Thursday, September 29, 2005

I am the new me

barbie pierced
George said to me, "I am the new me." Well, just how do you respond to that? You see George is an AI "character" who has learned conversational skills from interactions with visitors to the Jabberwacky website, and through chats with his ‘maker’ Rollo Carpenter. You can communicate with George via speech or writing – I suppose he is still honing his skills. Rollo Carpenter, on the other hand, is the winner of the Loebner prize, a competition for producing human-like applications like chatbots.

From my conversations with him (that’s George, not Rollo), I’d say he has a good vocabulary and a rather annoying tendency to change the subject. The latter seems to stem from a limited memory for conversational turns (he all but admitted this to me) – a short attention span, or else he’s easily distracted…..a bit like me then.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

All becomes clear

This is my mother at 83 soon after her second cataract operation. She hopes it will now be easier to re-read Heart of Darkness, although whether or not it will ease her sense of frustration is hard to tell. “Nothing very much seems to be happening.” she complains. Anyway I explained how I’d like to blog her, but despite being familiar with email and mobile phones, blogging remains firmly outside her experience. The times [they r a] changing, I thought.

And then I read that there are 600 billion pages on the web: that’s about 100 for every person. A kaleidoscope of flickering images, and words crawling like a swarm of dark insects across our glowing screens. The crazy flow of communication. We see it all.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Space cadets on Desolation Row

In a magazine article in 1967, Jack Kerouac set out what he thought writing might be:

"...spontaneous or ad lib artistic writing imitates as best it can the flow of the mind as it moves in its space-time continuum, in this sense it may really be called Space Age Prose someday because when astronauts are flowing through space and time they too have no chance to stop and reconsider and go back. It maybe that they won’t be reading anything else but spontaneous writing when they do get out there, the science of the language to fit the science of movement"

Not only does this seem to capture the vitality of Beat writing, it also seems prophetic when we think of how new forms of writing take on the functions of speech and attempt to achieve a closer mapping of the contours of talk (txt; msn etc).

Being of a certain age, I felt it my duty to watch Scorsese’s portrait of Dylan last night (simultaneously broadcast on BBC2 and PBS: are we supposed to be impressed?). Basically I mistrust all acts of revision, the myth of history, particularly when someone seems to be reworking popular culture icons of another era. But that aside, the most memorable images are those of the young Dylan churning out words on a portable typewriter. Not just the technology (quaint though it now seems) but the rapid outpouring of Space Age Prose – very modern and peculiarly old-fashioned at the same time.

So there he is, taking on the mantle of the Beats, doing this rapid (ephemeral?) writing on the move...portable. On the road. Writing with no direction home.

[…and themed in here, my photo re-mix of Neal Cassady ‘Watching for the cops’ inside a beer glass.]

Monday, September 26, 2005

How do you do?

How do we relate in our social networks? It seems that several continuums (continua?) operate simultaneously (like sliders on a mixing desk). We have strong to weak ties; close to loose relationships; local to distant links. And, can we be dispersed and still intimate? AFP reports that Japanese mobile telephone operator KDDI will start a group chat service later this year allowing five users to converse and share text messages and pictures (from this week’s top blog So, a dispersed group can then maintain social ties with regular updates on location and situation. Interesting.

Back on street-level we have Skewville self-styled subversive street artists. Here’s their Flickr tag cluster. Also on the page there’s a link to the strange world of when dogs fly. I just don’t get it..... but then the idea of footprint stamps really appeals.

[all mixed up Monday]

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Flatpack: anytime / anywhere

Which screw
I don’t own a suit and so it’s become necessary to invest in a small chest of drawers to store all those t-shirts I accumulate. But was it a mistake to go to IKEA?

Now, there’s something very late modern about IKEA. You visit the place (by car, of course) and it could be anytime, as long as it’s before 10:00 pm, and anywhere – in this case it’s Nottingham - but the only way you know where you are on the map is the sign on the way out, which reminds you IKEA – NOTTINGHAM. You pick up one of a great many identical looking cardboard boxes, pay by plastic and then it’s all down to you.

It almost seems rude. It’s called Blunkt or Bunk, or something even worse. And when you open it up, it’s just a collection of bits of wood. It’s broken. And then it’s up to you, the ‘end-user’, to fix it. But, just as they say that wood fires give two kinds of warmth, so flatpack furniture gives two kinds of pleasure. One buying it; two putting it together (if you’re lucky). Failure at the second tends to cancel out the first.

Yay! I’ve done it. I may have a bit left over, but there’s absolutely no way that I’m going to join that incredibly long queue of return goods. They ought to pay me! Then, I spoke to Emma. You know what, she bought one the same somewhere near her. She put it together in 20 minutes, and advises me to stick with blogging. Which made me think that blogging is like flatpack internet publishing. They (Blogger, Typepad or whoever) give you all the stuff, including the baffling instructions - in other words you get the bits anytime anywhere, and then you put it all together. Yay! And don’t you just love it!

Friday, September 23, 2005

Keep out, keep looking

Shutter up (London Road)
The shutter thing has been a bit of a think-piece about boundaries. Boundaries between the inside and the outside - what is public and what is private. Often we create a binary here, but in actual fact we have permeable/ fuzzy boundaries. I think blogging helps us to see how this works, as aspects of our private worlds leak into the public domain.

Franzen in his essay ‘Imperial Bedroom’ clearly thinks in terms of strong boundaries between public and private when he says: “If privacy depends upon an expectation of invisibility, the expectation of visibility is what defines a public space. My ‘sense of privacy’ functions to keep the public out of the private and to keep the private out of the public.” And later: “A general public place is a place where every citizen is welcome to be present and where the purely private is excluded or restricted.” Thought-provoking, but I think he over-simplifies. What, for example, is this space?

It is a place to say that stuff…but also to note (or point to) other stuff. Like the appearance of the Motorola Rocker mobile phone with built-in itunes. Good! Technology converges, and it’s better than having two sets of earphones and tangled cables (MP3 and hands-free). And like the guy who’s selling pixels here (and here’s his blog). And like this try-out - Catch Bob a new platform for mobile gaming. I get that public information into my private space…no, no, it’s not as simple as that.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Shutter up!

Reza's supermarket
Shutter up on Reza’s supermarket. That’s a great shopfront, where he has a nice layout of shisha. Inside there’s Turkish delight and all sorts of Middle Eastern stuff…and I think he’s done the shop-sign himself. Now this could be the last shopfront for a while – I’m spending more time in the car, you see.

In the car I heard all about work in virtual archeology (the Silchester project). Here, widely distributed experts (as well as members of the public) can look at the digitalized data. A quick summary is on the BBC website. Online communities, research participants and a variety of user groups have access to these kinds of data. Yet, in our area of educational research, we seem more reluctant to engage in these sorts of practices. I wonder why? Is it because it challenges established research paradigms, disrupting their linear trajectory? Online data may be published, before it is analysed – before it gets to journal publication. Is that our problem?

Or do we have a more deeply-rooted problem in engaging with new practices. I’m very interested to note that the TES feature on blogs and wikis still has only drawn 3 comments online in 1 week! Two are from yours truly and one from Helen Ryan, a blogger and aspiring PGCE candidate (give her a place, someone!).

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Chic shutters

Behind these suburban shutters a reader lurks. A reader of blogs; a self-styled blurker. But who? Whilst bloggers fret because they’re feeling numb (Clare’s blog hole) or that they’re doing nothing out of the ordinary (Anya), blog depression hovers threateningly above us all. The reader reads all. Guess who? Click.

Pushing on, I fall in love with Mimobots (figurine flashdrives) and Streetsy the street art photoblog – both from Josh Rubin (this week’s top blog). Meanwhile, the comment frenzy abates. Do I do pets again, I wonder?

[Which reminds me: I forgot some wonderful stuff. Meet Lucy, the sealpoint Ragdoll kitty and knitting supervisor, knitted kitty baskets and the whole new world which is Wendy Knits]

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Posh shutters

In the Pink
This is the gentrified look, in which shop-front shutters become an extension of shop décor. Everything about In the Pink is very - how should I say – pink. Anyway, for expanded content on shutters, look no further than here. As for Josh Rubin (this week’s Top Blog) - well he has this ‘needle art’, and this report on the toilet tricycle race (well worth a visit!).

And, rather disappointingly, I seem to be the only person engaging with Dan Buckley’s debate on the educational value of blogs. Is there anybody out there? Come on, I think the poor guy needs some encouragement. OK so it’s a minority sport at the moment, but the potential is huge.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Shutter speed

Mmmm, shutter-spray speed seems a bit slow. The next day and it’s n-e-a-r-l-y finished... and you can see what’s taking place in the photo. I sauntered past again, and then, in a momentary lapse, bought a copy of the TES. Mistake , you might think, but no. I learnt that there’s now the TES online – with expanded content so that over the counter sales don’t suffer. And on this rather crowded page you might also discover they have a media blog. Oh good.

But tucked away (amongst the zillions of job adverts) there’s an excellent article by Dan Buckley on the educational value of blogging and wikis. And, what’s more, it’s on his blog. GO THERE AND LEAVE A COMMENT! He’s got lots of interesting links on the page as well. I felt….well I almost felt… optimistic about the future for children’s digital writing in school. Shutters up on the educational use of social software!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Shutter spray

Shutter spray
Jonathan Franzen writes so well, it’s disappointing to find he’s such a reactionary. In his essay ‘The Reader in Exile’ (How to be Alone), he concludes “I mourn the eclipse of the cultural authority that literature once possessed, and I rue the onset of an age so anxious that the pleasure of a text becomes difficult to sustain.” He needs the acerbic Roy Harris to put him in his place. We must, the latter argues, be “free from any tendency to flatter our literate self-esteem by tacitly equating the readers and writers of this world with its civilized population.”

As for me, I’m going to stick with shutter images, for now. Above you can see the first stages of shutter-art, a new sub-category of shop-fronts. And on the right margin of my blog you’ll notice a new feature – blog of the week. This week it features Josh Rubin’s Cool Hunting (always good on trainers…sneakers) and other stuff, too. I thought I’d also announce the criteria. The criteria are that there are no criteria. It’s just what I liked looking at during the week. This for a start.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Shuttered Sharrow (random)


1. From time to time the shopfronts are shuttered, my neighbourhood sleeps. Still I walk the streets – the flaneur, adrift from the business of the place, lighting upon snippets. But still I participate in the urban text that deCerteau refers to as "a chorus of idle footsteps.... Their intertwined paths give their shape to spaces. They weave places together."

2. How might technology alter the landscape? Those who share our journey are not necessarily present. Is this what girlwonder means when she asks what a "technologically mobile vernacular landscape might look like?"

3. Mobile gaming (just like mobile conversations) can involve us in moving between this reality and an augmented reality. Here’s a report on the game Treasure; “Playing Treasure involves movement in and out of a wi-fi network, using PDAs to pick up virtual coins' that may be scattered outside network coverage. Coins have to be uploaded to a server to gain game points, and players can collaborate with teammates to double the points given for an upload. Players can also steal coins from opponents. As they move around, players' PDAs sample network signal strength and update coverage maps.”

4. Thank you Lyndsay for bringing this to my attention. Lyndsay says: "If you don't know it, take a look at Sara Fanelli's amazing 'My Map Book' that uses collage to map aspects of a child's life, including her day, her school, her dog, and her heart." Click on My Map Book for a sample.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Pets first (for a change)

And, from oddJapan once again, we have a fancy dress costume for your cat. I quote: "if you're organizing a costume party and want your cat to participate, you can dress it up as a maneki neko (lucky cat). The costume set includes a golden hood with a raising pawn [sic] and a golden bib. " There’s more on the history and gestural semiology of Japanese cat figurines here, and you can see dancing maneki neko here.

Back home, Richard Adams writes in a down-to-earth sort of way about the impact of new technology in the Guardian, now a smaller, more colourful newspaper with expanded web delivery (for example its technology blog). When he observes that: " in the short time that has passed, it has become almost impossible to remember what office work was like before the arrival of the desktop PC, email and the internet" he makes a point about the ubiquity of digital literacy that we’ve been trying to make in the education world for a number of years. Time to celebrate the work of friends and colleagues, carefully summarized in this conference report.

[Pet postscript: one could always focus on dogs blogs like this one from doggiewoggie!]

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Lateral thinking

world of experience
Creativity often seems to involve bringing together ideas from different realms. The Atlas of Experience, by Dutch authors Louise van Swaaij and Jean Klar, uses cartography to ‘map’ everyday experience. The book is punctuated with colour maps showing things like the city of Play, the airport at Wavering and Lust (…a road junction). The whole thing is brought together at the end of the book with the complete map: the World of Experience!

Envy. Kenichi Fujimoto, writing in Mizuko Ito’s book Personal, Portable , Pedestrian begins one paragraph like this: "Throughout the 1990s I studied the wristwatch (especially Swatch and G-Shock), the pager, and keitai as media, and I have discussed their position in society as embodiment of alien cultures." And to think (with the exception of keitai) I was simply a consumer.

[Oh, and PawSense is a software utility that helps protect your computer from cats. It quickly detects and blocks cat typing, and also helps train your cat to stay off the computer keyboard.]

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bling for the boys

body art book
I like the look of this book and will place it on my wish list. Self-adornment seems like a very tactful umbrella term for a range of body-marking and modification practices. Iconic figures in popular culture have always been style-setters and self-adornment is now common in the sporting world. As England’s cricketers capture (or distract) the nation’s imagination, winning batsman Kevin Pietersen’s hairstyle and jewellery have attracted media attention.

The Mirror reports on Pietersen’s £50,000 pink diamond ear studs quoting the manager of Burrells jewellers "Kevin is a great ambassador for the sport and is adding a bit of glamour. He's unique and likes to stand out from the crowd and we think this will help him do that. The whole nation will be willing our boys on and hopefully the jewellery will give him an added spring in his step." All the boys will want bling in their ears now.

[ pet posting today....phew!]

Monday, September 12, 2005

Graffiti hyperlink

Sharrow URL

I like this hyperlinked graffiti I found round the corner in the adventure playground. The Rocket01 site is here, and if you go on to here, index 8 (word-up) gives you the perspective of a graffiti artist. Unrelated, but equally attractive is the work of Mikael Kindborg (Linköping University) whose research in the area of comics has led to the design of a comic strip programming tool called ComiKit. He has photos here.

I picked up this paper on Jill Walker’s blog. David Huffaker and Sandra Calvert write about gender, identity and language use in teenage blogs. They suggest that interaction online provides a new context for identity exploration. Nothing contentious about that…but I like the way they suggest that: " Weblogs represent a CMC environment where both identity and language play important roles. Not only are teenagers using weblogs to present an online identity, but also to express their ideas, experiences, and feelings using an adapted language. In some cases, these blogs interlink to form online communities, similar to the peer relationships observed in the offline world. "

[and this getting very weird...another pet thing!]

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Lost, found and sorted


This is the second posting of a boarded-up shopfront with flypost graffiti – seems like it’s becoming a theme. Basically, the shopfront is covered in adverts for events that have already happened. Abandoned print. It’s like the abandoned shopping lists that are collected and displayed on redhotscott, who says: This site has been inspired by the kind people who abandon their shopping list at the end of a trip to the supermarket. I collect their shopping listsEach shopping list I find is added to my collection along with comments about each list. He (? why did I choose that pronoun?) has scanned and annotated 201 shopping lists so far.

I was struck by how this activity of finding and annotating everyday materials has become so popular. In common with the Harsmedia Soundblog, redhotscott is working with found objects. The only difference is that Harsmedia transform their found sounds into art. Similarly, Mark Dion, in his River Thames project worked with found objects - beer bottle tops, rusty keys, discarded combs, animal teeth, shells and plastic lighters - rescued from the banks of the Thames, and painstakingly reclassified in display cases and drawers awaiting inspection in Tate Modern. Collecting, classifying, tagging…. and some people do trainspotting for fun.

[look no pets!]

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Cool hunter

Ruth in shades

Ruth is a natural born cool hunter, seeking out, even at an early age, the latest popular culture niche. Before Hello Kitty hit the UK we had to scour the malls of Singapore for products. How pleased she would have been to come across the Hello Kitty Visa Card (in gold or other colours)! After seeing these on Odd things from Japan my Lloyds credit card began to look decidedly drab.

[Warning: there is no intentional reference to pets in this posting]

Friday, September 09, 2005

A deserving case (segue)

Sammy, London 05

This is Sammy with the spiky ball we bought him at the Touch Me exhibition at the V & A. You’re supposed to bounce it and squeeze it, but he deserves an award for the crazy idea of putting it in his mouth!

And with a carefully constructed segue into awards it’s now on record that I’m pleased Ms Dynamite won the Mercury Music Prize even though I would have preferred MIA (also a nominee). Keen readers may recall I first posted about MIA here. Her time will come.

[phew! thank goodness I got off the pet theme, I was beginning to worry...]

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Pets and phones (again!)


It all started as a joke - but now it seems that everywhere I look I find things about pets and mobile phones. The picture is from PetsMobility who have a new mobile phone for animals called the PetsCell. You attach it to one of their paws and it automatically answers when you call them up (because obviously the idea of a dogs being able to answer phones themselves is crazy). They do offer an optional GPS just in case you want to keep track of your pet. Read all about it here.

Over on there’s a link to the Odd things from Japan blog (mmmm bookmark!) where they have this wonderful Pet Phone remote food dispenser! You can feed and talk to your pet while you’re on the move, maintaining that feeling of proximity whilst doing something else. Proof that mobile technology changes relationships….. with pets.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

What's your a/s/l?

What's your asl

I'm in here with a chapter of that title, a spin-off from the teenagers in cyberspace work. So I stake my claim to that as a chapter title. That led me to a quick exploration, discovering a veritable cornucopia of txting dictionaries such as this (emailish?). And also, by accident this curious dating game inscribed with also sorts of (heterosexual) cultural assumptions. I played male and got Fashionable Missy and then played female ending up with Funky Ed, who just had a sex change - jeux sans frontieres!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Social networking (in fur)


These are wearables for dogs, to help you keep tabs on your dog, developers describe it as "mood rings meets instant messaging, but for your dog." The technology will also give dog owners a chance to "petwork" or network through their pets (in other words it's ideal for Edward).

Wearbles for pet owners (or cyborgs) are on show at the MIThril site. And the picture above shows the Olympus Eye-Trek - a high resolution color head-mounted display, on show here. It can easily be worn over regular prescription eyeglasses and can be used in be used in ordinary life. What a relief!

Monday, September 05, 2005

More cool stuff with mobiles

Here is the semapedia gallery in Flickr….. so what’s that all about? Well, the gallery demonstrates the use of physical annotation technology to tag things in meatspace that will provide quick information to mobile users. So you tag an object that connects directly to Wikipedia information. Here's how it works: the Semacode system generates a black-and-white printout that you tape directly onto the object and then the printout functions rather like a barcode. A passer-by ‘scans’ the Semacode with a smartphone which connects directly to the wiki. Information-on-the-go mmmmm... future perfect.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

And where are you?

Shanghai MTI LBS Services Corporation has developed this bear-shaped mobile phone for kids. It carries short messages and includes GPS so parents can locate children by texting the phone company. It has been met with a mixed response from local parents and scepticism from educators, who don't believe children should be distracted by mobile phones in school!

There’s some interesting innovation here on using mobile devices to help social groups to coordinate their events fluidly. Mass Distraction, on the other hand, are on a mission to "provoke thought and discussion about the idea of presence: physical presence no longer guarantees a person’s availability and attentiveness". [Bauman would love them]. So they’ve designed the mobile hoody. In order to answer the phone you close the hood completely and the phone call continues until you open the hood. Mass Distraction has a series of three jackets (the Coin Jacket, the Hood Jacket and the Game Jacket). The video clips are great. Don't you just love the voice-overs?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Dogs, blogs and numbers too

It was late at night, but getting up there was surprisingly easy... after all, it needed brightening up!

A great couple of days with the ESRC seminar series core group … and now I’ve started thinking of grafitti as dangerous play ! Several different threads in the discussion prompted me to return to old links. So, on the contentious subject of grafitti picturesonwalls is always worth a visit. I talked with Rebekah about hyperlinked grafitti, and that’s here.

Printculture has this on becoming ‘taken over’…immersion, flow or obsession? We also had several conversations about the playful use of mobile technology. Back at home I remembered the Urban Tapestries work here and here (story cubes, also from Proboscis are interesting, too). And, if you’re interested in that and or different kinds of blogs, there’s the number 73 bus.

Finally, for Julia, there’s a quote from Jim Gee: ‘what people have an affinity with (or for) is not first and foremost the other people using the space, but the endeavour or interest around which the space is organised’.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

In a shop front

Not gay

Oh, shop fronts again. This little gem was in a shop window in Covent Garden, London. Sometimes shop windows are like an entrance to another world. For example, there’s this…which is from William Gibson’s blog. His photo, he says, 'is the window of Mr. E. Buk's extraordinary Spring Street emporium of dream-gomi. The shop Cayce looks into doesn't exist…' I'm hooked already. Flickr has a growing shop-front cluster and that’s where I found this. Light, but somewhat dark as well. Playing at work, I came across this book by Leslie Haddon: Information and Communication Technologies in Everyday Life: A Concise Introduction and Research Guide. Made a note to find out more.