Long ago, I thought that lurkers were non-participants and non-contributors who may benefit, or seek to benefit, from the work of others without really contributing anything. I was never very comfortable with this, but it was the general noise one heard about lurking.
Mortimer Adler’s talk about the Great Books, and about reading in general, gave me an alternative view of lurking – as participation. Adler saw reading as participating in a great conversation across space and time, reaching back to antiquity and forward into the distant future. Reading is to participate in the great conversation, to engage with some of the greatest minds of the ages. We do this by annotation, by talking to the book, by talking to the author.
If, when you’ve finished reading a book, the pages are filled with your notes, you know that you read actively…. And that is exactly what reading a book should be: a conversation between you and the author. Presumably he knows more about the subject than you do; naturally, you’ll have the proper humility as you approach him. But don’t let anybody tell you that a reader is supposed to be solely on the receiving end. — Adler, M., (1941). How to mark a book. The Saturday Review of Literature.
In Adler’s world, we were all lurkers most of the time. The only exception might be in a book club, seminar, or class or similar social context where people came together to talk about something that they had all read; and this was not the main event, it was the follow-up to having first read, and thought: The original “flipped class”.
So, I have been lurking for some time. This week, I am coming back to a familiar group of people, this time gathered around #moocmooc, a distributed event / extended discussion of Instructional Design. I’ve been around this group of people, or like-minded people for at least four years now, beginning with the #change11 Mooc in 2011. Usually I participate by lurking, I feel that I have nothing new to contribute or to say. Repeating others seems egotistical, attention seeking.
Then I begin to write and post, in binges. I see connections between things that, for some reason, I want to share. There’s always the risk that others will not see them and wonder what is going on. But, isn’t this what learning is about. Making connections and watching the space that emerges between things?
#moocmooc is a distributed event, which makes it hard to follow. There is, apparently, no aggregate site, just a hashtag and a twitter feed, and a “home page” of sorts at the digital pedagogy lab. Following Adler’s annotation mania, I started a group on hypothes.is – a possible site for shared conversations about whatever people are reading. I’m not sure how this works and I’m not sure I like the “closed group” thing, but anyone with the link can join so opening it just becomes a matter of publishing the link.
This has quite rhizomatic (#rhizo15) potential, so we will see. Lurking is like the bottom of the iceberg. Without it the iceberg would not be possible – it would just be this thing rolling uncontrollably over the surface of something else.