Toward a theory of Disconnectivism


Disconnectivism is driven by the delusion that decisions are made on any basis of reality whatsoever. New information is continually being discarded when it conflicts with dominant interests. The inability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information drives our collective discourse. The inability to recognize when new information alters the landscape defines how power asserts itself.

Today’s Disconnected news:

The classic example used to explain how FERPA works: you can’t post a list of students’ names and grades on a bulletin board in the hallway.

But what about posting students’ work publicly online?

…Yesterday, Georgia Tech deleted all student history and participation from the school’s “Swikis,” the wikis that students use for their coursework. Georgia Tech has been using wikis for this purpose since 1997, pioneering the usage of the collaborative tools for undergraduate education. One of the features of the school’s wikis was that they allowed for cross-course and cross-semester communication. You could, should you choose, remain in a wiki for a class you’d taken previously, for example.

Which means…

We can no longer have students construct public entities on the Web anymore for education at Georgia Tech. It may be that FERPA demands that no school can use the Web to post student work publicly.

In completely Disconnected news elsewhere:

During our coverage of the eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protesters early this morning, a NPR reporter, a New York Times reporter, and a city councilmember were arrested. Airspace in Lower Manhattan was closed to CBS and NBC news choppers by the NYPD, a New York Post reporter was allegedly put in a “choke hold” by the police, a NBC reporter’s press pass was confiscated and a large group of reporters and protesters were hit with pepper spray. According to the eviction notice, the park was merely “cleaned and restored for its intended use.” If this is the case, why were so few people permitted to view it?

…Police began vigorously jamming the torsos of those who stood on the sidewalk with their batons. One officer mockingly shouted, “Shame! Shame!” as he angrily shoved protesters further back up Broadway. A strong scent of vinegar punctuated the air, and a row of protesters groaned in pain. Water materialized out of the crowd and the demonstrators began pouring it into the afflicted’s eyes.


Disconnectivism presents a model of knowledge that confuses the shifts in a society where living is no longer a cooperative, mutually beneficial activity. How people work and function is defined by the inexorable self-destruction brought about by disembodied power. The clueless have been slow to recognize both the inhuman autonomy of the political-economic system and its insatiable lust to consume all living things. Disconnectivism provides no insight into this hopeless reality, nor does it offer any strategies needed to survive with dignity in a post-connected era.

(With apologies to George Siemens.)

24 thoughts on “Toward a theory of Disconnectivism

  1. This is how I will be teaching ds106 in the Spring, I expect to get major federal and state funding. It is definitely the future, thanks for giving it a name—I’ll be incorporating it into all my grants hereafter.

  2. At last, safety! Like Winston walking down that long hallway in the Ministry of Love, I have tears in my eyes as I write this. Citizenship comes with so many risks. It’s so hard to interpret all those laws. Golly, it’s just so hard. There’s no ambiguity to “no.” I once had an aggressive interlocutor publicly challenge me to define the public good. You know, it’s tough to do that, and I’m sure it violates someone’s rights for me even to try. So disconnectivism comes at a crucial time for me. Now I understand. Two And Two Do Make Five. I see it clearly.

    Thank God the word about disconnectivism got out before they shut the Internet down.

  3. As an academic technologist, Disconnectivism will make my job so much easier. The answer to almost any possible request switches from “here’s what it’ll take,” to “we can’t do that.” It’s like having sociopathy codified as official policy.

  4. I was all set to have my new book on disconnectivism published. It made clear how ‘disconnectivism’ is the theory of using the internet to be apart from each other. But then the publisher discovered I wasn’t from Yale, and the book deal was cancelled.

  5. How similar is the observation by Manuel Castells as noted by Ismael Peña-López:

    “Politics is the exercise of power to accomplish common goals within the established institutions; while social movements aim at changing values of the society, at transforming people’s minds. And the problem comes when common goals and social values are disconnected. Then comes revolution, which is the occupation of the institutions by non-established means to impose the new values and transform or rewrite the rules according to them.”

    ICTlogy » ICT4D Blog » Communication and Civil Society (I). Politics in the Internet age (I)

  6. But how should we ‘rate’ this new learning theory ‘for our times’:
    – learning to ‘cope’ with social change
    – learning to ‘contribute’ to social change?

    And if change is inevitable, should everybody take his or her own stance? Or should we encourage the social construction of common ground and new values?

    I believe that the recent research bij David Rand ( has attributed to the notion that humans form social networks fueled by the need for cooperation. And that their social engagement is not always or solely determined by transaction costs. Or the research by Mimi Ito, that shows how our future generation is positively engaged in friendship and interest driven social networks (

    Another reason for me not to adhere to the notion of ‘community’ as, according to Zygmunt Bauman, the ‘kind of world which is not, regrettably, available to us’ ( Nor for that matter, the opposite notion of Philip Blond of the ‘Big Society’ as a novel interpretation of the civil society (

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