Finding and losing your voice in the collective

‘How do we find the knowledge that we need in the collective space?’

‘What are the binding forces that bring knowledge resources and people together?’

These two questions have been raised this week by Allison Littlejohn – in Change Mooc 11 –  and also discussed with Lou McGill .

Reference to ‘binding forces’ made my ears prick up, but I have been struggling to further resonate with the ideas that have been presented.  Allison and her team’s interests lie around identifying the social objects that help people to bind together in collective environments, and increasing our understanding of the tools, skills and processes that are needed to learn in complex connective environments/collectives.

But for me Lou McGill’s question –  about how to balance the needs of me as an individual with the needs of the broader collective is more interesting.

Whilst we do need to ask (and answer) questions about the social objects that will bring people together and the digital literacy skills that they will need to find each other, these are ‘what’ questions, rather than ‘how’ questions.

When Matthias Melcher and I wrote our paper on online resonance – we were interested in the ‘how’ of online connections. Although we were interested in one-to-one resonance as opposed to ‘binding forces’ in groups/collectives, I think the ideas we were struggling with were/are relevant to this discussion. We explored how people connect with each other online in some depth,  concluding that there definitely is something that sparks off connections, which we called ‘e-resonance’. We suggested that as well as recognizing the skills that learners need and the affordances of the web for this resonance to occur, we also need to try and unpick/understand the contributing elements of ‘beyond verbal’ communication. In relation to this discussion – would this also be ‘beyond social object’?

I think it was this deeper level of communication or binding that I was looking for in Allison’s work. Whilst we might be able to identify a task, assignment or learning goal as being the social object around which people appear to collect, I think the actual binding (particularly if that binding is going to be long-term) has to be at a deeper and more individual level. Whilst the collective may be made up of a whole array of resources, it is also made up of individuals, whose learning will be determined by their perceptions of their individual identities in relation to the collective.

I’m with Lou in her concerns about the individual getting lost in the collective.

Thanks to Allison for a very well prepared and thought provoking presentation for ChangeMOOC.