Sticking Together

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Introduction

I have been thinking about a collective noun I use a great deal, a ‘community of performance analysts’.

I tend to refer to ‘a community of practice’ too. Whenever I do so I am mindful of the contribution Etienne Wenger, Nancy White and John Smith (2009) have made to understanding communities, their practice and their stewardship in a digital age.

I enjoyed reading Bill Johnston’s (2013) discussion of attributes of thriving communities and noted that in response to a comment about his post he added “value exchange is at the heart of the strategy… and that done properly, communities can actually be generative – more value created than consumed”.

These are the attributes of thriving communities Bill identified:

  • Shared value
  • Shared identity
  • Vibrant participation
  • Community leadership
  • Quality content
  • Expertise
  • Culture of trust
  • Elegant experience
  • Growth and responsiveness

I am fascinated by the flourishing of performance analysis in sport. Contemplating if or how we might accredit performance analysts in digital habitats has added to my community reflections.

I do think our community is loosely connected but that we have some shared values and identities that might bring us close enough to stick together.

It would be fascinating to undertake a social network analysis of the performance analysis community to identify nodes and connectors.

Sticking?

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Anthony D Smith, one of my tutors at the London School of Economics, has explored in depth the concept of national identity. In The Ethnic Revival (1981, p.9), he wrote:

More and more people are realising that the world is ‘plural’; that is to say, the so-called ‘nation-state’ is rarely a true appellation, for very few states have ethnically homogenous populations … most of them are composed of two or more ethic communities, jostling for influence or power, or living in uneasy harmony within the same state borders.

In a more informal moment, he defined an ethic group as “that group that sticks together when the chips are down”. This idea has stayed with me and leads me to think that if we can perceive shared values and identity that enable us to stick together then our community can be coherent whilst retaining its dynamism and vibrancy.

A Connected Community?

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In a recent post, Stephen Downes (2014) discussed connectivism as a learning theory. In it, he argued that connectivists see a person learning as ‘a self-managed and autonomous seeker of opportunities to create, interact and have new experiences, where learning is not the accumulation of more and more facts or memories, but the ongoing development of a richer and richer neural tapestry’.

With the amount of data generated by 2.4 billion internet users every minute, connectivism is a very attractive approach for any community of practice. George Siemens (2005) identified the core principles of connectivism:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

Our loosely and closely community does nurture and maintain connections that facilitate continuous learning. I am intrigued by how all our nodes of knowledge and experience might be linked and visualised so that we might have a cartography of performance analysis practice.

I liked Anthony Gabriele’s (2013) view of his continuing professional development and thought it might resonate with lots of connectivist learners:

In regards to my professional life, I have considered myself very lucky to be where I am today. I’ve had great people to work with; people who have pushed, challenged, taught, guided and supported me. I have been in great situations; situations in which I have been given the freedom, tools and green light to ‘test the envelope’ with different teaching strategies, technology, curriculum, etc.  In all these instances what I began and continue to realize is that as times change and as new ‘stuff’ enters our world as educators, a key to staying sane and continuing to grow and learn is connecting with others. It is not just understanding that it is important to collaborate and share ideas, but to take action and actually do it.

I would add ‘co-operation‘ to Anthony’s observation. Stephen Downes (2010) suggests:

Collaboration belongs to groups, while cooperation is typical of a network. The significant difference is that, in the former, the individual is subsumed under the whole, and becomes a part of the whole, which is created by conjoining a collection of largely identical members, while in the latter, the individual retains his or her individuality, while the whole is an emergent property of the collection of individuals.

I do think this group-network relationship offers us an opportunity to define how we practice as ‘a community of performance analysts’.

Does It Matter?

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I grew up at a time when voluntary associations made local sport possible. Many people gave up their personal time as a civic responsibility. It was a time when everyone felt like Zygmunt Bauman (2001, p.1):

Words have meanings: some words, however, also have a ‘feel’. The word ‘community’ is one of them. It feels good: whatever the word ‘community’ may mean, it is good ‘to have a community’, ‘to be in a community’.

This kind of community is a warm place.

It raises some fundamental issues for us in digital habitats. We have global connectivity now and remarkable opportunities to develop personal learning networks.

Is there a place for aggregating these PLNs to enhance the practice of performance analysis that goes beyond serendipity?

Or are we at the sharp end of megatrends that make learning an individual pursuit and formal membership of voluntary associations unappealing?

Thinking about accreditation, the sphere of influence of organisations and the growing number of connectors in a virtual performance analysis space has taken me back to contemplate ‘community’ and stickiness.

Perhaps it is just an issue for me as an inveterate aggregator and curator of digital resources and narratives.

My interest in open sharing encourages me to think it does matter but perhaps we can contemplate how our loose connections might lead to exciting generative ideas mentioned in the Introduction.

Thanks for reading this post. I wonder what you think about the issues raised.

Photo Credits

Scaffolding Sculpture (Patrick, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

IACSS Shanghai 2011 (Keith Lyons, CC By 4.0)

Frame Grab from Submarine Cable Map 2013

Wooburn Green – Little Marlow (Peter, CC BY-SA 2.0)

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