Thursday, March 31, 2005

4 or 5 top technologies

1. The sack trolley. Just load on something heavy, shift the weight and the wheels do the rest. Having just helped my mother move house, I can recommend it!

2. The word processor. (Yes, I know). Press the keys and hey presto, your words are up there and you can send them to anybody else - anywhere.

3. The bicycle. So elegant, so simple, so universal and it gets you around with minimal environmental impact.

4. The kettle. Fill it with water, flick a switch and within minutes you have enough boiling water to make tea. Pure magic.

5. Hair straighteners. Well actually I don't need them, but I hear from very reliable sources that you just can'€™t do without them.

I'd be interested in your 4 or 5 top technologies.

As Jim Gee says "Technologies are tools that allow us to do specific things....technologies have no effects, good or bad apart from the situations and settings in which they are used." Think about it.

Not Galang

This is Cafe Rouge Sheffield at a meeting with colleagues where we finalise our work for this site (not as I first thought for this site). That work is almost complete and I'm happy to say the first draft of my handbook chapter is now complete too. YIPPEEE!! I'm wondering about reactions to English 21, now a month old.... or is it buried beneath pre-election panics and union rhetoric?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


This is Maya Arulpragasam known as M.I.A, a refugee from the conflict in Sri Lanka. She sounds good here and those images pack quite a punch. Fooling around on the Airtightinteractive tag-browser, I searched for M.I.A and it brought up loads of baby pics! Clearly it doesn't do punctuation. Anyway, I put in some of my favourite tags and guess what there were my very own pics. OK, must get back to Googleblog now (beats googlewhacking as a way of filling in time!).

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Time's arrow

Now were on British Summer Time waking up in the morning is a little bit more of a challenge. That's where Clocky comes in handy. After the snooze button is pressed, the clock, which is equipped with padding and a set of wheels, rolls off the table to another part of the room. Each day, the clock finds a new place to hide...and, of course you have to look for it!

And then there's The Next Generation Blue Snooze which updates itself daily by listening to the radio signal from the U.S. Atomic Clock in Colorado (or Rugby if you're in England). That'€™s precision, and the design is so.... tasteful. But I think I prefer the Robotic Flip Clock. It has style - rubber feet that stick to your desk, the legs swing and the numbers flip to give the impression that it's moving towards you! Finally from Half-bakery there's the wonderful idea of the alarm clock that automatically phones in work to say you're sick!

Listening to the wonderful John Berger interview last night, I was reminded of an earlier post - time is not linear. Berger suggested that our conception of time is quite parochial. The idea of linear time, he says, is mainly a product of eighteenth century thinking. Before that, time was cyclical (or things existed out of time). We tend to view time as a locomotive force propelling ourselves into uncertain futures. Berger seemed to be saying that he thought that all events are really co-present. If that is the case, then why do we need British Summer Time, Clocky or Blue Snooze.... or four months off?

Monday, March 28, 2005

In the time it takes to grow a moustache

These are my old disk boxes. Mostly they are word documents on floppy disks and they are destined for the bin. Being into communication, it's funny how I don't very often think in terms of information - but yet that, in the broadest sense, is what we communicate. So I'm struck by the fact that the space that information takes up keeps on getting smaller, and the speed at which information travels keeps on getting faster. We can, in fact, pack more in. But yet it still takes the same time to walk to the corner shop, to bin floppy disks..... or grow a moustache. So, this is a moustache site with lovely slide shows and music courtesy of Josh Rubin. It's not body art is it? Cos it can't be fashion!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter tag

She looks just as good in real life (in Gants Hill)! Riding the tube on the way over I studied South Bank's new ad campaign that uses a design of words/subjects in different font sizes. This is, of course, used on blogs (like this one) and on Flickr to signify tag frequency. This is rapidly becoming a new way of visualising things verbally. Flickr's hottest tag of the last 24 hrs is Banksy, clearly a legend in his lifetime. Enough - this all of my Easter tag post!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

That Ealing feeling

And it's hello from Ealing. Not exactly here or here, but somewhere in West London. I love the early notebook, featured on BoingBoing - that's here, although today I'm just travelling with my Toshiba laptop. Tomorrow I'm hanging out at the British Library, migrating East on Friday.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

New literacies?

Carol's inner wrist tattoo is another example of an appropriated script. (And here's another lettered tatto in Tibetan). When did people first start to mark their bodies with words? Not, perhaps a new literacy, but maybe a newly discovered literacy.

Last week the government launched its e-strategy. Much tamer than the consultation document, low profile, and difficult to locate on the DfES site. No surprises, some investment... and I see relatively little on digital literacy, at first sight. So to compensate for the completely predictable, here's a curious blog with a very interesting tagboard on the side. Now that's what I call new literacy!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Opinions on your fingernails

Ruth: Hair can really make a difference to things.

Socrates: True opinions (doxa) are a fine thing and do all sorts of good so long as they stay in their place; but they will not stay long...once they are tied down, they become knowledge, and are stable. That is why knowledge is something more valuable than opinion.

Guy: Emma's hair photo on Flickr got 21 views in 3 minutes and that doubled in the following hour. Was that the hair, visitors' opinions, or the way I tagged it? What say you Socrates?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

New look/new word

Here's Kaye Trammell - I note her blog and her newly appeared moblog (left sidebar) show quite different persona. I reckon I'd go so far as to suggest that they are genuine heteronymic works. It's interesting how we adopt different voices in different webspaces. Think voices, think Bakhtin, think heteroglossia. Well maybe that's not at all startling. But do the affordances of different textual spaces change our communicative presence. Mmmm moblog mmmm then are we becoming heteromodal communicators? Hetero, hetero, hetero, any advances on novel uses of the hetero affix as comments please!!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Saturday is bashment day

Long-awaited and finally here - Bashment Barbers! Mark doesn't need to go here for his dreads (or his treatment for male pattern baldness), but at least it's always full when I go past although definitely closed on this ocassion. There's good quality trainers on sale too (and a link to Bashment FM here). We have Italian barbers, Muslim barbers and now BASHMENT BARBERS!!! What more could you possibly want?

Friday, March 18, 2005

Pimp my shuffle: opportunity or risk?

The last month has seen publication of two large surveys of new media use. There's a lot in the Kaiser report about regulating consumption (Generation M: Media in the lives of 8-18 year-olds), but it's also interesting to see the rise of i-m, email and chat. The distinction between consuming screen media (TV, DVD, video, movies) and reading (print media, such as mags, newspapers and books) is problematic. We need more on onscreen/offscreen literacy practices in my opinion. Regulation and risk is threaded through the UKOnline work. The fourth report (Internet Literacy Among Children and Young People: Findings from the UK Children Go Online project is here) defines internet literacy in terms of access, understanding and creation. This is a helpful way of looking at things. The UK work shows increasingly levels of online interaction (email, online gaming, sms, and message boards).

Oh, and the picture now that Flickrs up and running - and what a worrying 24 hour absence that was - shows JimYounkin, AKA shuffle pimp, courtesy of Republica. Lovely... (or should I say tasteful?) it's the retro cordless version of an ipod shuffle. Watch the slideshow of this astonishing hack here. Is this an opportunity or a risk? Well, let's not wear these in front of the children!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Young bloggers bloom

Many thanks to Julia Myers for bringing the Hangleton junior bloggers to my attention. The good news is that some educationists are beginning to take blogging seriously, the not so good news is that it gets rather teacher dominated. This is one example of a class blog, and another, and another. There’s a BBC report here and the TES write up here (this is the portal page). The reports are from last summer, but the blogs are still live. The young bloggers need to take control. Let a thousand flowers bloom!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Property marks and street art

How many European potentates and noblemen have had their personal monograms decoratively incorporated into the architecture of their palaces, the wallpaper of their public and private rooms, the crockery of their dining rooms, or the uphosltery of their furniture? asks Roy Harris. Just respectable property marking; elite graffiti. I love it when words are released from pages and books (I first discovered this through the art of Ian Breakwell, who in the mid 1970s was constructing crazy chains of cut-out words). Atom's graffiti, above, is from Montana Color, and it's worth tuning into the Flash intro (they usually say skip this, but I often find it's the best bit). Then there's these guys who change graffiti into street art. It's out there, the word on the street is......

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Magic handbag now available in US

The bag's on the move! Dr Joolz presents her's here, and Joi Ito has his here (also labeled, but curiously different). It's the what's-in-your-bag-photo-tag working its way along (also here). I'm not opening mine for anyone, but I announce now that my magic handbag (with its accompanying dagger of doom) is now available in the US (here). Good ideas travel well. Steel city bloggers will soon be putting their heads together to create a neighbourhood of blogs like this one, but based instead on the city's supertram stops.

Monday, March 14, 2005

The intelligent pen

Just when you thought you were saying your last farewells to inkstained fingers, Logitech launch their campaign to bring back the pen. Of course this is a pen with a difference, an intelligent pen that remembers stuff and does all sorts of strange things on smart paper. There's a pretty straight forward report here and this on a company that'€™s using e-pens for logging service jobs in the field (?). I think I prefer a keypad - you see I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to digital writing and new technology.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Mobile ideas

Hannah keeps track of her financial situation with an SMS bank statement each week, and now I read that they're using SMS for parking reminders in Sydney! So, SMS is coming of age. This report suggests that one in five of the 30bn text messages we'll send this year will be about business. But it's a little condescending to be told Text messages don't replace real conversations, and are not always appropriate - ah, right thanks, I'll try and remember that next time I'm doing business. As the mobile phone becomes more respectable then data theft seems to become more of a concern. If you're at all worried, what about a mobile phone pouch AKA a cloaking device (was that a Romulan cloaking device, trekkies?). I looked, and my pouch was empty!

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Writing on the body

We're just about there, butterfly! And this has set me thinking more about writing on the body. First, riffing off Jill Walker, I'€™ve got Shelley Jackson's skin project, the impressive Gaelic goddess, and galleries full of lettered tattoos. So many choices to make, even after you'€™ve decided to check out the tattoo parlour! All these skin marks are (more or less) permanent, but what about those other words we carry around on our bodies? Clothing in particular has become an important site for writing, from designer tags, labels and logos to decorative script and slogan t-shirts: we are moving texts. Here's Baby Politico, with banners for babies - because activism starts early! The Arabic tattoo though, is part of a trend in the appropriation of other scripts, related in a way to the use/misuse of Chinese characters as designer chic. And on that particular theme here's a blog on the misuse of Kanji script.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Watching the sun rise

I'™m still trying to figure out the significance of a sunset clause. It sounded rather good to me at first, but now it seems that our politicians are locked in a series of constitutional all-nighters. There are legitimate fears that the Prevention of Terrorism Bill, if passed will lead to violations of human rights, erosion of civil liberties and miscarriages of justice. That's not good. But. from here it looks like we have a more serious problem with binge drinking and street violence than terrorism...and now for something completely different: a Gaudi theme.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Tu jat di pasand

A rough translation of Bindrakhia's Punjabi song title is the farmers' choice (or the Jat's own choice) which makes you think the Bhangra lyric might be advertising butter, rather than celebrating beauty! Surjit Bindrakhia, a traditional Bhangra singer, died in 2003 but he's still deservedly popular to a folksy kind of audience.

For the folksy academic audience there's Citeulike which is very interesting, since you upload your own work and tag it with key words. It stores academic work like Flickr stores images. And so it develops its own folksonomy with interesting possibilities. Places like this have the potential to undermine academic power bases (although I doubt if they will). As Bourdieu points out, the education system carefully regulates academic capital, which is partly why there's not a lot of Bhangra beats in the classroom!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The searchers

Google marked International Women's Day with this changed logo. An improvement, I thought, on the rather culturally-specific Christmas version. Google has become my default search engine. It'™s good and quick, and turns nicely into the verb 'to google'. But, it would be better if it remembered me, and stored what I like (a bit like Amazon does) and spared me the dross. After some initial enthusiasm, I'™m not really finding Google scholar particularly useful. Surely, anyone who'€™s at all serious must be using electronic databases. Blog-searching is a bit more of a specialist sport, but there's more on it's way. This report covers the hot favourites. Blogstreet is good because it maps your affinity space pictorially, in what it describes as a neighbourhood.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

No links, just thoughts...

The first serious writing about the use of word processors in the classroom began to emerge in the mid 1980s. This was followed by nearly ten years of speculation, much focusing on the possible negative influences of new technology on literacy. As computers became more commonplace, the concerns of educators and policy makers shifted to the social implications of screen-based interaction. Work on ICT and collaborative writing, and pupils' interactions when working onscreen became the vogue, perhaps as a reaction to the idea of the isolated techno-subject. At the same time there was considerable experimentation with educational software and writing packages that were child-friendly, reflecting a professional crisis of confidence, a worry that it was all becoming far too difficult. The focus has shifted yet again and we now seem to be more concerned with onscreen writing as a way of motivating learners -€“ a way of helping those with general or specific difficulties -€“ from the reluctant to the gifted and talented; from the marginalized to the isolated, or even the digitally disadvantaged. This all follows a trend towards a more integrated (or domesticated) view of new technology in education; however, there are relatively few examples of how ICT might transform literacy, and radically change how we learn to write. Perhaps this is the next wave.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Famous for 15 minutes?

If in the future, as Andy Warhol famously said ' everyone, will be famous for fifteen minutes', wouldn't this be microcelebrity? I mean my review of this book has just been published in English in Education (39:1), so would that count. No? O.K. then, it must apply to Jason Kottke because it's here. And here's his blog - now a full time affair. But wouldn't it be better to apply the term microcelebrity to someone who'€™s satus shrank to almost nothing before your very eyes? I'd nominate Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett for demeaning themselves in that execrable waste of screen time/money The Life Aquatic - the worst film I think I've ever seen. (BTW there's a really good Spanish film at the Showroom!)

Sunday, March 06, 2005


Apparently the tattoo is healing - more will be posted soon - but no pic today. And so, today being Sunday, we have a post of interesting fragments. From a Montreal conference here's a photo of a slide presentation: '5 lessons of folksonomies'™; and Susan Herzog, with a blog on scholars who blog; details of a Roy Harris book, which I have on order; and the original of DJfood'€™s audio history of cut-ups and remixes 'Raiding the Twentieth Century'€™, which can be downloaded here. Somewhere, about half way through, there'€™s a great section with William Burroughs intoning words of disembodied and disjointed wisdom in which he suggests that the random collage of cut-ups helps us to make the meanings we wanted to make all along, but didn'€™t know about until we'™d made them. A bit like this blog, then!

Saturday, March 05, 2005


Here, I posted a photograph of myself, so you'd recognise me in meatspace. It's already been viewed on Flickr (but not as much as the tattoo pic!). Click through and you can read my note. But what tags should I use? Flickr and nearly always get mentioned in discussions of tags and tagsonomy (folksonomy). Recently, the Guardian caught up, but it is interesting that their own blog is tagged by the media people who contribute rather than the users themselves. So is the folksonomic zeitgeist (on screen mid right) a folksonomy or is it really a taxonomy, a classification superimposed by the powerful?

Friday, March 04, 2005

Farashah, the sign-bearing body

This is the latest view, and farashah is Arabic for butterfly. Compare with kelebek, bilinwal, pillangao, papillon, and farfalla, all of which sound rather different from butterfly, which, etymologically speaking comes from the Old English buttorfleoge (butter + fly). Why? Possibly because of the ancient belief that insects steal butter or else simply because some common varieties are butter-coloured. Well I never!

And back to the sign-bearing body. Here'™s Bourdieu on the subject:

Strictly biological differences are underlined and symbolically accentuated by differences in bearing, differences in gesture, posture and behaviour which express a whole relationship to the social world. To these are added all the deliberate modifications of appearance, especially by the use of set marks - cosmetic (hairstyle, make-up, beard, moustache, whiskers etc) or vestimentary -which because they depend on the economic and cultural means that can be invested in them, function as social markers deriving their meaning and value from their position in the system of distinctive signs which they constitute and which is itself homologous with the system of social positions.
Distinction p.192

So that may help us in the reading of skin art in general or our take on the particular instance of the farashah mark.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


The idea of journeys to unknown destinations is a fascination. Taking yesterday's body post as a starting point, pathways diverge. So, Jackie connects the body as text to Jeanette Winterston's Written on the Body. And then Tassneem, who leaves a comment on the Flickr tattoo picture, leads me to the wonderful footprint image. A footprint that fades in the tideline, how wonderful! And then, on an independent journey, when I visit Onepotmeal for my daily narrative fix I find this:

I saw my own footprints cast in white dust on the floor like the lunar steps of astronauts, walking from the door to my seat...

Read on, this is the link. And, then I have my eye on another destination, the meaning of ayakizlerim (the original title of Tassneem's photograph). What is that, I wonder, and how does it relate to footprints?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The body as text/ text on the body

This is the back of Ruth's neck, on which she has just had the Arabic word farashah tattooed in white. Studying the inscribed body has traditionally been the preserve of anthropologists - their focus has been on how body art acts as a marker of identity in terms of gender, age, and status. But tattoos and other forms of body art have become important in contemporary culture. We are interested in the visible surface of the body as the boundary between the individual and society. The body becomes a text, a surface on which we write. The text is with us at all times. Writing on the body was provokingly explored in Greenaway's excellent film The Pillow Book. And here, out of interest is a link to his latest project - one of those sites you need to explore!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Long Blog
Today, I finished my chapter on digital writing for Jackie and Elaine’s new book. The central claims are not new - texts are changing. In it I put that the following trends are clear:

  • A move from the fixed to the fluid: the text is no longer contained between the covers or by the limits of the page;
  • Texts are revised, updated, added to and appended (and often archived);
  • Genres borrow freely, hybridize and mutate;
  • Texts become collaborative and multivocal with replies, links, posted comments and borrowing;
  • Reading and writing paths are non-linear/ epistemology is rhyzomic;
  • Hyperlinks allow readers and writers to construct layered meanings with new forms of intertextuality
  • Multimedia allows for a rich interplay of modes - texts become multimodal

These texts are inter-related to changing contexts in which:

  • A sense of space is shared as the local becomes global;
  • The time is now as we inhabit a world of co-presence and synchronicity;
  • Boundaries between work and leisure begin to blur;
  • Distinctions between the public and the private are less clear;
  • The concepts of rhetoric, scholarship and research are re-defined;
  • The serious and the frivolous intermingle.

And, of course, there’s more…but I’ve moved on now to thinking more about digital writing and scholarship. I like what I’ve read about the Knowledge Media Institute at the Open University. There’s Simon Shum’s work on hyperdiscourse and also, I note with interest, some work on blogging and distributed knowledge. Meanwhile I love this mapping stuff you can do with Flickr – thanks to Trois Tetes for the link.