E–learning Research: a Deleuzian method for the evaluation of virtual learning environments
A series of questions must be addressed:
- What is an environment composed of?
- What varies between different environments to create differing environmental regimes?
- To what extent is a virtual learning environment (VLE) an environment?
- How do VLEs vary, so as to create different regimes?
- Are certain such regimes preferable to others?
Environments are composed of filters
In this way behaviour and geophysical processes connect through an environment that is the assemblage of all of these interoperating filters over time. This is more or less true of any environment. The physical built environment is well understood in these terms, but also consider how an online application with a variety of user accessible functions filters a pool of back–end functionality. In return, the end user filters out irrelevant or inaccessible functionality. Over time these functions may even die off through lack of interest or the application of an agile development process that in some ways copies evolution.
The case of the polar bear is presented above in a simplified manner. There are many complications and possible combinations of filters that offer other kinds of environmental regime. Reality presents a range of regimes and blends of regimes, many of which occur across widely differing regimes. For example, in his work on the 'extended cognition' model of cognition, Andy Clark proposes that a kind of mangrove effect may well be a significant assemblage in the generation of new ideas. Clark describes how a new mangrove swamp begins by a single plant floating in the water, with extended roots that may catch hold of both food and other plants. This kind speculative drift is another assemblage of filters that may be a viable regime in some environments. For example, in the online world we may use a blog to float a part–formed notion. Effective use of semantic tagging and discovery tools may attract further content to the idea, allowing it to grow. It may also allow it to connect to other complimentary ideas. Over time as the mangrove–idea grows, it attracts further connections and taps into greater pools of energy.
The mangrove is an example of a regime of filtration that the philosophers Deleuze and Guattari have called rhizomatic. There are many other regimes, many of which are diagrammed in their book A Thousand Plateaus. These regimes include arborescent assemblages, which operate by applying rules of exclusion that form hierarchical branches of filtration; a familiar model in both software design and social anthopology. Other regimes of importance include:
- Gadgets, or filters that follow a reproducible and generalizable design;
- Animal bodies (which are gadget–like, but less portable and generalizable);
- Familial structures;
- Geological and sedimentary processes.
We therefore have the first of our tools for understanding the construction of environments: regimes of filtration. As has been demonstrated, the principle applies across environments, and in some cases we see regimes re–occurring in quite different settings.
Environments are composed of networks
A second and relatively rare aspect of some environments can best be understood through the behaviour of a more complex animal: the honey bee.
some filters are symbolic or digital, redundancy
codings to promote autopoiesis through symbiosis
simulations to accelerate judgement
dissimulation to exploit weaknesses in the simulations of others
the relation between filters and networks is a matter of ecology
Environments are actual
quantification and index
registers of modification
the actual tends to impose limits on differentiation
Environments are virtual
signal can be quantified, the carrier (the assemblage of filters) is more complex and sensitive – a continuum
movement, freedom, creation
whole system evolves continually
different elements evolve at different speeds
differential speeds provide registers for understanding the different elements
Smooth and striated space