Zygmunt Bauman’s notion of ‘cloakroom communities’ (https://t.co/l7idISu5pZ 2nd ZB comment down) – can MOOCs ever be more than that? #mscedc

During yesterday’s Google hangout, I mentioned in the text conversation Zygmunt Bauman’s notion of ‘cloakroom communities’. A quick Google search (aren’t they always? Perhaps not…) pulled up this couple of paragraphs from an interview with Bauman that helpfully summarises the idea:

To see it in print, have a look at Bauman (2010) Consuming Life (Polity, Cambridge), pp.111-112.

I’m thinking that MOOCs are likely to remain cloakroom communities, for three reasons. First, MOOCs are typically an instant assemblage of people, with thin connections often without much ‘scaffolding’ for community within course design.  In Stewart’s terms, from the set reading, “a sea of unknown names or faces” (p. 235). Second, MOOCs are typically short-lived assemblages, without cumulative build between courses. Third, as Stewart indicates in the set reading, destabilising the teacher-led learning model facilitates learner-led strategies (pp. 235-236). This might not be linear, towards a course-defined telos. Dipping in and out will enhance the cloakroom-community quality of MOOCs.

I wonder if there’s any literature out there, comparing MOOCs and cloakroom communities?

[As a further aside, for my own context in ministerial education, the ‘cloakroom community’ metaphor has been examined by several bloggers, e.g. here and here.]

[Additionally, I’m looking  at Jernej Prodnik’s uses of ‘cloakroom community’ for analysing online contexts, e.g. in (accessed only on Google Books) ‘Post-Fordist Communities and Cyberspace: A Critical Approach’ in Cybercultures: Mediations of Community, Culture, Politics eds. Harris Breslow and Aris Mousoutzanis (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012), pp.75-100. ]


from http://twitter.com/Digeded

3 Replies to “Zygmunt Bauman’s notion of ‘cloakroom communities’ (https://t.co/l7idISu5pZ 2nd ZB comment down) – can MOOCs ever be more than that? #mscedc”

  1. This is a really interesting analogy, Matthew and chimes with Jeremy’s observation in the tutorial that MOOC ‘communities’ are perhaps defined more by a shared purpose – by things they are expected to ‘do’ as members of that community – than by any strong social bonds.

    1. Helen, thanks for the response here. I don’t know if you’ve taken the ‘course design’ course but, off the back of that, I’m wondering if Bauman’s comments are inherently applicable to the MOC concept per se, or whether there are better and worse affordances towards what you call ‘strong social bonds’. My guess is that the latter is true, to some degree at least. ‘Every course design is philosophy and belief in action’, according to the Manifesto for Teaching Online: with that in mind, I hope MOOCs can prove, at least in some iterations, more social than my limited exposure would initially suggest.

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