I want to take a minute to reflect on what it means to work collaboratively—where collaboration is not just a gesture, like: “We all work in the same space. It’s collaborative.” I am also not talking about collaboration split into segments, where I might have relative autonomy over some piece of work that eventually becomes part of a whole. Instead, I mean contributing to a project that, from concept to completion, involves intimately working with others through every step of the process.
Collaboration is not always easy, especially for someone like me, trained in the humanities and accustomed to working alone. Reading, writing, researching, preparing, and giving presentations—almost everything I have done in my graduate career—has been a largely individualistic pursuit. It is sad, in a way, to think of all of the work I’ve done and only shared with an instructor via a term paper, or, at most, a handful of graduate students in a seminar presentation. On the other hand, it can be hard to relinquish control of ideas and outcomes, preferences, and procedures, to be flexible to a vision, or a version, other than your own.
Recently, the Maker Lab collaboratively produced two videos. One film documents Jana Millar Usiskin’s Audrey Alexandra Brown Exhibit. The other film playfully narrates the importance of makerspaces in the humanities. Both are excellent, but even more impressive was how the Lab came together to conceptualize, film, edit, and produce two great films in an incredibly short period of time. Contributing to the project was one of the most fun and most challenging experiences I’ve had in graduate school. Collaborative work becomes this creative and exciting process, where ideas you could have never imagined build on the ones you could, and something you suggest is changed and tweaked and made even better. Naturally, frustrations happen and concepts clash, but in the end the outcome far exceeded anything I could have ever fathomed or created on my own. Who doesn’t want to be on board with that?