The



Peeragogy

  handbook

Stuck at the level of weak ties

Definition: Knowing how to make good use of “weak ties” is often seen as a “personal strength”.

Nancy Darling: [S]trong and weak ties tend to serve different functions in our lives. When we need a big favor or social or instrumental support, we ask our friends. We call them when we need to move a washing machine. But if we need information that we don’t have, the people to ask are our weak ties. They have more diverse knowledge and more diverse ties than our close friends do. We ask them when we want to know who to hire to install our washing machine. [1]

The question is less to do with whether we are forming weak ties or strong ties. We can be “peers” in either a weak or a strong sense. The question to ask is whether our needs match our expectations!

Problem: In the peeragogy context, this has to do with how we interact.

One of us: I am learning about peeragogy, but I think I’m failing to be a good peeragogue. I remember that Howard once told us that the most important thing is that you should be responsible not only for your own learning but for your peers’ learning. [...] So the question is, are we learning from others by ourselves or are we helping others to learn?

If we are “only” co-consumers of information then this seems like a classic example of a weak tie. We are part of the an “audience”.

Solution: Perhaps especially in an online, mediated, context, it is possible to stay at the level of “weak ties” — although you will not be able to draw on the benefits that “strong ties” offer. (Cf. Isolation.)

Challenges: This strategy reveals its problems directly, if you ever need help moving your washing machine.

What’s Next: If we are actively engaging with other people, then this is a foundation for strong ties. In this case of deep learning, our aims are neither instrumental nor informational, but “interactional”. Incidentally, the “One of us” quoted above has been one of the most consistently engaged peeragogues over the years of the project. Showing up is a good step — you can always help someone else move their washing machine! — as is constructive self-critique.

Reference:

Nancy Darling (2010). Facebook and the Strength of Weak Ties, Psychology Today.

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