January 17–22, 2021
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Andreas Roepstorff and Paul Verschure, Chairpersons
Program Advisory Committee
Goals of the Forum
Integrating diverse perspectives, the Forum will work to develop a comprehensive framework to support future work.
The stability of social systems depends critically on realizing sustainable methods of “collaboration,” yet how and by which means collaboration is achieved is not clearly understood; neither are the conditions or processes that lead to its breakdown or failure. [For context, collaboration is understood as cooperation between agents toward mutually constructed goals.] Part of the reason for our lack of understanding is that the phenomenon of collaboration is, by nature, a highly multidisciplinary problem, and effective research into its complexities has been difficult to achieve across the broad range of scientific and technical disciplines involved.
The need for a fundamental understanding of collaboration, however, has become increasingly important. Not only does humankind demand answers as it attempts to address critical challenges at multiple scales (e.g., climate change, migration, enhanced automation, social and economic inequality), but ever-increasing technological and economical means of interconnecting people and societies are disrupting long-established, familiar patterns of how we interact. Radical technological changes that are ongoing have the potential to reshape collaboration in ways that are currently hard to predict or influence (e.g., by altering configurations in interaction, information creation, and modes of communication). On one hand, such changes could disrupt hitherto stable forms of collaboration by affecting critical communication channels and traditional roles, as can be observed in the rapidly changing patterns in governance, commerce, and social interaction. On the other, technology could lead to the emergence of novel, successful forms of collaboration that deviate from traditional “hierarchical” architectures. Evidence of this can be seen in areas as diverse as highly automated manufacturing plants, the open science movement, collaborative software repositories, user-centered services, and the sharing of economy-based modes of organization. Without a fundamental understanding of the mechanisms, processes, and boundary conditions of collaboration, it is not possible to evaluate or predict which of these possible scenarios are sustainable or even plausible.
To remedy this knowledge gap requires a comprehensive research program. At its core, a theoretical framework must link pertinent aspects of collaboration across spatiotemporal scales and contexts. This task is a tall order, yet given current pressures on human–human, human–machine, and future machine–machine collaboration, we believe that an attempt must be made for a first survey.
Group 1: What is collaboration good for?
Collaboration unfolds in specific networks and substrates where it draws upon and builds interdependent physical, social, and cultural resources or commons. Commons, in turn, define tasks, problems, and opportunities that shape the specific dynamics of collaboration. This working group will address questions such as:
Group 2: How do we collaborate?
This working group will address the core components of collaborative systems that comprise the architecture of collaboration; that is, how the exchange of information and resources is structured. It will look at a number of questions including:
Group 3: Why do agents collaborate?
Collaborations are intrinsically goal oriented and require agents to create and be guided by goals and commons. As such, collaboration may implicitly and explicitly come to follow norms of conduct. This group will focus on issues such as:
Group 4: When does collaboration break down?
A discussion of boundary conditions addresses the issue of whether there are distinct, limiting factors and trade-offs in realizing collaboration. Human forms of collaboration require analysis, including the putative importance of embodied interaction, abstract representations, and organizational structures. This group will explore the following questions: