Tag Archives: operationalizing

“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.



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: Physicsclassroom.com

Potential Energy: Physicsclassroom.com

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.