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CCK11 Introducing the law of re-distribution

February 20, 2011

From the ongoing discussion here:

Hi Jennie and Al.  I think these are very good subjects for debate.  Should we push learning in a direction that is not natural, force learning to take place in a way that goes against its biological, economic or socio-mechanical proclivities, IF there is a natural tendency or power law at work?

(on the other hand, there might an argument to be made that this is done all the time in the teaching of students in our current systems, in order to produce some form of conformity as is being discussed in the FB group)

I guess one approach is to determine if it is even possible to push learning in the direction Stephen Downes is arguing for, and I guess that this course is an attempt to do just that.  I guess that another aspect of this is whether the push can have a lasting effect, or if the natural tendencies would re-establish, after the push is made.  So far, it seems that the latter is holding true, at least with what I know of CCK11 and its results.

The other side of the coin is the desirability of making the push.  Al suggests that a more distributed network is more creative than a distributive network which is faster.  What do you base the first assertion upon?  How does the slowness or relative inefficiency of the distributed network affect creativity?  I wonder if there are more laws at work than just the power law, for example, if the power law tends to steer networks towards centralization/distributive properties, is there a law that shakes up the statis of the distributive network to redistribute the hubs such that, for a time at least, a more distributed network appears.  The shake-up law might be a naturally occurring phenomenon, a naturally occurring redistribution law that has yet to be ‘discovered’ or articulated properly, take your pick.

I can think of a naturally occurring re-distribution law that takes place in the social realm over a period of time. The law is that of death and natality (the latter a concept of Hannah Arendt used in her discussion of education).  Death naturally ‘shakes up’ a social network by removing nodes.  Natality, the continual birth of new humans added to the social realm, adds new nodes to the network.  Maybe the focus could be on ensuring the new arrivals and their curiosities and creativity are welcomed, rather than worrying about interfering with the network.

The efficiency of the distributive network must have some value, I think, in that it permits widespread information to reach many people quickly. If the internet is one big node or hub, I’m thinking that it may be like a distributive network.  Since it distributes info efficiently, I wonder if it has the effect of increasing creativity.  I suspect that it has done just that, for me anyway, by giving me timely access to a wealth of information.  I don’t see the internet as a closed group, but I do see it as a distributive network.


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  1. Hey Ken;
    Interesting focus to your recent posts. I do think that (re)distribution is an interesting and relevant topic here. Where is the world changing? John Hagel and John Seely Brown’s writings says that because of the pace of change, we can no longer push (standardized) knowledge out to where it will be needed, but that we need to enable people to pull (and contextualize) knowledge where and when it is needed. Similarly, increased calls for creativity emphasize synthesis, the remixing and repurposing of knowledge to create something new. Distributed networking is important for both, but older theories do not speak to these trends. I see connectivism as fulfilling the need for a new attempt at a theory of distributed cognition. I do have an instrumental view of theory; a tool for thinking, a lens to help us see the fuzzy stuff. For me, connectivism overlays older theories, not to replace them so much as to account for phenomena that they did not sufficiently address, and that is the distribution and redistribution of cognition across networks.

  2. deadvocate permalink

    Hello Howard, thank you for your comment. What I am hearing is the aggregate-remix-repurpose-feed forward idea that Stephen Downes posits for a connectivist world, which you have characterized as resulting in creative outputs from the synthesizing process. I don’t disagree with any of this, and am thankful that you have expressed it so succinctly here. Perhaps connectivism opens the door to a more focused looked at distributed cognition.

    One area in which I am wandering (wondering) is in the experiment to shape the network in a certain fashion; Stephen Downes argues for a distributive (flat, mesh) network and is experimenting with the CCK courses to achieve such a shape. I wonder why this is necessary, and wonder whether or not the distributed network (star-shaped, hub and nodes) also has benefits, and if it is the case that networks oscillate between these two shapes (and possibly others) in a natural way.

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