Fishbon is a 501 (c) (3) arts organization


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