What Does a Qualitative Researcher Do With Quantitative Twitter Followers?

keys-525732_1280I received a notice this morning from Twitter congratulating me that I reached 3,000 followers.

Congratulations!

Congratulations? For what? 3,000?

Granted, I am flattered that this many accounts would see some value in following me on Twitter, but like all numbers, it is only a number. Numbers have no meaning in themselves, not even existing until we call them into existence, giving them some meaning in the process. As soon as that purpose fades, so does the number. Do you remember losing your 6th tooth? How about your 8th first date? 10th homework assignment? 13th paycheck? How about 23rd birthday? Surely your 31st paycheck? 45th time at the supermarket? 51st time you went into a vehicle?

Shall I go on?

Numbers are numbers, not even existing until we make them and then assign them value, losing it as quickly as our interest. After all, 5% unemployment only matters depending on which side you are on. So to speak.

Twitter seems to find this valuable, though like most numbers, I am suspicious.

What does it mean? Is it good? Bad? Part of the club? A wannabe? Something to celebrate? Reflect upon? Lament it is too little? Too much? Does it make me happier? More money? A better retirement (ha!)? More original teeth? A fan club? Haters? I have little context for it, and thus am not sure how I am expected to make meaning out of it. They must find something useful there or I would not have received an automatic message about it.

Perhaps that is the key–how valuable is it really when it gets sent based on pre-existing coding?

Makes me wonder, why does somebody else have to make meaning for me? I am somewhat capable of making meaning on my own, and as such find value only in conversations, shared ideas, challenges, support, suggestions, and the like. Perhaps I am being negative, though while I am getting a blog post out of it, in an odd way it did evoke a reaction in me. Hmm, there you have it.

That could as easily happen with 300 as 3000, and is more likely closer to 30 with those who I engage with on a regular basis, those who celebrate ideas like #ds106 or #dLRN15 or #5Papers or even #moocmooc (with all its paradigm-bending pesky questions). Alas, numbers don’t matter for those of us who are not selling things or reliant on them to prove something to someone about something.

My ideas and constant inquiry has me interested, and if 3,000 adds to it, then wonderful! If it doesn’t, like Klout scores, I am not worse for the wear.

I am much more interested in making meaning than counting, as often the counted is meaningless until those of us who inquire more deeply come along. Long live our interest and passions, none of which are readily reducible to a number.

Goodness, did I just say that? Perhaps there is something about this 3,000 after all . . .

Slavoj Zizek and Rhizomatic Learning

As Dave Cormier is speaking about Rhizomatic learning this week in the #change11 MOOC, I thought about this recent interview Charlie Rose had with the philosopher and cultural critic, Slavoj Zizek.

While I know that Dave’s work on rhizomatic learning does not have the same critical lens that Zizek uses, his way of seamlessly moving from one topic to another, approaching human experience from different perspectives, speaks to me about what may be possible if we extend this discussion (as learning opportunities surround us) to other areas of learning and experiencing the world. In this way it recalls Dave’s thinking:

The rhizome metaphor, which represents a critical leap in coping with the loss of a canon against which to compare, judge, and value knowledge, may be particularly apt as a model for disciplines on the bleeding edge where the canon is fluid and knowledge is a moving target.

I wonder how rhizomatic learning fits with cultural studies, and if in this way it has a certain interdisciplinarity about it?

AERC & CASAE Call for Papers 2011

I just learned that the call for papers for the 2011 AERC, Adult Education Research Conference, and CASAE, Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education, Joint Conference was just released. While the information does not yet appear on their websites, it can be found on a PDF I uploaded here: AERC-CASAE Call 2011

As this conference is later than I can remember it in the past,  June 10 – 12, 2011, and is at the University of Toronto (beautiful campus), and I have some close friends in Toronto, perhaps I will consider submitting something for this. With the proposals due by October 3, no time to waste!

Anybody else interested in attending this?

Networked Learning 2010 – Hot Seats Discussions

I am hoping to attend the Networked Learning 2010 conference in Denmark in May of 2010 (as long as my paper gets accepted, of course!!), and this conference is doing something different from most other conferences — it is actively engaging potential participants, presenters, and those who are just interested in pre-conference conversations about networked learning.

networked-learning-hot-seats

Very smart.

These Hot Seats are described here, and are free and open to the public. What better way to prepare for a conference on networked learning, than by engaging in this learning medium itself? Right now I find myself engaged in a great conversation with George Siemens ( this week’s facilitator, Athabasca University member, and Connectivism advocate) and the other distant colleagues about how technology changes the possibilities and dynamics in teaching online.