Wednesday, November 30, 2005



Here's Anya, just after her presentation at NRC. She took part in a great symposium with Michele Knobel and Kevin Leander. (I'm afraid I put her off by brandishing my camera!-sorry). Also, today is DrJoolz' birthday - so there's a lot going on down in Miami!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

In search of an author


Safely arrived in Miami, thinking of Pirandello: 'My drama lies entirely in this one thing, in my being coscious that each one of us believes himself to be a single person, but it's not true. Each one of us has many different possibilties of being. We are different people with the different people we meet and all the time we're under the illsion of being one and the same person with everybody and it's not true.' Food for thought.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Hearth and home

hearth and home

Yes, that's how it's supposed to look. What I call a very distressed kitchen style, something that the Sheffield School of Design would be proud of. Anyway, it could look like this by the time I return from Miami, but some how I don't think so!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Not the Yamaha QT1

Penguin metronome

Went to see an installation of 39 metronomes by Turner Prize winner Martin Creed today. These metronomes are strategically and unobtrusively placed around the Graves Art Gallery in Sheffield. The blurb says: “the viewer becomes aware of the architectural spaces and the collections in new and challenging ways.” I reckon they were Yamaha QT1s, but they were all placed too high up for me to see. I liked the clocky tocking sound in that rather fusty old building. The out of phase rhythmic sound made me think of John Cage, making in interesting backdrop for familiar works of visual art. Well done, Martin Creed, not quite as good as work no.79, but still ahead of the rest. (Work no.79 is ‘Some Blu-tack kneaded, rolled into a ball, and depressed against a wall’, and it's here...well I suppose it isn't really, this is just a photograph of it but you get the idea, don't you?)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Phone rage


I was interrupted whilst eating last night with a follow-up phone call from the University of Nottingham politely asking me to consider donating money. I hope my response was equally polite, but deep down there was a simmering experience of phone rage – my private space intruded upon, and the repeated requests to donate money really irritate me.

I thought I invented the term phone rage there and then but oh no, it appears it’s been around some time. Of course, there are many triggers for phone range. Some people just hate computerized phone systems – so, for example, here’s an American website list that helps you bypass the computerised system and talk to a human!

But from the other side of the fence, sometimes you wind up in a position when you’re on the front line, getting the flak – someone else’s phone range. Worry not, help is at hand:

"Phone rage is on the increase! So how can we control it? Understanding the causes of phone rage in your customers and using techniques to manage them is an essential requirement of any organisation."

Yes, this Capita training course gives you the skills you need to cope with other people’s phone range!

I heard a piece on the radio the other day where someone reported on their partner’s favourite approach to unsolicited tele-sales – not phone rage, but the gently-voiced question, ‘What are you wearing?’. Apparently it’s very effective! And, to conclude this is a totally different kind of phone rage altogether.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Open door

kitchen door open

OK, a bit more of the not-kitchen then. This destruction/construction event is caught on camera - and that’s today’s verb. Visually we ‘capture’ events in order, subsequently, to be captivated by them. Sometimes in celebrity discourse our central characters are ‘caught’ in unflattering or compromising circumstances, and of course this is what celebrity journalism specializes in. In this sense the photographer makes a coup…a scoop, a catch.

The verbal metaphors of ‘catching’ and ‘capturing’ add to our ideas about the photographer as detective, a recorder of undisputed reality and extend to the ways we see cameras as tools of surveillance. So much for the visual - words on the other hand describe different kinds of reality, from the detective’s notebook, to the journalists report, and the blogger’s thoughts. Ah, and it was so good to get comments yesterday from Princess Sally down under. Better than any celebrity and she takes good pictures too (particularly flip-flops on the beach)!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Taking the wall


The kitchen wall: it could be a canvas, but it isn’t. It’s just a photograph I took…I’m interested in the way we use the verb ‘to take’ when we talk about photographs. We take a photograph – take or appropriate an image. It suggests that the image (the sign/the meaning?) is there for the taking.

I’m sure Barthes says something about this in Image, Music, Text or Camera Lucida. In contrast we compose writing, we make meaning, we weave in hyperlinks and we make sure we do not take (or at least we hide our takings).

Some people take photographs seriously. There’s as much composition as appropriation on this photoblog. And this skyscraper image is amazing. Surely, this is more about making meanings than taking them. Nevertheless, straight comparisons with another mode (eg writing) just won’t work. What would the equivalent to the irony of The Dullest Blog in the World be, I wonder?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Getting better


Recuperating… entertaining myself with 3run stuff (although that really does look too energetic by far!). I enjoyed DrJoolz close-up photo thing, as well, and I think I won. Yay! I seem to remember that sort of ‘brainteaser’ from way before CBBC. Also read this stuff on LSA (Latent Semantic Analysis), which is software that can be used to do marking for you. Appealing, but not appealing both at the same time. So here’s the link to Wired News on how LSA can be used for automatic marking of essays.

I also read again about how you can risk your job blogging – well maybe, but mostly I think, if only it was so daring! And then on the possible health risks for young children using mobile phones, the Guardian reports on this new study which promises to provide us with some useful information.

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been really cheered up by reading sympathizing and encouraging comments on my ‘being ill posts’. It’s a strange experience being ill online, but somehow or other I’m glad I posted about it (sneezes on screen). Thank you!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Closed door

closed door

Well, I'm closing down until I start feeling better. I hope that won't be too long!

Friday, November 18, 2005



I’m not good at being ill, but today I’m grounded (feverish/sore throat – hope it’s not bird flu). Even photographing the skateboarding Honey Monster didn’t really cheer me up. I’ve had to cancel attendance at the UKLA meeting tomorrow, which means missing out on meeting up with my wonderful daughters, and I probably won’t get to Graduation on Monday.

On the other side of the road, Jackie keeps up her output as a very prolific person here. It’s great evidence of the impact of the digital on the lives of very young children, and the call to develop appropriate curricula and pedagogy is powerfully argued. This is the foundation for what Colin’s called School 2.0. Well done, Jackie!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Another window

bathroom window

All day I’ve been wondering whether blogged research-thoughts, as a form of self textualisation, constitute a more valid subject position than the usual product of modernist narrators. In these sorts of posts (or on Blogtrax) we perform indeterminate, fragmented and multiple narratives of the self. These first-person narratives are a kind of life-writing (although to be truly post-modern we would need to interrogate and problematise the projected identities that are produced).

The difficulty in developing an authentic account of blogging seems to turn on the challenge to claim an authority which is acknowledged as a social construct and avoids a return to the pretense of impersonal objectivity. The problem is also one of applying a relatively stable analysis to fluid multivocalised and tightly interwoven texts…the camera looks out of the bathroom window. I think there must be a connection, or is it apophenia?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

For Wendy

Seal point

I just caught up with some comments on yesterday's post, and with an uncharacteristic recognition of audience thought I'd blog a seal point. I came to this decision after being inspired by Wendy's manifesto on how to be a Badass Knitter. And now...a badass blogger!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Here today, gone tomorrow


Wednesday is the last of the wonderful Becky Bowley’s durational performances at the Angel Row Gallery in Nottingham. She knits with yarn that dissolves before your eyes as she works. Her knitting has no visible result - its only measure is passing time! And thinking of knitting I wonder how things are getting on with Lucy, the sealpoint Ragdoll kitty and knitting supervisor, and those stunning knitted kitty baskets and the world of Wendy Knits?

This feature introduces us to mociology and Joe Trippi’s book ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’. Trippi argues that bloggers and mociologists (users of mobile phones) have the power of a ‘two-way printing press’. This he suggests will impact on the political process ‘It'll do for 21st-century politics what print did for the 18th.’ – or maybe we’ll just use our camphones to record our birthday parties. Who knows?

Sunday, November 13, 2005



Morning sunlight was particularly good this Saturday. I had a few hours in the window with Christine Hines’ Virtual Ethnography. She talks about newsgroups and webpages (let’s add blogs) as “instances of self-presentation which it is hoped will be accepted as appropriate and plausible performances.” (p.122) - it’s interesting that use of the word ‘hoped’.

Later she argues that the webpage is “made meaningful primarily through the imagining of an audience and the seeking of recognition from that audience.” (p.136). There’s also a useful page on virtual ethnography here.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

A stubborn medium


Instant messaging presents some interesting possibilities for communication. I have a clear memory of Michele Knobel at the IFTE conference in Melbourne doing a live i-m question and answer link-up with Colin, all bleary-eyed in a Glasgow office. We’ve been using MSN as a family network for a while now and I wanted to explore some of the frustrations with i-m which lead me to conclude that it’s rather a stubborn medium.

Earlier this week, Hannah was at her sister’s house in Ilford (East London). Now although Sammy uses MSN to talk to his family in Morocco, that evening he had a friend round – the webcam showed them talking as a sort of backdrop. Hannah was keen for us to see her new hairstyle, but I tripped over the mike cable, so apart from gesturing inanely via the webcam, I was reduced once again to writing, Hannah to shaking her curls. Nothing much was said.

At the same time, Ruth was at an internet cafĂ© in Ealing (West London). The backdrop showed the proprietor sitting god-like on a throne of a chair, surveying his heard of cash cows. Ruth had Oli in Tenerife in one window, us in another and Hannah in a third. We’re all linked up, but a multi-channel cam-chat is impossible to do. We had connection, but not much communication.

Back to Alex’s post about blogging. What sort of comparisons can be made? I-m, unlike blogging, is essentially a one-to-one medium, not particularly good at establishing or maintaining a network. For:

1. dispersed communities – obviously good at the dispersed bit, but as the examples above show, it's insufficient, on its own to, to create that network.

2. conversational desire – it seems to work quite well if you’re just writing. My experience is that the web-cam changes things…and not for the better. I wonder if this is my lack of experience, but frankly, I’d rather phone or type.

3. participation – OK, yeah, this is easy enough, but of course we are talking about synchronous online communication with all the strengths and weaknesses that has.

4. Thinking-in-progress – mm, not really. This is much more about phatic communication in my experience. Nothing wrong with that, of course.

So, at the moment, I find i-m a stubborn medium – hence the photograph of Madame Blavatsky, above.

(Incidentally, the wonderful Peggy Reynolds did an excellent radio feature on Blavatsky last December)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A hungry man is an angry man

in my fridge

I don’t usually do politics on my blog, but I wanted to post on the Blair debacle. It seems patently clear to me that Blair’s foreign policy has laid us wide open to the threat of terrorism. If that’s what the Labour revolt is really about, then so much the better!

But, I also wanted to underline that unrest in Paris is derived from the failure of the French to acknowledge institutional racism. Michel deCerteau reflecting on social upheaval in Paris, 1968 came to see how difference and diversity were essential to a society’s vitality and power of invention. We seem to be slipping into a politics of polarization on both sides of the Channel. We do it differently, but maybe the end result is the same.

I wanted to post on politics, but found the inside of my fridge more interesting. Is this the end point of consumerism, or is it simply time to go shopping? The fridge’s door opens on another collection of random things – a what’s in my fridge meme. Interestingly, Nancy’s webzine also features collections – is that synchronicity ?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Writing about ....

for writing

Another collection – this time it’s writing tools, sparked by hearing about historian Bethany Hughes talking about the impact of paper on European civilization.

As we know paper was invented by the Chinese - the idea probably traveled down trade routes, collectively referred to as the Silk Road, into the Mediterranean area. Hughes claims that Muslims learnt how to produce paper, and that it was the Moors who introduced paper into Europe from their paper factories in Andalusia.

In a fascinating documentary on Channel4 Hughes traced the history of the Moors and their Islamic society that ruled in Spain for 700 years. She explored the Moorish influence in mathematics, astronomy and medicine, romantic love, paper, deodorant… Just what we need to counter the current wave of Islam-a-phobia.

All right, so we have new surfaces for writing, new technologies, and, of course blogging. Here’s Alex Halavais writing about blogging. He isolates 4 things that blogs do. According to Alex, blogs:

1. promote communication in dispersed social networks
2. encourage reciprocal communication (feedback through comments, links, and other channels) fulfilling a ‘conversational desire’.
3. accumulate content in small segments, and have a low participation threshold
4. give a relatively open and unfiltered view of thinking-in-progress.

I’ll go with that. Anyone for a 5th?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

What are my pumpkins?

feminine side

My Flickr eyes were open. I walked into the Room-That-Time-Forgot, and I knew what I would see and photograph. Hannah’s stuff, abandoned like crockery on the dinner table on the Marie Celeste. I’m infected by a meme on collections of stuff.

Last week I posted this: '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)' ; I read the Dr Kate comments on collections and didn’t comment; I read Colin and Michele wondering about random Flickr groups. I posted pumpkins on a skip and was invited to submit my picture to the Skips and Dumpsters group. I didn’t. I decided to be more cautious about my use of tags.

I think I see a move to construct understandings in different ways. A sort of emergent pattern-recognition, like the way themes emerge in a blog, and tags cluster together as affinities develop. But are my pumpkins part of ‘skips and dumpsters’? LeoL30 politely suggests the picture fits the image pool. I remained unconvinced. After all who’s collecting who and why?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Questions of identity


I see Kaye Trammell’s been busy writing a paper called ‘Impression Management and Self-presentation Online: An Analysis of Popular Blogs’ for the National Communication Association conference in Boston. That’s right in line with what I’m working on now (although I think I’d rather leave the ‘popular’ out of it).

On from here, i-Anya posts a link to Cynthia Lewis and Bettina Fabos who look at the social identities that shape and are shaped by the practice of IM. I’ll be reading that one tonight.
And I’ve only just caught up with Colin and Michele trying to articulate what they do so well in terms of ‘trying to push academic theory into areas we think need to be explored.’

Just when we thought we were moving forwards we seem to be moving backwards with this chunky James Bond watch that acts as a remote car-starter!

Sunday, November 06, 2005



That’s Hoody Moral Panic: Google it and this Flickr group comes up straight away. You can also read here about the injustice of moral panic around hoodies. Well there’s:

1. Robin
2. Neighbour
3. Red Riding

And then there’s Justin (bottom left in the pic). He just uses the hood to keep his 3D glasses on, nothing wrong with that. Just to think, when I was growing up, the big embarrassment was to own a coat with a hood in the first place (unless, of course, it was a duffel coat or a parka)

Friday, November 04, 2005

Smashing pumpkins


I couldn’t resist showing these discarded pumpkins on a skip outside my house. They really are smashing pumpkins – detritus from a few nights back. This by association is The Smashing Pumpkins site with a great manga-inflected video.

And ‘Holy Lemons!’ – that’s the title of a paper by my colleagues Cathy Burnett and Jeff Wilkinson who looked at children’s use of web-based text in out of school contexts. They introduce us to the concept of information bricolage. A term that might well describe this post, this blog, this, that and the other….pumpkins and lemons (an unlikely combination).

Thursday, November 03, 2005



This is Sammy’s hair style at the start of Ramadan. Eid Mubarek to Sammy and his family! Today is the end of the fast, as Muslims all over the world celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr. I note in passing that although GoogleUK dresses up its logo for Christmas and for Halloween and receives plaudits for this, it remains unchanged today (am I surprised?).

Wednesday, November 02, 2005



To consume:

1. to eat up
2. to completely destroy
3. to engage or dominate (often passive)
4. to use up

As a consumer, I blog my new trainers. I like them. I consume them/they consume me…part of a train of thought that I embarked upon when I wanted a bookshelf on the sidebar of my blog. My intention was to be able to share what I’m reading (listening to) with my friends and readers. The provider, gives the default header of “3 things I’m consuming”, and I must admit to feeling a little uneasy with this. I subsequently re-worded the header “interest” and then “interests” – but it’s still not quite right.

Of course 43 things’ default header is quite accurate – these are indeed things I’m consuming. You buy them from a shop or order them from Amazon. I consume therefore I am. At the same time I have deeply ambivalent feelings about being positioned as a consumer in a consumer society in which everything gets trashed (definition 2) or spent (definition 4).

But still, I like my trainers…maybe I should eat them before they eat me...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

OK, whatever


OK, whatever, it's not perfectly framed but look my pics are getting better!

I found an interesting article on social software and learning here by Ulises Ali Mejias. This is his blog, Ideant. His main idea is about blending online and offline activity and how social software impacts on pedagogy by “inculcating a desire to reconnect to the world as a whole, not just the social parts that exist online.”

I also wanted to quote directly from Kat on a paper given at the Internet Generations conference, Chicago (Association of Internet Researchers). It echoes some stuff recently posted on Blogtrax:

“I talked about my experience of using a blog to gather, analyse and present data, about story telling (mine and other peoples via the 73 story blog), about managing multi-facted roles (how to cope with simultaneously being technical, a designer, blogger and researcher) and dealing with the transparency of an online process (how the act of blogging reveals the messy, awkward and ill-fitting fragments of research that are often cleaned and smoothed out in more formal research accounts).”

Enough? No? Oh well there’s some great stuff on Streetstunts, free running, street tricks and so on to lighten your day.