Game shows come and go while phrases seem to linger. In the early part of 2000, a game show from Great Britain surfaced the airwaves. “The Weakest Link,” featured a team of contestants who would take turns answering a series of questions.* The objective of the game was to form one continuous link that was equal to the number of players on the team. An incorrect answer would mean that the chain would break, thus losing the money that was accumulated. Viewers commiserated with the player who broke the link, feeling the shame, as host Anne Robinson declared, “You ARE the weakest link!”
The concept of weak ties, open networks with loose connections, certainly caught my attention during a recent class discussion about Personal Learning Networks. Each time a classmate referred to a thread of one of their networks as a “weak tie,” my mind drifted to the show. Some contestants walked away in shame when being dismissed from the show for their weakness. Communities of individuals who support both my professional and personal life can resemble the chains in a link. Some I hold dearly, while weak or inconsequential ties I sever. I had not considered the benefits of larger, more loosely connected communities over small, tight networks, yet my actions over the last year have clearly shown how I do engage in the collection of loose ties regularly. Conflict…what I do and how I articulate it need to be more congruent!
When I turned 50 years old, my dear friend and mentor shared a piece of wisdom rather jokingly. ” Fifty is the childhood of old age.” When I relay this anecdote to those who ask what I have done since retiring from public education, a wide array of reactions occur. The concept of a “gap” year is one held in higher esteem by Europeans than by Americans who are eager to send their students to college. I am certainly far from 18 years of age, yet am in the prime of my “old age.” This gap year of my professional life, the time I am volunteering, directing my professional and personal interests as well as the pursuit of graduate study, is also a time to grasp more fully the concept of personal learning networks.
Handcrafts are a pleasurable way in which I spend my free time. Years ago, a friend who shears, cards and spins fiber from her alpacas, encouraged me to purchase fiber at the Montpelier Fiber Festival. Now bear in mind, I do not own any equipment to card or spin the fiber, but purchased it with the idea that a friend would help my quest. I would turn this beautiful bag of black and purple border luster into something magnificent. Suffice it to say, that I have lost contact with the friend, and am still without the tools or the instructions to spin it. I move the bag from closet to closet with regularity. Sigh…
In the span of one week, I have since created an open network of some very loose ties in the spinning community. In his book, The Young and the Digital: What the Migration to Social Network Sites, Games, and Anytime, Anywhere Media Means for Our Future,” S. Craig Watkins recalls how the core idea behind “MySpace” was community. Community could be considered the holy grail of the internet. Over the summer I joined a network community of individuals who knit, crochet and yes, spin, which is called Ravelry.
Several weak ties began by a simple click of the button and a brief conversation while volunteering at a local historical site.These ties have progressed from a chance encounter from an unknown member of the Ravelry community, to a connection through a volunteer organization, to that of meeting individuals at a demonstration who know the individual who contacted me. Phew! I think that this encounter is shorter than the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” phenomenon! There are four threads to this message. I have posted several of them that exemplified how media is a way in which to create loose connections that will hopefully result in new ideas and perspectives.
The end of this tale is sweet! I am invited me to meet one link, attend demonstrations by other links and to share in the passion of many. The very small network of ONE individual has proven to be of no value without connection. I have great hopes that this large, open network will provide a more supportive community. Here’s to another link in my PLN and to finally turning a bag of nothing into a beautiful something-Stay tuned.
*I have gone outside of my comfort zone by using Wikipedia as a source of information. This may be my one and only time to do so!*
I know you will find the people you meet in this world of fiber pleasant, willing to share, enabling, friendly and helpful. It looks like you’ve already made several connections.
Stay in touch and let me know if there is anything I can help you with.
It so happens that I met people from the “Whilring Whorls” today at Monticello. One of the women that I spoke with said that she knew who you were/recognized your name. They have given their card to me and were very nice and welcoming.
I will certainly look for you next month. I plan to go to Montpelier on Saturday the 6th.
I made my first drop spindle out of two CDs (plastic discs), a wooden dowel and a cup hook with a rubber washer to keep the discs on the dowel. Not much of an investment and lots of fun. If you need any fiber to try it, let me know. I have so much extra and I’d be so happy to share and encourage someone new to learn to spin!
The spinning group that meets in Charlottesville is called the Whirling Whorls. You can find them under the “groups” tag on Ravelry.
PS There will be lots of drop spindles and fiber to buy at the Montpelier Fiber Festival on Oct 6 & 7. If you’re there, come by the skein and garment competition tent. I just might be there with a name tag on. I am helping with this event.