In a response to my previous post, fellow CCK12 MOOCer and blogger, Matt Bury, describes a number of techniques that he uses to build communities of inquiry and practice in his classrooms, and it reminds me that formal theories—if we choose to call Connectivism a formal theory—grow in very informal, rhizomatic ways, spreading like oil—or as Deleuze and Guattari say of the rhizomatic growth of language: It evolves by subterranean stems and flows, along river valleys or train tracks; it spreads like a patch of oil. It is not proselytized as a monolithic system of thought. I think this is one of the appeals of rhizomatic thinking for me, and I suspect it may be for others as well.
The monolithic system of thought, of course, has a most useful function. For a time, sometimes for a long time, it steadies our thoughts and allows us to measure progress and change. We can define goals and even appear to meet them. Yet, if Deleuze and Guattari are correct, then this measurement and movement is always something of a fiction—a useful fiction often, but a fiction—and eventually it becomes a fascist kernel that becomes more interested in preserving its own identity and establishing its own hegemony than in being useful. Even this open-ended, freely evolving Connectivist community may eventually write its own creed and bless those who are inside that creed and castigate those who are outside.
But never fear. If Deleuze and Guattari are correct, then the rhizome will simply move on, flowing around and beyond the little fascist knots that calcify from time to time. This movement in rhizomatic structures comes most explicitly, and sometimes forcefully, through asignifying ruptures, the fourth characteristic of the rhizome.