CCK09 - When connections fail to form

I've been following the online course CCK09 - Connectivism and Connective Knowledge  for the past few weeks. I've encountered lots of sticking points while I sought to integrate these new ideas into what I already comprehend about learning, knowledge, networks, chaos and cognitive neuroscience. I'm thrilled whenever this happens. Getting stuck in the process of cultivating a new comprehension immediately gives me things to question, explore, challenge and rethink. Often it pays off more than adding "new nodes to my conceptual network" - like changing new links and adding more links to previous knowledge.

This morning I was picturing the problem of a new idea failing to associate with a current understanding. When a connection is not forming, I usually feel confused and lost. I may experience becoming suspicious of the new idea or defensive about my existing understanding. In Connectivism: Learning as Network-Creation (2005), George Siemens suggests the new idea might function as a rogue node with only weak links to it. He proposes that this pattern occurs to avoid cognitive dissonance within the current strongly linked nodes.

Framing the problem as "expecting two nodes to associate and form a link" also brings to mind Hebbian Learning that Stephen Downes values highly. While looking up Hebbian Theory on Wikipedia, I found that it explains dendrites forming and strengthening connections. At the bottom of the page, I discovered a link to Anti-Hebbian learning which explains neural connections weakening when they prove to be redundant. This associates in my mind with "unlearning" an oversimplified or naive understanding to grasp a more comprehensive and valid explanation.

I then came up with this diagram showing the new idea with a high level of centrality. I'm proposing that a new idea spawns an array of queries when the intended node does not associate and form a link. There is a potential for strong ties to form with other nodes which are shown elongated to suggest they embody sequential processes. Here are the four queries /processes that occur in my own conceptual network routinely:

I may associate the new idea
  • with lies, deceptions and mistakes which leads me to refute and dismiss it.
  • with exaggeration, grandiosity and fluff which has me getting a better perspective, putting the new idea in a larger context or disputing it's overstatements
  • with extreme positions, one-sided arguments or half-truths which leads to me framing it's claim along a gradient or in a four quadrant diagram with the missing halves
  • with useless, ineffectual or purely abstract ideas which alerts me to the dangers of collusion, lip service, propaganda or academic requirements 
It's very possible that a strong tie could be formed with any one of these alternative nodes. Any of these connections would maintain the new idea as a "rogue node". My current comprehension would be further justified and protected from cognitive dissonance.  The consideration of these queries is an essential part of my critical thinking and reflective practice.

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