Not Gone

No obsolescence, a learning space is always populated.


 “Without the capacity for symbolic transcendence, for seeing the realm of daily life in terms of a realm beyond it, without the capacity for “beyonding,” as Kenneth Burke put it, one would be trapped in a world of what has been called dreadful immanence16. For the world of daily life seen solely as a world of rational response to anxiety and need is a world of mechanical necessity, not radical autonomy. It is through pointing to other realities, through and beyonding, that religion and poetry and science too in its own way, break the dreadful fatalities of this world of appearances.” P.9

“Religion in Human Evolution From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age” Robert N. Bellah, Harvard Univ. Press 2011

16: Kenneth Burke : Language as Symbolic Action U of California Press Berkeley 1966

Maha Bali
4:03pm Feb 21
Clarissa Bezerra thanks! Am hoping to help them harness the vast possibilities of connecting with teachers worldwide via social media. Bonnie Stewart also seems to like to do that, so am following in her footsteps but sort of in reverse (she sometimes tweets my blog posts to her students)

Cole & Scribner

“I don’t think that anyone who emphasizes the importance of emergent processes would deny that planful, explicitly goal-directed thought plays a role in the greatest human intellectual achievements. However, such modes of thought themselves might be viewed as emergent consequences of a lifetime of thought-structured practice supported by culture and education.”

Cole & Scribner, 1974, p.753 Culture and thought: a Psychological introduction. New York, Wiley.

Freud speaking of the study of dreams:

“It may be that this first portion of our psychological study of dreams will leave us with a sense of dissatisfaction. But we can console ourselves with the thought that we have been obliged to build our way out into the dark.”                                    The Interpretation of Dreams

From: Building Out Into the Dark – Theory and Observation in Science and Psychoanalysis, Robert Caper, Routledge, 2009

Community as Ciurriculum

I have notes all over the place on Community as Curriculum but can’t resolve into anything coherent.

While reading Jenny Mackness Rhizomatic Learning – A Pedagogy of Risk I started to realize a feeling of anticipatory observation like my head we cleared of conclusions waiting for something. This has happened before in MOOCs where I become un-tethered to the topic by a kind of overload. Sometimes it feels like hitting a level where any idea is genuine and worth chasing after and sometimes the voice say “be quiet and watch.”

At one time this seemed like simple overload. Now it feels like a beginning strategy to alternate states of attentiveness in an open field of learning. Or maybe it’s just my brain reacting to more input than can be processed?

Without being told what to learn or how to go about it there seems an obvious need come to a standstill to reorient once in a while. Except what am I orientating to? Time for quiet.  


End of week 4

Intro – Been following a number of blogs that I’m trying to make sense of. The following was a response to Cath Ellis and her first map of the London Underground blog. On to a bit on Footprints of Emergence  followed by a dip into “Image Studies: Theory and Practice” by Sunil Manghani which led to Rowland Barthes of text and the possibility of books being a continuous, but interruptible, declaration from source to present held within pages for the needs of being in some place or other while not actually being anywhere until the reading begins.

To Cath – Late on this and look forward to the following maps you discover. A map is more than what is there, it implies an intention and connections within a whole. Even a “simple” diagram of London’s underground suggests a potential field of activity and I think we understand the edges to be only conventions of presentation and not boundaries. I’m guessing but the Footprints of Emergence as a map of subjective experience declares a gravitational centre in free space that runs to the edge of sense making for each individual. The edge is there for clarity but not an indicator of width, depth or significance. What exceeds my limits may go unnoticed by others if they are seeing the map without some scale of comparison but wouldn’t that be the same for rhizomatic learners whose history as written in main line and branch by simple practicality need stop when in fact they may run on forever? Past the ability of the rhizomee to recall by simple fact of not being there.
“the text is a process of demonstration, speaks according to certain rules (or against certain rules); the work can be held in the hand, the text is held in language, only exists in the movement of a discourse (or rather, it is Text for the very reason that it knows itself as text); the Text is not the decomposition of the work, it is the work that is the imaginary tail of the Text; or again, the Text is experienced only in an activity of production. It follows that the Text cannot stop (for example on a library shelf); its constitutive movement is that of cutting across (in particular, it can cut across the work, several works).”

As a kid I worked the oil fields of the Southern San Joaquin Valley. Near Delano , the oil company decided to fence off a half mile square of bone dry lease land for a “Duck Club” and the tax break that came to those in the imaginary duck business. So two of us fenced off a square ignoring the ruts made by sheep pastured in the area for decades and ended up back there to install gates. A number of invisible conversations crossed this land. One was the notion of tax relief for oil companies’ accommodation of wildlife that club members would pay to shoot. The needs of sheep and their shepherds on formally open range to pass to distant water sources uncomplicated by the knowledge of water sources to remain unknown lest the place fill up with crazy duck shooting oil tycoons. And the story of easy pointlessness of digging holes in hardpan adobe soil to ultimately protect sheep from being mistaken as ducks.

Doesn’t quite match

Somewhere I’ve read that gesture and language light up the same area of the brain which led me to “The Development of Thinking and Reasoning” ed. Pierre Barrouillet and Caroline Gauffroy Psychology Press 2013 where I found something interesting:

“However, much of modern life involves systems that lie well beyond one’s individual context. In these circumstances, inferential strategies that essentially rely on individual knowledge and experience can lead to very misleading conclusions. In the absence of specific experience and knowledge, abstract reasoning can potentially allow someone to evaluate the validity of inferences by being able to understand the logical structure of the relationships in question. In fact, of course, this kind of reasoning is what has allowed the construction of fields of knowledge which lie well beyond human experience and action.”

This suggests to me that text is vital for storing and explaining things outside of human experience like quantum physics. But this works on the assumption that orality is simplistic and a tale of direct experience and subjectivity with not ability to see or build into the absract universe.

Back on task:

10  The Mirror System, Imitation, and the Evolution of Language by Michael A. Arbib

 “Imitation involves, in part, seeing the instructor’s dance as a set of familiar movements of shoulders, arms, hands, belly and legs. Many constituents are variants of familiar actions, rather than familiar actions themselves. Thus, one must not only observe actions and their composition, but also the novelties in the constituents and their variations. One must also perceive the overlapping and sequencing of all these moves and then remember the “coordinated control program” so constructed. Probably, memory and perception are intertwined.

As the dancers perform, they both act out the recalled coordinated control program and tune it. By observing other dancers and synchronizing with their neighbours and the insistant percussion of the drummers, they achieve a collective representation that tunes their own, possibly departing from the instructor’s original. At the same time, some dancers seem more or less skilled—some will omit a movement, or simplify it, others may replace it with their imagined equivalent.”

End: Imitation as listening > Listening as orality > Imitation and language are bound by gesture > Knowing as repeating at a gut level—subjectively translated and consumed by the receiver > To “immitate” in text is to copy that which isn’t yours to copy  so you are unable to truely “know” it?

Uncertainty again

Some notes on uncertainty for week 3.

Can the presented uncertainty be acted on, worked with or become something that becomes knowable?


If we can’t enter into the uncertainty in a way that we feel is meaningful then it remains a form of nonsense. If we create the uncertainty or it forms part of an agreement to not seek a single interpretation then we can have a social energy that sparks a search for understanding that is group built and not something that leaves some powerless in their inability to fully understand or honestly agree / disagree.

If we know what constitutes a falsehood we can narrow the field of uncertainty (narrowing is not necessarily a good thing) to something that leads towards value. The point is not to make a rigid “truth” but rather a malleable and understandable agreement powered by its goal to move us towards a richer understanding without necessarily providing the closure of a definitive answer.

A number of people in Rhizo14 have mentioned uncertainty as the unfamiliar that creates a kind of vacuum for discovery. Being allowed to say “I don’t know” releases energy that being obligated to know kills. A person free to explore the field of a dilemma enriches the environment they practice in and shuns false obligations to technique over truth.

Uncertainty allows for mystery and confusion to exist as rightful states of the human condition. Why not be undecided? If we learn to live with uncertainty we become more complete and ready for responsibility that doesn’t lean on the instance of impersonal rules but does rely on personal commitments to hold care of reality regardless of however it presents itself.

Thanks to Karen Armstrong and her book “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.” Alfred A. Knopf, 2011

 Humberto R. Maturana and Francisco J. Varla “The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding” Revised 1992 Shambhala Press

Mine Field – yours is over there

Need to post again on WEEK 2 rhizo14. This is driven by some of the comments I’ve read and a ripple in the group about collaborative projects.  Also, I’m feeling scattered and too distributed across REPLY windows.

First, the call for collaborative projects worry me as a call to collectively establish meanings way too soon. I don’t want to decide as a group about anything yet. Nor-personally. Additionally, and I understand this is entirely unintentional) I don’t want to adopt a particular method of understanding designed to be properly assembled for academic approval purposes. It doesn’t help my understanding nor the process of discovery to to have everything ‘just so’ and worded for an audience when I need to talk to myself first–get these other people out of here.

And since I’m rolling in this mood…Looking at Cath Ellis‘ poster I’m struck by the friendliness of all those potatoes and wonder where power comes in? I think this has something to do with the next step here in Rhizo14 but we have to account for the passion of being human and also the irrational and incomplete feeling we have when we are not THERE in the middle and comfortable. As an art student it should jump right into my head  why the visuality of Cath’s poster struck me so strongly but I’ll leave it for now.

And then along comes Sandra Sinfield swimming away from shore and I think of collaboration and it feels like safety but my experience tells me that at a very important level all you have is yourself. The risk you take is not always the one you thought you were taking and you need to be able to get back home to yourself–somehow. It’s a contradiction and selfishness for me to say this. The condition of my health disallows cowboy independence, but at the end, and everywhere in between really, I need myself there. Preferably not too fucked up, but I’ll take any me that’s home.

Sandra’s comments about keeping versions, even the “bad” ones speaks to having a history of things unfinished and imperfect and reminds me that even monitored or rule following social structures built on agreements among participants can betray. Betrayal in the sense of being wrong to ourselves in seeking membership or approval and wrong to others by the strange innocence of rules. Weirdly, because we have a history of screwing each other we have a brain that accommodates bad outcomes, revised strategies, forgiveness and living together in spite of all the crap. Not sure I’d trade all that fun for getting along with each other:-)

Just reread Sandra’s post (I get lost and have to go back) and found the trigger that set this off:

That fear of making a fool of yourself – of not getting it right – of making your own ignorance visible to the world – of being judged.

And this reminded me of critiquing in art class and how it allowed us students to be the totally self-involved rats we were while supporting our fellows to be stronger and better without sacrificing the spark of nastiness that makes it all so special. Explanations later.

Rhizomes that twist your arm

The question: Explore a model of enforced independence. How do we create a learning environment where people must be responsible? How do we assure ourselves that learners will self-assess and self-remediate?

 Every Art Every Child – Studio Habits

“As artists, kids have to learn to chase the quality of their work. Artists must make the best art that they can make, but that’s not your job. Your job is to get your students to chase the quality of their own work and make the best work they can make. So it can be confusing. I think we get really trapped and stuck in thinking that it’s our job to make really high-quality work, so that we can put it out in the hall and everybody will say that we have a good art program. “

I like this quote and think it fits in with the idea of “enforced independence”—which might sound better if we thought of it as removal of “dependency” or as Felicia Sullivan mentioned on Facebook: Graduated Release of Responsibility where a person goes from being a student to being a learner.

Being a life-long-learner is something to take on personally. Seems odd to me that anyone would find something in school to personalize, it all seems so deliberately generic. But maybe an interest springs up and person wants to learn more. Or because everything is so the same, an individual wants a different viewpoint than the “we are all knowing the same thing in the same way” tape loop and goes off on their own? Or after a while of “not understanding”, people begin see the system isn’t listening, is going to persist repeating the same gibberish, and those people see no loss in finding a genuinely responsive environment and attempting to figure things out themselves.

 In normal times of course any ideas outside the norm are punished by further exclusion but the price of non-membership may be worth it.

Step one in creating a self-actualizing learner is to display respect for personal interests. There are too many things out there to cover all of them. And it’s simply not possible that some things are unworthy further attention because all the important crap needs to be covered first. Why are we afraid of self-declared interests? Will people skip out on brain surgery in favour of bowling? It seems we always need to do some “necessary” thing first and forget how to be interested.

One last thing, an independant learner can be wrong and not know it but  will never be as wrong for so long as the celebrated Mr Clueless because LLL self-corrects.

Can’t Find My Way Home – Bonnie Raitt & Lowell George & John Hammond Jr & Freebo

Week One cheating

Been stuck at every approach to the Week One question. Like the idea of a troll blocking a bridge until the travler answers a question correctly…

I didn’t like school and felt it was chamber of questions that no kid could possibly know about asked by adults who not only worked together to screw you up but were allowed to pass judgement on your performance that effected your whole life. And no one even asked if I wanted to do this. Even though I tried my inability became a sign of uncooperative behaviour which began to suit me. Working with apprentices in construction you weren’t allowed to substitute not-getting-it with low grades or some other judgmental convenience. You had to keep trying.

Cheating = assuming that someone is inferior or fractious because they don’t understand YOUR explanations.

Who decides meaning? Why are there Deciders who establish meaning and Guessers who labor over what the Deciders were thinking? Why does one group control reality and the second group have to agree with them in the form of correct answers and proper procedural thinking? Based on personal experience I think reality runs on in spite of our misunderstandings but so what? It’s interesting that things are versioned out, misplaced or misunderstood and I think we might be mistaking the purpose of learning to achieve a false clarity.

Cheating = Naming something called “learning” the pursuit of one understanding. And saying that works.

My understanding of reality never sits still. Though there are times when ideas seem very persuasive, being a person is complex, undecided and contradictory like crazy.  We cheat this with certainties we don’t have.

Intro to Rhizomatic Learning

Having been through a lot of changes over the last few years my interest in how things develop or become stuck keeps coming up. Personally, I’ve found myself both not particularly adaptable and also impatient in being stuck in one place.

After working most of my life in building construction, health conditions pushed me over into working at a small college. First researching methods for transitioning face to face instructors to online course delivery and later to helping enter course material into the LMS. Much of my research was based on simply phoning faculty training offices and speaking to whoever was there. It was surprising to me that one story after another featured active resistance and instructor melt-downs which were remarkable reflections of my own life in change.

My curiosity continues, especially around how we can move forward with the following barriers in place:

  1. People are generally not comfortable with change and tend to sabotage their own growth for the comfort of the familiar
  2. My definition of “growth” is suspect because it seems based on a notion of “progress” that relies on doing the same things, but with different tools—fooling myself with newness
  3. How far into the unfamiliar can we reach and still process what we observe? If we become so disorientated we can’t function then what we discover may be meaningless.

This is the point at which I begin to think exploring rhizomes as a metaphor for learning kicks in. If it isn’t possible for me to make meanings on my own then it seems an obvious advantage to work in a group and tune up listening skills to extend my understandings. Over the last few years the groups I’ve been in at work taught me to not pay much attention. Being licensed in a couple of building sub-trades and also an avid life long learner has no currency in higher education. When I asked questions I was TOLD things, when I had observations I was TOLD things and when I challenged I was TOLD to leave. This of course doesn’t apply to everyone in education  but this unhesitating urge to rightness is certainly a barrier to change.

Have a copy of Deluze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus. I’ve read a couple of pages here and there and don’t see a useful connection to the world I experience. Back when I was 18 or so their writing. Now I prefer to struggle with Psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas, Philosopher Christian Smith or Writer Annie Dillard.


machine learning

New Years resolution to post more often.

Recently, Jaap Bosman posted on learning machines and Lisa Lane responded: 

“Could we please consider for a moment that there’s supposed to be a difference between what’s learned in college and the workplace?”

This is a very good question–in other words, I thought it might a very obvious “well of course” kind of answer that would please my ever-curious college student brain and triggers a shrug from my worker brain. The problem for me is the two domains are really hard to isolate as individual sources of skills. Nor am I clear of the purpose of thinking one way or another if the end result resolves the problem.

That’s a simplification but it does bring up the idea (to me anyway) of there being something  that acts as a limit on thinking?
>Or preferences one “type” of thinking over another?
>And is thinking in different ways something we learn?
>Do we learn to approach a problem from different angles or to apply wider ranges of possibility in a strategic way as a result of learning in a “way” that differs from from straight perceptual observation?
>And since it’s important to bring up the idea of social class when discussing higher education, can we think about an individual’s permitting themselves to think in certain domains? This permission thing is also appropriate when thinking about Machine MOOCs (as Jaap refers to them) because they are being looked at as educational alternatives in emerging economies where being poor is a place in the social order that being educated won’t change.

Apologies for this jumping around a bit. My resolution for the coming year is to try and be settled with the damage I’ve sustained over the last few illnesses. I’m scattered, it’s the way I am.

Happy New Year and Happy birthday to John Mack!

From “Light” by M. John Harrison:
“This reminded Ed of something he had been meaning to ask. ‘Hey,’ he said. ‘What planet am I on?’
Vesicle stared at him.
‘ Come on,’  Ed said. ‘Be fair. Anyone can have a problem with that.’ “

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