#Rhizo15, week six: If an antelope is a document, then anything can be an artifact…

Every librarian-student gets exposed to the Library Luminary Suzanne Briet and her assessment regarding antelopes and documents: “An antelope running wild on the plains of Africa should not be considered a document, she rules. But if it were to be captured, taken to a zoo and made an object of study, it has been made into a document. It has become physical evidence being used by those who study it. Indeed, scholarly articles written about the antelope are secondary documents, since the antelope itself is the primary document.”

So what does this have to do with the end of #Rhizo15?

In our final weekly assignment, we are looking at/for artifacts that provide a handy guide to rhizomatic learning. Hell, we might as well be looking for a needle in a haystack, in a sense. Potential artifacts are like antelopes running wild on the African plains (and I say that as a certified Africanist with years of experience on the African continent and a graduate degree from SOAS…Suzanne Briet also spent some time in the “wilds of Africa.”). Briet’s statement is viewed as one of the early expressions of actor-network theory.

Aha! Here the plot doth thicken:

From Wikipedia: “As the term implies, the actor-network is the central concept in ANT. The term “network” is somewhat problematic in that it, as Latour notes, has a number of unwanted connotations. Firstly, it implies that what is described takes the shape of a network, which is not necessarily the case. Secondly, it implies “transportation without deformation,” which, in ANT, is not possible since any actor-network involves a vast number of translations. Latour, however, still contends that network is a fitting term to use, because “it has no a priori order relation; it is not tied to the axiological myth of a top and of a bottom of society; it makes absolutely no assumption whether a specific locus is macro- or micro- and does not modify the tools to study the element ‘a’ or the element ‘b’.” This use of the term “network” is very similar to Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizomes …”

And again from Wikipedia: “Deleuze and Guattari introduce A Thousand Plateaus by outlining the concept of the rhizome (quoted from A Thousand Plateaus):

  • 1 and 2: Principles of connection and heterogeneity: “…any point of a rhizome can be connected to any other, and must be,”
  • 3. Principle of multiplicity: only when the multiple is effectively treated as a substantive, “multiplicity” that it ceases to have any relation to the One
  • 4. Principle of asignifying rupture: a rhizome may be broken, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines
  • 5 and 6: Principle of cartography and decalcomania: a rhizome is not amenable to any structural or generative model; it is a “map and not a tracing” “

Again, a needle in a haystack.  I rest my case / my document / my artifact / my antelope…

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my rhizomatic unfinished sonnet (note: internal rhyming scheme is an invasive weed that chokes and breeds…)

The poet does not write and read, non-plussed,
For mere applause. His rhythms and his notes
Might give you pause: for him it’s true relief.
Approval is not the cause, nor the end
Of his efforts. He writes because he must:
An unformed phrase, a clause not spoken
Is like an Albatross that gives him grief
Until he edits out its flaws and sends
It to a waiting world of laws and dust.
He draws the strength from deep within: a lust
That gnaws at his soul and never grants respite,
Nor takes flight, nor withdraws to sleep at night.

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a word cloud of my weekly submissions for #Rhizo15 (just for shits and grins…)


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#Rhizo15 week 5: completely mobile (invasive species and community learning)i

In Chocolate City this weekend to march across the stage in cap and gown to receive my MSLIS at CUA (which I actually received last October by mail, but THIS is the annual ceremony). Several of us who started together in 2013 will be finishing together, a community of learners.

In this week’s submission we are to address, among other things, community learning as an invasive species from the rhizomatic perspective we have been discussing. My first thoughts go to my garden that I planted too soon.  Late frosts killed the early sprouts, but the weeds, some them actually quite beautiful, and possibly edible in a tossed salad, keep on sprouting and running and sending their roots deeply (and quickly) into the freshly turned topsoil mound.  Are these weeds the invasive species, crowding out the seeds I’ve planted and sucking all the nutrients from the soil, or are my heirloom seeds the true invaders?  We won’t push that too far because we know the answer to that question.


I live in a neighborhood called Foggy Bottom, so named because it was built on top of a malaria-infested swamp.  Many people say it is still a swamp, though concrete and asphalt cover all the traces.  But sometimes, late at night when everything is quiet and still, you can smell it, the swamp beneath us… So, is the swamp the invasive ecosystem, or are my neighbors and me the invaders?

But we digress.  One of our colleagues posted a link to a site explaining the relationship between the history of architecture and the future of website design.  This resonated with me, being an information architect by training.  A few weeks ago someone from a different learning community posted a link to an article about a person who wanted to live inside a Frank O’Hara poem.


Some architecture that would be! (I’ll come back later and install all the links.). Then, last week, it all came together for me with a post to a librarian list describing the significance of words to website design.

From architecture to website design to poetry, and from education to gardening, the true invasive species is the collection of words, in a different configuration than before, that sets off a thought mutation that replicates itself and creates a new and different ecosystem than ore. I know, it’s all a gross over-simplification, and I have probably left off some important steps.  But you see the pattern.  Maybe.  As a community of learners (and teachers), we may be the invasive species, or maybe more appropriately, we may provide the mutative spark that moves our students (and ourselves) to the next level of thought and thinking.

I am going to miss these weekly blogposts when #Rhizo15 ends next week.  Maybe let’s keep it going?

p.s.  This e.e. cummings poem seems somehow appropriate to this discussion, “when faces called flowers float out of the ground,” (best read aloud):

when faces called flowers float out of the ground
and breathing is wishing and wishing is having-
but keeping is downward and doubting and never
-it’s april(yes,april;my darling)it’s spring!
yes the pretty birds frolic as spry as can fly
yes the little fish gambol as glad as can be
(yes the mountains are dancing together

when every leaf opens without any sound
and wishing is having and having is giving-
but keeping is doting and nothing and nonsense
-alive;we’re alive,dear:it’s(kiss me now)spring!
now the pretty birds hover so she and so he
now the little fish quiver so you and so i
now the mountains are dancing, the mountains)

when more than was lost has been found has been found
and having is giving and giving is living-
but keeping is darkness and winter and cringing
-it’s spring(all our night becomes day)o,it’s spring!
all the pretty birds dive to the heart of the sky
all the little fish climb through the mind of the sea
all the mountains are dancing;are dancing)

postscript #2.  I traveled to Ramadi in 2008 with a CODEL as part of my supervisory responsibilities.  We had won the peace, or so we convinced ourselves, even though we on the civilian side all knew the “surge” was a crock.  Anyway, I am a bit saddened today that Ramadi has fallen to ISIS, though it has absolutely nothing to do with me or my life.  I am still saddened.

Better days,  Visiting the Ramadi Museum with a CODEL.

Better days, Visiting the Ramadi Museum with a CODEL.

On the good news side, I was happy to see so many of my classmates over the weekend, graduating together under the hot May sun.  Many have remained in the DC area, but many have returned home, or to their alma maters, all over.  We are spreading out like little rhizomes, tending to rhizomatic libraries that in turn spread out through books and things throughout the universe of information.  Here’s another image, feast your eyes!


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#Rhizo15 week 4: (rhizo life without Dave?)

It is merely a coincidence, of course, that at the last minute Week 4 gets switched to life-without-Dave, and trendwatching.com sends me their weekly email entitled, “no interface.” It does beg the question, do we need a teacher/professor/facilitator, in effect, a human interface, a Dave, in order to learn and to process information, or can we truly transform our interactions by minimizing the need for a mediator between the limited known and the vast unknown?

These is an interesting spiritual aspect to all this, as well as a purely consumerism appeal. From trendwatching.com’s May 2015 Trend Briefing: “Connected people – they, you, all of us – are trapped in a paradox: the digital information and functionality that we love is becoming so behaviorally, socially and cognitively intrusive that it’s (the interface) (italics mine) starting to impact on our relationships, productivity, ability to concentrate – we could go on. And yet we still want more!”

I am reminded of religions and the prophets, saints, priests (rabbis, imams, etc.) who intercede between the people at the bottom and the deity at the top. Do we really need their intercession? Is this the question?  Or am I taking it too far?  Do we need commercials and advertisement (and brand hypnosis) to tell us what buy to bring us happiness and satisfaction. Nirvana? Or am I taking it all too far?

Closer to home (because I made my peace with religion and even with consumerism (modern day religion) a long time ago), in school and out here in the world we librarians talk about the convergence between libraries, archives and museums, affectionately known as LAM convergence. While there are many similarities in the way we each store, transmit and convey knowledge and information, what most distinguishes us one from the other is the degree of mediation required, with archives requiring the highest (the archivist brings the user what he/she requires in the form of documents/records), museums only requiring a high mediation at the front end (curation/design of exhibits), and libraries providing the least visible mediation (the books are on the shelf, the e-resources are in the database, find it and get it).

Where is Dave? Do we need him? Or more to the point, do we need to see him, visibly present?

Similarly, the use of increasingly functional and descriptive icons reduces dependence on the interface for standard transactions.  One-touch interactions.  Hieroglyphics here we come! What about facial recognition technology advances? Might we one day be able to fire up the iMac, turn on the camera, and get the counseling we need based on our facial expression’s deviation from the standard? Our own standard? Our own norm? (Didn’t expect that, did you?).

And will we then be marketed stuff based on our moods, again, as reflected in our facial expressions?  More questions than answers …

I fear I have missed the rhizomatic point.

p.s.  We need teachers and facilitators, just like we need librarians, archivists and museum folks, just like a traveler needs navigation aids/signs/landmarks.  Not everyone can read the hieroglyphics.  My vote is to keep Dave on the island (in case there was ever any doubt…).

p.s.2.  Several items died in my garden as a result of the season’s last frost.  I probably planted too soon.  I lost all the above-ground stuff: squash, cucumbers, cantaloupe, but the underground stuff is still flourishing: beets, potatoes, carrots.  Oh yeah, and somehow the sunflower sprouts survived.  I was disheartened for a couple of weeks, somewhat surprised I had made such an emotional investment, and I stayed away from the garden.  Two weeks passed.  Today, this morning I stopped by on the way to work.  Everything that survived the frost is flourishing.  The plants didn’t need me at all.  So tomorrow is re-planting day.

p.s.3.  Inspired by Helen’s post in Five Flames 4 Learning, I went to the library and looked up an article I remember reading in high school, “The Tropical Rain Forest.”  Here is one memorable passage:

Secondary succession, the process that leads from cleared land to a stable, or climax, community, is illustrated schematically.  The first invaders are weeds, tall grasses, vines, and seedling trees.  All these form a dense ground cover but the trees soon begin to overtop the other vegetation.  The first trees are species that colonize clearings quickly because their seeds are dispersed more efficiently than those of the permanent forest trees. They thrive in full sunlight and are intolerant of shade.  Most of them reach maturity and die in 15 to 20 years; often only a single generation grows because the trees are unable to regenerate in their own shade.  Growing below the pioneer trees, and eventually replacing them, are more long-lived and more varied species, which establish a community that in time begins to resemble the primary forest.  A disproportionate number of light-demanding trees remain for many years, however; these are replaced only very slowly by trees more tolerant of shade.  The succession may take centuries to complete.”

Richards, Paul W. “The Tropical Rain Forest.’ Scientific American , December, 1973, pp. 58-67

Here is the whole article: Tropical Rain Forest SciAm 12_1973

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#Rhizo15 week three: thoughts on “content”

Again, in library instruction (since that is my container of experience), content is somewhat secondary. Tools and their uses (to acquire information) are primary, such as search techniques, procedures, the inner workings of databases, and even search algorithms and logic. Content is neither the end nor the means of research instruction. So what is it and what is its value?

In library instruction for freshman and sophomore English classes, I have sought to “mix up” content (the “stuff” to which research tools are applied for illustration) to make learning the tools easy, interesting, and even meaningful. Configuring content provides an opportunity for insertion of different ideas, diverse ideas, all elements, broadly speaking, of critical pedagogy, to make our students better thinkers, and, to a limited extent, better people. I have been successful in incorporating local and regional content, “stuff,” information about the the history and culture of the school and of the region, building in the students a stronger sense of self-confidence and the significance of their place and potential in the world. Similarly, content that is relevant to the student age group (18-25), like music, art in general, and student-led activism makes learning the tools more meaningful, perhaps easier to some extent.

In my business classes, I have found that local content, i.e., business success stories of local entrepreneurs (and especially University graduates) energizes and motivates the students, making the learning process a much more engaging and hence, successful encounter. Soliciting their concerns, from the work they are doing in groups, to their plans for post graduation, and finding ways to incorporate that into library instruction on a real-time basis has also made the learning more engaging.

So where are we? Back to the original propositions. Content is not the end of instruction, developing expertise with using the tools is the end. Content is not the means of instruction, as developing expertise only happens through exercise with the tools, using them repetitively to develop these “muscles.” But perhaps content is the motive force of learning, and maybe content is the element that engages the students and inspires them to stick with it and do the long, hard work required for mastery. Moreover, content can be the human element that enables students to see themselves in their learning and to imagine their own possibilities/potential in shaping and forging the outlines of their future.

p.s. The choice of content is not neutral.  In fact, it is value-laden.  To be fair to the students, a strong dose of critical thinking should accompany instruction at all levels and incorporate examination of bias in content selection.

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#Rhizo15 week two: brief thoughts on assessment

As librarians, we often use the one-shot method for library instruction, that is, one class period workshops of library resources and search technologies. I am not personally convinced that this one-shot method is the best way of conveying “information literacy” to our students.  One might also conclude that we have not done the “necessary” in terms of assessment to demonstrate the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of the one-shot method for making our students smarter and more information-capable in the information age.

Where is there time for assessment in one-shot instruction? There is no time. But assessment can be built into instruction exercises, just as critical pedagogy can be built in. For example, in a MOOC course I am taking, multiple choice quizzes are built right into each unit sub-section, both to reinforce the information being conveyed and to “report back” the degree to which the information is being received/absorbed.

I’m not an anarchist, and I don’t believe assessment should be thrown out the window completely. But I do think that it can be embedded in the learning material, like navigation is embedded in a website, so that it is unobtrusive, and perhaps, even more effective for the student and for the teacher.

p.s.  The final frosts of the season killed my squash, cucumbers, watermelon and cantaloupe. My fault for planting too soon.  Here in the mountains Mother’s day marks the end of the final frost.  The potatoes and carrots and all the greens (collards, kale, beets) survived.  So it’s off the Lowes  to buy new seeds.  And dandelions, yes, dandelions.  We need some rhizomes in the garden!

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#Rhizo15 and Learning subjectives (vs. objectives)

#rhizo15 Learning subjectives (vs. objectives)

So, it may not be so bad to not know where you are headed, i.e., what one’s objectives are, as long as you know how you got here in the first place. That is where we are.

As a reference and instruction librarian, I am concerned about how we help students develop tools for finding, analyzing, evaluating information and how they use those tools to further develop their awareness of the world around them. One of the tools we use are libguides, and right now I am in the middle of rebuilding my share of our libguide collection to migrate to V2 (and frankly I haven’t caught the enthusiasm bug to do it, but a deadline looms…)

But I am also the liaison to the business school, with a research focus on evidence-based management, where my business school colleagues and I are focused on the role of systematic reviews (in management education and in management practice) in providing evidence for practice.

And aside from the above, I have a personal research interest in design and communication of scholarly information, primarily the design of libguides and posters, which led me to sign up for a MOOC presently underway, Design Thinking.

All these parts were tip-toeing around each other, until I took #MOOCMOOC and rediscovered critical pedagogy after a long period of dormancy. But the parts all collided when I saw the HybridPedagogy post, Libguides: Pedagogy to Oppress (a play on the title of the Freire classic, Pedagogy of the Oppressed).

So, I have two small plots in the #CullowheeCommunityGarden, and I have been ordering seeds through the mail. When I don’t use all the seeds in a package, I pour what’s left into a brown bag because I like to use the original package as a marker on the row. Those seeds mix at the bottom of the bag, unidentified for the most part, but being the efficient guy that I want to be, I plan to plant all those leftover seeds as soon as the last frost comes and goes. Except I won’t know what they are, so I will have to plant them and wait to see what they grow into. That is how I see learning subjectives. I have these ideas, these research proposals, and I suspect they are related. Well, sort of. But I don’t know really, and won’t know until they all grow together and bear fruit, just like the seeds at the bottom of the bag.

That’s what’s up, as the young folks say.

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All my blogging energy has flowed into gardening efforts. #CullowheeCommunityGardening



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April 5, 2015

traveling west on I-40

early spring is as colorful as late autumn:
the highway flora is putting on new clothes
winter’s browns and greys displaced by greens
and oranges and reds and purples

further west, the road gets curvier and trees,
more hardwood that evergreen, more long-legged,
evergreens shorter, bushier

the baby mountains start to appear,
along with their mothers and fathers –
majestic, protective, persevering

I can feel my brain starting to bend
to the mountain curves. I switch the sound
from talk radio to jazz. A Love Supreme
takes me all the way to my mountain home

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