Monday, July 31, 2006


very open
This is to celebrate Ruth’s achievements (she’s my second daughter). She’s been working here, but she’s just got a new job in a swanky place on Bond Street. So well done, Ruth! Listen to her latest track here, plans for a promotional video are now going ahead….

Saturday, July 29, 2006


OK, so this is a “networked national touring exhibition” and it focuses on the creative potential of digital games and interactive play environments. It seems like it’s worth checking out and the blog’s pretty fancy, too. For instance there’s plenty to read on this link. And when there’s nothing else to do, there’s always the yeti database!

Friday, July 28, 2006


Judith Butler is demanding reading, packed with the sort of philosophical density that challenges existing ideas. But I’m happy with the straightforward nature of stuff like: “…to tell a story of oneself is already to act, since telling is a kind of action, performed with some addressee, generalised or specific, as an implied feature. It is an action in the direction of an other as well as an action that requires an other, in which the other is presupposed.” (2005:81). That seems to dovetail in with what I was trying to get at here by grafting on the concept of social networks as contexts for identity performance. I also put a bit more on the identity theme here. Then, almost as light relief , I’ve found this fourfold categorization of selfhood quite useful, too!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


I plan to be in Chicago next April for AERA 2007 . I’ll be promoting the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy and I’ll be focusing on my contribution to this research handbook. Here’s the abstract: “As new techno-literacy practices become embedded in society, they impact on ever younger age groups. The technological environment children inhabit directly involves literacy, both in the broadest sense of the term, and in the more specific domain of lettered representation. My work focuses on young children’s on-screen experience and particularly the productive aspect of writing-with-new-technology. I look at different ways of theorising changes in written communication and the relationship between these and curriculum design. This review of current research focuses on three areas: young children’s experience of digital writing in and beyond the classroom; ways of using ICT in the writing classroom; and the use and development of purpose-built classroom applications to promote digital literacy. The review highlights a shift of emphasis from whether to use ICT to how to use ICT in literacy, suggesting the need for more work that shows how digital writing can be embedded in classroom practice in ways that provide authentic contexts for learning and communication. However, because digital writing involves new kinds of skills and new kinds of social practices it cannot simply be grafted on to existing instructional practices and curricular objectives. We need to re-evaluate the ways in which writing is taught and develop our understanding of what constitutes writing development in digital environments. This will involve more exploration of what experiences, resources and guidance are most helpful in the early stages of emergent literacy, and working towards an understanding of the appropriate balance between experimentation, skill instruction and critical engagement with new writing tools and processes.” And….

Monday, July 24, 2006

Here and there

I’ve seen the van several times, but this was the first opportunity for a good shot (regular readers will, of course remember this and this from the streets of Sheffield). Also from the streets of Sheffield is ex-Pulp front man Jarvis Cocker. He’s now in MySpace with a strange YouTube video and the track "Running the World" - both displaying that humour and political edge that you either love or hate. Away from here, I’ve been exploring the world of MUVEs. There’s a good potted history here. It seems that virtual worlds only really seemed to achieve their present popular form in the mid 1990s. So that’s quite a rapid trajectory into the schools of Barnsley!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Merveylous myrth and pastymes

NWP fancy stencil
It’s the second time I’ve tried to trace enigmatic stencil graffiti on the internet. NWP had me foxed until I discovered that it stands for Nottingham Wood Pushers. Now that could mean absolutely anything to a group of teenage boys in the ‘burbs of Nottingham. Interestingly they turn out to be a social group of MySpacers with a feel for street art and other things on the fringes of legitimacy. The previous time I played this game was the Crude Black Millions episode described here. But both these (like the Street Piano story) show social groups organizing and communicating in a way that blends online and offline, cyberspace and meatspace - albeit for different purposes!

Friday, July 21, 2006


broken present
My excitement on getting a present from Ruth in the post this morning quickly turned to disappointment when I found the CD snapped in two. It was a copy of a Regina Spektor album…she appears at the Truck Festival this weekend (broadcast on BBC6). The other media thing that passed me by is that FilmFour is going free – that’s very good news – watch the countdown here! And I must say the playful anarchist in me likes the idea of real-world gaming based on water pistol fighting. That’s what Street Wars is all about, despite the hype. Now I’ve normally got a lot of respect for Mark Lawson, but his uptight reaction in today’s Guardian came as a big disappointment. He argues that: “the bizarre blurring of a child's toy with the world of adult life and work suggests that the video-game generation has got out of control. The traditional insult for gamers is that they should get out more, but perhaps this lot need to stay in more.” For a start the connection with video-gaming is tenuous, but also there is an important way in which play is politics. I for one would rather be squirted with water than anything more serious.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Visual memes

abus padlock on blue
Well I've just got into photographing padlocks after looking at someone else's collection on Flickr. That's made me look at padlocks in new ways - their material variety, their trademarks, product details, signs of use and so on - and of course their function and symbolism. At the same time I've been thinking about Kress's idea of motivated sign-making, re-making and transformation. But somehow that doesn't quite tell me enough about this padlock thing. It's more of a visual meme, a contagious image. But all it does at this stage is to remain a dumb image, a copy or perhaps to be more generous it communicates an interest, possibly a shared interest, an empathy or acknowledgement. On the other hand, photographing wall textures for the virtual world is more overtly purposeful. It means in a different way. Are these sorts of images easier to explain as motivated signs? And does this reflect the detail (or the context) of social participation? Or, do I completely misunderstand the concept of a motivated sign?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Commercialising participation

local comment
The idea of producing a gallery of photographs taken on mobiles to involve youngsters in highlighting what’s important to them is instantly attractive. So here’s the work of John, Shrek, Krusty, Jonathan, and Danny Boy. It’s part of initiative to involve young people in politics – yes- that is local politics. Alongside their photographs (are they all boys?) are the local councilors’ photographs (yawn). Councilor James Joyce - the name’s a laugh (parents must have had a sense of humour) - seems to be at the forefront of this escapade. OK, to be fair there’s an honest attempt at relevant participation using new media here, but then again it’s subsidised by O2, which makes me wonder whether it’s more about participating in O2 than in the local political process.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Either way

Whirlow 3
Following on this story on Saturday I was interested in the Indian government’s attempt to block blogs following the Mumbai bombing. Success, according to this article was limited: “Because there is no central point of control, such blocks are haphazard. In such a situation, it can be difficult to tell exactly what it is that the government has ordered to be shut down.” …which I suppose is both good and bad, depending on who might want to shut who up for what particular reason.

Monday, July 17, 2006


bungalow brick texture
I was pleased to find the Henry Jenkins blog. Here he self-quotes something he put on the PBS's Media Shift site, but I liked it so much because it hits on digital remix and creativity that I’m quoting it again, here:

“…children are become media-makers: they are blogging, designing their own websites, podcasting, modding games, making digital movies, creating soundfiles, constructing digital images, and writing fan fiction, to cite just a few examples. As they do so, they are discovering what previous generations of artists knew: art doesn't emerge whole cloth from individual imaginations. Rather, art emerges through the artist's engagement with previous cultural materials. Artists build on, take inspiration from, appropriate and transform other artist's work: they do so by tapping into a cultural tradition or deploying the conventions of a particular genre. Beginning artists undergo an apprenticeship phase during which they try on for size the styles and techniques of other more established artists. And even well established artists work with images and themes that already have some currency within the culture. Of course, this isn't generally the way we talk about creativity in schools, where the tendency is still to focus on individual artists who rise upon or stand outside any aesthetic tradition.”

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Un autre monde

Today I saw this, and for a moment RL and VL blended , and I could only walk in straight lines with arrow keys (we have a bandstand in the virtual world). I’m also starting to collect images, residential and industrial for the world, which is changing the way I’m looking at things. And because they need texture, I’m photographing walls, doors and windows straight on from about 4 feet away which in itself is a weird thing to do. So I'm no longer thinking that an audience might like the aesthetic or that I just might be doing something interesting - instead I'm thinking "will this be useful and could you photoshop it into the virtual city, and wouldn't it be cool to see my real house go virtual". I think I’ll call the set “Pieces for a Virtual World”. And I also read girlwonder today and a very interesting piece on a rather grim kind of civic participation in the wake of the Mumbai bombings. I don't know how this is all connected, but I suppose from a certain phenomenological point of view cohesion is ensured.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The end

just coffins
It’s so good to read about progress on the New Literacies Sampler (here), but I keep on wondering how the “Handbook of Research in New Literacies” is getting on. Anyway as you can probably tell, I’ve been trawling through the blogs, noting that Dr Kate has miscellaneous piles (you ought to see my study, Kate!) and that Infocult covers an article in the Washington Post on wikipedia - “Unlike, say, the Encyclopedia Britannica, Wikipedia has no formal peer review for its articles. They may be written by experts or insane crazy people. Or worse, insane crazy people with an agenda. And Internet access.” OMG this could de-stabilise knowledge in a serious way…is this the end of civilization as we know it?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


orange on black
OMG, it’s so exciting designing this Virtual World! I was chatting with Rich (in the world) for about half an hour, yesterday. Not a day goes past without a visit! I also end up checking the Runboard a couple of times a day, too. We came up with another thread today which must have come from the Department of Esoteric Numerology. Sums of money, telephone numbers, maybe a scrap of paper in someone's pocket, the safe number, the formula, even the lottery ticket number is the same sequence of digits (how weird is that?) And the sequence is always 4357 - 'help' on the keys of a mobile. Of course only the creator and the Goddess (Claire) know the reasoning behind this....

Still posting on digital literacy here!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

On tour

don't walk
I spent a delightful afternoon with Catherine Beavis. We went here and talked about video games and virtual worlds (as you do). She told me about the work of t.l.taylor (links to papers). I found the paper t.l. gave with Mikael Jakobson “The Sopranos meet Everquest – social networking in MMOGs” at the 5th International Digital Arts and Culture Conference in Melbourne, 2003 (full list here). Catherine also reminded me of John Carroll’s work. His article “Digital Drama: a Snapshot of Evolving Forms.” is here. And finally, if you’re into digital literacy please add a comment to this post.

Monday, July 10, 2006

People talked

people talked
The UKLA International Conference was wonderful, as usual. I’ve already mentioned Victoria – but the Digital SIG was kicking and Jackie’s presidential address was fabulous, too! I heard good reports about Clare’s paper (which unfortunately clashed with mine) and was really impressed with Naomi Hamer on the final day. The conference concluded with Ron Carter – steady, thoughtful, and as thought-provoking as ever. And, as for me – my review of Jim Gee’s book “Situated Language and Learning” is published here, in English in Education. I am also very pleased to be invited to this exciting SSHRC event in Newfoundland in October….shipping news!!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Digital literacies (6 things)

paper figure
Debates and discusions about digital literacy have been rumbling on throughout the Lincoln meeting and the Nottingham conference and seem to me to raise a number of issues. These are:

1. The need for a definition - is the term about 'meaning making practices that are mediated through digital technology', for instance?

2. The need to make connections - between home and school and the flow of texts between these and other contexts.

3. The need to identify and distinguish between what's new and what's cool - for example, multimodality, visual culture, play, interactivity, interlinked and continuous texts, interactive wriiten conversations and so on.

4. The need for curriculum positioning - beginning to sketch out what attitudes, skills and understandings are important in the rapidly changing world of digital tecchnology.

5. The need to articulate a critical digital literacy - an approach that underscores the importance of power, ownership/authorship, authenticity and representation in digital media.

6. The need to explore identity performance - to clarify whether this has become salient in the field of digital literacy because it is attractive to a particular group of researchers or whether it is something that is foregrounded by digital literacy and digital texts themselves.

Friday, July 07, 2006


shop window toys
The highlight of the UKLA International Conference so far just has to be Victoria Carrington's excellent presentation on the focus day. There seems to me to be a pressing need to connect what more established research traditions are saying about reading processes with work around new/digital literacies before the discourses get too polarised. I'm skipping the debate over phonics this morning, but there's a rich an interesting day ahead.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Street Piano Liberation Front

Street Piano 2
How does social networking in digital space become civic participation? Maybe the story of the Sharrow street piano can illustrate this. It begins like this. Ruth, on her way back here from meeting with friends spots the street piano and thinks that I may be interested in it. She forgets to tell me about it, but emails me when she’s back in London. I go down and photograph it and post it on my blog here. A few days later Merrony’s Moll leaves a message on my Flickr stream saying how she’d been to photograph the piano only to find that the messages have been removed. I visit Moll’s blog, find out some more and follow the link to Here I read the full story and also the connection with Indymedia here and here and find out that the Council is threatening to remove the piano, there’s an online petition, and so on. Mainstream media get the story and then Jackie hears it on BBC Radio 4 – a reporter rings up a local councilor who is now quite sympathetic to the whole street piano thing!!! The Street Piano Liberation Front has brought about a minor coup. The local independent production company, VeryMuchSo Productions, are making a documentary about the piano and its place in the local community. It looks like it may remain (bloggers may chain themselves to the piano, if necessary) who knows….watch this space!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

This picture

art reject
This picture, part of Sheffield's growing wall art scene just about captures how I feel right now. It's a busy week, so much preparation and I feel I've only just begun. There's marking and moderation, preparations to a new validated masters programme, preparing conference paper(s) - and on top of this it seems that it's really complicated for the university to put some streaming video on a server for me. I'm sure I'll sail through it all - and that's my moaning over! In the mean time check out the Critical Literacies blog, leave a comment too why don't you?

Monday, July 03, 2006

Authenticity: blogs and wikis

magic realism 2
Students can now do blogs and wikis in our VLE, which is cool, but somehow they seem like a shadow of the real thing. It feels as if social software has been colonized by the education system. So, to resurrect a debate initiated by Colin and Michele, have they therefore become inauthentic practices? We, in education, always seem to be two steps behind, but part of me thinks that some change – gradual though it might be – is better than none at all. The same thing goes for the Barnsley virtual worlds project. It’s tame compared to Active Worlds itself, but then again it’s like a quantum leap for the schools involved. I suppose I’m just going to patiently watch how it fits into the classroom context.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

It'll be quiet in the office....

When the office gets noisy, you just might need “shut up tape”. That’s 66 metres of absolute silence. I won’t - mostly because I’m out and about this next week. I’m at Baslow Hall for an away day tomorrow, then here for ESRC seminar series (this on Wednesday), and then at the University of Nottingham for the UKLA International Conference. If I don’t get time to post, this may well explain things.