Monday, October 31, 2005



I like the look of the new mosque on Wolseley Road, particularly now it has the dome in place. It gives the area a completely different look and will certainly provide a hub for the local Muslim community. The emphasis on locality reminded me of deCerteau writing about networks of communication:

"….ethnic ties do not replace economic relations, but they allow them to be developed. In the same way they do not suppress the importance of locality, but reinforce it, with ethnic groups seeking to find a common space by living together in the same neighbourhood or along the same axis of trade or public transportation, whether in the city or the suburbs, depending on the possibilities on offer." (deCerteau, 1997:112)

But locality is only one dimension; he also reminds us how new media can make it possible to break up the "stodginess of local networks and to establish relations with new partners for given projects of common interest". I’m sure this is happening, too.

Meeting a motley group of friends and academics to launch UKLA’s Digital Literacy SIG caused me to reflect on my own networks and how these are part local and part dispersed; part face-to-face, but also heavily mediated by new technology. It seems here that another group may lead to another blog. Maybe it’s time to kill this one off – my only reluctance is that the colour pics look so good on a black template!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

An angel watches Scooby Doo


Whilst everyone else gears up to Daylight Saving Time, Halloween, Eid, Diwali and Bonfire Night, this angel seems content with Cartoon Network. Scooby Doo!

Down the road work is going ahead on Sheffield's first purpose-built mosque (on Wolsey Road, Sharrow) The Madina Mosque is built on the site of the old Islamic Centre, which was housed in a former Co-op building.

[picture to follow]

Saturday, October 29, 2005


late flower

Seeing beautiful flower images on other people's blogs (such as i-Anya) has prompted me into action. This is a late arrival - a spring flower - showing that time's out of whack with one of the warmest October days on record. A shame I'm still a bit of a novice at photography.

I'm a novice too in using RSS, but I'm slowly getting to grips with feeds. They seem to mash up time and space, too. So my IRA blog feed tells me what's going on with digital video down the road in Peterborough.

At the same time, the London train's late again. Emma's delayed by "burrowing animals". I hope it's not those pesky squirrels again! Call the RSPCA, somebody!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

J’ai un talent

wind-up clock

The mashed-up voice of Banksy in interview was the centrepiece of BBC2’s Culture Show this evening. It does seem that the enigma of ‘who is Banksy’ becomes more problematic as he becomes more mainstream. Nevertheless, I admire what he’s done for the urban artform.

Talent of a different kind is on display on this video from French TV: the Human beatbox. We’ve heard this sort of thing before, but this is an amazing performance, how does he do it?

On display today, the broken wind-up clock locked at 12 o’clock, reminding me of that bizarre routine of turning back the clocks for winter this weekend (or is it turning them forwards?). Whichever, it’s always totally confusing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

More stuff


I suppose collecting is something we all have in common. Squirrels are collectors - notorious foragers and hoarders, but when I read the reports here and here of squirrels on crack, frankly I was surprised. Surprised - until I learnt that it’s another urban legend. Anyway I like the way the RSPCA spokesman said "he was unaware of the squirrels taking crack in Brixton.” The RSPCA seems reasonably well-informed

So we collect things for shelves, wall displays, mantelpieces etc. We collect ideas: "Collecting is a primal phenomenon of study: the student collects knowledge.” (Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project); and we collect novelties such as this tea serving robot. Today’s collection ends with this report on the Scandinavian mobile-phone throwing competition. Anytime, anywhere, but where exactly?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005



When I first met Kate I remember having this long conversation about mantelpieces and what gets put on them. So that, and looking at Kate’s collections, has prompted me to show some mantelpiece stuff.

I got this Navajo pot from the stunningly beautiful Pyramid Lake in Nevada, which is the ancestral home of the People of the Cut-throat Shark (Cui-ui Eaters). Our half hour there with Ben, in the little town of (would you believe it) Nixon, taught me more about indigenous people and water rights than hours of reading would have done.

Although I sometimes leave CD cases on the mantelpiece, or use it to display my birthday card on, it’s not cluttered with gas bills or lip-salve and other stuff. For me, the kitchen’s the place for that stuff.

Over on Blogtrax, there’s the next stage of working through the autoethnography that Julia and I are doing. One of the things this has brought to light is how online publishing can alter the research process – particularly the relationship between researcher, participant and user-group. If you’re reading this, you’re probably in one category or another, so you could go there and leave a comment. Alternatively you could leave a comment about commenting, here or on Dr Joolz.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Old technology


Looking back at cassette tapes, once the ubiquitous format for analogue audio storage, we can see it’s just a case of the same thing looking different. This photoblog is interesting in that sort of way. Mass production moved on from the Henry Ford standard of “any colour so long as it’s black” to something just a little more diverse. And that diversity is at the heart of consumerism. So, Color-ware Inc pride themselves on being able to alter “the color of existing products. The idea behind Color-Ware started with transforming the ubiquitous beige computer into a custom-colored work of art.” Well, that’s just what I always wanted! My Nano-pic is a design from the palette (have a play here). Is that choice?

Not for me. Choice is something to do with functionality. So a good MP3 can shuffle through your whole library – I like that. The best you could do on cassette was create your own (unilinear) mix. For me a 20Gb iPod beats the Nano because there’s more on there to shuffle through – more choice - unless, of course, you want colour (the same thing looking different)!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

New online


After serving her time as blurker and blog commenter, Kate now has her own blog and so, in celebration drkates artyfacts is top blog. I really liked the agenda setting statement in her first posting:

"Commenters may be interested to know the themes in advance, so they can adjust their comments accordingly.
For now the themes are:
lost tickets
lost items"

I liked it because I’ve been reflecting on regulation, self-regulation and ethics in blogging. So, Kate’s provisional agenda reminded me of this, and what Torill does not write about on her blog. And then, from another point of view Danah Boyd writes about other people wanting to control what she blogs. "I want the right to control my voice" , she says, and that’s a theme that’s emerged for me through this last week.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Freed voices


One of our administrators tells me she was a Red Guard towards the end of the Cultural Revolution. She also has clear memories of earlier times of turmoil in China. She’s lent me a copy of The Good Women of China by Xinran. This book is based on the stories women shared with Xinran, when she presented a radio programme called Words on the Night Breeze. These stories are very moving. I was struck by the similarities of Xinran’s work to what Pratap said about giving people a voice – the media at its best, as deCerteau says, helping:

"the person to follow the thread of memory, which easily twists or knots up or gets lost in chaotic or confused repetitions…helps to relate one kind of experience or another…to clarify the chronology of events in reference to the history of the region or the nation." (1997: 130)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Blending: a true story


In that strange world of academia the exchange of ‘business cards’ – particularly at conferences, is quite a thing. I don’t think you can ever ‘catch ‘em all’ like Pokemon cards, but it’s an interesting enough ritual. So naturally, I thought it would be good to get my blog address on mine this time and I’ve described how I went about it at length here.

Now, after a long delay, a bureaucrat in my institution has emailed me the following:

“You have asked to have the web address below printed onto your business card.
I'm sorry but I don't believe it is appropriate for this to go onto a University business card. We normally just have the University website, and whilst this may be connected to your work, I think it may be easier if you wrote this on the back for those that you wished to send your personal details onto.
Hope this isn't too disappointing but we are trying to maintain a standardised approach to business cards and other items of stationery.”

Well frankly I’m not disappointed…or surprised. I expected this to happen. But I do like the kindly advice to scribble my blog address on the back! It’s a bit like the street cards by gapingvoid…or the concept of blog cards (on gapingvoid’s own blog). Mildly amusing.

Well, blending’s OK on the night shift, working from home, but any suggestion that one might use the University’s good name for nefarious purposes, like publicizing your blog, meets with resistance.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Blog fuel


I was just reading Torill Mortensen on the "what is blogged/ what is not blogged theme" (one that has also run over on Blogtrax). And then I decided to check Tales from the Bearpit and discovered the 32/5 meme (23rd post, 5th sentence). Mary Plain shows that over on California Eating. But strangely enough the same posting on California Eating does a Torillesque posting on what is blogged. I quote:

1) Info that's useful/interesting to anyone (restaurant and travel tips, and, if I was stupid, work gossip/bitching)
2) Stuff that's interesting to family and friends (daily events, observations, musings, and Clio news)
3) Stuff that may only be interesting to me (long musings about How I Feel and, uh, Clio news)

Anyway my 23/5 reads “Then again, maybe that clunky keyboard is just a throw-back to the times of typing”. Mmm the clunky magic keyboard that takes me on a strange journey from red toenails to red coats (isn’t it interesting what people choose to leave comments on?).

Monday, October 17, 2005

You’ve got to blog it

Sally, Hannah,Bella and Izzie

Here’s a picture of Sally with friends just before her trip to Australia. I ‘borrowed’ it from her blog, because I haven’t seen Hannah (far left) for some time. It’s just great that a blog can give voice, and keep us updated when friends are on the move. I particularly like reading The Wonderful World of Princess Sally…. it really tells you about Sally. So, anyway, far left Hannah, just above is Bella, then PS and on the right Hannah’s flatmate Izzie.

[ …and then here, a piece on celebrating learning through play]

Sunday, October 16, 2005



Each year Sheffield’s Showroom cinema hosts the International Documentary Festival, which is a key event for the industry. There’s a photoblog and podcasts to accompany the event. So, anyway, as a result, it was our good fortune to spend Saturday night with Pratap Rughani, talking about his work and his inspiration to give voice to those in oppressive situations worldwide. Directing hard-edged documentaries seems a natural extension of his work as editor of the New Internationalist.

Pratap’s award-winning Playing Model Soldiers was an insightful account of young black men in the army. There’s more documentary work than I can comment on here, but I was particularly interested in the conflicting interests of globalization and state control in the series on satellite television in South Asia. Some of this is captured in this article.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Phat Thursday


It was great to learn about how Sheffield snowboarders use digital video, mobiles and their own website to capture and circulate what’s cool in the world of boarding. New technology is seamlessly blended with lifestyle identities.

Snow’s a pretty rare occasion in Sheffield these days – hence the significance of Phat Thursday, last March. Watch the video full-screen it’s great - particularly the bit where the guy rides the rails outside an old Victorian school building (a tram goes underground in the background).

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Capture, archive, remix


I’ve been turning over in mind what Danah Boyd says about remixing on Apophenia. She suggests “we stop thinking of remix as production, but as active consumption.” Well, first off the idea of active consumption is bound to appeal – it gives us a sense of agency within a market economy. But if all it comes down to is wearing clothes from different shops, our agency is simply like that of a 70s disco DJ with a collage of ready-mades (a sentient jukebox) and that seems to be a bit of a limited construct.

To my mind remixing is better understood as a plundering of the archive, making new meanings, and is at best an act of appropriation or recontextualization. It is production in the way that identity performance must always be, but it’s also more than that. In remixing, reader-becomes-writer; consumer-becomes-producer (and this is made easier in the capture, archive, remix world of digital media). In a sense all authorship is remixing, from Shakespeare to Shabba Ranks; from Tolkein to Tupac. Anne Hass Dyson illustrates this well, here and here when she shows how children create when they remix media.

Danah Boyd highlights that part of “the identity process is to consume culture, mix it and personalize it, and share that with our friends”. I agree, but think that this is a different order of remixing. Here we’re authoring the self, to borrow (remix?) Holland’s phraseology. Danah concludes with some ideas about distribution – well I haven’t got that far yet. I’m still stuck on deCerteau and circulation!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Old or new?

birthday car

So here I am reading the inscription on one of my birthday cards. Yes, born 12:10:53, that’s fifty two years ago today! Maybe not quite an old man: but certainly not a new man. The only cake was electronic (this one from oddjapan), but I don’t care. This, then, will be a lightweight posting. An appreciation of William Orbit’s work with Madonna, and a visit to Orbit’s website, where you can interact with the visuals or check his video library (I recommend ‘Time to Get Wize’)…and a reminder to visit top blog regularly!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Eye D

iris id

When I first wrote about names, identities and signatures in online communication (here), I knew that there was very little work in the area. Turkle’s seminal work Life on the Screen (1995) was already a bit dated and David Crystal’s Language and the Internet (2001) had not yet been published. However, I wasn’t fully aware of the enormity of the topic at the time.

Not only are we seeing wide spread use of personalised screen signatures (in email, i-m and message board environments) but our access to geographical and informational spaces is increasingly policed by individual codes, passwords and pin numbers. In the UK, the introduction of ‘chip-and-pin’ payment methods effectively banishes traditional signatures from most financial transactions. Our mark becomes a sequence of digits.

New methods of identification are accompanied by new possibilities for identity theft. Now it seems that with iris recognition (patented in 1994) and the more recent vein identification, technology may deliver more reliable systems of tagging individuals. Will signatures eventually become obsolete, I wonder?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Margaret’s world

Low life?

Still not a clue what to find behind the shutters of Low Life: the only way is to go and have a look. There’s so much I don’t know, but then I do know exactly what’s been on the radio and, what’s more I can hear it now, too.

Episode 1: Fed up with her limited life after a long marriage to the bowls-playing retired sweet salesman William, Margaret Collins decides to start her own on-line diary, or blog. At first William thinks this is just another of Margaret's fads. By the end of Episode 1, Margaret has 1 reader.

Woman’s Hour has been a national institution for as long as I can remember. Nevertheless, as a radio magazine it often manages to include leading edge features. Not that The World of Margaret falls into that category. This week’s Woman’s Hour drama strand just illustrates the increasing domestication of blogging culture.

By Episode 5, we learn that: William’s blog proves a perfect complement to Margaret’s – at first. But early one morning, William discovers an unwelcome message from his wife. And so this shows how the blog has been recruited as a literary device, as the journal has done since Defoe’s time and probably even before then. Nothing new there…but shouldn’t I be working at 10.45 am, not listening to Woman’s Hour? Not now I can listen anytime anywhere!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Young, gifted and digital


My digital daughters tell me that a third of young people online have their own blog or website. They showed me this in the Guardian on Friday. Blogging is described as one example of the way in which “the digital revolution is sweeping all before it”. Wary of a digital divide, the leader concludes that there is “an imperative need to put the maximum resources we can into education and providing the next generation with the skills they will need to keep a place in the van of the digital revolution. Judging by what our youngsters are up to they won't need much encouraging.”

More detail of the Guardian/ICM survey is here. This shows how the young live in a world in which communication is enhanced and shaped by social software. But yet our professional motivation to recognize and incorporate these skills seems sadly lacking. I refer back to Dan Buckley’s blog debate on the educational value of blogging launched in popular teachers’ weekly the TES (which describes itself as the world’s leading education newspaper, with average weekly sales of 121,000). What debate? Just the 3 of us, and I think we agree.

Friday, October 07, 2005

So long Stephanie


She slipped away from us in the night, our family pet, another reminder of the shrinking domestic situation. I think Stephanie the goldfish died of old age. Then by chance I found out that Stuart the guppy at the SHH studio died the same night (this time of dropsy). Synchronicity. Walking across campus I was reflecting on the pros and cons of flushing as a method of disposal when I noticed a rain-stained poster taped to a tree directing visitors to the ESRC Seminar Digiplay.

That was quite a jolt - I experienced a momentary jolt. Was this an event I should have been at? I quickly recovered when I remembered reading about this. No-one I’d ever heard of, but organized or co-ordinated by the Manchester University CRIC group. The seminars are part of Digiplay (with the impressive front door webpage) which naturally has its own blog. All this may just be of interest to colleagues in Lets get digital:play. Or maybe it's not the right connection.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Lighten up

Lighten up

This is just what’s needed on a grey day – illumination from cre8. But then again, this company offers something altogether different. The savethegorillas lighting is what you might call a slightly ethical design concept. 5% of the profit on each lamp goes to a gorilla protection fund (but what exactly is the profit on each lamp?). Both these and audio animals come from top blog, no garlic please.

[I think I'll probably get a gorilla anyway]

Wednesday, October 05, 2005



Reading this, filled me with despair, even though it’s quite precise in pointing to inequities in our educational provision. I thought how 20 years ago I would have fought for such official recognition of inequality. So why the despair? Well of course it’s born out of an understanding that we have a school system that looks for conformity as a solution – conformity of curriculum goals and conformity of measurable outcomes. But also the despair comes from the frustration that we have allowed this narrowing and tightening control of the education of children and young people in the first place. That, and the fact that we still have the same old inequalities.

At lunchtime, queuing up for my spicy couscous at Tesco Metro, I caught sight of the front page of The Independent – not a newspaper I’d normally take home – and there was a story that changed my mood. The cover shows the regeneration of the Broadwater Farm Estate since the 1985 riots. Moreover, the article is a sort of celebration of ethnic diversity. Something we definitely need in this current climate. So, I left Tesco Metro with reasons to be cheerful.

[There are some gorgeous passion flowers in the garden, too!]

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Down under

I really liked Anya’s photo of Jackie down under, so I thought I’d blog it too - especially since it works well to shrink our world. What I’ve got’s a bit grainy, but shows real presidential style - good light from outside and it looks nice and warm. There’s something quite classic about that bookish pose. You might say “Jackie reading”, but of course, it’s really “Jackie with book” as she looks out of the picture in the direction of the viewer. Something about the book itself suggests she has just been flicking through – but then the distance from the eyes is just about right for reading. Funny really, because I’m a close neighbour, but the nearest I get to Jackie reading is the shutters behind which she reads.

Over on the other side I learn from Sarah’s blog about Eggplant at Teachers College (Columbia University). They are the educational gaming group: play, learning, avatars, narrative and technology – genius acronym- here’s their blog. I also keep an eye on cultureraven, but there’s been nothing new for a while - disappointing, that.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Lock up your pets

Leave the cats alone

This post begins as a sort of postscript to the shutter theme – but it’s also a weaving together of a number of threads. I’d forgotten about Feline Tattoos and yes they have an excellent grafitti-style shopfront, so that’s where we start. But do they tattoo CATS?

Well, I had this pet thread running and it leaked over onto Simply Clare and a close encounter with Diva Kitty, and now Simply Clare’s staking out her territory with truly shocking posts, when I just wanted to get back to body adornment and skin art.

Occasionally, I go here - Tattoo culture: highbrow for the underground
– why? I’m intrigued by that otherness. Let me explain. Self identity seems to me to be constructed and transformed in social worlds. Textual production and consumption are particular social worlds – if you like, they're sites for the work of the self. Texts allow us to become self. In skin art, it’s the other way around. Self becomes text in such an obvious and constructed way. Mmmm OK, that’s the best I can do – it’s been a long day

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Blog on blog

Rainbow information

I like the blogosphere just because there’s always plenty going on. So I thought I’d devote some space to the rainbow coalition of out-there bloggers. First, a welcome back to Colin and Michele (it’s been a long time!). And from their blog, a link to Joanne Larson (here).

And then to our very own Let’s get digital: play, which looks like it’s on the move. Over here on Apophenia, Danah Boyd goes off on one. Meanwhile gamegame has the wonderfully recursive downloadable game about game design! Time to roll over on Top Blog and introduce no-garlic-please.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Photo messaging?

cam phone
It’s a nice cam phone, but perhaps a bit on the bulky side. It could, of course, be integrated into the breathalyser phone service mentioned on top blog, Here we’re told that in Finland they've just launched a service, called Promile SMS, as part of a nationwide campaign to prevent drink driving. It works like this: the user texts personal information and drinking habits, the service replies with a message with a blood alcohol level estimate and time needed for the alcohol to be broken down by the body. I suppose it all hangs on how much you remember, or if you know where your phone is....and then there's mobile phone charms (are they taking the piss?) – a whole new area of interest.

On a different tack, I am very pleased to be in good company here with some material designed for colleagues new to teacher education (there’s a book to follow). Glad to see that this material is now live. OK, so it doesn't really exploit the full potential of web-based material, but I expect it came in on budget.