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Monk Zymurgy

Wow...well that went right over my head. You seem to have gone a little crazy, something is eating you up from the inside. Right now, I just want to give a massive squeezy hug and say 'dont worry, it will all be alright'.

Michael Coghlan

Catherine - I've been reading your comments on the forums in the mega connectivism course. While I disagree with most of what you say I do find it kind of refreshing to read someone so vehemently opposed to the value of connectivism and questioning the views of the 'echo chamber.' Do you blog anywhere else? I'd like to track you....for balance!

Eyal Sivan

Damn you. I hate to admit it but you're right on many counts.

I see your point that we should not blindly accept "the pipes" as our new dogma, allowing for "endless subjectivity" at the risk of losing the truly relevant.

On the other hand, clearly something is happening. These new technologies do diffuse everything and quite literally call into question the idea of objective relevance.

The resultant "posses" as you call them (in another post), what McLuhan calls "tribes" may very well suffer from groupthink, but they do in fact happen, and they do in fact coalesce around specific interests and points-of-view. The abundance of choice offered by new technology makes these communities-of-interest ever more accessible, stealing time away from the objectively relevant.

So here is my question: What is your solution? Do you feel we should just turn off Facebook, Second Life, etc. to re-claim time for more important things, challenging "some Hegelian imperative"? Or do you feel both bottom-up online networks and top-down Universities and equally valid, and the issue is really about balance?

If so, How do you strike a balance between Pipeism & Boxism??

The questions are sincere, not rhetorical.

Prokofy Neva

I don't see how they do "call into question objective relevance". There have always been a million birds twittering on the wire. So what? You just didn't record -- or connect to -- their every expression. The inanity of Janey's grandfather talking about the depot receipts -- that would never enter into any equation, and it would only be in an utterly fractured world that you would say that was a clue just as important a clue as anybody else's research, and throw over the professor's hard WORK culling meaning out of archival documents, for example.

Look at the Facebook group. Lame, stupid, redundant. 287 people or whatever join it, put up a couple dumb pictures, and you know what the entire content of their conversation is? Trying to figure out what each other's names are on other services so as to follow each other. Facebook merely becomes a staging area to organize, say, Twitter.

But that's not going to last. More and more, these services will die off as they don't provide value, only those that can collect money or keep getting VC infusions or have strong ad networks will prevail, and in 10 years, we'll be using less of them -- or in 10 minutes, as there are just too many of them. People reach a saturation point.

People don't enjoy being scattered -- the serendipity of finding the odd pearl off a Twitter wears off very, very quickly and then people follow less, or stop using Twitter, or only use it with FriendFeed. You have to look at people's actual behaviour, which is why I point to the Facebook group. I can almost guarantee you this FB group will have nothing happening in it of interest ever, now or in the future, and will fold.

The objectively relevant persists, gleaming in the dark, even if the window fractures into a million pieces. There may be many paths to the objectively relevant, and understanding may be imperfect, but so what? Most people aren't Walt Whitman and don't feel the need to be large and contatin multitudes.

I think the use of these services, or their fabulousness, is overly exaggerated, and I don't think you need to "turn them off". People will gravitate to what they like, and you can't force them to go Plurk if they never liked the name or felt the comfort level. They are fads, they come and go, and eventualyl it will settle, but I'm not for artificially forcing it.

I do think that educators do not have to cave and buckle to these fads. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a centralized depot of knowledge, a course page, with the course outline, with concepts and book lists, and there isn't some imperative to have a wiki that everybody can pull back and forth among themselves.

If a professor has time for a blog, he can put up a blog, but you don't see a lot of such things because I suspect professors would rather get paid for publications and do their paid work of doing lecture plans rather than blogs.

I have no idea if there is some balance point between "top down" university and "bottom up" social media but that isn't how I'd phrase it.

First of all, the university as it is today isn't the top-down horror that these extremist professors are claiming. There's nothing wrong with having an expert and small groups. There is demonstrable learning that takes place and if it takes flunking students who are lazy and can't make the effort to engage -- so be it. We likely admit and pass too many people in college -- it's not for everyone, and that's ok. There are other kinds of learning and they can go on at people's own pace.

I also don't think these social media are the fabulous open bottom-up thingies you are implying. In fact, they are usually whipsawed by a few influencers on the blogging A-list and by a few strategic commandos with early morning e-mail instructions or Twitters. There's very little new said by anybody; there's a few who are merely replicated over and over.

I don't believe in either Pipism or Boxism -- I don't build theories around pipes. The content is what matters.

Horus Vale

I had to laugh at the "Mind Map". Its so convoluted that it reminds me of a labyrinth made by an ancient sect. Its a flow chart straight from the mind of the flying spaghetti monster. Maybe if I walk its full set of paths I can see god. :-)
"Let's look at the chart, shall we?" - Ross Perot

Prokofy Neva

Actually, there's something even MORE hilarious than this nutty flow chart, which I found from the twitters today:


This is the enemy, revealing his plan for takeover.

Read my twits on this today:


Horus Vale

Thank you Prokofy for sharing "The Web is Agreement" poster. It made my afternoon. I particularly like the darkside of the net shown as the land of "Mordorsoft" complete with the "Google's All Seeing Eye" ROTFL :-D Yes, there is alot of conflicts of interested parties on the net, but that is what makes it interesting. Sorta like the 'Chinese Curse' - "May you live in interesting times".

Eyal Sivan

Your arguments, while well constructed, are circular.

On the one hand, you say there definitely is such a thing as objective relevance. You vehemently and consistently critique any point-of-view that says all opinions are created equal, because they simply are not. Let's call you history professor, Prof. Frege. You say Professor Frege's "WORK culling meaning out of archival documents" is *clearly* more relevant and has earned him the right to be called an expert. As part of being an expert, he can rightfully tell others what are the objectively relevant elements of his field.

On the other hand, we should fear Prof. McLuhan or anyone else who challenges such expertise. They are the enemy, trying to lure the masses into a stupor by saying all subjective opinions are equally valid. They are nothing but charismatic charlatans, Pied Pipers, you claim, trying to increase their own influence and power.

But How do we know the Professor Frege isn't trying to increase his influence and power? Or less insidiously, how do we know he isn't just biased towards, say, stories about the Luftwaffe or concentration camps?

Further, how do we know Prof. McLuhan isn't an expert on, say, rhetoric and language (which he was)? What if McLuhan wasn't a philosopher, but another WWII history professor who just disagreed with Frege? What makes him a Bolshevist charlatan and Prof. Frege an expert? Worse, what is Frege's expertise goes unquestioned forever and we just take it for granted that the most relevant part of WWII was the Luftwaffe?

What is an expert? And how did that one expert determine what was objectively relevant?

This is a paradox. You're basically saying that Frege = good because expert = good, but McLuhan = bad because he says expert = bad, even though McLuhan = expert.

So who get's to decide what is objectively relevant?

You do. And so do I.
What is objectively relevant is ultimately subjective.

Please not that this does not mean all positions are equal! That would just be stupid, as it would create the dumbest network possible. What you seem to take issue with is the lack of mechanisms to allow objectively relevant positions to be raised to the fore, and here I could not agree more.

The Web is not Agreement. The Web is Argument.

Prokofy Neva

I don't see anything "circular". I think you just disagree.

There are indeed better or worse sources of information. The Nazi war criminal is a biased source of information obviously. Let's assume the professor who is the World War II expert, who I haven't named, is not a war criminal and not sympathetic to war criminals (I didn't say that he was) -- he merely researched the archives in good faith.

The principle of good faith is always desperately needed in these theories, because bad faith always undoes them, but no one ever examines it.

Janey really could learn more about World War II from Professor Expert -- more than she can learn from her own grandfather, the newspaper vendor, or the war criminal. But that's just it -- I'm not setting up Prof. Expert as the ONLY source; merely *an authoritative source*. New media and all this connecting power can be used to *enhance* pluralism; it need not destroy authority, however, which is what the pipists are say.

Pipists (the fictional McLuhan -- the real McLuhan might not have been so exclusively a pipist, it doesn't seem like him, but then, I only audited his undergraduate courses) put everything into the blender as equal -- or so it seems, because they externalize knowledge, deny internal judgements, and make the pipe process of accessing more important than the content.

George Siemens and other connectiviss say you have to teach students criteria to be able to judge the relevancy of knowledge. And..how will you abstract this out of your subjectivity or their subjectivity unless you make some sort of criteria for expert status? Expert status is fine. There are criteria that we need not deconstructivize away into nothingness:

o read a variety of sources
o read original documents from archives
o talked to various sides in the conflict
o passed written and oral exams in the subject
o wrote a sustained thesis paper

and so on. These may be jettisoned now as activities for assessing learning, but that seems silly, they're perfectly fine.

Your approach requires suspicion of each authority way past the coherence and rationality point. The university is an organism that goes through and hires professors who aren't Nazi war criminals, hopefully, and not Bolsheviks, either (but they are less rigorous on the latter).

I don't have a problem with a 45 year old professor who has studied books, written thesis, sustained his study over time, checked archives, etc. etc. being called more smart and more authoritative than me, a rank undergraduate with only, say, my grandfather's memories and the most cursory Wikipedia knowledge of the subject.

So, no, I don't get to decide what is authoritative, nor do you, if i don't want to be smashed on the rocks of a million subjectivities, but do want to learn about World War II. I don't have to follow the illusory path of deconstructivism now wrapped up as connectivism. I can just say "Prof. Expert clearly knows more based on these criteria and based on my trust in the university as an institution which has a 50 year history of not putting Nazi War criminals at the podiums" and go forward. I'm not willing to let trust and reputation (other goofy geeky categories that are overrated these days) be the sole criteria, but they are a factory implicitly contained in the "university of good reputation" concept. Furthermore, the rigour of work as an academic with a Ph.D. stands itself as an institution.

Common sense is also often missing from these theories.

I don't say McLuhan is "bad," I say that merely he is giddy with excitement about boxes and pipes and willing to relativize and even destroy, by design or accident along the way. His description of something begins to have prescriptive powers (as connectivism instantly did on day one of this course for many) and he becomes suspect as he is not cleaving to some basic common sense about what is an expert.

There aren't objective mechanisms to bring relevancy -- or expertise -- the fore -- unless you cast aside this silly deconstruvist and connectivist baggage and approach the problem with normal common sense. You say common sense is merely a cultural construct? That's ok, so be it. It's a good cultural construct that serves well to distinguish between ignorant Janey and expert professors and war criminals.

Is this a community function? Well, not necessarily, if the community is made up of freaks like boxists thinking the pipe is more important than the content. You can't rely on them to have common sense about such matters.

thesis paper

Wonderful article, thanks for putting this together! "This is obviously one great post. Thanks for the valuable information and insights you have so provided here. Keep it up!"

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