Cooperation on the Pitch


Yochai Benkler, Faculty Co-Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, has articulated the concept of online “design levers” that can influence environments, promote coordination, and facilitate cooperation.

Yesterday, U.S. soccer lost the FIFA Confederation Cup Finals to Brazil, allowing an American 2-0 lead to erode in under 40 minutes, and relinquished what would have garnered an unprecedented FIFA world title.  Online, design levers improve interactions. On the pitch, designing for coordination can cut both ways.  Team cooperation is undoubtedly  imperative for success at the highest levels of football. But during the process of player development over-coordination may stifle individual expression and creativity. Brazilian soccer players, like American basketball players, develop skill on the street, not during well-coordinated league play. During ad hoc games, individuality, risk taking, and aggressive play are encouraged; during coordinated games, team subsumes individual. Good players become “ball hogs,” and teamwork is encouraged to the skill developmental detriment of a young player. While teamwork and individual prowess must ultimately dovetail to win championships –though Kobe Bryant’s 60-point-games and Fernando Torres’ 17-minute hat-tricks largely prove this wrong– under-coordination is perhaps the best strategy for individual autonomy and skill development. Perhaps we want coordinated online universes with design levers, but on the pitch I want teammates who became players on the streets.

E.B. White’s “Here is Internet”
Net in Nusantara

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