This just in from the “I love Me” department.
Last month I spent five days in beautiful Barcelona presenting at the Annual EDEN Conference and watching 2001: A Space Odyssey in glorious 70MM at the phenomenal Phenomena theater. It was a blast, and an excellent European primer for my family’s fast approaching move to Italy. While there I was interviewed by Lluís Amiguet of La Vanguard about a range of topics from blogging to networks to online communities to EDUPUNK to digital higher ed. Now I would love to talk in some depth about the article/interview, but I can’t get my hands on a decent translation, and my Spanish is non-existent. So, if anyone out there is interested in a free domain and web hosting for the foreseeable future in exchange for a translation, let me know—Reclaim Hosting has got you covered 🙂 Hell, you might even be able to find the article in Spanish by clicking the link below.
I have to say it doesn’t suck to see an article like this where your work/ideas are featured.* That said, it’s important to recognize how it can help promote the myth of the pioneering innovator/fearless leader rhetoric that’s often predicated on erasing the conditions that made it so. It doesn’t take much for me to start questioning how much anything I’ve done is really mine. Luckily, I had the good fortune of working at UMW the last ten years, and my colleagues at DTLT provided a much needed grounding when things like EDUPUNK, ds106, Domains, etc. came along. I may have drawn some attention through my blogging and online antics, but the work was always the thing—and that’s where we always focused our energy. You can’t make great things happen without a host of committed people building together to create something bigger than each of them individually. When you are part of something like that concerns around ego, credit, and ownership disappear, if even for a moment. That’s how much of the beginnings of ds106 felt for me.
The raw collaborative energy of folks like Martha Burtis, Grant Potter, Tim Owens, Lisa M. Lane, Brian Lamb, GNA, Mikhail Gershovich, Scottlo, Alan Levine, NoiseProfessor, Giulia Forsythe, and Tom Woodward, to name just a few‡, over the course of that four or five months in spring 2011 is hard to capture or quantify. In fact, I don’t remember a lot of it—too many drugs and not nearly enough sleep 🙂 And this has been the case for so many of the cool things I have been a part of over the last 8 or 9 years. I can contribute much of EDUPUNK’s inspiration and widespread attention to Brian Lamb and Stephen Downes (the latter got the word out on a massive scale). The issue of credit gets even trickier when thinking about how many folks continue to drive the collaborative creative engine that is ds106. Just look at all the different things happening at this moment: Jennifer Polack’s students at UMW‘s work, the amazing #cudenver posts from Remi Holden’s students at UC Denver, the #prisoner106 madness, and the Burgeron Family…WTF! It’s not one thing, it couldn’t have been after we opened and networked the course. I understand it’s easy to reduce ds106 to the lowest common denominator of my personality—which is very low but certainly in there. But at this point four years later it has been amalgamated with so many other personalities as to be just a part of a larger whole. Linking me so closely with ds106 makes more sense as a metonymic association than any kind of reality at this point—just ask anyone experiencing the course now.
Maybe that’s why Martin Weller’s recent post and resulting conversation around the role of personality in education has been of so much interest to me, and many other folks. I blame Martin for what started as a fairly straightforward post celebrating “my work” resulting in a broader examination of “our work on the web.” It reminds me of a poem by Muhammed Ali, one which George Plimpton asserts is the shortest in the English language:
The way I think about something like ds106, UMW Domains, and now Reclaim Hosting is always a balance between me/we. I want to do cool stuff and it feels awesome when folks recognize me for something I’ve done, but its even cooler when this happens alongside others that help balance your own assumptions and enable you to transcend the limits of your own subjectivities to create something more nuanced, complicated, and beautiful. Isn’t that the great promise of a network like the web?
But even if you begin to pull it off like we did in ds106, it’s not long before our course could be your cult 🙂 Martha Burtis created the above mock Time cover back in February 2012 after Stephen Downes suggested the self-referential assignments and #4life chants in ds106 were over-branding the course and suggestive of that group feeling. The discussions that ensued were interesting, as the comment thread on Alan’s blog can attest. Hell, the claims of ds106 as a cult even pre-date that. Two weeks into the first open, online ds106 course in January 2011 the idea of course purely driven by a cult of personality was thrown out there—even if in jest. So, I guess the idea of personality as a trap for building an engaged community is always a danger. And I must admit I can tend to have a knee-jerk reaction because it tends to reduce all the work many of us did to my personal character traits, which then creates a tension (spoken or not) that is borne by a general tendency to put the me (rather than the we) at the center of things.
The whole raison d’etre of ds106 was that this course could be your life, á la the lyric from The Minutemen‘s History Lesson Part 2. Anyone could start a band (or create a course) and make music.† I tend to think ds106 was about the convergence of a network of people that I wanted to “build dreams with and stuff.” Personalities were a part of that, but it is also very clear it didn’t end with them.
* Although, let it be said I may feel differently post-transcription.
‡ I know I am missing so many more folks here, see how this credit thing sucks.
† I am stealing all of this from Grant Potter cause he jams econo.