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.

4 thoughts on “Creating Ritual Space in #Rhizo15: Why and How

  1. Hi Terry – I like the way your mind is working here – wanted to join in – but the feedforward space was empty when i got there – was there something else I needed to do/open/click?

    1. You beat me there. I have not put anything in yet, but…today is the day. It is raining here. I have had a tough week. I would like nothing better than to make this happen today. I am really looking forward to playing around with this.

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