Skip to content

Rhizome Project, or, what have they done with Dave Cormier?

Earlier this year, I edited an issue of Innovate on the future of education. One of the most frequently cited articles from that issue is Dave Cormier’s article on Rhizomatic Education. If the discussion in CCK08 is any indication, the rhizome metaphor resonates with people. Today, I encountered this site – Rhizome Project – on the same theme. Surprisingly, no mention of Dave’s work or article. It seems unlikely that they wouldn’t have been aware of the article (it’s one of the first several returns when searching rhizomatic on google). An oversight of the project leaders? Or just ignoring Dave’s article and drawing credit for themselves? Participating in open environments requires acknowledgment as we build on the work of others.


  1. Frank Carver wrote:

    Don’t be too hard on them. It’s likely that the rhizome concept came from elsewhere.

    For example, I first heard the term several years ago via Adrian Miles from RMIT (, for example. He participates in a “rhizome project” which has apparently been running on the internet since 1996 (

    Much like biological rhizomes, however, such thoughts spread and grow until it becomes very difficult to determine the origin of any particular thread.

    In this case all three uses of the term “rhizome” seem likely to derive independently from the work of Deleuze and Guattari much earlier.

    Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 2:54 am | Permalink
  2. A more than cursory glance at the project would reveal that this project is about digital identities and is addressing the issue of the fractured nature of the self when our online identities become distributed across multiple sites and services.

    Rhizome is a Deleuzian concept that has been used and taken by many active in the field of art, science and philosophy. It is used in the project as a cipher for understandings of digital identity as:

    - decentralised
    - unpredictable
    - connected
    - branching in many directions
    - having multiple entry points
    - with no single true view – only partial perspectives
    - and constituted as a multiplicity of dimensions where we lose the illusion of the objective all seeing eye/I
    From this we are using the metaphor of cartography, the map, where we have no privileged entry point and is always open to change.

    The references we use for this conceptual entry point to understanding digital identity are at the moment:

    Deleuze & Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

    Sermijn, Devlieger and Loots (2008). The Narrative Construction of the Self: Selfhood as a Rhizomatic Story. Qualitative Inquiry, (14)4:632–650.

    Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 4:35 pm | Permalink
  3. There are some explanations about the roots of The Rhizome Project in the comments of this post:

    Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 5:05 pm | Permalink
  4. Hi George!
    As I said before in a comment to Harold Jarche who cites you: David Cormier is our colleague and fellow researcher in the Open Habitat project, where Steven and I lead the evaluation and narrative research to extract guidelines for teaching and learning in MUVEs. David is not an stranger. And we know pretty well his work. Well enough to credit him when we build our research on his findings, or published work.
    Now, The Rhizome project, is an Eduserv funded project that explores the key social and technical elements that impact on the construction of online identities. Is not a project about learning approaches. Although we will be investigating the deployment of online identities in formal and informal learning settings.
    The Rhizome project, is called Rhizome not because of David, who used, as we use, the well known and not so new concept of rhizome! The main reference we use and publicly acknowledge has another weight: is Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome we are referring to, in A Thousands Plateaus.
    Le Rhizome, mon cher Georges, n’appartient pas à David Cormier! Is a central metaphor in Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy. Unfortunately, Deleuze and Guattari didn’t have a blog. Their work is in books, I agree, of difficult access. But they are outstanding pieces of thinking of our time.
    Participating in open environments requires also well documented research before judging publicly and so harshly your peers.

    Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 5:09 pm | Permalink
  5. This piece of misleading information has been echoed in many blogs of the MOOC participants. Aggregated in several hubs. Now forwarded by Stephen in the daily… that goes to how many? This is all about authority, power and control of information. Will you post in the main feed of your blog a rectification?

    Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 9:08 pm | Permalink
  6. gsiemens wrote:

    Hi Frank,

    I don’t think I’m being too harsh. I’m just trying to draw attention to the sequential nature of ideas. We build on the work of others. That’s fine. My concern rests with not acknowledging important ideas that help to define a field.

    I’m aware that rhizomes are not new (as other commentators have noted, Delueze and Guattari are originators of the concept). What Dave has done, and I suspect it’s on the radar of project leaders, is apply the concepts specifically to knowledge and education. Why not acknowledge this? Why not strengthen your ideas by acknowledging a debt to others?


    Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 10:59 pm | Permalink
  7. gsiemens wrote:

    Hi Steven,

    Thanks for your post. As I mentioned in my original comment: I felt the lack of citation of Dave’s work was unusual. And I asked: was it oversight? Or was it intentional? If you are familiar with Dave’s work (and Margarita says you know Dave and I assume are therefore aware of his work), why not mention his work? It only strengthens what you are trying to do.

    I recognize that rhizomes are not new. In conversations I’ve had with Dave – well before his article was published in Innovate – he mentioned his appreciation for Deleuze. Dave has been on this theme for several years (2006:

    My question to you/Margarita would be: has your affiliation with Dave influenced your work on the rhizome project? Has his thinking and publication on the subject contributed to the development of your thought? If so, my reaction would be: Dave should be cited/credited.

    From your response here, I assume it was simply an oversight to not acknowledge Dave’s work. All that’s required is “yes, we value Dave’s thinking on this…it was an oversight not to mention that. We have now corrected this”. Instead, looking at the comments Margarita is posting, the emphasis is more about accusing me of being in the wrong. I simply made and observation and asked a question.

    Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 11:12 pm | Permalink
  8. gsiemens wrote:

    Hi Margarita,

    I appreciate your comments. But could you please re-read my post and explain where it is a “piece of misleading information”? I posted an observation and asked a question. What’s misleading is your accusation that I commented on something I wasn’t aware of (i.e. your comment on Downes’ blog). I know Dave didn’t originate the concept (I had several conversations with him on this before he developed his article for Innovate…as well as after. He recently presented to CCK08 on the subject. So I am in a position to speak about rhizomes as Dave uses the term).

    I’ll repeat the comment I directed at Steven: “My question to you/Margarita would be: has your affiliation with Dave influenced your work on the rhizome project? Has his thinking and publication on the subject contributed to the development of your thought? If so, my reaction would be: Dave should be cited/credited.”

    Accusing me of misinformation is a smoke screen. All you need to do is answer my question: Was omission of Dave’s work an oversight or was it intentional? Your comments (and Steven’s) suggest it was an oversight. I would assume a peer reviewed article – such as what Dave has published – would add value to your work. Instead of attacking me for asking a question, why not just post a correction on the site?



    Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 11:20 pm | Permalink
  9. Rhizome, in The Rhizome Project is used as a name,a name used as a metaphor for the evolving construct that we call the online identity: dont les limites sont difficiles à cerner, qui ne commence et qui n’aboutit pas, le réseau indéfini, le modèle d’un désir toujours positif et nouveau.

    Cette entité mouvante, en mouvement, est pour moi un moyen conceptuel fort pour dépeindre le moi numérique. Et non, pour aller du rhizome bulbe, au rhizome réseau, au rhizome identité, je n’ai pas besoin d’aller faire une boucle, ou ricochet chez notre ami David.

    I read Deleuze, dans le texte, in French. The language in which I’ve work for almost 20 years. These ideas have been originated in France, in French, by French philosophers. I was already much more familiar and seduced by some Deleuzian ideas years before David started his work on “Rhizomatic education”. Deterriolisation for example is another heritage of the French theorist’, like ‘Déconstruction’ from Derrida. Furthermore, by background is on linguistics. Literary theory is not a strange field of thinking.

    So ‘has my affiliation with Dave influenced my work on the rhizome project?’ No. On the contrary, in the early stages of bidding, when we were looking for a metaphor, an image for the project and thought about Rhizome, I hesitated long because English elearning practitioners, like you, will draw a direct link with Rhizomatic Education.

    No the reference to the rhizome is not inspired by Cormier’s work. Also I don’t cite Yves Amyot who in 2003, 3 years before Dave started to write about Rhizomatic education, has written the book: ‘Le marcheur pédagogique: Amorce d’une pédagogie rhizomatique’. I don’t even know what is Dave’s position about Amyot, who wrote a full book about rhizomatic education years before his first blog post. But ‘je ne fais pas la petite leçon de morale à” Dave, or to anyone else on the Internet because people don’t acknowledge the sources, peripheral sources, that
    constitute my theoretical background, my subjective understanding of the field. Ideas appear in several forms. Your connections are not mine. But they are legitimate as yours.

    Finally, the Rhizome Project, for now is a mashup, where we also
    aggregate content from the blog, opened 3 days ago. We have not yet published the first article,or the first research report. I invite you to wait until our first results are published to draw more in depth conclusions about the way we creadit and acknowledge our sources.

    As a personal note, I am still waiting for a rectification, not in a
    comment but in the main feed of your blog. In vain, most probably. Hélas!

    Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 2:06 am | Permalink
  10. George. You ask a direct question which demands a direct answer but the question is a too unsubtle. You conveniently wrap-up two issues – the first about work [already done?] – the Rhizome project has only just launched hence there is no work as such – except for an initial analysis of digital identities which is clearly not based on Dave’s article. The second point is about how we recognise our sources of inspiration. Here you seem to imply that certain meta or root concepts can become co-opted and therefore owned by certain individuals and having read your work on connectivism I am surprised that you read a linear history into these processes. If you are asking whether the work still to be carried out will be complimentary to Dave’s work then yes, possibly, this is a conversation that will evolve with Dave across a variety of spaces. We have a similar intellectual interest in the rhizome as a point of departure for opening ways of thinking into particular areas of socio-technical activity. For Dave this been to use Deleuze to rethink education and community and for us it *may* form part of our work on digital identities. Where these two studies meet we do not yet know. What is important here and seems to be missed is that, and I reiterate, is that the Rhizome project has only just launched and at present simply uses the term rhizome as a *metaphor* not as an analytical tool. The core methodology that will provide the analytical drive is in fact narrative inquiry and will call on the work of Bergson and Ricoeur. The rhizome may simply stay as it currently is in these first days of the project … as one of our representational devices, and in my previous post I highlighted the link between the Deleuzian concept of the Rhizome and the “map”. We had a choice of names, as all projects do. And the nub of the issue here is, what’s in name? As I hope is now clear, it is for us a direct reference to the rhizome as Deleuze conceptualises it. When we have actually gathered and analysed data and explored how and where other work using the concept crosses with ours then yes we will reference those sources. At present it remains as reference to a widely and well known line of thought that traces its history, in its own rhizomatic way, back through a huge body of work within the art, sciences and philosophy. What we lack here is Dave to comment on is own inspirational sources for his work, I hope that he will join us and contribute his own valuable thoughts. Before that, perhaps it is worth going back to the original title of your post … ‘What have they done with Dave Cormier?’. Well nothing yet but when we do we will let everyone know.

    Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 3:09 am | Permalink
  11. gsiemens wrote:

    Margarita – you are asking me to retract a question? Yes, I’m afraid you will be waiting for a while. Your rather intense response to my initial post borders on being construed as the cleansing of a guilty conscience.

    The more you state your position – that you know Dave, work with him, are aware of his work, etc. – the more confused I am. If I spent a few months working with someone, and then began using terminology that mirrors what that individual is working on, it’s pretty clear cut: there has been influence. You don’t have to cite the full history of a concept. But when it’s in a related field, with a colleague, and in a similar timeline, the need for citation seems obvious.

    Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 8:49 pm | Permalink
  12. yves amyot wrote:

    I wrote a book on the rhizomatic pedagogy and you can find parts of the book translate in english at

    See : Extract in english

    Bonne lecture

    Monday, February 22, 2010 at 8:13 am | Permalink