I’ve been thinking about how to design online textbooks that are intrinsically collaborative, can be ‘authoratative’ where necessary and don’t revolve around a central, linear narrative. It’s a concept, this lack of linear narrative, that is coming up more and more. People are talking about having websites, groups, communities… all kinds of things that are not tied by spokes to a central core but can move around in relation to each other. I want to talk a bit about this, clear an idea out of my head and throw in out there for you folks to help me work on.
rhizomatic - Gilles Deleuze and FÃ©lix Guattari used the term “rhizome” to describe theory and research that allows for multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points in data representation and interpretation.
I’ve spent much of my ‘free time’ lately looking at models of collaboration. Stephen put up a very cool set of distinctions between linear models of collaboration from a whiteboard he’s drawn on when he was in Australia/New Zealand. I was also looking at a new posting from Nancy White detailing the 8 competencies of online interaction (in conjunction with some fantastic photos… she has such a nice feeling for the transcendent image). The word that popped into my head was ‘rhizomatic’. That’s what’s been bugging me about the profusion of dots and lines connecting with each other to describe collaborative communities. They all look rhizomatic. First a bit of an introducation to rhizomatic structures and what both the metaphor/real have to tell us about how we all can/do communicate, and then back to texts. warning – i am not an expert at this… just a lowly philosopher wannabe.
I was looking for a nice webpage to give a clear defintion of rhizomes the other day and came across this little beauty. It was (i hope) written a while ago, but it does a nice job of detailing the distinction between arbolic and rhizomatic structures. Deleuze and Guitarri’s A Thousand Plateaus is not a book for… casual reading… but the ‘translation’ of it given here is sufficient to detail its connection to the way we talk about collaboration.
Deleuze and Guattariâ€™s Rhizomatic Versus Arbolic
|Multiplicitous||Unitary and binary|
|Minor science||Major science|
This is one of the ‘the polluted inheritances of the enlightenment.’ We are committed, partially due to the quest for Truth and partially because our technologies (sequential pages in books etc…), to thinking our way through building things in linear ways to answer specific problems. When things build up on their own however – see the way that a blogging community tends to do this (another fantastic set of slides from nancy) – we see a more rhizomatic structure poking through the rigid structures of linear, enlightenment style thought.So, now, how do we build a text this way. The term text, of course, is problematic. It too has a polluted inheritance that suggests something with a certain smell and structure (mmm… old book smell). This is, for those of you who don’t like neologisms, why it is so necessary to control and often change the language we use in order to get new ideas out of the garage. For the next few months I’m going to be experimenting with ways of building rhizomatic texts… I’m looking for folks to come on this journey with me, as its a little tough to create a rhizomatic community by myself. tech note: I had orginally hoped that wikis would be the answer to this, but am now not so sure. I’m very open to suggestion on the platform for this exploration. I’m currently leaning towards elggish drupalness… but am not permanently sold on that either.