I may be carrying the biological metaphor too far, but I am hoping to find a way to understand. I feel a little inadequate critiquing because I’m not sure I can offer something more useful, but I’ll try.
The elements of the rhizome metaphor Dave Cormier presents that are most useful for me are that learning can take its own path, as well as mutuality, egalitarianism and resilience. The validation of multiple paths with each to its own ends is heartening. I agree that it is necessary to have connection and interaction with others and their ideas. The mutuality or symbiosis shared by different organisms make to one another other successful, each contributing its share to the other. It is further enhanced when the node is not privileged. If I only think about the horizontal and somewhat unpredictable nature of adding a new node that has the same capacities as the first node, then I see egalitarianism and perhaps a nonhierarchical system and certainly resilience. The capacity to regenerate a network or grow new connections even if disconnected from the origin provides hope.
When I think about the how rhizomes work in nature, the resilience is not in the system, but in individual capacity. The individual has everything needed to carry on. The rhizome is a singular organism and propagates itself by branching and creating new centers, each growing away from itself. The value is that once mature, each center is equal, and apart from environmental influences, identical to the center that sent out the horizontal growth. Its serves the ultimate purpose: reproduction.
The ever-outward branching does not account for unsystematic connections between and among nodes of different types and does not readily adapt to change or learn. With the rhizome, evolution is glacial – and the common conceptualization of evolution is a branching hierarchical tree. I am looking for something more encompassing and interconnected rather than ever-branching, and for something that is anything but homogeneous and self-replicating.
The network model provides the capacity to connect or add something new and reshape the nodes and the storage capacity. It’s shape and growth are not fixed, though there may be hierarchy, or not. The changes that occur because of learning are not necessarily hierarchical. I am thinking of a network that has the capacity to change and include new elements from outside. However, I have difficulty with the idea that machines store more than information or serve as more than sophisticated calculators, sorting devices, bridges and conduits. Even in Harry Potter, the magical stored memories were of no use until Harry experienced them and made them his. The use of the words “learning,” “knowing” and “remembering” to me signify some sort of embodiment and sentience that I cannot cede to a machine, device or even a magician’s vial.
In short, I like the organic nature of the rhizome and the sense of mutuality, but seek more than symbiosis, where the both the individual and the collective adapt to and create new things. Diversity makes it interesting and rich. I keep heading toward the idea of a learning ecology. It can adapt, change and even be disrupted and something new emerge and it allows for sustainable gardening. 🙂 The syllabus becomes a garden space, a context setting within which learning can happen and the curriculum is the things that grows there.
The real value in the metaphor is that it provides a way for people to think about abstract concepts and try to examine their own assumptions and preconceptions. For me it is an evolution and slow.