A dark night of identity

I have spent the last 24 hours at a conference in Birmingham.  I found this a highly stimulating event. Once again, Etienne Wenger was the keynote speaker, but this time he was speaking specifically about the meaning of learning, to an audience of mostly Higher Education academics.

I find Etienne inspiring to listen to. There are many things I could have picked to quote from his keynote today – but this is one that struck me as relevant to the process of reflective learning and in particular to my learning.

He said:

‘Any serious learning will take you through a dark night of your identity’.

I can absolutely relate to this and how this relates to the transformative aspect of deep learning and knowledge being troublesome. According to Etienne, we need to be able to cross a boundary and know how to engage enough on the other side of a boundary.

Does this stir you as much as it stirs me?

8 thoughts on “A dark night of identity

  1. Mary May 11, 2010 / 12:13 am

    I could not make the conference. I did however retrieve and I enjoyed the Prezi presentation that you, John, and Roy put together for the Conference and that you and Roy delivered. I thought you did a good job representing aspects of the course and explaining some of the key themes. I am not a blogger and my particpation in the forum was sporadic, but I was and still am a participant in the ongoing conversation about the learning experiences of participants in online environments. It was interesting to see what you learned through your survey.

    I read Digital Habitats by Wenger, White, and . Have you read it yet? Haveyou visited their blog http://technologyforcommunities.com/?
    In that blog, John Smith engaged in an elablorate discussion of Skype as a community platform

    Published by John David Smith under Polarities, Technology stewardship

    * In a way it’s all circular because you can’t see a community’s configuration (or digital habitat) directly or simply.
    o You can’t stand outside of your own digital habitat
    o You can’t really see a community unless you’re participating in their habitat
    o Seeing their habitat as they see it requires relationships and access to their practices, habits, and cultural frame
    o Understanding the role of a tool in a habitat involves a sense of shared timing and even group improvisation

    I think that it would be interesting to hear from those who participated in the MOOC, but who did not particpate in those forum. While you received responses from about 37% of the participants, a large number of participants did not respond.

    I just wanted to let you know that there are people who saw your presentation who were not at the 2010 Network Learning Conference.

  2. Heli Nurmi May 11, 2010 / 7:12 am

    Yes, Jenny

    learning is a process going up and down. The light comes after the darkest moments, it’s very true but not always nice to live through

    Seasons of learning? Has anybody used this concept, now I did 🙂

  3. jennymackness May 11, 2010 / 11:53 am

    Hi Mary – thanks so much for your very helpful comment.

    Yes – I have seen the Digital Habitats book – in fact I own a copy – but have only dipped into it so far. Interestingly I met John Smith for the first time at the Networked Learning Conference, along with other CPsquare community members who I have ‘talked’ to online but never met face-to-face. That was a great experience!

    I find the points you list in your comment very useful – thank you. I agree that it would be interesting to find out more about the CCK08 participants who did not respond to the survey. In fact this ties in closely to the discussions some of us had in Birmingham about what responsibility we have to peripheral participants – are active community members accountable for them in any way? should we be, do they want us to be?

    Given that communities are ever increasing in size and that the size of the ‘legitimate peripheral group’ is likewise growing in size, I think we do need to find out more about how the peripheral group learns.

    Thank you for your comment Mary, it is much appreciated.

  4. Mary May 12, 2010 / 1:43 am

    Hi Jenny,

    Do read Etienne, Nancy, and John’s book, as they provide some insight into how people interact in communities of practice. Or, better yet, read this infed post on communities of practice http://www.infed.org/biblio/communities_of_practice.htm.

    I think that it is important to realize that being a blogger or being active in an online social network, such as facebook does not place a persona at the center of a community of practice. It might be better if you did not refer to people as peripheral participants. Being a participant in a domain of inquiry and research is what makes a person a member of a community of practice. The tools people use do not make them more or less active or more or less a participant in a community of practice, though they may make them more or less visible. I think also it would be good to go back to the notion of “legitimate peripheral participation.” It is legitimate to be on the periphery of a group. Peripheral may mean that one is “not significant or non essential, etc.” in some contexts, but that is not the only use of the word. Let’s consider what peripheral software do? Peripherals let you control your typing process, manage your assets, record audio, and create images.

    You are new to the Network Learning Conference Group, and it is wonderful that John Smith took the time to get to know you. He sounds like a connector and you two made a connection. That is great!

    I was a little confused by your comment. Communities are increasing in size, as is the peripheral group. I am wondering why you need to understand better how the peripheral group learns. I think it would be important to keep following up on the bloggers, see how their thinking and practice evolves over time…That is a good story.

  5. jennymackness May 12, 2010 / 6:44 am

    Hi Mary – I see we have been talking at cross purposes (my fault!) – but I’m pleased because it has led to your very interesting and thought provoking post. The discussion we had in Birmingham was about the ELESIG community of practice – http://elesig.ning.com/ – a community of which I am a founder member and until just recently have been a member of the management team. I have recently been thinking a lot about whether the people on the periphery of the ELESIG community, i.e. those who join but don’t attend events either on or offline and don’t take part in online discussion, want to be there or whether they are there because they cannot connect. The former is of course fine and legitimate, but the latter concerns/interests me in that I wonder what this means in terms of mutual accountability.

    It was in this context that I made my comments about peripheral participation.

    Blogging here – I do not see myself as a member of a community – rather as part of a network – which I see as two different things, although Etienne points out that there is overlap between the two ideas.

    Thank you for the link. You have made me realise that I really need to read John, Etienne and Nancy’s book (not just skim it).

    When you say ‘keep following up on the bloggers’ – do you mean specifically the CCK08, CCK09 bloggers?

    Thank you Mary for getting back to me and making me think!

  6. VanessaVaile March 26, 2012 / 11:33 pm

    getting dizzy here… but it’s been that kind of identity adjustment day. some of the discussion about to call or not call participants reminds me of adjunct faculty going on about what they want to call themselves, be called, Necessary, probably, but it can also turn into quicksand

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