Monday, February 20, 2006

Still wondering


I did a particularly close reading of Jim Gee’s ‘Situated Language and Literacy’ for NATE’s English in Education journal. As an overview Gee’s great, but I did come up with one niggling criticism. Gee argues that technologies are always neutral and value free - he firmly believes that the design principles of video games are sophisticated, and need to be, because of the market forces of new capitalism. Are we then to infer that new capitalism is a benign force? According to Gee, it spawns a technology and environments that are good for learning; it demands a new kind of social agent, a shape-shifter with a portfolio of experiences, skills and achievements; and ignores the social categories of race, class and gender – sounds like a happy future. But does this in fact stand up to scrutiny? I’m still wondering.

I’ll be taking time out from the blogosphere for the next 10 days, hanging out here. But I’ll be back. And finally, I’ve decided to go to San Francisco with the Travel Notes people, planning to be there from April 6th while April 12th (mmm now how’s that for glocalingalism?)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Romance ain't dead

Romance ain't dead

This is a cracker! On a wall just off London Road, this is part of a series which feature masked figures. I now wish I’d shown this last week, when people like Simply Clare and Dr Joolz were posting about Valentine’s Day. Anyway it’s now Saturday and I’ve finished Saturday. It did hook me in, and I do appreciate the way McEwan writes the small stuff - but I tend to find his narratives a bit contrived. His exploration of brain/mind/identity is excellent. I’m less impressed with his fence-sitting over Iraq and what I detect as a slightly irritating tendency to exonerate Blair from all blame.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Dig the city


There’s an interesting segment on the south side of the city just beyond the cultural industries quarter, and it’s layered in history. Here there’s old warehouses converted for city living, art studios, a martial arts centre, sandwich shops, old pubs and so on – all alongside small businesses, the surviving leftovers of the Sheffield steel industry. You’ll also find two of the city’s biggest clubs here: Republic (home of Gatecrasher) and the infamous Niche all-nighter. Squeezed in between this and the American-style Decathalon cut-price sportswear outlet is a small pocket of land - the site of the Sylvester Wheel.

Arcus dig the city, often focusing on industrial archaeology. In the photograph you can see old querns (millstones) and those good folks from Arcus labouring away. They’re uncovering a workshop and grinding troughs which date back to 1650 (if not before). Powered by the Porter Brook, it was still going in the early nineteenth century and was used in the production of table knives and the like. Round about 1850 they went over to steam power. There’s a planning application on the land now, so something new will eventually be layered in.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sonic teenager repellant

barn door

On the way back from Chesterfield today I heard a radio feature on Howard Stapleton who, after feeling intimidated by a large group of teenagers hanging around his local shop one evening, decided to do something about it. Well that’s his story anyway – a good way of promoting the Mosquito which emits irritating sounds only teenagers can hear –which is remarkable in itself since it’s traditionally been teenagers that emit irritating sounds…I felt rather disgusted by the idea. I thought of bird-scarers and pest control and, then that gave way to reminiscing about hanging around outside shops as a teenagers – something Howard Stapleton obviously never did. But surely if all this hanging around is genuinely anti-social shouldn’t we treat the cause and not the result? Shouldn’t they be in their bedrooms playing shoot-em-up games or surfing the internet? Or maybe the games just aren’t good enough (sorry JG) – maybe they need hanging-around-the-shops simulations or design a virtual Howard Stapleton scarer. Another point of view can be found here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006



Described as “Mobility redefined!”, the Flybook has two really important features. First it comes in a range of different colours and second, it measures 235 x 155 x 31mm. That’s small. It works like a tablet PC and weighs 1.2 kg. There’s no CD/DVD drive (could be a disadvantage) but as they say “it’s crammed with the latest multimedia and telecommunications technology” – in other words it’s wireless and has Windows XP. I suppose then, it’s a case of anytime, anywhere as long as it looks good.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

It's a

yellow pages

It’s a piece of plastic packaging, a disposable advertisement for a variety of service industries. It’s a random collection of words on plastic. It’s a sort of imitation of a tag cloud. It’s an advertisement for its contents (a guide to leisure contacts?) Tactile exploration adds little. It’s shiny plastic, easy to tear off because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

In contrast this has teased me so much that I just had to go back for a tactile exploration. And that revealed that letters 2, 3 and 7 are snapped off capital Ls. Something that you can’t discern from the photograph – or maybe you can now, on larger view. Anyway it rewards tactile exploration.

Monday, February 13, 2006

More than this


THC graffiti is all over the Sharrow area, going through different forms and colours. This one's older and more colourful and at least 6 foot high. It is resplendent on the concrete wall of a culverted stream. The location is so good, being one of those liminal spaces which cities produce. They provide surface and cover - like the sides of bridges, alongside the railway tracks, alleyways - spaces you pass through on your journey to other places.

Reading Baudrillard (Art and Artefact): "Graffiti - another form of ready-made - says nothing other than: 'I exist, here I am, my name is so and so.' The pure and minimal form of identity. I exist, I met myself." (1997:21). OK then, take it away THC (maybe this is another way in which I respond to graffiti), seeing it more than property marking, signing the self into existence.

Friday, February 10, 2006


[Wow, I did this with a new tool I found, which uses Flickr!]

Digital selfhood is an interesting way of describing the sort of identity performance we do as bloggers online. Reading this article made me rethink some of the ideas on Blogtrax about impression management (I seem to recall we described it as ‘show and hide’, but it could just as easily have been called identity editing). An argument that surfaces in the article suggests that we may be influenced by celebrity narratives in the media – producing a quotidian version of these, a commodification of the self.

The article also refers to the MirrorProject. I don’t think I’ve come across it before, but it’s a fascinating archive of thousands of self-portraits – photographs taken in reflective surfaces. Just performing, presenting me in that vast and anonymous landscape of new media seems important in all sorts of ways. Hence the above outburst (published earlier today) as I discovered a new tool that enabled me to write my name out of other people’s Flickr photos. It felt great, and looks pretty cool, too!

And as if this turn to the self was not enough I subsequently learnt that I can add this programme to my Firefox browser. AttentionTrust allows me to monitor my own attention economy – to understand, in a self-reflexive way, what I actually invest my attention in - as opposed to what I think captures my interest. My oh my, it's a strange new world.

Thursday, February 09, 2006



My identity as a photographer is fragile. You see I thought this was probably the best photograph I’ve ever taken, but although the post attracted some comment, nobody mentioned the image. Reality check (as they say). But to make it worse, it’s had no views and no comments on my photostream either! Now I wonder if that’s because I forgot to tag it? THC, on the other hand got 8 views really quickly – but then that’s grafitti, which always draws the crowds. Anyway, just to massage a little interactivity, here’s the gatepost mystery…what does it say?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


steel city

Words change walls, change familiar things like trains and buses; but here graffiti seems to have transformed the whole shape and meaning of Steel City Gymnastics (next to the municipal baths). The building itself, even the original sign seems to have become a secondary thing, a surface, a canvas for a bigger message.

Changing practices are showcased here. This is Active Worlds for educational settings. We’re going to be watching nine and ten year olds in dispersed locations in Barnsley navigating and learning in a virtual world. It’s so exciting! But first, of course, we have to get the planning group and then the participating teachers into virtuality. That’s a lot to document - somebody, give me a grant and a research team…please!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006



I liked this in ‘Saturday’ because it seems to capture with clarity those occasions when writing suddenly gets tough: ‘What dragged him back was an unfamiliar lack of fluency. He prides himself on speed and a sleek, wry style. It never needs much forethought –typing and composing are one. Now he was stumbling. And though the professional jargon didn’t desert him – it’s second nature – his prose accumulated awkwardly. Individual words brought to mind unwieldy objects – bicycles, deckchairs, coathangers – strewn across his path. He composed a sentence in his head, then lost it on the page, or typed himself into a grammatical cul-de-sac and had to sweat his way out.’ I reckon that’s McEwan at his best, capturing the small detail of lived experience.

Monday, February 06, 2006



Introducing Julian Barratt– please click here (just in case you haven’t been introduced before). He plays alongside Noel Fielding, who is Vince Noire in THE MIGHTY BOOSH. This is British comedy par excellence. We’re now into Series 2. The best bit has to be where Vince fends off an attack by the Wild Mountain Man, defending himself manfully with his Nicky Clark hair straighteners - oh, and then there’s the outrageous moon clip, which you can watch here.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Always somebody


Sue Thomas (Hello World, p. 29) writes ‘in Real Life we adopt different personalities all the time – one for our parents and /or children, another for our lovers, yet more for our bosses and our teachers and our friends.’ Is life online really any different? Often there are no physical or social cues, and self-disclosure can be ‘managed’. But still there is self-presentation – even if that is mediated through a screen identity, role or avatar. You’re still there typing away, clicking or whatever. You could be anybody, but you’re always somebody.


I learnt a new word today. The word is gnarly (as in she’s gnarly: meaning she’s unpredicatable). It was described as surftalk, and I suppose it must class as an adjectival metaphor.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Always somewhere

London Road

I couldn't help thinking there was someone behind me all the way back from the City Campus. In the subway under the ring-road the echo of my footsteps sounded like someone stalking me. I followed the signpost to London Road leaving invisible footprints on the concrete slabs. Under surveillance the whole time. Tracked by the prying eyes of numberless CTV cameras - my mobile phone shouting out my geo-location to anyone who's interested. Anyone. Well, who exactly? Who cares? But reading this left its print on me, making me think that things run something like this: you could be anywhere, but you're always somewhere; anyone could find you, if they knew where to look - if they could be bothered in the first place.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The transparent academy

antique shop

Germaine Greer wrote a provocative piece in today’s Guardian about the real student experience of university (against the background of the Oxford move to institute student contracts). Her basic line is that students go away to university and learn to be independent and incidentally, along the way, they learn from each other. Of course, an increasing number of students are now local – they don’t actually leave home at all, let alone become independent – but, this aside, let’s hope they learn from each other because we’re so busy filling in forms and monitoring our quality that students hardly get a look in. So I laughed out loud reading about drKate’s Transparency Review – I note there isn’t a category for filling in your review (or doing mindless monitoring tasks). In fact, I made a vow to myself a couple of years back that I would always lie when filling mine in, based on a principled rejection of the phoney notions of transparency that are at the heart of this!

…and so back to the meme thing (far more interesting, I think than transparency). Well here goes: 4 things.

1. 4 things isn’t really a meme at all.

2. 4 things is a meme, but where’s it going?

3. 4 things has too much in common with the Transparency Review.

4. Guy is far too boring to engage with 4 things (and will probably loose good friends by speaking his mind).