Toward a Philosophy of Collaboration

Toward a Philosophy of Collaboration

Nils Randrup (University of California at Irvine and AVT Business School, Irvine, USA), Douglas Druckenmiller (Western Indiana University, Indianapolis, USA) and Robert Owen Briggs (San Diego State University, San Diego, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/IJeC.2018040102


The authors find themselves in the midst of a global social transformation that is shaping the common perception of reality. The development of technology-enabled collaborative networks, virtual collaboration, structured collaboration processes, and digital team collaboration affects every part of society. Research on collaboration and collaboration systems has achieved sufficient maturity and scope that an overall conceptual definition of collaboration is now needed and possible. This article proposes a conceptual approach and terminology as a step towards bridging isolated communities of collaborating researchers in various fields. The authors offer a fundamental philosophical description of what collaboration is (and is not) based on relevant epistemological, metaphysical, and axiological insights derived from a synthesis of existing collaboration research, and the authors outline the most obvious needs for further research toward formalizing a more fully-realized philosophy of collaboration.
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1. Introduction

We find ourselves in the midst of a global social transformation that is shaping our common perception of reality. The development of technology-enabled collaboration systems, virtual collaboration, structured collaboration processes, and digital team collaboration affects every part of society. The awareness of this shift is greatest within the economic process of society. The information systems (IS) life cycle, for example, requires intense collaboration among success-critical stakeholders and practitioners use specialized collaboration systems for every phase, from requirements negotiation through system design, development, testing, deployment, operation, maintenance, and management. Collaborative learning support systems are now standard at universities around the globe, and technology-supported collaboration is deeply embedded within modern military practice: “To defeat a network, we had become a network. We had become a team of teams.” (McChrystal, Collins, Silverman, & Fussel, 2014, p. 298). Decades of collaboration research in the IS literature and elsewhere have brought understandings to a sufficient level of maturity that work can begin toward a philosophy of collaboration.

The philosophy “of” a given branch of knowledge considers the general philosophical questions in the specific context of that domain. This paper aspires to map out a research stream, a first step toward developing philosophical foundations for collaboration and collaboration systems. We frame philosophical questions about aspects of collaboration and propose preliminary answers to some of those questions to demonstrate the scientific and practical utility a fully realized philosophy of collaboration could provide. We offer these answers not as settled, but to initiate discourse about the philosophy of collaboration; to highlight the relevance of the philosophical questions to IS and collaboration research; to demonstrate that they are answerable and worth answering. A fully realized philosophy of collaboration will require the efforts of many scholars. This article is a first step. A philosophy of collaboration may also useful beyond IS and collaboration systems researchers whose needs it is developed to serve. It could ultimately inform any domain where collaboration is valuable, e.g., social sciences, organizational operations, and political discourse.

1.1. Methodology

Philosophical method is similar to the scientific method in that it uses both deductive and inductive reasoning as tools of inquiry. This paper undertakes a multi-perspective approach. We define key collaboration concepts, then use deduction and induction to link the literature about these concepts to a subset of philosophical questions. From the IS collaboration literature and our own work, we sketch the outlines of a Paradigm of Collaboration, and propose a direction for follow-on research by the IS and Collaboration Systems community and others to realize a Philosophy of Collaboration and to make explicit the prevailing collaboration paradigms in our research community.

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