Rhizomatic and Privilege; Questions and Commentary

The Rhizomatic Model of Education is one of the more interesting change11 topics for me so far, appealing as a discussion of the potential of educational design with respect to the nature of various types of knowledge. In the current climate of communications, there certainly are fields in rapid change or development and in need of a way to quicker process information into accepted knowledge for that field. If this approach to education stops there, there is a potential value in the Rhizomatic idea that seems lost in the reaction to the process that lets devalued knowledge hang around past its worth.

Earlier this year I wrote some thoughts on the idea of Background Independence in Education. This perspective shares a lot in common with the Rhizomatic Model, however I am not quite sure to what extent. There may be some major differences surrounding the idea of privilege. I haven’t been able to engage Dave Cromier in any discussion, so I will post some questions here that I think are important, and the answers as best as I can hear them.

(Note that the article I refer to is the older one that can be found here. I haven’t read anything posted from this week, but look forward to doing so when I get the chance.)

Does the Rhizomatic model of education advocate solely for community-style learning?

Yes, it seems so, and the article states this at times. At other times, the presentation of the model does make me think that there are two separate points to be found in the explanation of Rhizomatic education, which are sometimes confused, or at least vague. One is the particular point of view that community is the measure for what is true or right. The other is that community as standard is just an example of one ways that education under the Rhizomatic model can play out. Clearly, the community, fast-paced, ever-changing bodies and sections of knowledge and are emphasized in the paper. Whether the model can be applied to either an example of, or a definition of Rhizomatic education, I’m not sure

This is where the idea of privilege is central. Background Independence attempts to see all educational practices as growing from a privilege-free starting point. The Background Independence approach takes such qualities as no defined center and lack of predefined inputs that the Rhizomatic metaphor unveils, and interprets these qualities as a way for all educational structure to emerge from situation alone, free of any unintentional viewpoint. Conversely, if the Rhizomatic model does in fact attempt to place special privilege on community, then the interpretation of these flexible qualities serves community based education alone, benefiting greatly this type of situation but maybe also blocking any other potential educational options that could flourish under this model. This difference in response to shared recognitions of qualities wouldn’t mean that the two theories are mutually exclusive, but it would imply that they focus on very different systematic levels of the educational process, reserving the Rhizomatic model exclusively for newer or rapidly changing fields of study.

Is Rhizomatic education solely for newer or unstable fields of study? And, if so, what happens decades later to the resulting foundational knowledge of that field?

I would guess that the Rhizomatic model would need to be dropped, in response to the second question if the answer to the first question is yes. Surely, there is room for various models of education within a single field of study, and Cromier certainly doesn’t eliminate this this option by anything stated in his article. There is something about community and organic growth and need that can bare the force of formation needed to deliver new fields of knowledge, distinguished in themselves. Once established, the weather worn accumulation of the past can share the burden of guidance, balancing the maintenance of knowledge. Under the Rhizomatic model as described, there doesn’t seem to be any consideration for knowledge that isn’t cutting-edge and isn’t valued by negotiation from start to finish. A background independent, unprivileged landscape is an ideal starting point, but if this is also the end point, then…what’s the point?

Does Rhizomatic education, much like Connectivism in practice, tend to be unconcerned with knowledge value that has been accumulated?

Well, from the article it would seem so. To dispense with external validation in the form of experts (experts as created by their experience) and in the form of non-real-time contributions, is to dispense with what has endured from the past. This is indeed a return to the early roots of knowledge, before such eras as the enlightenment and before such technologies as printed language began the increasing delay on information, allowing it to lie ever more distributed. Cromier is definitely right that our time and age can afford a return to such instant, information accessible times. Maybe some situations, and emerging fields call for this rapid formation of knowledge in such a large dose, as he points out. The article doesn’t comment too much directly on the long-standing portions of bodies of knowledge, except for that which is obviously old and marrowless. I would hope, though, that marrowless truths be tossed away whether they be old or new.

Is there anything preventing the Rhizomatic model form being applied to all educational processes, not only community based ones?

It doesn’t seem like there is inherently anything to prevent this, but it would take a significant shift the perspective that is presented in the article. In recognizing the flexible qualities of situational education starting points, the Rhizomatic model does have the potential to include all frequencies of knowledge formation. With this model we don’t necessarily need to dispense with the idea of contemplation, knowledge accumulation and the value of experts. Any points along the spectrum of knowledge formation duration can be potentially combined, using community for learning in its place and expert advice in its place. I would even dare say that something like this Rhizomatic model has actually always been in place, with the limits of our media governing its maximum speed; the wikis of this 21st century can reflect change in knowledge as it comes, where as the text books of the 20th century simply did this at their own pace.


5 thoughts on “Rhizomatic and Privilege; Questions and Commentary

  1. Lots to think over for me here. “One is the particular point of view that community is the measure for what is true or right. The other is that community as standard is just an example of one ways that education under the Rhizomatic model can play out.” this comment in particular.

    If i could make the words ‘true’ and ‘right’ have even smaller first letters that would get closer to what i mean. Useful might be a better expression. Thanks for this, i’ll extend further comments in my first response post.


    • Don’t worry, I didn’t mean those terms in any overall sense. I should have kept the quotation marks that you used for them in the post that I linked to. Very small first letters is a good way to think of them; as a standard; or, better yet, as a background to measure things against.


  2. Pingback: Rhizomatic and Privilege; Questions and Commentary #change11 | Stuffaliknows | Scoop.it

  3. Glen, I don’t think that rhizomatic thinking places special emphasis on community, or not community in the sense of a coherently contained and functioning social entity. Rather, the rhizome emphasizes multiplicity. One way (merely one way) that multiplicity manifests itself is through functioning across multiple scales. Thus, rhizomatic learning is not merely a function of a community; rather, it is a function across multiple scales from individual neurons (or lower), through clusters of brain regions, to families, communities, language systems and artifacts, computer networks, and cultures across time and beyond. All of these scales must be functioning at their own level and across the other levels for learning to occur. This is part of the reason that learning is such a complex phenomenon.

    Dave has done us a great service by focusing on the community aspect of learning and exploring it for us in more depth, but I don’t think he means to imply that rhizomatic learning can be reduced to the function of a community. I think he does imply, however, that a community is necessary for learning. I can say this better: A community is necessary, but not sufficient, for learning. It takes more than a village. It takes everything.


    • Absolutely, Keith. Thanks for the comment. This is as I understand it as well, it doesn’t place special emphasis on community or any privileged perspective, as you say. I don’t know what Dave means to think or imply, but my interpretation of how he communicates the metaphor really does seem to imply a stricter use than the encompassing power of the metaphor suggests. He does step aside at times to try to balance his focus, but I don’t think it really holds much overall weight compared to how often he also confronts other educational perspectives that the metaphor could easily apply to.

      If this is merely in the way that he presents it, for me, it works much more clearly to focus on the whole aspect of the metaphor, and then talk about the specific context of community application or whatever. Perhaps I have really missed a lot in interpreting him, though…that certainly isn’t out of the question.


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