Who Do We Belong To?
I have to establish from the outset, I’m not yet determined in my thinking on this topic. I’m also not sure that the conversation will get us any further than what Mr. Jakes likes to call a “taffy pull.” But it might. Might not, either. We’ll see.
Many of us are moving in and out of a very large space that extends well beyond us. We move through the space with great fluidity, and each movement we make creates waves that extend outward and touch the movements of others. Our ideas make connections, and the connections form a web of interconnected knowledge and thought that soon can’t be separated one from another. Many call this a network.
I really like George Siemens’ explanation of our connections and the networks they create.
Thinking of it as the way we identify and arrange the inputs, or nodes as Siemens calls them, creates in interesting point of discussion. Because we arrange the nodes the way we desire and the way we think best meet our needs, does that mean the network belongs to us? Should it? Can it?
The creation of a network is an inherently personal experience. We are innately involved in the process. However, does our involvement ultimately yield a network that belongs to us individually? Many are prone to calling this concept a “personal learning network.” I wonder if that’s accurate.
I keep returning to what Dave Cormier said in a recent “Not EdTechWeekly“. He maintains that it isn’t a personal network as the network doesn’t belong to us. We belong to it.
This is where the taffy pull pundits enter and say it doesn’t matter and the conversation is circular and recursive and won’t really get us anywhere. I’m not so sure I agree.
Because if we started looking at the network as something we belong to, rather than the possessive way we tend to describe it, we begin to realize just how much of what takes place in our lives, and our thinking, and our relationships don’t really belong to us personally, they belong to all of us collectively.
I’m writing this post. I can easily say it’s mine, and grow possessive of the content, or general lack thereof, and chide anyone who I think is using it unjustly. I can place my personal value in this network on what I’ve produced, and expect others to see my value in the same way.
Personally, I think that’s an awfully dangerous place to be. Because I have no idea how much of this post is really mine. In fact, I’d say most of it came from my interactions in a learning network at some point in time and that really makes it yours as much as it is mine.
And that’s why I think the personal might matter. I am personally part of the network, but my ideas and thoughts, and my learning are also part of the network. They aren’t entirely mine. Yes, I shaped my specific nook of the network to fit my needs, but it still remains a part of the whole. If I go away, the network remains. My arrangement of the nodes may disintegrate, but the nodes themselves will still exist.
And knowing that frees me to learn and contribute collectively in the network and rid myself of any potential conflict I might have about gaining value in the network by what part of it all I own. Or how I’ve assembled my part. Or how important I think I am based on what I’ve created, which is probably influenced by the network far more than I could ever realize.
I don’t know. Maybe I have this all wrong. Maybe the conversation doesn’t really matter.
But I’ve a sneaking suspicion that it does. That it matters quite a bit.