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When two worlds collide: Achieving wisdom in online groups

Updated Friday, 26th July 2019

The comic S World - M World, is a story showing the different behaviours between our solitary (M World) and our shared lives (S World). 

Watch the animated version of the comic below, to see the distinctions between both worlds and how effective we can be when we work together in groups.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the videos and the graphic novel are those of the author and not of The Open University. 


There are two worlds my world and the shared world I call them m world and s world M world is mine here I can be independent solitary and private, yes, but focusing on yourself can leave you poorly equipped to work in s world the scale of the issues which confront us when we work in groups can leave us feeling disempowered. I've seen the dark side of M world, two isolations self-obsession and self-preservation instinctive reactions that are unhealthy in s world. In s world we have to include other people's views and assumptions, in s world you need empathy listening mutual sustainability all rational and reflective characteristics in their own worlds they were ordinary people but when they meet they become the S force a formidable team capable of powerful results in online collaboration. but it's not as simple as consenting to s world and everything gets better it's hard to empathize with strangers we don't share world views time zones or objectives and we can't always trust our own perceptions. When s world goes wrong we get shared activities that look collaborative but are actually competitive but when we work harmoniously together we can really make things happen great teams groups and communities have been the basis of human progress. What are the ground rules for s world? There are so many most importantly you need to support your fellow contributors with empathy and encouragement avoid assumptions it's always best to explain and check people understand you can make this easier by summarizing arguments. If in doubt everyone needs to always ask for support. M world is mine it's where I go to think to meditate to relax but when we meet in s world I'm part of a community my perspective is confronted and completed by yours and others, yes the perfect balance is to cycle in and out of M world and s world that way we get the best from our solitary time and can work effectively in online collaborations.

Find out more about S World - M World

Below is a series of short videos between one of the authors - Simon Bell, and the illustrator - Charles Cutting, discussing their work, plus what they're up to next.


Why are stories a great way to help people learn?

If somebody starts telling a story,
everybody goes silent and they listen.
Storytelling has this affect where it commands attention.


What kinds of stories work well?


Open-ended stories are much
more interesting, because then the audience
has to sit down and do some work.


How do stories translate to graphic novels?


I gave you the words and then this incredible 
thing happened, you sent me back blue diagrams
capturing your consideration.


What can a graphic novel do that a written text cannot?


If the imagery is suitably compelling,
people do like to stop and absorb it
and take their own time.


How does the artist rend a narrative into an illustration?


I think you have to come up with
an idea, or a hook, or a shtick.


How M World came together



I was also influenced by people like Sam Harris
and his writing on Waking Up and this idea that
we're in our own heads all the time.


What is M World expected to achieve?

One of the most simplest and perhaps most obvious thing
it does is underline what is good behaviour and what is
the correct way to behave towards somebody.


What are we doing next?


We need to surprise ourselves sometimes and sometimes
it's when we're taken out of ourselves by a fiction that
we'll get a sideways view of our life and our problems.


Download S World - M World

S World M World front cover Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: Simon Bell and Charles Cutting Click on the image above to download the comic Now you've watched the animated version of the comic, and seen the interviews between one of the authors and illustrators - download the comic

S World - M World is about helping people to work together in online groups. Behaviours such as communicating, sharing, empathy, supporting others, picking up the workload for others, managing expectations, negotiating common ground and caring how others feel are key to creating a positive working environment amongst a group.

Behaviours such as self-obsession, self-assertion and self-preservation at the expense of others, can all lead to negative group experiences.

This story of behaviours relates to the narrative method for the story, which is to draw a distinction between our solitary lives (M World) and our ideally shared lives (S World). The distinction is made to show that both worlds are positive, but to make effective use of online group work (or any group work) the S World is the place to be.

If we stay in M World, we do not work together well. We are, paradoxically, stuck in ourselves and even unknowing of ourselves. If we move to S World, we can work effectively with others and provide them with the support, we need.



The authors would like to acknowledge the support of the eSTEeM programme for seeing the value of graphic novels in support on online group work and providing the necessary investment to bring the project to life. 

Special thanks to the Academic Panel who oversaw the S World - M World Project: Francesca Benatti, Lara Piccolo, Ian Johnston and Karen Kear. 

Deep thanks also to the OpenLearn team who picked up a comic and turned it into a coherent and engaging website. 







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