CCK08: There *are* rules to engagement

Posted by Gina Rosenthal in CCK08 | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

After  publicly declaring my angst over filters being put in place in the CCK08 class, Stephen Downes pretty much spelled out the rules for engagement in the Daily today when he said:

“It is not simply about saying you agree or disagree with the authors and leaving it at that. It is about relating your present experience with your past experience, looking at what you are seeing and reading now from the perspective of things you have learned in the past. Because this part learning is unique, you bring a perspective to the discussion no one else can, and hence, add to the learning of everyone else.”

I still can’t understand why asking for clarification of someone else’s ideas is not acceptable. We do not learn in a bubble. Our learning is influenced and guided by our own information seeking behavior. We are taught (or conditioned) how to seek information in school, from our families, in our churches or other community groups.

In an article entitled “Purls of Wisdom” in the Journal of documentation (Prigoda yr.2007 vol.63 iss.1 pg.90), Elena Prigoda speaks of how LIS researchers are beginning to look at information behavior of “hidden, unwaged, and often marginalised forms of work, particularly caring work, done in the course of what might be considered serious or casual leisure activities”. This particular study was of the information-seeking behaviors of a knitting group that met in a public library (ok this particular citation is a also a shout-out to my daughter). 🙂

The study explains how the library is not a value-free place as the knitters choose to participate in a group that meets in a library in an affluent neighborhood, and they behaved in the ways expected of a library patron in such a neighborhood. Prigoda explains that even the simple activity of joining a library knitting group creates an “information ground” (or a “social setting in which people share everyday information while attending to a focal activity” [Fisher, Landry, & Naumer].

So even in a simple setting like a knitting club, there is information-seeking behavior. And there are rules an individual must follow in order to participate in the information flow. These rules aren’t spelled out in black and white, but they are the social rules we learn to interpret in order to gain entry to groups. In fact, the lack of understanding of these hidden rules of engagement is one of the hallmarks of Asperger’s Syndrome.

So it’s only normal from an information-seeking perspective that there are rules of engagement for participating in the massive online experiment that is CCK08. Now that rules have been identified, maybe I can figure out a way to do a better job of engaging. 🙂

5 Responses to CCK08: There *are* rules to engagement

  1. Ed Webb says:

    You are right that nothing in Stephen’s injunction on legitimate forms of participation precludes questions designed to elicit greater clarity from another participant. However, if we need to conform to the norm he sets out there, we simply need to phrase questions in a form that simultaneously imparts knowledge gained “from the perspective of things you have learned in the past.” Like Edward Said in Culture and Imperialism, we are to be actively aware of the past in the present. Thus: Gina, based upon my past experiences with Asberger Syndrome, I think I understand your point about information-seeking behavior to be that every social setting imposes certain norms of inquiry, and cck08 is no different in that sense, it has just taken a lot of ‘delinquent’ behavior to force an authority figure to spell out clearly what those norms are in this setting. Am I understanding you correctly? If so, I really, really want to see an extension of the power/knowledge discussion that started and then ran aground in that Passion & Reason thread, because this looks like a typical power discourse of othering, that puts certain styles of inquiry [and those used to employing them] outside the group. Er, sorry, outside the network.

  2. gminks says:

    Ed, I don’t know if an authority figure needs to spell out the expected norms. Groups will exclude new members if they don’t conform to the norms, but usually they are cues you can pick up to help you understand how you need to alter your speech or behavior in order to meet the group’s expectation for behavior.

    If someone doesn’t use the cues to alter their interactions, then the group excludes them. Aspies usually don’t pick up on the cues, sometimes to the point that they have been excluded from the group for a while (and they didn’t even catch THAT cue!).

    I think in our case, there are enough of us who want to still engage in the CCK08 class, even if there seems to be a mismatch in the behavior expectations for the group.

    The Aspergers-group-network thing is interesting — I may write about that more.

  3. 😀
    Also pointed out in From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers (Marina Warner, 1996). It talks a lot about gossip as a way of informal learning. (since it is from a folklorist perspective, it doesn’t use those exact words, though.)

  4. MadCat says:

    With all due respect – any university course in which asking someone to clarify their ideas is considered off limits isn’t worth the time to sit through it. It’s either an exercise in venting (“all ideas are equally valid”) or Animal Farm (“all ideas are equal, but some ideas (mine) are more equal than others.”

  5. Ed Webb says:

    Thanks for the reminder of Warner on gossip. That’s just one of the reasons we need more feminist perspectives in this discussion – that whole ‘networks are rational and groups are emotional’ bit just didn’t hold together, and the rationality and utility of gossip as both networked knowledge and group maintenance shows why such binaries as rational/emotional should always be challenged, along with group/network.

    Gina, I agree that it is not always the case that an authority figure needs to spell out the expected norms. But the act of doing so is one of the ways someone marks themselves as an authority figure. It is, in Stephen’s terms, group rather than network behavior, if I read him correctly.

    Final point – Stephen’s slide show linked to in this morning’s Daily was extraordinarily useful in helping me understand how he situates himself and his ideas: did anyone else find it so?

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