We are three days in to #engageMOOC. And already, I have so many thoughts and questions floating around it my mind. Mostly, questions. The conversation so far has been multi-faceted. An invitation to think about the #Antigonish2 movement (original AND present); a provocation in response to comments from John Parry Barlow (from 1995): ""It’s not that there’s anything particularly healthy about cyberspace in itself, but the way in which cyberspace breaks down barriers. Cyberspace makes person-to-person interaction much more likely in an already fragmented society. The thing that people need desperately is random encounter. That’s what community has." (which I won't write about here, but spoiler, I love random encounters...except online); and reflective thinking about interviews on the work of the The Highlander Center, and Black Community Education in Jim Crow South. More, there was a synchronous online chat on YouTube day 1, and so many thoughtful blog posts since (here, here and here - and it's only been 72 hours!). Seriously, read these thoughtful and beautiful pieces of writing, don't just take my word for it.
And so it is hard for me to organize my thoughts. As I have already shared in the online discussion forum, and on Twitter (the irony), I feel overwhelmed sometimes by the thought of joining the conversation when it is mediated in a digital space. "I am so much better in person". Especially when so many of these communities seem to be so tightly knit. How does one weave herself in? How does one contribute? And more, be heard? Even if her thoughts are not as articulate or well-formed as the next person. And especially when the inclination is to lurk. Should I be braver?
And so this is where I am at....these few days in -
During the YouTube chat on Monday (Feb. 12, 2018) there was discussion about what differentiates "deliberate care" (my words), versus "participation", "engagement" and/or "action". I found myself sketching the most rudimentary of visual representations on a scrap piece of paper during the conversation. There is nothing revelatory here. But still, I think it demonstrates how I think of these "definitions" as an circuitous map. One informs the other, and then the other, and then perhaps they change direction. And while I did appreciate the opportunity to "engage" in real time, I also found myself wondering if we were spending too much time on definition. We are all here. We all care. We are all engaged. We are all participating. So, what's our action?
Yes. Perhaps we are not there yet. I know, 72 hours. But, just putting it out there.
I was struck by the interviews mentioned above. When Rev. Allyn Steele discusses the vernacular for social justice movements -
Words we use these days or what people will call Popular Education in which case everyone's a learner everyone's a teacher, so there's no real emphasis placed on expertise in terms of like one person having all the information about a particular social or economic or cultural issue. Rather the idea is that everybody has expertise of their own lived experience and the idea behind the educational processes is to bring people together to share those experiences, figure out what the patterns are that are connecting those experiences, adding some information that might be theory driven or it might just be new information that people didn't have before because someone else has it and they can introduce it to help explain the situation in a different way, and then coming up with a plan of action for how to address it, and then doing that and then coming back together and starting the process all over again and we call that a popular education spiral.
And, in what felt like a reverberation from Ash-Lee Woodward Henderson, was the reminder that "deeply listening" is at the core. Especially as a person mostly privileged - not in a position of precarity nor a marginalized "voice"....how can I better listen? How can I better amplify the voices of others?
All of this brings me back to #Antigonish2, but also my own big question. One of the things I love about #Antigonish2 is the layers. The idea of a digital network, followed by institutional capacity-building, followed by study clubs....except I am not sure that "studying" is quite enough...though also I recognize I am simplifying the suggestion....obviously if we all are better prepared and work toward the "hands-on opportunities to develop the practices and literacies needed by critical citizens
and consumers in an attention economy" (Stewart, 2017) we will naturally identify our actions.
A few years ago I was invited to participate in a charrette in my community on the issue of food (in)security. As I have already shared on Twitter, a comment made by Nick Saul, in the early days, before this community gathering, was particularly clear -
And so we created a "container" as described by Ash-Lee Woodward Henderson. A temporary "bumping space". Could this be a model for "study club"?
Perhaps there are a few ways that a charrette can be facilitated, but in my experience, and recognizing that not everyone will be comfortable with grabbing the mic, this is what it looked like -
An open invitation was extended to community members for participation. We had a full room that crossed a variety of identities. We all arrived and the "deliberate care" was palpable in the room. We were invited (but not pressured) to approach the mic and express our purpose/idea/frustration/connection/question/deliberate care to the room (and again, realizing this is not a place of comfort for all).
Following this, we wrote down these thoughts on a piece of paper and stuck it to the wall. A "dot-mocracy" followed. And then, in small groups, we set about trying to address the purpose/idea/frustration/connection/question/deliberate care. It felt a little like a tech-sprint, but it was in no way technical. Just working in community, in diverse groups, deeply listening, to try and problem-solve, or at least suggest possible solutions to our shared concerns. What I loved about this model, was the diverse groups we found ourselves in. And, that built-in was in invitation to move between groups to find your deepest care. And, that the goal of the day was to take some kind of tangible action.
And so I wonder. How could we replicate this experience in a digital space? As mentioned by Ash-Lee Woodward Henderson, how can we leverage social media channels to better organize in a meaningful way in beloved community? How can we ensure that all voices are heard, and amplified? What action will we as a community take? This is what I am interested in exploring.