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.”
Other 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.
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
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.
Posted in ENGL 894, Mindmap
Tagged activity, agency, Cary Institute, composition, Definition, ecology, ecosystem, Franken Theory, Guattari, Latour, MOOC, network, nodes, OoS, Politics, rhetoric, Spellman, Syverson, theorizing