Friday, March 11, 2016

In memorIam.

This is a terrible review.  I am writing it from memory. I don't have any notes in front of me.


My memory is full of wholes (unexpected spelling error, I shall leave it there for reflection).

It's all I've got.

It will have to do.

I am not going to waste my time.

So here it goes.

In memorIam

I really enjoyed reading Frances Bell, Marianna Funes, and Jenny Mackness' article on rhizo14 entitled: "The rhizome: A problematic metaphor for teaching and learning in a MOOC.

The enjoyment came from interacting with the piece using  (see Learning in the wings.)

My reflection came after the enjoyment.

I enjoy reflecting too.

This is what I thought:

It brilliantly succeeds in illustrating for me how problematic the rhizome is when used as a metaphor for teaching and learning in a MOOC.

One of the key takeaways from the article:  (filtered through my faulty memory)

it suggests that we should engage with the "rhizomatic learning theory"
(I assume this means Deleuze and Guattari and academics who write about the rhizome as exemplified by the article's well-researched bibilography).

We should (I understand from my faulty memory) engage with the theory before venturing into "rhizomatic learning" if we want to avoid "negative consequences".

I remember that term "negative consequences."

"Negative consequences" sound serious.

I think "negative consequences" mainly concern upsetting people.

I think they use the word "vulnerable" a number of times.

We are vulnerable.

Interacting with others that we know or don't know can reveal these vulnerabilities to ourselves and to others.

Learning and living tests our vulnerability.

I know no other resolution for vulnerability than honesty, forgiveness, caring and love.

I read with interest the authors' literature review but I can't remember much now without notes.


I remember reading an idea that we should engage with "rhizomatic learning theory".

I am not at all too sure whether such theory exists or what it entails.

On reading the article, I learnt that Gilles Deleuze formed many of his ideas working in a psychiatric clinic with Félix Guattari.

This will be news to Félix.

Where was Gilles hiding?

Perhaps he pretended to be one of the patients.

Perhaps he was one of the patients - that would explain everything.

I learnt from the article (though I remember this from reading Mille Plateaux in French and listening at length to Deleuze go through his ABC, D, E, F etc in French) that for Deleuze the rhizome was NOT a metaphor but a concept or a metamorphosis.

I remember that.

I annotated the article vigorously with:


The authors of the article: "The rhizome: A problematic metaphor for teaching and learning" mention this and then totally ignore it.

It WILL be a METAPHOR. (if Deleuze thinks it or not)

The research will concern asking people about the rhizome AS A METAPHOR.

Not surprisingly, after only six weeks of not studying "rhizomatic learning theory", the research subjects are not all very clear about the rhizome METAPHOR.

Dave Cormier's suggests that his take on the rhizome for the purposes of his "rhizomatic learning" experiment is that it is NOT a metaphor but a STORY.

Dave Cormier doesn't spend much time talking about the rhizome, he records six short videos and leaves the learners make up their own Curriculum.

There is implicit (perhaps explicit) criticism that the course title for rhizo14:
"Rhizomatic Learning the Community is the Curriculum."
(if my memory is correct)
might lead learners to assume that they will be 'engaging with rhizomatic learning theory'.

No doubt a number of learners assumed that it would be an objective of the course to investigate one of the inspirations for Dave Cormier's rhizo14 - namely Deleuze and Guattari and notably Mille Plateaux.

A number of learners suggested that it was necessary to engage with Deleuze and Guattari.

Dave Cormier, naturally will not stop people who want to study theory study theory or otherwise.
(that is his explicit objective that there will not be course objectives)

I suspect his unsaid (but written) objective is that people EXPERIENCE rhizomatic learning within the educational confines of a forgiving COMMUNITY.

Dave Cormier's educational project concerns COMMUNITY.

I suspect that this is his bugbear with connectivism - that it is NOT an educational project.

"Rhizomatic Learning", I suspect is NOT a learning theory.

"Connectivism", I understand, is pushed as a learning theory.

I return to thinking about Mille Plateaux.

Speaking personally, I felt no obligation to read the book.

I was curious. I am curious.

I bought a copy of the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia in French, found an English version in PDF and bought a biography of Deleuze and Guattari.

I spent the next two years with friends and colleagues engaging with Deleuze and Guattari and having a laugh.

I haven't just been engaging with Deleuze and Guattari as that would be for me at least tanatamount to nihilism.

I am NOT nihilistic.

I have hope.

I would like to thank Frances, Marianna, and Jenny for their work which has helped me understand much, which has helped me think, which has helped me play, which inspired a blog post controvesial (OMG I am thinking in French - sod it I shall leave it like that) "Submission" which inspired a controversial article in Hybrid Pedagogy entitled Insoumis.

I look forward to reading their article on Community.

I have discussed much with Frances about community.

I have gained so much reading their work.

I still would like to find time to engage with them orally when we find the time.

I feel under no obligation to do so.

We all have just as good or better things to do.

I am open to all but wrangling - that's boring.

It is unfortunate that the vulnerabilities of people lead to them reacting negatively to others.

We are human damn us all.

I can engage with Deleuze and Guattari...up to a point.

I can no longer engage with Jenny Mackness on Twitter as she blocked me.

That's sad or perhaps its not.

I have to accept that I am considered perhaps a troll..such is life.

I have been called much worse.

I suppose those are some of the negative consequences which come from learning together and misunderstanding each other.

I return to the article.

There is implicit (explicit) criticism of Dave Cormier's teaching ethics.

I am sure he, like all of us may be clumsy or sleep sometimes, he like us all will have to face the fact that not even big data will save us from our human failings.

I have no doubt that he cares...he cares about education.

I have respect for someone who puts his neck out like he has with the Devil of complexity that is Deleuze and Guattari as bed-fellow.

Rhizomes are uncomfortable...Deleuze and Guattari are borderline.

I don't believe that "rhizomatic learning" (if that is a concept that we will use) requires one to read Deleuze and Guattari or their biography..or the work of other philosophers.

I am still struggling manfully with describing what such a concept might be.

I do believe that it is important that we work with philosophers, artists, academics, clowns, children, cats, sheep, cows, vagabonds, and politicians, if we are to be serious about thinking about education.

We also need to talk with trees and mushrooms.

Trees and rhizomes are not in opposition they are interdependent.

This work is interdependent with the work of my friends, colleagues, dog, cats, children, wife, the weather, the time of year, what I ate for breakfast, the grasss, and Frances, Marianna and Jenny's work.

We are all struggling to make sense of the world while too often ignoring trees living in harmony with lichen.

I would like to thank Frances and Marianna and Jenny for enabling me to understand that the rhizome is NOT a metaphor, that Mille Plateaux is NOT an educational theory and that academic writing doesn't have to be right or well-researched to be of some use in advancing our thinking.

My favourite quote from Frances and Marianna and Jenny's article:

I do think that Gifs have an important role to play in understanding our lot, I left a few in my annotations which I can't remember in detail now.

I wanted to leave the annotations to ferment before writing a post here.

They are of no importance.

This article is of no importance.

An article in a journal is of no importance...other than it reflects desire for learning.

Articles like gifs are open to interpretation, misinterpretation and may be wrongly ignored.

I do think that Dave Cormier will reflect on how he can usefully move the attention of learners AWAY from Deleuze and Guattari as supposed theory and the rhizome as metaphor without giving up the extraordinary quality of his "pedagogical experiments".

In that way, those who want to spend their time contemplating Mille Plateaux can do it in peace.
I note that there are now different spaces for people thinking about theory or anything goes on Facebook.

Facebook, Twitter, G+, et al are what they are...

This is a course which was supposed to last six weeks which started (if my memory is correct) in January of 2014 and we are still talking and writing about the bloody thing (NOT a thing).

We are still engaging with the concepts, the philospophy, the approach, the sillyness two years later.

There is absolutely no question in my mind that that is a successful pedagogical experiment.

There are some that consider that Dave Cormier's cMOOC "Rhizomatic Learning The Community is the Curriculum." is simply a connectivist cMOOC.

I beg to differ.

There is a key difference between connectivist cMOOC's and this rMOOC (if this is what we will call it)  which I am struggling to put into words here.

I suspect that in a connectivist theory the learning is in the network between nodes.
(I shall have to go back again and read and listen to Downes/Siemens etc).

Forgive me my ignorance but I am learning and thinking aloud here.
(Thank you for your feedback)

I suspect that learning is more personal, personalized even in a connectivist MOOC.

I suspect that in a rMOOC (if that is what we will call it) the learning is in the ever mutating community connections.

I suspect that learning is personal but not personalised but it is more than personal.

In an rMOOC the most spectacular learning is swarm-like, emergent, unpredictable, complex and challenging of the personal - of the self.

In an rMOOC the community acts as a tree of solidity in an apparently chaotic ecosystem.

The community is the person like Deleuze and Guattari become a person and then multiple.

It is perhaps that movement between unity and multiplicity and sense and nonsense which is so upsetting for some.

One has to be resilient to give up oneself to become one with the other, to become one with all and nothing.

Torn Halves has been talking, banging on even,  about values, values in education.

I coming to the conclusion that "rhizomatic learning" as an educational philosophy (dangerous word philosophy Simon - approach?) is an education for hope.

Hope in that we are more than ourselves and less than our self.

Hope in that we are nothing without the others.

Hope in that we are led to accept alienation and simultaneously our wholeness with the senseless universe.

We are patternseekers, we are sense makers.

There is no sense if there is no love.

There is no education if there is no love.

There is no learning worth learning if there is no love.

"The reduction of the universe to a single being, the expansion of a single being even to God, this is love."

Victor Hugo

I see that Dave Cormier is wanting (for the moment) to run a MOOC (cMOOC? rMOOC? other?) in May on/around/about? Resilience.

Deleuze's concept of the rhizome is resilient... it is not a metaphor.

Nihilism may be the only sustainable, rational, philosophical position to have when faced with chaos (Careful what you are saying Simon - I shall say it and then reflect) but it is not a sustainable human condition, economic or educational framework.

Nihilistic neoliberal capitalists, fascists of all colour need to be fought with love.

Faced with nonsense we can only make sense...that is our lot.

We are by nature...resilient...that is our lot.

We have no hope if we don't understand that we owe our resilience to a sustainable relationship with nature.

As far as I can see the only sense that I can make of our resilient lot is through Love.

The rest is NOUT.

We don't need philosphers to know.

"I believe strongly that philosophy has nothing to do with specialists."
Gilles Deleuze

Let us choose love rather than war.


  1. Simon, I really like here the dynamic interplay between the individual and the rhizome (the group), neither of which exist without the other. You capture this interplay so well, and I agree that this makes the rhizome other than a metaphor. It makes the interplay the thing. I suspect that the rhizome is not the way, the truth, and the life; rather, it is the walking, the talking, and the living. It's the dancing, not the dance? I think that's why rhizo14 is still with us: it is still erupting. Perhaps Dave can change the conversation, but I doubt he can change the conversing.

  2. I don't think interplay of individual and group goes far enough. For me Deleuze and Guattari are looking for a conceptual vehicle - a means of metamorphosis to access nonrational nonhuman complexity.

    This is what I am working with at moment:

    From modernity - rational science - rational individual - to complexity

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I agree that "interplay" may be too weak a word here, but I wanted it to suggest "a means of metamorphosis". To my mind, the metamorphosis comes through the circular exchange of energy, matter, information, and organization that all creatures great and small engage in with their surround. If that surround is supportive and if the creature gives as well as takes, then that exchange seems to enrich the lives of both creature and ecosystem. You say it more poetically than I, but I think I'm trying to say something similar. Or maybe I just refuse to disagree with you. I like trolling with you, Simon. And when I troll for fish with my brothers-in-law in Nassau, we have some hooks on the surface, some just under, and some deep. We always catch something.

  5. I suspect but am not sure that we need to go beyond creatures interactîng to suggest that the creature itself is at a particle level a universe - fractal iterations - unity-multiplicity-multiplicity-unity.

    1. We are ecosystem of ecosystem of ecosystem...