LoVid live in performance - image from rhizome.org
Today I quietly took issue with the use of post-structuralist theory as a foundation for a learning model. Given the recent shift in philosophy, the so-called speculative turn, why are we returning to 1970s French theory? My issue is predominantly a philosophical one based on the types of reactions I am seeing from ETMOOC’s community and a larger one about realism in education.
There has been a fair bit of misuse of the ‘rhizomatic learning’ concept forwarded by Dave Cormier this week. The problem is one of metaphor and it reared its head in the first blackboard session when Dave accidently suggested the rhizome was a metaphor. There have been a large number of posts cropping up where the writer suggests that this type of learning ‘is like’ a rhizome. This is absolutely not the case, the rhizome in rhizomatic theory is never like something else, it cannot be metaphor nor mimic, as it is a rhizome. A rhizome must always be becoming. I have already suggested a couple of times that if we are going to use this model then we absolutely must not work on our networks in terms of stability and stabilisation. The rhizome is nomadic, it is unstable and again it is always becoming. The links are themselves ‘lines of flight’ that connect ‘planes of consistency’ briefly. If these lines if flight become strong and stable they have been ‘reterritorialised’ and loose their power to build a body without organs (they become organs!).
Yikes too much Deleuze - I have to have a shower cos I feel a little dirty.
Now I am no Deleuzian and my simplification of some pretty mad and wonderful philosophy might be a little weak but I am hoping you can start to see the issue I am having here. The rhizome and rhizomatic thinking can be seen in the internet - this is 90s thinking that sees ‘the net’ as a huge net and thus a rhizome (note, not like a rhizome). The way we are learning and connecting however is ‘like’ a rhizome and this is demonstrated by people wanting to do things properly (this is not rhizomatic) to develop and work on their PLN structures etc. I do not think we generally want to be nomadic in our thinking, the ETMOOC machine might be very open compared to Intro to Maths 101, but it is still (loosely) bounded.
While I think that we might be able to make a solid argument for rhizomatic learning I have a far greater issue with the re-use of 70s post-structuralism. In the last few years we have seen a strong turn back to realism in philosophy in ‘speculative realism’ (see Wikipedia for a good intro). There is a very good reason for the turn based in current world issues such as global warming, finical crisis, globalisation etc. Now is the time to look to realism and face these issues head on, not the time to turn back to a philosophy that believes there is only the text and deliberately works in a non-materialist realm. By take a post-structuralist theory into our new educational model we not only return to a very old understanding of the world but we always turn our backs on realism. I’m sounding preachy here and the post-structuralist would have sniggered a few years back but Object Oriented Ontology and other realisms are starting to take hold. Surely as educators we are not going to put realism back into the subject but rather to look at the objects of learning as being real.