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now online discourse

On Tue Nov 16 2004 Mike Cole wrote:

>Bill-- I went to the XMCA web page and looked for the note from Phil on Nov 
>12 and could not find anything that contextualized this note for me. 

Here it is:

On Friday 12 November 2004 9:08 am, Phil Chappell wrote:
>I'm about to make this a major project, especially as I'm about to hit 
> Sydney for a month. I'll report back on the audio side of this issue when I 
> can. There's more to classroom discourse than IRF, and we need to work out 
> ways of getting at it. 
> Thanks again for opening up your work for this multidimensional discussion, 
> ensuing battles and all! 
Discourse in this medium is pretty slippery to catch hold of, and for one, 
subject headers offer very little by way of analysis.  I think Eva Ekeblad 
showed this well with her work, especially when we were trying to understand 
this sense of how conversations appear and dissipate.  What makes up a 
"conversation" on xmca -- beyond being a bounded-in-time topically-related 
set of exchanges --  is not straightforward to grasp.  What Eva Ekeblad did 
persistently and painfully was to map some xmca exchanges to show their 
shared and related significations.  When one does that, there is a visual 
representation with which one is able to (loosely) declare the boundaries of  
a "conversation".  The links in the map between messages are the shared 
significations -- the topical relations between messages.

XMCA has a close analogy -- the quasi-free market economy, and one of the 
things I worked on a long time ago was characterizing the bursts of XMCA 
exchanges, which follow very similar patterns to those studied in economics 
and elsewhere.  It actually should not be surprising that they do.  On the 
one hand a low level of regulation here allows for rapid swings away from 
topics, yet on the other, it also allows for rapid follow-up.  So it's not a 
critcism of XMCA, but statement that comes from some analysis.  It's a 
double-edged sword.

We've all seen how rich conversations just seem to dissipate.  Why?  One thing 
i did with a complex systems analysis/simulation was make the plausible claim 
that finite and renewable resource -- time available -- was involved as a 
contributing element.  A small amount of time available for XMCA 
participation is renewed repetitively -- for some daily -- contributing to  
the display of the power law behavior  one sees with self-organized 
criticality in other complex systems.  Self-organized criticality -- 
according to Per Bak -- relies upon the "renewal" or regular influx of a 
resource such as energy.  Here it is time (although when you push this 
physicist he'll argue the resource could be more fundamentally thought of as 
energy).   Eva found things like Zipf law patterns (one type of power law)   
in the rank ordering of how often people post, and i found dynamic power law 
patterns in the amount of exchanges over time.  These are the quantitative 
signatures of self-organized criticality. My analysis was fun to do, brought 
up some mathematics and analytical tools i had not used since doing physics, 
but it lacked connection to qualitative analysis.  For one, I was counting 
messages when, in retrospect, I needed to be counting significations.  Doing 
so is a huge task and that's why my study has gone belly up.  

That's where Durkheim comes in.  His work on suicide was seminal in making 
connections between quantitative studies such as suicide rates and societal 
conditions. Anomie ( a - nomos, without law) here on XMCA is not the same as 
the chaos attributed in other areas of study but instead provides a 
qualitative causal relation to the sudden appearance and dissipation of 
conversations.  It's another essential element and why we see swings in 
topics here, more so than on moderated lists.

When I wrote "In this last exchange block, unable to 
adapt to the shifting field, the call for a critical cultural historical 
analysis, [Thursday 11 November 2004, 10:22 am and 11:24 am, Wolff-Michael 
Roth] the conversation just went belly up.  And it could not have 
adjusted.  Cultural historical analysis is a data-laden inquiry. " I was 
thinking, in part, of the time avaliable for participation on xmca.  Low 
regulation here on xmca allowed the introduction of a new significations, 
e.g. cultural historical analysis and inequality.  Low regulation is both a 
plus and a minus.  It's why we suddenly have great spontaneous conversations 
and why also they suddenly go away.  

In this case, at the personal unit of analysis,  since I am one of the 
material means through which the "cooking notes" conversation was being 
enacted, I did not have time for cultural historical analysis (which I do 
think is important, but not in the same way as Michael Roth) and i really 
wanted to focus on cooking the notes.  The new significations introduced by 
Michael (e.g. cultural historical analysis and inequality) were then taken up 
and  shared among other messages with other participants, however, and all i 
had time left for was reading.  Back to the "conversation" unit of analysis, 
the "cooking notes" set of exchanges went belly up because it's 
significations were no longer shared -- it was x-jacked.  If a link map were 
done of that period I think we would see the burst of new cluster of 
links/significations representing new conversations, only connecting to the 
"cooking notes" set of exchanges at the respective beginnings and endings.

Link to one of Eva's paper follows:


Gotta finish -- I'm now in time-debt.