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.