Category Archives: Responding

Sheep Track Know-How


I am thinking out loud in this post about of the word ‘practice’ in the title of our little adventure:  Rhizo15–a practical view. Yes, I want practice.  I have been following the weeks’ adventures from the margins with poetry and guided journaling and multi-modal summings-up.  These are the techne,  the craft, the ‘know-how’, that I seek for these six weeks. Then there is the episteme, the ‘know-what’, the book knowledge which I also care about but which I think is always trying to take the high ground.  There is content everywhere in the community (Facebook, Twitter, G+). We are all filling that categorical pail as Aristotle would have it. It is inescapable.

These online worlds we occupy are pails of content yet we want them to be rhizomatic, where everything is in the middle and nowhere simultaneously, uncontained and uncontaining.  Lakoff and Johnson have written about how these metaphorical schema aren’t just the spawn of language.  They are conceptual, hence biological to the core.

Here is how Lakoff and Johnson sum this up in their work Metaphors We Live By:

We have ‘bounding surfaces’ with ‘an in-out orientation.

We see other ‘things’ as having the same orientation, with an inside and an outside. For example, I see my sheep as inside the fence and the coyote as outside.

This territoriality, this constant default schema, is ubiquitous AND allows us to quantify what is inside whether that is an acre/hectare or a cell in Excel or a bee in the garden.

What we see is bound into a container, hence the idea of a visual field.

Events can be containers.  For example, the Kentucky Derby on Saturday is an object, but I can tell you from growing up in Louisville (see, another conceptual container)that while we consider it as an object it also exists in time as well and outside (damn it, you can’t get away from it).  How do we conceptualize the Kentucky Derby rhizomatically in the face of this container bias?

Activities can be containers. How did I get into teaching?  The teaching contains many activities inside it.  Is rhizomatic learning inside of it?   Contained within it?  We are blindsided by this bias.  We approach teaching and learning as if they ‘contain’ and have content, then we ask whether ‘content is people’?  If no, then where does the rhizomatic consciousness fit?  Is it outside of the container, post-content, post-contextual?  The default might be why we feel such cognitive dissonance when we try to categorize what rhizomatic thinking is.  When we define we are trying to put it in a proper logical container.

Even states of being can be viewed as containers. Being in love, out of love.

Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. 2nd edition. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2003. Print.

Russell called this containing box ‘the laws of thought’:

1. Law of identity: “Whatever is, is.”

2. Law of noncontradiction: “Nothing can both be and not be.”

3. Law of excluded middle: “Everything must either be or not be.”

“Law of Excluded Middle.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 30 Jan. 2015. Wikipedia. Web. 30 Apr. 2015.

Is the rhizome logical?  Or must we be content with content as a conceptual tool?  I suppose that is why almost all of my dealings with rhizomatic learning have been tied into creative action. Perhaps the rhizome is in the act, in the being and not in the containing.  The content often feels like the least bit that I wanted–the smoke from the fire, not the warming fire or the wake from the ship not the motive force from propellers.  Perhaps rhizomatic learning is in practice and when we contain it, well…it disappears.  The rhizome is the zenmonk pointing to the moon without naming it

because the word is not the thing









I am contentualizing here, so I stop with a haiku to point to the moon instead of naming it. Damn it, I just named it.

Sheep tracks

in the dew,


ephemera, hoof sobs,

Here and gone,

here and…










Play the Feedforward Game for #Rhizo15 …or Grade That!

I have been called out in the comments by Sandra and Nick for offering a blank space for the feedforward game.  This was not some late April Fool’s joke or me doing a Dave Gadfly imitation. So…here are some instructions and a sample feedforward that I have done. To play the game you have to do a little bit of guided journaling and you have to share it on Hackpad. Actually, you don’t have to do anything of the sort. As they say in “Pirates of the Caribbean”–these just be guidelines, arrrrrr, but ye can play if ye want. Be the RhizoNinja you were meant to be.



Here are the instructions which I admit kind of suck, but too effing bad. It is an editable Hackpad, you fix ’em if you want. Just ask me for directions if you get lost.


Here is my completed set of answered questions.


Creating Ritual Space in #Rhizo15: Why and How



typical_cricketI have been closely annotating my way via the Rhizo15 Diigo Group through a rich repast of a blog post by Sarah Perry on Venkat Rao’s blog, Ribbonfarm. One of her purposes is to explore how identity  is created or as she terms it, ‘peopled’.

Perry draws on the writing of Philippe Rochat in his book, Others in Mind: The Social Origins of Self-Consciousness.  According to Rochat we create each other’s identities through a recursive process where 

…each person learns to be aware of himself – is constrained toward self-consciousness – by other people being aware of him. He learns to manage his image in the minds of others, and finds himself reflected, as in a mirror, through the interface of language and non-verbal communication.

According to Rochat we see ourselves through the constraining influences of other people, through the ‘peopling’ of others.

I think this idea has significance in #rhizo15. How? We are all seeing ourselves through the eyes of others.  How accurate is that subjective view?  Sometimes it is off by degrees of magnitude.  For example, I see some pretty effusive praise for my stuff that by its nature is half-baked.  I know the negative connotation inherent in the term ‘half-baked’, but I cannot help but feel that what I create has not grown all the way to fruition and that my comments and interactions with others are sometimes just dashed off and ill-considered, certainly not worthy of the work done by those I am responding to.

Yes, some of our work is very good for a first draft, but most goes little past this initial draft and into further revision. Your mileage might very much vary.  This shoe I am putting on might not fit you.  I beg your forgiveness for this if you feel I have been unjust, but…  I expect further recursion, further refinement through reciprocal action. Sometimes I get that social recursion, mostly I don’t. Part of me takes no offense while another part is deeply disturbed that our responses are so cursory.  And the cursory nature of most responses and in the desultory considerations of others, we have generated a default behavior.  And, worse, those defaults have become internalized as the default mutual mental modeling that Rochat calls peopling.  We are peopled by shallow necessity, by force of circumstance, and by the barest reciprocal exigency.  If you feel this is unfair,then just view this as a sample of one, of me ranting and venting and feeling inadequate.

In our offline social life we have ways to compensate for this–shallowness.  It is called ritual.  Perry notes

People are able to accomplish this feat of mutual simulation by use of two tools: language and ritual. Ritual allows for the communication of information that language can’t convey – hard-to-fake costly signals of commitment, dependability, harmoniousness, and cooperative intent.

So how do we play this infinite game of mutually modelling each other’s identities to each the other? Through language and ritual. Language for the surface, intellectual stuff and ritual for the deep, social stuff. I believe that language is so fragile that without the reinforcing social power of ritual it becomes brittle and ‘unbelievable’. We need ritual if for no other reason than that it is the substrate for language.

That begs two questions: what are the #rhizo15 rituals and what should they be?

I am not sure if we have any.  Dave’s introductory videos are something we all share, but what else?  Perhaps folks can comment here on what they think #rhizo15 rituals might be (that #rhizo15 hashtag, for example), but I want to suggest some we might try.

The sparseness of ritual environment in rhizo15 is very painful to me.  The sparseness of feedback from language is just as painful, but the lack of ritual makes it even more so.  Dreadfully more so.  In fact I am on the edge of withdrawing all the time.  I think it is the ritual that might save me. So bring on the salve of ritual to rhizo15.

[Aside: I am patterning these rituals after the work done by the Group Pattern Language Project. ]

Here are some of my suggestions for potential ritual activity in #rhizo15:

Ritual 1: greeting folks as often as possible in familiar digital spaces–I need to make this overt in my own online rhizo15 activities.
Ritual 2: Breaking Bread Together–actually eating and talking online about whatever.  No, really being seen with each other in a Hangout for example having lunch/dinner.
Ritual 3:  Share natural spaces through YouTube and  make part of any group meeting (e.g. Hangout) opening.  What I suggest here is that you record and upload an environment near you and share it on YouTube. This does not have to be just Nature.  It can be street traffic, a market, a bus stop, or any place that renders the ‘spice’ of your environs. When we meet we can share begin the meeting with one of our spaces.
Ritual 4: “With joy and zest, publicly celebrate milestones and recurring events. Affirming shared history, we nourish community, crystallize a sense of accomplishment, and build group identity by unifying our stories and common goals. Can be planned and ritualized, or as spontaneous as a group cheer.”  Celebrate | Group Works. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2015, from
Ritual 5:  Feedforward with the imagination.  In other words project your self into the future and ‘recall’ all that ‘happened’ from the beginning of #rhizo15.  In a way I think this defines what rhizomatic learning is.  Each of us creates identity for the group by being who we are with the voices we have.  Why not imagine that forth along with others instead of relying solely upon our individual strivings.  Feedforwardings would allow us to compare rhizomatic identities and from there decide where we might be drawn to as a group as well as individually.
Anyone interested in doing ‘feedforwarding”  might look at a this journaling activity taken from the Presencing Institute.  I am working on adapting it for our use, but you can do that just as easily on the fly as I can.
Or you might simply stand at the point where #rhizo15 ‘ends’ and reflect on what happened.  Perhaps if we shared this as a ritual activity, a future prototyping of a kind, then we might be able to see each other’s identities more clearly and pull together in the newly visible harness of shared vision.

I plan on doing this later today and hope I can get others to share.  Here is a common space for storing your feedforward and for talking about it as well.

One Walk, Three Ways

I borrowed this phrase from Stacy Kerr’s YouTube Video of the same name. I am also reminded of Alexandra’s Horowitz’s On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Ideas as I write this.  The purpose of my post is to get interaction with the reader in three different ways on the topic of rhizomatic learning via three different channels:  Synchtube, Vialogues, and Hackpad.  Respond as you will here in the comments or in your own blog or on Facebook or Twitter

or within the three tools above and below.  Or don’t respond at all. Just lurk.

First is Synchtube.  This tool doesn’t have an embed code so you need to click below and go.  I love how this says “Read this…” below.  You can chat there, just watch there, or both. Free-range browsing encouraged. Let me know how it goes.  Or send me note and I will watch with you. Or suggest other videos.

6IRCNet Synchtube
Second is Vialogues. This tool is embeddable or you can click and go to the site. You need an account to comment, but none to lurk. You will note that the comments on the site are already populated. That’s because I created this several summers ago for other purposes but have recycled here.




Third, I include a Hackpad list of ten ideas for coming to terms with #rhizo15. This is part of my month’s long attempt to flex my creative muscles. You will note that not all ideas are good ideas or even nice ones. You can add to this as well since it is an editable pad.


Haiku here inspired by Susan Watson’s poem “Quicksand, Ellipsis”.  The story behind this is simple.  When it gets emerald and alive and warm and foggy with spring life squeezing into every open door and window and orifice of perception…well, that is surfeit of, too much of, much too much of necessary Spring.

The poem also arises out of my attempts to exercise my creative muscles.  One of my ten daily creative  ideas was to create kinetic poetry, simple and easy and in my own workflow with the least friction I could manage.  So managed and so fun, job done.

This is a kinetic poem created using Jelly Cam  to animate a set of screenshots taken using SnagIt and a bighugelabs’ writing tool called Writer.  I recorded music from the outercool website Hatnote using QuickTime. (Hatnote is ripe for picking and using in the classroom.  My jaded uni students loved it–as in agog and mesmerized like a  tantalized chicken.)

Here is the original poem:

Breathless, “Nature, stop!”

“Too much. Can’t take it all in.”

Words fail me, just ellipsis…




The Streetlight Effect and the Drama of Play and Infinite Game

Scott Glass was messing about with the #edjoy twitter xtravaganza the other night. I suggested a collaborative poem on hackpad to celebrate the #enjoyment of poetry. He, Kevin Hodgson and I played a bit in Hackpad.

The next day Scott asked for some help embedding gifs in the hackpad and that led to a poem for his students and an invite to add to the collaborative work there. Here is the Hackpad with the Billy Collins poem, “Forgetfullness”.

View Loss on Hackpad.

I followed up by forking a page off of the first line of the Collins poem: “I had an idea but I lost it. . .” If you click on the link I created in that line it takes you to another wiki page that is a short scene recreating the Streetlight Effect along with pix and gifs.

View but I lost it… on Hackpad.

I don’t know if this is what Scott had in mind. If it isn’t, no big deal, but I think the spirit of play and infinite game are attitudes that go a long way toward igniting the creative spirit. BTW, play along with this by creating ten ideas a day. Click here for more info.

Also, if you want to play along with a larger group annotating Collins’ “Forgetfullness” then check out Genius:


A Month of Creative Ideas? Join Us

Canva Design School Blog

One of my favorite brushes for my digital palette is Canva. I like it because it is free to use, easily shared, remixable, a user-friendly joy to use, and so very handy. I have always thought of Canva as one of those perfect hothouses for creative work– any age and skill level.


 It provides a healthy balance between templates and free rein. What I hadn’t realized before was how much it is designed for the informal learner. There is a sweet course-in-a-blog that I outline in the Scoop.It embed above. There’s a blog for newsy/teach-y stuff, tutorials to get you started in the world of design and teaching resources. I especially like the design post below: 10 Menu Design Hacks Restaurants Use to Make You Order More – Design School


I also plan on adapting one of their lesson plans on using Canva to create what amounts to a social media ad campaign.  How handy is that!


Author Innovation through Social Media – Design School

Lately, I have been trying to exercise my creative muscle as part of my ‘pense-betes’ motto, “Don’t Just Derive, Create and Thrive”.

poster with motto
Don’t just derive, create and thrive.

I acknowledge that part of everything we do is ‘derived’ from what someone else has done, but I also want to promote the idea that we can step out onto the creative cloud by putting the stamp of our own lives on the tools, ideas, and acts already out there.  I was inspired to do this by blogger James Altucher’s post, “The Ultimate Guide to Exercising our Creative Muscles”.

His post is an inspiring outline of how he does a creative workout by writing  down ten or more ideas every day.  That’s it.  He says the practice helped save his life.  So what are the ideas about?  Anything. Do they have to be all good ideas? No.  It is quite unlikely that any of them will be, but without pushing that capacity, we all know what happens–we  descend into the world of the xerox, of the routine, of the solely derived.

Here is  a hackpad with my ten ideas for today:

And here is where to go if you want to add your own to each day’s version. I am making this a priority for the next month. Every day. Wander through, lurk about, report on, or create your own list here or elsewhere. Just let me know how your month of ideas is progressing. And read Altucher’s post for more ideas and further discussion on what to do with these ideas going forward.