Agree//disagree: a poem and its inspirations.

..or hidden musings on conversation, community & making stuff up.

On Saturday morning, I was sitting with my 3 year old at a cafe having breakfast, and a few moments of silence passed between us.  As my mind wandered vaguely to some of the things I’d read the previous night, these lines came into my head:

Agree, disagree
Debate
Abate…

I looked  for a pen. I didn’t have one. So as a small child ate raisin toast, I typed the lines into Evernote on my phone and some more came tumbling out. I paused a little in between, thinking about discrete things I’d mulled over, mostly during the previous evening. This is the poem (which I later put into notegraphy – thanks Mariana), and some of the thoughts and influences behind it.

agree-disagree, a poem

Agree//Disagree
Debate.
Abate.
The norms we
Storm
Thru
Conversation

The seeds of inspiration for these lines – and much of this poem – came from Mariana’s Storify ‘The interpersonal contract in cMoocs’ , which I’d actually come across from Jeff Merrell’s post ‘Teaching Uncertainly #rhizo14’. Here, Jeff talks about an open blogging assignment/experiment he’s running – and how one of his student’s blog posts (Andee Weinfurner @andeew38) was picked up and woven into this storify ^ by Mariana. I was intrigued (and actually a bit surprised) that he and Mariana hadn’t known of each other prior to this, and touched by the depth and thoughtfulness of their exchange in the comments on Jeff’s post. It reminded me, again, what catalysts blog posts can be in developing deeper connections with people – when you take the time to listen, reflect and respond thoughtfully. I love that I found both Jeff and Mariana in precisely this way – and I guess it’s no coincidence that they found each other this way too. Perhaps this is something of the human connection that Jeff’s student blogger Andee asks about in her post.

I was intrigued enough to click on the link to Mariana’s storify and was blown away by all that it said. It’s about the way we’re relating to each other in #rhizo14 (and cMOOCs generally) and the impact that the lack of explicit norms might have in shaping the rhizo14 dialogue and experience. Mariana’s storify was what I was thinking about on that Saturday morning. In particular, this:

As I read this again some days after, I’m struck by how much of this passage I internalised – its influence unmistakably present in those first few lines that came into my head that Saturday morning. So once again, Mariana has challenged me to think and reflect about my own behaviour (‘Is this something I do?’ ‘What impact might it have on the tenor of the dialogue?’). We tend to be brought up to value debate, logic, to take a strong position on something and defend it – argue to the death. Conceding to another is often perceived as a sign of mental weakness. What impact does this have on our ability to see the grey, the nuances in complexity? How does this impact our willingness to listen – really listen – to what someone else is saying? How often are we already thinking about how we’ll respond – and cutting in – before the other person has even had a chance to speak? I guess that is what this is about:

Communication?
Or
Obsfucation
Sublimation

As I wrote this that morning, I was also thinking about Nick Kearney (@nickkearney)’s post ‘Marram Grass’, and Mariana’s comment on that, which I’d also seen the previous evening. Is conversation the community in #rhizo14? (the precise thought I’d had a couple of weeks ago). If so, where are these conversations occurring? And what do we even mean when we talk of ‘conversation’ online? It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot throughout rhizo14, and also as a result of concurrently helping coordinate a new L&D twitter chat (#OzLearn), plus the Sydney Third Place social/networking meetups – how is conversation taking place within these various spaces, what does it look like, what does it ‘feel’ like, similarities? differences? Is there ‘conversation’? Is there (emergent) ‘community’? It’s something I’ll be writing a more focused post on but this was all in my subconscious as I wrote these lines.

When trying to define something unknown online, you inevitably try to relate it to what’s familiar offline, in real life. And so it was on that Saturday morning. Thoughts of community conjured up visuals of church > nationalism > patriotism.

Congregation
Of a nation
Community
And unity – ?

Then, of course, there’s contrast:

Or distribution
And divergence
Individuals
Do
Convergence.
On their blogs

This ^ is actually a reference to divergent vs convergent thinking, raised by Maureen Crawford in a comment on my previous post, as well as in her own post ‘Networks are expanding our ignorance’. I recall distinctly this having a big impact on me as the realisation dawned that both ‘divergent browsing’ (e.g. rampant blog hopping…?!) and ‘convergent thinking’ (e.g. thoughtful reflection) are important and necessary, essential parts of the creative process.

And, as I started thinking about the process of blogging, what it feels like when you write a post (well, to me, anyway):

Moments of clarity

…simultaneously littered with uncertainty and self doubt, comparisons with others…the wondering of whether what you’re writing even makes sense, the feeling that you’re just  making it up as you go – and hoping that nobody notices (or that at least they don’t call you out too badly for it…)

Parity
Sparity
Sparcity
and farcity

(And yes, I made up those words…cos there aren’t that many words that rhyme with ‘clarity’  or ‘parity’, and once I started, it was hard to stop. Too much fun. And it kinda fits with the theme.)

Embryonic thoughts put out to sea
Posting letters
up in a tree
planting rhizomes
weeds that spread
messages in bottles
we set them free

The sea references ^ are again Maureen-Crawford-inspired, with a little bit of Ryan Tracey serendipity added into the mix. Here’s the story: a few days ago, Maureen tweeted me this:

@jmca3ualberta_machado

Initially I was just going to respond a simple (normal) reply of thanks…but decided that would be boring and responded by poem instead (harder in 140 chars than you might imagine! But it was Friday, I was feeling playful):

@jmca3ualberta_machado_reply

Just after I sent that I went and had a look at a link which Ryan Tracey (@ryantracey) had posted on my previous post…and was amazed to find it led to this:

Wow. How’s that for serendipty?! (We both agreed it was a little creepy….but as it turned out there were more serendipitous moments to be had….).

The bit about trees and rhizomes was, I’m sure, my mind casting itself back to this bit of Mariana’s Storify:

***

Postscript:

And then, later that night, well after I’d written it, I also took at look at another of Mariana’s storifies ‘Help stamp out nouns’, the ending of which communicates exactly the feeling  I was trying to convey with those made up words in the poem.

None of us really know what we’re on about: we’re just all fumbling around in the dark together. And maybe that’s (at least in part) what ‘community as curriculum’ really means. Making sense of what we’re making up. Together.

Reflections on digital landfills and echoing content

I comment a fair bit on other people’s blogs, discussion forums etc. Somehow I find it much easier to comment on someone else’s blog  – I think it’s about being part of a conversation, the focus on joint contribution, rather than solely just my words. I’ve never particularly enjoyed being the centre of attention.

I’ve contemplated posting comments as blog posts. But I kind of like the idea of keeping my comments, in their place of origin, embedded in its original context. I feel something of their history might be lost by  uprooting them – by dismembering them from the dialogue. So I’ve resisted. Until now.

I’m posting my comment in response to this post ‘Digital landfills and creativity’ by Mariana Funes (aka DS106 shrink) to remember its message. It’s about the possible consequences of our ever-increasing – and often mindless – consumption, sharing and creation of digital content. It really, truly made me question my own assumptions about the value of sharing and content creation, to critically assess the depth of my engagement, and reflect on my experiences of open online learning –  in particular rhizo14, where I’ve often felt distracted by the abundance, almost too distracted to engage. Mariana’s post was inspired by ‘Echoes of content’ by Alastair Creelman – an equally excellent post on this theme of thoughtless sharing and creation. Would definitely encourage the reading – and consideration – of both posts. As I thought about Mariana’s post the following morning,  lines of poem came to me, which I scrawled (in pink texta – 1st thing within reach) on scraps of paper . I typed out the poem with this comment (written after the poem >and I think writing the poem actually enabled me to articulate some semi-coherent thoughts). I’ve repackaged the poem against the backdrop of my scrawled notes – a remix, of sorts.

wow, what an incredibly thought provoking post. I started writing a response last night, but then abandoned it as I wasn’t quite sure what to say or whether it would be coherent.

This is a hard one. Because I recognise the personal value in regular practice of creativity, writing, reflection, narration, blogging – even ‘half baked’ thoughts for others to play with and explore, remix and remake.

However, your post has highlighted the flipside of creating a culture that values creation and sharing above all else, that equates posting evidence of thinking *with* the existence of thought itself. No longer is it enough to reflect privately, we must share and declare our reflections. The culture it creates is one of constant distraction, constant pressure to post and to advertise your postings, to demonstrate your engagement. There is an underlying sense of competition about it, of jostling to get the most comments and most likes. It creates a constant pressure to create, but also to consume and to comment, we’re flying through posts leaving our breadcrumbs of thought. But how deeply are we reflecting and thinking? How meaningful is our engagement?

I’ve been struggling with this a bit in rhizo14 – the abundance, the pressure to create and consume. I’ve got about 20 tabs open, 4 half finished blog posts, and pages and scraps of notes and half finished thoughts. All of which I haven’t shared (yet). Though I feel the pressure to. And I will (eventually).

Yet I don’t know that the answer is to actually or completely stop what we’re doing. I’ve definitely got value out of others’ ‘half baked’ thoughts – and as Alan points out, even when there is no direct comment, or explicit evidence that someone has visited or read or thought about what you’ve posted, chances are someone has – or will.

So in the end, I have rambled and rumbled through this reply…not proposing any real ‘answer’ or solution. But I guess that’s part of the point – it’s a complex question without a definitive answer. Embracing uncertainty.

I’ve found myself spontaneously thinking in poem a lot through this rhizo14 experience. When I’ve written down the poetic threads of thought I’ve realised why: often the poem is a much more succinct expression of my thoughts. Thoughts that are too complex to make into a coherent post or response.

I was thinking about this post you wrote when I got up this morning, and amongst the threads of thought were some lines of poem that came into my head. I sat down and wrote them out. Here is what came out:

Rabbitholes1Rabbitholes2

Excellent conversations have emerged across both blogs – and in the context of this week’s topic about books making us stupid,  I say maybe: because no book enables to anyone to engage directly in conversation with the author immediately after publishing. The only downside? A digital landfill.