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

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.

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

  1. Hi Autumn

    This post raises some really interesting and important questions. The Interpersonal Multitudes Barrier (IMB) is real. Conversation doesn’t scale well. We’re used to conversing in private (home/office) or semi-private (porch/hallway) settings. But how do we initiate and carry on a conversation in a public place (square/atrium)? This isn’t just a communications problem; it’s an architectural and town planning problem. I find it helps to think about parallels in the physical world where we have solved (or have attempted to address) these needs. What is your favourite public space? What is it about it that you like? Why does it work so well? What can we learn from that place? Our challenge is to design private, semi-public and public spaces online while we are still trying to work out how to do this offline. The fact that we are seeing the devaluing and loss of public spaces of all kinds (conversational as well as physical), due to entrenched neoliberal ideas, attitudes and policies, makes our task harder — and all the more urgent.

    1. Hey Mark thanks for coming by and commenting. What you wrote here reminded me of this post I did as a part of CLMOOC looking at physical space as a construct to help us better understand online spaces. It is funny because this is the second time CLMOOC has intersected with HumanMOOC. There I considered the difference between public space and wild space and how though the wild can be dangerous it is also vulnerable. I hate to be self-promoting but I think it sort of parallels what you are saying here.

      1. Hi Autumm. Sorry for misspelling your name. I blame auto correct, which I find is an easy out, as auto correct can’t respond or defend itself. If I can’t blame auto correct, I blame Siri.

        Yes, the Public Space vs. Wild Space notion, as outlined in your other post (, is very thought provoking. I think metaphors help us to understand things when language seems too limited or fixed.

    1. Maha!

      Whaahaa Omg my head is spinning right now. So many worlds colliding. I just had you and Bard read the Hybrid Ped article to me – what a neat concept. I loved reading along with your voices. It reminded me of when I was a kid and I had these children’s books that had an audiobook of the text on a record. I used to listen over and over and read along. Maybe silly to bring up here but it made me think of it anyway.

      It is crazy to me that you wrote this article advocating for more asynchronous learning and you ended up founding Virtually Connecting. Funny world.

  2. For all the possibilities our increasingly digital worlds provide, there are many hurdles, too, and I love you dive into the reflective practice here, of grappling with all this. For outsiders, organization across time zones and languages might seems rather “seamless” with the final result, but the reality is a still a flurry of considerations and rather messy, as I found when I was doing some of this for Digital Writing Month. But it is worth it, if we can open the door to more people. We also need to acknowledge that no system is perfect. Still, we keep trying.

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