Frances Bell

home at last – for all the mes


Response to Simon Ensor’s comments


Answers by Cavale CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Jenny Mackness and I are giving a presentation at the MOOCs – which way now event on Friday 27 June.  To accompany our presentation (aware that we have too much to cover) we have published a series of blog posts.

The first post was – The Rhizome as a Metaphor for Teaching and Learning in a MOOC 

The second post was – Making Sense of the Rhizome Metaphor for Teaching and Learning

The third post was – Principles of Rhizomatic Thinking

The fourth post was – Emerging Ambiguities and Issues


We received many interesting and useful comments and would welcome more but one keen reader gave very extensive comments, and we thought the best way to respond was via a blog post.  So the rest of this blog post is for Simon Ensor and was created by Frances Bell and Jenny Mackness.

Thanks for your comments Simon. They are useful, even if sometimes it felt as though our essays were being marked 😉

You raise several points that we will address later: initially in a summary response to all the feedback we receive on our presentation, and subsequently in our ongoing research. We have summarised these points as follows:

  • Potential contradiction in terms between ‘rhizomatic learning’ and ‘the community is the curriculum’, and whether or not the rhizome as a network can be a community – this is something we are already working on and it’s useful to know it’s of concern to others.
  • The centredness or otherwise of the course from a variety of participant perspectives (so thanks for your contribution here) – again already in our sights.
  • Discussion on rhizo14 that may be hidden – this is an important point that we are already aware of. We would not wish to be in an omniscient or surveillance role. However, we are finding that our data collection approach has surfaced some of the ‘hidden’ and that encourages us that we can make a contribution.
  • Multiplicity, deterritorialisation, connection and dominance are aspects we will pursue further so thanks for reinforcing that.

There are some comments that we can address now, and a few that we have probably missed/ ignored.

‘new kids on the block’

came from the thoughts of a survey respondent that interested us.

“Ah yes coming back to the rhizome metaphor for teaching and learning (or research) for me the most important contribution of it is to concentrate on complexity, mulitplicity and uncontrollable upshoots.
When we are looking for short-term ‘manageable’ research projects and ‘manageable data sets’ and ‘manageable outcomes’ we are going to look to artificially control ‘education’.”

We are very open to criticism of our research approach, and since our blog posts are informal exchanges to accompany a spoken presentation, we have not written about our methodology. We will post about that quite soon. However we can say that we don’t recognise your characterisation as fitting the research we are doing.

“The only thing worth concerning ourselves with is the essence of our connections.
This work coming from Terry Elliot says pretty much all there is:

These comments are puzzling since we would have thought that D&G were anti-essentialist, and saying one object/utterance says all there is seems against the spirit of rhizomatic thinking.

“I think that are some ‘core issues ‘ here with identifying ‘core’ groups in a rhizome. Do you consider yourself(ves) as ‘core’?”

We used the term ‘core’ as it appeared in a survey response: it was also used (not by any of us) in a recent long thread on FB group.

“A ‘key contributor’ ‘a treasure trove’ – how do you identify ‘key’ what is a ‘contributor’ what do you consider to be ‘treasure’ or a ‘trove’? (Doesn’t sound very scientific all that..)”

That was our interpretation based on our observation. Frances has already directed you to her view of research. Key is a word that you have used yourself (in an interpretive fashion) and ‘treasure trove’ is a phrase unlikely to appear in any formal research publication but hey! What’s wrong with a compliment?

When we refer to the FB group we mean that in Facebook terms see

“‘This discussion around rhizo14 continues albeit in one space’. I imagine that you are not suggesting that your blog is the ‘one space’ so clearly what you are suggesting is demonstrably inexact.”

Yes – that is probably true – the difference being that Jenny does not primarily see her blog as a space for discussion, but more for clarifying and sharing her thinking. If discussion arises here she sometimes welcomes it, sometimes not. This is her space and this is the difference between blogs and forums which John Mak Roy Williams and she wrote a paper about a few years back. (and Frances agrees with all of that).


francesbell • June 26, 2014

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  1. Simon Ensor (@sensor63) June 26, 2014 - 8:01 am Reply

    Hello Frances and Jenny.

    Thank you for taking the time to write your reply to questions/comments which I raised on your blog posts.

    I have not yet marked your essays but as soon as I do I shall forward you the mark in red 😉 (or green) Do you prefer A,’s B’s or numerical grades?

    Sorry if I misunderstood that Jenny’s blog was not for discussion or that it was not at this time for discussion.

    I am all for compliments. Thank you for your great, interesting, well written posts!!

    If I suggest that the essence of connections is of essence I didn’t suggest that this came from D&G. However I might …. so it might be worth looking into the concept ‘becomings’. So I shall…perhaps…if I remember.

    I would suggest that one part of a rhizome is still rhizome so you don’t need to dig up the whole thing to have an impression of the fractal whole.

    Hope my comments are not viewed as unwelcome but rather as an attempt to clarify and to share my own thinking on what you are talking about. I can do different styles of comments if this style doesn’t correspond to your blog. Or I can do silence very well.

    You are very generous in presenting your thinking. Hope I can be of use to stimulate more.

    Good luck with the presentation!!

  2. francesbell June 26, 2014 - 10:35 am Reply

    @Simon thanks for your response. We are very glad to receive your comments here and at Jenny’s blog (and that’s what we said if you re-read the post). We moved the response to you to this post for 2 reasons:
    1. because it emphasised that the series of posts was joint writing between me and Jenny, and
    2. because your comments were quite long (almost stream of consciousness) and lengthy replies (bit by bit) might possibly put off other possible commenters.
    As we have said, blogging provisional thoughts in the research process can clarify our own thoughts. amplify a presentation, and give the chance for others to comment. Their comments can help us to question our assumptions, as well as confirming tentative ideas.

  3. sensor63 June 26, 2014 - 12:44 pm Reply

    Hi Frances
    Thanks. Your reply sort of confirms what I have been thinking that in future I might just as well go the whole hog and respond with links in comments to a blog post so as not to clutter up others’ spaces.

    It is really that until now I had concentrated on a stream of consciousness blog form rather than this sort of more overtly analytical commentary. I will see what comes out of this dialogue.

    My analysis comes after – its just its most often silent…being lazy.

    This is somewhere in between thoughtful academic form which I enjoy and the inescapable stuff which forces its way out.

  4. francesbell June 26, 2014 - 1:22 pm Reply

    I wouldn’t want to put you off commenting. I usually comment in situ but occasionally comment with another post and link to it.

    • Simon Ensor (@sensor63) June 26, 2014 - 2:26 pm Reply

      OK thanks

  5. jennymackness June 26, 2014 - 9:12 pm Reply

    Hi Simon – apologies for the confusion over discussion on my blog and just to confirm Frances’ comment that we welcome all comments both here and on my blog. Perhaps I need to explain how I think of my blog – and there’s no reason why you should know this or shouldn’t have had a different assumption.

    As we said in this post, I think of it as a space for clarifying and sharing my thinking. Unless comments are spam, I always accept and welcome all comments, although I don’t always feel compelled to respond or engage with the points made in the comment.

    My friend and colleague Matthias Melcher, when we were writing our paper on the use of blogs and forums in CCK08, described forums (and I would include spaces such as Facebook, Moodle etc. in this) as the ‘market place’, and blogs as the ‘front porch’ of someone’s house. This really resonated with me. I usually find the market place too ‘noisy’ unless it is a small market and I think of my blog as my house/space. I am happy for people to come and sit on my front porch and discuss whatever they want to discuss, but I don’t always want to come out and join them and it is a rare visitor who gets invited into my personal space 🙂

    Hope this makes sense.

    Thanks again for your helpful thoughts and comments.


  6. sensor63 June 29, 2014 - 11:40 am Reply

    Hi Jenny.
    Thanks. I love your er Matthias’ (where did he get it from?) analogy. I think this question of space er niche is very, very important. I am intrigued to find myself here, reflecting on my own blogging forms with you as it is entirely unpredictable.
    We are curious creatures 🙂

  7. helinur August 2, 2014 - 9:52 am Reply

    Hi Frances, I want to tell that i blogged about rhizo14 research and used your enjoyable presentation June 27, please check if something is terrible wrong 🙂

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