In the middle of the journey of our life
I found myself in a dark wood
for the straight way was lost.
From the opening terza of the Divine Comedy. Dante.
Susan Saltrick used this for her opening lines as a keynote speaker at a conference on learning communities and I have always been struck by the resonance this has in my own exploration of the unknown. She continues;
For the world we once new has changed...and we need to consider what we are being asked to change into.
A similar thread is explored by Latour
A new vaccine is being marketed, a new job description is offered, a new political movement is being created, a new planetary system is discovered, a new law is voted, a new catastrophe occurs. In each instance, we have to reshuffle our conceptions of what was associated together because the previous definition has been made somewhat irrelevant. We are no longer sure about what 'we' means; we seem to be bound by 'ties' that don't look like regular social ties. (Latour, 2005, p. 6)
Ulises Mejias (2006) also explores the unknown, The tyranny of nodes, saying 'my thesis is that the network undermines productive forms of sociality by over-privileging the node. It might be difficult to see this because nodes are not anti-social (they thrive by forming links to other nodes), nor are they anti-local (they link to nodes in their immediate surrounding just as easily as they link to other nodes). But what I am trying to say is that to the extent that the network is composed of nodes and connections between nodes, it discriminates against the space between the nodes, it turns this space into a black box, a blind spot. In other words, networks promote nodocentrism. In this reconfiguration of distance, new ‘nears’ become available, but the ‘far’ becomes the space between nodes. To ignore this dark matter is to ignore the very stuff on which the network is suspended, much like the fish ignoring the water around it.
And given the composition of any 'fish' is also that it is imbued with the substance of its surroundings...there is need to explore what it is 'we' are becoming.
I have until now shied away from the 'dark spaces'.
There is scope for looking internally at shadows, a reflective take on what one does and doesn't attend to...as well as there being the creation of shadowed spaces in throwing illumination on some aspects and not others.
There is also scope in looking at the effects within change: what is and is not in the assembly?
Who does this new assemblage include as 'we' and what have 'we' become?
And what possibilities might be made possible if one were to take flight into the paranodal?
These questions are ones that relate to power, for they are questions that frame scope. With connectivism as a learning theory, the questions prompted by Mejias might include: who is advantaged, and who is not? What types of learning gain currency, and what does not?
And what then of the role of an educator?
One aspect informed by Latour, is to keep the knowledge of how the world is constructed, the knowledge of how institutions are shaped and shaping, an awareness of how technologies contribute...and to keep such knowledge sufficiently open, 'to maintain the reversibility of foldings'. I would agree, this is my moral concern when I consider education and its encounter with (current) technologies.
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mejias, U. (2007). Networked proximity: ICTs and the mediation of nearness. Columbia University, New York.
Saltrick, S. (1998). Through a dark wood. Paper presented at the Conference on Learning Communities, University of Miami.