|A social network diagram (Wikipedia)|
Brent Renalli has in interesting paper called "A Pre-history of Peer Review: Religious Blueprints from the Hartlib Cycle." In it, I ran into my old friend John Cominus (1592-1670), the author of one of the first illustrated textbooks for children. He was also an early proponent of universal education, visual learning, and going beyond rote memorization in schools. All of these ideas, like connectivism, are still considered "new" and controversial in many universities - any instructional designer can tell you stories about that! I didn't go looking for Cominus, but in my research into education, I keep running into him. In a typical paper on peer review, authors tend to credit the Royal Society with its invention, but it was already a well-established system in Europe and elsewhere to ensure religious orthodoxy as a mechanism of censure. "Peer review" is generally not a good way to get new ideas out.
Connectivism has gone through its modern "Republic of Letters" stage via the blogs. Downes and Siemens both have used the blogs to write books, essays, and propose ideas. Educators in turn have responded for and against on their respective blogs - and continue to do so. And now, Siemens has published in a more formal and traditional manner with peer reviewed journals such as MERLOT's Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. Other education researchers are publishing articles about connectivism such as Dorothy Kropf in the European Journal of Open, Distance, and Elearning. Thus far, the ideas around connectivism have had more exposure and peer review than Einstein's theory of relativity had in 1905 (the "Annus Mirabilis" papers) when only Max Plank and Wilhelm Wien had read them before publication in Annalen der Physik. I wonder if the theory of connectivism could have come out of the traditional institutions. I think these ideas had to have been born in the very media the theory analyzes. In many ways, the theory flies in the face of all the accepted theories in education (behavioralism, cognitivism, and the many shades of constructivism) and probably would not have gained traction. I have seen papers get rejected from journals because there are not enough researchers publishing about idea X in refereed journals. We have to expect that. Universities rarely innovate - that is left to the lonely patent clerks of the world. Universities are where ideas go to fossilize and become the established order. Connectivism needed the internet, blogs, and Twitter to take shape.