Thank you for your reply, it made me laugh a bit because yes, I myself have the tendency to go off on tangents Thank you for the reference to the 2012 work. The concept of emergence is helpful, since structure is never a set property of one's network; it is only a temporary product of preformed operations.
I did Social Network Analyses before of the (online) learning networks of migrant youths and from that started to understand more about structure and (distributed) agency. Agency in the context of MOOCs seems to me an important concept for research. Considering all the possible connections (and also possibly missing ones) that can be made in the MOOC space, how can we understand the experienced boundaries of that space. Design is an interesting one here too, because learners can (must) partly design their own experience, but of course withing certain boundaries (constraints, affordances) set by the course and experienced through the social structure of a person's network. Learners can use non-human agency to their advantage and thereby build up capital, but can also succeed in wrestling authorial control by leveraging the code itself (See Keatinge, 2010). The issues around surveillance and control in MOOC spaces should be openly discussed.
Keatinge (2010) borrowed a definition of field from Bourdieu (Bourdieu, Waquant 1992:97): The field is defined by the "social network of relations among objective positions held by agents". I think that considering the 'positioning' of learners is very important; not only the way they are positioned, and position themselves in their learning networks, but also in terms of their awareness of and orientations towards those networks (vis-a-vis, or emerged), and how those positions are either allowed in the social space of the MOOC or disallowed/discouraged.Still, within this definition above I wonder what is meant by 'objective', because in my view these positions cannot really be established objectively. For instance, user profiles are in constant flux (co-constructed through public posts, tagging by others, comments), so how can you assume some learners position objectively?
As for translation in practice, one caution will be to be very careful with re-segmenting (shrinking) larger, diverse, networks into smaller homogeneous ones (see also Vitak, 2012). Every time you 'take away' access to a larger network and restrain learners' agency, you need to be transparent about it and the benefits need to be (made) apparent. I am all for 'taking over' learners agency temporarily (by providing scaffolds, for instance), but let's give the students more opportunity to learn from this socio-cognitive apprenticeship by being transparent about the functions of those scaffolds...
To me this is all about supporting conscious connectivity (capacity for interconnecting). I talk about connectivity in my article (Prinsen, F., de Haan, M., & Leander, K. M. (2015). Networked Identity How Immigrant Youth Employ Online Identity Resources. Young, 23(1), 19-38.)
Be glad to talk further.