Peers Working in the Open
We gather strength and confidence from positive feedback, just as negative feedback forces us to consider whether our ideas are valid. Reaction pushes us to think about our actions, so when we work openly, we invite reaction. While metaphorical pats on the back are necessary (and encouraged!), the type of feedback that really push us to grow are thoughtfully-formulated constructive criticisms.
Giving constructive criticism (and receiving it) is something that takes practice. We adhere to “if you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all” because we don't believe that our opinions are necessary. We forget that criticism doesn't have to lead to complete redesign or reformulation. We also tend to spend time focusing on our own things, rather than looking at other people's ideas and thinking about making them better. We ask for feedback and expect to get some, but we rarely give our feedback freely – we wait until our specific feedback is requested or until the work directly affects our own.
We all know how fantastic it is to get good, constructive feedback on something we're working on. What if we all took more time to give feedback like that to others? What would happen? On the flip side of giving feedback, we have to receive it. It can be hard to hear critiques that reshape your work, but think about the input with some distance and consider how it might improve what you're doing. If, in the end, you disagree with the critique, explain why and your reaction will lead to a further conversation. We should aim to assume good faith when discussing feedback, and think not only of what to critique, but also concrete proposals to make it better.
Feedback is a way to invite people into your project. Asking for it can become a gateway to deeper participation and collaboration as it gives agency.
Giving feedback is an important part of collaboration, but there's more to collaboration than just giving and receiving feedback. People learn to collaborate in different ways, along multiple paths, just as they learn to code or make things. Our experiences in group work past and present have great influence over how we think about ourselves as collaborators, and how we act as collaborators is greatly contingent on who we are.
As we discussed last week, our roles as mentors are changing, and so are the roles of learners and peers. These roles are fluid in maker and remix pedagogies, and they're fluid in spaces where community and inquiry drive co-learning and making. As we discussed in “Add the Web to Anything”, we have agency to control our own experiences, which means we can experiment with our own perception of the role we're playing and even change that role. If one of us has this agency, so do all of us, which means that we have to be respectful of the differences in our collaborative styles.
We can help one another better understand fair use, remix, and transformative use by unpacking systemic and personal biases against collaboration. At the same time, we can help each other understand the pathways that lead to those biases, all the while using them to create opportunities for individual contributions that push our collaborative projects to new levels.
In short, deeper, more meaningful collaborations will come from our ability to create complex social spaces that encourage freedom of expression and honesty.