The reality TV show that we analyzed is called The Colony. As a group we chose the sixth episode in the second season. The TV show follows a group of individuals who are trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic situation. The group members are working together to reach the externally defined performance goal of survival. The members are Becka (model), DeVille (retired building contractor), George (industrial artist), Jim (carpenter), Reno (construction foreman), Sally ( auto mechanic and shop owner) and Sian (academic professor). As a group it is their goal to ensure that there is enough food, clean drinking water, and shelter to survive. The teams goal is to survive in the wild with the resources that are still available to them. The group is living in a deserted area in Louisiana, which was destroyed by hurricane Katrina and has been deserted ever since. These environmental obstacles create a very difficult situation for the group and enhances the overall feeling of a post-apocalyptic situation.
The impressions within our group of the Colony were very similar: our perception of the characters was very much alike. We agreed that the group’s common goal was to survive and thrive. Nevertheless, we did not able to agree on all aspects of the Colonists. We came to the conclusion that our views differed about Jim: to some of us he seemed like a very tough guy, especially when he killed the alligator which he had found in the pool. On the other hand, he shows his soft side when he receives the macaroni picture which had a message from his children on it. This was the only group member which we had different opinions about.
We used different perspectives to form an impression about the group members. First we analyzed each person individually: we tried to characterize everyone from a professional point of view. Each one of the colonists had a different occupation before joining the show, taking these jobs into account we tried to characterize each individual. The second step was analyzing the members attitudes towards each other. We also tried to develop an idea about each character based on his or her attitude and contribution to the entire group and its goals (how each person acts in the situation where everybody tries to benefit, including oneself). Finally we followed the emotional responses of each individual group member separately. Personal feelings and sentiments denote a lot of information about ones’ personality, so we analyzed the behavior of every group member in emotionally intense situations. In order to create a general impression about the whole group we compared the goals that were settled at the beginning of the episode, and the successes reached at the end of it. The team dynamic was analyzed from the point of view of the contribution of each member to the success of the team and also in order with the intercommunication of the group members in order to achieve the settled task.
There certainly were prejudices in the show: Becka worked as a model before she joined the show, which might have an influence on how the other Colonists treat her. Everyone knows the prejudice that models are women who make a living off of how they look, instead of having to use a, what a lot of people describe as, a ‘real’ skill set. Because of her profession, the members of the Colony perceive her as more of a second-hand citizen. This is a perfect example of social cognition (the categorization of people into groups). A similar prejudice applies for George, who in real life is an artist. A lot of people perceive artists as individuals who are not actively involved in society. They are mostly viewed as people who are not contributing to society in a substantial way (a common prejudice, yet not applicable to most people).
Thanks to the group’s social and informational diversity, the Colonists act as a whole in order to achieve their main goal and purpose. As everyone has different skills and talents, the group is able to show good performance in terms of creativity and innovation of survival methods. One example is when they run out of water: Robert (DeVille) uses his knowledge as a contractor to create a cistern to hold rainwater which provides sufficient drinking water. However, our first impression of the Colonist’s was that the group’s weak point was its disorganization, as each group member acts as his or her own leader. At a glimpse, the Colonists seem to not know each other very well, which cripples the team work. Nevertheless, the group has good problem-solving skills which are shown when they admit to their inadequacy. This leads to the group choosing an official leader via democratic elections. Furthermore, when their security system fails, the group invents a new precaution system. Another strong point is that their decision making process works well: they sit down together to listen to each other’s opinions. It is hard to live together in a post-apocalyptic situation and share everything in such an uncomfortable place. It can be hard to control ones impulses because of the situation. Nonetheless, the team manages this weakness by sharing an equal goal and by trying to achieve these goals successfully. Moreover, the intellectual ability is developed by the group due to the sharing of different types of knowledge and skills.
Although the group as a whole is very capable and successful at solving the problems that they are confronted with, there are some apparent weaknesses that hinder even greater success within the group. One of obstacles to more harmonious group dynamics is the communication amongst the individual team members. Each individual within the group seems to have his/her own expectations of the group activity and how to solve the problems that they are confronted with. If the individuals within the group were to approach each other more openly and more frequently the team would be more successful in dealing with the stressful situation. One example of this is during the security breach. The group is attacked by hostile outsiders and leads to heated discussion within the Colony. Their lack of communication skills leads to an aggressive argument which hinders the productivity of the group and is counterproductive to finding a solution to their security system.
Strategies to improve the group dynamics:
- Frequent group meetings
- Create a daily routine to support the group dynamics
- Assign chores to each team member
- Group leader needs to enforce the daily routine
The strategy which we think will improve the efficiency of the group the most is implementing a daily routine to support the group dynamics: the individuals might work better and more efficiently if there is a certain degree of structure in their life. A daily plan could provide a more harmonious environment amongst the colonists and could enhance their performance.