Jean-Michel Cornu : Cooperation in 28 keywords

9. Influence of the group's structure : size, stated goals, maturity, commons

JM Cornu - La Coopération en 28 mots-clés - 9. Influence de la structure du groupe

We have already seen numerous facets of which several were about the people's influence on the group with the aspect of convergence and conflict, involvement, withdrawal, awareness and on the contrary aggreesion, coordination and its contrary incoherence, and we have also seen with the aspect of size that some influences were depending on the structure of the group.
Beside the size seen above, we are going to study here this different facets of the group's influence on cooperation. In order to do that, we are going to see what are the stated goals of the group. Let's go back to our system of Persons, Environment and Group, watching finally three distinct words to talk about a group. The first term : “network” or very often “social network” when speaking of human beings. A network is a group which goal is to manage the creation of an entity, a kind of legal entity, to create something which looks like a community : it means a name, an existence and creating something : the community of the people of Wikipedia, etc. The third aspect is environment. For environment, we are going to talk about “working groups”, i.e. that my group is going this time to produce something for others. In the world of freeware, I will produce a software. Production can occur in participatory TV, TV for listeners who are members of a district, a village, and they are going to produce by themselves a TV that they are going to propose to others. And so the working group... The first question to ask is : “Is my group a network ?” “Or a community ? “Or is it a working group ?” The second one is : “Once my priority is set, am I not forgetting the two others ? If I am producing an encyclopedia like Wikipedia, am I not forgetting all the usability of the community for the all group because I am not enabling everyone to meet each other ?” Then, I also loose the aspect of network too. So as you can see, there is a need for a group to be simultaneously a community, a network and a working group, still keeping in mind what the priority is.
First aspect : the stated goals of the group. Well, in fact second if we consider that its size is the first aspect.
Third aspect : maturity. A group is a sort of legal entity and it grows like a human being, going through different stages from child, to teenage and adult... So it's very simple, for that, if your group is a child, a teenager or an adult. Watch the manager, observe the way he cries. If ever he says : “You see, I work on my own, nobody does anything, etc.”, then the group is a child. If your group is a child, everyone follows the community manager. If the manager cries and says : “Well, no one loves me”, then your group is a teenager and that means that people start saying : “Well, no, wait a sec, we are starting to get involved so why should it be the manager who...?” and so the first thing you want when you are a teen, even before having your own personality, it's to manage things against your parents' will, here against the manager's. And the third stage when the group is mature, the manager cries and says : “I am useless”. So, according to these cases, the group can be a child, a teenager, or an adult. It can also turn senile, become an old man, etc. It can die, and it's not so serious because it can have children. I do have seen people leaving a group, for example, saying : “Well, this group is just a mess ! So, I a m going to gather my own group beside”. And they buit it with the same values, so they “delivered” a baby. Besides, many teenagers slamed the door on their parents, and for them too, that does not prevent them from living and they grow into adults themselves. What is very interesting is that these different stages “childhood”, teenage” and “adult” occur and there is a date for the teenage crisis. It's not 14, it's between 18 months and 2 years. Generally 2 years, 18 months when a crisis occurs. We observe that for many groups which matured quickly, the atmosphere had been very contentious but at 18 months, 2 years of age. It can also be something very different like : “The group goes on”, so we talk of a “Tanguy” group, that means a group which still evoluates as a child and which stays with its parents. Tanguy is a French comedy which tells the story of a 30 years old child who still lives with his parents. So as you see, some groups may not grow. But what is interesting is that usually your group will grow from child, to teenage, to adult. You can of course try to gather a group which would be mature straight away. Let's imagine, I take the example of, let's see, a very mature group that I find out, and I am going to create exactly the same thing. The only person who did try to create a mature person, adult, from the start, from nothing, without taking the seed stage, and letting it grow, was called Dr Frankenstein, and it didn't work so well. He created a monster. So my meaning is : don't try to make a group mature straight away. You must know that your group will be a child, a teenager and an adult even if you choose the most mature persons in cooperation.
Commons are the last aspect on the general aspects of a group. An absolutly fundamental aspect. First ask yourself the question : what is the common culture ? About this culture, there is a background, a vocabulary, things like that. For example, Videon an association which creates participatory TV. Once, at the very beginning of the association, we told ourselves : “Well, we are going to create TVs with citizens. Who wants to be a reporter ? Who wants to be a cameraman ? Who wants to do this, and that ?”Everyone had chosen a job, independently from the others, and in the end, there was only one job left unchosen: community manager. And evidently no one was ready to take it. So they stopped everything, and created a very small group, within the association, to try to specify the project together. They called it the “Glutina Basic”. What does “Glutina” mean ? “Glu”, like glue, “tina” which means “wine vase” so they had a couple of drinks together, and “basic” because they went back to the base. For sure, someone who enters the room and ears “Glutina Basic” may find it odd. The interesting thing is that after a few years, it became “the basic group”, well, it sounds better for the external world, and then one day people realised that it had become a board of directors, what they would never have done initially. And thanks to this, together, they created the common project of participatory Tvs, which worked out very well. So that means that vocabulary can be created. What is the part of real vocabulary to manage a common culture ? And aren't we overdoing things to exlude new ones too ? What is the part of commons and what are we sharing ? Contents for example : we are going to share the running of the association, its history, its productions. Are we sharing them between us or with the outside world too ? For that, there are means to share, with licenses, contents, apps. Is it easy ? If I am a newcomer in the association, will I be able to find easily where the elements are or are they lost in a lost corner of the web or worse, in a cabinet somewhere ? How are all the common treasures which we created together are going to be available and accessible from the inside and the outside ? Here are the major questions on commons and that make the difference between a group which will converge and a group where each member will keep his own ideas.
So we have seen 4 aspects about the size of the group. About the group itself, we have seen:
  • the size,
  • the goals,
  • if its a working group, a community or a network,
  • its level of maturity : child, teenager, adult,
and what is shared commonly on the levels of culture, contents and production.
These 4 aspects really represent the pedestal which depends, not on people anymore, not even on environment but on the very structure of the group.