Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Friends online

Me and my bag
This is Hannah when we met up in London last night. She’s going out with two MySpace friends on Saturday night. ‘We’ve known each other for over a year..’ she says – but of course that’s only online. ‘The first few minutes is a bit weird..’ she says, commenting on the initial face-to-face contact – but then ‘it’s like you’ve got so much in common..’. So this adds to all that stuff about new social networks. ‘Anyway I need to meet more people…’ is the final comment. It’s interesting that MySpace is the glue (or more accurately the gluepot). Both her new friends are same age, same sex and live within a twenty mile radius. (Reference back to this).

Monday, January 29, 2007


living room
If you look at the photo you might just make out part of a set of Chinese paper-cuts hanging on the wall. Well, the other night one fell down and smashed. The picture cord severed in a clean break. Not only that, but a week or so earlier another one went in the same way. Readers with good memories may recall my post about a mirror falling off the wall whilst I was working at home (here). Strange! Maybe we have a poltergeist…I steady myself by looking up David Shaffer’s blog. He has a paper about learning from video games here and look there’s also Shaffer, D. W. (2007) 'How computer games help children learn' : Palgrave Macmillan (a familiar sounding title) – or if you’re fed up with learning well there’s always complete tom-foolery with the mango clip!

Friday, January 26, 2007

On the same lines

blue sky
It’s always good to think of improvements so I enjoyed reading Liz Lawley’s thoughts on Flickr friends. She says: ‘I’d love to be able to see who we have in common.’ That’s interesting because it’s rather more useful than visualizing social networks (anyway this sort of thing needs loads of contacts). Quite a lot of us signal networks across different sites. Here’s an example of this. But I’d rather like a smarter Flickr homepage – one in which you could tag and search interests, and one that you could personalize a bit. After all your profile is just a form you fill in, and up it pops on the corporate page template, hardly changed at all.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New Literacy Studies Sampler

Think Bridget Riley with a migraine
At last, Colin and Michele's NLS Sampler is out. It features Davies, J. and Merchant, G. `Looking from the inside out: academic blogging as new literacy´ - the piece based on the work Julia and I did on blogs. Unfortunately whilst it's on Amazon they say they are 'currently unable to offer this title'. So, I guess that in the meantime I'll have to wait till copies get shipped over! Perhaps by then I'll have put up a PDF link....

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dangerous signs

After the fun of graffiti bombing and the celebration of graffiti as art, it suddenly looks like dangerous business. One of our most subversive forms of literacy not only challenges laws and conventions, it can also be high risk. I doubt that this sad incident is going to change the picture – after all graffiti is as old as writing itself (1550 B.C Memphis, Egypt) – but I suppose we need to try to minimize the risks that graffiti-artists take (discussion here).

Monday, January 22, 2007


kitchen update1
Two recent media stories raise issues about unregulated media. What should we allow, what should we resist and, of course, how - are central questions. Racist behaviour is the latest of a long list of challenging issues in ‘reality’ TV. Reality has become a slippery term. This made-for-TV version of reality creates the illusion that we are looking behind the scenes at how things really are. But it’s not exactly like that (not real) but of course, there’s no denying it’s actually happening there on our TV screens (real). And then to thicken the plot in comes disrespectful behaviour (racism) which is unpleasant and all too common (real). Thousands complain, politicians get involved, but of course it’s already happened. Slightly different in some ways is the way in which supporters of Le Pen’s far right politics (real) set up an office in Second Life (differently real). Here complaint was transformed into activism, but the problem continues. Then there are rumours that UKIP (unreal) are setting up offices in Second Life. That’s just weird – a party that is obsessed with boundaries crosses the blurry boundary – at that stage I just laugh at the possibility that my virtual brother might want to have his two Lindens-worth in Second Life!

Friday, January 19, 2007


“Young people are spending their time in a space which adults find difficult to supervise or understand”. That’s the quote that heads “Their space – education for a digital generation”, the title of a report on new media from Demos. It raises some important questions for all of us. Their pitch is: "Approaching technology from the perspective of children, it tells positive stories about how they use online space to build relationships and create original content. It argues that the skills children are developing through these activities, such as creativity, communication and collaboration, are those that will enable them to succeed in a globally networked, knowledge-driven economy."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

With your name

mystery red
MSN allows you to alter your personal settings and provides a window for you to write “what I’m listening to”. This often seems to become the signature of the moment. Here’s a selection from my current contact list:

1. I did actually punch one of the child actors –scuse me
2. I’m not going to tell you ‘how hot’ you are, or ‘how lovely your lips/eyes/hair/whatever’ it’s true
3. Tonight Matthew I’m going to be…A Butterfly
4. This year I’m aiming 4 the moon coz if I miss it I’ll be with the stars

And of course, my very own: *look deep into the parkah*....

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The self online

Increasingly our presence online includes the visual - some sort of visual presentation of the self. I’ve recently been looking at this in three different contexts and thinking about the similarities and differences. Firstly in academic blogs, when the author wishes to be visible she/he will typically show a more or less friendly ‘talking head’ shot see this blog, Vic, Dr Joolz, and Simply Clare (Dr Kate has a slight variation on this theme). Secondly MSN pics – these usually show a ‘me with friends’, ‘me laughing’, ‘me partying’ and so on. Of course video chats offer other possibilities and the screen-grab above shows Hannah displaying a new item from her wardrobe to her jealous sister (AKA: *Some Morrocan has done a cover of my song!*). Thirdly, as we know, in virtual worlds how our avatar looks and dresses attracts attention. I was interested to note yesterday how children working in the Barnsborough environment were concerned about the gender of their avatar and offered onscreen tips on how to select a more appropriate one. But not only that, our teachers too were trying on different bodies, checking each other out, rotating etc…. ‘how does my bum look in these dungarees’! As in life, so online?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Virtually complete

…still more content to develop but the virtual world has had its first public airing with a presentation by Jane Mackay, Julie Meiner and Paul Rees at the BETT show. You can read more about the project on the ‘Barnsborough blog’. This post gives a brief introduction to the project. We’re currently wrestling with questions about the supervision/monitoring of children’s chat. At the sharp end, these are questions about children’s safety and teachers’ responsibilities…but are pitted against notions of pupil autonomy and teacher control and the wish to provide children with a rich experience of new literacies.

Monday, January 15, 2007


These are not Global Positioning shoes although they are pretty cool. If you want the GPS shoe, it looks like this – also pretty cool! That’s from the Platial blog. Now Platial is described as ‘The people’s atlas’ and it is – it’s social networking and mapping. That’s a bit of a different take on things than simply geo-tagging photos on Flickr. Here’s the Platial frontpage and here’s Sheffield with the potential for community mapping with information, events etc. And then Mapkit allows you to publish a map on your site/blog – but I’m not sure why I’d want to use that on my blog, but I can see where it would help others.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Another day, another dream

I’ve been thinking about what avatars dream of…thought it sounded familiar and then found Mel Slater with a paper called ‘Do avatars dream of digital sheep?’ and Mel references back to Philp K. Dick ‘Do androids dream of electric sheep?’ All told it’s a sort of verbal meme. I also looked at the New Media Literacies website which gives an interesting list of ‘new’ skills. They have play, performance, navigation, resourcefulness, networking, negotiating, synthesis, sampling, collaboration, teamwork, judgement and discernment. I’m not sure they’re all skills and I reckon some of them could be usefully combined. Now these are described as ‘emerging skills’ – they follow ‘preliminary skills’ and that’s rather problematic, too. I’d want to eradicate the distinction altogether (see this post for similar comments).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Avatars dream of being human

red leather
‘Do avatars dream of electric racoons?’ – what a storming title for this piece by Paul Mason. And as if that wasn’t enough there’s Jeremy Paxman in Second Life – I never thought I’d see the day! Read about it here. Mason has another interesting piece here, too. And thanks to Emma who pointed me to these goings on, and also to the work of Margaret Wertheim ‘The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet’ – sounds interesting to me. Finally, after a few days of problems it seems that Flickr's talking to Blogger, so its back to normal with picture size!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


It’s interesting how when you’re trying to conceptualise things in a diagram such as a matrix you often hit something you’d not thought of before.I’ve been constructing a grid which plots one-to-one and one-to-many against synchronous and asynchronous communication and hit this exact problem - trying to identify something that’s one-to-many and synchronous. That’s a combination more commonly associated with old media and only sometimes used in videoconferencing.But, when I looked into it there is a small but important digital development called broadcast messaging as this article explains.Contactplus is an example of the software you can use.And then, there’s cell broadcast as explained here.Thank you, matrix!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


'A year of bad press and security concerns means the educational potential of social networking sites remains largely untapped' writes Jerome Monahan in today’s Education Guardian. The full text is here with a small quote from me on padlocks! I also looked around a few education-related blogs today. School blogs seem to be quite disappointing – mostly providing ‘corporate’ information. Some do allow pupil voice, but this is often unfocused and short-lived. However, I enjoyed this school visit blog – the author turns out to be the Head of Education for East Lothian Council. I also stumbled on a student-teacher blog with much similarity to this one. Both are trainees on PGCE courses. One blog stops on Sunday 19 November and the other on the previous Sunday (12th November). Doesn’t that just tell the whole story!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Mobile clubbing

nearly time
Mobile clubbing looks like an interesting way of co-ordinating time and place to constitute an affinity space. In fact as the website’s URL suggests it embodies the essence of the flashmob. But I was somehow disappointed to learn that these so-called clubbers move around their chosen location cocooned within the private worlds of their MP3 players. So for all the potential of flashmobbing we get a ‘fun’ way of achieving physical proximity with minimal interaction and minimal disruption. That’s not quite what Rheingold had in mind when he wrote on the Power of the Mobile Many, here.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Learning your clicks

Steam cleaning
As you can see by mousing over my links I’m now in league with They provide the free service of picturing weblinks – just hover over the hyperlink and 'snap' will display a small graphical preview of the linked site. You may have seen this elsewhere. So if you want to play ball you get this free add-on feature and of course gets to learn all about the people who visit this site, when you hover and when you click.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


The house of rock
Here’s Danah Boyd predicting the future of social networking sites. It’s clear that there are some local differences here, but the media-fuelled moral panic in the UK is always only a few steps behind. My impression is that MySpace and Facebook have been slower to take off over here and it strikes me that they’re being used by older kids (late teens and above). Meanwhile our texting culture continues to grow as this suggests. Main providers report increased volume on New Years Day (but Christmas is a favourite for picture messaging). Better late than never, here’s some seasonal entertainment just in case you missed yesterday’s comments!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New - pedia

This is Scholarpedia, a new wiki that’s works in the same way as Wikipedia. The difference, apart from what the title suggests, lies in the way it’s peer-reviewed. This may lead to more reliable content (a criticism sometimes made of Wikipedia) – but of course that’s not guaranteed. Will it survive 2007?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


sing me to sleep
FOAF (friend of a friend) data can be used to generate quantitative analysis of social networks. This is applied to blogging sites in this paper. Paolillo and Wright suggest that patterns of interest and social interaction are closely interwoven for a central core of users. These users have strong ties, know each other well and spend time together. However, the majority of interactions are more diffuse, and weak ties predominate. I think that's just about true in the case of vistors to my blog.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Fl... Fl...Flickr flâneur

and more
Photographing my urban environment is a useful reflective process and is helping me to see my surroundings in new ways. I realize that wandering about observing the changing city-scape, the maintenance work, the re-generation and the decay has always been important to me. I’m a natural born "flâneur". Walter Benjamin portrays the "flâneur" as a lone, urban wanderer who drifts through the crowds without direction, reflecting often on all the little things he notices. It seems to me that the camera could become the diary of the modern day "flâneur". I'm also very interested in the ways in which writing figures in this environment. This interest has developed into one of my favourite photo sets – signs and notices.