Connectivist Theories

Although I am reluctant to refer to connectivism itself as a theory, I do see quite a bit of potential for finding useful theories within the connectivist paradigm.

  • One such might be Stephen Downes’ idea that there is special merit in distributed “mesh-like” networks with an essentially bounded number of links connected to each node[1]. The particular virtue suggested by Stephen is that a distributed network may be more resistant to “cascade” phenomena (where I presume he means the rapid spread of an incorrect idea rather than a correct one). One way to make a more precise theory out of this might be to introduce a measurable concept of “gullibility” to quantify the rate of conversion of an individual to a false idea relative to the number if links presenting it (as compared to the rate of conversion to a true idea) and then show (either by experiment or by deduction from previously established principles of network theory[2]) that a “wrong” idea would be less likely to become established in a more distributed network of equally gullible individuals.(Or perhaps just that in the equally distributed case an admixture of less gullible individuals would be more effective in preventing establishment of error – or whatever else turned out to be the case on the basis of rigorous analysis or observation).
  • Another is with regard to the circle of ideas referred to by Heli Nurmi with regard to the need or otherwise for leaders or coordinators in order for a network to engage in collective action.[3]

  • Any more? (leave them as comments or links and I’ll add them here)

[1] – or at least with exponential falloff of the frequency of nodes with increasing connectivity – as opposed to the “power law” frequencies that occur as a result of growth by “preferential attachment” and which often result in the “scale free” property of having network diameter grow very slowly with number of nodes (which may therefore be efficient for networks designed for distribution of information or other goods).
[2] – Note that the practitioners of Network Science don’t refer to their area of study as “Networkism”
[3] – In addition to the cases studied in the SOMA project cited by Heli, other examples of complex collective behaviour arising without coordinators (though perhaps not without leaders) include various covert political resistance groups. On a more primitive level there are bacterial colonies which sometimes develop remarkably complex structures from initially identical member units. And whereas both of the above examples may depend on some kind of long distance signalling, the development of complex patterns in cellular automata (such as Conway’s ‘Game of Life’) happens with just very short range interactions. It would certainly be interesting to find common mathematical principles which related all or just a few of these examples.

…and here’s the cck11 tag.

One Response to “Connectivist Theories”

  1. #Network patterns, social networks and their impact on institutions | Learner Weblog Says:

    […] resistant to cascade phenomena and are more sustainable, I would like to refer to this by Alan here on  Connectivist Theory: “The particular virtue suggested by Stephen is that a distributed […]

Leave a Reply