#PLENK2010 Networks as Joint Social Spaces: A Foundation for Pedagogy

I. The Pragmatic Philosophy Part

According to Wittgenstein and Bakhtin, words are instruments of meaning, but that meaning is only realized in the context of their use, not from any kind of essence.  (See my previous post for direct quotes and a fuller treatment)  I believe this radical pragmatic concept also applies to logos – understood here as language, conversation, proposition, principle, reason, analogy, etc. . . , and I would include knowledge.  That is, knowledge is only fully understood and becomes meaningful in the context of its use and in its position between speakers.

II. The Biological View

Organisms interact and adapt to their environments through structural coupling (Recurrent interactions leading to a congruence between systems.), with other organisms through social coupling, and with other humans through linguistic coupling in a process of co-ontogenic (co-developmental) coupling (Maturana & Varela). Taking place in social network spaces, it explains our psychic experience as:

. . . the semiotic expression of the contact between the organism and the outside environment.  That is why the inner psyche is not analyzable as a thing but can only be understood and interpreted as a sign. (Volosinov as quoted in Shotter)

Furthermore, this sign is not in the head of an individual, but in the network that is the social space for creating joint expression and experience.  Our psyche is not in us, but is distributed throughout our cultural historical background and in our shared social spaces.

In this way, we are just like words, we develop (ontogeny) and are defined through our associations with others.

Because, who we ‘are’ between ‘us’, determines who and what we are to ‘our world’, (and who) and what ‘our world’ is to us. . . . And who we are to each other is up to us to care about. That is why it matters. (Shotter p. 206)

III. A similar critique of Education

Learning does not have a meaning that can be measured by a certification or a test of its essence, but it can have a use and it can take on meaning through the process of joint action.  Consider this description taken from Steven Johnson’s  Where Good Ideas Come From

  • A new idea is a new network of neurons firing in the brain.
  • But most such ideas are only partial.  They become complete when we work on them jointly with others.
  • The process of linguistic coupling extends and completes our new neuronal networks and joins them with other new neuronal networks.  These semiotic actions, when at their best, can seem mysterious or even divine in their function.

For something seems to be at work in the activities between people.  The activities are not just repetitive, they grow, they develop, they are creative, they make history; . . .  A ‘double divinity’ seems to be hidden in our joint actions; a ‘creator’ and a ‘judges’ that resides in the sensus communes, that is, ‘in’ its shared ways of ‘seeing sense’ and ‘making sense’. (Shotter, p.205)

IV. So – With a Full Understanding of the Importance of Networks and Community;

What Would Education Look Like?

I’ll answer this question by looking at some vision of education in my next post.

Response to S Downes 09-10 Post

Further thoughts on the Connectivism course:

I like inclusion of the negotiation of meaning and the nature of network nodes instead of hierarchy.  A favorite author of mine has been John Shotter who also speak in this way.  In a rewrite of a 1994 book (Conversational Realities Revisited; (2008; http://www.taosinstitute.net/) he says that life as an academic leaves us with something missing, something to do with creativity, novelty and the uniqueness of everyday life.  He says that an excessive focus on linguistic representation (note the similarities to Stephen’s rejection of the centrality of representation) has left us (as academics) unable to be receptive to our “spontaneous bodily reactions to events occuring around us” . . ..  This is a highly philosophized notion of learning and practicing (based primarily on Bakhtin and Wittgenstein) that may be supportive of a connectivism theory and may refute my previous assertion that the theory is not mature.

Also; this is a comment I made to Stephen’s post this morning (9/10/08).

This post reminded me of many of the problem associated with higher ed today.  *Tuition cost are too high!  *The current structure is not conducive to supporting a life course that may include 4 or 5 different career paths, in knowledge intensive environments, where lifelong intellectual growth is expected!  *If innovation is important to the economy, we must ramp up our intellectual infrastructure through community development and make it more accessible to all. Can current pedagogy address these issues? I think experimental pedagogy is needed, just like this course is offering.

I also indebted to Geof Cain’s comment that led me to think in pedagogical terms.  These critiques and Stephen’s responses have a lot to do with pedagogy.  Any learning theory will imply a pedagogy, but I think connectivism’s implies pedagogy even more than most because of the importance of the network aspects and because I think the theory and the course are really directed right at practice and an experimental pedagogy.

An update to a previous post.  I mentioned Vygotsky’s idea of tools and concepts reflecting back on and changing the learner.  I should have referred to these tools and concepts as artifacts.  This word reflects Vygotsky’s approach better and is also consistent with Karl Poppers work on the 3 worlds, physical, mental and artifactual.