#NetNarr: Observing the Rheingold(s) Effect

Creative Chaos Theory ... follow your heart

The other day, in one of the Networked Narratives studio visits, the guests were Howard Rheingold and his daughter, Mamie. It was a crowded Hangout and we ran out of time before talking about what was going to be one of the main topics: connecting the dream-state to the art of storytelling. I’m afraid my questions about civic discourse in the age we’re in, and Howard’s long work with the Internet as Public Sphere, sidetracked us.

You can come listen in and annotate the video over at Vialogues. The conversation keeps flowing …

Netnarr GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

(A Howard gif/meme from NetNarr activity box)

Here are some observations from the gathering:

  • Howard talked about his own background, noting that the structure of school stifled him as a child to the point that he was labeled as a “troublemaker” and often got send to the art room, which was run by his mom. There, he was free to create, invent, explore. He wonders why more classrooms aren’t like his mom’s art room. Partially, I blame standardized testing, and its emphasis on right/wrong dichotomies, not open-ended problem solving and thinking.
  • Mamie worked for nine years at Google, and she talked about the culture there, and how it moved through different phases. She focused on the early “creative chaos” in which people were encouraged to follow passions, and “bump” into other’s work, as serendipity moments. That sounds a lot like some of the Connected Learning spaces where I enjoy hanging out.
  • There was a bit of pushback, or questioning, from one of Mia’s students in NetNarr, observing that the openness of the course felt a little strange, and that more structure might have eased some of that anxiety. The comment reminded me of my first grad course like this, too, and how I kept wondering, am I doing this right? I realize now, years later, how instructive that course was to my thinking and my teaching.
  • The issue of “silos” that we find ourselves in, and how to reach out beyond our comfort zone to better understand others of different political stripes. I mentioned that it feels a bit as if the promise of connected ideals has not brought us closer to together — not nurtured more compassion and understanding of the “other” — but seems to have divided us even more, creating pockets where we write and learn with those who have our same frame of mind. I wonder if the same tools that brought us here, into our echo chambers, can also help us crawl back out? Or do we need a new way forward?
  • Howard talks about “trusting your intuitive process” as we moved into the idea of tapping the inner artist, and finding ways to free yourself to create. “It’s about messing with things and seeing what happens.” — Howard. He talked about his passion for making spiderweb art years ago and now, he finding ways to use circuitry and programming to revamp that earlier art into something new. This points to being open to possibilities and going with your passions.

Thanks to the Rheingolds for spending time with NetNarr.

Peace (reaches out),


One Comment
  1. Thanks for the amplification thoughts, Kevin. I too felt it was not maybe the exact direction we hoped for, but to me it’s not what necessarily happens in the 1 hour space, it’s this outward ripples. And that for an hour we had a moment together.

    We can see it was fortunate and shaping that Howard found his awareness in elementary school. But people can experience this at many stages of life, it just seems to get harder as we get more adult and self censoring/critical.

    I see silos as unavoidable, it’s a social means of coping, surviving that we have different circles if trust around us. Silos aren’t the problem, as I think you suggest, it’s making sure that our silos have open doors, windows, roofs, and that we make frequent trips out of them.

    And of course, art is the way out, It took me maybe 45 years to get to what Howard did in elementary school.

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