Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Conspicuous consumption

Ruth and Hannah

Allconsuming is a useful add-on to my blog, acting as a way of sharing and displaying what I'm reading, watching and listening to. Unlike some members of that social network I choose not to share my taste in food, drink and so on. So perhaps there's a subtle deceit, or at least a conscious decision to display a certain sort of taste to mark a certain sort of identity. Consumption is, though, a much more complex affair than some of those in media studies lead us to believe. Appadurai is very good at examining the choreography and chronologies of consumption using, I think, Christmas as an example. So I was interested in how all this played out at a family wedding this weekend. But I was also struck by the ways in which consumption and production intersect, particularly in these social rituals. It's almost as if performance is dependent upon the careful interweaving of consumption and consumption, whether we're considering food and drink, location, clothing or the vow-giving ceremony itself.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Google me


I love my Blackberry and have, so far, successfully resisted the i-phone. But it looks as if the handheld is about to really take off with the launch of the Google Android operating system. What’s hot is that people will be writing programs for this software system and they won’t be locked down by Apple’s corporate interest. This is explained here. Textually has the headlines as well as a pic of the HTC Dream, the first commercially available piece of kit that runs Android. Admittedly it’s not strong on design; but makes up for this with promise. Available in the UK next year. Well let’s see. Meanwhile read Jeff Jarvis in today’s Guardian going through a list of myths about new media like a knife through butter.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Goodies and gadgets

ready or not

Well that's a damn fine description of technology. I came across it marking a student dissertation that quotes Gipson, who goes on about the: "absence of clear definition of what is going to be done with the "goodies and gadgets". As a result, too often the technology is never really utilised to support and enhance teaching and learning. At the heart of this is the fact that technology is simply grafted on to the existing program and against the existing school design and infrastructure. Consequently, technology often either exists as a tangential activity occurring in discrete computer labs, or as an ancillary activity in some classes." I think he's got it just about right (see it all here). What are you going to use it for? Will it be worthwhile? This is where I want to go next with virtual worlds research. Meanwhile, there's still the day job to do!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008



The second edition of Desirable Literacies is out! I know because Jackie had a copy on her desk. I have a chapter there on early reading, and it was really interesting doing a re-write. Nearly 10 years have elapsed since I originally wrote the chapter and whilst I reckon my writing is about the same, my ideas have gone through some sort of transformation. It would be really good to do a reflective commentary, but it's unlikely I'll find the time. But here's the headlines. Then I was immersed in the world of picture books as if they were a solution to every problem. Then I saw print literacy as the fundamental issue (I was a print literacy capitalist). Then I saw home and school as two completely separate domains and despite the occasional liberal get-out phrases, I thought that we should colonise homes with schooled literacy pedagogies. Now picture books seem quaint, print literacy one of many, and home, school and community as overlapping worlds. What was a one-way street is now a busy intersection; what was single and reasonably straightforward is now multiple, contested and devilishly complex. And so without further ado, here's a link to the publisher's blurb.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

More or less the same


I’ve been participating in this ESRC Seminar Series, which is generating useful session reports. This is the first one. I like Neil Selwyn’s idea of a ‘soft determinist’ view of technology. For example he suggests that ‘This soft determinist view sees technology impacting on social situations which are, to a degree, malleable and controllable. Rather than the internet improving learning, it can be said that the internet can help improve learning, acknowledging the possible existence of other contextual factors, whilst retaining the notion of technological effects.’ (2008 p.20). So that’s a bit more of a subtle analysis than mine, here, but more or less the same, really.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fashion writing

text wear

We’ve got quite used to seeing writing on clothing. We have labels on the outside, slogans, names of bands and sports stars, and (perhaps more recently), random words as decoration. Ruth’s jacket, in the picture, is a dense collage of different fonts. I noticed here how gothic fonts are enjoying a bit of a renaissance. For many they have nazi associations, although as this suggests, they have a richer history than that: Blackletter particularly. That sort of style, formerly associated with Goths and heavy metal styles now seems to have been appropriated by rappers. This piece gives a commentary on these typographical matters and the changing fortunes of gothic scripts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ICT and

red shoes

I keep on reading things that work on the assumption that ICT or the internet is a unitary, autonomous phenomenon. Now I’ve always found Markham’s threefold categorisation really useful . She looks at how you can see the internet as a tool, the internet as a place or as a way of being and this framework is a good analytical tool for looking at policy discourse or even interview data. But it’s framed in the singular and that’s not so helpful. I think matters are made worse when writers attribute agency or effects to technology. Statements like: ICT is causing a revolution in how we think about learning or the internet is transforming social relationships are particularly suspect. After all it is human subjects who construct these technologies and human subjects who choose to, and choose how to make meanings with them.

Sunday, September 14, 2008



Reading Living with the Djins I was reminded of what the Muslim kids I used to teach told me about the good angel and the bad angel. It’s a perfect example of how religious and folk beliefs carry powerful messages about particular kinds of literacy. The good angel, who sits on your right shoulder, writes down all your good deeds, whilst the angel on your left shoulder records evil deeds. This is the evidence that is used on the day of judgement. The book(s) of your life become the enduring and authoritative record in the incontrovertible medium of literacy.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wiki peep!


The ever-active Colin and Michele have just launched the New Literacies wiki. This is it! It looks great to me and they’ve already commissioned some material, so it’s all ready to go. And there’s just the right balance between looking at stuff and creating new content. For a start there’s material from James Paul Gee, Donna Alvermann , Jabari Mahir, Michael Hoechsmann, Rebecca Black, and more. The big idea is to build professional development resources for middle school language arts educators. Excellent - read all about it here, and peek at the new wiki!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Casual Data

Whatever next? This project explores how knitted garments can be used to visualize large scale data. News is harvested through RSS feeds, and using the latest knitting technology, it is transformed into a text you can wear. There are more images on Flickr, here. So this is a bit of a techno-art project, but I do like the idea of wearing yesterday's news, and customising your clothing out of your favourite feeds. I suppose it's a sort of a think-tank starter. Well if you can do that, what else could you do? Executive summaries, eco-feeds, dissertations.....

Sunday, September 07, 2008


At work

In Canada I collected the views of teachers about the slow take-up of new technologies in education. Unfortunately these didn't make it into the book, but they all have a familiar ring. Here they are:

1. They may be unfamiliar to teachers.
2. Teachers may be worried about moral panics around new media.
3. Teachers may be wary of colonising students' leisure pursuits.
4. Uncertainty about the boundaries between school and out-of-school.
5. Concerns about students accessing inappropriate material.
6. Concerns about cyber-bullying (of students and teachers).
7. Teachers may see new practices as distracting or time-consuming.
8. Many of the practices are not 'schooled', and they have an ambiguous position in the school curriculum.
9. Worries about loss of control.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Joggled voussoirs


What? Yes, joggled voussoirs! Those interlocking marble blocks (in two contrasting colours) that recur time after time in Islamic architecture are joggled voussoirs. Barabara Drieskens' fascinating urban anthropolgy "Living with Djins" uses joggled voussoirs as a metaphor for the interdependence of storyteller and audience, and story and event. What fascinates me about her book is the way she just stays faithful to the stories themselves. Whilst she looks at their significance, particularly to the urban poor of Cairo, she does not get distracted by looking at their relationship to "real events", but simply treats them as truths in themselves.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Did I say that?


I did a phone interview with a TES journalist about social networking in education. Apparently, in commenting on the english space and LinkedIn I said " I see the use of these sites to further careers as being the next stage of development : it's quite exciting." Well there's nothing like a bit of enthusiasm, don't you think? Anyway, you can read the whole thing, here.

Monday, September 01, 2008

I am dance

Crop dance

I am dance for two good reasons. The first is that the book Web 2.0 Learning and Social Particpation is finished (Dr Joolz has a few final tweaks). And second, and not completely unrelated, I have the music. Writing on Web 2.0 and music took me to Last.fm., and I love it. I have the music to dance, and what's more you can see it as I play it by scrolling down the page and looking on right sidebar! Sam kindly gave me an fm transmitter, so I can hook that into the USB port and play my Last.fm station through my tuner. How cool is that? As I say, I am dance.