The internet, social media and collaboration

The internet, social media and collaboration

As part of some work that I did a couple of years ago, I found myself spending a lot of time listening to a lot of Hip Hop music. Sure, there were lots of songs that I already knew – I’m not completely disassociated from popular culture, after all – but there was also lots of which I was completely ignorant. Not surprisingly, there was some intelligent and powerful stuff, as well as some more mundane work – a bit like any art form that you could name. Anyway, that wasn’t what surprised me. Instead, I was surprised by the sheer range of different artists, and specifically the number of ways that they collaborated with each other in many different forms. Seriously – I was struck by the ever changing roster of partnerships and collaborations.

It is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot, lately. I recently sat in on one of my student’s radio shows and he was talking about another example of collaboration. It was a Halloween show, and he played a selection of CreepyPastas. According to Wikipedia:

Creepypasta is a type of Internet phenomena and meme that typically consists of short stories collected and shared across the Internet with the intent of frightening or unnerving the reader.[1] The name is derived from the internet slang “copypasta”, which refers to text that has been copied and pasted by users onto discussion boards multiple times. Creepypasta are similar to urban legends although creepypasta does not always have to take on the form of written text or spoken word. While creepypasta can take on the form of haunted images and haunted video games, it is usually written in the style of a blog post or short story.

The way this student explained it to me was that people write the text to these stories, and then, if other people like it, they will add their own text, or even record it, adding sound effects, background music and images. Regardless of the quality of these stories – and there have been some concerns related to the effect of these stories on young people (in a way that mirrors concerns over violent movies, violent games etc etc) – I think that Creepypastas and similar examples suggest a real change in the way that young people work together. At its heart, this is about collaboration – it’s almost like writing a story in collaboration. But instead of working with classmates or a friend or two, you work with everyone who has an internet connection.