Monday, May 28, 2007


Canada 2007 011
Today I was asked by The Globe and Mail for a comment on lolcats. Lolcats and the new ‘cweeole’ language are an interesting internet phenomenon. Building on the image macro idea of juxtaposing a caption on an animal image, it re-cycles the anthropomorphic idea of talking animals which runs from traditional tales, through comic books, Disney cartoons and greetings cards. In other words it’s a popular culture form with some pedigree – remember the song ‘We are Siamese, if you please’? From a cultural point of view it’s interesting to chart the rise of the ‘cute’,now well-established in Japan as Kawaii (for example ‘Hello Kitty’), as it begins to claw deeper into Anglo-American popular culture. I’m interested in the way that lolcat chat is staking out some linguistic territory. To me it represents an interesting trend in the diversification of written language associated with the rise of digital literacy. Researchers, myself included, have noted how writing is beginning to take over some of the functions of speech. Cute-speak, like it or not, is part of our cultural heritage, often hidden from view. Rendering it in the written form is what’s new, and, what’s more, given the rapid circulation of ideas in net-culture, it’s not surprising that this miaow-meme seems to be taking on a life of its own. So cute cat chat may be creolising after all!

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Canada 2007 010
This morning I went to a session on teachers’ conceptions of literacy. The research seems to point to the idea that personal reading histories are a particularly potent force. Even though digital literacies were acknowledged by teachers in the study, they weren’t significant in their thinking. Teachers are probably quite immune to changes in practice because of this. Traditional forms of professional development are unlikely to provoke change. We concluded that more immersive experiences for teachers (and trainee teachers) are more likely to succeed. That’s what seems to come across in the virtual world project - here, attitudes towards literacy seem to be shifting because of teacher involvement. Anyway I ended the day with a treat – a fascinating exploration of how the theorising of Ricouer and Arendt could be used to deconstruct the representation of female urban poverty. I also learnt about this indigenous studies portal.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Social capital

Canada 2007 006
The CSSE conference kicked off today. I really enjoyed hearing Jim Anderson on First Nation family literacy and Ji Eun Kim on Korean word games. Although oddly placed, the papers worked well alongside Marianne McTavish who was looking at the discontinuity of information literacy practices between home and school. The question of how out-of-school practices relate to formal education was also raised by Kathy Sanford’s work on video-games, which in return reminded me of ‘Why computer games are no match for the great outdoors’ (what a pointless comparison) reported in the Daily Mail, here. I wondered what videogames a 44 year-old mother would remember anyway! Trying to follow up on David Lewis’s work for the Mind Lab didn’t reveal much – but, in passing, I noted that the other Mind Lab is doing interesting work.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Reading Kate

Canada 2007 004
Reading Kate’s blog made me think again about hyperlinking. Many writers, myself included, have commented on the ways in which hypertext allows for a radically new kind of literacy. But does it? Foucault conceives of text in terms of network and links. In The Archaeology of Knowledge, he points out that the "frontiers of a book are never clear-cut," because "it is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network . . . [a] network of references" (1989:23). Hyperlinks simultaneously provide deixis, alternative sources, rapid referencing and a kind of electronic footnoting. Hypertext offers readers multiple trajectories through the text and enables a choice in the depth of reading as well as access to other media. Although the reader has more control, more rapid access and is as a result given more authority, these choices are not in themselves new – they are differently presented, at our fingertips, embedded in the text.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


I’m in Saskatoon, after a long and tiring journey. Enjoying a warm sunny evening here, which is a surprise after snow in Calgary. Thanks to hotel wi-fi I can post from my bedside which is useful. But will it fry my brain? Like TV, like mobile phones…why do we get so scared? Here’s an article all about it!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Coming soon

reading bus
Originally uploaded by on-the-run.

Part of the paper I'm giving in Canada addresses the ways in which school discourses are reproduced in educational gameplay. I'll also be arguing that "In an educational environment that is dominated by statutory curricula, and the associated discourses of learning objectives and measurable outcomes, it is easy to overlook how often educators’ decisions also include views about what will be ‘good’ for learners in a more general sense, and what they think will capture pupils’ interest. These views associate with the ways in which orderliness and legitimacy are invariably imposed by adults in authority and the uncomfortable notion that a classroom community has only successfully been created when teachers succeed in establishing a unified social world ."

Sunday, May 20, 2007


pink guitars
As a relaxing activity I decided I’d restring my guitar. The pegs by the bridge are a bit stiff, so I used a biro to winkle them out. Of course, that got me thinking about the affordances of writing tools. The humble biro, good for poking holes in things, picking your ear and as an instrument of self-defence. And, as schoolchildren discovered, the casing makes an excellent pea-shooter. You can’t use a keyboard for any of this (well, I suppose you just could use one for self defence) - in fact it seems that the affordances of a keyboard are more limited….but I guess it compensates for this in terms of functionality (words, windows, images, sound etc).

Saturday, May 19, 2007


car park
This is the car park at the Aberdeen conference centre where I was speaking yesterday! I was impressed by the rhetoric of the Curriculum for Excellence. A key feature of this is a clear validation of teacher professionalism, an emphasis on inspiration, challenge and enjoyment and a commitment to innovation. This seemed to create a climate of receptivity to ideas about digital literacy. I enjoyed myself, anyway. Missed trains and bad connections meant I didn’t get back till after midnight – today, I’m done for!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Climbing on art

climbing on art
I've been looking at the Virtual Worlds data and asking myself if the whole idea of gameplay is being exploited for educational purposes - and worse, that in this sort of environment, we ring-fence and bind with rules that which thrives on openness and unruliness ...and end up producing virtual classrooms . So, Stuart Moulthrop 's article in Learning Inquiry has some resonances. He has concerns...‘Indeed, games probably appeal to children largely because they are excluded from the formal culture of school. If this distinction is neglected, games might be used simply as extracurricular rewards: learn your lessons, earn playtime. Much worse, they might be brought into the classroom only as delivery systems for reinforcement of narrowly defined goals, i.e., as drill-and-practice resources for standardized tests. Needless to say, both these approaches strip away the dimension of ‘‘open culture’’ or re-creativity, since they would necessarily limit, not realize, possibilities for change. ' (p. 54)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Touching art

touching art
This is how to put your mobile phone to bed - buy one of these! As they say ‘this plush cell-phone bed gives you a chance to rectify your self-centered ways’ – but that’s not all -the bed also comes with two pink slippers that work as screen cleaners. Great, but it's back to work on virtual worlds – here’s a short sound clip, a vote of confidence for the Town Hall (a better result than in real life!).

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Approaching art

me and art
This is one of the works by Andy Goldsworthy we saw last week. It’s part of a varied show at the South Yorkshire Sculpture Park. This is one of the best pieces, set in the middle of a beautiful copse (a beechwood, I think). It’s a finely crafted circular stone wall, just that bit too high to see into. It’s difficult to get a toehold, but I did in the end – and then you can see the space that it encloses!

Friday, May 11, 2007


Village mural
In the Active Worlds work I’m involved in, we’re using off-the-shelf avatars and that works fine. But that made me wonder if you could customize AW avatars. A quick look and it seems like there’s plenty around – here are Wildlife Spirits, and then there’s other stuff here and some gorgeous dragonflies here. Nevertheless, I think I’ll stick to my human form.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Not much time to devote to posting over the last couple of days which mostly seem to have been spent on the motorway back and forth to Nottingham to visit my mother who has fractured her hip. In between picking up the post and bringing in the rubbish bin, she lost her balance….At the same time I’m trying to pull together my paper for the CSSE conference (here). I just checked Sarah’s blog though and she reports on AERA and her paper, ‘Situating the Net Gen: Exploring the role of technology in the social identity of college students’. You can find a summary here. I'm trying to keep my balance...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Here’s a short piece by Danah Boyd on social networking sites called ‘Public, Private or What?’ with some interesting reflections on how educators can engage with students’ online practices – well worth a read. And of course everybody’s blogging about Lord of the Rings online. Hasn’t it just got to be the next big thing – that’s if it isn’t already.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Pour Quoi

Urban Dictionary’s definition of parkour (free-running) is like a potted history. I like the way this and other street stunts transform our understanding of the urban environment – playing with the affordances of the everyday world. They do things I can only do with an avatar! Anyway Pour Quoir (by The Sensibles) is a wonderful satire on free-running.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Avatar speaks

I’m now convinced that when I write up the Virtual Worlds work my avatar must have a voice. It seems to start like this: ‘I am empty. I feel nothing. Waiting. I am waiting to come to life. My body is like a lifeless puppet. Dressed in red t-shirt and stonewash denim I am non-descript. I could be anyone, I could be anywhere, any place. I go quiet and unnoticed. I wait. I wait until I am called to action, and then I am propelled through the empty streets and dark alleyways. My arms move with the heavy weight of a sleepwalker as I greet people. Then he breathes language into me. I speak in code. Those tiny black insects of writing are my speech. And then I know I have come to life. I am born into this dreaming world – this world that I help to make and to bring into being.’ aaah – something like that then, I reckon.

Friday, May 04, 2007


Town Hall
Meeting the Barnsborough 'inhabitants' face-to-face and then in the virtual world now makes me think that I need to write a multi-voiced account of this work. Perhaps from the point of view of planner, avatar and researcher. I haven't resolved this yet but it really does seem to be the most appropriate way of representing the layers of meaning. Anyway one thing is quite clear, and that's the way the youngsters think that the world is mint or even mintus (which seems to be a superlative form of the word). I'm not sure of the currency of 'mint' - unintentional pun - but it looks as if it could be restricted to the North of England.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Fading into fame

Unfortunately Ruth’s neck tattoo is starting to fade. It says farashah (butterfly in Arabic) and just as it fades it’s attracting some attention. Jon who works for these publishers emailed me asking for permission to use the white Arabic tattoo for a book he’s putting together called ‘Arabic Tattoos: Documenting the Cultural Skin Behind the Ink.’ We’re so pleased – we may even get a free copy of the book! And Mark Batty publishes some great stuff, too. Other images of the tattoo are here, here and here.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Here’s Barbara Ganley on new media as formal and informal learning spaces. She suggests that social software can help, in part, to repair the broken connections and the loss of a sense of community (?). I’m not entirely clear what’s broken, but see what you think…Although there’s no clear definition of informal learning she argues that Web 2.0 tools help in blurring the boundaries between formal and informal learning – and that this is a good thing. Alan November strikes me as a more mainstream advocate of new technology in learning. This is his blog. And here’s Colin Mills evocative obituary of Louise in today’s Guardian. Well done Colin!