Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wikipedia is a convivial tool

Illich talked about convivial tools that supported his ideal of returning learning to its natural function dissintermediated from the control of the radical monopoly of the industrial education complex.

Looks like Wikipedia may be able to play an important role in this process. One indicator is that the Landes Bioscience journal is requiring that publication submissions be accompanied by a submission to Wikipedia.

I'm still trying to find a complete rationale for this from the journal but this article describes it in part. I can see this as an effort to ensure that new knowledge is disseminated and subjected to critical scrutiny above and beyond the traditional (and tarnished) peer-review process.

This seems to support the notion as put forward in a number of places that "Information is now validated at the point of consumption, not creation." (eLearnspace, 2008)It makes it evermore important that people develop and use critical thinking skills rather than rely on authority now matter how unimpeachable the source.

Giggling a little over an article about the Catholic church trying to whitewash its treatment of Galileo 400 years later. I love this quote, "Had Galileo been tortured, Nicolini would have reported it to his king. While instruments of torture may have been present during Galileo’s recantation (this was the custom of the legal system in Europe at that time), they definitely were not used." Kinna like the US doesn't use torture, what do they call it? Oh yeah "tactical questioning"

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Generating Ideas

This entry is partly inspired by a presentation by Anni DeStefano to the virtual cluster on Dec 20, 2008. Three articles were introduced for advanced readings.

Deegan, M., & Hill, M. (1991). Doctoral dissertations as liminal journeys of the self: Betwixt and between in graduate sociology programs. Teaching Sociology, 19(3), 322-332.

Hampel, R. (2008). In search of new frontiers: How Scholars generate ideas. Chronicle of Higher Education, 72. Retrieved December 20, 2008, from

Kamler, B., & Thomson, P. The failure of dissertation advice books: Toward alternative pedagogies for doctoral writing . Educational Researcher, 37(8), 507-514. doi: 10.3102/0013189X08327390.

I read the Kamler article when my copy of Educational Researcher arrived and had a few conversations with others regarding this particular article. The article references a book that I purchased on the advice of Sue Gordon.

Rudestam, K., & Newton Rae. (2001). Surviving your dissertation: A comprehensive guide to content and process (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

I was impressed by the mention of Grounded Theory dissertations.

Generally I agree with the authors position that the preponderance of advice books is not particularly helpful.
Anna referenced p 508 "doctoral writing is best understood as text work/identity work(italics in the original. By this we mean that texts and identities are formed together, in, and through writing. The practices of doctoral writing simultaneously produce not only a dissertation
but also a doctoral scholar."

I also loved the Hampel article especially the reference to . ... psychologist Abraham Maslow, who began keeping journals primarily to let posterity have "everything unfinished, all that is ¼ or ½ done ... it will save all of my forgotten insights, beautiful ones that are lost because I have too many of them to work them all out or even to classify & save efficiently." At age 57, he fretted that "much of my work will die with me."

I can help but think that Maslow would have been a big fan of blogging because most of my blog entries represent ideas in various stages of development. I keep going back and adding materials as I come across them and trying to integrate concepts.

Anna referenced the notion of rite of passage that is part of the dissertation process and mentioned in the Deegan and Hill (p.74) .....Balancing originality and conformity.....The passage is risky...but an opportunity do something grand. Liminal.

P 325. No place for the immature personality.. (Transformative)

Power of writing... professional writers are lodged in the privileged world of publications. Anna mentioned the proliferation of web based tool blogs, wikis and the way that this might have changed this observation. Knowledge construction and dissemination have changed dramatically and the power structures have changed. Web-based tools support the aims of critical pedagogy in these regards.

Topic of collaborating and drawing on fellow students. Fielding supports student input. "Only one student may serve in the official capacity of Student Reader on your committee, and their name will appear on the title page of your dissertation. You may wish to ask other students to review your work informally (and you may wish to do the same
for their dissertations), but their names will not appear on the dissertation. You may acknowledge the assistance and encouragement of your fellow students in your Acknowledgments page of the dissertation"

Recognizing the institutional concerns regarding the use of new media to accomplish academic tasks. Institutions are subject to accreditation processes that make it important to consider the ramifications of adopting new approaches to scholarship such as a wiki-dissertation. The institution is bound to ensure that the credibility of the degree granted is sound for the sake of alumni, currently enrolled doctoral candidates and potential enrollments at the institution.
At the same time institutions that wish to remain relevant must continue to re-evaluate policy and procedure to ensure that diversity and creativity are encouraged and supported in all aspects of learning and contributing to the community of scholars.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ontology, Folksonomy and Grounded Theory

So grinding through a few concepts here. Established that GTM can be used in support of critical pedagogy as long as you steer clear of the impulse to use GTM as an elite process. Evetts, Mieg, and Felt,(2006)

One of the mechanisms of the elite scientific process is the definition of terms, vocabulary and ontology. Lamp and Milton,(2007) talk about the relationship between GTM and the process used to generate ontologies.

Glaser was concerned that GT not become an exclusively academic exercise serving only the proprietary interests of a particular discipline. Of course, Glaser is fairly proprietary about GTM and is certainly representative of an academic elite.

Ontologies can be compared and contrasted to Folksonomies. Wikipedia discusses this. "Folksonomy has little to do with taxonomy—the latter refers to an ontological, hierarchical way of categorizing, while folksonomy establishes categories (each tag is a category) that are theoretically "equal" to each other"

Great quote from Clay Shirky "It is a rich irony that the word "ontology", which has to do with making clear and explicit statements about entities in a particular domain, has so many conflicting definitions."

Here is the tie back to critical pedagogy. I suspect that Illich would see folksonomies as tools for conviviality in that they support the reclaiming of the learning function outside of an academic environment.

Signed up this morning for an web app called Knoodl. This is a service dedicated to the generation of ontologies or vocabularies as they describe them. They make much use of communities and wikis. After I figure it out I'm going to try to create an ontology for KYD and maybe for GTM generally using some of the ideas from Lamp and Milton.

Evetts, J., Mieg, H., & Felt, U. (2006). Professionalization, scientific expertise, and elitism – a sociological perspective. In Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (pp. 105-127). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Lamp, J., & Milton, S. (2007). Grounded theory as foundations for methods in applied ontology. In Proceedings of QualIT. New Zealand: Victoria University of Wellington. Retrieved December 16, 2008, from

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Critical Theory and GT

Reading Barry Gibsons excellent chapter (Gibson, 2008) has helped me bring together some ideas and to envision an application of the theory that has emerged from my dissertation research. Critical theory also reminds me to reflect on my position in society and the influence that has had on my theory of human social behavior.

Gibson explains the connection between two important critical theorists, Theodor Adorno and Pierre Bourdieu and their influence on the development of the Grounded Theory Method originated by Glaser and Strauss.

Critical theory promotes social analysis to expose hegemony and the destructive influence of capitalism on social relationships with a view to emancipation of people. Gibson proposes that Glaser and Strauss sought to bridge an embarrassing gap between the theoretical and empirical traditions in sociology. The challenge was to study society from a position within society. Adorno's position was that sociology was a product of the tensions of capital, labour and reinforced the domination in society.

Day later I come across a blog entry on Stephens Web, quoting George Seimans talking about education and power. Looking for article referenced by George. George quotes Evetts, Mieg, and Felt (2006) who "suggest that expertise has as a significant sociological component. Power, authority, and validity all play a role. Focus on accountability, audits, and performance targets are now heavily intertwined with professionalism. Structures of control - such as education - are not solely about knowledge and the interaction of learners with academics. Education is a system based in a sociological context. Or, more bluntly, there is 'no fundamental difference between the pursuit of knowledge and that of power.'"

So education which can serve as a force for emancipation can also become part of the structure of domination. As mentioned in a previous post, industrial education is more about social control and enforcing conformity than empowering learning, or developing knowledge for the benefit of humanity.

Knowledge creators have also evolved a hegemonic apparatus for the systematic extraction and abstraction of knowledge. Mieg, (2006) describes the various levels of expertise in trans-disciplinary projects. Came across some more info about knowledge generation as a professional project and the role that ontology plays in the control of the production of kwowledge. Contrast formal ontology with folksonomie as in the sort of native learning systems that people put together. Illich would have loved Delicious as a tool for conviviality.

Evetts, J., Mieg, H., & Felt, U. (2006). Professionalization, scientific expertise, and elitism – a sociological perspective. In Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (pp. 105-127). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Gibson, B. (2008). Accommodating Critical Theory. In Sage Handbook of Grounded Theory (pp. 436-453). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.

Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The Discovery of Grounded Theory . New York: Aldine de Grutyer.

Mieg, H. (2006). System experts and decision making experts in trans-disciplinary projects. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 7(3), 341-351. Retrieved December 11, 2008, from

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Authority and Ideological Transparency in a Digital World

From the article Viadero, D. (2008). Project Probes Digital Media's Effect on Ethics. Education Week. Retrieved December 7, 2008, from

Article included this video clip of Howard Gardner talking about Project Goodplay, a research project from Harvard Graduate School of Education looking at the effect of digital media on the ethical development of youth. Gardener is concerned about the changing definition of "good worker" and "good citizen".

Education, Social Media, and Ethics: Howard Gardner, Harvard Graduate School of Education from Education Week on Vimeo.

States that ethical standards evolved to manage participation in groups of up to 150 and that we are not prepared, from an evolutionary standpoint, to participate online communities comprised of thousands of people. I'll have to read the original article to see his reference for that "science".

He uses the phrase "young people these days" and if I was doing formal analysis I would probably code such phrases as "status quo defense".

Throughout Gardner refers to the fact that authority is earned because social models were seen as serving the public interest rather than self-interest. He points out that this is now gone and people, especially those with access to channels of information (outside of the traditional mainstream media or academic industrial complex one would assume)no longer automatically credit authority and are much more able to see through ideological agendas. Gardner has a brief rant about Wikipedia and bemoans the superficial nature of online media where students once revered THE TEXT BOOK and THE TEACHER they now look elsewhere for information.

Of course Howard may be a victim of his own conclusions. While his theory of Multiple Intelligences, his position at Harvard and his reputation are the standards of credibility and authority for all matters educational, his ideology is a bit transparent as well. He is very much a defender of the status quo in a consumer culture. He seems bitter that people might put as much credence in a Wikipedia article as they would in his "say so". The irony is that while points out that the standards of authority and credibility have been eroded, we should accept his pronouncements as gospel based on those same standards of authority and credibility.

I'm putting this together with other critical pedagogy articles I'm reading especially relating to Ivan Illich and his views on the collapse of the educational/industrial complex and the emergence of a post-industrial society. The impact that this has had on credentialism and the development of learning webs. From Deschooling Society and Tools for Conviviality.

Gardner' defense of the status quo is obvious in the construction of his study. He asks loaded questions. (although I haven't seen the actual questions I wonder if one goes like this "Do you think it is right to steal copyrighted music?"

In Illich's perspective Wikipedia can be seen as a tool of conviviality, those tools that allow us to self-educate and self-actualize. Gardner's disdain for Wikipedia makes a strong statement about his regard for learning the occurs outside of the radical monopoly formed by industrial education.

Interesting connection between Critical pedagogy, liberation theology, US Black Liberation theology and Rev. Wright. I wonder if this connection will have any influence on the way Obama shapes a renewed education policy for US.

Illich, I. (1971), Deschooling society, Harper & Row New York.

Illich, I. (1973), Tools for Conviviality,Heyday Books, retrieved from

Friday, December 5, 2008

One White Crow

"To upset the conclusion that all crows are black, there is no need to seek demonstration that no crows are black; it is sufficient to produce one white crow; a single one is sufficient." Lenora Piper was William James' One White Crow.

Reading the book Blum , D. (2006). Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death. Penguin Press. Retrieved December 5, 2008, from

Excellent story about William James early studies into paranormal phenomena. He is considered the father of Psychology and he was instrumental in developing many theories of human behavior. This book is a semi-historical account of some of the activities that James initiated with the Society for Psychical Research.

It is interesting to note James willingness to investigate in the true spirit of open minded inquiry in an area where the settled science at the time said that paranormal phenomena were bunk. He was active at a time when scholasticism and the influence of the church on academia were being questioned and rejected.

James also was the author of "Varieties of Religious Experience".