Tuesday, October 07, 2008

passion and reason; burden and blessings in connectivism; a feminist critique CCK08

Connectivism as a theory of learning values networks as a place of learning. However, what is valued within the network? How might a network be differentiated from a group? In an opinion piece, Stephen Downes argues his difference saying:

The point where group identity becomes more of a burden than a blessing?
So where is that dividing line? Where functional and healthy becomes dysfunctional, obviously. Somewhere between (most) football teams and the Symbionese Liberation Army. Somewhere between family bonding and wiping out your neighbours with machetes.

In my books, that line is the line between reason and emotion.
To put it most simply, groups are based on passion while networks are based on reason. Groups meet our need to belong and to survive, while networks meet our need to connect and learn and to know. In a group, passion drowns out reason, in a network, reason drowns out passion.

I'm feeling othered.
It's like revisiting a world where reason is praised and emotions devalued.
Pre Carol Gilligan, Simone de Beauvoir, Susan leigh Star, or Donna Haraway.
Feminism never had a hand in this construction of reality.
Being of the other sex, and feeling invisible, I suggest that reason can be as threatening as emotions to any aggragation be it named group or network. The division is at best, unhelpful and at worst, damaging.

Unhelpful because its a label for explaining after the effect, what was wrong.
Its damaging because it perpetuates a myth that reason is a better attribute than passion.

More work on what makes for a functional network is required.
The dividing line might do better to consider the different voice, and to consider as Haraway states:
I do not know of any other time in history when there was greater need for political unity to confront effectively the dominations of 'race', 'gender', 'sexuality', and 'class'. I also do not know of any other time when the kind of unity we might help build could have been possible. None of 'us' have any longer the symbolic or material capability of dictating the shape of reality to any of'them'. Or at least 'we' cannot claim innocence from practicing such dominations.

I concede this was posted in an emotional response to the first reading I have undertaken for the week. And to place this in context, I had read the posting in terms of my wondering "what are the necessary conditions for a networked connectivist theory of learning?" Reading the post,that group feeling, leaves me afraid. More reading may help dispel the sense of my feeling excluded.


  1. Anonymous9:58 AM

    It's kind of depressing that the dualism reason-emotion still exists...

  2. mmmm. I think so. There's a balance that fosters both, and for me learning comes with passion and with reason. My networks would not exist if they were only places to reason. (Or they would not maintain my membership, at least)
    Even the groups I belong to, still have to make sense.
    And my deepest thinking comes when i have what Loewy refers to as a 'moral curiousity'. My emotional state is often my most significant prompt for learning.
    At least when my learning is attached to real world issues. In practice.

  3. Ailsa, couldn't agree more: see

    mind #1

    your analytic mind
    is a sharp semiotic knife
    be careful when you cu( )t

    At http://recherche-d-une-presence.blogspot.com/2005/01/mind-1-your-analytic-mind-is-sharp.html

  4. very sharp :)

    I like your wit.