Supporting Flexible Roles in a Shared Space
People in a group play various roles. Manager, intern, department chair, guest speaker, the woman who knows how the fax machine works, the guy who got the pizza, the person speaking now, the person capturing this on the whiteboard; roles can be formal or informal, long-lived or ephemeral. They can be bestowed by ceremony, or assumed with the invisibility of the taken-for-granted. But it is the interaction of minds that creates and sustains a role: a role is a human construct. Even roles like “mother” or “father”, which would seem to demand certain biological characteristics, cannot be defined at any depth without appeal to social convention. The largely hands-off approach taken by nature seems to work fairly well for groups of humans: when there is confusion or concern about who is playing what role, it is generally good for a group to work it out as a social issue. If roles were encoded solely in human biology or in physical law, life might be simpler but certainly more stulfiying.
KeywordsRadar Nism Tray Metaphor
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