I remember well enjoying the 2020 conference from Cardiff and have fond memories of really important happenings, including hanfod.NL that arose from it. However, to be back in-person at Sundsvall was profoundly wonderful. I have some photos on flickr and Felicity composed brilliant montages, one of which is featured here but see the others and her brief write-up on her EmergentThinkers blog.
We are incredibly grateful to our fabulous partners especially because our combined work strengthened the conference and lay down a marker for phenomenology at it.
Wonderfully, some of us are able to travel to an international conference to celebrate and enjoy this event, after an in-person hiatus of four years for regular NLC delegates. I am writing this as the coach takes me from Wales across England to Heathrow. Very sadly I am mindful that Professor Cathy Adams is unable to attend for unavoidable personal reasons. Her in-person presence will be sorely missed and we wish her well (hugs will be all the tighter next time, DV). This throws down the baton for Felicity and myself to make a success of the workshop on Tuesday afternoon, based heavily upon Cathy’s content and approach. For this 90-minute workshop, we are running in-person only (but offering another online only workshop 12 & 14 September 14.00-17.30 (UK time). The organisers sensibly opted for a hybrid of online and in-person attendance. Whatever the merits and compromises of trying to cater for both, the prospect of having to swing to online only again was very real and we would just have to make it work again. Life has become even more uncertain over the last months, and these very days, our conference host nation is deciding whether it will join NATO, something Russia may not take without disruptive retaliation… something every one of us travelling to Sweden has a heightened awareness of. Why travel when you could ‘videoconference’ is an obvious question that some will ask. Below are two slides from our zoom breakout room presentation to help explain. When I played spot-the-difference with these images with students yesterday, although there were smirks at those in the picture who were slumbering (a classic trope used by those who denounce lectures), their other responses chimed with Prof Lesley Gourley’s superb keynote at NLC2020, and the eventedness of this kind of gathering that was so much richer than what is sometimes mocked as an embarrassing attempt at anachronistic, domesticating knowledge transfer into passive recipient digital natives with hybrid learning styles and minimal attention spans.
I recorded this ‘daisy’ as a prelude to our symposium, ‘Networked learning and phenomenology: a found chord’, and note it is published one month before the start of the 13th International Conference on Networked Learning.
I promised that I would follow Greta’s recording, however, it was always, following the daisy chain metaphor, going to involve some violence to what she did, in order to ‘attach’ this recording to her’s. Indeed, I felt torn between Greta’s brilliant scholarship and erudition, that she read it out, [even more terrifying for me now is that Greta later informed me that she wasn’t reciting!!!! I am scrabbling at the foot of Greta’s Eiger-like scholarship, but anyway…] and something that Gadamer (2014) discusses concerning recitation:
Reciting is the opposite of speaking. When we recite, we already know what is coming, and the possible advantage of a sudden inspiration is precluded.
(Gadamer 2014, p552, in the Afterword)
Thus, for my recording, I felt compelled to try and speak without notes. Just 10 minutes after all… Should be easy! No. Apart from exposing the huge gulf between my ‘beginner’ level scholarship in phenomenology and Greta’s astonishing expertise, and the danger of my sliding into waffle, part of the dread of this recording is my own reluctance to foist more verbiage into an already cluttered world. You might be able to sense the awkwardness in my voice. So I don’t have a verbatim transcript for you but will add the following…
I wished to link this post with Steve Fuller‘s 2014 argument in his keynote, ‘The Lecture 2.0’, at NLC2014 (watch on YouTube and hear Nina in the questions at the end!), that brand-conscious/savvy Universities ought to only put out content by the ‘best’ performers. That was a provocation, and sat alongside other notable points which I take up here:
The lecture is not mainly about the faithful conveyance of knowledge to the next generation. I am bored of the classic medieval image, as can be seen in Wikipedia’s Lecture entry, of some authority figure at the front reading from the only book and students having to write it down to have their own copy of the book. Steve points out that, even then, there was more going on…
The lecture, in the enlightenment sense, is someone exemplifying ‘daring to know’ (after Kant). Academic freedom was a ‘guild right’; the academic is someone whose broad horizon can review much, and make discriminating judgements about the field, and improvise upon that, to ‘riff’ off their notes, to think in public, straying from the script, somewhat like a jazz performance.
The text is still vital, spoken improvisation is on the basis of text.
The student in this setting is training for freedom, in that academic sense of freedom to critique, based on broad/deep scholarship. It is something that maybe only happens formally in viva exams but has many practical and practice-based applications, such as in healthcare within multi-disciplinary team meetings or giving an introduction to a musical performance (I’ve enjoyed Jonathan James (Twitter) doing this for the BBC, here more reciting, here more improvised ).
Merely dealing in orthodoxy within lectures strangles the enlightenment ideal of growing the capacity to think for yourself and compete (and win) an argument. Adept at this, I cant be a ventriloquist – I have to take responsibility, weigh, measure, understand the audience and adapt the speech. I’ve explored this with staff in a seminar around ‘learning to think in public’ – mindmap here.
And then… I must also link these ideas with our Networked Learning Conference Symposium paper is that, in our analysis, a zoom breakout room, a virtual meeting, thins out self-revelation, the truth of the person that we cannot filter so well when in-person. Nothing but in-person speaking obliges ‘unplugged’ students to stand behind their words.
Where do spoken words arise from? Is there not something uncanny in the unscripted spoken word?
It was a high delight even to meet virtually last Monday, 1st November, to align our objectives and aspirations for a phenomenology and networked learning symposium at the next conference 16-18 May 2022. Felicity and Mike are gently pinching ourselves – we feel like we have a ‘dream team’ of enthusiastic participants who can genuinely carry the hanfod.NL vision of bringing phenomenology into the spotlight within networked learning.
Greta Goertz (2021 PDSE article) – Re-presencing the digital trace in networked learning design
Nina Bonderup Dohn – to discuss Merleu-Ponty’s importance for networked learning research (YouTube video abstract)
Kyungmee Lee (Twitter profile) – exploring what phenomenological ideas can bring to writing ‘thick description’
Felicity, Mike, Cathy Adams and Joni Turville (Twitter profile) bring a phenomenology of practice lens to the student’s experience of Zoom breakout rooms.
Some of the discussion was about having five solid full papers when a symposium is usually four papers, but we have ambitions around filling a double-symposium and developing something substantial to make good use of the time.
We established a few dates: Mike to draft a symposium proposal outline by 26th Nov. 10th Dec to send around full drafts of papers to each other for feedback and responses, and comment on the symposium draft. 3rd Jan 2021 for final full papers, ready for submission as soon as possibly prior to the 7th January target for Networked Learning Conference scientific review.
In sympathy with Greta’s idea of retaining control of the traces we leave within the Internet, we chose to use Jitsi for this meeting and it performed admirably although browser-based (sometimes app-based video-conference tools are more stable). Unfortunately Greta was delayed and so unable to join the group photo-call.
We feel like our 10/11 June workshop was so long ago…. although it is a happy memory. Another small example of overcoming in the face of the pandemic… However, if you had a summer like us, writing was not easy to fit in. A busy life can really desiccate attempts to enter into a phenomenological attitude…
We hope you have managed to relax a little over the ‘holiday’ period – you may be still trying to do so. However, we can’t rest on our laurels for long – we have started to properly look forward to next year’s in-person conference – a very exciting and hopeful prospect, given global events.
If you have time, take a look at this site which takes an informal look at the host city: http://www.sundsvalltown.se/ Mike really tried to find a land route to Kolding in 2020, and is wondering whether not flying is going to be a realistic option this time without having to immitate Phileas Fogg!
One of hanfod.NL’s aims is to organise a phenomenology and networked learning symposium – the deadline for symposium proposals and full papers is the same – October 8th. We need a clear idea about the viability of a symposium well in advance and so we’re inviting you to join us. Please email email@example.com with your abstract by 2nd September in order for us to meet online for feedback and review on the 3rd at 2pm (GMT) – you are welcome to join us. We will email the zoom link you if you send us your abstract.