Sense of virtual community in rhizo14

I am interested in the question what makes online communities work. My previous course was edcmooc and I observed the same question: the Five Fantastic Facilitators worked as a team and the active participants began the course a long time before the course was opened. I enjoyed seeing that a new internet generation had been born and was working well. Then I followed my old friends to rhizo14 and I am asking similar questions.

Miia Kosonen is a researcher in Finland and I want to use one of her slide presentations in order to use proper concepts. Miia became Dr with dissertation research about Knowledge sharing in communities some years ago and she has followed the research. I’ve my experiences as a reflection tool and I want to compare my experiences with the research findings. Here is the slideshare

Rhizo14 can be described as e-Tribe, virtual network community or online crowd (my opinion of course). We can define it (slide 3) by telling about the participants. Some of us began in CCK08 and we know each other from many connections. Another branch in my eyes comes from edcmooc, many people were active there. There must be other paths too, but I know these ways. Shared interest is not easy or clear to define. Rhizomatic learning may be the core interest to many participants, I follow more the other title “Community as curriculum”. I am exploring it. What is the community level social capital for us? We have trust but not shared language all the time. We do not like norms, but we must have many hidden norms and rules ‘how to behave  on the course’. We have conversations because many participants are good at it and Dave Gormier is excellent  (have you watched the discussions with Jeff Lebow and the group). Dave is open-minded and easy to become acquainted to. He is authentic in front of camera, he speaks to us. When he says that he trusts us, I want to believe 🙂

Slide 4 gives a nice structure to handling with living in a virtual community. Needs and expectations differ, action varies from active to lurking and roles (blogging, commenting, discussing or nothing visible). Feelings of membership lead to identification with the group and feelings of learning and support, insights and immersion. Building relationships becomes true, I’ve got some new names to follow. I remembered an old post of this blog about designing commitment . It defines two kind of relationships: bond-based or identity-based. Bonds are social, connections to people (for instance my interest to joining). Identity is connected to values and interests, things. I cannot define what values we have in common in rhizo14 but there must be some humanistic or making the world better -interests or is this only my imagination? I liked that old post (PLENK2010) and the level of the discussion.

Slide 5 gives many perspectives to virtual communities. My orientation is psychological, cognitive and social combined with the analysis of virtual life generally. I can describe my experiences during rhizo14 (and guess at the others’ feelings but it is better that everybody tells him/herself).

I have enjoyed watching recordings of the hangouts, also the Teachers teach teachers (TTT) meeting. It was nice to see Terry Elliot, Vanessa and Sarah. Feelings of nearness are stronger when I watch the videos. Some blog posts have interested me and I have written a few comments. FB group discussions are so abundant that I often skip them. I remember Lucy’s story about a deeply touching experience, it touched me too. Perhaps it was one of the longest threads, over 80 comments but I read everyone. Mostly I have a sense of looking in from the outside or far away what are they doing – I seldom have a feeling of belonging to this community. It was not a joke when I asked Dave in a FB discussion thread (it was for the newcomers) that why sign up? Is it needed? I am interested in the topic ‘community as curriculum’ but not in rhizomes.  The themes which Dave offers every week have been so obvious to me that they do not inspire any more or I have no need to answer or comment. But I’ll deepen my analysis about online communities and how a curriculum can be based on people.

I liked this description of virtual participation, written by Apostolos in FB group
“There is a “core” group of people I “follow,” and this depends on a combination of factors including interactions, interest in content, and so on. Then there is a group of people that are a little further out for me (the quotient of that combination of factors is lower than the core group, but it still on my radar), and then there are people that I just don’t interact with. So, I would say that for me it’s all shades of gray, and the further out you go and the gray fades to white, the less involved I am with those participants.”

8 thoughts on “Sense of virtual community in rhizo14

  1. This is a wise, thoughtful blogpost. (Your question on Twitter was a little joke of course):).
    In rhizo people do share a culture? Inhabitants of that global village recognizing some shared interest. Nobody ever uses the Global Village any more.
    Dave Cormier is an artist, his questions are more and more stupid and yet most people stay in the course and try to answer. Does that make the rhizo course a kind of congregation?

  2. Hi Jaap

    There is something in rhizo14 culture what I cannot follow, or my motivation is different from what is needed there. I like Dave’s style but don’t understand him either .. should I?
    We should be independent thinkers but instead of it participants answer the teacher’s questions as good pupils do. Perhaps I am too old. This is not my revolution, I had it on 1970’s student movement ad so on. This rhizo14 rebellion seems childish – how to say politely with this my third language?
    I loved your MOOC cow, it is something, suitable to rhizo14 culture..

    • I am curious, started the course because I wanted to understand rhizomatic learning. Now I lost that.
      The course made me read some books about epistomology (that is where I come from) because Deleuze’s philosophy seemed more important in this rhizomatic pedagogy. And I do not like these French philosophes that much.
      Did try to watch who was leaving the course. In those two or three weeks the group is changed. Some left and some joined. My image of the course is a market, people come and go, people meet friends, visit the pubs in the corner of the market, buy some things and walk to look at the merchandise and leave. Does that make it a crowd?
      Spring is coming here, little yellow flowers in the garden, i like that.

  3. So nice to hear from your experiences. Now I know more than just mine. I suppose it is a natural motive to come to study rhizomatic learning and epistemology.
    The course as a market? It is one interpretation about learner-centredness, many free options in supermarkets = curriculum. I don’t like markets and shopping.
    Spring is coming there already and we have just got winter and snow. The autumn was very long this year and we must wait three months before spring comes here. How is it possible, you are not so far from Finland?
    Have a nice day anyway
    PS not much interest in this post, two retweets and 30 readers, 0 seconds, in FBgroup 44 readers and NO likes. You saved me, thanks

  4. Heli! I am interested in this post!!! Don’t give up on it yet! (I just take my time getting to places….)

    I am and have also been fascinated by the concept of ‘community as curriculum’ – finding out (or hoping to experience) what that means, and how it plays out.

    Jaap wrote a line about this question (possibly inspired by your post? not sure, he doesn’t say…) to which I replied:

    “on some levels I think yes, in the sense that the ‘curriculum’ – or at least the way the ‘curriculum’ plays out has pretty much been determined by participants- the fact that there is no content other than the blog posts we write, the comments we make (or very little, if you count Dave’s videos and unhangout sessions as teacher created ‘course content’).
    At the same time though, it does feel kind of disjointed, like we’re all off doing our own thing, sometimes bumping shoulders, stopping to chat or play, but essentially each trying to find our own meaning, travelling our own journey, rather than walking all along one path, together, as a group. It’s a tough one, a strange experience. But i’m quite enthralled by it – mainly by the feeling of not quite knowing what’s around the corner, or what’s going to happen next.”

    That has been a bit of my experience, but I’d also like to frame it in the context of the slides you shared (thank you for that btw – really valuable, and I like how it’s succinct – only 6 slides, but very informative). Based on the components of a virtual community from slide 3, I’d say rhizo14 qualifies on:
    – people
    – shared interest – we’re all here because we’re interested in learning, rhizo or not. Yes, this is a very broad interest, and I think this both allows the opportunity for rhizomatic exploration in a multitude of ways and directions – but also results in the somewhat disjointed ‘feel’
    – Interactions – creating & maintaining community… this is where I get a little uncertain. Broadly I think yes, but on some points like norms and shared language I am less certain. Some norms I feel are emergent like those around remixing, creative expression, spontaneous creating and making. And there have been a few debates and different interpretations of terms – the meaning of rhizomatic learning, for one.
    – conversational technologies – yes, I think all the spaces and platforms being used support the potential for interaction.

    Slide 4 is interesting too – particularly thinking about rhizo14 on the ‘sense of community’ points. Possibly the weakest links might be ‘feelings of membership’, ‘identification with the group’, and perhaps ‘immersion’. I’m kind of sensing participation is starting to drop off a little especially with a proportion of the participants also being involved with other MOOCs like FutureEd, and other communities / activities.

    So yes – overall, I don’t know. And perhaps it’s difficult to ever know definitively – because each of our experiences through it will be different.

  5. Hi Tanya and thanks for your thoughts

    You developed my observations further and I enjoyed. I’ve an intention to continue this theme but blog posts cannot be long so it is better to write many posts. Actually I become tired when I use English and I need breaks 🙂

    I got an excellent concept disjoint from you, thanks.

    The slides are fine, I agree with it. Miia had another presentation in Finnish and I asked if she has slides about this topic in English – and that is a good intro.
    Thanks for the support, my motivation has come back. Thanks!

  6. The image of a core of people that feel close, with ripples going out with fewer people who are less close – resonates.

    You saying that the weekly questions do not inspire you, resonates also.

    @jeffmerrell crystallised my own question for this un-course: What is teaching presence – when your instructional goal is to shift power?

    As a cognitive psychologist and a professional group facilitator, observing group dynamics is something I can do effortlessly. I have tried to name some of the patterns I notice, but that is not my focus. So I am may be doing less than I could to bring that to the foreground.

    My attention is more on how the power dynamics shift in the different settings, how people make choices where to participate and why, how honesty and authenticity get ‘performed’ online, how I make choices about who to trust and why, many un-googable questions that fascinate but the lack of explicit norms of engagement in #Rhizo14 stops me from engaging with those I do not know about them. This is teaching me a lot about being a participant in a new group and how the power I hold as facilitator needs to be owned and named and intentionally used.

    Thanks for you post, it felt open and honest enough to encourage me to respond from the heart 🙂


  7. Hi Mariana and thanks for your comment

    It is problematic to analyse group dynamics and as you said: every sentence resonates. How to speak about negative things? I don’t know how to do it in English (I am honest and simple and may be rude even I don’t mean it).

    We have echo chambers, small groups with like-minded people in rhizo14 but the idea is to maintain diversity and independent thinking. And we can do it, let’s continue the discussions

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