Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Least to Say about Connectivism, #cck12

I said earlier that a definition is about the least that we can say about anything—teacups, for instance. This does not mean that we shouldn't say the least that we can say. What it means is that this is the barest of starting points. This is the point at which we begin picking ourselves up by our bootstraps to create meaning out of almost nothing. This is the DNA—the arrangement of "discrete units, empty of meaning (like phonemes or letters of the alphabet), combining into complex units, carriers of meaning (like words)" (On Complexity, 13). As Morin says of information: "Information is not an end-of-the-line concept, but rather, a point-of-departure concept" (14). As he says later, we must learn to define from the center out, not from the outside in.

So what is the least that we can say about Connectivism or Rhizomatics? Let's start with what Siemens says about the basic principles of Connectivism in his online book Knowing Knowledge (2006):

  • Learning and knowledge require diversity of opinions to present the whole … and to permit selection of best approach.
  • Learning is a network formation process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources. 
  • Knowledge rests in networks.
  • Knowledge may reside in non-human appliances and learning is enabled/facilitated by technology.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
  • Learning and knowing are constant, on going processes (not end states or products).
  • Ability to see connections and recognize patterns and make sense between fields, ideas, and concepts is the core skill for individuals today.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is learning. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.
And what do Deleuze and Guattari say about Rhizomatics? Well, they try not to say much of anything, but they finally concede that "we get the distinct feeling that we will convince no one unless we enumerate certain approximate characteristics of the rhizome" (A Thousand Plateaus, 7):
  • connection,
  • heterogeneity,
  • multiplicity,
  • asignifying rupture,
  • cartography, and
  • decalcomania.
These, then, are the starting points for defining both connectivism and rhizomatics. These are the bits of DNA out of which we can create meaning in a particular kind of way. If this is where we are hoping to end up, then we've missed it, I think. We can, of course, use these definitions to isolate both concepts, distinguishing and separating them from their competitors (if we choose to see it as a competition), and in the end we will pull them both from the eco-systems that feed and inform both and that they both feed back into. In the end, we will kill both concepts.

To keep both concepts alive, we most start at these points, and possibly a few other points, and then work outward from the center. To my mind, then, this is the first step in changing the way we define: locate ourselves in the center and work outward from there—recognizing, of course, that we have become part of the definition. We cannot overlook that. Definition from the inside-out means that we are part of the definition. We have no god-like privilege or position outside the system we are defining. Trying to take such a position is a fiction, a not always helpful fiction.
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