Bookmarked Rhizomatic Learning – a somewhat curious introduction by dave dave
I apologize for leaving you without a definition or a clear theory of rhizomatic learning, however useful these things could be. Theories, like definitions, help create a shared common language. As we reify language into chunks it creates a shorthand that allows us to communicate faster and more effectively. It also means that we are less likely to misunderstand each other as we have a shared ‘meaning’ for the words that we are using. I am not able to provide this certainty. But with this loss of certainty of meaning there is freedom. Feel free to take this into your own hands and draw the conclusions that work for you.
Thank you Dave for this curious introduction. There is something about definitions that promises too much and maybe delivers too little? A while back I went through my contributions to #Rhizo14 and I kind of cringe at some of my comments. However, a part of me thinks that maybe this misses the point, that rhizomatic learning is a verb, rather than a noun?

I was intrigued by your reference to the impact and influence of technology on learning. Here I am reminded of Doug Belshaw’s work in regards to digital literacies. Even before ‘digital’ is added to the equation technology has had a part to play.

Before books went digital, they were created either by using a pen or by using a printing press. These tools are technologies. Literacy, therefore, is inextricably linked with technology even before we get to ‘digital’ literacies.

I am also taken by the subjective nature of your account. This reminds me of Ian Guest’s account of ‘nudges’ that led to his research.

Personally, my own learning has led me assemblages. See for example Ben Williamson’s work with Class Dojo. I wonder about this as an approach and how it might differ from rhizomatic learning?

Also on: Read Write Collect

📓 Gatherings

Ian Guest outlines the methodological approach associated with CPDin140. He describes this as ‘gatherings’:

I call these chapters ‘Gatherings,’ drawing on the work of a number of authors, but predominantly Law (2004a: 160), for whom Gathering is:

[…] a metaphor like that of bundling in the broader definition of method assemblage. It connotes the process of bringing together, relating, picking, meeting, building up, or flowing together. It is used to find a way of talking about relations without locating these with respect to the normative logics implied in (in)coherence or (in)consistency.

Or put more concisely, Gatherings are ‘Forms of craftings. Processes of weaving.’ In an earlier post, I discussed assemblage, not as a noun, a settled and fixed entity, but an ongoing active process of entanglement. So too with the Gatherings I offer. Whereas Law proposed Gatherings as method assemblage, I offer Gatherings crafted and bundled from data, and to some extent, the literatures. They are of course obliged to be fixed at least temporarily within this thesis; ‘a local and momentary gathering or accomplishment, rather than something that stays in place’ (Law, 2004a, p.129).
Some might see this wilful avoidance of arranging findings into neatly defined packages as abrogating one’s responsibilities as researcher. One reason I present my analysis as Gatherings is that it is consistent with flânography, and how teachers experience Twitter professional development (TPD) which is often messy, not laid out as structured, planned CPD sessions might be. Although this presents challenges for analysis, the techniques of ‘plugging in’ and ‘reading data through data’ described in the previous post become important strategies. Insights which consider the implications of the data and speculate on possible consequences are woven through the Gatherings, but drawn together at the end of each.

In presenting the Gatherings, I have assembled a variety of actors and data, and through sociomaterial description, followed Decuypere and Simons (2016) in producing ‘an adequate account.’

[…] it is an account (not a neutral rendering of facts) that is aimed at being adequate (that is, that makes a description of the actors gathered in such a way that these actors can ‘speak for themselves’, instead of being ‘spoken about’).

To that end, the Gatherings in the thesis are rich with data in the form of tweets, quotes from blog posts and quotes from interviews. (In the following blog posts however, in keeping with the previous posts, I’ll be summarising rather than presenting the data in full). In Interviewing the nonhumans, I outlined five of Adams’ and Thompson’s (2016) heuristics; one of these was ‘gathering anecdotes.’ Gatherings as the means to present those anecdotes seems coherent therefore. The heuristics not only ‘help researchers attend to the role of thingly gatherings of research practices’ (Thompson & Adams, 2013) but in my case, encouraged me to produce thingly Gatherings. As such, my thingly Gatherings are ‘important actors, complicit in co-creating the happenings of the world’ (Thompson, 2016) and are of course, partial accounts of those happenings.

Bookmarked Anatomy of an AI System by an author (Anatomy of an AI System)
We offer up this map and essay as a way to begin seeing across a wider range of system extractions. The scale required to build artificial intelligence systems is too complex, too obscured by intellectual property law, and too mired in logistical complexity to fully comprehend in the moment. Yet you draw on it every time you issue a simple voice command to a small cylinder in your living room: ‘Alexa, what time is it?”
This dive into the world of the Amazon Echo provides an insight into the way that engages with vast planetary network of systems in a complicated assemblage. This includes the use of rare metals, data mining, slavery and black box of secrets. These are topics touched upon by others, such as Douglas Rushkoff and Kin Lane, where this piece differs though is the depth it goes to. Through the numerous anecdotes, it is also reminder why history matters.

Marginalia

Put simply: each small moment of convenience – be it answering a question, turning on a light, or playing a song – requires a vast planetary network, fueled by the extraction of non-renewable materials, labor, and data. The scale of resources required is many magnitudes greater than the energy and labor it would take a human to operate a household appliance or flick a switch.

Smartphone batteries, for example, usually have less than eight grams of this material. 5 Each Tesla car needs approximately seven kilograms of lithium for its battery pack. 6

There are deep interconnections between the literal hollowing out of the materials of the earth and biosphere, and the data capture and monetization of human practices of communication and sociality in AI.

Just as the Greek chimera was a mythological animal that was part lion, goat, snake and monster, the Echo user is simultaneously a consumer, a resource, a worker, and a product.

Media technologies should be understood in context of a geological process, from the creation and the transformation processes, to the movement of natural elements from which media are built.

According to research by Amnesty International, during the excavation of cobalt which is also used for lithium batteries of 16 multinational brands, workers are paid the equivalent of one US dollar per day for working in conditions hazardous to life and health, and were often subjected to violence, extortion and intimidation. 16 Amnesty has documented children as young as 7 working in the mines. In contrast, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, at the top of our fractal pyramid, made an average of $275 million a day during the first five months of 2018, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. 17
A child working in a mine in the Congo would need more than 700,000 years of non-stop work to earn the same amount as a single day of Bezos’ income.

The most severe costs of global logistics are born by the atmosphere, the oceanic ecosystem and all it contains, and the lowest paid workers.

In the same way that medieval alchemists hid their research behind cyphers and cryptic symbolism, contemporary processes for using minerals in devices are protected behind NDAs and trade secrets.

Hidden among the thousands of other publicly available patents owned by Amazon, U.S. patent number 9,280,157 represents an extraordinary illustration of worker alienation, a stark moment in the relationship between humans and machines. 37 It depicts a metal cage intended for the worker, equipped with different cybernetic add-ons, that can be moved through a warehouse by the same motorized system that shifts shelves filled with merchandise. Here, the worker becomes a part of a machinic ballet, held upright in a cage which dictates and constrains their movement.

As human agents, we are visible in almost every interaction with technological platforms. We are always being tracked, quantified, analyzed and commodified. But in contrast to user visibility, the precise details about the phases of birth, life and death of networked devices are obscured. With emerging devices like the Echo relying on a centralized AI infrastructure far from view, even more of the detail falls into the shadows.

At every level contemporary technology is deeply rooted in and running on the exploitation of human bodies.
The new gold rush in the context of artificial intelligence is to enclose different fields of human knowing, feeling, and action, in order to capture and privatize those fields.

At this moment in the 21st century, we see a new form of extractivism that is well underway: one that reaches into the furthest corners of the biosphere and the deepest layers of human cognitive and affective being. Many of the assumptions about human life made by machine learning systems are narrow, normative and laden with error. Yet they are inscribing and building those assumptions into a new world, and will increasingly play a role in how opportunities, wealth, and knowledge are distributed.

via Doug Belshaw

Replied to In just one tweet? (Marginal Notes)
A couple of weeks ago, I settled on the first iteration of my bullet points. Then a couple of days ago, while out running and listening to a podcast, I got closer to my tweet, or better yet, a phrase. It was just a word someone used on the podcast, not even related to my research, but which I felt captured the essence within the bullet points. I’ve found that teachers’ professional learning on Twitter is not a single thing, but many interwoven things brought together, working together. The word I heard on the podcast was ‘hybrid,’ but on getting home from the run, discovered it carried too much baggage, associated as it was with blended learning and more about a mixture of on and offline experiences. Even so, I knew I needed something which conveyed a similar sense of different elements working together; this is after all what assemblage is. After shuffling through a thesaurus or two (said he, neatly sidestepping the plural form), I settled on ‘Compound Learning.’ Although it didn’t feel quite the same as ‘hybrid learning,’ the more I think about it and try to flesh it out, the more right it feels.
I really like the idea of riffing off one word like ‘compound’, reminds me of my yearly focus on ‘one word‘.

Reading through your thoughts I was left wonder about the place of Twitter within it all. I understand that one needs a focus, but it sometimes feels arbitrary when reading through your work. I met you via a podcast, picked up resources via Diigo, read your blog and engaged on Twitter. When I think about this, I am left thinking that if you took Twitter out of the conversation – if such an extraction were possible – that not much would change. Is Twitter then the ‘original’ compound? It feels like the focus is connected learning or learning?

Not sure if that makes any sense? I am sure that I just don’t get it, but I thought I would share none the less.

📓 Technology is a System

Responding to yet another school shooting, Audrey Watters pushes back on those who argue that guns are not ‘ed-tech’. Instead she argues that what we define as ‘technology’ is the problem. She provides a quote from Ursula Franklin’s 1989 CBC Massey Lectures that captures this thinking:

Technology is not the sum of the artefacts, of the wheels and gears, of the rails and electronic transmitters. Technology is a system. It entails far more than its individual material components. Technology involves organization, procedures, symbols, new words, equations, and, most of all, a mindset.

Watters explains that this includes many elements within schools and should not be merely reduced to ‘computers’. In a second post, she explains that:

“Hardening schools” is an education technology endeavor, whether or not we take seriously anyone’s suggestions about giving teachers guns. For now, “hardening schools” explicitly calls for hardware like those items listed by Governor Scott: metal detectors and bulletproof windows, as well as surveillance cameras and various sensors that can detect gunfire. It also implies software – social media monitoring and predictive analytics tools, for example, that claim they can identify students “at risk” of violence or political extremism.

Coming at this problem from a different perspective, Genevieve Bell responded to questions of data and ‘neutrality’ in the Q&A associated with her Boyer Lectures. Given the example of the supposed innocence of a train timetable, she explained how Amazon use variables such as timetables to continually adjust the price of goods.

Liked ‘Our’ positionality? by Ian Guest (Marginal Notes)
Bringing a sociomaterial sensibility built on actor-network theory to this study positions me in a particular way. This eschews the notion of a pre-existent reality ‘out-there’ waiting for the knowing subject to discover and explain it. Nor is reality constructed by the distant researcher through a set of discursive practices. Instead, reality is performative, brought into being as a result of the relationships which form and reform when actors, both human and nonhuman, intra-act. As a researcher of and with teachers using Twitter then, I am entangled with a heterogenous mix of educators, software platforms, digital devices, terms of service, time zones, screens, hashtags and notifications. What emerges from the study depends on the knowledge practices which are brought to bear, but these do not solely involve a researcher, research participants and standard qualitative methods, but also an eclectic mix of other nonhuman actors. Together their relational performances constitute ‘methods assemblage’ (Law, 2004), where different realities become enacted depending on the actors which participate. One implication might be that this should not be statement of my positionality, but of ours.
Listened Bread as it ought to be Seylou Bakery in Washington DC by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast
Jonathan Bethony is one of the leading artisanal bakers in America, but he goes further than most, milling his own flour and baking everything with a hundred percent of the whole grain. He’s also going beyond wheat, incorporating other cereals such as millet and sorghum in the goodies Seylou is producing. I happened to be in Washington DC just a couple of weeks after his new bakery had opened, and despite all the work that goes into getting a new bakery up and running, Jonathan graciously agreed to sit down and chat.
One of the things that really struck me in this conversation was the produce influencing the product. Jonathan Bethony talks about the different forms of grain and finding the right type of bread to bake with it. Rather than depending on adding sugars, alcohol and herbs, the Bethany explains that the grains provide all the flavour required. This reminds me of the notion of the assemblage and learning that occurs between the different parts.
Bookmarked Interviewing the nonhumans by Ian Guest (Marginal Notes)
Twitter’s algorithms might indeed make following a hashtag easier for us, but what is it doing for Twitter? When tens of people like an educational tweet for example, how did that happen, what are the consequences and for whom?
Here is a list of heuristics taken from ‘Researching a Posthuman World’ by Catherine Adams and Terrie Lynne Thompson

Gathering anecdotes

Describe how the object or thing appeared, showed up, or was given in professional practice. What happened?

Following the actors

Consider the main practice you are interested in. What micro-practices are at work?
Who-what is acting? What are they doing? Who-what is excluded?
How have particular assemblages come together? What is related to what and how? What work do they do?> > Choose an object of interest. What is the sociality/materiality around it?

Listening for the invitational quality of things

What is a technology inviting (or encouraging, inciting, or even insisting) its user to do?
What is a technology discouraging?

Studying breakdowns, accidents and anomalies

What happens if an object breaks or is unexpectedly missing? What practices then become more visible?

Applying the Laws of Media

This heuristic draws on the tetrad of McLuhan and McLuhan (1988) and poses the questions they proposed.

What does a technology/medium enhance?
What does it render obsolete?
What does it retrieve that was previously obsolesced?
What does it become when pressed to an extreme?

Unravelling translations

How have particular gatherings come to be and how do they maintain their connections?
What unintended realities come into being as everyday practices unfold?
What is entrenched? Who-what is excluded?

Liked After Method (jmtrom.blogspot.com.au)
If methods compose reality, then we should select our methods based on what kind of reality we would like to see composed. This smacks a little of the extreme epistemological view that we can create whatever reality we want simply by imagining it to be so, but tied to the concept of the hinterland there are two significant differences. First of all, we have to start from where we are – the reality that is already composed – which provides the materials (literally and metaphorically) from which we can compose a new reality. And, second, composing a new reality will take work.
via Ian Guest