In Defense of Ideology

Some participants in #CCK11 seem to take offense at the use of the term “ideology” to describe connectivism. But I think they are mistaken.

In fact I think there’s nothing derogatory about it, and regardless of whether or not I am right about their status as scientific theories, I will be very surprised if most people don’t agree that most Learning Theories have at least a significant ideological component – as suggested by their names if nothing else.

After all, an ideology is just a system of related beliefs about values. We all have things we value, and sometimes we find an ideology useful for helping to maintain some sort of consistency in our rankings of them. But our committment to an ideology can be both conditional and flexible. (If it was always absolute then there would be no need for the word “ideologue”.)

One component of my own ideology is a belief in the importance of equity (no Ken not the stock market kind!), and so I tend to prefer approaches which minimize unnecessary inequality of access to resources. (Of course this doesn’t imply expecting strict equality if that would be overall counterproductive, and the question of how much inequality would be inequitable is open to quite a broad range of responses).

With regard to social networking this ideological tendency causes me to see “the rich get richer” phenomenon (which generates the power law) as undesirable and so to prefer a more equal distribution of connections (subject to consistency with the wishes of the participants) as a goal in its own right whenever that does not conflict with other goals.

The question of possible conflict (and of what those other goals might be for a social learning network) is one I cannot yet answer. And it might be a possible target of analysis by some real theory in the connectivist paradigm.

5 Responses to “In Defense of Ideology”

  1. Complexity, uncertainty and learning and teachers and chaos #cck11 « connectiv Says:

    […] (This could be one of the causes of some of  the attacks  on connectivism, and the burning question of the status of  the theory) […]

  2. Ken Anderson Says:

    >(no Ken not the stock market kind!)

    Please Alan, stop these personal attacks! (just kidding of course)

    I agree with you, the use of the word ‘ideology’ is more descriptive than condemning. For me it is important to understand what a proponent of a paradigm values; these underlying values inform the paradigm and I like to know what they are. I had an interesting discussion with (connectivist) Dave Cormier about open courses, and he was quite forthcoming about his motivations:

  3. DTRSmith Says:

    I agree that ideology, broadly speaking is nothing to be afraid of. Terry Eagleton ( and other theorists would argue ideology is inescapable within the human context. Connectivism does seem to have a totalizing tendency trying to reduce everything to networks. The critique of it as ideology might relate to a perception that it is, “trying to do too much.” I think it is difficult for Connectivism to offer such a broad understanding of learning, knowledge and society without seeming to be all-encompassing, at least as my current understanding sits.

  4. Ken Anderson Says:

    Stephen Downes’ argument against groups is an argument against emotions. It seems to be rooted in events in his youth:

    He is in favour of the group known as rationalists, I believe.

  5. alan Says:

    @Ken, most of us have seen both sides of the group as clique thing. It is a real phenomenon and, although probably based on something that was once of survival value, it is often problematic in the modern world.

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