Collaboration or Participation – Activity

Terms such as ‘participatory’, ‘collective’, ‘cooperative’ and ‘collaborative’ are often used interchangeably when talking about methods and methodologies. 

I decided to have a look at the dictionary definitions of each of the words before deciding which of the terms apply to my practice in relation to my role and that the subjects of my image making. 

Participatory – Marked by, requiring, or involving participation, especially affording the opportunity for individual participation. Everyone having and equal say in decisions.

Collective – done by people acting as group. The activity is shared by all members of the group

Cooperative – involving mutual assistance towards a common goal.

Collaborative – involving two or more people working together for a special purpose.

Though the four words might be used interchangeably to describes groups working together for me they have slightly different meanings.

In my opinion for a group to be viewed as participatory it suggests that all members of the group participate in the activity and all members make decisions via a democratic process. Suggesting that all parties contribute and are all involved in decision making however the definition does not suggest if the benefits of the labour are shared equally by the participants.

The definition of collective suggests that the group are acting together and share the the activity but the definition does not indicate if decision making is shared equally or if some other structure is used. Equally the the dictionary definition does not give a clue as to how the results of the endeavours are shared.

The cooperative definition for me suggests a group has formed to because by working together they are able to achieve a common goal that would not be possible if they worked alone. The cooperative definition does do not give us any clue on how the group makes decisions and if the spoils are shared equitably based on mutual contribution to the group.

The definition of Colloborative for me suggests the loosest description of individuals working together. Referring to a special purpose for me suggests that collaborations are have a shorter life than the other three definitions. The definition also does not indicate how effort, decision making and rewards are distributed within the group.

Bassed on my analysis of the four words and their respective definitions I would describe my practice as using collaborative activities rather than being participartory, cooperative or collective. When I am working with 1 or more other people these groups are formed with a specific purpose in mind. Though I would not describe all of the engagements where I work with other people as collaborative. If I am working for a model on an assignment and I am making all the decisions to forefill a specific brief I would not describe the activity as collaborative. However if I am looking for the other members of the group to have a more active role in the decision making process I would describe the project as collaborative. Many of my personal projects are collaborative because I allow other members of the group  to contribute to the decisions that shape the final product. Though for most of these projects at the start of the assignment I make it clear though team members are encourage contribute ideas to the project final artist responsibility for the project rests with me this is especially true where I am  underwriting the endeavour.

Working on projects in a collaborative way means projects can take on new and unexpected directions that would not have been possible if collaborating had not been considered as part of the project.

If the other people have contributed resources to the project without being compensated for those efforts then there is an ethical responsibility to ensure contributors are either credited or receive some other form benefit in recognition of their contribution.



  • Participatory: (2017). Participatory dictionary definition | participatory defined. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jun. 2017].
  • Collective: Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2017). collective – definition of collective in English | Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jun. 2017].
  • Cooperative: Dictionary, c. (2017). cooperative Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jun. 2017].
  • Collaborative:Dictionary, c. (2017). collaborative Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Jun. 2017].
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