Category Archives: Mindmap

“Play Ball!” MindMap Reframed

So, I puzzled over how to reconceptualize a mindmap 15 weeks in the making using concepts, rather than components. I reviewed our class syllabus for footholds, pondered my case study foci, watched a little ESPN on a break, checked the Red Sox score, and then (you see this coming, don’t you?)…

Baseball Diamond

Baseball Diamond

It’s beautiful, really — but like the game itself is rough around the edges (just look at the recent ejection of a pitcher for “hiding” pine tar on his neck). But, bear with me, let’s see how this metaphor plays out.

Coming up with the bases for this diamond was fairly simple: Pitcher’s mound = Operationalizing Theory, our course initiator. Whether through blogs or assigned asynchronous activities, it seemed we were all swinging away … at first a fast ball (How it Works, Rhetorical Theory), then a curve ball (Foucault), and even an occasional knuckle ball (Prior, Guattari). Thinking next of First Base = Nodes and Agency. Here is our first task, our first accomplishment, our first move into the field of play. Identifying the lineup, determining who’s on first, what’s on second, and on third? (Abbot & Costello say it best.) Here’s where the analogy gets a little squirrely, however; the deeper we went into the game (some might say into extra innings), the lineup and rotation changes. Suddenly, we’re talking about genre as not just a border but having agency, even distributing knowledge. (It seemed so simple when I started.)

On to Second Base = Connections & Communication. We were often asked in our case studies to address the question “What’s moving in the network? How are nodes situated? Describe the nature and directions of the relationships formed.” Again and again, we reshuffled the roster, trying out new combinations, looking for that “sweet spot” of theory to create a FrankenTheory that captured the complexity of our objects of study (dare I say, a pennant?). One of our final readings this term was concerned with Operating Systems, which — come to think of it — captures agency, nodes, movement, and signals for so many of the theorists and readings we covered. So, take a base.

Third Base = Meaning & Knowledge … nearly home. Our network theories always already involved knowledge. Whether it was in terms of creating or distributing, all of our theorists and practitioners (ourselves included) touched this base. You may notice I repeated a node here — the OS makes another appearance. Those kinship patterns — cultural discourse, ways of knowing, ways of learning — have to be embedded here, as well as back at 2nd base. And, wouldn’t you know it, 1st base as well. That’s the power of an ecological system — there’s material transfer happening all over the place.

At last, Home Plate = Why theory? It’s why we came to the park in the first place. I saw this as both the goal of the course, but a destination too. It’s where I locate myself as a scholar, and a practitioner. And true to any baseball game, it isn’t just the bases that matter. It isn’t even the players. We can’t complete this mindmap without widening the reach of this network to include those fans, the “10th man.” This is where we write our Case Studies, add new theoretical layers, toss out uncooperative ones. This is where we find the ecology of our field, where the game really becomes interesting.

Extra innings? Double header? Maybe next time. Right now, I think it’s time for the 7th inning stretch.



Mind Map 20 April: Social Networks & Math

This week’s MindMap: Social Networks.

In anticipation of reconceptualizing my semester’s mindmap work, I opted this week to create a more synthesized set of nodes entitled “Rhizome Kinship Patterns.” I also opted not to connect this set to any others as I want to reposition all of these nodes a bit differently. However, had I drawn links beyond the weekly reading / activity, I would have drawn connections to Guattari (earlier iteration), ecology nodes, as well as the node entitled “operationalizing theory.” The key to this group, it seems, is what Scott calls a bridge between theory and practice” (1) by creating an  system for analyzing and packaging these “rhizome kinship patterns” of data for the purpose of research. The rhizomes proposed by Deleuze and Guattari seem less pragmatic but represent complex systems in a way that I envisioned being linked to Scott‘s analytical system as an offshoot (no intentional reference to rhizomatic vocabulary).

wheelsonbusIn fact, I tried to represent a type of associational pattern with my MindMap juxtaposition of these three (although I am not at all sure I did it justice). In my writing notebook, it actually looked more like I had drawn Scott as the rear wheels of an odd looking bus (Rainie and Wilson’s Operating System), and D&G were the front wheels. Sitting atop it all is the concept of kinship network patterns secured in an oversized luggage rack if you will (in an attempt to suggest that this field of research must be transmitted / moved through theory and theory application). I was trying to visualize here what I thought connected these authors. These three articles seem to be working towards a common purpose: conceptualizing bundles of activity into recognizable forms, useful for analysis and discourse in a quest to discover “what is significant in the situation under investigation” (Scott 54).  Since Scott’s data analysis could be seen as one sort of “driving force” behind the theorizing being done by Rainie, Wilson, Deleuze, and Guattari, I thought this bus could be rear-wheel drive.

Scott, Social Network Analysis, Figure 2.1

Scott, Social Network Analysis, Figure 2.1

Scott‘s matrices appear almost painfully linear in comparison to the more naturalistic rhizomes of D&G, and perhaps the two offer a way to balance this research engine. Scott (as was mentioned during class, and as we experienced in our in-class activity) dealt in the minutiae of counting those intersecting data packets produced by research on Social Networks. That is, until I considered how this could also be about  recognizing patterns erupting into new lines from “the middle” (rhizomes) of a data set. At least, that’s how I felt when trying to wrestle the activity into submission. (I believe I had to tap out to Leslie and Jenny.)

I went back and forth trying to decide how best to position the Rainie and Wellman node as the role mobile communication networks play in creating a realm or axes in which the other theorists might traverse. At first, I thought of making the Rainie/Wellman a sort of “train tracks” but Popplets really didn’t represent that well at all. Therefore, I thought placing it in a “vehicle” mode, being carried by the theorizing and operationalizing done by the other authors, might be suitable. It’s certainly a work in progress, I confess.

Finally, thoughts on my OoS: the concept of rhizomes has crept into my writing time and again this semester, so I was rather looking forward  to discussing the representation in our last class. I must confess, I do wish we could have spent more time on that particular element of our reading assignment, as I would have liked to have heard others’ thoughts on the connections between rhizomes and mobile communication systems. Alas, this week’s Popplet also represents that limited scope.

Works Cited:

Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Rainie, Lee and Barry Wellman. Networked: The New Social Operating System. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012.

Scott, John. Social Network Analysis: A Handbook. London: Sage Publications, Ltd., 2000.


Mind Map April 6th: Neurons and Synapses

imdb: "The Frankenstein Theory" movie poster image

imdb: “The Frankenstein Theory” movie poster image

This week’s mind map began with an image choice that was — excuse me — a “no brainer” (you’re welcome, punsters; and I’m sorry, punsters). The image of the neuron — with all its accompanying transmission components — seemed well suited to my attempts to show connections and flows of information through the Popplets. Clearly, I love brain-based metaphors. But I digress…

The connections we discussed in class regarding Ecosystems and Brain Chemistry revealed several assumptions I had been working through that may have falsely equated the two on some levels. Therefore, even though I’ve positioned the two sets of readings close together to signify connections, thanks to comments made by Daniel in our FrankenTheory Activity about nodes and neurons and his comments during class about seeing the biosystem as the core of a larger ecological system, I’m also seeing the “gaps.” Dr. Julia explained such gap perception in terms of distributed cognition allows us to use the neurology material as a metaphor for our networked OoSs, but we must be mindful of the limitations — thus, the need for a FrankenTheory.

So, the links I drew in the Mind Map between Bateson in particular — thinking as I was of his reference to Korzybski that “the map is not the territory” (455) — seemed to fit my emerging understanding of the metaphor’s possibilities and limits. An example of my thinking on this showed up in my notes:

“Also opens up the chance to speak about affordances if we link this to an ecology. Is it the same, though? Can we talk about the neuronal network as an ecosystem? Perhaps not, although pointing to the ecology as a way to extend this metaphor, talk about the connections to other, non-self enclosed networks might be a way around this.”

cyborgbrainOther unexpected connections emerged as I looked over my Popplet’s existing links. For example, the explanation of neurotransmitters reminded me (and Leslie) of the “How It Works” bus processes, and the potential for multiple-directionalized connections and transmissions.

Still another connection with the bio text took me back to Guattari and Bateson on subjectivity, specifically to Guattari’s politicized definition of ecologies in that we must be theorize our own places in this ecosystem as “in the weeds,” not a god’s-eye view. So, out shoots a tendril to Guatteri and to Bateson. From there, I return to Distributed Cognition, which adds a wider, ecosystem-like layer beyond the neurobiology “core” (thanks to Daniel for that term) – and provides a systems framework for it to place the whole shebang into a cultural perspective, opening up a possible “node” of connection with my OoS of composition MOOCs. In fact, for my 3rd Case Study, I feel like I must combine the threads of both neurobiology AND ecosystem theory (especially Bateson) in order to do it justice.

Thus do I come to my wrap-up for this week’s Mind Map choices: the ecosystem / neurobiology connections illustrate how even a metaphor can function as a means to open new ways to discuss something still “new and strange” like a MOOC, hopefully in ways that will allow for the different space of a “classroom” network and all of its potential pathways.





Mind Map: Ecologies Part II (March 30th)


Last week’s activities asked us to apply our network questions to the Ecology readings of Syverson, Spellman, the Cary Institute, and fill in the gaps with Guattari, resulting in new connections for my mind map. And even though Syverson’s was the “applied Franken Theory” example, I really found that article the most compelling (thanks to its connection to Composition, relating back to my OoS). It situated the theory in an already moving, dynamic system with concrete nodes of application and inquiry, reminding me that this is exactly what we’re creating in Popplet.

My take-away from this week’s map has to do with the ways in which definitions shape our application of theory. Granted, that is an obvious observation, but thinking of ecology in terms like agency, networks, and nodes made me realize what a very useful theory it will be when working with my OoS: MOOCs. Even though, as Dr. Julia pointed out, the Academy sees Ecology as a “mushy” science, I believe it is that flexibility that makes it such a dynamic and useful framework with which to examine complex systems — and composition classrooms are certainly complex.  One of our group members in our Google Doc activity last week posed this question: “What is “meaning” in the ecosystem? Is it the interaction among environment, organisms? Is it the tension between these?” This question of meaning must certainly begin with the way we define an ecosystem, and since meaning evolves from perspective, our role and position within that ecosystem — our agency as participants — must become part of our analysis (or so says Guattari).

Our class conversation pointed to a possible reason why I was not entirely comfortable with Latour’s ANT approach, one which Ecology may answer. When we deal with humans and technologies and communications, the variables resist the sort of “flattening” Latour asks us to do. As Dr. Shelley remarked, Latour’s emphasis is on the individual’s trajectory, not the group itself. While this certainly serves a useful purpose in some situations,  in systems within which collaboration and connections are as dynamic as they must be in an “ideal” composition classroom (where the teacher is not the arbiter of perfect knowledge), I’m not always convinced the individual writer is the only player with agency. As the ecological readings point out, it often comes down to how we “scale” what we’re theorizing.

Mind Map Week of March 30th

Mind Map Week of March 30th

So, in my mind map for this week, I “up-scaled” an image to try to show “the big picture.” I made several new connections between our recent readings and some of our previous topics (Foucault as well as the “Where I Write” activity) based on this sense of being part of this emerging ecology of thinking, reading, and theorizing (although I think the Ecology readings could connect to every node in my map in some way). Thus, this is why I included an image (or “snapshot,” as Dr. Shelly called it) of the entire network as one of my Popplet nodes with the subtitle, “Ecologies: What It’s Really All About.” Here is where Guaterri makes a big difference for me — humans / students / teachers are not simply observing the ecosystem. As participants and framers simultaneously, we must see ecology — not from the God’s eye view — but through a lens placed “deep in the weeds,” as part of that ecosystem, with an awareness that as the ecosystem changes we are changed as well. It’s always already in motion.

Mind Map Ecologies: 23 March

Mind Map 23 March:

Creating the asynchronous activity for this week was at first a challenge, but then it made me realize how it was, in fact, another iteration of our mindmapping. Except I had to map the mindmap.

Thinking of the affordances reminded me of the Rhetorical and How It Works theories from early in the semester, and of course Popham’s article on Activity Theory. The Norman article assigned this week made the most impact on me — once again, I’m all about application, so reading about his pragmatic interpretation of affordances in terms of user interfaces and design really brought things into focus.

Metacognitively, this week’s readings seemed to create the “worldview” layer that Leslie created in an earlier asynch activity, in which she created embedded circles to illustrate the CHAT table. Ecologies appealed to me more, perhaps because of my background in biology, but it seems this is the ultimate network.

So of course, I had to make my Prezi map work double duty as my Popplets for this week, as my comments embedded in that map summarize the contents of each of these articles.

"The A Team"

“The A Team”

Something tells me such “coming together” moments make our professors think, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

MindMap for 4 March – filling in the blanks

Rabbit Rails sign

Rabbit Rails sign

Last week’s mindmap post went off into some rabbit trails of metaphoric connections, so I thought I’d revisit the nodes I posted last week to explain their function (as well as add a few more nodes):

After our in-class activity of examining photos, I thought of a writing activity I had recently assigned my Basic Writing students as part of their narrative essay assignment. I asked them to collect images of a place that represented a “before and after / then and now” moment of change in their lives. The intent was to get them to “tell the story” aloud to their writing workshop groups as a way of creating an oral outline map of how they envision this narrative’s form and purpose. So when we were asked to do something very similar using our writing practices images, I thought about how this activity deepened my concept of seeing such moments as borders of creativity and agency, which I had made a popplet box last week “Actors vs. Borders: Where the Real Action Happens.” Such focus on the spatial ecologies inherent to our writing was not only effective for my Basic Writing students, but for our classroom as well. Our in-class discussion of Actor Network Theory that followed “theorized” this exercise in a way that helped clarify some of Latour’s more difficult-to-grasp concepts, specifically mediator vs. intermediary. I’m still working on nailing down those two terms, but our discussion led me to think that what we identify as mediator in one instance might be explored in terms of intermediary functions in another. Our example: technologies as tools. Leslie made the point in class that when we start analyzing these tools of writing, they behave as “actants” when ANT is applied, but AT presents them as tools. However, the transformative power that ANT claims is agency is ascribed to the activity in AT. This “hair splitting” was causing me to blur the boundaries between these two theories (one reason why I’m drawn to Spinuzzi’s approach from last week’s reading).

512px-Three_asterisks.svgThen came the visual provided by Dr. Romberger…the asterisk field. As she pointed out, Latour wants us to think of nodes as staging points for multiple incoming action, “tracing everything that comes before, moves into [the node]” (Dr. Romberger). That makes me think of the social, of course, but also the cultural historical of CHAT, the notion of constant motion, of undetermined vector possibilities. Boundaries become visible if — as Latour suggests — we focus on the activity around it. Again, I cannot help but think of the black hole reference mentioned earlier in the term. We “see” the black hole — a space of great energy and power, a node of intense activity — only by observing the activity surrounding it. So, it might be appropriate to say that the agency is not in the power of the black hole (the node) but in the revealing potential of what is NOT the black hole. The differences. The space outside the node.

I still think Latour overplays the ANT vs. AT dominance at times — I’m not always sure his insistence on actant vs. activity is a consistently stable reference point (perhaps his point). However, the revelatory possibilities of ANT, as a way to make us see outside the familiar methods of analysis or “nostalgia,” is incredibly valuable, given our assertion that networks — to remain relevant — must be seen as dynamic and open to growth / evolution.

Bring on the asterisks.



Once Upon A Time: Telling our Metacognition Stories (Padawan Style)

Mind Map for 25 Feb:

padawan children image Star Wars

(c) Star Wars: young padawan learners

Story telling — long has this been a means of relaying vital cultural history and identity, as well as serving as the first-ever training regimen for molding the minds of young and old alike. But it’s clearly more than that: it’s reflective assessment incarnate. What better way to find out if your young padawans have absorbed the enormity of the Powers of the Force than to ask them to repackage the learning — the connections, the network nodes, the relationship movements, the buses, etc.?

So it would only be natural to replicate such learning practices in a classroom of

Luke Skywalker trains with Yoda StarWars

(c) Star Wars: Padawan Luke Training With Jedi Master Yoda

our sort, and certainly gave me new ideas for my own freshman writing courses! Networking our thinking, making visible the connections between course objectives & practices, revealing some of the borders and boundaries in new ways — all mediated by a specified space and time, creating a framework for our thinking that both limited it and gave it new range. Yep — pedagogy, Yoda-style. And, just like me / us, Luke is the older padawan — with all sorts of other networked connections from life and learning forcing their way into his training, distracting but also proving to be unexpected paths of action. Say hello to Yoda meets Actor Network Theory.

Google Images’ available image selections for networks is becoming increasingly less accurate in their potential to capture the types of connections we’re making. Many results reflect a dominance of either machine or organic, but not a mix of both. I think that’s telling, at least insofar as the thinking I’m doing about mediators (thanks Latour).

aha!ALERT:  Personal “Aha!” moment — (better late than never)  Some of my thinking has been whether or not we can start to think about THEORIES as GENRES, and if so, can we than apply genre tracing as a way to map the conflicts and the tensions — as this week’s reading of Spinuzzi suggests we do — in order to place them in a map that shows the productive relationships available to our continued work? Hello Popplets and Legos and Storytelling! I realize that Spinuzzi likely intended genre tracing to be applied to nodes or objects of study, but isn’t that exactly what we are doing with our activities?

While completing my Mind Map, I came across an interesting article of applied theory that reminded me of our Latour reading this week: “Spotting Boundary Spanner.” The article asserts that “Boundary spanners are a vital missing component in connecting practical theories and knowledge with real world applications.” Latour has asserted that this spanner / mediator is likely a person.

So I ask you: are WE padawan spanners? Learning the way of our disciplines (The Force) to mediate “all the theories.” By George, I think I may be onto something.


Mindmap: Feb 23rd

Factory Lego build

Amy’s LEGO Minimalism

Last week’s adventure in online Lego building was (1) intimidating, (2) enjoyable, (3) illuminating, and (4) somewhat humiliating given my apparent limitations when it comes to “story-fying” my Lego constructions. (And yes, I did just make up a word.)

So that became the focus of this week’s Mindmap — admittedly one of my more minimalist Popplets. However, given the activity-based nature of our class last week, and the limited discussion of the CHAT article as an entire piece (which could easily have taken several more hours, given its richness and complexity), it seems appropriate.

The Lego build activity was illuminating because — just like this week’s Rubric activity — it was a way to visualize the applied theory evident in the CHAT article segment on “Take 2”. Using the LEGO build as well as the Rubric creation brought to the surface ways to visualize — not only the theories and the networks — but how to critically activate or test these applications by seeing them in new ways. The term “critical pedagogy” showed up in this week’s readings (Johnson-Eilola),  “conveniently” juxtaposed to our recent visualization activities.  So it is only natural to think of our LEGO creations (or Prezis or sketches or Word Art masterpieces) as well as the creation of a more traditional academic visualizing tool (a rubric) as employing critical pedagogy in this way. How apropos that the CHAT’s structural emphasis on hypertext reading / writing as a means of resistance could be framed by our assessment of its theorization and clarity by using both a ‘non-traditional’ means like LEGO building to demonstrate our understanding of said theory, as well as a ‘traditional’ assessment model (rubric building). I must say, having to illustrate my understanding of a theory using a Lego build is a first – but it was entirely and deeply meaningful.

MindMap: 18 Feb.

Mind Map:

Spinuzzi: Traffic Systems (image from

Spinuzzi: Traffic Systems (image from

This last week’s introduction to Spinuzzi created all sorts of unifying connections to the Popplet! And yet…

The trouble is, I have been thinking that now is the time to integrate a 3-D element.  I had been considering creating a separate Popplet to link in, the bottom layer as theory (which works rhetorically as well as visually, as it would provide the foundational support to all that connects on the application layer), the superimposed layer as application or operationalized theory — an act of dispersion, perhaps? My hesitation to integrate this layering thus far is that producing such layering on a 2-D map will inevitably create a loss — and, I think, a significant one at that, given the way we’ve been conceptualizing networks. Placing all the network connections and elements on a single plain does have its merits — for example, the rhetorical implications of equality of elements and influence. However, that also creates a dilemma — we risk falling into Foucault‘s trap of the History of Ideas’ linearities. Unlike wire-frame software programs like AutoCAD, our Popplet space does have its visualizing limitations. It’s great to show the breadth of our connectivity of ideas, but not the depth.

This became especially clear to me as I was trying to show visible and overt connectivity through our little gray lines (which cannot be optimized through coloration) between the theorists — for which I’ve tried to create labeling mechanisms via color. Also, the space cannot truly capture the layering of these connections, such as an image of the body’s circulatory system here:

PC World Screen Capture from Zygote Body program

PC World Screen Capture from Zygote Body program

Before breakthroughs in computer imaging, we might render this complex system using page overlays. (Remember those books with clear plastic pages that created layers upon layers of details, from sailing ships to the human body?) However, technology makes it easier to convey knowledge  multimodally…sometimes. Foucault emphasizes the importance of the seen/not seen when it comes to discourse analysis, as does Spinuzzi, Biesecker, Miller, and Bazerman. So even while I’m creating a Popplet to demonstrate knowledge network nodes and connectivity, the rhetorical situation that IS the Popplet space is defining the WAYS I am able to render this.

My sense of this space strongly reminds me of this week’s readings about CHAT, especially Telling #4 of Jody Shipka & Bill Chewning’s article, “Live Composition: Four Variations of a Telling.” (Select “press ‘7’ for variation four.) But that’s another blog post.

In the meantime, during my Popplet / Blog planning, I came across the following resource — certainly worth a read, all things considered:

Maria Perpetua Socorro U. Liwanag and Steve Dresbach. “Reading Multimodally: Designing and Developing Multimedia Literacy Projects through an Understanding of Eye Movement Miscue Analysis (EMMA).”


Mindmap: Applications

Mindmap for 4 February:

4 Feb Connections

4 Feb Connections

This past week’s class activities brought a lot of moving parts into one place, allowing me to begin operationalizing many of the connecting nodes (i.e., theory) we’ve been absorbing. For example, even as I wrote this last sentence, I began to question whether my use of the term “node” really captures the latent kinesthetic power and potential activity or “motive” (Miller) that node implies through relationship or connectivity. As several of our theorists have expressed (Foucault, Bazerman, Vatz), the action is where our analytical attentions should be focused. Seeing nodes, therefore, as potential activity — whether as a router or a switch (“How Stuff Works”) — is an essential component of fitting all of these puzzle pieces (theory and objects of study) together.

Potential Energy:

Potential Energy:

Physics refers to this idea as potential energy, which has been defined as “the stored energy of position possessed by an object” (The Physics Classroom).  I seem to be constantly dipping back into the realm of physics (a class I did not pass as an undergraduate — but that’s another story), perhaps demonstrating the viability of network theory as a way to connect not only concepts but  actions as well (thinking here of interdisciplinary work).

In the mindmap for this week, that idea of nodes being storehouses of energy (or knowledge, as the case may be) fits some of the connections I found myself making as I reviewed our classroom notes. The discussions of theory application and function reinforced the “power of analogy” that theory can provide. In an earlier post, I asked the question, “Is that what theory is? A metaphoric framework whereby we take an existing accepted structural system and treat it as an analogy-based means of translating knowledge or data?” Perhaps it is, indeed.