Question 41 of 365: When is vigilante infrastructure justified?

Question 41 of 365: When is vigilante infrastructure justified?

Being a vigilante in any organization creates a reputation. You are known for being on the cutting edge but also for being a lone wolf. You are known for pushing the envelope but also for pushing an agenda. Mostly, you are known for doing things that no one else has the will to do, and that sword cuts both ways. If you are right, everyone will see you as a visionary, and if you are wrong, everyone will see you as a lunatic.

While it is possible to be a vigilante in any aspect, I propose that the most dangerous type of vigilante is the one that sets up infrastructure for other vigilantism. The type of vigilante I am referring to does screencasts of how to set up Google Apps for your Domain for every part of your organization without involving the IT department. The infrastructure vigilante will set up twitter accounts and hash tags for organizations that they do not control. They will request backchannels for every PD session. They will take notes collaboratively with everyone attending the meeting without asking the head of the meeting’s permission.

In short, an infrastructure vigilante is someone who doesn’t believe that she needs an invitation to collaborate, create, or add value. She is actively looking for ways in which her own workflow can be leveraged for the good of everyone she deals with on a daily basis. She is a walking hyperlink, subverting hierarchy everywhere she goes.

And yet, she isn’t able to work in groups the ways in which they are fashioned. She doesn’t work well with others when she can’t actually use her network and her collaborative tools. When she is bound to the piece of paper in front of her and the rigid agenda, she retreats. When her values of co-creation are not valued, she has a hard time relating to the process.

There are even some people who hate her kind of vigilantism. There are people who seek to get her in trouble because she won’t use the applications that “everyone else is using”. These people are looking for any reason to catch her in living too close to the edge. They bring up privacy concerns and IP infringement arguments. They talk about her being the one who makes everyone else feel like they have to catch up. They want her to know her place and stop trying to “help” everyone.

So, when is her vigilantism justified? Whenever there are people who want to help kids to learn and need a path to do so. Whenever coworkers want to learn from one another. Whenever a a group has an artificial hierarchy. Whenever teaching someone to fish actually causes them to teach others to fish. That is when infrastructure vigilantism is justified. That is when it makes sense to ignore the protocols and pursue a different course.

So, set up systems. Pursue workflow. Buzz. Tweet. Link.

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  1. clifdancy

    Ben, I agree with you on most points made here. For many years I felt like the infrastructure vigilante, always working around the system. I believe too many times we limit the potential of teacher's and student's use of technology through paranoid policies. The point I worry about, though, is at what point does the infrastructural vigilante cross the line and put the district in legal jeopardy? I've attended legal seminars on the teacher's use of social media. We're dangling our feet off the dock and touching the water when we use these technologies, without the sanction of the district. It's kind of like holding class in our homes rather than the school. We put ourselves and the district at risk when we use technologies that cannot be monitored by superiors.
    BTW/thanks for helping me out today in my Google session.


  2. bhwilkoff

    Thanks so much for commenting on this. I totally agree that we are putting
    ourselves at risk. However, I think that the risk is justified, sometimes.
    When students benefit and you have set up safety nets for yourself and your
    kids, that is when it is okay. I am an advocate for thinking things through
    and then being a vigilante, not being a simple renegade.

    Also, I enjoyed your session. It is great that people are having a lot of
    the same conversations we are. Talk to you soon.

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