Hegel Symposium Feedback


Symposium members – we've now been using XLCHC for over a week, and there's been plenty of conversation. Are there improvements we can make to the way you interact with XLCHC to better facilitate conversation and collaboration? Not everyone is participating – is it because it's too difficult to read? Are changes we can make to layout / browsing that would make it easier to "catch up" or respond to others?

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Hi Etienne. Thx for starting this conversation. I have an interest in online deliberation, so this conversation is important to me.

I do like the general screen layout of the xlchc site, which with its large areas of white remind me of the original "Movable Type" weblogs.

At first, I missed the threadedness of the listserv. But now I acknowledge the benefit of a single line of progress, to combat a tendency to go off-topic. We can address each other by name anyway as if we were looking across at each other in a face-to-face circle.

I like how Andy will move us through a succession of topics, each with a new conversation starter.

I like the vote up/down to acknowledge posts, but there is no reason here for it to be anonymous.

My technology barrier is that I am still not receiving email notifications of new posts in the symposium.

I think our experience will be better if we keep our posts short. Let's work on building on each other's comments rather than monologuing.


> My technology barrier is that I am still not receiving email
> notifications of new posts in the symposium.

hi Ron –

just this morning I updated the system so that *you should now* be receiving email messages when new comments are posted to any part of the symposium.

I also wondered whether or not losing "threadedness" would negatively impact communication. I'm happy to hear you say it hasn't.

The system does keep track of *who* upvotes and downvotes comments, but it's unclear to me what added value there would be from knowing who upvotes or downvotes what you write. At the very least, seeing who downvotes you could lead to some animosity.



Etienne, I agree about the down vote. We don't need down votes here at all. Oh, BTW, I'm getting notifications for *this* conversation!


> Etienne, I agree about the down vote. We don't need down votes
> here at all. Oh, BTW, I'm getting notifications for *this*
> conversation!

hi Ron –

there are two ways of getting notifications for conversations. The first is that you have deliberately subscribed to it (see the big box at the top right of this page). The second is that you've opted in (through you preferences page) to receive *replies* to your posts. I clicked "reply" to your post (as I've just done now), which is why you get an email notification.

I think the email notifications should include the message posted.... anyone else?


No responses yet to my last post, so can't tell that I'm getting further notifications.

There was never a "subscribe" button in the symposium. Maybe that's the problem.

I don't think it matters whether you hit "reply" or just enter a response. The "reply" just quotes that particular post in the response.

It doesn't matter to me whether or not notification contains the post text, if I have to come back to the web-based conversation anyway to post a response. This is different to the listserv which can be driven entirely via email, and thus requires threading.

One more thing: can you extend the cookie expiry time on session login token to something like 5 days?


Hi Ron, good morning from Johannesburg. I see that Andy has now responded to you, and I am composing a response.

I would like to note here that it is more convenient, I think, to have the latest posts displayed first; and not, as at present, at the bottom of the page; or, to be able to set that as an option, in "Preferences".


I am getting notifications now out of the symposium, all good!


Thank you for enabling the notifications. It changed a lot the way I could keep up to speed.

I feel we are missing some form of mark within the time line continuum. I think we should be careful about closing interventions (starting a new thread) when participants are still sleeping in Europe. How can we translate some resemblance of day labour and night break to a such worlwide-spread audience.

I believe I am lucky because I am closer to Andy's timeline than people in South Africa or Europe.


Would it be possible to set a blackout period that would mark an artificial but shared symmetrically night by everyone?


I have thought about this, Arturo. I guess I am not the only one looking for a tempo, so as to be able to "keep in step". But I think that it is sufficient to be conscious of the problem, explicitly so.

I don't personally think it is advisable to try to create an artificial "world day". Rather let's listen more carefully, and become more conscious of the several rhythms that we are probably generating, and not impose a single over-riding rhythm.


People seem to be trying to use bold, by putting *asterisks* before and after a word. But it does not come through for me as bold, only as asterisks.

I too would like to be able to use bold, and also italic and underline.

Is this possible?



I agree that each topic needs a bit more time to breathe. We have lives besides the symposium and can't pay attention continuously.

Regarding the asterisks it is a 30 year old way of expressing emphasis when there are no styling facilities. It appears the software platform does not recognise these textile gestures. I am happy just to see asterisks.


O.k., I never knew that, or maybe I just forgot.

So what do the -dashes- represent?


Referring to your e-mail, here is my response (copy of my e-mail):

It's too soon to wind up.

Above all please do not delete anything, or restrict access.

Andy, this course is the most important thing I am doing, if "important" means anything at all.

What suppresses "important", as scissors cut paper, you could call "staggering".

Like, it's staggering that a Regional leader of the union I work for got shot face to face and killed yesterday by persons so far unknown.

Or that SADTU was involved in a national work-to-rule and two huge demonstrations in a dispute with the Minister in defence of Collective Bargaining agreements (and quality of education) and that I had my part to play. We won that dispute.

Even the stop of the forum for a day was a stagger. Obviously.

This morning I got my laptop up and running before 5 a.m. our time. Your one-hour-previous message was one of two staggering things that I have to deal with, that I did not expect to appear. The other one is a foolish adventure of my political organisation that can threaten all sorts of consequences including for me and therefore my family.

Yes, I do think there are not enough people to sustain the speed that you want to go at. For that, you need probably ten times as many or even a hundred times. My experience is that 1000 is the magic number for a steady boil.

Or, you go slower, and maybe you can enhance a bit, with a log of progress and a list of the readings that you have recommended. The "stagger" hits the reading first. You have noticed that I was skimping on the reading.

I could mention more staggering events that I have personally encountered during this course, but let me pause on that.

Speed is not necessarily the point.

Rather, one must hold on to the fact that the study, this particular study, is a way of rising above the staggering daily encounters, and it is not irrelevant to that problem, but is rather something which cannot and must not be postponed, because it is part of the solution.

That's what I think. Maybe we can take the pressure off a bit if we do not say "we are out of puff" but rather take time out to problematise this study, as part of the study. You did after all say it was an experiment, didn't you? So you don't abandon experiments when you hit hard consequences, do you? Those hard consequences are results. They are valuable, and not a waste.



For me it has been a terrific experience. I have also suffered a lot (which is a very good indicatior that I am learning). It forced me to reconceptualise activity theory and the classic way of looking at it.

Since the symp started, I have been thinking about the issues all day long. Sometimes I go to bed with a question and I wake up at 4 in the morning to read a particular passage of Hegel or Andy's Foreword.

I started having problems with the examples given and the ones I gave as well. We were moving from occurrences, things found in nature, events, to groups and beyond. How can we compare water to the formation of a social movement or a revolution?

I suggest to have a set of given examples that can really be of use when explaining the doctrines, hopefully in a uniform way, so that we do not shift categories. Perhaps this is not possible.

I also suggest to include more input from Andy. I saw online some videos of him delivering conferences on Hegel in Australia. Perhaps he can point out to a precise time frame we should watch a video.

There is a maxim in pedagogy that you never stick to one instructional method. I believe we needed a mix approach that combines more methods.

Some sections can be inductive. Some other more deductive. In the last chapters I missed more explaining, for instance (a more top-down approach), at least to set the limits or scope of the problems.

Overall, I am very happy. I have learned a lot. I am willing to stick here or give a try in the next one.

This symposium has inspired me to go teaching a course on research methodology in Spanish that will have the dialectical tradition as core (usually one approaches this as a shopping list), but know I could base my approach on the Logic. Perhaps this could be a way to export this symp to a wider audience as well. OK, we want to conduct some social research, how can we go about it.

I am willing to collaborate with this or any other project you may have.

Thank you Andy and everybody else!


hi Arturo –

> I suggest to have a set of given examples that can really be
> of use when explaining the doctrines, hopefully in a uniform
> way, so that we do not shift categories. Perhaps this is not
> possible.

A central idea behind XLCHC was making it multi-modal (allowing video, graphics, etc to be easily uploaded and shared) for precisely the purpose you're describing: providing examples to annotate or augment discussion.

There's not really been any of that so far in the Hegel symposium, and that's partly by Andy's design. The subject matter and the goal of the symposium – a narrow focus on understanding key concepts – makes thinking through examples secondary.

However, one of the features built into XLCHC is to facilitate "spin-off" conversations and symposia that *could be driven by media.*

An original idea behind the "symposia" structure was precisely to develop a symposia around a piece of data (a video of interaction, or of an activity) that could be shared and discussed in a group.

I'd really like to see that kind of thing happen, and would be happy to tweak or change XLCHC's features to support it.



Well, I finally discovered this topic. This probably says a lot about my internet search fu. On the other hand, I always glance at the conversations sidebar when posting on the symposium and I didn't notice that it wasn't organized according to the date of the latest post, but of the first one.

Anyway, as you know, Andy, I have a book chapter deadline coming up, so the reason I'm not very active at the moment has a purely external reason.


Who was it who said that life only poses problems that are ready to be solved?



I have to admit that I have found it difficult to keep up with this symposium. Life has gotten in the way, but I am also finding it hard to engage with the content. Andy has done an excellent job of pulling us forward, and invited us into discussion with each other about what it all means. I am naive about social movements and what great men have said about them. My interest is more local, in everyday social and political development. So the sidetracks into Marx, Gramsci and the Iranian and South African situations, complicated rather than simplified my quest for understanding.

I'd like to talk about MOOCs, "massive open online courses", of which this symposium can be viewed as a prototype. There are broadly two types of MOOCs. The first, theorised by Dave Cornier, Stephen Downes and George Siemens, is an implementation of "connectivist" learning, which puts control squarely in the hands of participants who cultivate online mutual relations. The organisers provide some resources, a broad agenda of learning "phases" with objectives, and the participants self-organise to work themselves into the learning network, creating new resources and bringing localised perspectives into play. The second type is the sort of appropriation of MOOCs taken up by MIT and Harvard which is little different than any other online course, but offered to thousands for free. Control is retained by the provider. Attrition in those "broadcast" MOOCs is high. In the connectivist MOOC, attrition is an absurdity, as everyone participates exactly as much as they want to, without institutional judgement.

As you can tell, I am a fan of the connectivist MOOC, and that is what I think this symposium could become. Experience has shown that connectivist MOOCs gain better response than the 90-9-1 rule that is typical of online participatory activity. But it still needs a substantial participation to work, perhaps more than 50 people.

However, learning Hegel is a challenge for a MOOC precisely because it is "one thing after another". How can the progression be opened so that we can participate more easily and engage with each other more? The materials that Andy supplied are excellent, but we do have to work with and through them more, together, to gain a full sense of them. The suggestion for graphic representations was exactly the move that was needed, and with more people we could have used those as springboards to greater mutual understanding.

It is always difficult to stay focussed on where we are going. With a small number of participants, a diversion shifts everyone's attention. But with more people, the network activity would re-centre and not be so troubled by clusters that veer off in different directions.

So these are my thoughts about this symposium. I would like it to see it scaled up to enjoy the benefits of connected learning.


I agree fully with this contribution of Ron Lubensky, excepting only that I think that the magic number for the "pot to keep boiling" is more like 1000 than 50.

"The Communist University" (CU) is a "MOOC". I didn't know that until today because I have never heard the term "MOOC" before. The CU is somewhat ramified by now but to put it simply, the core of it is a Google-Group list-serve with nearly 3500 addresses on it, and a parallel blog. It is set up as a weekly service to study-circles, and there is a main study circle that meets in Johannesburg on Wednesdays between 17h00 and 18h30. At last night's session there were 22 participants, mostly relatively young black South African men. This "real" group or "live session" has been very crucial to the way the CU has developed over the nearly ten years since it started in June, 2003. It is a sounding-board where we can tune the notes in a good way.

The blogged version of the CU's Hegel course, a course which is very heavily indebted to Andy Blunden, can be found in its most recent iteration at http://sadtu-pol-ed.blogspot.com/2012/09/hegel-introduction.html. I should say that the blog hardly works as a dialogue platform, but it is a useful archive of the main posts (which I send out).

The current course on the main CU blog at http://domza.blogspot.com/ is called "Induction".

The formula is: A short piece of original text, and an opening to discussion, like a book review. Each course goes for ten weeks and there can be up to four items in each part. There is always a little bit of graphic material.

In the CU "Hegel" course, Andy Blunden's writing is used as "original text", which it is.

The general rule is to avoid interpretive texts. So we would have Marx, for example, but not Emile Burns on Marx.

If there was not a Marxist Internet Archive, there was not going to be a CU. The CU is a wild child of the MIA.

Its other parent is Paulo Freire from whom we take the conviction that learning takes place in dialogue, and only in dialogue. The learning that we want is collective understanding that can be the basis for collective action.

As in architecture or in any other art, freedom in a MOOC is a product of, because it is a conscious transcendence of, restraint. It is not "Liberty Hall". The principal artist is the moderator. Hence I support Andy when he takes a firm decision, even if the decision might not be the one I would take.


I think part of the solution in an individual understanding the text also constituted a problem for our group reading. We are rightfully encouraged to see the movement of Hegel's logic in terms of our own projects and scientific/political questions. In doing so, not only does the text make more sense, but we gain new conceptual instruments to solve the problems in our diverse fields. However, this also means that we are presenting cases which are alien to others, and understanding these demand a deeper engagement to comprehend than we can offer (because engaging with the text itself already absorbs a lot of time and effort). Ironically, when we are presenting the text in our language and terms, it sometimes becomes less comprehensible and more confusing for others. I don't think there is a ready-made solution for this.

Well, that's not entirely true. I think we should continue to rearticulate the text in our own frames, but try not to get diverted by subdiscussions (pleading guilty!) that move the substance of the discussion away from Hegel's logic.

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