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Economies of collaboration in performance more than the sum of the parts

More than the
Sum of the Parts

Karen Savage
Dominic Symonds


Economies of Collaboration in Performance


Karen Savage · Dominic Symonds

Economies of
Collaboration in
Performance
More than the Sum of the Parts


Karen Savage
University of Lincoln
Lincoln, UK


Dominic Symonds
University of Lincoln
Lincoln, UK

ISBN 978-3-319-95209-3
ISBN 978-3-319-95210-9  (eBook)
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-95210-9
Library of Congress Control Number: 2018947396
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018
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Cover design by Tom Howey
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To V, Evi, Max and Truffle, our collaborators at home.


Acknowledgements

This is a book about collaboration, and it’s therefore appropriate that
we acknowledge the many collaborators who have contributed to making it possible. It’s also a book about economics, and like many economies, it’s sometimes the very minor elements that end up having an
enormous effect. So we would like to recognise all of the passing comments and conversations from friends, families and colleagues that have


set our thoughts stirring, sometimes knowingly, but often unwittingly.
In particular, we’d like to thank all the cast and crew of Sweet FA (2009),
a collaborative project during which our thinking about this topic first
began. We’re grateful to colleagues and students at the University of
Lincoln and the University of Portsmouth with whom we’ve been able
to test some of these ideas and to both those institutions for enabling
our research by funding periods of research leave, study trips and opportunities to share our work at conferences. We have presented many elements of this material over the last ten years, some of which have been
developed to appear in the final publication, and some which have been
discarded as our thinking moved on. In particular, we’ve been hugely
supported by members of the Intermediality and Music Theatre working
groups of the International Federation for Theatre Research and participants at various iterations of Song, Stage and Screen and Performance
Studies International. Aside from our scholarly networks, this book has
been stimulated by an array of performances, productions and events,
and by the creative work of dozens of practitioners whose collaborative
projects have inspired us. We’re indebted to our publisher and the staff
vii


viii   

Acknowledgements

at Palgrave Macmillan who have encouraged us in the writing of this
book. In particular, we’ve valued the assistance of Paula Kennedy with
whom we first shared this idea, and subsequently Tomas Rene and Vicky
Bates, who have taken the reins to guide us through the process. And
finally, we’re humbled by the enthusiasm and support of the anonymous
readers of our draft material, whose faith in this project has given us the
confidence to see it through. Without them and without the valuable
process of peer review, we are sure that this endeavour would have been
far less rewarding and the result a very different book.


Contents

1Introduction1
2Economics27
3Collaboration57
4Biopolitics97
5Network121
6Audience159
7Host187
8Swarm213
9Crowd239
10Conclusion279

Bibliography
285
Index297
ix


List of Figures

Fig. 3.1
Fig. 3.2
Fig. 3.3
Fig. 6.1
Fig. 9.1
Fig. 9.2
Fig. 9.3
Fig. 9.4
Fig. 9.5
Fig. 9.6

George Cruikshank’s illustration of The British Bee Hive (1840)
Writing together, example 1. Co-written extract emerging
from discussion
Writing together, example 2. Two separate pieces interspliced.
Karen in bold, Dominic in regular text
Realms of spectator-participant engagement (Lavender,
adapted from Pine and Gilmore)
The inverse S-curve of a typical crowdfunding model,
according to Ordanini et al. (2011)
Analysis of the overall investment path in four examples from
Crowdfunder campaigns, showing few trends and little
evidence of the inverse S-curve
Correlation between number of backers (right-hand axis; line)
and amount received (left-hand axis, columns) across sample
of 43 theatre productions at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017
Backers banded proportionately and indicating three clear
yield groupings
Backers banded proportionately and indicating an inverse
S-curve based on crowd size
The cumulative emergence of Edinburgh Festival’s
collaborative economy

63
67
68
168
248
252
255
256
257
267

xi


List of Tables

Table 7.1
Table 9.1
Table 9.2
Table 9.3

Frequency analysis of selected vocabulary appearing in
YouTube viewer comments to Virtual Choirs 1–4. Data
gathered June 2017
Crowdfunding platforms used to fund 43 out of 200
productions from survey sample
Statistics from sample survey of 43 theatre productions at
Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017
Top ten largest donations by amount and proportion
of total yield

196
250
251
254

xiii


CHAPTER 1

Introduction

It may seem strange to start a discussion on creative collaboration by
talking about bee pollination, but that is what we are going to do. Since
the 1950s, and since the mid-1990s in particular, the UK’s bee population has been in decline, a predicament that is not wholly understood.
What is understood is the effect that the decline of bees will have on the
economics of food production and the attendant cost of living.
The service that bees provide in pollinating crops is something easily
taken for granted. Yet without the contribution of bees to this stage in
the food production process, we would be in a very problematic position. In order to produce crops without the assistance of bees, we would
have to factor into the industrial production process the pollination of
the crops ourselves. One study assessing how much it would cost to pollinate crops in the UK by human agency, paying the minimum wage to
an army of workers with paint brushes who would transfer pollen to the
stamen of the crops by hand, estimates a figure of £1.8bn per annum
($2.5bn).1 In that scenario, a process that has been naturally provided by
the humble worker bee becomes a considerable drain on the economy.
In a similar US study, which calculates the total contribution of honeybees to US crop production at $16bn per annum, a total decline in the
bee population would result in a third of the country’s produce disappearing and an estimated 746,640 jobs being lost.2 With these statistics,
it’s evident that bees more than justify their existence and their reputation as collaborative workers.
© The Author(s) 2018
K. Savage and D. Symonds, Economies of Collaboration in Performance,
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-95210-9_1

1


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K. SAVAGE AND D. SYMONDS

Our reason for starting this book with this example of the bees is to
draw attention to “invisible” economics that have an impact on our lives
and our livelihood. Here, the actual cost of groceries is shown to include
a significant input of labour time, even if (at present) we are saved this
burden in terms of money cost thanks to the industry of the bees. When
we speak about economics, then, we are not talking explicitly about
money, but about actual cost, or the “real economy”: “the economy that
goes beyond what current and corporate levels of public accounting are
able to record”.3
According to classical definitions of economics, the “invisible cost” is
crucial; indeed, in his essay “That Which is Seen and That Which is Not
Seen” (1850), the economist Frédéric Bastiat makes a point of recognising the invisible cost. For him, the “real” cost of an activity is not just
what is seen to be gained, but also the opportunity that on closer inspection is revealed to have been lost. He explains how, in fixing a pane of
glass that has been broken, a homeowner will benefit from the acquisition of a new window that his money has bought; the seen transaction.
But there is also an unseen cost: the cost of the pair of shoes on which
he could otherwise have spent the money if he hadn’t had to pay for the
window. This is what is not seen; the invisible cost; or in classical terms,
what is called the “opportunity cost”.
We’ve seen one gain and one loss due to invisible economics—the
knock-on gain from the bees’ pollination and the knock-on loss from
the broken window cost. Another example will help to clarify this nuance
and show how invisible economics might be put to good use. If each
adult of working age in the UK donated fifteen minutes a day of their
take-home wage to charity—in other words, gave up the minor microeconomic cost of fifteen minutes of pay—it would raise £18.3bn per
annum ($25.4bn), a significant macroeconomic benefit and, as it were,
a huge “opportunity gain”.4 This could fund the global management of
malaria (an estimated $2.5bn per annum5), tuberculosis ($4.8bn6), water
hygiene ($3bn) and sanitation (£13bn7) worldwide; this in turn would
lessen the impact of diarrhoea, cholera and other water-borne diseases;
and there would still be enough to pay for pollinating all those crops. In
other words, the opportunity cost of that fifteen minutes of work a day
is enormous; but turned on its head, the exponential good achieved from
a relatively insignificant outlay gives a clear example of how economics
can be used to our advantage. Furthermore, all of that money would
not only be channelled towards good causes, but would also filter back


1 INTRODUCTION 

3

into the economy to be “used” again: it would create jobs, generate tax
revenue, stimulate spending and put into the economy a wealth of further fifteen-minute charitable contributions and a considerably multiplied
actual profit.
This is in principle the way that both the tax system and the charitable
sector work. Although we are not going to be writing about either of
these in our discussions, this book is going to explore invisible economics in more detail. In particular, it is going to explore the positive benefits
of what is not seen, “externalities” (as they are called) that fall outside of
common accounting practices and which contribute at little or no cost
to our economic benefit. We are by no means the first scholars to identify “positive externalities”, nor the way in which collaborative practices
maximise their gain; however, the particular focus of our book—the economics of artistic collaboration—is something that has not been viewed
in these terms.
This is a book about collaboration in the arts and specifically about
the common assumption that working together produces something that
is “more than the sum of its parts”.8 This is an assumption articulated
by numerous contemporary commentators, though its origin is rooted
in the Ancient Greek notion of synergy. Synergy literally translates as
“working together”, but also implies a production benefit in excess of
what is put in. Any number of fields of enquiry could be used to evidence the apparent synergies of working together,9 but for now let’s
refer to the thoughts of the economist Karl Marx.
It’s worth noting the significance Marx attributed to working
together, or in his term, “co-operating”: “The sum total of the mechanical forces exerted by isolated workers differs from the social force that
is developed when many hands co-operate in the same undivided operation”, he wrote; “Not only do we have here an increase in the productive
power of the individual, by means of co-operation, but the creation of a
new productive power, which is intrinsically a collective one”.10 He cites
as an example of this sort of collaborative efficiency the building of the
pyramids, which could not have been achieved on anything like the scale
it was if it were not for cooperative work. Granted, this was a cooperation
that may have been coerced, and the slave relations of the society’s power
structure may have been ethically problematic; nevertheless, this was a
society that recognised the exponential gain achieved from co-labour.
In the field of contemporary popular economics, the same principle lies
at the heart of Wikinomics, as Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams


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K. SAVAGE AND D. SYMONDS

observe: “the collective knowledge, capability, and resources embodied
within broad horizontal networks of participants can accomplish much
more than one organization or one individual can acting alone”.11 Thus,
the ideas of collaboration and synergy come to sit comfortably together
in both the classical and contemporary interpretations of economics.
Indeed, according to the great twentieth-century economist John
Maynard Keynes, the processes of synergy operate across entire economic
systems, such that what is gained in the whole is if not more, then at least
different than the sum of its parts. His “fallacy of composition” suggests
that what is true of a microeconomy (a “part”, at the local level) may not
necessarily hold for a macroeconomy (the “whole”; the big picture). The
synergy of bringing together individual elements of a system can lead
to what is known as “complementarity” (in which the value of the individual parts is enhanced by virtue of their relationship) or “emergence”
(in which a new entity is created from the fusion of the parts). One
example of this in daily life is found in the making of bread, the end
product of which is recognisably something different (“more”) than the
sum of its constituent ingredients.12
Our aim in this book is not to bamboozle readers with complex economic theory, as the terms “complementarity” and “emergence” might
suggest, but rather to introduce some of the affordances of economics
as they relate to the practices and productivity of collaboration. We’ll
do this by framing our discussion in the light of recent and related concepts in economic thought—first, the ideas of Wikinomics,13 Cognitive
Capitalism14 and Post-capitalism,15 and then the idea of Biopolitics.16
We’ll finally go on to consider a number of case studies from the arts
which allow us to see variations of these principles—together with their
economic gains—in action.
Allegorical tales of emergence and complementarity abound in
formative parables and literature, attesting to the dynamics of synergy, especially in relation to collaborative acts. One of our favourites is the Dr. Seuss children’s story Horton Hears a Who, in which the
caring elephant Horton saves a whole town of tiny people, the Whos
that live on a small speck of dust. Throughout the tale, Horton is ridiculed by his community for protecting what to everyone else appears
to be simply a speck of dust. Yet he is the only one in the forest who
can hear the mayor of Whoville begging for assistance from the creatures
of the outside world. Horton suggests that all the citizens of Whoville
should get together and shout as loud as they can, so as to make their


1 INTRODUCTION 

5

plight known to the creatures who can’t see them. But even shouting
together, the Whos’ voices can’t be heard, until one small Who is discovered who hasn’t been joining in. With little Jojo’s tiny voice added to
the call, Horton’s friends in the forest realise there are people living on
the speck of dust. The collaboration between all the Whos (and Horton)
has worked to save their community, but it is only the exponential effect
of the final voice being added that tips the balance. In effect, one small
voice has saved humanity, contributing a wholly disproportionate benefit
to the audio-economics of Whoville.
We are driven by a sense of timeliness in using the metaphor of economics throughout this book, given the poignancy of the term in
relation to events since 2008. The worldwide recession has caused
governments and communities to rethink their behaviour, reconceptualising working relationships in an age increasingly driven by global
and online market forces. As we will explore, alternative strategies of
exchange, investment and even philanthropy have emerged in the wake
of the financial crisis, causing the dynamics between individuals working together to take on different, often more efficient economic nuances
than the simple exchange of labour for money for goods: the Human
Genome project has marshalled silos of public assistance to enable scientific advances that could not have been achieved from the labour of
research teams working alone; Airbnb has revolutionised the tourist
accommodation sector by using the network of the Internet to maximise user efficiency; Uber has controversially offered a different economic
model for taxi provision in major cities by decentralising the service providers and turning to freelance operatives; and new types of encyclopaedia offered by the creative commons of Wikipedia, free streaming music
and video services through Spotify and YouTube, and free education
modelled by MOOCs and California’s “42” university have transformed
the way we think about value and rights in the knowledge economy.
The catalyst behind these momentous changes, most of which
have taken place in the last twenty years, is what is variously called the
“collaborative commons”,17 or the “networked information economy”,18 a “technological, economic, and organizational transformation that allows us to renegotiate the terms of freedom, justice and
productivity in the information society”.19 Forming the basis of several
slightly distinct yet ultimately connected conceptualisations of the new
order—“Wikinomics”, “Cognitive Capitalism”, “Post-capitalism” and
“Biopolitics”—the combination of information technology, information


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K. SAVAGE AND D. SYMONDS

goods and collaborative production, suggests Paul Mason,20 has
transformed the existing paradigm of neo-capitalism and is even now
leading to what Jeremy Rifkin has called its “eclipse”.21 The result has
been an unprecedented shift in the way that economics works: “deep
changes in the structure and modus operandi of the corporation and our
economy, based on new competitive principles such as openness, peering,
sharing and acting globally”.22
We will explore in some depth the theories behind this paradigm shift
in the following chapter, since the change has been so significant—and
so trumpeted—that it cannot be ignored within our economics metaphor. Still, we should reiterate the fact that this is not a book on economics per se (as many of those we reference are), but instead a book
about how artistic collaborations work, using theories of economics to
understand their efficacy. We will observe a number of ways in which
typical collaborative relationships work in artistic forms such as theatre,
film, dance and music, and we will demonstrate how their affordances
rehearse materially some of the abstract dynamics of economics. More
than this, we will suggest that many of these artistic collaborations have
been ahead of the game in turning to collaborative economies far earlier
and far more fundamentally than the systems of economic machinery—
states, organisations, companies and global enterprise—which are only
now responding to the lure of collaboration. Surprisingly—though perhaps tellingly—the value of collaborative economics as evidenced in
artistic forms like theatre-making, film-making and music has been overlooked, even as they stand as tried and tested models of what has now
been discovered to be economic efficiency. Though we all come rather
late to the table in understanding this connection, we make the claim
that there is much still to be learnt by economic commentators from
the existent dynamics of collaborative economics that happen on a daily
basis in the theatres, sound stages, rehearsal rooms and concert halls
of the world. Theirs is not (on the whole) a digital or technologically
networked system, and nor does it necessarily influence or affect fundamentally the micro- or macroeconomic system of any state, organisation,
company or global enterprise, despite its stated contribution to the wider
economy.23 But in positing and refining approaches to collaborative practice that generate more than the sum of their component contributions,
arts organisations and communities can teach us a great deal about the
economies of collaboration.


1 INTRODUCTION 

7

As it happens, economic metaphors have gained currency well
beyond discussions of finance and money markets, especially in the
arts: recent conferences and publications attest to this, including the
Arts Council’s “Creative Economies” (2012), the University of Notre
Dame’s “Paying the Piper: The Economies of Amateur Performance”
(2014), Royal Holloway’s “Dancing Economies: Currency, Value and
Labour” (2015) and special issues of Performance Research entitled
“On Labour and Performance” (2012) and “On Value” (2013), both
of which have brought some very explicit discussions of economics to
the idea of performance. Elsewhere, other publications have turned the
tables to use metaphors of theatre in relation to the economy: in evoking
their concept of the “Experience Economy” (1999), Pine and Gilmore
suggest that “Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage”, their contention being that consumers will pay extra for experiences staged to
promise greater cultural value; meanwhile, Wickstrom (2006) talks of
“Performing Consumers” and of global capital’s “Theatrical Seductions”
in the money markets of Broadway and Las Vegas. Now, most of these
uses of economics terminology remind us that the diverse arts have
industries of their own, though those industries are not what we are
assessing in this book. Nevertheless, collaboration is everywhere: a fascinating partnership between ideas from the arts and economics.
Our particular slant on how the arts work as an economy is to explore
the synergies of creative collaboration. In this, we are guided by our
own experiences as collaborators on creative projects, so our perspective
embarks from our understandings of specific collaborative arts (performance, theatre, film, music). Economics is, after all, a social act; a process that can and does only happen within a society and between players
in that (creative) space, as Geoff Hodgson explains: “productive activity in a society necessarily involves social relations between persons”, he
writes,24 and he quotes Karl Marx on the point: “in production, men
not only act on nature but on one another […]. In order to produce,
they enter into definite connections and relations with one another and
only within these social connections and relations does their action on
nature, does production, take place”.25 Other writers concur: David P.
Levine refers to “relations of mutual dependence among members of
a social division” and considers our identity within this economy to be
established “not as the individual but as the collectivity”.26 Meanwhile,
Robert Frank puts it more bluntly, reminding us that markets “harness


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individual self-interest to produce the greatest good for society as a
whole”.27 In short, economics is a particularly appropriate lens through
which to consider collaboration due to a procession of intrinsically collaborative affordances that have guided first the cumulative productivity
of mass labour, then the collegiate admonition of Gramscian consent and
finally the mutual sociality of what Hardt and Negri call “biopolitics”—
all precursors to the Wikinomics, Cognitive Capitalism and Postcapitalism that is now arising. All of these are areas we will discuss in due
course. As Robin DeRieux writes, “From democracy to revolution, just
about every aspect of society requires cooperation with other people”.28
First, though, it is worthwhile considering what we mean when we
use the term “collaboration”, in itself rather a catch-all term carrying
with it connotations of cooperation, collectivity and community.

Collaboration as Cooperativity, Collectivism
and Communality
Being “in” collaboration is a state which is hard to qualify, and the
dynamics that emerge from the juxtaposition, clash or flow between different contributions can be likewise hard to identify. We often talk about
collaboration loosely, yet it’s clear there must be differences between different types of collaboration. Consider three of these.
First, Cambridge University and the pharmaceuticals giants
AstraZeneca and MedImmune announced a collaboration in 2014 to
develop new scientific research. Their projects included a new Ph.D.
programme in biomedical research; an exchange of expertise in neuroscience research; access for university researchers to AstraZeneca’s pipeline compounds; and an “Entrepreneur-in-Residence” programme based
at the university. The initiative as a whole builds on existing collaborations in the field of oncology and has been assisted by the relocation of
AstraZeneca’s global headquarters to Cambridge. In press releases, representatives talk of this as a “strategic initiative” in “a world where partnerships and collaborations drive medical innovation”. It’s hard to deny
the justification for sharing knowledge and expertise in the pursuit of
fighting disease, and it’s clear to see how a collaboration of sorts is going
on in terms of sharing resources, exchanging knowledge and embedding
the work of each partner within a “truly world class environment”. To
these organisations, this is clearly what collaboration means.29


1 INTRODUCTION 

9

Second, compare this to the proposed collaboration between Indian
political parties Shiv Sena and the NCP in their alliance against the ruling
BJP, which fell through in 2014. Aiming to become a part of some coalition power bloc in India’s elections, the National Congress Party repeatedly sought a joint agreement—either to prevent other parties seizing
power or to claim power of their own—variously calling this a collaboration or an alliance, but showing little meaningful collaborative strategy
beyond political sloganeering. Is this—a collaboration in name only that
may or may not eventually come to pass—what collaboration means?30
Third, what about the creative collaboration between performance
artist Jennifer Rubell and portrait artist Brandi Twilley that created the
fictitious painter Brad Jones in 2013? “The initial idea for the project?”,
writes Alanna Martinez in The Observer:
To find male painters who would paint Ms. Rubell in the nude for set
durations of time. Instead, she was blown away by the work of Brandi
Twilley, who […] was hired for the job, and entered into a contract with
Ms. Rubell to paint nude portraits of the artist three times a week, for sessions lasting several hours—even punching time cards to document the
work. But somewhere along the way the project shifted, and the relationship between the two women and the work they were making together
began to be undeniably a collaboration and not just work-for-hire.31

Twilley and Rubell worked together in this way for two different series
of paintings throughout 2014–2015, creating an oeuvre of work with
one participant as model and the other as painter, and then exploiting
the unusual set-up of their work to stage critical discussions of the male
gaze. They certainly worked together and created something—a set of
things—through their partnership. Was this a collaboration, though,
and is it the same sort of collaboration as those we have encountered
between AstraZeneca/Cambridge and NCP/Shiv Sena?
Each of these has been projected in the media as a collaboration, but
the differences between these partnerships in terms of scale, discipline,
process, intention and output make it challenging to see them all as
examples of the same working practice. The aim of this book is to try
better to understand collaborative processes and how these vary; how we
might explain or disseminate the dynamics of collaborative processes to
others in a way that is useful for those beginning to collaborate. What,
then, are the expectations of collaboration?


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The term “collaboration” in its most common usage simply refers to
the activity of a number of people working together towards a common
goal. That goal might be the running of a project, the exploration of an
idea or the managing of a country; in working together to achieve these
ends, any individuals involved are, in effect, collaborating. We might
embellish the term by associating it with ideas of partnership, discussion
and shared practice, and we might pick up on the idea of the “common
goal” to link the term with the notion behind a “commons”, something
that belongs to no one and therefore to everyone. All of these ideas suggest collaboration to be a worthy and rewarding practice and suggest
that the outcomes of such practice will necessarily be beneficial at least in
terms of productivity or ethical reward, regardless of whether or not the
result appears to be “more than the sum of its parts”.
Inevitably, though, the way in which such collaboration works—if it
is going to be mutually beneficial—needs to be carefully managed; decisions need to be agreed upon; and the objectives of the project need to
be shared. In this sense, collaboration is an intensely political activity, and
it is therefore not surprising that we can learn a lot about collaboration
from considering various political notions of democracy, community and
voice.

The Nineteenth-Century Emergence of Collaboration
as a Political Act
A real groundswell in collaborative politics began to emerge during
the nineteenth century as part of the widespread dissatisfaction of citizens in various countries with their leaders. Through joining together
as communities and voicing their shared ideals, specific interest groups
campaigned for their democratic right to be heard. The backdrop of
uprisings in mid-nineteenth-century Europe—part of a long process of
both industrial and social revolutions—inspired political thinkers of the
time like Frenchmen Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865) and Charles
Gide (1847–1932), Germans Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich
Engels (1820–1895), and Russians Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876) and
Peter Kropotkin (1842–1921). Though their political preferences were
subtly different, the shared principle these commentators all espoused for
society was defined by a governance of and by the people rather than by
means of state control. Their stand against the state often caused them to


1 INTRODUCTION 

11

be labelled “anarchists”—a term that has subsequently taken on a rather
different nuance of lawlessness; yet their commitment was very much
to lawful, organised alternatives to the existing structures. In seeking
to replace hierarchical systems of power with alternative strategies, they
would suggest “communality” (anarcho-communism), “collectivism”
(anarcho-collectivism) and “co-operativity” as new possibilities for social
organisation, each reflecting ideas about democratic rights, in particular
freedom, ownership, labour and social responsibility. In subtly different
ways, each of these approaches would idealise collaborative authority.
Communality (according to Kropotkin) insisted that individuals’ roles
should be defined by the needs of the whole and should serve the mission of the commune; in its most austere economic mode, contributors
would input energy to the commune and benefits would then be distributed back to individuals “to each according to his needs”. Collectivism
(following Bakunin) embraced the individual contributions of members
and shaped the identity of the group from the dynamics of those contributions; economically, this model rewarded individual input with a sort
of pro rata distribution, “to each according to his labor”. Finally, the
system of cooperativity offered a means of pooling resources; from the
cumulative wealth of the cooperative group, benefits could then be distributed on a basis of need. From this stemmed the nineteenth-century
ideal of mutual aid (Proudhon) and systems which have ultimately contributed to the sort of liberal democracies existing today in the West.
Although each of these systems eschewed what they saw as the state’s
sometimes patronising determination of a “social common” (that which
benefitted society as a whole), nonetheless within all of these arrangements existed a new model for determining, adopting and promoting
the idea of a shared common good. In some contexts (communism), this
became the driving force guiding the behaviour of all contributors to the
wider group; in others, the common goal was itself set by the individuals’
combined requirements (collectivism); elsewhere, the social common was
elected by mutual consent (cooperativity).
Although other terms have been used historically to conceptualise the
organisation of groups working together politically, we are particularly
interested in this introduction in expanding on the terms “communality”, “collectivism” and “co-operativity”, since these rather than others (“alliance”, “unity” and “coalition”) have become used widely to
establish structures and working practices in the arts. Later in the book,


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K. SAVAGE AND D. SYMONDS

we will consider alternative terms, metaphors and labels—and we will
structure our case study chapters around five of these: “network”, “audience”, “host”, “swarm” and “crowd”.

Cooperativity
The idea of the “co-operative” as a business model arose from the success of the associated mutual aid programs of the nineteenth century.
These were intended to provide welfare for the poor, sick and needy,
from contributions made by more prosperous individuals. By the late
nineteenth century, the realisation that mutual benefit could be gained
by individuals clubbing together to purchase commodities wholesale
and therefore more cheaply informed the development of cooperative
groups throughout Europe and America. Championed by the cooperative economists Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Charles Gide, and best represented by organisations such as the British Co-operative Society, which
has rolled out this business model to services as diverse as banking and
undertaking, the driver of this sort of arrangement was one of economies
of scale. The more individuals pooled resources, the more they could
own the means of production and thereby benefit from efficiencies in
the system. Joseph Heath identifies five “fundamentally different mechanisms of cooperative benefit”,32 each of which is still widely operational
today: “Economies of scale” (underlining the operational logic of corporations), “Gains from trade” (which forms the basis of stock markets),
“Risk-pooling” (which underpins the insurance industry), “Self-binding”
(the philosophical driver behind the helping professions) and “information transmission” (which guides the ethos of the media). Heath’s analysis offers a useful reminder that organisations or individuals enter into
cooperative practices in order to gain net efficiencies and that in this
sense the transactions they undertake are intrinsically economic. To pool
resources, goes the logic, is in some way beneficial to the individual subscribers to the cooperative. One benefits, so to speak, from the “more”
generated from “the sum of the parts”.
If cooperativity relied on mutual democracy, collectivism and communality were two sides of a slightly different coin, both invoking the
political ideas of social communism, though conceptualising it in rather
different ways.


1 INTRODUCTION 

13

Collectivism
Championed by the Russian thinker Mikhail Bakunin in opposition to
Marxism, collectivism mistrusted any form of individual empowerment,
preferring instead to see authority handled collectively by all participants
in the group. The ownership of this power was, effectively, joint stock
(and this became the name of perhaps the most celebrated UK theatre
collective). The principles guiding Bakunin’s spirit of collectivism are
commonly recognised as those of “Liberty” (in which all people have the
freedom to exercise their own will); “Socialism” (in which ownership and
benefits are equally available to all); “Federalism” (in which relationships
are guided by free association and federation); “Anti-theologism” (dismissing symbolic as well as ruling higher authorities); and “Materialism”
(following Marx, suggesting that people and nature are determined by
their material existence). “In a word, we reject all legislation, all authority, and all privileged, licensed, official, and legal influence, even though
arising from universal suffrage, convinced that it can turn only to the
advantage of a dominant minority of exploiters against the interests of
the immense majority in subjection to them”, wrote Bakunin in God and
the State (1882).33 Such leaderless utopianism, of course, proves to be an
almost impossible goal, since the organisation of groups needs elements
of leadership, spokesmanship and representation. Nevertheless, largescale collective enterprises such as the European Union, NATO and the
United Nations are good examples of Bakunin-styled collectivism, tending towards federalism, and perhaps the most contemporary libertarian
practice. These are guided not so much by doctrinaire or administrative
management, but by moralistic and ethical self-regulation, as Bechtel
suggests: “Authority wasn’t eliminated so much as it was decentralized.
At the same time, and perhaps more important, it was exercised ethically.
If, as it appears, the politics of pure collectivity is unrealizable, ethics
becomes a powerful compensation”.34

Communality
Communality, meanwhile, stems not so much from the political ideal
of communism (though there are types of commune informed by that
politics, such as the Paris Commune), but from groups wishing to
self-consciously distance themselves from the bureaucracy of life. For these


14 

K. SAVAGE AND D. SYMONDS

groups, writes Ron E. Roberts, their worldview was based on three main
premises: “egalitarianism” (in which everyone is considered an equal);
“human scale” (demanding close-knit and personal ties between members rather than mass social set-ups); and “anti-bureaucracy” (eschewing
the petty politics of state-organised existence).35 Bill Metcalf expanded
this description in his book Shared Visions, Shared Lives: Communal Living
Around the Globe (1996), noting the importance of the group in shared
living arrangements; the operation of a collective household with shared
finances; group decision-making; and a close-knit intimacy between members. The subtle changes in terminology employed in this context gesture
towards a humanitarian rather than political influence being developed:
originally referred to as “communist and socialist settlements”, then “communitarian” societies and then “intentional communities”, the idea of
community rather than communism weights the principles of communes
towards the social rather than the reactionary. “The real attraction to a
community is relevance to conversations that show the ‘thoughts’ of the
people and not the thoughts of the ‘brand or organisation’”, suggests
Jay Deragon.36 Nevertheless, free-thinking and libertarian though these
groups may be, their standards and codes of living are still informed by
politics—the sort of politics that rejects state control and values the independence of common people. Thus by the 1960s, writes Lee Tusman in
his book Really Free Culture (a book created from articles collated from
the cultural commons), “almost any counter-cultural, rural, intentional
community was called a commune”.37
If these subtly different approaches to group organisation flag up
the slippery and sometimes blurred ways in which these terms have
been put to use with differing ideological and political connotations, it
points to the uncertain language that reflects different ideas of working
together in different activities and with different goals. Collaboration
is just one term, rubbing shoulders with (and often being used synonymously with) others like cooperation, communality and collectivism.
Performance scholar Rudi Laermans has described the aims of each of
these organisational strategies as “the politics of communalism”: “the
furthering of ‘the commons’ through a common decision-making”,38
though in preference to defining these arrangements within one overarching term, she has suggested alternative terminology to nuance modes
of collaboration. One such term is her interesting conceptualisation of
“co-opetition”: “the unity of the difference between harmonious cooperation and inharmonious competition”39; a perspective that reveals both


1 INTRODUCTION 

15

the collaboration and the friction inherent in bringing different people
together in working relationships with “common” goals. Elsewhere,
linguistics scholar Olga Kozar makes a useful distinction which defines
collaboration in relation to cooperation: “cooperation can be achieved if
all participants do their assigned parts separately and bring their results
to the table; collaboration, in contrast, implies direct interaction among
individuals to produce a product and involves negotiations, discussions,
and accommodating others’ perspectives”.40 In this, the mutuality of the
cooperative agenda seeps into the very activity at the heart of the collaborative dynamic. Where cooperativity offers a functional framework, it is
through collaboration that the active energy of the encounter can take
place. Rather curiously, collaboration is the one term that political
movements have seemed uneasy to employ.
Still, it’s a term that has been used in a number of recent publications focussing on artistic creation: R. Keith Sawyer’s Group Creativity:
Music, Theater, Collaboration (2003), and Group Genius: The Creative
Power of Collaboration (2007) both stem from his work on improvisation and creativity and explore the spontaneous energies and emergent
dynamics of collaboration in live, improvised encounters. Vera JohnSteiner’s Creative Collaborations (2000) considers a number of significant twentieth-century collaborations in various fields that have been
influential in developing knowledge: the relationship between Albert
Einstein and Niels Bohr is one of her case studies, others of which
include Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Ted Hughes and
Sylvia Plath, and Igor Stravinsky and George Balanchine. Dorothy Miell
and Karen Littleton’s Collaborative Creativity: Contemporary Perspectives
(2004) is an edited collection taking a sociocultural approach to the
theme of collaboration and focussing on the cultural, institutional and
interpersonal contexts that nurture practices of working together, while
Paul B. Paulus and Bernard A. Nijstad’s collection Group Creativity:
Innovation through Collaboration (2003) draws its perspective from psychology and cognitive understanding. Robert Cohen’s Working Together
in Theatre: Collaboration and Leadership (2011) brings a very practical
understanding drawn from the author’s career in theatre. Perhaps the
most thorough exploration of recent years, though, leans not on the
term “collaboration”, but instead on the idea of “collective creation”. In
their trilogy, A History of Collective Creation (2013), Collective Creation
in Contemporary Performance (2013) and Women, Collective Creation,
and Devised Performance (2016), the editors Kathryn Mederos Syssoyeva


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