What’s Metaphor Got to Do With It?

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is the metaphor broken? Oops!

For the past several weeks, I have been participating in a discussion/group/online “course” called Rhizo15, hosted by Dave Cormier. From an early blog post by Daniel Clark about the course:

Cormier’s idea is based on the Cynefin framework, which was developed for business, and the need for education to take account of uncertainty is extremely relevant to my own field of management education.

I have been finding the experience, ideas discussed, and interactions with participants to be really intriguing and provocative, and I have been enjoying the course.

But, as the weeks have gone by, I have become more and more uncomfortable with the metaphor of the rhizome itself. Here are some comments I just wrote in response to a blog post by Sarah Honeychurch:

I really appreciated your post. At times in this experience (Rhizo15), I have felt like we have been committing that same fallacy to a certain degree. There are times when the experience of learning seems like and even feels like a rhizome. I find myself moving from idea to idea and seeing some connections and the making new ones. But, to me, that is different than a theory of learning. And I am not convinced that this experience of the rhizome is the same as talking about how learning actually happens. Maybe it is not supposed to, but I feel this has been blurred in some of our discussions over the past few weeks.

There is also one more problem I see, metaphor-wise. In biology, a rhizome is a form of asexual reproduction.It is a way of a single plant replicating and passing on its own DNA. That means that all of the offspring are genetically identical to the parent plant. In my understanding, learning is growth and change, and I get concerned that the metaphor is limiting.

3 thoughts on “What’s Metaphor Got to Do With It?

  1. I love the image that you’ve chosen for this post.

    I’m glad I inspired you to write this. I think it’s useful to think about when and where the analogy/metaphor breaks down, as you have done, as that’s also informative.

    I don’t think rhizomatic learning is a theory either. Sometimes it’s a nice story though.

  2. I am also not nuts about the mephor! And at some point in rhizo14 (pretty early on actually) i stopped caring about D&G and the metaphor and just experienced this thing we are in and so, when i say rhizomatic learning, i am talking about this messy experience of learning we are living thru. Story is Dave’s term for describing it. I am never sure what ot can be called, really but i know it when i am living it. Now off to Facebook where the comment thread is longer 🙁

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