Plate rooms, boat building, and band rehearsals
How collaborating in physical spaces taught me the value of forging a community, not just making things.
I completely missed the dot.com boom (and bust). While my university friends were taking jobs as Webmasters, I was working night shifts at the Austin American-Statesman in the Art Department. My friend’s tools were CorelDRAW, Fetch, and Netscape. My tools were QuarkXpress, X-acto knives and Clip art. Every night, graphic artists like myself, writers, platemakers, pressmen, and editors would gather around the paste-up table and assemble sections of the daily newspaper. Rick, the floor manager, facilitated the comings and goings, reviews, and sign-offs from all the proper parties like an air traffic controller. Highly caffeinated and detail oriented, watching Rick orchestrate the collection, assembly and production of over nine editorial sections, with hundreds of stories and advertisements, was a thing of beauty. The whir and sputter of the platemaker signalled to all it was time to gather around the paste-up table and print the news. Everyone had a task: typesetting, advertisements, final art, exposing negatives, ink mixing, paper cutting. The final page — the ultimate paste-up ready to be photographed — gave everyone focus and purpose.
Building the boat
Stephanie Hughes wrote in her book Architecting Interactions; in a remote island in the South Pacific, every few years the people of the community build a boat. From cutting planks to sewing sails, everyone in the village has a specific task. The village elder is given one particular function, make a fire and keep it burning for the entire boat building process. After a hard day’s work, the village folk would gather around the fire to reflect, share, reconcile, and inspire. Whatever the obligation, everyone gathered nightly around the fire to remind themselves why they were building a boat.