Life cycle of ‘connectedness’

Last year I wrote about my mother’s connectedness –

When you are 83, connectedness takes on a new meaning year by year. This year my mother’s connectedness is ‘shrinking’. Those who she can readily connect to (albeit never online) are dying. And she is becoming forgetful. Her neural connections do not work as well as they once did,  although she still has a formidable memory for times past.

For me this brings a new dimension to the concept of connectedness. It not only means different things to different people, but it is experienced differently at different stages of the connectedness life-cycle. This is similar to Etienne Wenger’s ideas that a community goes through a life-cycle and ultimately dies.

I can see my mother’s connections waning at social, neural and conceptual levels. She has never used a computer, but that is not the point. My mother was once a highly connected person in her own way, but I can now see a closing down of these connections which is not in her control.

Do online connections make a difference? This week I learned that a past colleague of mine has died – very sad since she was considerably younger than me. But what I find interesting is that her Facebook account is still ‘alive’. People are posting messages to her as if she was still alive.

So what does this mean for connectivity? Can it die – or is it that once it has been initiated, it will always be there, ready for further connection?

5 thoughts on “Life cycle of ‘connectedness’

  1. Sui Fai John Mak August 9, 2009 / 11:37 pm

    Jenny, I feel sorry that your mum’s connections are waning at all levels. Also, it’s sad to lose a close colleague. The appearance on Facebook may be an honourable to keep those pass away a good memory though.
    Your mention of the different stages of connectedness life cycle often happen in communities. My observation and experience is that some people would choose the community which would meet her continuous needs, at different times, though sometimes some others would just gradually “fade” away from being an active networker to the peripheral (as legitimate peripheral participant) to eventual “withdrawal”.

    When there is a renewal of interests or something that is exciting “offered” by the network or community, then some may be drawn back as a rekindled networkers of the community. Would this depend on the context and the “stage” of the community?

    Such pattern of life cycle may appear different when it is relating to religious community, where it is not sparked by interests (only), but by faith, belief, and love. A sense of helping and loving each other in an altruistic manner is an inner call, from most religions. Would this pattern be reflective of how we meet new acquaintances or friends in the real world, or even in the digital world?

    Connectivity: can it die? May be physically, but not spiritually… as people always would be in remembrance of the friendship formed. Once a friend, could be a friend forever, that utopian state of friendship that is embraced in one’s heart.

  2. Keith Lyons August 14, 2009 / 2:12 am

    Hi Jenny

    Your post last year encouraged me to think a great deal about biography and connectedness. Thank you for revisiting the post here.

    At about the time you were writing your recent post I think I was listening to

    I left that program thinking about the spark of life that supports each of us and how in some people a spark is a beacon in others a fading ember.

    I wonder if the ebbing of connection is a natural cycle and that we can socially construct it with our digital memories. I have been thinking a lot about this and have written about Merce Cunningham ( and a colleague Tom Reilly ( to explore my thoughts about biography.

    My best wishes


  3. ailsa August 24, 2009 / 3:04 am

    Hi Jenni, reminds me of my own (dis)connect with my mum who similarly moves in and out with her abilities to relate with those around her.
    Etienne Wenger also talks of the needs for boundaries to be fluid as people move in and out of community, I think any theory of connectivism also needs an appreciation for peoples being more and less available at any time.
    best wishes,

  4. jennymackness August 24, 2009 / 9:00 am

    Many thanks John, Keith and Ailsa for your comments. It’s good to have your different perspectives and I appreciate you taking the time to write. Jenny

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