Negotiating a New Distributed Digital Social Contract

I just boosted a post on Mastodon by describing his experiences as a former designer for Twitter. The discussion about algorithms and reverse chronological posts is fascinating and is worthy of much discussion. There has also been a recent discussion about moderation and the experiences of These are the discussions to be had around negotiating a new distributed digital social contract.

One thing that particularly jumped out as me from Jon's thread was, "The data told us we were making a better product." I wondered, what data and how do we define 'better'? I'm guessing better is being measured in terms of number of tweetviews or number of interactions, or something like that. This probably makes sense if the focus is monetizing the platform.

But, what if we went for other metrics? More accurate reporting? Improved mental health? A stronger, more stable democracy? What do you think makes for a better microblogging platform?

Teaching Cultural Competency to Digital Immigrants

Working in health care, I often come across the phrase, Cultural Competency the idea of providers delivering services that are respectful of the diverse cultural needs of the clients. Often, the cultures considered are ethnic or based on country of origin. However, there is an important culture that doesn’t get considered, digital culture.

In2001, Marc Prensky mapped out the digital culture divide in his seminal work, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. He focuses more on educational methodology and content, but it is interesting to think of this in terms of cultural competency.

When I was young, the telephone hung on a wall in the kitchen. If the phone rang, you answered it. It was rude not to answer the phone. Then came answering machines and caller id and it became culturally acceptable to screen calls.

Now, I hear digital natives telling their parents it is rude not to respond immediately to a friend’s text message. The cultural shifts continue. To use the phrase from Linda Stone, today’s digital natives are expected to pay Continuous Partial Attention to their digital peers. Asking them to do otherwise is to ask them to violate the rules of their culture.

There are times when we have to choose which culture’s rules we are going to follow, but we have to remember if we are providing services to members of a certain culture to seek follow the rules of the culture we are serving. If you can’t, you need to at least be aware of how you are violating the rules and seek ways to mitigate this. Whatever the situation, it is important to stop and consider to what extent we find a behavior objectionable because of the social context we grew up in and how others might find our behaviors objectionable.

Shifting #rhizo15 Chairs

I’m looking at this whole rhizomatic learning from a group relations conference perspective. A group relations conference has a specific time and structure. There are people who facilitate the conference, but the learning is experiential and people come in looking for something closer to the learning subjectives of rhizomatic learning than the learning objects you would find in other classes or conferences.

The facilitators, or consultants, are there to observe the processes, not get drawn up into them, and to help people stay on task. In many ways, I see Dave’s role in #rhizo15 being similar. Set the time, establish the structure, and then let the experiential learning begin.

Part of the structure of a group relations conference is that the large group meets for a certain amount of time starting with the chairs arranged in a spiral. What can we learn about leadership from where we chose to sit in the spiral? Are we choosing to sit in the center? At the outer edge of the spiral? How does that affect the way we interact during the large group?

Once, I in a large group where some people challenged the structure of the group. They thought it would be better to move the chairs from a spiral to a circle, so everyone would be more equal and could better see one another. Some people agreed to move their chairs and got up and started moving them. Other people stayed put and an odd shaped structure was created. The authority of the consultants had been challenged. I don’t recall exactly what the consultants said or did. If I recall properly, they staid put and waited for things to settle down. When people had settled into their new spaces and talked about it a little bit, the consults made simple comments which seemed to be constructed to get people on task of reflecting on what they were learning from the experience.

This story came back to me, as I read Dave’s post, Can/should we get rid of the idea of ‘dave’? How do we teach rhizomatically?

Dave is more involved in the rhizomatic learning than consultants are in a Group Relations conference. Not only does Dave set up the structure, the time, the hashtag, etc., but he also provides prompts. From a Group Relations conference perspective, I could easily imagine Dave setting up and introducing the structure, and perhaps sharing comments to keep us focused on learning rhizomatically, but not providing the prompts.

To the extent that this is what Viplav is suggesting, it makes sense. On the other hand, it seems like there needs to be some sort of structure or boundaries to the rhizomatic learning. Otherwise, these nebulous porous boundaries become even harder to perceive and people may just wander off, getting completely lost and not returning. There may or may not be advantages to that, but it would be a different experience, and I suspect people might not get as much out of a cMOOC if that’s what happened.

Yes, Viplav can make suggestions like he has, because he has been learning rhizomatically alongside Dave for many years. But, what about people like me, participating in my first cMOOC? How do I figure out how to engage? To feel welcome engaging? What happens if someone significantly challenges the structure?

Or, do we have some sort of unconscious power struggle going on? Is Viplav vying for power in this cMOOC?

In the Group Relations conference, we move through times of working as a large group, working as a small group, taking breaks, eating, etc. The next time that the large group met, the chairs were again in a spiral, and this time nobody moved the chairs.

#rhizo15 Measuring Maslow

Yesterday, Lenandlar Singh posted a link to the Facebook Rhizomatic discussion, The quantified self movement: some sociological perspectives. It is a great article about measurement which relates nicely to the Rhizomatic learning discussion.

It is interesting to think of measurement as an effort to keep things under control. We can measure our exercise, our nutrition, how much sleep we get, and all kinds of different things. We can measure how many problems we solve. We can echo Brene Brown, “life's messy, clean it up, organize it and put it into a bento box.”

Yet I go back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We can measure the lower level needs, physiological and safety. We can measure our grades get into good schools, get good jobs that help us earn money to meet the physiological and safety needs. It might even bring us a little esteem.

But I go back to other parts of Maslow’s hierarchy. I echo Rent and Rhizo, “Measure in love” (and belonging). But how do you measure self-actualization?

Perhaps next I will tackle measurement and mystery, and the realm of part objects and the divine.

Early Reflections on #Rhizo15

Two roads diverged
in a rewilding post urban landscape
descending into chaos
before emerging and maturing
into a natural unique
niche of biodiversity.

And being one learner, long I stood
reading Facebook updates and blog posts
pondering subjectives and objectives,
goals and primary tasks.

I looked at goals as long as I could
but remembered Stevenson and Eliot
and embraced
the age-old art of getting lost.

I decided to travel hopefully
and return where I started
after chasing red herrings
down blind alleys.

I saw the best minds of my generation
looking for a different fix.
connection to likeminded travelers,
seeking truth
in the symbol ‘O’,
l’objet petit a,
the lost, partial, transitional object,
the rhizome.

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