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Collaborative Autonomy: a productive paradox

Guest post by Tim Vincent Smith, Pianodrome director

Show us your best thinking move

In recent months the directors of Pianodrome CIC have had the great pleasure of working with the Wisdom Collective over a series of zoom sessions asking ‘What is a Pianodrome?’. Using an alphabet acrostic of ‘Thinking Moves’ (e.g. ‘A’head, ‘B’ack … etc) in an intriguing fusion of philosophical enquiry, business planning and relationship therapy we have followed a path towards unearthing the discovery of a glittering concept that perhaps has been buried at the centre of the Pianodrome all along. Collective Autonomy. So. Our question ‘What is a Pianodrome?’ might be answered simply as ‘A space of Collective Autonomy’. Of course in philosophy, as in business, as in life, nothing is ever that simple. But it turns out that this answer, as all the best answers do, throws up a whole load more questions. And in answering these questions a more nuanced, complex and finally practically applicable set of answers to our original question emerges. 

The paradox may be expressed as follows: If I behave in a way that is 'autonomous' how can my actions be ‘collective’. If I submit to collective action in what way do I maintain autonomy? 

Taking politics as an example we might think of ‘Democracy' as a useful fudge. In voting we exercise our autonomy to elect a representative of a collective government. Even in the unlikely event that our preferred candidate not only wins but furthermore upholds their pledged manifesto we still deliberately cede our autonomy to an outside agent often of questionable sanity. After all what sane person would want to be responsible for the mess? Dictatorships and Communes may both suffer from an imbalance of collectivity and autonomy. See Monty Python for further elaboration of this theme.

Enough about politics. What about Pianodrome?

The concept of Collective Autonomy as a description of what Pianodrome is and does came in part out of an interrogation of the roles that the two directors of the project initially assigned to themselves which have over time proved increasingly problematic. In name the roles are ‘Artist' and ‘Producer'. It may seem that this shouldn’t be a problem. The Artist comes up with the ideas and the Producer makes them happen right? Simple. Unfortunately there is a tendency with this arrangement for the Artist and Producer to feel misrepresented and excluded. If an Artist does not produce anything he/she is an Artist only in theory but if he/she submits to being ‘produced' there is a loss of autonomy. If a Producer is not able to contribute creatively and be recognised as an artist in their own right despite the necessity for them to fully comprehend the work of the artist and to respect the artist’s autonomy they may feel disenfranchised. A lose lose situation. 

In discussion it emerged that for us the problem perhaps arrises in the separation of these roles. If the line between Artist and Producer is drawn between individuals - or in this case between the two directors of the Pianodrome - we both loose. If however the roles interpenetrate and there is constructive dialogue between creative and productive functions and furthermore if the delineation of roles falls within individuals rather than between them - this is to say that individuals both create productively and produce creatively within a freely communicative framework then a wondrous flow may emerge. Autonomous action is taken in the context of an internalised collective purpose. Collective action is taken with a pleasing sense of autonomy. Win win. 

In this blog it is our intention (Pianodrome and Wisdom Collective) as a collective to autonomously express our experiences interrogating the concept of Creative Autonomy and to document some of the benefits that this process brings to our working practices and relationships for the ultimate dual purpose of information and entertainment. Enjoy. 

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