Information and Its Connective Tissue Revisited (#CCK11) (#ELTchat) (#edchat)

Taxonomy VS Folksonomy (Credit: Thomas Vander Wal)

How is Information held together? What constitutes its connective tissue? These are questions which Thomas Vander Wal addressed in his talk yesterday.

According to Vander Wal, just as the bones and muscles of the body are held together by ligaments and tissues, information is also similarly held together, by connective structures. With this anatomical metaphor, my background as a nurse made understanding Vander Wal easy to follow.

Was it a good choice for my fellow course participants? I noticed one reference to “serous” material made by a course participant whose daughter was studying to be a nurse. He was comfortable with the anatomical metaphor. And the others? I could detect no signs of distress.

Still, I could not help but think of Stanley. Stanley was the name we had given to the skeleton that stood for 3 years in a corner of my nursing classroom. I basically hardwired his image onto my memory banks. One day we even dressed Stan up in a blue jogging outfit: matching pants and jacket, white jogging shoes (size 10), and put a baseball cap on his head. Stan the Man. 🙂

I would recommend something similar to Vander Wal: for this anatomical connective tissue metaphor to really “stick” in someone’s mind, a corresponding visual model would be essential. The one we were offered yesterday is likely long gone by now.

Moving on, in terms of the information structure, Thomas explained that it is held together by hyperlinks, software, systems, and workflow. A historical recount of the development of these items followed.

Thomas shared an anecdote with us about Stewart Butterfield. Navigation, according to Butterfield, was the wrong metaphor for everything we were doing on the web. Attraction, like two magnets attracting each other, was the better metaphor. Everything we do attracts information related to it.

From here Vander Wal discussed, and here I give my own understanding, (using my words and not Vander Wal’s), how we find information, store it, share it, and retrieve it.

Now using clouds as a reference metaphor, Vander Wal explained that information could find itself in the personal sphere of influence, the local, the global, or the external. One had the most control over the personal cloud and the least control over the external, where it is likely that information is behind a firewall, or a for fee service, which excluded access to the information.

As this was the part that I had missed out on, I stopped here, and began to reflect. Firstly, the tagging and retrieval system, a taxonomy and the folksonomy. This was a straight forward use of terminology.

Folksonomy Triad (Credit: Thomas Vander Wal - at CCK11)

If I tag or name the object, then it is a folksonomy. My identity as the tagger will either add credibility to the tag, or detract, depending on how reliable my tags have been in the past. On the other hand, if it is tagged according to some conventional representational terminology, then it is a taxonomy. In my opinion, the more reliable system is the folksonomy. I tagged it, I named it, then I will find it when I need it.

From here I have to add that my participation in Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 11 is motivated by a desire to make the learning experience one which has practical value for me in a classroom. What do I tell a 16-17-18 year-old student after today’s class?

I think I would say something like this: “Information is held together, in a connective way, by your knowledge of its location. Retrieval of information, from that location, for the purpose of sharing or work, depends on your use of organising tools, which give you ease of access.”

Further, although yes, I store my knowledge in my friends, I have the obligation to do what I can for myself first, in terms of accessing and sharing information, before I make a request to my friends. I would expect the same courtesy from my friends, to our mutual benefit.

A final point, concerns being interactive with this connected information. If I’m going to interact, then I have to make the effort to see what you are doing, talk to you, involve myself, in a positive way, be genuinely interested in giving you my opinion, my support, my resources, to help you. Paradoxically, by doing this, I am actually helping myself, because in the end, the connective “tissue” is strengthened through our collaboration.

Yeah. That would go over pretty good with a class of 16 to 18 year-old students. Especially here in Chile, where there is a cultural ethos of affection, the close-knit family and social ties. I am my brother’s keeper, as a social norm, is a good environment in which connectivism and connective knowledge could likely flourish, thrive and prosper…

Best regards,


About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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12 Responses to Information and Its Connective Tissue Revisited (#CCK11) (#ELTchat) (#edchat)

  1. Thbeth says:

    Olá, gostei muito do seu post, principalmente ao apontar as diferenças , quanto ao vocabulário, entre Folksonomia e Taxonomia.
    Quanto ao seu exemplo de “tecido”eu realmente adorei, pois foi o mesmo que aconteceu comigo, por causa de conhecimentos biológicos..
    Quanto ao seu homem esqueleto, brrrr rsrsrsrsr


  2. Thbeth says:

    Acrescento que foi uma otima explicação, porque nunca participo dos seminários e palestras, por isso te peço para sintetiza-las por aqui, ok!


  3. Very helpful. I’ve done performance horse and breeding stock management, including, needless to say, bio-mechanics, lameness and maintaining soundness. The connective tissue metaphor is familiar to me as well ~ along with all the hard tissue/soft distinctions, strengths, weaknesses, as well as how the functions are interconnected. And enough personal joint injuries along the way to make the metaphor personal. Some connective tissue is softer than others. Well, now I”l have to think on connections that attach muscle (meat?) to framework, which hold framework together, which cushion surfaces that would grate. I’d better stop before I start speculating about synovial fluid…


    • Hi Vanessa,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I liked the way you felt the metaphor in a personal sense, related to your extensive experience. You were easily able to relate to the presentation as a result, and then “feel in synch” (my quotes) with where Vander Wal wanted to take us: recognizing the way we interact with information storage, retrieval, sharing, and use, in a larger, more holistic context, namely, a “connective tissue” sense.

      Vanessa, see you on Friday at the next Facilitator’s session!



  4. Tracy Parish says:

    Thank you very much for this posting. This makes much more sense to me than the actual webinar. I constantly felt my mind wandering off to much more interesting thoughts and was, well frankly, bored by the talk.

    Your thoughts and notes here are far more interesting and cohesive to me.

    This is where more connective learning comes in. You listened to Vander Wal’s presentation, built your perspective on the topic. I listened to it as well and failed to be able to wrap my head around much of what was being said, even though I got the overall impression of the talk. I then “connect” to you, read your perspective, meld it with mine and come up with something much more substantial.

    Thank you.


    • Hi Tracy,

      Thank you for your beautiful comment. It’s very generous of you my friend.

      Regarding your observation about connective learning, you and I are in complete agreement. I have read a number of blogs in which something that was there, written in the reflections of a course mate, broadened my understanding, or challenged some view that I held erroneously.

      Connective learning is powerful stuff, and it brings to mind a wonderful metaphor: “It’s like being dipped in magic waters”. (Quote: James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams).

      I’m trying hard to find the secret of how to eclectically and practically bring as much of this as I can into my EFL classroom this year.

      Again, thank you for dropping by for a visit. You are a most welcome guest.

      Best regards,


  5. Pingback: #CCK11 resoconto per interposta persona « serenaturri's Blog

  6. Thbeth says:

    Para a VAnessa Vaile, estou aqui a achar engraçado o “líquido sinovial”e procurar uma função para ele dentro do nosso curso! que tal fluxo? ou algo que ajuda na plasticidade das redes??? 😉


  7. Lars Was says:

    Good review of the session. I got about the same info out of it. The stuff about the personal infocloud really felt natural to me. In a way I think I’m already using the things TVDW talked about (dropbox, blogs, evernote,…). Also the difference between taxonomy and folksonomy was really interesting. I thought about it a bit and think that folksonomy is an important way of tagging stuff you find online, to keep in your Diigo/Delicious account. But these accounts can be accessed by others and need some form of structure to make sense to others. So the better you tagg, the better people will find stuff they’re after. Better tagging can be done with taxonomy but it’s not required! I think in general, the more you tagg, the better your info becomes accessible.
    In the end it is your personal learning path that will decide what sources are valuable and what aren’t. So if you encounter info, the idea is to work with it, make it your own so it will make sense to you. If it does, this valuable source will be tagged and put from you local (or global) infocloud into your personal infocloud. Changed however, according to you own interpretation and therefor stored according to your own vocabulary (metadata).


  8. Hi Lars,

    Thanks for stopping by with your valuable comments.

    Your observations add more depth to my summary. I have often felt that I overtag my artifacts, but when pressed for maybe no more than 5 tags for a single artifact, I usually am good at hiding things even from myself! (later i can’t find it)

    So, TVDW’s presentation was particularly helpful to me inthis respect, with his distinction between folksonomy and taxonomy. It will help me to improve as I go forward.

    Your advice is well-received: (quote) “if you encounter info, the idea is to work with it, make it your own so it will make sense to you.”

    Thanks again for your interaction with me here Lars.

    Of course I hope to entertain you again in the future, and “I shall return” (General McArthur of WWII fame) to your great blog as well from time to time…

    Best regards,


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