Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Diversimilarity and Community: synergistic post #rhizo15 & #hpj101

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

So we are discussing community and exclusion this week in #rhizo15 but i haven’t had a chance to read any other posts (except Autumm’s but it didn’t directly tackle the topic so…) because I have been v busy with #hpj101 and for some reason lots of hangouts n sync events in past couple days AND my kid’s sleep is messed up

Anyway

So interestingly the topic of community and inclusion v exclusion also came up in #hpj101 discussions on Twitter yday and today

#hpj101 is a small course by Hybrid Pedagogy for editors. It’s part training and part (volunteer) job interview and part community building activity and part other stuff in my head they may not have intended.

So let me explain why I see the need to compare rhizo and hpj

Community Emphasis is very strong in both

Overlap of People quite a few ppl are in both (or at least were in rhizo14). Some ppl are new to both spaces but not new to me personally and that is also an interesting commonality

I am an “oldie” in both. Been in rhizo14 so rhizo15 is less “new” to me; been working w HybridPed as an author since March last year and columnist this year and did all kinds of things with them including co-facilitating #moocmooc and more. Same w rhizo – i do lots of stuff w rhizo ppl besides the obvious parts of the MOOC itself

All of the above privileges me in these contexts. My familiarity w the people and process and my comfort w getting to know new ppl online, sthg that energizes me, makes it all fun and exhilarating really.

But all of the above also serves to exclude. We are not  “open” simply because we are friendly or say we are open. Openness is more complicated and probably deserves a deeper analysis than I can do here.

But here is what I think (also common to both rhizo15 and hpj101):

Facilitators are caring individuals, as are most participants

No one intends to exclude others and this matters even when it isn’t enough.

Many participants are dissenters in their lives and this goes really well with the ethos of both

I tried to go as far as I could without quoting Dave but I have to. He once said that every “us” implies “not us”.

I am an only child and when i see siblings interacting i see an “us” that excludes me, a shared language, a history that excludes me. It’s not rude. It just is.

Similarly, how can I, who am so familiar with people like Dave and Bon and Jesse and Sean and Chris – and also familiar w many participants in both – how can I ignore that shared history? But by not ignoring it, by showing it publicly, I exclude. I try to reach out to new people but our connections w people we have known longer are almost magnetic in their pull.

And the way we become immersed in a discourse or culture makes it difficult to see it from the outside, with new eyes. But I am reminded these days of how I felt when I first read Hybrid Pedagogy. Journal or magazine? What do you mean collaborative review? Google doc submission? I loved what I was reading and was completely intimidated by the beauty of the writing in it. I am still awed that they would want me to write for them monthly. It was one of my proudest moments in my life. (mind you none of this implies i would be a good editor so i may not make the cut in the course! And i still make mistakes and have misunderstandings and arguments with them ; but there is enough good history to keep us going and lots to look forward to)

But here are two things both these courses do:
They make us think about what we take for granted

They have DIVERSIMILARITY (title of my post). This is a term i first came about during my PhD research from a paper on intercultural learning by my supervisor. He means for us to look at teaching ppl of diverse cultures, to recognize and address both diversity and similarity
I mean it slightly differently here

Ppl at both HP and rhizo are diverse in many ways: nationality. Ethnicity. Sexuality and gender. Profession but also there is much similarity: all educators of some kind. All dissenting in some way. Somewhat interested in ed tech and tech savvy (and for HP interested in critical pedagogy). 

Don’t make me think community is a bad thing simply because not everyone can be in it. I don’t think there can ever be a community that is equally welcoming to everyone of every background and interest.

But it matters to be semi-permeable. Create space for different others to look in and try to get in. Once in, to provide opportunities for them to fit in. It’s not easy as people go about their daily business of just talking a shared language and experiencing a shared history that the newbie wasn’t part of. But we are human

It matters that we intentionally avoid excluding on bases of injustice and discrimination. That we are aware of ways our behavior might exclude based on race, gender, sexuality, age, nationality, etc.

But based on interest, values? No. Way. We don’t have to be interesting to everyone and vice versa. Willing to enter into dialogue and know them, yes. Continuing to engage them regardless…no…simply because we can’t live our entire lives working against every current.

Because at rhizo and HP many of us are already swimming against the current, teaching against the grain, we thrive on finding a community of others like us. The people outside those communities are around us all the time and part of other groups or communities. Not every participation i have with every group is as deep, nor can nor should it be.

So… Here it is:
It’s ok if you don’t like everything ppl di in rhizo – u don’t wanna do music, don’t. Last year i didn’t do any creative stuff and this year i did. You don’t wanna join the facebook group? No need πŸ™‚

And for HP, if someone discovers they don’t like sthg about the process that’s probably fine. Then it was a good process of learning about process.

Whatever happens in either course rhizo will make u question assumptions about edu that most of us teach without ever questioning. And hpj101 challenges perceptions of peer review not usually discussed at all in traditional peer review (indeed no one ever trained me on doing peer review and I do regular peer reviews like twice a month for other journals).

So yeah…Learning in community. Some kind of diversimilarity is always a good sign that something is right.

8 Comments

  1. Wow. We are thinking some of the same things, Maha (uhh … is it echoing in here?). I just posted about many of the issues you raise here. Thanks for saying it better.

  2. Really like your way of explaining this Maha, and I was trying to say similar things too, but couldn’t quite express it this week I think. Part of engaging in open communities is taking self-responsibility for your own inclusion. That uncomfortably new feeling is raw and unsettling, but also invigorating, a time of huge learning as you negotiate how you find your own niche, what you will bring, or if you will bring anything, which is equally valid, as a listener. If we are supporting others to engage in open more rhizomatic communities, then how you negotiate your own participation is part of engagement. For some, being able to see a core of pre-existing relationships in a community does feel exclusive, but if you look at this as an example of the endurance of connection (e.g. those of us not involved in rhizo14 are aware that a group in rhizo15 know each other well – you can see the thread of a bond, but might not know who all the individuals are) it should only encourage us to act in a way to include ourselves in it.

  3. Again I highlighted almost the whole post which means I was nodding throughout the whole read. Somehow you manage to say very true and deep things in a simple way (which is real talent). Your attitude to the problem of exclusion/inclusion is very practical. It kind of reminds me of mindfulness which makes you aware of something and allows you to observe it, and in so doing makes you more objective towards the observed thing. In the same way when I observe a tight and passionate group having fun together, such as the one in the Facebook group for #Rhizo15, I recognise their closeness and understand that they have been drawn to each other because they share something(s). There’s no point feeling left out (and sulking), and even though you might not be able to catch up with everything they’ve talked about, I’m confident that they will welcome anyone with as much or as little as they bring to the community.

    • Hi Tania thanks for the encouraging comment (as always). Though God forbid i ever try to be objective πŸ™‚ it is never my “objective” to be objective πŸ™‚ lol

  4. Also nodding through the whole post πŸ™‚

  5. Hi Maha – yes I always found that conversation about inclusion / exclusion in community very interesting…and almost a bit of a conundrum. I think the acknowledgement that in any community, there will always be someone who might have a sense of exclusion about something, in some situation, sometime…this is unavoidable. The best we can do is as you say, be aware of the ways in which such exclusion might happen and take measures not to do so intentionally.

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