#rhizo15 Discussions 4/18

I posted a link to my previous blog post to a Facebook discussion started by Dilrukshi Gamage. In that discussion, one person had suggested a Google Doc as a means of organizing information related to the #rhizo15 cMOOC. I suggested that it didn’t seem all that useful.

Sarah Honeychurch commented, “The doc, though, I thought was for us to describe ourselves, not to curate content”.

I responded, “To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, I have wonder if the connections are the content.”

She asked me to elaborate, which prompted a long comment from me.

I'm not sure how much I can elaborate, yet. It is an emerging thought. #rhizo15 has started off with our identifying ourselves. I chose certain aspects of myself to reveal in my initial post, those that seemed relevant to my initial understanding of #rhizo15.

Back in the 1990s I was involved in text based virtual worlds where we could create our personae. Our virtual selves didn't need to be the same as our physical selves. In facts, many people had multiple virtual selves, often of different genders or even different species.

With this in mind, I wrote, back in 2004 as I started what has become my primary blog, "Persona is a function of context, and my online persona is multifaceted. " How we know people online is very much a function of what they are writing, or what we would normally refer to as 'written content'.

Yet that content, aggregated is core to our understanding of the person, of the connection we are establishing. To the extent that we are building learning networks, what matters are the connections are the true content of the learning network, and the written content is only a means of approaching the true content, the connection.

So, I am trying to curate content, how do I understand who 'Sarah' is? Through her writings, in part. through her personae as presented in various social networks, through her interactions with others, and their interactions with her, which to the extent we are online is seen primarily through written content, but could also include drawings, graphics, songs, or even an unexpected chance meeting face to face.

My concept of this 'Sarah' is likely to be different from others, and I'm dubious that all of this nuance could be contained, cross linked, mapped, etc., in a Google Doc. On the other hand, I don't know of any tool that would work.

In the same thread, Simon Ensor suggested, “learning how to deal critically with the mass of stuff and people on networks could be one of the most useful learning outcomes from a cmooc like #rhizo15”” and referenced Howard Rheingold’s Teaching Critical Thinking in Age of Digital Credulity

I think there is something very important in this, that I plan on exploring in a future blog post. My comment on the Facebook thread was

I often think about Dunbar's number "a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships", typically assumed to be around 150. It is interesting to note how this compares to the size of aboriginal tribes, the size of 'large groups', and, perhaps more importantly, to our connections online. I'm following over 4000 people on Twitter and am friends of nearly3000 people on Facebook. I have over 2,000 connections on LinkedIN. These collections overlap and all far exceed Dunbar's number. How do we deal effectively with this mass of people? What tools can help us? How do we deal with a MOOC with this many people in it? In the Harvard MOOC on Americqn Poetry that I’ve been participating in, there are thousands of people in it and I feel disconnected from all of them.

Jane Van Galen raised an interesting question about how people enter the discussion.

I think about there are many more people in this group than are visible yet. I know that connections for people at the margins of academia are likely to have different entry points than connections for some of the rest of us.

I went back to an another old saying, which I twisted for #rhizo15

"Think outside the box? What box?" - 'Margins of academia? What academia?"

Nonetheless, Jane raises a very important point I hope to see more exploration of. Even though I consider myself beyond the margins of academia, if we chose to recognize the construct ‘academia’, I think I do a pretty good job of speaking the language.

Meanwhile, back to exploring how we organize content and connections in #rhizo15.