Collaboration as ArtJanuary 27, 2010 Leave a comment
I’ve recently seen a few videos that have made me think about whether collaboration is a “natural” thing. (I tend to run from this kind of thinking – usually finding discussions of what is “natural” or what is “human nature” ways of making room for all kinds of human constructs.) My brother recently shared this video of Bottlenose Dolphins working together in what’s called “mud ring” feeding:
Which reminded me (for obvious reasons) of the amazing “bubble net” feeding of Humpback Whales found in Southeast Alaska (but not, apparently, elsewhere):
Each whale clearly has a role to play (and it’s an amazingly beautiful “design”). Off Cape Cod, they coordinate to feed as well, but don’t use bubble nets.
Which started me thinking about humpback whale songs – long, extremely complex, patterned vocalizations which constantly change over time and each population of whales is singing a different song at any point in time – all changing. The songs change enough that someone studying them can recognize approximately the date a song was sung and which population it came from. And yet, after years of study, no one has been able to identify a “leader.” It seems that all the whales are contributing to the change. Roger and Katy Payne used to describe the changes as “cultural evolution” and sometimes as “fashion.”
And while humans seem to have taken the practice of collaboration much deeper, through intentional approaches to designing processes that attempt to ensure things like inclusion, equity of voice, and clarity about decision-making, it’s wonderful to see how other animals collaborate as well. Collaboration really is a thing of beauty!