An analysis of a vj collaboration; “A Collaborating Cooperation or a Cooperating Collaboration?”

On: October 24, 2007
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About Minke Kampman
I am a graduate of the MA New Media programme at the University of Amsterdam. I have a bachelor degree in Graphic Design from ArtEZ, Arnhem. We dislike referring to ourselves in the third person. .....continue_reading:.......................................................................................................... My_Website........................................................................................................................ LinkedIn............................................................................................................................. Loading Clusty Cloud ...


Different definitions, or interpretations if you will, have been linked to words like ‘collaboration’ and ‘cooperation’. One example of this is a part of ‘The Art of Free Cooperation’ (2007). In the chapter ‘Collaboration on the Fence’ (by Geert Lovink and Trebor Scholz) Chris Shipley is mentioned with her essay ‘The Year of Working Together!’ (2006). Accordingly a difference is made between three different forms of working together:

Collaboration is a risky, interconnected thing. It is an intensive affair in which individuals who are part of a group share a common goal. They split benefits or losses. Cooperation is a much less-involved affair in which sole, independent participants advance separately. And finally, consultation is the loosest model of working together. “

What it even more important is determining the kind and the level of participation. This is the conclusion (or one of them) of Jeremy Rifkin’s book “The Age of Access” (2001). In this book he also mentions ‘the dialectics of a play ethos’ (p.260);

“The assumptions and rules governing play are quite distinct from those traditionally governing work. First, play is enjoyable; it’s fun. While some kinds of work also are enjoyable, most work – 75 percent or more of the tasks in industrial society – are simple and repetitive in nature and for that reason tedious and laborious. Second, play is a voluntary activity. People can’t be coerced or forced to play. It has to be entered into freely by choice. (…)
Real play also is deeply participatory in nature and generally takes place face-to-face, in close environments. Play is spontaneous. While there are rules – some implicit, others explicit – and the play is often serious, directed, and goal-oriented, it is generally far less rigid than traditional work schedules on the factory fool or in offices.”

The assumptions and rules governing play are a cause and consequence of each other. If play wasn’t enjoyable, it wouldn’t be a voluntary act to participate. This is very essential if you focus on online collaboration. People who participate in any online collaboration need to get some kind of enjoyment out of it. Especially if you look to collaborations like Wikipedia. Even an administrator, a title that often guarantees that this person has put a lot of time and energy in it, does this aside from his/her day-job. And isn’t forced to participate in any way. Stil this person does put a lot of time in it and enjoys this. Wikipedia is built on people like that and relies on them.

With this in mind I would like to analyze a collaboration I have with a friend of mine (Mariska de Groot). We vj together under the name Viaduktape. This collaboration has nothing to do with teamwork as it has more to do with team-play. In the definition as stated above, it is definitely a collaboration. Although we don’t strive for one common goal, but we have several:

  1. Having fun.
  2. Experiment.
    • Trying out new material/techniques.
  3. Experience.
    • Getting bookings.
    • Meeting new people.
    • Getting attention.
    • Coming in new places.

And to reach these goals we depend not only on each other, but on a lot of factors. Not all of them are decisive whether we can do our job, but they work together with us in achieving a common goal: making a great party. This sounds like a rather short-term goal, which it is. If it weren’t for the fact that we wouldn’t exist without this specific target. Except for the fact that we don’t have fun if a party fails, it also slims the chance of being booked again. Let me show you how this game is being played;

01 First player in the game is the organisation or most often one person that organizes the party;

We have to get in touch with him/her. Or the other way around. This goes mostly through a common friend or a previous party (and the connections that followed from that). He/She helps us by booking us, we help him/her by performing on the party.

02 Location;

The location can vary. There is always an owner, who most of the times is aware of the party that is being held in his property. He is anyway responsible of the maintenance of the property. Every building has safety regulations. If these are not met, then the fire brigade can shut it down. The location can have neighbours. As long as they don’t complain, they won’t be of any influence.

03 No party without music, enter dj(‘s);

The dj brings his own music. Sometimes these are records he has bought. But nowadays a lot of the music has been downloaded. With this music he performs on equipment that is either his own, borrowed of is owned by the club.

04 Drinks and food;

These need to be served or sold by bartenders. But first of all it needs to be bought and delivered. This is either done by the owner or the organisation.

05 Atmosphere;

Light is indispensable, especially when it’s done by someone with knowledge: the man of the light. This is often also the person that helps out with other technical issues like sound. But sometimes this is done by seperate persons. The decoration is sometimes just the interior of the club, then it would be a responsibility of the owner and how he has maintained this. And sometimes the organisation has people who decorate it especially for a certain party.

06 Special Acts;

This is additional to the atmosphere, but optional.

07 Guests;

Of course there need to be people at a party. Some of them will pay to get in, others are on the guest-list.

08 PR;

To get people at the party, they need to know when it is and where. So flyer’s, posters and other handouts need to be made (preferably by a designer) and distributed. Also online advertising is a must. Either on the website of the organisation, the club or on other sites.

09 Security;

To secure everyone’s safety there needs to be security. These are either employees of a club or hired externally. If things do run out of hand, the police might get involved.
10 Employees;

Besides having people work behind the bar, there are people needed to buy a ticket from at the entrance, to hang your coat, to buy special coins for consumption and/or at the toilet. Which, by the way, needs to be cleaned by someone. As does the club itself the next day.


Summed up like that it almost becomes a sort of algorithm and all the people involved become parameters for a successful party. Together they form both a collaboration as well as a cooperation, according to the definition in the beginning of this post. In a collaboration, “the participants share a common goal and the benefits or losses are split”. All of the ‘parameters’ mentioned above share the common goal (make the party a succes), but not all of them are at a loss when it fails to do so. At least if you would look at it from the financial side of the story. Of course they split the losses in the sense that ego’s are crushed or a night is wasted, but I won’t take this in account. If a party fails the direct financial losses are for the organisation. And the indirect financial losses are for the owner, because the reputation of his club has been hurt. All the other people will still get payed or already have been payed by either the owner and/or organisation. Of course if things keep going badly, everyone that is employed by either the owner or organisation directly will suffer financial consequences or perhaps lose their jobs eventually. Participants like the dj, security, designer and vj will basically not suffer any financial consequences, except for maybe reputation damage. They form the cooperation part, they are “independent participants (that) advance separately”. And have their own goals beside the one common goal. And with that their own specific motivations to participate in this party. A dj might want to get his name known, a designer wants to expand his portfolio and perhaps security wants to built up a certain reputation. But this would mean that the others that take part in this collaboration/cooperation don’t have any other goals, which I am sure they have. It could be that the barman is just bartending to finance his study. Or the owner just wants to make money, so he can buy that condo in Malibu. In that sense everyone mentioned above is an independent participant who advances separately in in the long term. But the short-term goals need to be met to get to that long-term finish. So the party needs to be a succes (now and then).

That there are different goals to be met by the ‘parameters’ themselves, does not change the algorithm so to say. The rules of the game stay the same. And especially someting seemingly unimportant as a party makes the play element work in this form of working together. If you would only take in account the working hours, you must conclude that everyone that’s part of it enjoys it. No one forces a dj to play music untill 5 am. And, like Wikipedia, a lot of the participants do it voluntarily next to their day-job.

The role of us as vj in this, is the same as the role of all the others. We have our own goals, but on the short-term we are just helping to make one party a success. We are just another parameter in the algorithm. But it doesn’t feel like that, because we’re too busy playing and having fun. And that’s exactly why it works. I don’t need any consultation for that.

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