Friday, August 31, 2007

Word is out

Last Sunday I wrote a comment on some graffiti art – “Sometimes the writing is so stylized that it is hard to decipher; other times the meaning is hard to pin down” – but I didn’t post this text. Since then the explanation has appeared as a comment on my photostream: “The reason skemz wrote police bastard is because everytime we've been painting down at the courts we keep getting hastled by the police, there driving us to do illegals like tracksides, warehousers ETC because atleast we never get hastled....”. Well, that’s clear enough! This is meaning-making in the borderlands. In contrast, re-working books as sculpture is becoming quite respectable. Many thanks to Sigrid for pointing to Su Blackwell’s book sculptures. And there’s more here at wordandimage.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

New academic year

I’m fascinated by the interplay between the verbal and the visual in screen-based texts. In my own blog posts I choose different approaches. Sometimes the verbal element is intended as a commentary on the visual. At other times it’s the other way around. But more often than not it’s more subtle than that – maybe there’s an indirect link, or maybe it’s a rather random association. Readers/viewers/consumers will make their own meanings but I guess there are different degrees of direction or author-ity. There’s clearly more complexity when there’s a verbal element in the visual (as above). Anyway, this is the Lancaster porcelain collection mentioned yesterday!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007



This is Carmen Lee (with David) after her viva. Her work on IM use in the multilingual setting of Hong Kong is fascinating. I'm looking forward to further publication of her work. Viewing IM as a social practice has resulted in interesting methodological choices and her detailed descriptions of new text-making activities are compelling. Interested in the Lancaster porcelain collection? Well, I'll be posting on that tomorrow.

Monday, August 27, 2007


my planet
The latest Ofcom report points up some changes in the ways in which we’re using media in the UK. It charts the increasing trend towards convergence and portability. As a nation, we’re spending less time on TV, landlines and radio, and more time online and on mobile phones. We’re told that calls made from mobiles now account for more than a third of all time spent on the phone. The report also states that 9% of UK households rely solely on a mobile, compared to 7% that only have a traditional landline phone. There’s also a slight decline in younger people’s use of console and video games which is interesting. The increase in ‘surfing the net’ doesn’t really tell us much – it would be good to know about the uptake of social networking, for instance.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Can do

watching paint dry #2
I watched spray-can art yesterday. Here two of the the artists take a rest. There's an interesting sort of parallel play that goes on, in which they talk to each other, share materials and tools, but always appear to work on their own bit of wall. The man on the left is also big on body art (tatoos and piercings) - and the back of his jacket, which is just out of view, is covered in writing about anarchy. He's got to be a genuine metro-textual! I noticed that nearly all of the work combines image and writing. Sometimes the writing is so stylized that it is hard to decipher; other times the meaning is hard to pin down; but at all times it's a very vibrant form of mark-making.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Web 2.0’s learning you

my eye
Here Tim O’Reilly reviews “Programming Collective Intelligence” by Toby Segaran, in which it’s argued that implicit participation is as important as explicit participation for Web 2.0. In other words what you click, where you go and your patterns of consumption (implicit participation) are every bit as important as what you produce. This makes it seem that Web 2.0 is driven by popularity as well as participation. Popularity or the demographic of choice rather than usefulness - or indeed any kind of definition of value imposed by experts, elites or hierarchies - is what really counts. According to O’Reilly: “No one would characterize Google as a "user generated content" company, yet they are clearly at the very heart of Web 2.0. That's why I prefer the phrase "harnessing collective intelligence" as the touchstone of the revolution. A link is user-generated content, but PageRank is a technique for extracting intelligence from that content. So is Flickr's "interestingness" algorithm, or Amazon's "people who bought this product also bought...", Last.Fm's algorithms for "similar artist radio", ebay's reputation system, and Google's AdSense.” Which is interesting because it shifts the balance from You learning about Web 2.0 to Web2.0 learning about You.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Virtual population explosion

my rose
Drawing on this report that predicts that 80% of internet users will be using avatars in a virtual world by 2011, Victor Keagan, writing in the Guardian, imagines a future in which your avatar can move across sites and between worlds. A nice idea but will corporate interests prevent it? From my perspective, I’m interested in how we’re represented onscreen in so many different ways – as a user name, a ‘buddy icon’, a tag-line and graphic in MSN, or a walking-talking avatar in a virtual world….and they all feel a little different. I use the same ‘buddy icon’ on Flickr and Blogger, but my 43things/Allconsuming one is a bit out of date (isn’t it time to change that hairdo?). I’ve also been using an off-the-shelf avatar in the virtual world, although I always choose the same one, but as Victor Keegan suggests some people have a number of avatars. I like the idea of being able to present myself differently, but I’m also very excited by the possibility of crossing boundaries in the future that Keegan envisions.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Slices of book

Slicing the text
Here’s one from Geoffrey Rockwell’s photoset entitled “Text in the machine”. He poses the questions: “What if we treat pages as matter? What if we paste pages together and then carve, saw, sand and drill them like wood?” This is a kind of deconstruction Derrida never imagined when he wrote: “the form of the book is now going through a period of general upheaval […]…one cannot tamper with it without disturbing everything else…” (1997:3). Ah well, it’s all disturbed now (thanks Geoffrey).

Friday, August 10, 2007


juice van
Pictures of vans attract lots of attention on Flickr (how strange). Previously a van pic was snapped up by the 'European Vans' group, and now this one, within minutes of publication, was requested by another van group (Ford transit) I think. Call it nerdy, call it niche interest, but it's clear that collecting is a way of adding value to the everyday. And now, I shall take a short break, leaving this blog for a week or so!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Smart water

smart water
I’ve been walking past this sign for the last couple of weeks, wondering what smart water might be. Well the answer’s here, and today after an entertaining meeting with Eileen Honan (who tells a good tale), I finally got the picture. On an entirely different note, I’ve been reading Paul Willis on cultural commodities. I like the way in which he approaches remix culture as ways of meaning making, creating use value and doing identity work. “Commoditization produces literally a global range of symbolic and (relatively) freely hybridized and open-to-hybridizing materials. Symbolic work includes the selection of objects and items from countless possibilities, and their placement in personal mises en scene, in precise micro-circumstances, material and symbolic, of use and consumption.” (2000:72).

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Second Earth

Town Hall
I’ve been reading Wade Roush here (you may have to subscribe, but it’s free) about the possibilities of blending Google Earth and Second Life to create a ‘mirror world’. Here’s a tempting morsel: ‘The first, relatively simple step toward a Second Earth, many observers predict, will be integrating Second Life's avatars, controls, and modeling tools into the Google Earth environment. Groups of users would then be able to walk, fly, or swim across Google's simulated landscapes and explore intricate 3-D representations of the world's most famous buildings. Google itself may or may not be considering such a project.’ That made me wonder whether that sort of environment could have detailed rendering made up from a tagged image bank as described here. Wow! I think I want Second Earth now.

Monday, August 06, 2007


Read bin
Reading Cormac McCarthy ‘The Road’. Another post-apocalyptic fiction: darker than ‘Oryx and Crake’ and no rays of hope like ‘Mara and Dan’. It reads rather like a stripped-down version of the two remixed with Beckett. I reckon that on average the word 'gray' appears at least twice a page – and where it doesn’t there’s plenty of ‘dull’, ‘misty’, ‘burnt’ and ‘blackened’ – not to mention ‘ashes’. Having said that the writing smolders on the page…

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Re-reading reading

I’m nearly through with the revised version of ‘Early Reading Development’ and have been quite struck with what’s different now, eight or nine years down the line since I first wrote the chapter. Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised. After all I’ve spent the intervening years trying to convince people that literacy is changing! But first, something that seems fairly enduring – and that’s the discourse around early literacy. Professional sources, research and curricula work together to privilege storybook reading. It’s not surprising that research shows the beneficial effects of book reading when success is determined by school routines that value the same thing. Meanwhile, literacy practices are probably more diverse than ever before. The intersection of varied cultural and technological resources accounts for this diversification. Interestingly, though, official discourse on literacy weighs in heavily on early reading and particularly with the small-part phonics industry – almost, one might suppose to lock down diversity and fluidity. This speaks to the idea of early innoculation in print literacy, so powerfully argued by Luke and Luke here. The net effect of this is that there is insufficient material to fully illustrate alternative models of reading development. I feel the best I can do is set up a dialogue between old literacy and new literacy in this area.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Funny Friday

There ya go!
Weird, today I completely lost the bookshelf on the sidebar of my blog. When I checked, the code was still there, so I just re-wrote it. At the same time I took the opportunity to create a new section, so you can download my reviews of Travel Notes, New Literacies (2nd edition) and so on. After I’d done that it took a good half hour to go live even though I could see it on preview. Maybe Blogger’s playing up or something. But then the other (third) weird thing happened. I’d been working on the laptop and when I closed it down, a little voice said ‘Bye!'. It definitely did, I’m not imagining it. And it’s never done it before. The only explanation I can think of was that I’d been temporarily running some remote desktop software (Citrix) – maybe that says goodbye when you shut down. Maybe, maybe not. Still, weird stuff happens I suppose.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

From version to mash up

Betty Boo
It’s interesting to see how ways of describing new cultural forms are being borrowed from the history of black music. Reading this on remix – and particularly the idea of culture-as-remix and remix-as-culture – brought to mind the original mixing desk antics of some of the greats of reggae music. Surely the undoubted champion was the Upsetter, Lee Perry. Yet all the great dub versions, usually produced as ‘B’ sides were just that – versions, with the bass line exaggerated, bags of reverb etc. etc. etc. They differed to previous ‘cover versions’ because they were simply a new way of presenting/hearing the original material, rather than a new recording with a different artist. In fact, I seem to recall King Tubby recording a whole album based on remixes of the same track. Of course, this was all a result of the convergence of technology and the creative flare of the studio producers. A mash up is something rather different, being made up of bits or samples from other material spliced together. In a rather primitive way the Beatles did this on Sgt Peppers, but the real leap forward came with digital recording techniques and some of the original hip-hop artists – and, of course, this opened up a whole can of worms about copyright. But more importantly, the notions of adaptations (eg early Dylan), cover versions, remixes and mash-ups generalize across cultural forms. After all Shakespeare did all four, and that would make an interesting study, too.