Week 23 – A7: Mycorrhize and wild fires

Reading:  Engeström (2007) ‘From communities of practice to mycorrhizae’ in the stages suggested below.

1. Read the article up to the heading ‘Towards collaborative community?’

(a) What criticisms does Engeström make?

Engestrom highlights the limits of  Lave & Wenger (1991)  community of practice. He  critiques the ahistorical approach to communities of practice.

Consequence of apprenticeship idea in community of practice has the following limitations;

  • clear boundaries and membership criteria
  • Central expert / master
  • ‘Centripetal movement from the periphery toward the centre, from novice to master…’

Even Wenger’s (1998) notion of  ‘constellation of practices’ had its problems as it could practically be refering to anything.

Thus Engestrom highlights that these communities of practice are not situated in the history of real societies and patterns of organisational work.

2. Now read on, up to the heading ‘Movement and learning in the new landscape’.

(a) What changes does Engeström identify; e.g. open source?

‘knowledge expansion’

In Linux community, Lee & Cole (2003) found that limitations of apprenticeship idea (see 1a) were not present i.e. lack of clear boundaries between development team and bug reporting team, no clear master dictating on others.

Social production / peer production – New forms of community based on work and knowledge creation.

Smart mobs – new form of communicty organisation made possible through mobile technologies. A fluid, temporary centre.  Emphasis on a shared goal.

Engestrom also introduces swarm vs amoeba organisations (pg45/46)

(b) What does he mean by negotiated knotworking?

‘Emerging way of organising work in settings that strive toward co-configuration’

‘In knotworking, collaboration between the partners is of vital importance, yet takes shape without rigid predetermined rules or a fixed central authority.’pg44

3. Now read the final sections of the article.

(a) What are mycorrhizae?

‘Invisible organic texture underneath visible fungi.’

filamentous growth means that the fungus is in intimate contact with its surroundings; it has a very large surface area compared to its volume. Most plants rely on a symbiotic fungus to aid them in acquiring water and nutrients from the soil. The specialized roots which the plants grow and the fungus which inhabits them are together known as mycorrhizae, or ‘fungal roots’.’pg 48

(b) How does this organic metaphor relate to networks?

‘As I see it, knotworking eventually requires a mycorrhizae-like formation as its medium or base. Such a formation typically does not have strictly defined criteria of membership. But its members can be identified by their activism. The 2,605 ‘development team’ members and 1,562 ‘bug reporting team’ members of the Linux mycorrhizae mentioned by Lee and Cole (2003) were identified on the basis of their publicly available contributions to the development and perfection of the object, the Linux operating system. It is very likely that mycorrhizae include quite a variety of members, ranging from grass-roots activists or clients or victims to certified professionals, researchers, enterpreneurs and spokespersons.
A mycorrhizae formation is simultaneously a living, expanding process (or bundle of developing connections) and a relatively durable, stabilized structure; both a mental landscape and a material infrastructure. In this it resembles the ‘cognitive trails’ of Cussins (1992) and the ‘flow architecture’described by Knorr-Cetina (2003: 8) as ‘a reflexive form of coordination that is flat (non-hiearchical) in character while at the same time being based on a comprehensive summary view of things – the reflected and projected global context and transaction system.’

(c) What are wildfire activities?

‘Have the peculiar capacity to disappear or die in a given location and suddenly reappear and develop vigorously in a quite different location, or in the same location after a lengthy dormant period.’pg 46

see examples of bird watching & skateboarding put forward by the author. pg 46

(d) How do you think these metaphors assist or hinder your understanding?

Methapor definition ‘A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison’

In using ‘mycorrhizae’ to better our understanding of technology-enhanced learning, this comparision is somewhat difficult to keep pace with as I lack knowledge of biology, thus difficult to map such a methapor to the digital world. On the other hand Engestrom gives a detailed explanation of mycorrhizae activities, thus gaining insight to his ideas of social production.


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