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.
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…