Monday, March 7, 2016


I am immensely privileged.

I am fully employed with an interesting profession.

I have been able to invest time in this amateur activity of blogging.

I have been able to invest time in this amateur activity of cmoocing.

I have been privileged to be able to learn in the company of others from whom I have gained enormously.

These others come from wildly different contexts and have a variety of objectives.

I spent some of this last week learning about "blockchain".

I would probably not have invested the energy in the venture had it not been for my peers.

I have worked in a wide number of activities either thanks to not needing money as I was alone and could get by with little or because I have had a job which has enabled me to organise myself to do other things for free or to do irregular  but attractive "gigs" for money.

The way things are moving, there are more and more people who will be doing irregular "gigs" not out of choice but out of necessity.

More and more will be "self-employed" "entrepreneurs"...."journeymen."

A quick browse of the internet this morning and I fall upon
an article by Howard Jarche entitled "Hierarchies in Perpetual Beta - A post-job economy."

I was reading reactions to "rhizomatic learning" on Facebook coming from Torn Halves who was suggesting that it was "personalized learning":

So this is personalised learning, is it not? A simple term. No need to trek across a thousand plateaus in order to get an idea of what is being talked about. If a spade is a spade, why call the personalisation of education rhizomatic?

Well I think he makes a valid point.

You could argue that as each person maps their own learning - such a map might include badges or blockchain credits which might be used to validate their efforts in order to monetize them.

I could list the different competences that I have developed over a period of practising "connected learning" or is it "rhizomatic learning"- another term to which Torn Halves might say:

If a spade is a spade, why call the personalisation of education connected learning?

One might remark Dave Cormier's negative reaction to this iteration of blockchain technology

So whatever i thought we could do with blockchain... it's the opposite of this:

after all, isn't "rhizomatic learning" applicable to formal education? 

Isn't one role of formal education to enable people to exchange their learning for qualifications, badges, blockchains whatever, for monetary rewards? 

Isn't that what Dave Cormier is doing with this e-book draft in which he talks of grading contracts: 

It is all very well for me to say that learning is not about money. 

Indeed if Dave is doing #rhizo14/15/16 it is related directly to his salaried profession which allows him to do the activity for free.

Others are able to monetize their research into rhizomatic learning.

We could talk of other learning experiences used for credit in formal education. Here's an article entitled: "Custom Learning Contracts."  

So kids are doing all sorts of activities for credit - that is not so far away from what kids are already doing in apprenticeship training.

I return to the question of "normativity" in "rhizomatic learning" in answer to a remark from Torn Halves, I suggested that there is no "normativity" in "rhizomatic learning".

Well I think that Torn is right to challenge that.

If we say there is "no normativity" that is in itself "normativity".

All of this brings us back to the question of "Making the Community the Curriculum."

If we make the community the curriculum that is not the same as a personalisation of learning.

We can have personal learning in service to a community which may enable emergent learning which may benefit all.

Such learning will surely not happen if we concentrate on the "personalization of learning" based on algorithms with expected outcomes.

Algorithms might help. Hashtags might help. Data contained in blockchains might help.

This is more than "personal learning" focused on the individual.

There have been many cases where the learning has not simply been personal but communal -for example the experience of writing the untext for #rhizo14 Writing the unreadable untext .

That is not personalized learning.

There is certainly a "normativity" within the "rhizo14/15/" groups - there are values which are not simply commercial.

There are clear educational values.

The question of extraction of value is crucial to address.

I regret that we cannot ignore "learning for credit" questions related to rhizomatic learning - even if we are not directly interested in it for vulgar monetary gain...


  1. Perhaps the reasons that make the idea of normativity so difficult for pro-rhizomatic individuals are the same reasons that make the word "community" sound rather odd here. The discussion on FB showed how quick people there are to draw a distinction between the internal and the external. The internal is meaningful. Learning is meaningful. Education is organised by external factors (the state, the local elders, the priests, etc.), and is therefore not meaningful. This is symptomatic of a breakdown in what sociologists would recognise as a community (where community is something different from modern and post-modern, urban and highly technologically-mediated society). People who feel they belong to a community do not recognise a split between the inner and the outer with respect to that community. They are the community and the community is them.

    Surely, Dave Cormier could have begun his book with the injunction to make the individual the curriculum, and the result would have been the same. Fleeting special-interest groups then become the means by which adult learners pursue their personal learning objectives. For you, it looks like the rhizome at the moment, but next year it could be something else and you will be off to another group, picking and mixing as you see fit. Using the word "community" for that obscures its distinctive character, which is very different from the kind of community we can see expressed, for instance, in the funeral oration of Pericles.

    A popular acronym for people trying to learn and earn online is PLN: personal learning network. The network is personal. These are person-centred forms of sociality; very different from the life of older communities united not by particular interests but by a sense of belonging.

    Then again, the concept of the person is closely associated with the rise of modern rationalism. The person is not just the owner of property and the subject of contracts, but also the critical thinker and the subject of rational discourse. The person is therefore a rather striated, arboreal entity capable of holding itself apart from the flow of communal life, retaining a position of sober critique as others descend into the Bacchanalian revel. The discourse of the rhizome is, perhaps, more on the side of the Bacchanalian revel. "Drunkenness as a triumphant irruption of the plant in us."

    Perhaps, therefore, the rhizome discourse belongs to a post-modernity in which the modern idea of the bourgeois individual has become untenable. We all find ourselves dwarfed by massive incomprehensible systems, with our lives governed by unaccountable, impersonal flows of capital. To that extent Foucault was right to declare the death of man.

    The strange normativity of the rhizome is perhaps its mix of refusal (it obviously wants to be anti-capital) and capitulation (affirming the disintegration of the bourgeois self).

  2. Finding the motivation, and the time, to dig into articles you and others are writing, and finding guides or road maps, that connect us to each other, seems to be necessary and worth discussing.