Thursday, June 28, 2007


Originally uploaded by outallnight.
Today I was locked bumper-to-bumper in traffic trying to move North out of Sheffield. After an hour in the car I only managed to reach the outskirts – so I turned back! This is all the result of the now famous floods! I was on my way to Barnsley to work with the virtual world teachers. One of the latest quirky developments is using green screen digital storytelling to place actual children in role in the virtual world. Mind-boggling! There’s more on digital story-telling on these pages. And, finally, thanks to outallnight for the photograph of extreme weather in Sheffield - there's lots more on his photostream.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Writing avatars

I’m doing some more avatar focus groups next week. I’m still really enjoying it – the data is so compelling. Last time the children told me just how boring the SATs are! The trouble for me is that my avatar is learning to be a researcher, too – as he writes in the postscript to my draft paper: ‘These interviews have a strange dynamic. Sometimes it’s like I’m just another adult firing silly questions at kids – and then at other times, there’s a switch – they slip out of my control, turning the tables, asking me the questions. What do I know about Victor Borkovitcz, do I like my avatar, what am I trying to hide, where do I live, anyway? I get used to it. I polish my approach, adjust to the rhythm of the groups, shuffling around, nodding, addressing them by name and signalling a topic change with words and a raised arm. And slowly my avatar is learning to become a researcher, and that could be the start of a whole heap of problems.’

Sunday, June 24, 2007



We’re hearing much more about Facebook in the UK now. When I first came across it, it was something for American college students, as this article recalls. Now it’s the cool place to be, and alongside this, the commercial interests in social networking are becoming more apparent. The bullet points at the end of the news article are interesting – in summary Facebook is described as a social experiment; it’s described as having ‘viral power’; that it ‘taps into innate real life traits - curiosity, sociability and sharing’; and promises to save you time but ends up eating it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


At the Play, Creativity and Digital Cultures conference Beth told me about the Storyline approach, and I’ve only just got around to looking it up. The interesting thing explained here is that the “Pupils engage with the Storyline through role play in which they themselves become the characters in the story.” – now doesn’t that sound remarkably similar to virtual world scenarios? I’ve been reading more, and rather like my idea of a virtual world inviting exploration and participation through a constellation of literacy practices, the Scottish work does the same thing, albeit through traditional media. So this is quoted from the Storyline site: “The Storyline method poses problems and asks questions of pupils rather than giving them answers to questions they have never asked. The pupils and the teacher explore ideas together. The approach is essentially experiential and constructivist. It draws the curriculum together using the environment and social subjects as a stimulus to explore, using expressive arts and language as a means of discussing, describing and explaining. Research and reference skills are extended as pupils are encouraged to search for answers and information in various ways..”

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Keep taking the

I’ve been looking over some work we did that involved student teachers using tablet PCs. Clearly, the big advantage is portability – it seems as though most uses just revolved around what could be described as ‘traditional practices’, but there are some examples of using the machines to work on video extracts and music files. My hunch is that we could build on this work by looking explicitly for examples of transformed practice with another group. But maybe we need to get round to a write-up of this first.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


serious biff bat
I’m a little perturbed to find that the moral panic about the toxic effect of new media and technology on children is beginning to poison some of our students. After working tirelessly to promote popular culture and technology I’m experiencing a bit of a backlash. Anyway this is a down-to-earth critique of the main issues, and so I’m re-directing all queries here – as a sort of de-tox…

Monday, June 18, 2007


“Literate culture has produced a world that has for centuries disconnected and fragmented itself based on the use of the primary medium of the written word. We’ve manifested a world with boundaries and units and this can be seen in not only the various forms of technology we’ve produced, but even in how these technologies are created (i.e. assembly line, etc.).” This is from Digital Ethnography – I don’t agree, but then I do like the video – you can watch it via YouTube if you don’t want to go to the blog. The picture today is yesterday’s digital Fathers Day message from Ruth. Does she show signs of developing a political sensibility, I wonder?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Fathers day in England

I am one
Today was a lazy day. We showed prospective buyers around our house. Nobody seems to be able to understand why we want to leave – including us, ourselves! This afternoon I checked the proofs of Digital Writing in the Early Years. I wrote it two years and four months ago, so it’s not quite so cutting edge, but it still does a pretty good job of surveying the field (although I say so myself). I now have a journal article to finish, a book proposal to complete and a number of things ‘on the back burner’…and, of course, a stack of marking that is glaring at me from the other side of the room!

Friday, June 15, 2007

One too many places

Ruth geek
In my on-going explorations of social networking I find myself signing up for so many things that I end up forgetting about some! But I just have to say again that netvibes is still my favourite recent find – so useful, and so user-friendly. Yesterday a friend recommended voxtropolis and it certainly looks good (I’m attracted to the explicit aim of blending online and offline worlds) – but how can I really tell? Do I have to join this as well? No, I've decided to cut back on this sort of activity and concentrate on what seems to work for me...for the time being...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Contact zone

Sammy at the wedding
I’ll be using the idea of ‘the imagined classroom community’ in my seminar on virtual worlds tomorrow. The idea is inspired by “Arts of the Contact Zone”. Mary Louise Pratt’s essay “Arts of the Contact Zone” is often described as a classic amongst linguists and cultural critics. It contains some fascinating takes on literacy. I’m particularly interested in her suggestion that we idealize discourse communities, turning them into linguistic utopias. But it’s where she describes our imagined classrooms that the essay really hits home for me. She asks “What is the place of unsolicited oppositional discourse, parody, resistance, critique in the imagined classroom community? Are teachers supposed to feel that their teaching has been most successful when they have eliminated such things and unified the social world, probably in their own image? Who wins when we do that? Who loses?” I’ve been thinking a lot about this ideal imagined classroom in which no-one knows any swear words, where everyone is polite, where it’s nice….and there’s no bullying; and where everyone shares…a common cultural experience and a language to express it (no dialect/slang/txt)…and how that’s a total fiction!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bad taste?

Today was the last meeting of the Critical Literacies project. Findings will be disseminated at the UKLA conference (here). There is a collection of fascinating studies all of which include children and young people as active and critical producers…an important antedote to the dominant discourse of ‘literacy as reading’. A couple of the projects include a critical reading of the healthy eating agenda, and that’s where I picked up the Big Mac spoof – an interesting tie-in with yesterday’s YouTube post.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


Yesterday at the conference Mimi Ito introduced us to AMV. AMV stands for Anime Music Video and basically involves mixing anime cartoons with music. Some of the slicker stuff is on the org, but you can see plenty on YouTube. Today, Ruth showed me this which is fairly basic lipsynching but is a similar genre. Mimi also introduced the Bentley Brothers. You can see the spoof horror ‘Clown’ here. This shows remix culture at work – digital practitioners as pro-sumers or is it con-ducers?

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Today I was at the final conference of the Play, Creativity and Digital Cultures seminar series. I did a workshop on the Virtual Worlds work – all in all it was a great day. I think I came away with an impression of how varied digital culture is becoming, how many niche interests there are, and a feeling that there is still plenty to do in terms of conceptualizing the field. A recurrent theme for me is the search for appropriate methodologies for understanding the production of digital texts. It seems that interviews and observations often create secondary texts that are, in a sense parasitic, and that we base our analysis on these secondary texts, reading them with a theoretical gaze that further transforms them. This is particularly problematic where the primary texts are slippery, fragmented or ‘in process’ (as in gameplay, action drawing, synchronous chat). Freezing these texts and separating them from their practice and situational context just won’t work.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


There’s something about screen capture software as a research tool that doesn’t particularly impress me. It’s not simply that it’s really just like spyware, more that it reduces complex activity and meaning making to behaviour – clicking, linking, visiting, number of hits, and so on. So, I’ve always been a bit hesitant about the use of tools like Camtasia. Morae does similar things, but it also allows you to get video of users - so I can see how this could capture interesting things like discussions, off-line collaboration in on-line work and so on. Here’s an account of a Morae test. ScreenFlash, on the other hand, isn’t so sophisticated, but is clearly a useful demo tool. I suppose it’s just a case of working out what you want to do and then getting the appropriate tool for the job.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


This is an EDEN open classroom conference entitled ‘Real Learning in Virtual Worlds’ which will be held in Stockholm next October – looks interesting. And this tells you about Arts Metaverse, an explicitly educational virtual world which is a distributed multi-user 3D application. As the blurb says its is 1) persistent 2) deeply collaborative 3) interconnected and 4) interoperable. Looks interesting, you can watch some clips here.

Monday, June 04, 2007

It's all out there..

The Swedish Embassy's recently opened office in Second Life provides visitors with information about Swedish culture and history, as well as tips about places to visit, passport and visa rules. It will also host exhibits, including a virtual version of the Budapest office of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who helped thousands of Jews escape Nazi-occupied Hungary during World War II....and this site, featuring Cheddar Cheese as it ages has had 1399207 hits. There is absolutely no link between the two items.

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Road job
One of the highlights of the Canada Humanities Congress was listening to Jean-Claude Guedon. His work focuses on new technology, communication and research. He presented an excellent overview on the relationship between technology, publication and knowledge through history as a basis for predicting future trends. Wiki technology may well be more significant than we realise – Guedon argues that the last three centuries of scientific knowledge could be seen as a slow, dispersed wiki. The future is pre-figured in the past in this sense. Here’s a link to some of Guedon’s work…and here’s some more.

Friday, June 01, 2007


Canada 2007 008
It’s usually pretty grim getting back to your emails after you’ve been away, but this time I’ve had good fun. There’s an invitation to the Capita conference, Child Protection in the Digital Environment - here’s some of the blurb “As children are spending more time online it has become increasingly important for parents, carers and teachers to engage with children’s online activity and encourage positive use of the technologies that are available to them, whilst also avoiding the dangers. Keeping children and young people safe online today not only includes preventing grooming by paedophiles, but also protection from ‘cyberbullying’ by peers and encouraging responsible use of popular social networking sites.” Of course it’s important – it’s hard to argue against, but it just plays on all those well-rehearsed moral panics. Academics are panicing too, judging by the number of comments on this site. The initial emailer was “shocked to come across this site”, seeing it as a "cynical degradation of education". Oh no, everything is falling apart! Panic! So to Schome, the “education system for the information age” that takes sanctuary in Second Life. This presentation (in comic form) is great, that’s better – it’s so good to be back!