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Why We Rhizo

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.

7 thoughts on “Why We Rhizo

  1. Reading this it came to me that there are all sorts of ways of coming to understanding. Or maybe I mean “agreement” but not the simple type, more like the kind that works well enough to get us by. Something sparked the idea of uncorrupted discourse the other day (we’re having a federal election here and every intention under the moon is offered as bait and I’m thinking these are early warnings of disappointments to come–to get us ready somehow for the same old same old).
    Or it could be I’m great at being disappointed and Rhizo offers a shelter / cure for low expectations?

    1. Scott,
      I wonder if “low” is the right word. Maybe it is more like “unknown” expectations, which keeps open the possibility of surprise and invention, and a new door/path/window/insertmetaphor to understanding the world of connections we make, and keep, because they mean something to us. Phooey politicians. I’d rather put my faith in my networked friends to change the world.

  2. Here we are, a few months later, and you suck me right back into the Rhizo idea with an interesting perspective that has me thinking of my own answer to your question. THAT’s why we Rhizo, I think, so that our expansion of ideas around learning keep expanding forward, using connections we make to help those steps. Or least, that’s why I Rhizo (not sure I have used it as a verb before).

    1. Dangit! Just when I thought I was going to get through a post without a disclaimer.

      The above post refers to a collective question. Any answers provided reflect the multiplicity known as Autumm Caines and may not be relevant to others.

      Rhizo on community 🙂

  3. I love the use of rhizo as a verb without rhizomize or rhizomate… It somehow means something more basic than those two.

    Love this post on many levels and you’re so right about those doors. Not a monolothic metaphor, and not necessarily a bad thing either. Doors can sometimes be there for good reason (prevent fires from spreading across English hotel corridors for example).

    I have tried so much to think about the why we rhizo question, but framing it to other people means taking on their perspective, and often framing it in more concrete terms and instrumental ends than is really the case…if that makes sense at all? Rambling now. Need to rest a bit….

    1. It is true I’m being a little provocative with the use of the word ‘we’ here, especially as a header, but in the body of the post I’m trying to be careful to present a subjective view. I actually struggled with how to address that aspect for about a week before publishing. It gets complex when we start adding I’s to WE’s and THEMs – and how do I present a subjective I when the subject itself is so close to WEs and THEMs.

      I decided to go with it as it is posted here in hopes that it would, if anything, cause some reflection by others.

  4. Thanks, Autumm. This is why we rhizo: to converge our long trajectories, from time-to-time, and to recognize our similarities and differences, to feel the pull and the push of ideas and how they weigh on us, to sweep by these marvelous posts and tweets and to be reminded of the conversations that engage us, pushing and pulling us through doors. What a lovely group of people in this space. Who wouldn’t want to be here?

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