Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Beautiful Chaos & Messing Around – Unwriting #rhizo14 collaborative autoethnography


So Keith and I were DMing the other day and came up with this crazy idea that just proceeded to get crazier and more complex and definitely more beautiful in its chaos. I think we created a monster, but a good one, really πŸ˜‰

Keith’s already blogged about it here. It started out as me suggesting “why don’t we write an article about why the #rhizo14 collaborative autoethnography isn’t getting written?” and ended up as a google doc to which maybe 14 people got access and maybe 9 or 10 participated either in the body of the text or in the (truly beautiful) marginal comments.

And now we’re faced with another dilemma. What we have created so far is, as Keith has explained, something like a micro-instance of #rhizo14 in action. But in short form. Not really that readable, but something short enough that someone could wade through it and get a sense of what it feels, experientially, to have gone through rhizo14 if you were following the posts of the people who authored that doc.

And now here’s how I feel about this doc: let’s embed it into whatever article we write – but we still need to write something legible that collects our thoughts from everywhere (much of which is in that doc, too, hidden in the ways we’ve written it, but there all the same). We’re all authors of THIS text, and if everyone’s willing, Keith and I could do an intro and conclusion that pulls together some legible strands for an article, with the gdoc embedded in the middle as the “meat” of the article, or as an artefact.

What do others think?

The other thing I’d been hoping to do is to actually give a sampler of the autoethnog itself (from narratives of those people involved in authoring this untext).

Apologies for the messy thoughts. A little overwhelmed after reading the totally unlinear gdoc.

What was incredible about it, though, was this: only ONCE near the very end did I wonder “who wrote that part?” – throughout the document, I could either tell whose voice it was writing, or I could tell it was more than one person writing. Do I really know these people’s writing so well right now that I didn’t even need to consciously process something like this? That’s amazing.

Oh – and one final note (and question to Keith): decalcomania; how’s that concept different from recognizing that “the map is not the territory” (as was mentioned in the marginalia of the gdoc)?


  1. I like the idea of composing something for hybrid pedagogy – but I think it needs to be readable not just to those who participated, but readable for anyone – more accessible. Otherwise, we are just talking to ourselves.

    • Agree Rebecca, which is why we need to extract the legible text from that doc (most of which is in the margins, actually!) and put legible text around at doc. Or do you have another idea? That was just the one i had thought up..

  2. I wandered into your autoethnography like a child wandering into a movie late. I wrote a few lines and wandered off again. Sorry. It ‘s not that I wasn’t interested. Just bad timing and circumstance only making me appear to be of no use.

    • You’re not “of no use” and I am not sure which one you’re talking about πŸ™‚ the new doc or the old doc? πŸ™‚ BUT it occurs to me that what you just described is EXACTLY what can happen in cMOOCs, right? That sometimes you stumble upon (in this case you’re invited) to something, and it’s not the right time for you or you feel lost, then you leave and feel you haven’t had an impact but you have… Or not, but in this case you have. I know there is a lot going on for you f2f so don’t worry. But feel free to wander back in anytime πŸ™‚

  3. I thought about summing it up in a zeega. But unlikely until December. Is that a good way to ‘mine’ that deep vein? Perhaps that is the way to think about it. Raw material to be reworked into summary, multi-modal pieces, poetry, videos, animations, cartoons?

  4. Another question that needs asking is, is this activity (in the Google doc) learning? Or just goofing off? Is it something that should be taken seriously?

    • Hi in answer to Rebecca, it is impossible to answer whether ‘this activity is learning’ because that entirely depends on a moment, an individual, of connections being made, all of which are unlinear, context dependent, chaotic. Nothing is ‘just goofing off’ or ‘just serious’ in itself. ‘Is it something that should be taken seriously’ well that really depends on ones point of view. I would suggest that much apparently ‘serious research’ should not be taken seriously.

      I am quite ok with an apparently serious article looking at issues of
      Methodology of research
      Methodology of representation of data
      Authorship – identity – ethical issues
      Power issues – voice – volume – appropriation – time
      Participation issues
      (Rhizomatic) learning
      Genre – poetic – musical – zeegal – marginal etc
      Performance -front-back stage


      It should not be too difficult to extract such themes ethically and to report on them.

      • Agree Simon. Good list of issues, all extractable from that doc and our blogposts from earlier. I am suggesting we write that legible article and embed the gdoc in it (maybe not sandwiched as i had first thought, not as the meat, but as a side dish or dessert?)

  5. Have to read up on grounded theory but the symposium I just went to at least gave me some starting points. As a declaration of identity the original is quite rich in who we are and the worlds we inhabit. As I struggle with the idea of where I “belong” that seems a useful path too.
    Messiness and chaos is fine at the ground level but shouldn’t we strive for some sense making. Anyone can make a mess and that’s fun, but sense matters too. Even if we are only responding to our own group there’s a dynamic of communication to be explored in how disparate groups of individuals come together.
    I agree with Rebecca that we develop a public persona–explain ourselves at least so we ourselves know we are real.

    • Right – agree on making it legible but not to let me know i am real (i know i am) but to make it readable for others. I think, at the very least, the main points Simon listed can be made into an article.

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