Saturday, December 31, 2005

On the road


I thought that this would make an interestingly urban ending for 2005. This quality Phlegm Comic wall stencil found on London Road today has been decorating the South Yorkshire area for some time now. But what can it mean? It probably doesn’t refer to this classic underground comic, but does the original have a successor, I wonder? I endeavour to find this out in 2006 (that’s not a resolution, mind you)....meanwhile I count down.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Emma and Charlotte

Emma and Charlotte

Here’s Emma and her cousin Charlotte. Charlotte’s just back from Australia, via Bali, travelling – just like Princess Sally. Neither of them are really taking a “gap year”. It’s more of a gap life, and who’d blame them?

They say that travel broadens the mind and maybe in some ways it does, but it can also set up and strengthen stereotypes or just generate misinformation. For example, I was only in China for a short while, but I formed all sorts of opinions about cross-gender relationships that now seem completely inaccurate (particularly after reading Xinran). In a similar way my ideas about the Chinese economy, based on what little I happened to see, were completely inaccurate – I found out so much more from reading Isabel Hilton’s excellent piece in Granta.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not valorizing books or the printed word, just thinking about how impressions are so easily formed. Nor am I privileging information over experience, just suggesting that we are all too quick to leap to conclusions, to close on our opinions, to narrow down. In fact, maybe I should be more open to the possibility that travel broadens the mind.

Blog travel at least has the ability to make you laugh out loud, as this little gem did!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Memory and power

da boyz

Len was in the war; I was in the sixties and Sammy was in the groove…. having lots of family about at this time of year is great, but it has shown me just how far away we are from the idea of integrated communications technology and why. Here’s a quick device census, conducted this afternoon:

A. Various
1 Sony Cybershot P73 digital camera (2.4 volt)
1 Casio R40 digital camera (3 volt)
1 PS2 (8.5 volt adapter)
1 Toshiba Satellite laptop (19 volt adapter)
1 Remington Hair clipper (4.2 volt adapter)

B. Phones
1 JVC 167 EK
2 Sony Ericsson T610s
1 Sony Ericsson W800i
1 Sony Ericsson K300i
1 Motorolla 220
1 Nokia 52-10
1 NEC (brick) E313

C. MP3s
1 i-Pod 20 Gb
1 i-Pod Mini
1 i-pod 30 Gb
1 i-pod Nano

Now hardly any of these items (with the exception of the i-Pods) have a compatible power cable, surprisingly few can share data, and memory (even across Sony products) is not interchangeable. As a family, when we are not interacting to ascertain the whereabouts of our various devices, we’re trying to locate their chargers or USB cables! I agree wholeheartedly with thoughtsonthings: “Power cords and chargers are one of the biggest scams out there.” But, whilst eBay may be a short-term fix for that missing bit of wire, it’s not really the answer. As technology gets cheaper, two crucial aspects become the focus of commercial activity: power and memory. Power and memory (and then, perhaps, it’s ringtones and wallpaper?).

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

For Diva Kitty


For Diva Kitty - this tiny chocolate point Siamese looks just puurfect. He’s fourteen weeks old and will sleep anywhere. I’m not so sure whether he’d take to this cat sofa, though - he might just prefer something by Wendy....

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas past

numbers racket

Hannah orchestrates our Christmas meal with a numbers racket (yesterday) - and today I walked out, looking down from the park to the swollen turquoise dome of the new Wolseley Road mosque and the blaze of lights from Bramall Lane.

Lesley asked me if I could remember what the excitement of Christmas was like as a child, and I said I thought that the memory was parasitic - a memory of a memory. That to be excited about Christmas as a child involved recalling the excitements (and disappointments) of a previous Christmas. A sedimentation of memories, in fact. And, of course, those earliest of Christmas feelings were fanned by the family, cultivated by the commercial world and massaged by the media. Still today the park seemed full of smiling children on shiny new bicycles and parents walking off the turkey.

The man behind the counter at the Spa shop doesn't celebrate Christmas. The shop's open 24 hours and he tells me he was busy all night. He assures me he'll be taking a break in a few days time. He deserves it. He's kept the lights up since Ramadan. A few weeks ago he disconnected the bit that said Eid Mubarek.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Pub lunch

pub lunch

It’s end of term for some of my international students, and for some of them their first visit to an English pub. I was surprised how complex it is to explain the place of pub culture in our country - the subtle differences in our attitudes to alcohol and the tensions between an open-minded approach to that ‘social lubricant’ and moral panic over binge drinking and addiction.

Looking more closely at the photograph, it’s interesting to notice the intrusion of 2 fingers behind the head, which seems to have become a sort of cross-cultural token of having fun – originally, presumably a sort of insult, now more or less domesticated and by the looks of things, global.

And finally, despite the push, the meaning of fungible never really generated the fervour (or attention) of Call My Bluff. So here’s the answer!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sedimentary my dear Watson


Here DrJoolz makes notes on the cube of artefactual bonding. Unlike these onyx cubes, this one is imbued with meaning! Spread across time and space, I love this subtle interplay between online and offline activities. I’m reminded of Christo’s umbrella work (also the Gates project), mentioned in Colin and Michele’s chapter on Attention Economics: so, the onyx cube becomes a temporary attention structure (wow!).

Meanwhile back at home I’m reading The Story of Lucy Gault (see my sidebar) and it made me think how I’ve always had this rule with immersive reading that goes like this: if I get to page 100 I’ll then know whether it’s worth finishing or not. Lucy Gault is. Just think, she’s been abandoned by her parents (they think she’s dead); they’re in Europe in a limbo of mourning; she’s grown up and is just about to fall in love and then in the background is the dark and troubled figure of the young man that Captain Gault shot as an intruder when Lucy was much younger. And then I realized, in my 100 page rule, there’s the attention economy of bookspace.

So for movies it’s different. It couldn’t be 100 pages: could it be 10 minutes? I’d like to know. What about a webpage or a blog? Now the good doctor insists that it’s 5 seconds, because she knows about attention economics and checks her site meter stats. But is she blinded by data? I can see her posts on my feed without a visit. Then again sometimes I might pass through, because perhaps she’s got Doug Kellner on her sidebar. Anyway, who says that someone who’s on you’re page is actually there with you? I just flicked back and saw I still had the GreatSouth onyx cubes window open. It’s been there since I started this (longer than usual) post….fascinating thing, this attention economy….are you still there…or did you drift off?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

It's the real thing

Qibla coke
If I asked for coke, would this be fungible? Ah ha, I hear you say, another slippery case of authenticity - one I was reminded of when I read about Burka Barbie (now was that a hoax by the Star newspaper, a rumour, or a best-selling toy in the Arab world?). OK, I think I’ll stick to Qibla Coke – at least you can buy it at the corner shop; and at least I’ve seen the real thing.

The Lumie bodyclock ‘uses your body's natural response to dawn and dusk, waking you naturally with a gradual sunrise and helping you wind down at night with a slowly fading sunset’ so it’s not exactly the real thing, but at least it triggers a ‘natural response’. And so, it might appear, do the wireless speakers from Oregon Scientific – watch the video and ask yourself if that’s a natural response, too.

Monday, December 19, 2005



I had end-of-term lunch with some good friends today. Strangely enough, in one conversation I was asked ‘How’s the kitchen?’ and I found myself wondering whether this was the result of posting it on my blog or a previous face-to-face encounter. It turned out to be the latter, but it still left me feeling well and truly blended!

It’s a while since I’ve blogged any quirky tech stuff, so here’s a selection of Mimobot flashdrives and some toys for playing with type on screen. I liked ‘weight’ and ‘emotype chat’. Well done typorganism, nice toys but it sets you thinking about how interactive kinetic typography might be used. Right now, I just don’t have a clue. Do you?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Prince of pix

pics 'r' us

no, not prints just the small screen, of course, providing entertainment at the party I posted on Friday. Since then I’ve been resting up, messing about in the kitchen and yesterday took Ruth and my mother to the smelliest house I’ve ever visited, which belongs to a Siamese cat breeder in Chapeltown. It’s another world!

Cat breeders have to actively manage personal networks and affinity spaces and mostly seem to do this through landlines, websites, magazines and snail mail - but then I suppose the whole pet thing is about being tied to specific place (it smells: therefore it must be home territory).

So following on the Wellman stuff, I’ve been thinking about the social affordances of blogs. I’m working on a model that captures the idea of blogger-to–screen, screen-to-readers and reader(s)-to-screen (if that makes any sense). I also find the whole area of tools for managing contacts quite fascinating: maybe more on this later.

And here’s a link for the Penguin book mugs.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Queen of everything

Queen of everything

Maybe Angie is Queen of Everything, too – that is if you can indeed share that honour. Last night at Antibo’s she told me about some of the things she does and I reckon she qualifies! And, thank you Sarah for a lovely comment on Wednesday’s post that really develops the discussion about distributed networking across media.

But since it’s Friday, why not check out OddJapan. I mean what could be better than the Hello Kitty breath-checker – that’s an absolute winner, and I want one for Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2005



Inspired by Mary Plain’s beautiful sunsets (Monday, December 12, 2005), I thought I’d capture one of my own. Unfortunately, by the time I’d got the attic window open, it had lost some of the richness of colour. But at the moment we do have colourful sunrises and sunsets: maybe it’s that heavy dark cloud of petroleum pollution.

Tonight is our ‘house night out’. Academics and administrators from 51/53 Broomgrove Road mash it up at Antibo’s in Sheffield (I note it’s in The Plaza, Fitzwilliam Street, so I can find it later). I’ll take my camera in with me in case I want somebody to blog. And of course, if you can’t be with the one you blog, blog the one you’re with. (I feel a retro-music trivia competition coming on).

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

From glocalization to networked individualism

Sarah and Danah

Here’s Sarah and Danah right after their NRC presentations. They raised so many interesting questions about identity and social networks. And then, almost by happenstance, in another network at the weekend, I got talking to Christina about online/offline networks and environmental activism and she suggested I checked out Barry Wellman’s stuff. Well, there’s enough of it!

Wellman traces the evolution of networks from neighbourhood groups, through to the glocalized networks he wrote about in the 1990s and suggests we are now in the era of networked individualism where connections are between individuals regardless of place/address ("messages come to people not the other way around" ).

There’s loads on Wellman’s website – this is from “Connected Lives”, 2005:

“…individualized networks are often larger than glocalized networks and are less densely knit. Networked individuals know people through individual networking, such as ad hoc meetings over lunch or sending individually tailored email. Their ties are specialized, providing them with different types of support and sociability in a variety of social milieus. Each milieu has limited control over an individual’s behaviour; each individual has limited commitment to a specific milieu and a low sense of group membership.” (p.5)

That all seems to ring true, but I’m still only half way through!

On a completely different strand, Huw Thomas UKLAs new press officer recommends 3 children’s books that explore themes that associated with play in virtual worlds: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke; Amadans by Malachy Doyle and Beyond the Deepwoods by Stewart and Riddell. (Thanks to Huw - he’s probably on commission!)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I’m so lucky!


Lucky because the kitchen project is moving towards the final phase - the home makeover is nearly complete and domestic life will return to normal just in time for the annual holiday invasion!

Lucky also because I’ll be working on an exciting new venture in which 9 and 10 year olds will be experimenting with avatars in a virtual world. We plan to have 10 teachers involved in action research on the project and the work will then roll out to include more schools. Watch this space for further developments. And by the way, did I post this on collections and chaos before? I can’t remember.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Recontextualising again


Home again through Hunters Bar on foot - it’s the dwarf Christmas trees and fairy lights above the shops that I really like. And then I came across a window display of Penguin Classic mugs (potential presents for our literary friends. Now, whilst I prefer my very own Tigger mug, there’s something quite interesting about how the old paperback design has become iconic. I think a couple of years back they even made some new Penguin imprints with that retro design.

Printed on a mug or t-shirt these book-covers are recontextualised and they become something very different. They say something about the identity of the mug’s owner, her allegiances – how she wishes to be perceived. In this way a mug rack could be like a links list or blogroll. There’s also a sense in which this is a sort of remix – not exactly a creative remix as described here; nor remix as active consumption as described here, just a repurposing of the original (authentic?) image….. after all you read a mug rather differently, don't you?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

There’s a whole lotta clickin’ going on!

dead mice

Some of my dead mice – abandoned, over-clicked and now completely useless. Funny, I never imagined inhabiting a future with so much clicking, but here it is. My favourite future gazer is Howard Rheingold, and in an article from last year he poses the question ‘How do virtual communities affect physical communities?’ - and that’s really part of what I’ve been thinking about with respect to the overlapping online/offline social networks of bloggers. But, that aside, this is a great little article sketching, as it does, the next digital horizon. He also provides some interesting leads to other work in the field. And, I love the idea of 'person as portal', and the sorts of subjectivity and relationships that this suggests. A book…maybe a film ‘I, a portal’?

Friday, December 09, 2005

It's for real!


Introducing the RAB phenomenon (Remote Artifact Bonding) - here’s how it works. When you’re together in meatspace you go shopping with your friend (or friends) and buy similar artifacts from the same shop, thus having a good shared real time experience of consumerism. As you connect through space and time in the blogosphere (or whatever medium you use) you connect your artifacts, too! So, click through yesterday’s picture of me (or this link), roll your mouse over the pic on the Flickr site till you find the note that leads you onto Anya’s Flickr – the cube of artifactual bonding. And you can follow this path of polished stone cubes rather than reading my lengthy spiel on faking it!

Increasingly my family networks are maintained and extended through digital media. My 3 daughters all work in office spaces in London. Part of that culture, as I have noted before, consists of circulating ‘joke’ emails. Some aren’t funny at all, and others are politically or ideologically very dodgy – for example stuff about ‘chavs’. But occasionally, I get copied into one that really is funny, or one like this which actually manages to capture something interesting:


1. You accidentally enter your password on the microwave.

2. You haven't played solitaire with real cards in years.

3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of 3.

4. You e-mail the person who works at the desk next to you.

5. Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that they don't have e-mail addresses.

6. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help you carry in the groceries.

7. Every commercial on television has a web site at the bottom of the screen.

8. Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn't have the first 20 or 30 (or ! 60) years of your life, is now a cause for panic and you turn around to go and get it.

10. You get up in the morning and go on line before getting your coffee.

11. You start tilting your head sideways to smile. : )

12. You're reading this and nodding and laughing.

13. Even worse, you know exactly to whom you are going to forward this message.

14. You are too busy to notice there was no #9 on this list.

15. You actually scrolled back up to check that there wasn't a #9 on this list.

AND NOW U R LAUGHING at yourself.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Faking it


I drove home through Hunters Bar and Sharrow this evening. Hunters Bar is particularly attractive at this time of year - all narrow streets, small shops and twinkling winter lights. I came out just across from the tanning shop called "Fake it" and that set in motion a whole train of thoughts around contemporary notions of faking.

I think we have quite ambivalent attitudes to faking. Getting fake designer clothes when we're on holiday quite appeals, but fake laughter and fake money are beyond the pale. Fake fur? Maybe. But fake jewellery just isn't real jewellery. But worst of all is being a fake. That's a real put down.

Lifestyle changes, home and garden makeovers, house swaps on TV seem real enough and no-one seems to care too much about faking on reality TV or celebrity chat shows. This suggsets that we make strategic choices about what's 'real' and what's fake according to how we value it, ignoring, as we do, the fact that fake is just another kind of real. Fake fur is a good example: either it's not real (ie cheap or simply a synthetic imitation) or else it's better than real (depending on your value systems); whichever, it's still real enough to wear.

So, I click down my blogroll and read the people who's authenticity I value. Here's drJoolz writing about authenticity - same theme, different take (and BTW I wasn't politely bored!) - very important stuff, because the fake/authentic binary cuts right across identity performance and those ongoing narratives of the self. Well, my blog voice may be different from my other voice(s), but it expresses me...and the performance over on Blogtrax reflects on that performance - it couldn't really be made up (could it?), couldn't be fake auto-ethnography. Well it could but it isn't.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Today really


Today I’ve been reading this, kindly sent to me by this person to do a review for this! (English in Education). That’s hypertexting for you (although you probably chose your own reading path!). I’m still processing so many ideas from NRC, and have come to the conclusion most of them came up from informal interactions with excellent people like Michele, Angela, Barbara, and of course Julia – and many others, too.

I’m really interested in the overlapping identities of cyberspace and meatspace –Anya’s comments on my own textualised identity are really thought provoking. So, as ever, I keep on thinking about identity and social networks. Narratives of the self always interest me and I’ve been intrigued by some comments by Michele about distributed identities –similar I suppose to distributed narratives (link here).

Another take on the same theme is the issue of authenticity and blogging. When is a blog a fake blog or a ‘pretend’ blog? There’s an interesting discussion of this in an archived post I found. And then a couple of days back Danah Boyd posted on social networks and attention networks: another take, but somewhat inconclusive....still thinking.

And, welcome back to the blogosphere, Simply Clare!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Searching for a happy accident


Today’s news that ITV has bought Friends Reunited for £120 million just illustrates the enormous appeal of applications that do what people want most – social networking. Friends Reunited has 15 million members in the UK and my (admittedly narrow) sample suggests that interest isn’t restricted to a particular age group – if you're 20 or over you're likely to be interested.

Friends Reunited began very small – a bit like Google, which is now being described as the fastest growing business of all time. Like Friends Reunited, Google delivers what people want. It structures many people’s experience of the Internet. In the UK there are 17 million users per month.

Trying to understand how Search Engines work, I realized the role played by advertising. To its credit, Google shows search listings that are paid for. Google AdWords appear in a separate section down the right side of the screen. Advertisers bid on keywords, and the more an advertiser is willing to pay the higher it will appear in the list of adverts served.

This site explains that “when a Google spider, or bot, finds your site a number of things are taken into consideration. Not only does this spider search through the content and links on your page, cataloging keywords, page titles and descriptions, backward links, and meta tags as it goes along, it even looks through your whois information. Whois information is the information provided through your hosting company on who exactly owns the website, including name, telephone number, email address, physical address, how long your site is registered for, and more.” Wow!

Search engines of the future may look very different. One version works a bit like Amazon – your search engine gets to know what you like and delivers a personalized service. Other possibilities include multimedia searching and, yes, SMS searches! But let’s not forget the happy accident (like my nightcruiser pic) that gets good, if unexpected, results from time to time.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Lowrider, Miami

Originally uploaded by edsghm.

I’m pleased to see that Sarah blogged the full parrot picture from the Bayfront, Miami! Well this is my Bayfront shot. You see shortly after hearing Lee Freeman talking about Lowrider art, I found my very own lowrider. He was quite excited about having his picture taken and being on the internet. The bike, he tells me, is 50-50: 50% gas, 50% electricity – who knows.

Here’s another study of lowrider art. Peter Cowan’s study uses ethnographic methods “to explore drawings, commonly called lowrider art, and the social practices of taking meaning from the environment and communicating meaning visually.” He looks at how “culturally distinctive icons are used to create drawings that function as visual texts with analyzable cultural meanings”.

And I’m back home now, adjusting to this time zone. On the way back I read about britblog. I don’t know - it seems so parochial - I’m not sure I’d want to get listed: what would I get out of it?

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Emma 1

I was like a big kid on the monorail out to Dadeland Mall to get Emma's surprise present - eyes on stalks, head spinning round! And that was a good clean break, because I felt sooo present at this morning's symposium.

Despite the setbacks: confusion over the start time (was it 8.00; 8.10; or 8.30? and a whole load of setbacks that delayed Barbara Guzzetti), the symposium went well. In the end it featured me, Michele Knobel, Shelley Xu and Donna Alvermann.

I posed 5 questions - missing out the detail these were:

1. What are the limits to the incorporation of new literacy practices into the curriculum - who gatekeeps?
2. How can we best theorise resistance through new literacy practices?
3. How do everyday literacy practices translate into cultural and social capital?
4. Are there more sophisticated ways in which we can explain the relationship between engagement, school achievement and new practices?
5. How can we provide new spaces in educational settings that allow for exploration of the liminal worlds between work and play; formality and informality; social networking and learning?

The ensuing discussion was particularly stimulating, which made for a good start to the day's shopping! Hey, ho! So that's NRC 2005, back to Blighty tomorrow: back to the cold.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Ride 'em hard!


An average meal last night in the splendour of Mr Chu’s, South Beach with excellent company was followed first thing this morning with a symposium with more or less the same people. Achirya Rezak on LiveJournal used Gee’s discourse analysis; Sarah Lohnes problematised the notion of authenticity in education blogs; and Dana Cammack challenged us to think of a new theory which describes identity performance, interaction and allegiances in overlapping social networks. All really interesting.

On the boring side we have the reductionist approach to reading in the UK government’s acceptance of synthetic phonics. I quote the Guardian newspaper:

"MPs on the Commons education select committee, which produced a report into reading methods, were impressed by its proven success in trials involving 300 children in Clackmannanshire. By the age of 11, those children taught using synthetic phonics were three years ahead of their peers in reading skills."

Oh, yawn! I find the dullest blog in the world, which hardly ever updates, far more interesting!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Holiday season, Miami

Christmas lights

Apparently, in order to be 'sensitive to diversity' it isn't Christmas here, and this man isn't putting up Christmas decorations, just holiday season lights. Newspapers here, are making the usual noises about 'political correctness'... OK, so predictable - but this idea of sensitivity to diversity seems to miss the point. What about acknowledging and embracing diversity?

Here, at NRC there's an interesting gatherng of people who are accustomed to hanging around in cybersace together, and now are all meeting (meating?) up in meatspace only to discover we know each other quite well.
So we have celebrity Anya, DrJoolz (a photograph of me on Wednesday - I'm innocent!) and Sarah. Yay! And today it's Brian Steet's turn to entertain us!