Thursday, July 31, 2008

Consuming nature

bear watching

Reading this sign in Tofino, I was struck by how we now simply watch what we once hunted. I think it was John Berger who once suggested that the transition from gun to camera could be seen as just a different way of shooting wildlife. His argument that the impact is similar must be an over-statement, but it does draw attention to our changing ways of consuming nature. Anyway, when we did see a bear by the roadside we realised we'd left the camera in the boot of the car, so maybe that was a good thing!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


padlock on green

I'm reading Bachelard's Poetics of Space at the moment. It's a fascinating work that looks at intimate spaces like nests, shells, corners and so on. He explores both the physicality and the experiential quality of these spaces in great detail. Here he talks about the lock: "It is not merely a matter of keeping a possession well guarded. The lock doesn't exist that could not resist absolute violence, and all locks are an invitation to thieves. A lock is a psychological threshold." Bachelard also has some memorable lines on home-spaces: "...our house is our corner of the world" and "...all really inhabited space bears the essence of the nature of home." I suppose I'm wondering how these illuminating perspectives tie in with our experience of virtual spaces - how when I go to those familiar online spaces from this unfamilar place (Campbell River, Vancouver Island) I am, in a sense, at home.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

No graffiti

no graffiti

Views from the Capilano Suspension Bridge are truly amazing, and the experience of walking across reminds you of the fairground cakewalk. The cliff-top walkway gives equally good views of the gorge, but I must confess that I was completely distracted by the handrail! This is a foot wide smooth surface of wood that runs at chest height around the perimeter of the walkway. It is absolutely covered with writing in English, Vietnamese, Spanish, Hindi and so on. Visitors have left their mark on the handrail, using the materials at hand. Gouging out their names, writing them in biro, in marker pen, telling other visitors who they are, where they are from, and when they were there. It is the most basic form of mark making and identity performance. I was fascinated not only by the sheer diversity of visitors but the varied forms their messages took. Some were mourning missing relatives, others were statements of love or religious sentiment; others were more light-hearted (Bob smokes too much ganja) but none were obscene or malicious. Occasionally there was the polite notice from the owners, the no-graffiti sticker shown in the picture. But somehow this just became more graffiti. It is accompanied by a polite message reading "We don't come to your house and scribble on your walls, so please don't scribble on ours." Nonsensical really, because Capilano is not a house and a handrail is not a wall.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Niagara Falls reaction

Niagara Falls reaction

This is me visiting Niagra Falls, the other day. It’s a reaction shot in response to Ivor Tossell of the Globe and Mail, who thinks he’s caught the birth of a new meme. He traces the meme back to a young woman who filmed herself crying as she watched the trailer for Wall E. Here’s a variation of that meme. The reaction video is essentially a reworking of that dramatic effect in which we experience vicarious emotions. What’s interesting, and dare I say it postmodern, about this, is the way in which the stimulus for the reaction is erased. All we get is the reaction. Could you make a movie out of it? Well I guess not, but this meme is just made for the bite sized format of videosharing.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ways of being

on the wall

I've been thinking a lot this week about ways of being in online and offline spaces. Annette Markham's idea of internet-as-way-of-being has always really attracted me, but as I begin to think about the interpenetration of online/offline spaces, it's not a big enough concept. In fact, my awareness has been turning on the limitations of online worlds and how subject positions can be highly controlled whether that is by page profiles, avatar designs, layouts or file sizes. I was particularly struck by how so many of the virtual worlds for children, and particularly those that are in actual fact just animated doll-dressing games constitute a very particular heteronormative gender position. As the distinction between online and offline begins to dissolve, how will new citizens come to understand how these subject positions are made and re-made?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

And more again

Amy amd Hannah

I wanted to develop the participatory learning theme a little more from what Michele talked about and also with reference to Julia’s keynote. In their work both explore the blurring of boundaries between consumer and producer, actually the distinction gets so meaningless that participation seems a far better description. There’s also some really interesting identity work going on. First it is about getting noticed and this is achieved by inviting comments, making alliances and forging networks. The participatory identity involves what I call recruiting work (that’s what Facebook gets you to do so well). Then this is harvested by getting ratings, hits, comments and massaging your online ranking and reputation. But next, what happens seems really interesting. The group seems to generate its own discourse and measures of appreciation. I know the phrase is loaded, but the success criteria get hammered out and expertise gets defined. Particularly in Flick, but also in AMV there are some pretty complex relationships between online space and physical space, and between participants’ identities in both realms. That recursive interplay creates a chain of recontextualised meanings. The place in the photograph is seen differently in RL and then played back into the Flickr world and so on. If you want to place these ramblings in context, there’s running notes in the everydayliteracies blog!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Digital moment

And of course, both of them were fabulous! Listening to Michele helped me to refine my thoughts. I've realised that what I’ve started calling participatory learning, or learning through participation, is actually rather different from collaborative learning, although it shares some of the same features. Participatory learning involves some sort of distributed activity and the technologies that are necessary to facilitate it. AMV works as a great example of this. Most descriptions of collaboration foreground face-to-face communication and co-presence; learning through participation is less bounded and allows for incremental knowledge building across time and space. The collective resources that build up over time in online spaces such as AMV communities, wikis or photosharing sites like Flickr are indicative of participatory learning. The individual contributes, but determines the extent and conditions of his or her own participation. In this way the degree of individual learning is personalised, whilst group knowledge aggregates. I’m thinking about a learning conversation, or an expert apprenticeship that you can archive, exit and re-engage with, on your own terms, but also one that you can re-wind or re-mix at will. Michele's AMV analysis seems to indicate what some of the key elements of participatory learning might me. More on this to follow, no doubt!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Toronto style

I gave my keynote today, and it seemed to go down OK. It’s great that Vivian Vasquez is here (this is her podcast stuff). I also learnt about this social networking site for kids in hospital called Upopolis and saw a convincing demo of Jing, which is really slick. I'll definitely be using this at work. This link backtracks to the Salman Rushdie quote on identity, which I think works really well alongside Seneca’s 'It’s a major achievement to act as one person'. Tonight we’ll be going downtown to meet with the lovely Naomi, Richard and Maxine.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Worlds apart


I’m in Toronto now, just adjusting to a new time zone and putting the finishing touches to my keynote and workshop on virtual worlds. For the workshop I hope to do some exploration and evaluation of the metaverse. I’ve been working on a list of live and beta worlds, but need more time to work up something more useful. This is Izzy’s list for tweens and twids, from Jackie (who’s currently in Australia).

Friday, July 11, 2008

The same tune?


I am in Liverpool now at the UKLA international conference which has its characteristic conviviality and rich exchange of ideas. The highlight so far has been Kathy Hall's opening keynote. I found myself in harmony with nearly all her ideas about culture and identity and the role of literacy in making and re-making cultural meanings. It was important to restate the sociocultural turn in literacy research, to define culture as dynamic, complex and not necessarily benign. The emphasis on learning through participation flagged up some key themes which we followed up later. Issues around identity were a little more contentious. I'm not so sure about the agency implied in opting for identities or positions and even less sure about the idea of fashioning a coherent identity. The Seneca quote is focal here: it is a major achievement to act as one person. ...I'm coming to believe that this notion of self-narrative, and the idea of a coherent identity is in itself a cultural construction which may get in the way of a deeper analysis of mind, culture, and learning. But that's just me giving a counterpoint to Kathy's ideas and working through some half-formed ideas partly influenced by my recent re-reading of Judith Butler.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Time to post

Coach stop

I’ve been too busy to post for a few days, so this one’s a bit of a random collection of things I’ve noticed. Jackie has a good update on virtual world for children, keeping the discussion going (well done Jackie). Meanwhile here’s a rather strange thing: submit your neurosis to this site! And then there’s the filter, funded by Peter Gabriel. You see it all on laminate flooring (strange) and it does a sort of taste-matching thing with music, movies and web videos. It looks a bit like a sexed-up All Consuming to me.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Flickr and voyeurism


Yesterday I wrote that photosharing sites like Flickr have contributed to new ways of looking at the role of the visual image in our lives. It is as if our albums of photographs can now be released from the shelves and cupboards of our domestic life and thrown open for public viewing. But as a friend pointed out, this means that complete strangers can be leafing through shots of our family, our children and so on. Can this be an unsettling experience - peering like a voyeur into the lives of others...exposing one's own life to public scrutiny? I suppose it's all part of the blurring of private and public. But we'd be wrong to say that it is risk-free. We take intelligent decisions to remain safe and, I suppose, that is part of a Web 2.0 education, to ensure that our students make informed decisions about what is placed in public spaces, too.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Evaluating Web 2.0

at SP

Finishing off my writing about Flickr has made me think of how you might evaluate a Web 2.0 app from a user perpective. So I've come up with this list and realted questions. They draw on, adapt and extend Lisa Harper's work, which you can see here.
• attractiveness: what attracts users to this site? Once it has been ‘found’, how does it encourage you to become more engaged?
• use value: how clear are the benefits of this site? Can you see how it could be used for enjoyment, learning, or in conjunction with other on-line or off-line activity?
• signing up: how easy is the sign-up process? Are there any hidden catches? Does it feel safe?
• clarity: is the on-screen design helpful. Are the navigation tools intuitive? How is exploration facilitated?
• trust: how can you gauge the trustworthiness of the provider and the community? How are you and your material protected? How easy is it avoid or block inappropriate material or behaviour? Does it seem fairly easy to leave the community?
• invitation and participation: does the site encourage participation and uploading of your own material? Is this relatively easy to do?
• interactivity: how is interaction and communication encouraged and controlled?
• customisation: does the site allow you to personalise your own page? Is this easy to do? How can you manage and update your own profile?
• updating: what sorts of updates are provided and to what extent do users have control over updates?
• user feedback: what are the different kinds of user feedback? What sorts of feedback from other users or the site operators can be expected?
• interoperability: how might the site, your profile identity, or material from the site be incorporated into other online spaces?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Social networking?

relaxing soldiers

I’ve always thought of Childnet as a rather conservative organisation, and one that is pre-occupied with internet safety, but as this article shows its latest report argues that the popularity of social networking websites should be exploited by teachers to develop children's ability to communicate and improve their technological skills. That’s an encouraging message (see the full report here). Ofcom, the UK’s independent regulator for the communications industry, also has an interesting report out on social networking, but this is more of an attempt to chart current patterns of use, but following their line on media literacy we would predict that they might encourage an approach that helps learners to access, understand and create in these environments.