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LinearNonlinear

Page history last edited by dustcube 13 years, 6 months ago

The linear vs. nonlinear opposition is a very interesting one in our collaboration since there are the most contradicting views among us. We seem to agree that "linear" is a limitation and something negative, but some see blogs as more linear and others see forums discussions as more linear. Hold on a minute: linear is negative? why?  I am far to non-linear, and altough I enjoy being non-linear, I wish I could be more linear at times.  Maybe I'm just greedy, but I would LOVE to have both affordances: linear and lateral thinking, and unfortunately, my linear is weak. 

 

In fact, for me the perceived linearity of forums is THE major offputting factor, as I argued on the Part 4 Grouping Draft 2 page at 96 = old 132. John called blogs linear, on Part 4 Draft 4 in comment at 1:29 pm on Mar 6, 2009,  and again today on the Hypotheses page at item 1b. Complementarily, the (positive) properties of divergent thinking and diversity were claimed by both "camps".

Surely we must distinguish between linearity and laterality in thinking on the one hand and in format on the other hand.  I think dull, boring forums are far too linear, and I think blogs which are too tightly focused, and even repetitive are similarly far too linear. What makes more sense to me is a distinction between narrative and multi-tasking / parallel/ mutli-track interaction and format.  Blogs are narrative, in time, and singular in the main train of thought, unless they have loads of comments, but even then they are narrative/singular.  Active forums are multi-track, and tend to be more divergent.  Hyperactive forums (like some of the early weeks in CCK08) become chaotic, and noisy (in the engineering sense and the conversational sense).

 

One problem with calling bloggers (as opposed to blogs) linear is that I assume that bloggers, like most everyone else keep many things in mind as they do through the day, they just dont like to organise their thoughts and their blogs that way.  So the blogs might be linear, but I would be hard pressed to say (intuitively) that bloggers are linear, and even more hard pressed to construct a satisfactory test for objective evidence that bloggers 'are' linear.

 

The ironic thing is that both blogs and forums are composed of language and language IS linear. So it would be interesting to find out what the difference in our respective perceptions of linearity is. I am only afraid that this is a too ambitious goal. At best, the interviews and interpretation stage could perhaps give us some inkling that points a path to subsequent research questions. 

 

My current guess is that the difference is perhaps between some macro level (the entire thread is linear) and smaller micro levels, argumentation lines are linear? or the chain of links to be followed may seem painfully linear when I don't like to follow links?. I am not sure, and I am also afraid that I may again be biased by my connotation of narrow contexts vs. wide contexts. Very interesting thoughts (even if we cant resolve them in this research!)  ... we can also distinguish between sequential, but threaded and integrating forums (i.e. in which the participants pick up and integrate the 'whole' argument of a number of posts) and on the other hand a 'reactive' forum, in which each additional post only relates to the previous one, and only to a small part of a previous post, resulting in sequential nonsense, if you look at 10 or more posts, but 'interesting responses' if you only look at two sequential posts at a time. The trick of good faciliation is to provide 'role models' of 'threaded'/ intergrating responses, and to lead by example rather than by negative sanction.  If the faciliators forgo this role, chaos results.  That is one reason why I was so glad of the presence of people like you, John, in the forums, as you performed this integrating, threading role so beautifully.  I tried too, but I am less patient, I think.

 

[Sorry for cluttering; I wanted to tidy thing up and move this out of the Research Tools folder but am not permitted.] 

 

Matthias, thanks for creating this discussion here.  So I have moved the file to this new folder: Linear versus Non-linear discussion.

I wish to raise a few questions and observations in relation to the macro and micro levels:

 

1. Macro

Is the entire thread in blog normally linear?  Is that the intention of the blogger to have a linear flow of ideas out of the post?  Would it be a logical, to the point argument in response to another blog post or an original idea created by the blogger?  The blog set up be Stephen, George, Tony Bates, you, Jenny and I are typical setup.  This goes back to the control - where blogging is in complete control by the blogger - he/she decides what, how and why of blogging.

 

Is the entire thread in forum discussion normally linear?  Will the first poster be "directing" the threads (or controlling the main theme)?  Would the "followers" or subsequent posters be responding to the posts or creating new threads or diverted threads?  The Moodlers (main poster) set by George (in most weeks), and in some cases Stephen (remember the power gambit) hinted participants to follow the post, if the Moodlers are not following the main posts, it would be off topic (non-linear).  So Moodler in theory needs to follow a linear pattern, but some would prefer to follow the DIFFERENT POSTS or DIFFERENT THREADS.  This may present a huge challenge to bloggers (as Jenny and Matthias, both of you have revealed the frustrations of participating in forum discussion, due to those loud noises)

 

2. Micro

Is each of the posts in a blog linear?  It depends on what the topic is? What the blogger intends to achieve in each post? In case of Stephen's blog, it is more like an aggregator, and it touches on a number of themes.  Participants use that as an information source, rather than for discussion.  However, some of the participants will link his topic (or those blog post) for discussion in CCK08.  So in this regard, it is semi-linear, as it leads to diverted topics.  If you check with Keith Lyons' blog, you will realise that it is a summary and synthesis of his search of blog posts, and again it serves similar functions to Stephen.  At one time, I have the "temptation" of following Stephen's pathway, but realising that it doesn't reflect my learning style, and it's very time consuming, so I didn't take it up. 

 

Is each of the threads in forum linear?  I found some threads pretty linear, for instance, when I posted the most successful networks in history, though participants are posting different examples, they all related back to the main theme.  However, when it came to some topics which was too broad, then there were lots of digression, and the discussions were non-linear.  The discussion in the General Forum well illustrated this - and I found it difficult to follow some of the discussions there - with posts "selling" products or services even!

 

In summary, would these be reflective of the CCK08 situation?

  •  bloggers have more control over their learning (linear, step by step reflective learning), Moodlers might be controlled by the poster (main poster) over their learning (linear in response, but non-linear in choice) 
  • bloggers have more focus on the central theme (linear), but they could get various sources of information from other bloggers (non-linear) sourcing in order to create their post.  Bloggers are more inclined to summarise what they learn from other blogs (Stephen's and George's blog posts are typically created this way).  Moodlers are more inclined to be receptive in the learning process by posting a question or comment based on a "linear question or comment" but may be diverged to another new idea as a result of the interaction, and thus assume a non-linear pathway in search of information or learning.

John 27/3/09

 

(JM 270309) This is interesting and I think worth pursuing as perceptions of linearity non-linearity might have factored in whether people chose to blog or use discussion forums on the course. I suspect though that it will be difficult to separate this notion of linearity out from other factors (I'm thinking aloud here and feeling my way - so if what I write doesn't make sense then just ignore it). I also think it's difficult to define what we mean by linearity and non-linearity in an online environment. Are there links here to the discussions we have had before about convergence and divergence?

 

What do I think about it from a personal perspective? If I try and conjure up a visual representation, then I get a more linear picture for forums than for blogs. It would be interesting - but no doubt time consuming - to take one of the topics that has been discussed in both the forums and on the blogs and try and diagrammatically map the paths the discussion followed.

 

As Matthias has pointed out language IS linear and I agree that it does depend on whether we are thinking about macro and micro levels. On a macro level (i.e. having the type of diagram I have just suggested) I wouldn't be surprised if forums look more linear than blogs. On the micro level it might be different.

 

On my own blog I am very conscious that I shouldn't jump about too much - so for example, I try and keep my posts limited to topics that relate even loosely to learning and education - I don't suddenly launch off into a discussion of some of the many other things that make up my life such as my interest in digital photography, travel, family history and so on. So I have a self-imposed linearity. However, I and readers and commenters can break down this linearity down and go off on many tangents if I and they wish. I think going off on tangents also happened in the Moodle forums.

 

So I think I am coming to the conclusion (as I think John has) that both blogs and forums could be perceived as linear, but that bloggers have more control over linearity/nonlinearity.

 

I'm wondering if I have missed the point you've been trying to get at Matthias?

 

(MM 29.3.09) Finally I can turn to this one. When I was trying to get at my point I was not aware that "linear" can mean so many different things, and in particular, for John it seems to mean more the consistency and focussedness of specific contents rather than a general structure of relationships and dependencies. I look at linear as opposed to tree-like or web-like.

But I think you did not miss what I meant when you acklowledge that it is a very important concept WRT cognitive styles. It is definitely also related to divergence & convergence, but I think it would be too ambitious to ccver these concepts as well. They do not only include a static structure, but also a dynamic change (and so the research focus may bounce between start and goal). Additionally, there is desire of change involved, and the research focus could again bounce between the "why" of the desire and the "how" of desired comfort. Although prism and splicer seem like a very basic and simple concept, I think it is more complex than linearity.

Comments (1)

suifaijohnmak said

at 9:46 am on Mar 27, 2009

Matthias, I agree that this topic deserves a separate discussion. Blogs are linear to me as the blogger set the scene, and the porch example by you highlight that you have control it "in a linear manner". You could even determine the language to use in YOUR blog. But, can you do that in Forum? I think people have to follow the "rules" set by the forum creater (in the case of cck08) the hidden facilitators. So, it is non-linear in a sense of the marketplace metaphor, where you could be distracted by the competitors, and each participant in the forum trying to "sell" you something or exchange something with you. John

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