#rhizo14 collaborative autoethnography


I had started the year intent on pursuing personal and professional development. I joined #rhizo14 after some lurking adventures, and once I’d read some thought-provoking stuff in the blogosphere, I was totally compelled to ‘take whatever those people were taking’, for it really sounded like some hard-core deep learning/intellectual/creative experiences were unfolding…

I joined the course half-way through (week 4) and from there on I made an effort to participate as much as possible within my 40-hour-week job as EFL teacher/course supervisor and personal life (I have a 3-year-old). I was added to the FB group as soon as I made up my mind to join the course (on P2PU), and I was warmly welcomed right away. I became more active on Twitter – #rhizo14 towards the end of the course (on week 5-6, I’d say). I read a lot more blog posts and social media exchanges than I was able to comment on, but I did make a point of commenting on those which spoke to me more intimately. I was happy to see some rhizoers were exploring their artistic veins, and that’s something that emerged quite strongly in me during the course.

I felt pretty much a part of the rhizo14 community. It was quite clear to me from the start that I was shoulder to shoulder with people who were mostly active in the field of Education and who had all types of academic and professional backgrounds, not to mention the diverse cultural backgrounds, which made the experience all the more enticing and rich worthwhile for me. I didn’t feel excluded. I did feel that I was naturally drawn closer to specific individuals and ideas, and I took on the role of learner. I didn’t care that I was around people who were clearly accomplished, with PhDs and stuff; all I cared for was that I felt absolutely privileged to be getting to connect with such brilliant people.

My #rhizo14 experience was visceral, in that it enabled me to explore deep levels of creativity and intellectual skills which might have been unknown to me, or at least in the depth and density I experienced in #rhizo14. That is absolutely precious to me. That is my perception of success. I am changed by the #rhizo14 learning experience. I made connections that I look to nurture from here on end. I’m lucky to have you in my audience and to be in your audience, as well. It has all been worth it. Thank you, rhizoers.


“Tudo vale a pena quando a alma não é pequena.”  Fernando Pessoa

(“All is worthwhile when the soul is not small.”)


    1. Thank you, Sandra! The pleasure has been all mine. Don’t you worry, for I’ll be following in your online footsteps, yours and all other awesome rhizoers I had the pleasure of connecting with.

  1. Hi Clarissa, feeling of exclusion just never seems to come up in cMOOCs. I think people release themselves from their positional identity–a brave thing to do. Is that your Daughter as a bee or butterfly? I wonder if ancient Greek dolls also came without arms to match all the statues without arms?


    1. Hi Scott! How wonderful to see you here! Agree with you on the positional identity release. It is an act of bravery, one that would not be possible for someone overly self-conscious or lacking in self-confidence. If there’s something that I like to do is not take myself too seriously… I guess that gives me some leverage with overcoming my insecurities and irrational fears… only human. That is my girl, Julia. That was a mixture of ballerina turned bee. She loves dressing up in costume, and this is just the right time for it in Brazil, cause it’s Carnival so she spends the entire day changing into different outfits… princess turns into bee turns into ballerina… all of the archetypes at play, fascinating.
      Hmm.. I wonder that too… lol (FYI that was a cheap little plastic doll made in China, whose arms and legs fall off as easily as we breathe…) 🙂
      Thank you for giving me a reason to smile while I write you this reply. Ring again soon, ok?

    2. Hmmm…I think feelings of exclusion may occur cMOOCs too but you just don’t hear about it – because the people who feel excluded are probably the ones who aren’t participating actively, or drop out. I reckon it would be a pretty intimidating if you’re not used to interacting in such open environments, jumping into conversations etc….

      I didn’t feel excluded overall, but didn’t really participate in Facebook because it’s not a place I’m in the habit of visiting, and although I’d go there every now and again it started to feel too ‘hard’ to break into conversations there as the weeks wore on – there was an increasingly close knit rhizo community there, and many of the conversations had long threads of comments attached to them…which in FB I find really hard to read / follow. So, basically just visited less and less. Instead just focused on twitter and blogs – when you’ve got little time it’s hard to follow and contribute to threads on multiple platforms.

      But yeah – I guess maybe you could describe it more as a feeling of being indirectly excluded.That said, I’m sure that had I attempted to join a conversation, I know I wouldn’t have been actively excluded / ignored or whatever – it just felt like too much effort….

      Great post as always Clarissa…always marvel at your writing skill!

    3. Tanya, my dear, thank you so much for the compliment. I truly appreciate it. Interesting point you made regarding the different media and how it impacts inclusion/exclusion. One`s abilities/preferences of media vary and that will most certainly affect one`s feelings of exclusion in the open online environment. I was also unable to follow absolutely all discussions on the FB group, but what I found was that I kept coming back to it for basically two reasons: I`m pretty familiar with the media, and I thought that so much of what people were sharing was very interesting and engaging. I remember Bonnie Stewart using the allegory of “taking a fire hose in the face” when she was discussing curation skills and networks of people helping each other make sense of the chaos. Funnily enough, I only became more active with #rhizo14 on Twitter later on, maybe because I was first introduced to the course in the FB group. Bali Maha also discusses exclusion in MOOCs in terms of several ‘filters’, among which are knowledge of the English language and access to technology/internet. Utterly interesting discussion! I`ll stop now. I might blog this later. Thanks for the inspiration, always!

    4. I was thinking about the FB thing, and I wonder whether the reason why a strong community developed there might be because the norms of communication on FB favour the social, colloquial, familiar: people are accustomed to communicating the way they speak with friends and family on Facebook – whereas, for example, a platform like LinkedIn people might communicate more formally, to curate a more professional sort of image.
      But…it’s a bit speculative actually, I’m not familiar enough with what was shared or the discussions on FB to make an informed comment (although maybe I need to start paying more attention!).

      Part of the reason I used Twitter mainly was a mix of habit (that I was already in the habit of checking it daily) and a time and circumstance thing: I only have short pockets of time during the day to check things so scanning #rhizo14 on twitter was the quickest way to get a handle on what was going on. I’d generally scan and favourite things on my very short train trip to work (short, as in literally 5-7 minutes!) and sometimes during the day, then read and respond to stuff (mostly on blogs) at night. And occasionally attempt to write a post myself. Found it was too overwhelming to try to be on other platforms as well….anyway I’m rambling. Just realised I’m pretty much writing my rhizo14 autoethnography in your blog…which reminds me…I should go finish that. At least I can do somewhat of a copy & paste now.. ; )

      Thanks btw, for the link to Maha’s post – just read it and it’s really fascinating. So many things we don’t consider. Opens your eyes to how westernised middle class MOOCs really are.

    5. Tanya, that is definitely an interesting take on why the FB group seems so close-knit. That`s how FB feels for me, more familiar in the sense that you can write as-long-as-you-wish posts, replies, comments; you can share stuff that is more personal. But you might have put your finger on it when you compared it to LinkedIn, for example. It is the ethos of the social media platform. Twitter, being a microblogging-type of platform, has its own ethos, and you described it very clearly when you said that you scan it in your short pockets of time. On the FB group, members actually ‘go somewhere’ and get together and talk, whereas on Twitter, the hashtag is the ‘place’, but being a hashtag, it’s everywhere on the platform (unless of course you have a column for it on Tweetdeck, which was really helpful for me to keep track of it.)
      Hey! Great rambling! I’m lucky to have you ‘rambling’ here!

  2. It’s interesting that I didn’t see the “exclusion” idea until others started writing about it. It does make me wonder about whether other spaces have same issues but there are no means or support to write about it (or does being able to write about it eliminate the exclusion?). I don’t know.

    1. Interesting line of inquiry, Kevin. My take is that exclusion may happen regardless of the space. What changes from person to person is how each one deals with its feeling, and how one goes about it… Talking about it, or writing about it, might help someone elaborate on the causality behind the feelings of inadequacy, and that might be a step closer to belonging.
      Dunno either…

  3. Hi Clarissa and others

    I was too busy with #FutureEd (Coursera, with @CathyNDavidson) to follow #rhizo14. However, a number of people were doing both courses simultaneously, so there was some cross fertilisation, at least in Twitter. I prefer the cMOOCs to the xMOOCs (although @CathyNDavidson made some efforts to cMOOCify her xMOOC). #FutureEd ends this week, so I’m sure many will mourn the end of another party, just as the rhizomes have. We MOOCers must all look out for each other (and after each other) on the Stweet. We are all different, but it’s our love of encountering different people and ideas that connects us.

    1. Hey Mark! Love the feeling of belonging to a MOOCers community. I`d just begun taking an xMOOC with Future Learn on Corpus Linguistics, but the rhizome took over and snatched me away from it… Otherness thickens the connections, as long as we genuinely wish to engage with each other.

  4. Thanks to Tanya for pointing me to this discussion – I must have read Clarissa’s post before the comments started to come. Most of the examples of exclusion I have seen in online spaces (eg people whose interesting and valid comments are ignored whilst an in-crowd discusses amongst itself) are probably completely unintentional but that is a particularly insidious form of power relation. This was an interesting experiment https://medium.com/the-web-we-make/79403a7eade1

    1. Thanks Frances for the link – read it: interesting experiment, another reminder to try to be a bit more conscious of the messages we’re putting out /promoting on social networks (and whose agenda we’re supporting…)

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