Thursday, March 30, 2006


small ball

The book has always been a hungry form, feeding off other literacies. Think of the way the letter has been used as a vehicle for developing narrative and viewpoint, the diary and the inventory (“Robinson Crusoe” for example) and now, predictably enough, the blog. Books on blogs are growing in popularity - as are blogs on books (subtle distinction, I know) - but all part of the kaleidoscopic world of genre-blending, hybridization and overlapping forms. OK then, why not coin a word such as “blook” and award a prize for the best – perhaps call it The Blooker Prize? And of course that’s what we have. So, three blokes will judge the Blookers - the world's first literary prize devoted to "blooks" (books based on blogs or websites)...and good luck to them, too!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


porn bin

This urban graffiti makes social comment on a poster which has a different social message…and unlike the one I showed here, doesn’t refer to anything in its immediate environment. The reference is far more abstract than that and is tinged with humour. But it isn’t simply humorous like the ‘Wall, what is it good for…’ message here. Iain Sinclair writes richly about graffiti and ephemeral urban texts here, whereas this report just shows how widespread wall slogans are in different political contexts. I love the sentence “It is mandatory for parties to get the building owners' consent before painting graffiti or messages on walls” which works so well when de-contextualised. Incidentally the local council have now removed the offensive ‘porn’ word which corrupted their message or spoiled the look of their street furniture – one of the two - either way we're under surveillance and 'they' are policing 'our' writing.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Getting (it) down

new eye

Although we seem to be talking a lot about new multi-modal ways of making meaning most of us are still judged on our written output. And what’s more, that means particular genres of writing – high status forms. Obviously, to us at least, this sort of thing doesn’t count. Academics’ blogs are often the place where they express their writing angst – their frustration with getting the ideas, or putting down the ideas, the labour of writing. Today I read Flaneuse worrying about getting writing, Dr Kate trying hard to write a paper and finally Sarah, who writes about blogging as rehearsal, a kind of think-piece for experimenting with ideas, or even a place to develop as a writer. Fascinating! I just like writing out of the established genre, unconstrained by topic, and yes, like Sarah, setting ideas in motion (as often documented, here). Blogging is free!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Mothering Sunday

Ruth and Lesley, London 05

There are so many days – special days, I mean. Apart from high days (?) and holidays, people keep on inventing very worthy special days. That’s OK, I suppose. Call me old-fashioned if you like, but I think Mothers’ Day or Mothering Sunday is a great institution. Here’s mine (bless her) and above is my favourite mother-and-daughter picture (Ruth and Lesley).

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Dignify the quotidian

ball on red

OMG! - I sounded such a pseud when I wrote that photo-sharing was about “dignifying the quotidian” the other day. But hey, it’s so true! Take today’s photo – it’s a real corker; but what is it? “In its details, however, and caught by surprise, the world has a stunning clarity." (Baudrillard, 1993:155). OK, so I wasn’t totally original about dignifying the quotidian…. it’s that rolling ball cut out from a deodorant bottle! But alongside, and as if in counterpoint to the new photo-sharing reality, we have the pixel-sharp spectacle of BBC’s Planet Earth series – possibly the last gasp of broadcasting as we know it. Watching a segment I was intrigued by the way it keeps fast-forwarding so you don’t get bored - bored with apes hanging about; clouds building up over the Himalaya and sunrise on the Rockies. You get more detail and more time on predators chasing their prey - but of course less on slow death, blood and guts. And also, don’t forget, you get David Attenborough - but then again you can always put it on mute and listen to some music instead. Then finally there’s the diary bit where they tell you how tedious, time-consuming and technical it all is (conveniently missing out how much it cost and what proportion of that was our license fee).

Friday, March 24, 2006

Broke it

Originally uploaded by on-the-run.

Rainy day, rain all day. Just a simple 9-5 clearing lots of admin. Seat-work, quite uninspiring, broke it up with a visit to the natatorium. Read this on social space for inspiration: "It is beyond dispute that relations of inclusion and exclusion, and of implication and explication, obtain in practical space as in spatial practice. ‘Human beings’ do not stand before, or amidst, social space; they do not relate to the space of society as they might to a picture, a show, or a mirror. They know that they have a space and that they are in this space. They do not merely enjoy a vision, a contemplation, a spectacle—for they act and situate themselves in space as active participants. They are accordingly situated in a series of enveloping levels each of which implies the others, and the sequence of which accounts for social practice." (Lefevbre, 1991:294)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Re-inventing the city

post no bills 1

I like the changing urban landscape. This is a re-imaged shopfront – you can see what was left of the cornershop here. The kids used to call it Sweaty Betty’s - a nickname for the last occupant. The city continues to re-invent itself like the music that keeps on pouring out. You can hear snatches of Richard Hawley’s “Cole’s Corner” here. The video doesn’t seem to show the real Cole’s Corner at all (that’s one thing I’m confused about). Anyway, I’ve given the local boy a good listening to and I think it’s very saccharine-sounding – a sort of new wave C and W crooner. After that, the punky sound of The Long Blondes (also local) comes as a breath of fresh air. Enough of that, time to start worrying about how to film the Sharrow Lantern Festival…coming soon!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006



(...Emma, looking military, surrounded by gnarly matter...could be wisteria...)

Last year we did an analysis of a UKLA-funded e-communication project. This looked at the potential for using new technology to transform school practices. We contrasted ‘transformation’ with what we see as the dominant model - ‘enrichment’ using ICT. We discussed, but ended up not writing about examples in which new technology actually impoverished provision. We argued that: ‘The problem with transformation is that it always seems out of reach, conceptually far removed from the everyday classroom realities of forming relationships with pupils, organizing learning and teaching, managing behaviour and so on. Whilst waiting for the bright new future, teachers have to get on with coping with the present, with all the rewards and frustrations that involves. And so, in the continually reforming world of education, enrichment may be a more attractive option.’ This work is now published in the Cambridge Journal of Education (Volume 36:1) as ‘Digital connections: transforming literacy in the primary school’ – a collaboration with my good friends Cathy Burnett, Paul Dickinson and Julia Myers. It’s also an absolute delight that the work on anchored and transient identities is picked up here, and that we’ll be able to develop it collaboratively at AERA and then BERA.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Differently constructed


(differently constructed from the same stuff: this picture, for example)

or…another collection of photographs, building on yesterday’s theme of seeing your image in the collective - found here: the Mirror Project. I’m struck by the similarities between this and the personalized consumer product – your mobile phone, with your ringtone, image or movie bank, and call list. You, the networked individual with your phone - a portable shrine to self-image. (as James Katz at Rutgers would have it). By the way, what’s on your MP3 player?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Put together


Well it looks like we're all putting things together, collecting. Vic confesses to being another sign-fetishist, whilst pointing to an online collection of images. At this site you can add your images to the pool of signs. But it's one thing collecting stuff, but quite a different thing seeing your contribution in a larger collection - taking on a new meaning, participating, leaving your mark in other space.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Torn apart

Originally uploaded by on-the-run.

(that’s the picture)

Deeper meming
I was thinking about different genres of memes – remixes, jokes, flash games and so on and wondering what (if anything) lies underneath the varied content. What sort of messages are carried by different memes?

For example
I was keen to post today that my favourite movie this year so far is Capote, my favourite novel is Never Let me Go, my favourite song is this (Regina Spektor) and my favourite exhibition is James Turrell.

And then
It be came clear I was replicating a listing meme – my favourite things – what I’m consuming (my allegiances). Then, in turn, it seems that the listing, ranking and rating meme runs through popular culture. There are any number of TV programmes on ‘Your Top Ten Glamrock Artists’, ‘All time favourite sitcoms’, ‘Best Hollywood Musical’ and of course the whole annual merry-go-round of awards. Top ten fiction paperback, top ten this, and top ten that. And it usually runs on a dream of interactivity/participation. You, the people have your say. But does all this fill a political vacuum created by a saturation of consumerism?

On Wednesday, Caroline Bath’s fascinating seminar explored ideas generated by classroom work on participation with five year olds. I was fascinated by the way she described the ‘almost religious silence’ when it came to voting in one of the classes. It reminded me how seriously we are supposed to take voting - even when we’re voting about the banal which, lets face it, it usually is. The gospel of democracy (the bloody mission of much recent military action) is the mandate to ride roughshod over the objecting minority, the no-voters, the issues that weren’t in the manifesto and so on. So, is the listing-ranking meme just a cloaked ideology of ‘democratic’ consumerism?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Another day


Another day, another research event. This time the launch of the Critical Literacies project which will connect teachers and researchers in England and Scotland with Australia, and we hope the US. They’ll all try out and document approaches to critical literacy in their own settings….fascinating. So today we were fortunate to have a great workshop led by Hilary Janks of the University of Witwatersrand (South Africa) - the venue for next year's Learning Conference. There were so many useful insights, but it was the simplicity (and depth) of the initial activity that made the most impact on me. On the back of that familiar activity of going round introducing ourselves, she got us to pair up and describe the whole group – captured in 4 sentences on paper. The juxtaposition of those two texts provided the critical purchase for deconstruction of the two genres, their conventions, disruptions and omissions and the power dynamics that underpin them…and of course, as you might expect, this little blogger was fascinated by the identity performance, identity editing and social network compliance that was revealed!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A good day


Today was Kate’s conference – Creativity and learning in the context of social regeneration. It was a great event and a wonderful opportunity to re-connect with Pippa Stein, Barbara Comber, Gunther Kress and Jennifer Rowsell (and, of course Dr Joolz). We got active, taking digital photographs – some of mine looked rather like the cup (above), but of course we couldn’t take them with us, so I recreated the experience back home! Something Barbara said about the politics of pedagogical imaginings really stuck with me. I think she also quoted Bill Green on imagining schools as media labs…and later on, Myra Barrs put up a quote from Eisner (I hope I jotted it down accurately): ‘it may be that shifting the paradigm of education reform and teaching from one modelled after the clock-like character of the assembly line into one that is closer to the studio or laboratory might provide us with a vision that suits the competencies and futures of the students we teach.’ Interestingly the projects we saw seemed to all feature agentive learners, participating with each other in sustained and purposeful creative activity. That seems much more worthwhile than the idea of delayed gratification so often pedalled in skills-based curricula that aim to create citizens of the future.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Guess who?


Guess who I saw outside the Gucci the shop? That was the highlight of my day, today - that and meeting Big Sister! But really, how can the TDA manage to organise such boring meetings, so utterly devoid of intellectual or any other kind of stimulation? The only saving grace was the slightly kitsch Victoriana of the London hotel venue. Then I managed to track down the last remaining copy of Schroeder's 'The Social Life of Avatars' in Foyles - but why are Springer-Verlag's charging £42.50 for a slim 200 page paperback? Who are they fooling...guess who?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Messages on walls


It would be useful to start thinking of wall-markings in new ways. I'm getting a little tired of tagging my photos 'graffiti' - the term seems to have outlived its usefulness. For a start wall-marking isn't simply restricted to writing, other modes are involved...and then again, the distinction between legitimate corporate marking and other kinds of meaning-making is not particularly clear-cut or subtle.

Here, the anti-KFC marking is a sign of resistance - open to interpretation, of course, because it's not immediately apparent just how KFC oppresses the working class.... However, it can only be properly read in relationship to the sign next to it, which we recognise immediately as being 'official' in some way. And then, the context is important, too. The immediate context, I guess, relates to the material surface: the temporary plyboard boundary and all that it suggests as well as the writing tools and processes implicated by the particular appearance of the texts. The wider context is the plot development and then the whole commercial structure that is KFC, the discourses of multi-national commerce and anti-globalism etc. etc. So, I don't think it's particularly helpful to reduce all this and label it 'graffiti'. New term, needed (marks of resistance?).

Saturday, March 11, 2006



YAY! Congratulations to Jackie and Julie – it’s their civil partnership today. OK, so it’s a bit of a clumsy title (civil partnership) and it’s so long overdue, but at least there’s some official recognition that people don’t necessarily want to spend their lives in heterosexual relationships.

Today, I was sad to hear that my favourite Malian singer Ali Farka Toure died last week – music’s been much on my mind lately. I was also reading about Robert Johnson. I missed a trick when I was in San Antonio last year, because this was one of only two places that he recorded his blues. I think he only recorded about 20 tracks in total. But his story is a classic one of “dealing with the devil.” He used to hang around established blues singers (like Son House) and make one hell of a noise – they used to tell him to get lost! Then, the legend goes, he went down to the crossroads in Clarksdale and made a pact with the devil. On his return he was the meanest player around, later known as the King of the Delta Blues. A Faustian tale if ever I heard one! Somehow I connect the sound of Robert Johnson with Ali Farka Toure…maybe musicologists do too, I know Ry Cooder spotted the link on Talking Timbuktu.

Friday, March 10, 2006



Bafta’s decision to create a video games award for October has got to be a welcome development. Kenworthy’s statement that “video games are a growing art form, a key art form” is good news indeed. Maybe more educators – particularly those involved in the new creativity movement in the UK – will sit up and take notice. But, of course, we need some good models of how to recognise and use this new art form in school settings.

Flying through the air over a colourful landscape with a group of teachers in Barnsley, earlier this week, raised similar questions for me. Here we all are…exploring a virtual world, changing our sex, the outfits of our avatars, getting used to the control keys, but not yet really getting to grips with how we could make use of all this in the classroom. As usual we’re behind… BUT I think I’m gradually becoming more tolerant of that. There’s important and innovative work to be done. It’s a whole new ball game – Katamari-like, in fact.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

New school/old school


This is the classroom where Jackie used to teach Hannah (Ruth went there too). Funny it seemed such a new school then, but now it's the one they're knocking down. It was a great place then, I hope the "new build" will continue the tradition.

You’ve got to be brave to blog, and I reckon blogging in another language is doubly brave! So when Hsinwei (Vera) started up Psychedelic Land, without any prompting I just felt like celebrating. She writes: “I decided to do something new. That is having an English blog! All articles will be written in's a challenge for me...” (note we have another version of the blog manifesto here!). Well Hsinwei is TOP BLOG – it was going to be La Flaneuse - but I’ll wait till she’s through with her migraine. So the first “output” of the Blogtrax has reached final draft stage. We’ve agreed to keep up the metablog with anonymous postings. Watch these spaces for more.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Songs of resistance

Jez's maze

There seems to be a lot around at the moment about folk music (for example, here). I asked a friend who's knowledgable in such matters if he thought there was a folk revival- he said there's been one going on since the 1950s! I just didn't know what to make of that.

But at the weekend, I read about how Ewan McColl was under surveillance as a communist (and banned by the BBC, too), and that made me think that the best times for folk music are when it becomes a vehicle for resistance. Bring on Dick Gaughan at the Miners' Strike for example.

Yesterday, on Night Waves, there was an interview with folk-protest-veteran Joan Baez, who's currently touring the UK. She was asked who she thought had taken on the mantle of Woody Guthrie in contemporary America. Without a pause for thought she said Michael Moore - different build, same stance, different medium.

Monday, March 06, 2006



...and I thought I was the only one to tag my photos of graffiti as palimpsest, but I discover from DrJoolz's blog that there's a pool! Also, from the live manifestation of that esteemed blogger I catch up, if rather belatedly, with Dana's great blog, here (flaneuse is so good as a title, I'm instantly jealous!). And these occurances go someway towards illustrating for me the inter-relationship between identity performance and social networks - that is to say, we gain a sense of selfhood from locating ourselves in the ongoing narratives of others. Those ongoing narratives are no longer necessarily familial or localised, but more diverse and dispersed (that is to say, Dana's blog; the palimpsest pool and so on)...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

It snowed


Three inches of snow in Wales and then over the weekend it snowed here, too. A Narnia moment in Nether Edge, so I took this on 'night vision', and was interested to note how special it looked! Is this photography as confecting reality, or dignifying the moment? Possibly, but I wouldn't quite adopt the strong position of Baudrillard who says: "Perhaps the desire to take photographs arises from the observations that on the broadest view, from the standpoint of reason, the world is a great disappointment. In its details, however, and caught by surprise, the world has a stunning clarity." (Baudrillard, 1993:155) There's that strong grain of existential angst in the idea that the world is a great disappointment, which is why I prefer to dignify the moment.

[I'm back!]