Life in the network 1 Animated gif by @gifadog CCBY
Life in the network –  Animated gif by @gifadog CCBY

Why talk of myth, why disenchant what so often is good fun? Because we must be wary when our most important moments of coming together seem to be captured in what people happen to do on platforms whose economic value is based on generating just such an idea of natural collectivity.” (Couldry, 2013)

A necessary disenchantment

My time has come for what Couldry (2013) labels ‘the necessary disenchantment of the digital age’ as we learn to see past the myths we co-create to make sense of the world. For me, it is about disenchanting the myth of open online education. I have written about this before and chosen to close comments here as not everyone appreciates those of us inquiring into the limitations of a field of study whilst still being part of it. Couldry explores 3 myths in his article: ‘the myth of the mediated centre’, ‘the myth of big data’ and ‘the myth of us’. In this post I mostly look at the myth of ‘us’ as it applies to people involved in open education.

Couldry’s ideas came into my life just at the right time to make sense of an increased sense of unease with the dominant narrative of ‘open’ in online education. Others within the field have spoken about the tyranny of participation (e.g. Ferreday and Hodgson, 2008) yet the voices are distant and quiet, too often silenced by a dominant techno-utopian narrative.

design by @mdvfunes CCBY
Design by @mdvfunes CCBY

It is time for me to turn sideways into the light and start a new conversation.

A conversation that is not about creating a myth or destroying it, a conversation that explores something ‘outside’ the field. Something that looks at this field with perspective and critiques it eloquently and fairly.

The conflation of relationship, ideas and the necessity of technology in open education as a field seems to hinder the kind of equanimity needed to see the limitations of our actions.

Couldry is only one of a number of theorists in the field of critical internet studies (Fuchs, Dyer-Witheford and Andrejevic 2011) A field new to me and one  that has taught me to stop writing internet with a capital ‘I’ as it offers agency to the inanimate.

I am surprised that in the years I have been learning online, formally and informally, I have not found one module that questioned the very environment where open education is happening. More surprising, and perhaps shocking, has been listening to recent conversations online where I learnt that many of the people who have taught me to be online have known about the authors I discuss in this post for many years.

For myself, I am in the process of creating a module for my online courses to explore with my students the implications of critical internet studies to the choices they make online over and above digital fluency. If I am to encourage my students to participate in open online learning, they need informed consent before they agree to participate.

After my reading in the last few weeks I am wondering: Should I be asking my students participate at all? To participate in ‘a network’ (Mejias, 2013) that hides much more than it reveals in its furious push towards openness may need much more critical analysis than I had first imagined.

We can build, or architect, or code cyberspace to protect values that we believe are fundamental. Or we can build, or architect, or code cyberspace to allow those values to disappear. (Lessig, 2006)

It seems we have coded cyberspace to allow values to disappear not preserve them and that our individual efforts to preserve may be a little like readjusting the chairs on the Titanic.  In what follows I explore the ideas that have led me to such bleak views but end with some hope for contemplative media studies that may help us think beyond being a node in a network.

Life in the network 1 – by @mdvfunes CCBY

To node or not to node?

Networks matter because they are the underlying structure of our lives. And without understanding their logic we cannot change their programmes to harness their flexibility to our hopes, instead of relentlessly adapting ourselves to the instructions received from their unseen codes. Networks are the Matrix. MANUEL CASTELLS, WHY NETWORKS MATTER (quoted in Mejias, 2013)

Couldry (2013) suggests that ‘all forms of power attempt to construct reality in a certain way’ and this he defines as myth making. We are all involved in the creation of ‘these myths through our everyday actions’ and this makes ‘myth a more useful term […] than ideology.’ This is true even of marginal groups or self-defined elites within marginal groups. The dynamics at play in myth creation through conversation are subtle and rarely challenged. Or if challenged, not often amplified by those invested in the myth.

When other […] voices were brave enough to nudge the trajectory of the conversation, they weren’t shot down, but somehow others came neatly behind and nudged it right back to the majority narrative. Gogia (2015)

I see this process of myth creation in most open online education narrative. The need to evolve a shared narrative of this kind (often to the detriment of alternative narratives) points ‘to our continuing struggles to develop digital scholarly practices’ (Reid, 2015). Reid asks in the same post,  ‘Is the future of digital scholarship really going to be clickbait and sloganeering?’ I really hope not, but sometimes I wonder.

Yet, if we do not open the door to a critique of the whole enterprise we might just end up deafened in the echo chamber. Mejias (2010) writes insightfully about this as he critiques the use of networks for learning. I have been stopped in my tracks often as constructs I have taken as given since living and learning online, have been fundamentally challenged in the last few weeks.

If we were to apply these concepts to the learning process, we could ask which kinds of things are included and which kinds of things are excluded when learning happens as an activity within the network. We could start to think about the networked social media tools we use as facilitating a form of epistemic enslavement. If a specific form of knowledge cannot be rendered with these tools, then it cannot be part of the network, and it might as well not exist. The question then is: who gets to decide what to include and what to exclude from these networks? Mejias (2010)

Who gets to decide indeed? As I observe online life with my new perspective, it seems that at the individual level Johny-on-the-spot decides with little information and a lot of greed for more clicks and follows. At the organisational level, it is just a few individuals who own corporations that are not accountable to society and who have narcissistic personalities large enough to believe that they have the capacity (and the right) to choose what is best for the world. The Silicon Valley Church rules, as we will see later in this post.

Spaces like Flickr and Facebook and Google+ and Tumblr belong to large corporations who offer us certain services in exchange for the right to monetize our creativity and attention. Downes (2013)

If we are facilitating ‘epistemic enslavement’ and colluding with a system, which Mejias unifies as the network, that gives large corporations the right to monetise our students’ creativity and attention – is that what ethical education should be doing? And clearly the ‘solution’ is not to just build a domain of your own, either.

I have no illusion that hosting my own domain and server and all the rest of it will free from such fecklessness. It simply moves it back a level. […] Even if I were to construct my own internet backbone and manufacture my own computers, our economy is so interlinked that fickle behaviour on the part of one corporation or another (perhaps the power company, perhaps the government) will intrude on my space. (Downes, 2013)

Yet techno utopia is alive and well in open education; as a future always worth having or as something that the ‘technologically disadvantaged’ are missing out on and ‘we’ (the ed-tech elite) must rectify immediately. The arrogance.

[S]elf-interest might be a functional principle to organize networks, even at a local level, [but] it might not be sustainable as the basis for a social ethics, which requires a degree of selfless engagement. If we are going to go with the network metaphor, we need a praxis and an ethics, for engaging with the world beyond our interests, which means accounting for the space between nodes, becoming invested in the non-nodal. (Mejias, 2013)

Couldry’s challenge to myth creation – that we need to disenchant ourselves of the myths we are most attached to, if we want a fuller picture of the implications of our actions – is  a great way to may be learn to ‘become invested in the non-nodal’. The network makes sense of human life through connecting nodes. Yet nodes cannot be embodied with values and quality, though they can be counted. What is not represented in the network, cannot be recognised as existing in the logic of the network. This is okay if networks are seen just as a metaphor amongst metaphors, but limited when they become the only explanatory construct to make sense of the social in human life. Mejias encourages us to resist the logic of a network ‘that can only think in terms of nodes’.

Several years ago the economist Edward Luttwak (1998) spoke to the limits of turbo-capitalism and also encouraged us to attend to the non-nodal in much more poetic language. He said: ‘Whatever is worthwhile about us, as individuals, groups and societies is the inefficient part. Inefficiency is where human life exists, social life exists, where love, hatred and culture exist’.

_Whatever_is_worthwhi____written_by_mdvfunes___NotegraphyInhospitable writing

I teach mindful online communication and I have started reading about the hidden conversational structures that exist within the platforms we use to interact with online. The essential idea here is that software implements a world view about how to communicate. Edwards (2015) explores how this ‘inscrutability’ of software impacts open education, stating that ‘simple notions of openness…are a fantasy’.

For example, Git Hub implements a particular kind of conversational structure in its pull requests. Some say the collectivity built around this platform has certain collaborative qualities and this could be because it implements a kind of dialogue that is made easier by the way the platform is designed and implemented. Facebook implements a given conversational dynamic too, one that some label as the ‘skeuomorph of conversation’ (Reid, 2015). All platforms embed assumptions about how to communicate.

Whilst neither Couldry nor Mejias speak to digital infrastructure directly, this is another way in which explaining human action just through nodes in a network can make us less than human.

Caulfield (2015) talks about inhospitable writing on the web as he explores ways to have a different quality of dialogue online, his focus is on digital infrastructure and what it supports or hinders.  In that context he talks about ‘inhospitable writing’. Inhospitable writing is  ‘the conversational part of the web [that] is often hostile to noobs.’ Here is his example:


This kind of writing is not only hostile to ‘noobs’ but to anyone who is not part of the ‘in-group’ – those linked in the post, the list of people at the front of a blog or the people in that in-group who get tweeted, retweeted and thanked by the post writer for stepping onto this earth daily in selected social media platforms. This ‘conversational part of the web’ is often used simply to indicate ‘like’ from the person writing and not for the exploration of the ideas in the post hyperlinked.

Much web writing is inhospitable to strangers: it uses text to build a conversational in-group, making it clear to outsiders that they are not a part of the conversation. (Caulfield, 2015)

I see this too often taken to an extreme where there is no mention of the idea in a hyperlinked post just a link in the name. Caulfield states that ‘posts like this build a community, and use links and references to other conversations to strengthen that community. It feels good to people in the community.’

Life in the network 2 – by @mdvfunes CCBY

I disagree. Posts like these create a set of hyperlinks in a collectivity of unrelated people who tell themselves that the more they do this, the more of a ‘community’ they become. As we conflate liking with dialogue, our attention gets directed to the hyper-personal aspects of technology as defining the quality of our dialogue.

The idea of ‘community’ may be the espoused theory we hold when we link. Yet, I think applying Couldry (2013) ideas on myth creation is relevant here. What we are doing with inhospitable writing, Couldry might say, is co-creating ‘the myth of us’, coming together is seen as links in the network. The more links the stronger the network. The more links the greater the social capital. Couldry talks about how this coming together is the very thing various platforms underpin their economic value on. They have something invested in redefining the idea of what it means to come together as ‘us’.

It would not be enough for Facebook,for example, to say that lots of small groups, unknown to each other, do roughly similar things behind virtual closed doors. It is vital to the value claims on which Facebook depends for it to open as many of those interconnecting doors as possible and claim that Facebook is what we are now doing together. (Couldry, 2013)

In the same way it is good for the ‘us’ that is being created under the banner of open online education to claim ‘this is what we are now doing together’ and unless you are linked, liked and retweeted you are not part of that ‘us’. And, importantly, unless you are willing to enter the clicking economy you will never be part of ‘us’. The system relies on ‘noobs’ coming on board and doing the social labour of liking, linking and retweeting in order to get the reward of being liked, linked and retweeted themselves.

Once inside, players encounter a hierarchy between those new nodes with few links and those super-rich nodes or hubs, which everyone keeps linking to. The game then becomes trying to acquire as many links as possible, in an attempt to approximate the status of a super-rich node (Mejias, 2013)

There is a variation on the linking game. It is the ‘if-you-comment-on-my-blog-I-will-comment-on-yours’ game. The nature of blogging platforms encourages this. And commenting is usually a way for people to link to their own posts, and to say how the post they are commenting on is (mis)aligned to their own view.

Yet, creating the myth of ‘us’ through this inhospitable writing is not the kind of writing that encourages a collegiate non-personal exploration of ideas. This is why Caulfield is trying to create a different (if not new outside this particular ‘us’) way of interacting. Here is Caulfield (2015) advice for writing in a hospitable way for his personal project:

Write for reuse in this space. What you post should be easy for others to reuse on their site with modifications. So no posts trying to prove a personal point or narratives that wouldnt make sense out of someone elses mouth. You are contributing words to your wiki that someone else can use with minimal modification.

It is interesting to me that whilst his focus is on the creation of a new digital infrastructure, he is also imposing a set of norms for interacting in the space he has created that counter the usual ‘broadcast only’ way of communicating online.

Inhospitable writing is an example of how we can build the myth of ‘us’ . The writing advice offered to enable  participation on this project is an attempt to create an alternative ‘us’ – another group where the super-rich nodes will be the ones that follow the new rules.

The myth of ‘us’

Couldry talks about the idea of becoming disenchanted by the myths we love as a construct that will help us jump out of network logic in the sense intended by Mejias (2013). He states that a myth is a way of organising around assumptions that some things are more valuable than others and that this ‘organising’ creates a ‘we’ that shares and builds up a certain reality.

Myths have, he tells us, ‘a distinctive domain, a distinctive effect and a distinctive set of beneficiaries.’ So what is the domain for us in open education? It includes technology and is rarely conceptualised without it in spite of the fact that open education has a long history that predates the computer (Peter and Deinman, 2013). This has the effect of making technology a non-negotiable part of open education. Who does this benefit? Those of ‘us’ in the tech-elite who like, link and retweet and who are at ease with technology.

All this can be put very succinctly from common wisdom: The turkey will not vote for Christmas.

We are prisoners of the network. We are epistemically enslaved to it, at the very least. Even as we hold the key, we will not leave because the perceived cost in social capital is just too high. Couldry further talks about how the myth of us has social media platforms as a beneficiary as we redefine what it means to come together and be social in terms the platforms can sell. And of course the ‘us’ here is sufficiently vague that it can mean the whole of human life. I am stopped short by this sentence:

Rationalizing a certain perspective on how we come to know the social, obscures our possibilities for imagining, describing and enacting the social otherwise. (Couldry, 2012)

This resonates with the idea of paralogy as a means of resistance to network logic, proposed by Mejias. We need to reason beyond the possibilities obscured by the network. Or we will become only that which the network can describe. Unable to delete ourselves from it or create ourselves in new ways. If we continue acting within network logic and seeing it as inevitable, the dystopian scenario proposed by Mejias may come to be as ‘we exchange our representable identity as the people for our representable identity as the nodes: a being devoid of its nodality is absolutely irrelevant to the network.’

Are we already part of ‘The Circle’?

Your tools have elevated gossip, hearsay and conjecture to the level of valid, mainstream communication. And besides that, its fucking dorky. (Eggers, 2013)

If we adapt our behaviour without even knowing it to what sells The Network, just where is this train taking ‘us’? We are, after all, ‘a group practiced in pre-emptive validation’ (Eggers, 2013). What is the ultimate and logical conclusion of what ‘we’ are doing? I have been reading cover to cover, over and over again with great dismay, a book called ‘The Circle’ (Eggers, 2013). The book is a novel that explores, amongst other things, the idea of Ultimate Transparency in social media and connection. We live the story through Mae, the main character, who at the start of the novel achieves her dream of getting a job at The Circle – a corporation created by the merger of Google and Facebook.

It is here inside the Circle that Eggers critique of “ultimate transparency” has most force. For Rousseau, the “empire of opinion” was a realm of constant comparison and dependence on the opinion of others for one’s ability to love oneself. This is Mae’s fate, as she comes to measure her worth through her PartiRank. In being exposed to so many people all the time Mae is effectively alone, unable reflect on her situation in relative seclusion. The only time she can talk frankly with her friend Annie is in the bathroom. The conversations outside the bathroom have a generic quality, as insincere as a telemarketer’s script. The enforced publicity thus brings out insincerity and conformity. (Moore, 2013)

We watch Mae descend into existing only for what will increase her follower count through the novel and I found this quite disturbing. Disturbing not because it was shocking, but precisely because it was not. I see the search of the self in the Facebook Wall daily in some online interactions, explicitly or implied. The aspiration of open online education far too often seems to be just the total transparency that is portrayed in the novel.

Her penance, which she enthusiastically embraces, is to become “totally transparent”, wearing a camera from morning till night (with bathroom breaks,of course). Her live feed is followed by millions (Moore, 2013)

A dystopian future where we have lost our non-performative life seems the logical conclusion to the myth of ‘us’ always connected through technology. A recent discussion I took part in explored the question of what is lost in a world where everything is connected? A question implying that connection has to be via social media, via being part of the network and not challenging the idea that ‘everything’ should be connected via a computer. My reading of critical internet studies authors tells me that we must question these assumptions. Couldry again:

Why talk of myth’, why disenchant what so often is good fun? Because we must be wary when our most important moments of coming together seem to be captured in what people happen to do on platforms whose economic value is based on generating just such an idea of natural collectivity.

What we are losing is a language to talk about human relationship away from the network. An aspiration to ‘us’ always connected through technology is already heading to ‘the end of absence’ (Harris, 2014) and to seeing ‘openness’ as inherently a good thing and ‘privacy’ as inherently bad rather than free choices we can make.

Michael Harris argues that amid all the change we’re experiencing, the most interesting is the one that future generations will find hardest to grasp. That is the end of absence the loss of lack. The daydreaming silences in our lives are filled; the burning solitudes are extinguished. Theres no true “free time when you carry a smartphone. Todays rarest commodity is the chance to be alone with your own thoughts.(Good Reads Review)

Part of the approach I teach in my mindful communication classes, is about sitting with absence, about intentional connection and disconnection with awareness. My wish for my students is that they feel free to connect or disconnect depending on their desired outcomes, not on the ’empire of opinion’ Rousseau frighteningly foresaw and so disturbingly illustrated in The Circle.

Yet, this is not part of the dominant narrative that ‘we’ in the open online education collectivity value or create myths around. We praise the network just as Mae praises The Circle in the book as she willingly gives up the whole of her private experience (some might say giving up an existence at all independent of ‘us’) and dedicates herself to help The Circle crush those who dare not to follow its axioms:

Secrets are lies. Sharing is Caring. Privacy is theft.

These are the axioms Mae comes up with herself as she subjects herself to them and destroys anything outside The Circle as valid currency to what it means to be a social animal. Axioms that produce only what The Circle can sell.

Before we kill ourselves

Did you ever think that perhaps our minds are delicately calibrated between the known and the unknown? That our souls need the mysteries of night and the clarity of day? You people are creating a world of ever-present daylight, and I think it will burn us all alive. There will be no time to reflect, to sleep, to cool. Did it occur to you Circle people, ever, that we can only contain so much? (Eggers, 2013)

This is a bleak world view. It really took all my skill to sit with the ideas and not start rationalising or marginalising the authors. After all, I love technology. I love what I can do on the open web. I have been busy myth creating together with the best of them. I like the optimistic and idealistic notion that ‘education is sharing’ (not that far from ‘privacy is theft’, eh?). Yet, for better or worse I am cursed with questioning even that which I love.

This post has been months in the making. I call it my ‘mega-post’ and have been discussing it extensively with my offline community. I did not want to end it in a bleak note. I wanted a sense of hope, even if it had to be tempered with making tough decisions.

Kevin Healey (2015) explores the idea of contemplative media studies, where we look at the ethical implications of network logic. He refers to the economic imperative implied by what has been discussed here as the catechism of Silicon Valley. I prefer this to the network. He suggests that the ethical position to take is to critically question this ideology from a perspective of how it supports or hinders human flourishing. He asks:

How can contemplative principles inform the design of such platforms so that they might enhance our attention and focus, rather than serving as sources of distraction and self-absorption?

The article offered the first glimpse of hope in my journey to disenchant that which is fun online. Healey actually offers an alternative set of assumptions to help us question what we are doing inside the closed room of the network and may be help us find that door. He says that what network logic obscures is clear,

  • Information is not wisdom
  • Convergence is not integrity
  • Transparency is not authenticity
  • Processing is not judgment
  • Storage is not memory
  • Connectivity is not intimacy

May be my potential door out of network logic is to dedicate myself to write about all of this – without community building in the shape of hyper linking, liking and retweeting – as this seems just adding another ball to the network room (see image at the start of this post). May be I can start fleshing out a way to use technology outside the catechism of Silicon Valley, one that attends to the pause or the spaces between nodes, as Mejias might say. This catechism seeks to background the very things that makes us human beyond any techno-utopian discourse.

The set of ‘proverbs’  above offer some guidance in making more intentional choices about the spaces we participate in and how we participate in them. Do we create the myth and disenchant it? Do we just exclude those who want to play with new rules?

To the extent that it [the catechism of Silicon Valley] elides these distinctions and equates technological prowess with human virtue, it encourages specific forms of subjectivity among elites and users (constructions of the self) that undermine the achievement of individual and collective integrity. Ironically, this catechism represents precisely the type of fanaticism and hubris that the Founders had sought to avoid in their arguments on behalf of religious disestablishment. (Healey, 2015)

In other words, we are making a religion out of the network that corporations can sell as they pay us by propping up our vanity – the network normalises distraction and self absorption in the way it is implemented. Anything we do within it is a commodity, free social labour the network can sell. It occurred to me as I was on my regular walk, alone with no device and not sharing, that what are being willingly forced to do – if that is not a contradiction in terms – is to commoditise human kindness. It seems that commoditising the social has to mean that our tendency to be kind and helpful to each other is becoming a product. That made me sad. Mejias quotes Marx to illuminate this point: ‘Nobody is as poor as those who see their own relation to the presence of others, that is to say, their own communicative faculty, their own possession of a language, reduced to wage labor.’

Living in someone else’s imagination?

Myth works […] through ambiguity: through sometimes claiming to offer truth and at other times to be merely playful, providing what, in the George W. Bush era, was called plausible deniability (Couldry, 2013)

Mejias speaks of the ‘double affordances’ of the network. This echoes the idea of plausible deniability above,

One way to talk about these contradictory effects is to talk about the dual processuality, or double affordances, of networks. As Jan van Dijk observes, networks make two sets of outcomes possible at one and the same time: a scale expansion accompanied by a scale reduction, more freedom of a certain kind but more control of another, more openness at one level but more constraints at another, and so on. (Mejias, 2013)

As it makes money of our social labour it offers us the opportunity to connect with people we would never dream of meeting in corporeal life. Plausible deniability is offered to ‘us’ as we can always choose to focus on the light and not the shadow. The digital is real, let’s ditch the duality and just link!

Living in the network is also creating less and less choice, labelling those who do not want to participate as digitally disadvantaged (read about Mercer’s fate in The Circle for a chilling warning, but enough spoilers here) who need help from all of ‘us’ who are willing to embrace total transparency.

After all education is sharing. And if sharing is sharing on the network, then unless we are in the network we are not educators? We can always point to how the network makes us free to associate outside our institution and connect anywhere anytime. And as that is true, it is also true that it can ‘curtail that freedom, as corporations retain control over which new features to implement in the network, which members to expel, or even whether the network will continue to exist in the future or not.(Mejias, 2013) Anybody still exercising agency about Google Reader? Twitter stars anyone?

Once you see the dark side of what we are doing, you cannot un-see it. May be this is another reason why we do not want to disenchant the myth of openness by looking at the way in which we participate in digital capitalism to the detriment of life outside the network.

Yet, Mejias and others are not saying that we should quit.They are saying we need to redefine away from digital capitalism to something wider when we talk about the social in human life; that we can do something more creative only if we understand what is constraining our behaviour; that the computer screen is embedded in our life, not the other way around and that we can build digital infrastructure for human flourishing not just commercial ends. I guess the pull of the like button and the pretty network diagrams telling us how rich and central a node we are (or could be if only we link, like and retweet enough) may just be too tempting. Vanity is indeed the devil’s favourite sin.

The trope of total inclusion establishes hegemony by promoting the idea that the consensual acceptance of the terms of use (which spell out precisely the way in which we are to be ruled) is rewarded by the opportunity to have a presence in the network on the same terms enjoyed by everyone else. (Mejias, 2013)

I have so much to learn still about this new ‘we’ of critical internet studies. One thing has resonated in a way I have only just begun to unpack: we can view the network as a colonising power. ‘We’ in this new media empire are given agency and ‘subjecthood’ but not citizenship. We can freely complain about the loss of the Twitter star, and talk about ‘us’ as belonging to Twitter but have no power to change it. ‘It offers [us] a world view in which [we] could locate [ourselves] but it restrict[s] participation by reducing [us] to a subjugated role (Mejias, 2013)’. Welcome to empire Twitter.

And after my 10 day #likestrike – I am now clicking that heart. I have nowhere to go as ‘we’ are all on Twitter. I am a willing Twitter slave until I can take the courageous decision that Mejias took – as his blog greets you with ‘You cannot find me on Twitter or Facebook’.

A common thread in most critiques is that authority in the participatory culture operates not by threatening to expel us from the network, but by making it difficult to resist participating in the network in the first place. (Mejias, 2013)

Is agency and subjecthood a fair trade off for the ability to keep distracted and self absorbed? Is that what we want from our technology?


May be I should just press delete. Delete. I said delete…

I am left with just one question  ‘Who is doing the imagining, and who is merely living in the product of someone elses imagination?’ (Eggers, 2013).



Couldry, N. (2013) A Necessary Disenchantment: myth, agency and injustice in the digital age. In:

Caulfield (2015) Inhospitable Writing. In:

Downes, S. (2013) Whats ours. In:

Eggers, D. The circle. Knopf Canada, 2013.

Ferreday, D. J. & Hodgson, V. E. (2008) The tyranny of participation and collaborating in networked learning. 6th International Networked Learning Conference (Halkidiki, Greece).

Fuchs, C., Dyer-Witheford N. and Andrejevic (2011) The State of Critical Internet Studies. IAMCR 2011. Istanbul.

Gogia, L. (2015) #DLRN15: Early Reflections from a (Non-traditional) Student. In:

Harris, M. (2014) The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection. ISBN13: 9781591846932.

Healey, K. (2015)Contemplative media Studies. Religions 2015, 6, 948-968; doi:10.3390/rel6030948

Lessig, L. (2006). Code. Lawrence Lessig. pp. 120137. ISBN 978-0-465-03914-2

Mejias, U. (2013) Off the network: Disrupting the digital world.

Mejias, U. (2010) Towards a Critique of Social Networks for Learning. PROGRESSIVE LIBRARIAN, Issue #34-35, Fall-Winter 2010 Published, produced and distributed by Progressive Librarians Guild 2 issues per year; ISSN 1052-5726

Moore, A. (2013) The Circle: totally transparent. In:

Peter, Sandra, and Markus Deimann. “On the role of openness in education: A historical reconstruction.” Open Praxis 5.1 (2013): 7-14.

Reid, A, (2015) The Curious skeuomorph of Facebook conversation. In:

Reid, A, (2015) Telling truth to Twitter In:

Edwards, R. (2015) Knowledge infrastructures and the inscrutability of openness in education. Learning, Media and Technology, (May), pp.1–14.


To Paul-Olivier for bringing me face to face with what the online mob can do, for forgiving my participation in it, and giving me a chance to learn from him many of the ideas in this post (or at least giving me great resources for me to explore). Genuine collaboration is so much more than the web, and academics have been doing this for a very long time.

To Jenny for taking the time to read an early draft so carefully. This post is all the better for her contribution though not much shorter – but that is my responsibility.