I used to refer to myself as “One of Eight” in emails regarding my tutoring. Back in 2009 (or thereabouts) the University conceded to pressure from the trade union and put we lowly teaching assistants on a proper pay scale with increments and yearly pay rises and everything. It was a big thing to have pulled off and, as a bonus, the letter to tell us about it contained the phrase:
you have been assimilated
Cue the inevitable reference to the Borg. We were a team of eight, so the handle was obvious.
I keep thinking about the Borg when I reflect upon the collaborative writing that I have been participating in since rhizo14. We’re a diverse group from (as we are proud to tell folk) a range of countries across the globe, and we are all strong-minded, opinionated people who somehow manage to reach consensus without falling out with each other. We’ve played with various ways of describing ourselves, and seem to have settled on calling ourselves a “swarm”.
I think that it’s important to remember that this is just our attempt at finding an appropriate metaphor, and not to dig too deeply into it (Dave made a similar point about the rhizome story recently and told us to pay LESS attention to it and just squint sideways at it, or something.) We are not bees, or ants. Sorry to state the obvious, but sometimes this needs saying.
I think a difference between our rhizoswarm and the Borg is that we will come together for the purposes of writing a paper or a presentation and seek to find words that represent what we feel we want to say, while at the same time never speaking on behalf of the swarm in the rest of our lives. When we’re not collaborating I read others from my swarm saying things that I would not put my name to, and I am sure that they feel the same about the stuff I write. This is not because I think that they are wrong, but because we each have our own voice and our own interests. we’re not just a collective, we are individuals as well.