Frances, I really like your comment about speed and how Rhizo14 community and curriculum emerged so quickly. Speed, of course, is a relative term, a scalable term, and 1000 years is a blink of an eye on the geological scale, but your point is insightful. On the scale of classes, six weeks is a short time for the emergence of such an energetic and sustained community. Why and how did it happen? Let’s play with this a bit.
First, I think it had to happen or totally fail. Rhizo14 was an all or nothing approach. It had no clear path for students to trace; thus, they either had to engage quickly or disengage. Cormier brought the barest of provocative questions to the learning space at great risk. It was certainly possible that no one would respond, or that the initial responses would be weak, unable to generate any perturbations that might coalesce out of the noise and into a conversation. I think enough participants realized quickly that Dave was opening a space but providing no maps; rather, he was pointing vaguely over that way or maybe this way. Enough people started talking that others could find sufficient activity to engage and eventually interact with. But I suspect that more walked away, unable to engage what they perceived as empty space or unable or unwilling to engage the nascent chatter within that space.
Okay, but what mechanisms enabled enough people to respond to the space and create community and conversation? Conversely, why did others fail to engage?
I believe in chaotics, complexity and chaos, so I don’t think there is a single, local cause, but I do think I can point to some forces at work—first, Dave’s ethos, to use a rhetorical term. Most participants likely believed in Dave’s integrity and commitment. This touches back on covenantal rather than contractual relationships. Enough people believed that Dave was doing Rhizo14 out of desire for knowledge and engagement, so they were willing to engage even if they were not sure where things were going. They also believed in the integrity and commitment of their fellow participants. No one was earning any brownie points, money, or credentials by engaging Rhizo14, and most people tend to respond to honest, mutually beneficial desire to connect and learn more. By the way, a troll could have been disastrous at this early point, causing everyone to scatter. Luckily, Rhizo14 attracted no trolls. This mostly positive ethos, then, was more a global cause that allowed the conversation and community to emerge despite an early tension over Deleuze and Guattari.
Then, Rhizo14 benefitted from kairos. It was a good time to be talking about rhizomatic education. Chaotics, or complexity and chaos, is a ripe conversation across most knowledge domains, but certainly within education, and I think people want to talk about it, to explore it. To my mind, Deleuze and Guattari can be summarized as exploring chaotics in the philosophical, psychological, social, and political domains. I think their insights can apply to education, and Rhizo14 expressed that, though not in the way that I expected and even hoped for. Like many, I wanted a more philosophical discussion that dealt more directly with D&G. I think what emerged has value as an embodiment of D&G rather than a discussion about D&G. I’m satisfied in the end.
Thus, Rhizo14 benefitted from a particular logos, not a traditional logic and reason, as Simon has pointed out, but a more creative, poetic, rhizomatic form of reasoning and saying. Again, this did not appeal to some, and they left, but enough could share this language and engage through this language that a wonderfully rich community could emerge. Again, Dave provided no over-coding that set the terms of the conversation; thus, the particular mix of posts, tweets, FB discussions, poems, videos, and what-not emerged as the Rhizo14 language. This included some, excluded others, and kept some of us (me certainly) in a constant state of tension.
I’ll close this by saying that those who participated found the various technologies an affordance rather than a hinderance. Thus, we all brought at least a minimal command of the tools of the conversation. This cannot be over-estimated. It’s the ticket to get in the door. We are all 21st century literate. To borrow a quote from George Siemens: “Literacy is the ability to engage in the dominant conversations of the age.” Rhizo14 literacy includes FB, Twitter, P2PU, blogs, and more. This literacy included some and excluded others—even within the community as some missed a FB or Google+ conversation because of their discomfort with the particular platform.
If I had to pick the most important force, I would choose ethos, our shared belief that the community was engaged for our mutual benefit. We maintained a sense of high integrity and honesty that allowed us to overcome the tensions inherent in any group and around which some of the best conversations emerge. As Simon points out, D&G desire is at the heart of it, and had any of us suspected a predatory desire at work, we would have fled. This desire is what I’ve been trying to capture in my discussion of covenants vs. contracts. I’m not there yet, but I expect lots of help from this fine community.
I can understand Rhizo14 in this current thread: honest, resourceful, committed people desiring connection and sharing value with each other to increase the value of the conversation for all. Most of the time, most of us enjoy that kind of community. To my mind, this is one of the most critical differences between rhizomatic education and traditional education: too many of my students are in class for purely selfish, competitive reasons. They don’t see their classmates as colleagues in community but as competitors to be trounced. Rhizo14 could never have emerged in that spirit.