How fast should the connections be firing?

George’s weekly blog summary has just come through on my email (his elearnspaces one – elearnspace’s) and there’s a great paragraph on slow blogging, which I’m going to reproduce here for future reference.

Everyone should subscribe to Chris Lott’s blog. As I’ve stated before, he’s one of the most thoughtful bloggers I follow. In a recent post, he extols the virtues of slow blogging: “And I like that slow blogging is an explicit antidote to the subtle, pervasive technological determinism that lurks beneath the surface of many geeky conversations focusing on speed, ease, shortening of attention and shrinking of content. I don’t doubt the reality of these points… I just want to make sure we don’t forget that these characteristics are driven by our behavior, not the tools we use, which remain inert whether we sleepwalk through their use or not.” The value of thinking about and understanding a topic deeply is a by product of time. Writing articles for journals can be easily dismissed as “it takes too long” (and it does – the review process is comical in many journals), but there is value in the pace and depth of writing articles. It’s not only the readers that benefit from well-considered articles. The writer is the first benefactor. For a related talk, here’s a short video I recorded while in Australia a few years ago where Geetha Narayanan talks about slow learning.

This idea of ‘slowing down’ crops up over and over again in relation to working online. Looking back through my private reflective blogs (this is the first blog I have ever made public) I realise that I have posts with similar titles such as ‘Slow learning’, ‘The tortoise and the hare’ and so on, in all my blogs.

It also crops up in my work with online learners, who often find the pace too fast and ask for more time to reflect, make sense of and digest new learning. Online learners on my courses have also said that they need more time to ‘nurture’ connections.

But here’s the dilemma. I have found in my online work that there is a fine balance between allowing enough time for learning and reflection and everything that learners have said that they want, and keeping the momentum of the course going. But I work on time-limited courses that I would regard more as groups than networks as they have smaller numbers of participants than on this course and recognisable boundaries.

I hadn’t thought before about whether a network needs a certain momentum to keep it going and how fast the connections need to be ‘firing’. So if I don’t blog on a fairly regular basis, will my connections break?

The writers that George references in his post suggest that blog posts should be about quality rather than quantity, but as they say, quality takes more time to ensure. And remember that George himself has equated the number of connections with intelligence – the more connected you are, the more intelligent, which implies that we also need quantity to be intelligent. (I commented on this in a previous blog post)

I suspect that all networks will have bursts of high speed activity and then have more reflective, slower periods – whereas courses can be fast and intense for the duration of the course, if the course is fairly short.

I am still thinking about this. There seem to be tensions between action and reflection in most learning environments and networks are probably no exception.

PS I am a slow blogger even if its doesn’t lead to quality 😉    Slow Blogging Manifesto 

4 thoughts on “How fast should the connections be firing?

  1. Chris Lott October 12, 2008 / 6:32 pm

    I would assume, like most things, that the important thing is to find a balance. My take on George’s comment about connections and intelligence is that more connections (can) add one kind of intelligence to many other kinds we possess, but it isn’t the only kind and it isn’t, in my view, the most important. Perhaps consistent attention and consistency can trump quantity… not to mention that my experience is that a slow, conscious blog entry nets more attention than a drive-by post…

    It seems like a false opposition to put reflection and sense-making opposite making connections or “momentum.” Insight, when it happens, is practically light speed. It dwarfs all other momentum and movement, so we have not just leave room for it, but encourage techniques that get to it. Which isn’t just moving slowly… in fact, given research into ideas and insights, it’s important to employ tangential and orthogonal activities so that we *Aren’t* constantly thinking about the questions at-hand, so our neural net can function properly (see the research into insight by Kounios and Jung-Beeman).

    But I doubt anyone advocating slow blogging would argue that it should be practiced exclusively, only that it should be practiced *sometimes*! And the reality is that many bloggers never (or almost never) do. It just isn’t true, in my experience, that all networks have the slower, reflective periods you talk about. The new media effect seems to be that there are two speeds in many networks: rapid-fire and off. And I suspect that the practice of slow blogging has many different descriptions, some of which go beyond my own!

    So if the argument seems one-sided it’s only because the side of quick, ephemeral, stream-of-consciousness, linky and other kinds of posts are more than adequately represented. Arguing for that side is like arguing that we have to be sure to get *enough* fat in our diet 🙂 However, if you are eating in a way that makes sense– and your network has a healthy balance– then you are, connectivity-wise, in good shape!

  2. jennymackness October 12, 2008 / 7:45 pm

    Wow Chris – I think you have made your point when you say that reflection can be practically light speed! I have hardly had time to think about my own post and have my tea and here you are commenting on my post.

    Did you take my post as a criticism of slow blogging? I hope not – as it really does make a lot of sense to me. My problem is that I just can’t seem to make it work.

    I am definitely going to think about your comment;
    It seems like a false opposition to put reflection and sense-making opposite making connections or “momentum.” Thanks for the reference to Kounios and Jung-Beeman.

    I agree that a healthy balance is needed, which was what I was trying to get at – obviously not every successfully – in thinking about the balance between momentum and reflection.

    Thanks for the comment – most unexpected and very welcome 🙂


  3. chrisl October 13, 2008 / 6:32 pm

    The network at work! No, I didn’t take it as a criticism at all, just used the opportunity to do some of my own thinking out loud 🙂

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