Social Networks

Entries related to social networks, group psychology, anthropology, and really any of the social sciences.

#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.

#rhizo15 Curation Content and Contacts in a cMOOC

As the #rhizo15 cMOOC picks up speed, I struggle to keep track of everything that is going on and decide content and connections to keep track of and nurture and which ones to not spend as much time on. It appears as if I’m not alone in this task. Dilrukshi Gamage put it this way in a Facebook post:

We are trying to learn something, we have been given tools , FB , Twitter.. how do we make use of it in this community - we make our own groups and have conversations into any direction or we divide as an interest groups like in real conferences and have interactions..

Can anyone come up with a model - how can we effectively gain knowledge in a short period 6 weeks in this case..

My initial approach to #rhizo15 has been to read Facebook posts, and particularly those that link to blog posts. I’ve also been following tweets with the #rhizo15 hashtag and the comments on the Facebook posts. There has been a lot of content to go through. At first, I tried to read all of it, but eventually, I found myself skimming or skipping some.

The starting point has been Learning Subjectives – designing for when you don’t know where you’re going. We were asked to introduce ourselves, get acclimated and grapple with a few questions like

How do we design our own or others learning when we don’t know where we are going? How does that free us up? What can we get done with subjectives that can’t be done with objectives?

I explored this in my blog post, #rhizo15 Part 1 – Uncertain Learning Subjectives and then went on to look at some other blogs.

Maha Bali explored this in her blog post, Subjectifying my Learning!

I especially liked the way she looked at different words, like subject and subjective, object and objective, and then referenced Foucault’s play on the word ‘discipline’. I also really liked her comment, “What i dislike about learning objectives is their predetermination out of context”. It is interesting to think of learning subjectives in the context of common core and standardized testing in the United States. It is also interesting to think of learning subjectives in reference to medical education, which I’ll come back to later. Maha has put up two subsequent posts at the point that I’m writing this post. They point to posts by other #rhizo15 participants.

One of those participants is Jeffrey Keefer who shared his initial thoughts in Drawn into #Rhizo15. He starts off with “Like I don’t already have enough things to do” Yeah. I can relate to that. I also liked his comments about living in a messy world.

most of us live in a messy world with lots of people and cultural influences and work, life, death, and everything in between. In some way, between all of these things, we still somehow learn

It reminds me of two different things. The first thing that came to mind was Brene Brown’s Ted Talk, The power of vulnerability.

my entire academic career was surrounded by people who kind of believed in the "life's messy, love it." And I'm more of the, "life's messy, clean it up, organize it and put it into a bento box."

Seems Jeffrey and I are party of the “life’s messy, love it” crowd. Yet there are people participating in #rhizo15 who want to organize the messiness.

The second thing that came to mind is the end of Annie Hall.

“It reminds me of that old joke- you know, a guy walks into a psychiatrist's office and says, hey doc, my brother's crazy! He thinks he's a chicken. Then the doc says, why don't you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs. I guess that's how I feel about relationships. They're totally crazy, irrational, and absurd, but we keep going through it because we need the eggs.”

It turns out that Jeffrey and I have mutual connections on both Facebook and LinkedIn and works in clinical transformation. Since that blog post, Jeffrey has put up two posts. One is a link to Maha posts.

At this point, I start thinking about how I organize what’s been written that I want to follow up on. Clearly, a sequential blog post isn’t enough and I start thinking of CRMs, directed graphs, bookmarking tools, Wiki’s, Moodle, etc.

I take a break to try and find good tools for organizing information, but come up short. So, I’ll post this as is, and try to come up with some better tools later.

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.

#rhizo15 A Primary Task?

Last night, in the #rhizo15 Facebook page, a participant spoke about looking for ways to benchmark her participating in #rhizo15. It feels to me like part of what is being asked is, if I don’t know where I’m going, how do I know if I get there, or if the trip was worth it? It is a serious question, but it doesn’t feel like it applies to me.

One reaction I have is from the poets. Robert Louis Stevenson said, “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive”. T.S. Eliot put it this way:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Yet I understand this may not resonate for everyone, so I’ll also look at this from another angle, the experiential learning of group relationship conferences. Of course a great starting point for this is the quote from Aristotle, "for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them”.

I’m especially interested in the journey rather than the destination, and learning about the process of learning by learning. I’m not sure what the #rhizo15 experience will be like, but I’m currently looking at it from a perspective of a group relations conference.

Group relations conferences usually have a “primary task”. Here are a couple examples:

The primary task of this learning organization is to study the development and exercise of authority, leadership, power and justice, in the context of change, through the inter-personal and inter-group relations that develop within the workshop as an organization. Unlike traditional learning systems, there are no lectures, panels or power point presentations. Instead, the workshop is based on reflection-in-action; learning focuses on our experiences and interactions with each other in real time.

And another:

The primary task of the conference is to explore, experience and learn from the development and management of roles and systems: to experience leadership, authority, integration processes, self-management in role, diversity and psychodynamic processes in organisations. This goal can be reached by allowing yourself and others to experience the conference, to communicate these experiences and to ex-amine their meaning in order to learn.

Lasts I checked, the Facebook post had about sixty responses. There’s a lot of grist for the mill there. What is it about uncertainty in learning that produces such a response? Is anxiety part of this? Anxiety about what? That you won’t fit in? That you’ll say something stupid? That you’ll end up eating crow? That you’ll end up wasting some of your time? What are our anxieties about #rhizo15? What are our anxieties about other people being anxious? What are our responses to these anxieties? What can we learn from these responses?

So, what might a primary task of #rhizo15 be? Pulling a little bit from the two statements above, and what I’m picking up here and there in various blog posts, tweets, and Facebook posts, I come up with something like:

The primary task of this learning organization is to explore, experience and learn from the development of learning networks, content, and the use of technology in promoting online learning.

What do you think?

#rhizo15 Comment Response

The #rhizo15 conversation is taking off, including a post on Facebook about the use of Minecraft to help autistic students. One of my responses was fairly long, and I'm presenting it in whole here. It lacks some of the context, but illustrates, I believe, some of the thoughts I feel are important in the discussion.

Scott - I find my thoughts line up fairly nicely with what Lyn is saying (or at least what I'm hearing of it). From my background in computers and artificial neural networks, tied together with my interest in group dynamics, I view a network, in and of itself, as inert, and not particularly powerful or significant. It there is interaction on the network, collaboration, then it becomes an interesting topic.

Once there is interaction, there are pressures placed on all the participants, very much along the lines of group relations that Wilfred Bion talks about. These pressures, a conflict between who we think we are or want to be, and what the network wants us to be is a key area of learning.

What is interesting about online networks, and especially virtual worlds, from MOOs to Second Life to Minecraft, is that we have an opportunity to explore different ways of presenting. It starts from the old saying, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog”. In the mid 90s, I saw a lot of people exploring gender identity online: males who would present as females and vice versa, people who would choose non-binary gender identities, and people who would change identities at a moment’s notice. When I moved to Second Life, I ran into many members of the disabled community presenting themselves as temporarily able bodied. To me, all of this answers clearly your question about virtual worlds allowing subjectivity to flourish.

There is another component, which I suspect is important in Lyn’s work. She talks about autcraft as being a closed server creating a safe space with no bullying. I’ve seen plenty of online bullying in virtual worlds, dating back to the infamous Rape in Cyberspace in LambdMOO in the early 90s. Yet it is possible to create safe spaces where members of the network are given even more opportunity to explore subjectivity, and it sounds like autcraft is a good example of this.

I’m sorry to hear that you are running into people outside of Rhizo that you find are being disrespectful to you. It is a factor that needs to be considered carefully with any network someone joins. I hope this clarifies some of my thoughts in response to your and Lyn’s comments.

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