Associative Trails Around DigCiz, Fake News, and Microtargeting

Microtargeting: A Digital Citizen’s Perspective

I started writing this post about fake news and microtargeting a few days ago and then I was reminded that #OpenLearning17 was talking about Vannevar Bush’s As We May Think this week. I began to see connections between how they might relate. It made this post even longer but I think it was worth it.

Some background if you don’t know: Bush’s article was written in 1945 as the war was ending. He was the Director of Scientific Research and Development during this time so he was all about applying science in warfare. In the article he is envisioning where scientists will put their energies as the war is ending.

Now, as peace approaches, one asks where they [scientists] will find objectives worthy of their best.

The article focuses on the connections we make when we build knowledge. How we associate past discoveries with current ones and tie things together. Bush advocates using technology to track the connections that we make in this process to extend memory for better reflection on those connections. Many credit this article with predicting the Internet.

He uses this term “associative trails” to describe indexing knowledge based on connections that we define. He thinks this is more powerful than typical kinds of indexing like sorting by number or alphabetizing. But I note that this is a much more personalized kind of indexing.

He is advocating for metacognition, that is, realizing what you are thinking and where your trails lie so you can better understand what you are researching, yes, but more importantly your own thought processes. What I am wondering about is what happens when you get the technology part but you leave out the metacognitive part? Bush does not seem to consider this option but I think this is often the world that we live in today.

When I start thinking about fake news and microtargeting I have to ask what if a person does not have access to their associative trails? What if they don’t even realize they are leaving a trail? What if they think that their trail is not so important? What if someone’s trail could be bought and sold? What does the record of all our connections say about us and can it be used in ways that might be exploitive?

I’m not a data scientist. I’m not a journalist. I’m not a librarian.

I am a technologist. I am an educator. I am a person. A person who lives some of her life on the web. I want to say a lot of her life on the web…. But “a lot” is a relative term.

Often it is journalists and librarians that tackle the fake news topic. I think that both of these groups add an important perspective to the conversation but I also think that there is the perspective of a digital citizen and those that advocate for such concepts; the perspective of someone using the web as a place of expression, a place to learn, and to be heard and to listen to others.

What is microtargeting?

When I bring the idea of microtargeting up I’ll start with something like “well you know they track a lot of your data from the internet to try to influence you” and most often, before I can continue, I hear “oh yes of course I know that”. Then there is the inevitable story of shopping for an item on one site and then continuing to see ads for it on other sites. But that is rather mild and not really what concerns me.

I’m not just talking about the machine realizing that you were looking at a product on another site or that you clicked on something from your email, that is cookies and web beacons, that is rudimentary stuff.

I’m talking about gathering thousands of data points, combining them, and analyzing them. Everything from shopping history to facebook likes and what church you attend can be gathered and combined with traditional demographics to create a “personalized experience” meant to influence you with emotional and psychological messaging.

The big story around microtargeting right now has to do with a little company called Cambridge Analytica (CA) in London. They are the big story because they’ve had well known wins with customers like the Brexit Leave and Donald Trump campaigns.  

In this eleven minute video during the Concordia Summit their CEO Alexander Nix explains how they work. In the video Nix explains that demographic and geographic information is child’s play. That the idea of all people from one demographic getting the same message: “all women because of their gender, all African Americans because of their race, all old people because of their age” is ridiculous. That those things are of course important but they are only part of the picture; that psychographics are a much more complete picture because then you are targeting for personality.

The big shocker where people feel a little creeped out is when they learn that CA uses those silly little facebook quizzes (you know the ones that you click the “connect to facebook” button on before you are allowed to take them) to profile your personality. What! Those quizzes are not just there for free for you to have fun with… as they say: if the service is free consider that you might be the product.

As we may forget

CA is not the only one doing this; they are just the popular story right now and the quizzing is only part of things. For me the big part is that connection to facebook which can give the owner of the quiz (be it CA or some other company) access to all of your account information, your likes, your posts, and often much of your friend’s information. Of course, much of your personal and consumer data can be purchased so throw that into the mix. Imagine aligning all of this data for a person. It is a lot. Often people don’t even realize what they are giving away.

You authorize the connection so that you can take the quiz or play the game or whatever and then it is over for you – you have had your fun and you move on. But the app still has that connection to your account and will continue to unless you go in and specifically delete it. This means that it can continue to gather data. Apps will vary of course and I can’t speak for any specific one but I know that all of you are reading the terms of service of each app before you connect it – right?

In this case the user is continuing to make associative trails on facebook through friending and liking. However, they are not using those trails for metacognition. They are not using technology to extend their memory so that they may better reflect on the connections that they are making. Instead they plow forward forgetting many of the connections and the fact that they have authorized someone/thing else access and track their connection trails. The trails are being harvested by an outside entity and the user, more than likely, has no idea who that entity is – did I mention that they could change the terms of service, the name of, or the nature of the app at any moment?

But how much can someone really do with all that data?

I have seen the data scientist folks that I follow sort of look at the CA story a little sideways and it seems every day there is a new article downplaying the impact CA had on the Trump and Brexit campaigns. Interestingly though not too many saying that the idea behind this, using big data and psychographics to personalize experiences, is invalid. Just that CA might be more hype than pay off.

This much more comprehensive story about the origins of CA in Motherboard states that Cambridge is not releasing any empirical evidence on how much or how little they are affecting the outcomes of campaigns. And though CA is more than happy to tout their wins as proof of their effectiveness I’ve yet to see anything about their losses which is a classic vendor ploy.

In this recent Bloomberg article, The Math Babe, Cathy O’Neil points out that what Trump was doing during the campaign is not uncommon and that the Hillary campaign was also doing it. Also, that U.S. companies have for decades been tracking personality. O’Neil points out that “To be sure, there’s plenty to be appalled at in this story…. It is just not specific to Trump”.  She states that Hillary had access to more data than Trump because she had access to Obama’s archive of data from the previous elections. 

But then I think about Bush. As We May Think considers information storage and to be sure the amount of data is important. However, I think the real meat is in the connections. It is here that I have a hunch that having the right context or being able to see the right connections could be more powerful than having more data – well at least if we are talking about the difference between a lot of data and a whole heck of a lot data. Did I mention that I am not a data scientist?

Paul Olivier Dehaye has written about how CA was targeting “low information voters” for the Trump campaign. This article hypothesizes that CA used data (citing CA’s claim to have 5000 data points for every adult American) to specifically look for voters who had a low “need for cognition” for microtarged political advertising. These are the type of folks who would be more likely to not dig too deep or question stories that were presented to them. These folks are not doing a lot of metacognition. I don’t blame them for this, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

What is real and how can we tell?

As I remember it, when the term fake news first started being thrown around during the campaign it was largely being used to define sites that were not run by major news organizations or even particular journalists but rather individuals who knew how to buy a domain name, hosting, and throw up a WordPress site but who were only interested in click revenu. They would come up with crazy stories and even crazier headlines just to get people to click. As these started to be called out as “fake news” some began to create lists of these sites and place parody and satire sites alongside of them.

But then it got more challenging with accusations that major news sources were in fact fake news and that we could tap into “alternative facts” to get to the truth.

Journalists receive training to be sensitive to bias and context and to not let it interfere with their reporting, so they should be more prepared to consider context and fight against bias, especially their own. However, you will never be able to completely remove bias and context; much of it can be hidden and not realized till later. It is here that education is asked to step in and create critical citizens who will hold journalists responsible for what they report and it is here that we see the calls for greater digital and information literacy in regards to fake news.

Fake news, microtargeting, and digital citizenship

Bush envisioned people using technology to extend their memory to be more metacognitive about the connections they were making while they were building knowledge. These seem like rather “high cognition” kind of folks to me but what about those “low cognition” kind of people that Dehaye thinks CA could be after? Who are they?

I mean I’ll admit that I’m guilty myself. I don’t read every terms of service for every new app I download. I have forgotten that I’d given access to some app only later to find it hanging out in my facebook or accessing the geolocation of my phone. But I think that it is really some of the most vulnerable among us that are at risk here.  

What if you work 40/50 hours a week and care for children, parents, or grandparents? What if you have a disability or illness to manage? What if you grew up surrounded by technology and this kind of technology usage is your normal? Do you have time to build all of those literacies? 

Building critical literacies around information and digital technologies takes time. It requires more than just a list of which websites are fake, which are satire, and which are backed by trained journalists. It requires more than a diagram of which news sources lean in which direction politically.

You need the ability to critically look for the nuance of things that could be off. For instance a .com.co is different than a .com. Kin Lane talks about “domain literacy” and goes much deeper than this basic understanding of domains but I hope you see what I mean. We need to read the article and then ask is it really reporting first hand or are they reporting on reporting as Mike Caulfield points out when he calls for the first step in fact checking to not be evaluating the source but rather determining who the source is!

Once you determine the true source you need to evaluate it – who wrote this, what are their political leanings, are they being backed by other influences (like money) somewhere? You should click on the article’s links and/or look at its sources and read those articles to get context before you make a definitive decision about it’s worth. All of this takes access, and knowledge, and constant practice.

Maha Bali writes about how fake news is not our real problem. She points out how fake news is good for critical thinking and states that we need more than just a cognitive approach; what we really need is cross-cultural dialog, learning, and skills. This is where education and community need to step up to the plate.

It seems like a lot and for me it is a call for better general and liberal education. I think the first step may just be in realizing (and getting students to realize) that my internet is different from your internet. Where possible, taking ownership for our own “associative trails” and demanding that ownership when it is kept from us. Finally, simply realizing that there are political forces and companies with lots of your data… which has always been the case but maybe realizing that they are trying to influence you in increasingly intimate ways.

This article (images and words) are CC-BY Autumm Caines

Further Defining LOOM: autonomous persistence in relation to ethos

I was asked to be part of a panel discussion at the Winter Symposium on Digital Literacies in Higher Education as a part of my work with Virtually Connecting. This time I not only had distance as a barrier but also time – I had a meeting scheduled at the same time.

The panel was on networking and digital literacies so we were talking about how Virtually Connecting is a learning movement; how we use networking as a way to learn about digital tools together in community. To illustrate this point I told the history of how I got involved with VConnecting which is tightly tied to #Rhizo15. I could have gone back even further because I found #Rhizo15 through Hybrid Pedagogy and I found Hybrid Pedagogy because of the #MOOCMOOC MOOC but I only had 5min.

Some of the other folks on the panel asked me to tie it back to the idea of LOOM which I wrote about a few months ago and it was nice to articulate the Little Open Online Movement again. In doing so I found that the concept grew in my mind a bit. It was in the rethinking of “Movement” that I found growth.

In this particular articulation of it I again stressed the “Little” and the “Movement”. Little being important because you can’t have meaningful project with 10K people. I’m reminded of all the little projects that broke off in the many MOOCs that I was in as evidence of this.

As I had stated originally, “Movements” are not events; they don’t start and stop at defined points the way that courses or twitter chats do.  I still think that this is a key to describing online movements.

But then I added a new nuance to the description of a movement this time; the idea of autonomous persistence: No one is there or continues to be there because they have been told to be or because they have negotiated some kind of pay off – not that there isn’t a pay off. I attribute this to the biggest definer of a movement (which I had included in the last definition) – the ethos or character behind the group. Because the group has defined itself in some way it stands for something, and a kind of  personality has arisen from this.

This relationship between autonomous persistence and ethos was an interesting one for me to consider. I think that autonomous persistence of participants and the ethos of the group are tightly tied. It is not that the participant has to even agree with the ethos to be autonomously persistent. Just that there has to be interest and reciprocation between the two.

#MyDigCiz as Critical Experimentation in Opposition to Best Practice: Self-Reflection After #DigPed PEI or why I thought you might care about my soup

It was 2007, I was just finishing up my BS degree in communication technology when I received a google alert on my name one day. Honestly, I had felt a little vain when I set it up but I saw how this could be helpful especially considering the uniqueness of my name.

Someone had written a blog post and mentioned me!

I didn’t have a blog and really didn’t know any bloggers so this seemed really strange. I discovered that the post was about Twitter as a tool and explored how people were using it. I was on Twitter. My supervisor at the time had said that it was something that I should check out and so I created an account and started tinkering with it a few months prior.

The blog post was a rant about the best ways that people were using twitter and comparing how they should not use twitter. Two accounts were highlighted and an example was made out of them – your’s truly was the prime example of how to NOT use twitter.

I remember being pretty mortified, I think I killed my account for awhile, I think I changed my name when I eventually reactivated it. After some time I finally got a little mad. I mean I was a student. I was new to this online platform and so was everyone else; it had only been around for a little over a year. The whole thing was a big experiment as far as I was concerned. So I tweeted some boring stuff. There are worse things in the world. I ended up tweeting a link to the offending post stating “I guess no one cares about my soup”.

I’d like to think that I’ve come a long way in my use of twitter. But I still use experimentation in dealing with new tools and I’m sure that I’m not using tools as intended at any given time depending the context. But I don’t think that I should stop doing that. I may look silly sometimes and I may come off the wrong way but I learn a lot in doing it and then I write posts like this one sharing what I’ve learned… and…  I think that is valuable. I’m not just experimenting in a vacuum. I am thinking about context, I am thinking about different vantage points, and I am thinking about how my uses impact others. But I am experimenting.

Still, I’m prone to getting sucked in by that voice of authority stating the right way to use tools. It is a strange dichotomy. This post is largely about me trying to work that out.

Right now there are a ton of things converging and diverging in my world. I’m just back from the #DigPed PEI conference where I took the digital literacies track but it is also the last two weeks of #DigCiz and Maha Bali has charged us all to define what digital citizenship looks like for us and on whose terms are we encouraging it using the tag #MyDigCiz. These two things together have me taking a hard look at what I am doing and questioning some of my practices in terms of being a person in the flesh and on the internet. I’m realizing that #MyDigCiz has a lot to do with critical self-reflection and continually trying to understand connections. At the same time I’m realizing that experiments are risky and not just to myself but to others.

I mean I am luckier than most. I have a self-reflective nature and a community of scholars that help me to build digital literacies and consider multiple contexts regularly; it’s called Virtually Connecting. As a community we are in almost constant dialog about what is ethical and what is not. How we can elevate voices that don’t get heard. What is working technically and how we can adjust environments for better connections. We are thinking about what is happening in the background when we go live and record. Who might walk into the frame and do they want to be live on the internet. It’s not perfect. We too are experimenting and learning. But we are also thinking critically, adjusting, and persisting.

You’d think this stuff was old hat for me. But it is not. I’m constantly readjusting.

One of my favorite moments at #DigPed PEI was the twitter chat. I didn’t do much tweeting. Those of us that were more experienced at twitter grouped up and gathered in the big open room – the Market Square. There were these loungy couches around the perimeter but some of us gathered in the middle and began a verbal in the flesh conversation/online twitter chat. I loved this moment so much because it ended up being a great liminal space. Those of us who gathered in the center of the room took time to talk but also time to read twitter and to tweet. There was tons of “dead air” interspersed with bits of verbal conversation. It wasn’t a show or a presentation, there was no front of the room, it was a conversation among people in the flesh who were on the internet at the same time. It was beautiful for someone like me. People jumped in from that outer ring from time to time while others were just quietly on their computers. The verbal conversation was a great mix of people with varying levels of experience in terms of presenting/attending conferences but like I said most were pretty established with using twitter and other forms of social media. Out of this conversation, a few key questions (particular thanks Audrey Watters) have led me to remember how I’ve developed certain methods around tweeting but also helped me to question some of my approaches as well.

I share a fair amount on the web. Not as much as many on Twitter but more than most in the world. I often filter other people through me via my tweets and I’m sure I deviate from their intended meanings – I am my own person after all. I live tweet many keynote speakers and session presenters. After doing this for awhile and being self-reflective about it I realized that there was a lot to be said for context. Hearing some snippet of what a speaker has said out of context can convey a completely different meaning. Then I have to ask where does my interpretation of what a speaker has said start and what they actually said (or what they meant in a particular context) end – and how does the random person who encounters that tweet perceive it?  What responsibilities do I have to the content, the connections, and the speaker? What if I hear something wrong and share something that creates confusion? What if I start a conversation between some people that are going to hate one another? What if I say something in public that will hurt someone? If any of this happens how do I atone for this? Will I even realize it?

Upon this realization I remember making a conscious choice to stop using quotes, for the most part, in these kind of tweets. I did this on purpose. My point in not using quotes is that I’m taking some responsibility for the content of that tweet. I don’t want there to be a perception that I’m quoting directly – unless I do but it is rare in the scope of my tweets. This is my little indication that I’m doing the best I can in 140 characters to interpret and not mimic. But that’s not written down anywhere – that is not a best practice – that is an Autummism… but the thing is I’m not sure anyone “gets” that but me. I think many people assume the quotes. They assume that I’m word for word transcribing the talk. I don’t know how to assert that I’m a human and not a recording or broadcast device. I’m not trying to be a journalist, I’m not trying to be a camera, I just want to be a person who expresses her experience and uses social media to process that experience… more on that in a bit.

Until a few months ago I also used to never put the handle of the speaker in each tweet. I would send out one tweet at the beginning stating who I was hearing and interpreting but all subsequent tweets would not reference the speaker. But then there is a problem with attribution and does it look like I’m spewing the speaker’s rhetoric on my own? After getting called on this it might have been the first time I googled “how to live tweet a keynote speaker” (or something of the like) and low and behold there were a set of “best practices” that sure enough stated that you should tag the speaker in each tweet. So I started doing that.

Yes! Best practice to the rescue. Now I can finally start using Twitter right.

But now that I look back I realize that many of those articles were geared toward folks that were doing some kind of media production, were trying to sell something, or were interested in hitting a specific analytic. Wait!… That ain’t me babe. I’m not sure that I’m the intended audience of those articles but I didn’t get that at that time.

The thing about “best practices” is that they are problematic in that they strip nuance out of these contextual experiences. During our conversation some noted that this tagging in every single tweet basically sent the speaker a barrage of notifications which could be annoying. Furthermore, these had the potential to start side conversations that resulted in even more notifications. These side conversations are complicated by the “meaning problem” that I started to outline earlier. Because a meaning which is based on an interpretation by the person reading the tweet, in the context of the interpretation of the person who composed and sent the tweet, can be very different than the intended message of the speaker. It feels like you are almost asking for trouble. This problem is going to be present regardless I guess but my beef is with the “best” in best practice.

Who is that best for again? And how is the “best practice” better than my experimental Autumm practice? It seems either way the vulnerabilities persist.

Another tool I have started using is mobile live streaming and I think this does a good job of taking some of the problems I just discussed off of the table. It is pretty clear when I am on camera and when the speaker is on camera and the speaker just gets to speak for themselves. This technology is fairly new and there are a ton of best practices on the web mostly geared at video and sound quality and creating an experience for the virtual audience. The problem with the live streaming over tweeting is that I don’t live tweet a speaker only for the other people on twitter who may read those tweets or for the speaker themselves – I do it for myself too. I gain perspective considering those multiple contexts and constraints. It keeps my mind engaged in a different way than if I were listening without writing or even if I were listening and taking public or private notes. I know through my work with Virtually Connecting it is not about creating a great experience for a virtual audience as much as it is about creating a reciprocal experience between those on each side of the camera. Or at least that is what it is about for me and others that I surround myself with… I suppose this is where digital citizenship comes in. 

I don’t just use social media and the public internet to channel other people who are speaking at conferences. I don’t just use images, video, and text to speak to an audience. I experiment with these things to learn about myself and the world around me. To explore multiple contexts and points of view. I have public conversations about topics that no one has easy answers for so that I can learn, maybe not the right answers but to perhaps be able to ask better questions, in community. I reflect on my experiences based on various forms of feedback that I receive and I make adjustments. I try to do better. This is not a research project, this is not reporting, this is not a course… this is a part of who I am.

And so when Sundi Richard and I started to ask questions around the idea of digital citizenship, having public conversations using video chat and Twitter seemed like second nature. When we decided to do it again a few months later we purchased web space and gave a home to some things like a schedule and an articulation of the context in which we were interested in talking about digital citizenship. By that time I had also found time to read Rhizo14: A Rhizomatic Learning cMOOC in Sunlight and in Shade by Jenny Mackness and Frances Bell and it gave me pause. I was in Rhizo15 and found the facilitator Dave Cormier to be attentive and deeply concerned for those that were experimenting with him around a complex topic for which there was no clear easy clear cut answer. However, this paper painted Dave as having control and influence over the group but neglecting the needs of those that were not having a positive experiences. That some participants had learned a great deal in the course but that others had been somehow damaged (the paper seems unclear to me on what this damage was and even feeling deeply embedded in Rhizo15 I’ve never figured it out) and that the facilitator should have had more control or something.

So, I wondered if our little #digciz project should have a disclaimer of sorts, perhaps a set of standards, or a defined code of ethics. I knew that we would never reach the scale of Rhizo14 but I saw no reason why we should not be concerned by the same ethical implications. I wanted to be clear that I was concerned about all those that were going to choose to engage with us but that at the same time that there were some dangers inherent to being on the public internet and that we would not be able to control every connection. That I have a life outside of #digciz and that I would not be able to watch 24/7.

I proposed this to Sundi and we created a page for this but we really struggled with articulation. Eventually, we decided to let the community own it and during the first week we would encourage the participants to build this statement themselves. Our first Twitter chat was more active than either of us had imagined but no one seemed interested in building such a statement. The page remained blank. We continued discussing digital citizenship anyway.

I think this was right for us and for the group that we ended up getting. We could have put on the breaks and refused to continue till we defined a disclaimer, list of ethical points, or a statement of some kind. But we didn’t. We decided to keep experimenting.

I think we all struggled with coming up with some set of standards for several reasons. For one we are a pretty new group and I don’t think that group members have even really defined what they wanted from the group. As a community comes together and solidifies I think that they sometimes feel a need to define themselves, but that takes time. For instance I had a hand in composing the Virtually Connecting manifesto and point to it often when defining that work. But I also think that our approach to subject of digital citizenship had something to do with this. We were bypassing some of the best practices on the subject and instead asking questions that were more complex and so reducing it back to a simple statement or a list of some kind just didn’t seem right.

As for me, I think that #MyDigCiz is somehow rooted in a sense that by creating a list of rules and practices we might give guidelines to some but that those guidelines will not speak for all. That like online, as in the flesh, the complexities around how we live and how we impact each other have more to do with deep fundamental attitudes surrounding relationships, empathy, and an ability to see multiple contexts than they do with following a list.

Of course the rub is that not everyone is ready to be self-reflective digital citizens. And so sometimes we create best practices, community statements, codes of ethics, etc. because we have to start somewhere. I think these are especially important for instance when dealing with young children and I don’t want to be condemning of those efforts (I understand that perhaps I have come off as hypercritical in the past) – they are important and needed – I just think that there is another conversation that is not really being discussed. I guess my point is that I think the best practices are not working by themselves and that we need more.

One thing that I did take from the Sunlight and Shade paper was that online courses including, and maybe especially, MOOCs are not going to be an enlightening experience for everyone…  I think we knew that but research often tells us things that we instinctively know.

What is becoming really clear to me is that none of this is happening in a vacuum. I see the use of public, social, digital, tools changing and shaping all of the time. I see them used to commit atrocities and then in other cases used to shine a light on atrocities. I know technology is not neutral but I also know that people’s use of technology is not neutral either. We are learning from each other and shaping the way that we affect one another through the use of these tools. I see the free experimentation of the use of technology when done with what John Dewey referred to as the “habit of amicable cooperation” as an affront on formulaic prescribed best practices that may only be best for sales numbers and media clicks. I know that the idea of citizenship is a problematic one and that digital citizenship is an even more problematic. However, I think that we have a better chance at finding a way to live together by developing an ability to see connections than in being able to follow the rules.

~~~

My next stop in this journey will be the Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute at University of Mary Washington and there will be lots of ways that you can participate virtually from Twitter to Virtually Connecting and I’m sure I will live stream a bit. However, I do want to encourage you – if you can by any means – attend in the flesh. I think that this is going to be one of the foremost learning events of the year if you are interested in getting past the hype and taking a close look at your own practice of teaching with digital tools.

Image Credit CC-BY-SA 4.0: Autumm Caines, Market Square UPEI 

Now You’re Talk’in My Language: a #rhizo16 preface | or A Case for Interest in a World of Resilience

Yet philosophies of esthetics have often set out from one factor that plays a part in the constitution of experience, and have attempted to interpret or “explain” the esthetic experience by a single element; in terms of sense, emotion, reason, of activity; imagination itself is viewed not as that which holds all other elements in solution but as a special faculty. The philosophies of esthetics are many and diverse. It is impossible to give even a resume of them in a chapter. But criticism has a clue that, if it is followed, furnishes a sure guide through the labyrinth. We can ask what element, in the formation of experience, each system has taken as central and characteristic. If we start from this point, we find that theories fall of themselves into certain types, and that the particular strand of experience that is offered reveals, when it is placed in contrast with esthetic experience itself, the weakness of the theory. For it is shown that the system in question has superimposed some preconceived idea upon experience instead of encouraging or even allowing esthetic experience to tell its own tale.

~ John Dewey, Art as Experience

Simon wants me to contribute to some kind of exquisite corpse

It is some type of preface to #rhizo16

I don’t completely “get” it because he keeps tweeting half of it in French

But then he calls me out directly

I love exquisite corpse

It is one of my favorite parlor games

He linked to a post that I did a year ago when I had this “Salon” at my home. The Salon d’Automne; not because it was held in the fall but because I fancied myself a salonnière. There were a lot of people there – more than I had expected. If you are not familiar with my theory of the Interpersonal Multitudes Barrier (IMB) it is a simple equation – the more voices you add to a synchronous conversation the more you see a reduction in intimacy in that conversation. It’s a theory – I’m pretty sure someone else already thought of it but I’ve yet to find them. Because of the size of this gathering giving you glimpse of it was hard – hence the exquisite corpse from the post Simon linked to can be helpful – well maybe not so much as the written version.

I don’t really know much about these Salon things. I’m just playing with the ideas. I’m piecing together fragments of popular culture (thank you Woody Allen) and wikipedia articles. Like what is the difference between this salon, this salon, and this salon? And how does that figure into this ongoing bigger picture over history and across countries about art and subjectivity. How does that affect science and objectivity? But I’m not sure what that means – exactly. I just find it curious. Again, I’m just playing with the idea.

I don’t speak French

My grandmother spoke French… Well sort of… When she was mad she would speak French

She didn’t get mad very often

It’s not Simon’s fault that I don’t speak French

I should get off my lazy butt and learn, I suppose

But languages have always been so hard for me

I’ll never forget the Brasilan children making fun of me because I only spoke English

Kids can be cruel – that’s what they always told me anyway

I can’t really participate if I don’t speak the language but how can I speak the language if I don’t participate?

I suppose there are wars fought over such things. I have no interest in war but I wonder if interest is a kind of language? Insomuch as language affords us communication; in that communication gives us a glimpse of what the other is experiencing. And then maybe empathy. And, if it all aligns right, often through the art of conversation – that is the art of not just talking but of listening… then maybe… transmutation. 

But there is a big difference in having an interesting conversation and an uninteresting conversation. Is it wrong of me to mix the ideas of interest and interesting? I’ve been thinking about conversation a lot over the last year. Questions about who gets to talk, and who gets to be heard, and who is listening are interesting to me. My gut tells me that with interest comes passion and attachment and a deep desire to express, be heard, and to listen. And there is something transcendent about it, sometimes – if you go deep. Where the interest takes over and you care more about that thing outside yourself than you care about your own feelings. 

I can’t really participate as fully if I’m not interested but how can I be interested if I don’t participate fully?

So here is where I start to come back to #rhizo16 with it’s focus on resilience

The idea of resilience is all we have to go on right now as Dave Cormier has yet to issue any prompts

(So please understand this preface is blind… but this is the way with the exquisite corpse)

But I tend to think an interesting conversation more resilient than an uninteresting one

Though, what if you need to have a conversation? What if it were in your best interest to have that conversation?

I have no interest in war but does that mean I am excused from the conversation about war?

George Seimens recently presented some thoughts in a post on his blog that stuck out to me in this regard.

“What is our obligation as educators and as researchers to explore research interests and knowledge spaces? What is our obligation to pursue questions about unsavoury topics that we disagree with or even find unethical?”

and then later

“I’m worried that those who have the greatest passion for an equitable world and a just society are not involved in the conversations that are shaping the future of learning.”

The point I took was that those with these great passions for a just society, who should be interested, are not participating in the conversation. I think that George has found some truth in this; I’ve seen evidence of it myself. He attributes it to a lack of integrative systems/networking thinking. I agree we need folks who can see the connections – but it really is quite messy. In thinking about resilience, I have to wonder why these folks with a such a great passion for a just society can’t find inspiration to see those connections and chime in? And then, in thinking about conversation and how it is a process of talking and listening, and in thinking about language, I wonder if there is a lack of interest (or in perceived interest) between those participating and those not participating. Even if it might be in both parties best interest to hear each other out. Maybe it’s not even in the subject but in some aspect of how they are addressing one another – the language that they are using.

What responsibility does Simon have to speak in English?

What responsibility do I have to learn French?

What responsibility do we have to make things interesting for those that need to be at the table?

What responsibility do those that need to be at the table have to sit if they are not interested?

Another post that stood out to me this week was Mike Caulfield writing on the e-Literate blog about personalization where he turns the idea of personalization on it’s side. He roots a great example in a story about his daughter who is starting to make connections between indie rock music (which he is playing in the car to try to convert her) with her physics class.

“It turns out that there’s a number of principles of physics that she remembers through a complex set of associations she’s developed referencing indie rock songs.

Mike makes the point that the personalization of learning should not be tied to isolating what content a student does not know and then giving them pre-canned delivery mechanisms of that content. Rather, it has to do with thinking about who that student is so that they “could get an example that resonates more with their life and doesn’t make them feel unwelcome every time they read the textbook”. 

Again for me, this comes back to interest. Taking interest in the person. Who they are, what their story is, and how can it connect to this thing that we are trying to teach them. What is this person already interested in? How can we help them connect it to things that they don’t think they are interested in but that are in their best interest to have a say in?

Interest and Conversation 

These things are standing out to me

I see Simon talking about something in French and I pay it no mind

Then he calls me out in English and he ties it to something he knows I am interested in – exquisite corpse

So, I start to piece together these ideas that I have encountered over the last week and try to weave them together and here we are – Autumm’s blind preface to #rhizo16

If you don’t like it, blame Simon ;-P

About one year exactly after I held the Salon d’Automne, Bonnie Stewart came to town (thank you alma mater). She used Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak as a metaphor in which to tell her story. The thing that stands out to me is that in the end, again, we have these two groups – this time its those that see value in networked scholarship and those that do not who are struggling through power dynamics and the ability to advance change. 

The IMB was all over the place at this conference of 800 people but I was able to transmute it for a bit. There were no parlor games but there was conversation and art. There was a particular conversation and I’m not sure if I’m going to get this right (a drawback on non-recorded conversations) about the way that change comes about. One that was sort of ‘a given’ was research but the other was conversation… at least that was what I was calling it. I back-channeled Bonnie and asked her to confirm and she said she thought of it more as narrative; the cultural meaning flowing through media and conversation. I found this distinction between conversation and narrative to be important but also this focus on meaning to be an important piece in terms of interest. The fact that meaning exists inside of conversation and inside of media… can we use things like conversation and media to convey meaning and develop interest, to give people a shot at better resilience around unpalatable topics? Maybe. But if so I think it is going to take people with an eclectic base of knowledge that encompasses things like art and music and science and data as well as an ability to empathize with one another and make meaning of those things to relay interest in places that are not necessarily comfortable and to people who are not necessarily interested.

And I know that this post is long but I never did get around to posting that written version of the exquisite corpse from last year’s salon. This piece was composed by various people that attended the 2015 Salon d’Automne at Autumm’s house. The players had to write at least two lines and the entirety of the piece, except the last two lines, were hidden from each player.

The exquisite corpse
Shall drink the new wine
Expensive wine
Cheap wine
With a dark wing
And a baby’s smile
The bay horse moved to the fence line
Milling wheat with its canter
And proceeded to declare
Its independence from the world
“I’m free” he bayed
But wait, he thought, I
have never really been
free,  I have always been
a prisoner of my own mind.
But I walk along the ocean
and understand the universe
The motion, entropy, heat transfer
q=mc∆t. Physics is my God
Six strings buzz buzz buzz; flat
Fingers crawl up the neck; a back
beat counts off timing, by the
hands of the clock and all is silent

Image credit “Beauty” by Stanley Zimny CC BY-NC

In Defense of Kindness in the Rhizome: A complex balance of many often opposing forces

“Reality is subjective, and there’s an unenlightened tendency in this culture to regard something as ‘important’ only if ‘tis sober and severe. Sure and still you’re right about your Cheerful Dum, only they’re not so much happy as lobotomized. But your Gloomy Smart are just as ridiculous. When you’re unhappy, you get to pay a lot of attention to yourself. And you get to take yourself oh so very seriously. ~ Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

Lots of talk in the rhizo community these days about resilience and it seems that this will be a major theme of #rhizo16 – is that what it will be called? I think here in the U.S. we hear more talk of grit than of resilience but this, for me anyway, conjures images of John Wayne, and buck up and be a man about it, and my personal favorite “you’re too sensitive”.

They used to tell me I was too sensitive when I was younger – sometimes they still do. At one point in my youth I threatened to punch the next person that told me I was too sensitive in the nose – mind you not so that I could mindlessly hurt the person out of anger but so I could make the point that their face was too sensitive. I never did that – I was just making a point. But I did find strength in my sensitivity.

I used to think that sensitivity was synonymous with weakness and fearfulness and I fought against what I was. As I got older I realized that the opposite of sensitivity was not strength or courage but rather insensitivity and that insensitivity was a lowly trait that I should try to not associate myself with.

I think the larger conversation about grit and resilience has room for sensitivity and kindness.  I’m excited to explore it come May 10th. This seems to be a complex paradoxical subject.

Last year during #rhizo15 one of the strong points that I railed against was the idea of the immortal rhizome. Making the point that the rhizome may be hard to kill but that that does not make it immortal. I suppose even then I was exploring the rhizome as resilient. It seems to me that the rhizome is always becoming … till death, and that people are learning beings … till death. The bigger question, as an individual, is to realize what I’m becoming as I learn and to keep asking is that really what I want to be.  As a member of a rhizomatic learning community I would ask – what do we want to become?

This word “we” is also a point of concern and perhaps we are shifting from a question of “We’s and Them’s” to explore “We’s and I’s” this year. There have been calls for us to shift to an emphasis on “I” language. I’ve used the word we to explore how I felt about certain practices (I just did it to blended learning a few days ago) or even the rhizo community itself but not without disclaimer because I do this to give myself agency to explore what community or practice means to me from the inside. Here I am using we from the perspective of I, which is different than speaking for we as an I. I’m a fan of I language and I think you can be creative with it and even use we with it.

Hey that’s right I did talk about Why We Rhizo didn’t I – maybe it is time to revisit that?

It does seem that I was after a diversity in voice and perspective back then. I know I still want that. I value the voice that is counter to mine. I’ve learned from that voice. There have been times when that voice has gotten loud with me, or made fun of me, or otherwise tried to make it’s point by quashing my voice or making sure that I could watch as it quashed the voice of others that I cared about. Did I learn that way? Or did I just get beaten into submission?

What is the difference between education and indoctrination?

They are both forms of change and we will see a person become something different than they were through the process of going through either of them. What sets them apart from one another?

Could it be the role of power, teacher, leader, knowledge, right etc. If these things/people are fixed and rigid it seems that they are easily pounded into us through repetition and harsh criticism of the other. This seems like prime soil for indoctrination in my mind.

For me education is more slippery, though of course I know very well some don’t see a difference in this word from indoctrination. But as I use it, education looks at multiple views and is critical yes but not for the sake of dark sarcasm, for the sake of confusing the conversation, or miring other’s points with insignificant drabble. In my view education is at it’s heart kind and is honestly looking for truth realizing that truth flexes and changes depending on context. In my mind education is sensitive but please do not confuse this with weakness or fear.

As for our curriculum? Over the last year I have learned so much and for that I’m thankful but I will remind once more that the rhizome is not immortal but merely resilient. We are leaving a legacy, our actions have reactions, and we are becoming something. I would like to ask what are we going to become?

I hope to join you but I may be becoming something else – only time will tell. I will tell you I’m sensitive. I will tell you strive for kindness.

As I consider resilience I wonder if it starts in a very old place and with something that is so much harder than it may seem by the words on the page; in the stone; or, as the case maybe, on the screen – know yourself.

I know I want to be a part of a kind critical creative community of learners who are persistent in their exploration and sensitive to the world around them. I do hope I find that again.

Staking My Claim for #Western106

Howdy partners!!! It’s true, I’ve decided to take part in the next iteration of #DS106 – #Western106!! It is the latest iteration of DS106 and it is going to start on January 11th! I’m going to see who I can rustle up to have some fun with us and do some learning with me. If you wanna play check it out. Let me know how I can help.

I have to admit that I’m not much of a western fan but the idea of the course inspired me to start reading one of my favorite authors; Tom Robbins. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues is classic Robbins and I’m still making my way through the book but I did watch the movie. I was really disturbed that they shunned the amoeba!!! The amoeba only makes one appearance in the book – in the Single Cell Preface but it is declared as the mascot of the story.

I have a whole tangled mess of roots in my brain about how the amoeba connects to cowfolk and wanderings and wild west. And how all of that can zoom out to act as a metaphor for being on the web as things are pretty wild out here. But alas this post is just to get my feet wet and connect my blog to the #Western106 hub. So the exploration of subtle connected metaphors will have to wait.

I did decide to right this horrible wrong done to Even Cowgirls Get the Blues on my own and create my own movie of the Single Cell Preface. Let me know what you think.

 

 

To Err is Human: Listening, Forgiving and Forgetting

It t’was the MOOC before Christmas

And through the interwebs

All the creatures were stirring and…

… I actually found it kind of hard to keep up with everything but that was ok. (I know that part doesn’t rhyme – I’m not that kind of poet)

It’s not every year one gets a Graduation Solstice Birthday Christmas New Year but 2015/16 is the one for me. It’s travel time and I’m off and about staying true to my wandering nature. Along my way I’m carrying #HumanMOOC with me – no worries; it’s not so heavy. I have been paying attention and participating as I find fit and I thought I would reflect some.

First off – Wo! The participant hangout thing actually took off a little bit and that has been pretty awesome. It has me thinking about my thinking and wondering about differences in processing information synchronously vs asynchronously. For instance, the other day we had this one about digital citizenship put together by Sundi Richard and I found myself answering a question about what it means to be a good digital citizen by stating that it had to do with participation but in the same breath I somehow threw listening in as an act of participation. I could write a whole other post on this idea and of course it stands on the synchronous #HumanMOOC convo with Kate Bowles, tons of #HumanMOOC async convo on twitter and probably all the way back to my musings in #rhizo15 about lurkers, but my point is I had never really thought about it in relation to digital citizenship in that way before. That is, the idea that listening is a responsibility of being an active member of a society. But there it was, all manifesting itself as it came out of my mouth in that moment. Live on the Internet… Recorded. There is something kind of magical and terrifying about that.

In taking on a reflection here at the 3/4’s mark of #HumanMOOC a part of me wants to reflect on the competencies for weeks 1 & 2: Instructor and Social Presence, but alas I have these other pesky constructs coming out of the conversations that I have been participating in (yes some of them were only listening) that are screaming in my brain and making it hard for me to hear anything else. I might be down the rabbit hole with the questions.

Warning rhizomatic mind wanderings below

This first for me is the big question. What does it mean to be human? Can we humanize an online course if we don’t take a moment to consider this? I recognize that this is the big unanswerable philosophical question that flies in one’s face making lewd gestures and strange noises. For this reason it is often only taken on by those that bring it some air of seriousness for it is so easy to just go out drinking with it and let it get the best of you. And while I have not been known for my seriousness in these open online adventures I can’t resist it. So, please forgive this uptake of a big question by a not so serious girl who is only moderately read.

In considering what is human I have to wonder what is not human? Is it the wild? I found myself revisiting my public vs wild post from #CLMOOC due to #HumanMOOC convos. 

I’m tempted to reflect on what it means to create such a thing as good or bad or mediocre and then apply that construct to others and one’s self. Is this human? As I consider this question of what is human the phrase “to err is human” comes to mind. And this makes me wonder what it means to err. Didn’t humans create the idea of error? Maybe not, I’m not so sure that this separates the human from the wild. I suppose the wild could err if there is a pursuit that ends in failure or setback – perhaps a hunt or a gathering. But it seems to me that those kind of errors would not lend themselves to forgiveness.

To err is human; to forgive, divine

Is woman/man caught in some kind of middle here? Between wild and divine do we find human? This seems like a common enough of a thought. 

But I think I reject it. I think it might be a fraud. I think woman/man is wild as well as divine and dances in the liminal space of chaos in the universe.  So humor me with this as a foundation while I reflect a bit on how this relates to my recent thoughts inspired by #HumanMOOC.

What if to forgive was not divine? What if to forgive was just as human as to err?

We’ve had some talk these last few weeks about digital forgiveness and what that might mean. Alec Couros started this in a #HumanMOOC hangout with reflections of what it means to err in a wold that does not forget. He referenced his recent blog post where he comes to the conclusion that forgiveness may end up being the answer. I agree and I think that this is attainable because I think that forgiveness is not divine – but human. I worry that if we think of forgiveness as divine that it seems too unattainable.

Not everyone seems to agree – some would rather focus on forgetting rather than forgiving. Perhaps they think forgiveness is more than human and beyond what the human can achieve. That the only way to give someone hope would be to wipe the slate clean and erase all hints of the error. Some would even call this forgiveness.

In thinking about forgetting I can’t help but think of Socrates and how the old man warned us all those years ago on how writing stuff down would ruin our memories. Apparently there is some truth to that but I would argue the effects are not all that bad and that the benefits of writing outweigh what we have lost. Now, here we are worried that writing stuff down will ruin other people’s memories of who we used to be. Maybe the written word is ruining our history more than our memory? Or maybe it is just forcing us to rethink some things and asking us to be better people. Maybe it is doing both at the same time.

If forgiveness is something attainable by the human how do we learn to do it? Alec gives us guide points in his post such as considering context and intent. These seem helpful and clear to me but with some limitations. I wonder how many of us will take the initiative to seek out transgressions to forgive or (more likely) when encountering transgressions as they come will think to consider forgiveness as an option. The thing that seems missing (to me) in all of this is the willful act of asking for forgiveness; of realizing that a wrong has happened, recognizing the weight of that wrong, as well as who has been wronged, and genuinely asking for forgiveness.

What would it mean to request digital forgiveness? To realize a wrong, look it in the face, feel remorse, know it can’t be wiped away, yet ask for the right to go on in a particular direction? And what would that kind of forgiveness look like? It certainly sounds familiar to me. It kind of sounds like learning.

A call for more #HumanMOOC discussion groups. Or. The very human problem of access with more thoughts on the Interpersonal Multitudes Barrier (IMB)

So I planned this participant led discussion inside of #HumanMOOC. In terms of process I tweeted that I wanted to do this and asked who else might be interested. With those that responded I opened a DM channel and configured a time. Then I advertised the time on the tag to see if I could get others involved.

But then I got this tweet

And it brought up such a little flurry of thoughts in my head that I had to blog about them.

My first reaction was a pretty human one… I’m not an organizer of #HumanMOOC. I can’t please everyone ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’m not responsible to please everyone.

Then I thought “that was a pretty selfish reaction”.

Upon reflection I can see this process is filled with possibilities of inequality.

  1. Those that answered may have done so because they already knew me – feeling more comfortable responding to someone familiar.
  2. They had to of seen that first tweet so they would have to be paying attention in the right place at the right time.
  3. I did offer 12 Noon EST as a suggestion and it just happened to work for others but it was based on my own subjective availability.
  4. I’m more comfortable doing this because of experience with Virtually Connecting and others may not be.
  5. I’m sure there are a ton more – I am planning for the hangout to be conducted in English (cutting out everyone who does not speak English). I am going to live broadcast it and record it (cutting out a large number of those that will be uncomfortable with that for whatever reason). The list goes on and on…

These all seem to fall on limitations of access, experience, and participation… probably other things too. Yes it is true the sun does have a part to play here (or perhaps it is the old archaic beliefs that accentuate the sun’s importance) but those are hard to overcome and trying to impact that is hard with small incremental reward over long periods of time. The real question is what can we do provide more access, experience, and participation to everyone.

Because I’m of this romantic notion that the more diverse perspectives we can intersect with the better we are as (a) people.

We got the time zone thing worked out and then Maha tweeted this

Of course this is the Interpersonal Multitudes Barrier that I have been talking about. I know this may have a nicer name and be fleshed out somewhere in communication theory elsewhere (please let me know where I’m looking for more info on this). But it is the basic idea that as you add more people to a discussion you loose that interpersonal connection a little more. Maha seems to be keenly aware of this. This is another barrier to group dynamics. In this case is mediated in a Google Hangout by the fact that the technology limits you to 10 participants.

And after all of this it turned out I misunderstood Maha in the very beginning. 

Because she started with my name I thought Maha was addressing me but I think she was just trying to start her own participant discussion group.

Ah Ha!! That is the answer. For more people to do what they can to bring people together. I love our #HumanMOOC way-finders as they are calling themselves (organizers, profs, teachers etc…) but they can only do so much and they have already done so much. This is our learning experience. Let’s claim it.

There are so many things that are standing in the way of us all talking to each other. The sun, the IMB, lack of experience with the technology… it goes on. But if more people tried to do these things maybe it would break down these barriers. We could offer groups in more timezones and in more languages. Maybe try different technologies other than GHO to see what limitations are going on there.

I’m more of a subjectives girl myself but check it out… I also notice that demonstrating uses of an interactive tool is a competency in the #HumanMOOC syllabus… so huh… go figure.

I say start a #HumanMOOC discussion group of your own and see where it goes.

P.S. I will say that the garden has some dangers out there so this call is not without possible downfalls. Remember the other part of Maha’s tweet where she said she wished that there was a way for people to just jump in and jump out.  The only way I know to do that is to publicly tweet the join link. I’ve done that in the past and it has been bad with someone who we had never seen before coming in cursing and talking about things that were not relevant. Not horrible … but it could be worse.

Still, it is hard for me to condemn this process. Last year I saw a tweet from Sean Micael Morris with a link to a hangout. I thought it was a view link but it turned out to be a join link. I joined though I mostly listened. This Dave guy showed up and reminded me about this rhizo thing he does. At the time I had only heard about it peripherally. I joined and participated. Yeah… that kind of made a difference.

Why We Rhizo

There is no dark side of the moon really. As a matter of fact – it’s all dark. The only thing that makes it look light is the sun.
~Gerry O’Driscoll Doorman for Abby Road Studios
partly heard on Pink Floyd’s Eclipse

When questions about reasons and why collide with WEs and THEMs

The “Why do they cMOOC – Why do they Rhizo?” Question

All semester we had pondered the nature of technology and what it means for human learning. Week 1, Heidegger drew this line in the dirt saying technology was in opposition of nature to the detriment of man. Clark swooped in for week four claiming the stick Heidegger used to draw the line was an extension of Heidegger’s human will and that in doing so Heidegger had himself become part machine.  The arguments flew. I wondered where the girls were. I wandered into the wrong link at the right time, had a memory, put some pieces together and ended up in #rhizo15. I decided the informal and formal needed to/should hang out for this one even if I were to be the only bridge (and I was not).

End of the class; middle of the MOOC, the question came up:

Why do they cMOOC – (for me “Why do they Rhizo?”)

They’re not getting paid for it.
They seem to be having fun but it takes up so much time.
Maybe it is just to see if they can – I’m sure that is a part of it.
Ha! Maybe they just do it just to get new people – all eyes on me
“Uh oh look out I’m about to get sucked in….” everyone chuckles.

The class ended – #rhizo15 continued.

It’s been three months and now I find I’m asking myself:

The “Why do we Rhizo?” Question

And I’m struggling with the idea that getting more people might be the big answer! No. That cannot be right. There is just something in me saying that is not a good enough reason. One does not create community for the sake of creating community. Community can be messy. That is a dangerous proposal.

Then I hesitate. Gosh I sound like a sad and disgruntled old man. Reaching out to more people in a community to grow knowledge is a great reason; a noble reason. Of course we want to create opportunity where it is possible. Open doors where they can be opened for people that want in that particular door – where it has been closed before.

But the sole reason?

I think some of my hesitation may also be selfish – Ron Samul, a fellow rhizo newbie as of 15, helped me out in unpacking that one. I think I may be just wondering what happens to the new girl when she’s not so new anymore? Especially when she is preoccupied with thoughts of longevity and questions about what get’s left behind.

But here I am and without a doubt that question has shifted from a “they” to a “we” for me. And now I am struggling with it. Now it is personal.

What about those doors? (Warning Metaphorical Space Ahead)

The thing about the corridor of doors is that often we think of the doors as being closed as one walks along the hallway but I think the truth is that the doors are in all different kinds of states. Some are open, some are closed, locked, unlocked, ajar, propped… some squeak and stick… some swing… others slide… sometimes they’re those split dutch doors and either half could be in any of these states. Trap doors. Hidden doors. And the state of the door does not belong to the door itself. No, it changes depending on who is trying to access it – it is a very strange place.

The doors symbolize barriers yes but they also symbolize opportunity. Opportunity to change state. They can let people in but they are also the way out – and that happens – I think that is okay but what does that mean?

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite.
~ William Blake
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

There is something so freaking satisfying about opening those big heavy doors that have been locked for a long time. The doors that were locked to our mothers and fathers that are now open to us. Doors that held us back because of time and space, for instance. Distance? Time zones? Miles? Kilometers? Where the sun is at in it’s chase of the moon? Never mind any of that door – crash! You’re in!

Something so powerful about that.

Power is a funny thing and I find I have this affinity for subtlety.

Why We Rhizo

I had dinner with a colleague the other night and I found myself saying something like this in relation to the effect that #rhizo15 had on me:

“No longer can I accept this argument that you cannot form meaningful connected relationships in an online course. Yes, there can be barriers and those can vary from person to person, discipline to discipline, and I agree there are some environments where it is not going to happen but no longer can anyone tell me that it is not possible at all.”

And I’m not sure I ever really bought that argument for myself but I used to cut people some slack for it and I don’t think I can do that any more. That is not a little change. I’m already seeing a difference in the way I speak to people about online learning. It’s not a small thing – I’ve taken something valuable here.  So, I feel like I’ve got a debt to pay in terms of making WEs of THEMs and it is one I am glad to attempt to pay as best I can – honestly I get more than I give when I make those attempts. However, I struggle to say that is the end – to my means.

I think that, for me, being a part of a knowledge community is centered around the discovery, creation, and communication of knowledge. In writing this I struggled with even agreeing to the term “knowledge community” thinking that could be perceived as static or fixed in some way – I was thinking maybe questioning community or community of critical thought – but that all does seem, in the end, to lead to knowledge.

The thing about knowledge is that it is slippery and can take on all kinds of biases depending on your lens. (There is a good chance all of this is me just applying my thoughts, experiences, and personal bias in education theory in general to rhizo). So, we need other people; a diverse pool of people to look at knowledge from all different angles and perspectives. If we really want to say that we are a knowledge community then I feel like we need other people to challenge each other, create with one another, give perspective to one another. It is in this way, I think, that making WEs of THEMs is tightly tied to the idea of a knowledge community without being the sole reason for it.

Public Space vs Wild Space: A #clmooc Reflection Without Much Background

I’m sad that I couldn’t find more time for #clmooc. But I think it might be fun that if I only get two posts in, that it be one at the beginning – my Untro – and one here at the end on public spaces.

I was not sure what was going on when I noticed many of my friends were changing their icons to little rangers on twitter. What the heck is the deal? That was when I realized that this final #clmooc prompt had to do with public spaces.

I caught some of the calls to pin maps with people’s favorite public spaces, photos, blog posts, and a twitter chat the other day which I actually got to take part in… but to tell the truth I did not get a chance to really dive into the conversation. Still, I’m inspired by this prompt… so without much background here is my reflection.

One of my first thoughts was about the open web as a public space and how that plays into digital citizenry. What the responsibilities are of the citizenry in public spaces of all kinds but then how that plays out on the web. How communities like #clmooc (and #moocmooc and #rhizo15) serve as good examples of digital citizenship by encouraging people to not just be on the web but to think, create, question, converse… build affiliations, acquaintances, friendships,… by using tools of the web to reach out to one another and be creative in positive ways that encourage a better public space for everyone. It seems that is an important part of a public space – realizing that it is public and that it is shared and that to share we need to work together to make a better space.

But then I had wondered if I had used the wrong metaphor in calling the open web “in the wild” for the #tomereaders book group that I facilitated on the open web. I did so because there were some people that did not want to participate in the open web and wanted a closed LMS instead – which I coined “in the lodge”.  I used these metaphors somewhat based on the fear that was expressed from the people that did not want to use the open environment and I’m not sure it was the right fit. This got me thinking about wild places and what it really means to be a wild place.

A wild place is different than a public place. It seems to me a public place is a place for people. In contrast a wild place is a place where nature comes first – not nature as in flowers, rocks, and animals but nature as in that sense or source of energy of the way things would be without a lot of man-made rules, structure, or laws where the flowers, rocks, and animals are there because of a shift in what is valued. In one sense a wild place is dangerous because it has not been massaged by the rules of humans and the wild things could have their way with you if you were out in the wrong place at the wrong time. But in a bigger sense the wild is vulnerable because we all know how humans can bend the wild to their own needs with pavement, machinery, and bureaucracy.

This led me to think of the recent protests in Portland OR where the protesters were trying to stop Shell from transporting equipment they needed to drill oil in the Arctic. The protesters were dangling themselves from a bridge putting their bodies in the way of the barge so that it could not pass. To some they are troublemakers and standing in the way of legal drilling that was given the go ahead by the government. But to others they are standing up for that value of the wild spaces that are vulnerable to the impact of humans.

And then looping back to the digital citizen in how all of this is documented and tweeted and blogged about; debated and conversed about on the open web leading to redefinitions about what it means to be public, what it means to be wild, what it means to be a citizen and be responsible to each other and to the public and wild spaces.

I’m not sure where this all goes and what this all means but I’m grateful for public spaces to have the conversation and think about the different spaces in our world.