Friday, March 30, 2007


The Geldof girl writes in the Guardian about MySpace today, mixing up two popular ideas, narcissism and addiction. In the first, publication on the internet is seen as the ‘new vanity’ produced by an inflated sense of self; in the second the internet is a drug that ‘takes over’ our normal self. Here’s a link to the article. It’s interesting reading down the comments. The majority are quite hostile to the article. And how, I wonder, will the Guardian read this? Favourably because it attracts attention or unfavourably because it seems unpopular? And what I wonder of the commenters are they vain, addicted or both?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The dark side

sunset 2
The blogosphere is buzzing with Kathy Sierra’s account of the death threats she’s received on her blog. These events and their very serious consequences are posted about here. Naff comments and spam are one thing, but in the ephemeral and sometimes lite and frothy world of blogging, there’s shock and surprise. Unpleasant though it maybe, some argue that because this sort of thing happens anyway, in life, it’s inevitable that it’ll happen on blogs from time to time. Are we moving away from the na├»ve view that everything to do with social networking is innocent fun? Utopian ideals are one thing, but do we need to protect the vulnerable from this sort of thing…and how? We need to be able to steer a clear line between moral panic, censorship and surveillance. (Note the same issues surface in educational responses to new media.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Web 2.0 use

Here’s some detail about a UK survey on what Web 2.0 apps are getting used by certain sectors of the population (pdf report). This work is part of the JISC funded ‘SPIRE’ project. Their blog describes the work in the following way: ‘we ran a survey to try to discover which online services people were using and in what manner. We were interested to find out which services were popular and if they were being used for work, for study or socially / for fun.’

Monday, March 26, 2007

Louise Poulson (1953-2007)

We were once both young and aspiring academics in Sheffield - often exchanging our frustrations concerning the old guard and 'the system'. Things moved on, and so did Louise, but we always shared the camaraderie of co-conspirators! My fondest memories of Louise are of collaborating on an article for the British Journal of In Service Education. We had such fun that summer - it was a wonder that it ever reached completion! For a short time we shared an office, which quickly became a hotbed of subversion. Louise's impersonations of colleagues were so entertaining that I would regularly be reduced to fits of uncontrollable laughter. Tutors from the English Team at Sheffield Hallam University, who worked with her, have warm memories of Louise as a bright, entertaining spirit with an incisive mind and a wicked sense of humour. We will miss her.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Watching social networks

light play
Here’s the Digital Ethnography project at Kansas State University, explaining it’s work on YouTube to the YouTube community. Their blog is here, and it seems like a project worth keeping an eye on. I’ve been so busy this week that I completely missed the Danah Boyd rant on MySpace and narcissism. I can’t really relate to this – maybe I feel ill-equipped to comment on cultural life in the US, but I’m just interested in the take-up and the identity performances on MySpace in the UK. I can’t get that bothered about it, but then I’m biased – I think this is OK – or am I just an ageing liberal?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bike, train, taxi

Today I was here, talking to these lovely young people about digital literacy. I could only photograph part of the room and it came out a bit blurry - but at least it shows the purple seats! I promised them I'd post a link to Active Worlds and also to the education bit (AWEDU). There, done that then.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spend, play, chat

Webkinz are ‘lovable plush pets’. First you buy the ‘real thing’ and then you adopt an online simulacrum in the Webkinz world – a world that runs on its own economy in the form of Kinzcash. You feed and exercise your pet, give your pet’s room a makeover, play trivia quizzes and arcade games. You can also collect (buy) other pets and build up a family. Kinzchat enables IM interaction and social networking. It’s a sort of cross between Neopets and Beanie Babies. In the words of the advertisers: ‘Be a part of Webkinz world come in and play’. Let’s keep an eye on the fortunes of this one.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Play, risk, power

That's what they call buttons
On Friday I went to a great seminar in Lincoln – part of the Play, Creativity and Digital Cultures series. I was struck by the recurring theme of control, surveillance and censorship in children’s digital lives. Part of this is based on some very real issues that get rather loosely captured under the banner of ‘internet safety’ - but a substantial amount of this is fuelled by moral panic. I also wonder whether the unruliness of the web and the peer-to-peer power of online social networking are also perceived as a threat to teacher authority. The idea of decentralization seems to unsettle corporate media and political organization too, as this piece argues.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Just 5 minutes?

The five minute university. I know it's a bit old, but it's still funny and it is Friday!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Goes both ways

Leicester sculpture
Today I read Fade to Play’s report on a Cory Doctorow lecture about privacy and surveillance in the new media age. This is not a direct note but comes from that blogger’s notes, and it made me think. It goes something like this: ‘We are sleepwalking into a surveillance state (eg CCTV cameras). A CCTV camera only records. Only stops muggers that don’t have good judgement to stop because they are on camera. Parents can track kids with mobile phones and Myspace. Technology can serve us or enslave us.’ But I’m not so sure it’s a simple choice. I think both happen, both are happening simultaneously, but of course we still need to be watchful. Web 2.0 isn’t all a bed of roses.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

After the goldrush

Not only is my university intent on taking over the centre of Sheffield, it has also established a presence in Second Life, joining all the other universities, business outlets and political parties competing for attention. It looks like we’ll be buying our own private island in Second Life as well – that’s so we can keep out the riff-raff, of course. No comment. And on a totally unrelated note I read that NCLB has set some unrealistic targets – now that seems familiar! (Thanks to Leanne for bringing this to my attention.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Twitter is a site that allows you to post one-line messages about what you’re currently doing. Either you use the web interface, IM, or SMS. You can limit the messages to your friends list, or you can make the messages public. This is instant social networking in which you choose your audience and, in so doing maintain a lightweight online presence. On the other hand, Tiddlyspot allows you to set up a personal wiki - again this can be private or public. So what is going on with all these tiddly, twiddly, twittery things – I, for one, would like to know!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Lip gloss

No, I do not take medicines for this.
Originally uploaded by ♥ Eve ♥.

Last October I posted here about a joke birthday present from Ruth – the Peppermint Schnapps flavoured Mullet lip balm. I’ve had a few comments on the picture on my Flickr stream, and lately one from Eve who is a lipgloss collector. She has nearly 300 different ones. The picture above (shown with permission) shows part of her extensive collection. It’s tags are ‘lipgloss’, ‘lip’, ‘lipsmackers’, ‘smackers’, lipsmacker’, ‘collection’ and ‘lipbalm’. She also belongs to the LIPGLOSSADDICTION public group. So, just like the padlock example I wrote about here, we again see social networking in Flickr as a way of creating an affinity space for niche interests. Don’t worry about me – I’m not about to start a collection, but I’m intrigued by this aspect of photo-sharing!!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Video on video games

Here's a 20 minute video from Orange County Department of Education on using video games in education. The rather quirky intro gives way to some useful stuff and includes Jim Gee, Henry Jenkins and other key figures in the debate.

Friday, March 09, 2007


I was in Leicester today at the UKLA research meeting. I now regret going by car – it took me three hours to get home! London’s quicker. Listening to the car radio I learnt that Jean Baudrillard died in Paris on Wednesday. Here’s an appreciation. I also found out about the latest wiki scandal – a Wikipedia administrator has been posing as a tenured religion professor. He’s a 24-year old with no qualifications. Is that bad? Unreal, Baudrillard would say, I expect. Tomorrow I’m teaching - it’s blogs and wikis, so I really thought I ought to get something down today!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Book runs into trouble

I first saw the humorous Norwegian video ‘Helpdesk’ on Colin and Michele’s blog. It’s a good observation on the destabilizing effect of a new technology. Since then it’s run into a spot of bother and has been removed from YouTube - see the story here. You can still see the original here - and still get the gist. A great little sketch!

Monday, March 05, 2007


This is Ning. Ning prides itself as being ‘the only online service where you can create, customize, and share your own Social Network’. Basically, you create a network for your family, class or whatever. You make your own affinity space. You can make it public or private, tag entries etc etc. It has a very simple interface that allows you to design your own portal. It lets you see what you can have, and allows you to arrange what you want where you want. You just have to drag objects into different columns. .. interesting -anyway that’s where I found this excellent cheese-stacking video.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Modal crossings

Islamic design
Watching the movie of Suskind's 'Perfume', I was struck by the challenge of representing one mode in another. The novel is a masterpiece in evoking the olefactory in words, whereas the movie has to make do with bombarding the view with images, and it doesn't work so well. That brought to mind the ways in which writers convey the other senses - sound in general, and music in particular. My personal favourites are the string quartet in Proust, Vikram Seth's descriptions in 'An Equal Music' and Toni Morrison's 'Jazz'. But the best of all is at the end of James Baldwin's short story 'Sonny's Blues' - a brilliant example of how skilfull writing can capture the emotional resonances of music.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Too much technology in the classroom? This is a rather feeble article that sets out to take a balanced view of Interactive Whiteboards, but doesn’t really get anywhere at all. I suppose the idea that schools somehow have to compete with ‘iPods, Playstations and home computers’ is a bit naff anyway. Asking which technology and for what purposes would be more interesting. IWBs themselves are pretty neutral, but they do tend to lend themselves to face-the-front teacher demonstration/domination rather too easily. Meanwhile the BBC continues to try hard – clearly worried about the fragmentation of their market, they now plan to use YouTube as a ‘gateway’ to younger audiences. Doesn’t that miss the point a bit? Only time will tell how successful exploiting new media to draw people back to old media will be. Note the similarity in both moves as attempts to re-establish the traditional authority structures of a disciplinary society by using the very technology that seems so threatening.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Video conference

This afternoon we had a great video-conference lecture from Anne Haas Dyson at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (courtesy of WUN). Her studies of children’s ‘birthday party fantasies’ and ‘pine cone wars’ vividly illustrated how children make use of writing tools in the context of their own cultural worlds. I was quite moved by the fact that all this seems to thrive within the context of the ‘return to basics’ agenda of NCLB. Anne in her webpage blurb talks about how she has “become interested in changing notions of written language and of the texts through which people learn and play (particularly those of popular culture), in how children's literacy use reflects these changing notions, and in how schools should respond to those changes.” Great stuff, I can’t wait to read it in more detail!