Friday, November 27, 2009

Making it #3 - smartmob meme

It quite intrigues me that the whole concept of the smartmob, popularised by Howard Rheingold, has been adopted by traditional media to advertise itself. So last year we had the Tmobile phone company flashmob at Liverpool Street station and then this year the filming of a flashmob dance in Covent Garden. The video above shows an amateur take of the Covent Garden shoot (to promote Sky TV). Ruth auditioned and got paid for this. You can see her on the top right! So does old media eat new media or is it just a different way of making it?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Making it #2

My friend's son sings for this rock band. I like the energy in the preformance even though it's not my kind of music; and it makes me laugh! In some ways it's a sort of remix, a reversioning of guitar-based rock which has now been around long enough to cross generations. The performance has got all the elements, audial, visual and gestural. It's a different kind of peformance, a different sense of 'making it' to that shown in the previous post. The underlying question I have in mind is a semiotic one. Does it point to or represent anything else, or is it just what it is?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Making it #1

This is a bookcase my brother made when we were teenagers at home. He followed a plan from a DIY magazine he subscribed to, using the instructions (more or less) with a few improvisations on the way. He was always at his happiest making and doing. The bookcase ends up being an object that has outlasted him. I think its got an authentic sixties feel to it, and now it works well to store my back numbers of JECL: now ten years old. Still thinking about objects and material culture, I wanted to document this because it was a performance of something or other: and now its performing something else. It's useful. The object doesn't carry the story, or represent anything, it's just caught up in everyday events; a bit like Stan Ogden's glasses.

Friday, November 20, 2009

On Twitter

I suppose as time goes on and the novelty wears off we can start to differentiate between different sorts of social networking , what they do best and how that suits our purpose at any given time. As will be fairly clear the blogging format works well for me, because it allows me to capture what interests before it evaporates, but in a reflective (but fairly rapid) form. But because I’ve never really got successful at photography, Flickr attracted me initially as a place to keep images and then as a place to study how we might network around images. Now I have mobile Flickr, new possibilities present themselves, but I’ve been rather slow on the uptake. Microblogging suggests something that’s different again. I like the always on idea, I like the economy of words that is imposed and sometimes I appreciate the chaos and randomness of intersecting conversations. Twitter works best for me when I’m bored. And that’s not very often. I like it, too when there’s a bunch of people I’m familiar with who are trading ideas around a theme. And finally I like Twitter as a backchannel at conferences and so on. But I’ve also noticed that how Twitter is presented makes a difference to me. The standard Twitter interface is a bit boring, somehow a little too flat for my liking. So I swapped to Tweetdeck, but I nearly chucked that in the summer because it’s too busy, too demanding, too intrusive. So my favourite quickly became Twitterberry, simply because it’s mobile and that seems to me to capture the lightweight feel of tweeting. But then Twitterberry got so very slow and so limited in functionality. I went back to a more self-disciplined use of Tweetdeck. Then Ruth introduced be to the Uber Twitter beta for Blackberry. That’s what I call an app! I really like the location function. If I want to, I can show you more or less exactly where I am. That’s fun; but it’s also pretty useful. Who needs a map with a good mobile? Who needs to know where you are with GPRS?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Houses and stuff

Daniel Miller’s Stuff is the best thing I’ve read for a long while. For a start he writes well; but also the book is an intriguing glance over the shoulder at his own journeys in social anthropology and the investigation of material culture. A favourite extract is where he launches into a passionate rebuttal of the semiotic perspective on clothing: ‘what and where is this self that the clothes represent?’ he asks. ‘In both philosophy and everyday life we imagine that there is a real or true self which lies deep within us....It is as though if we peeled off enough layers we would finally get to the real self within.’ And then ‘if you keep peeling off our layers you find: absolutely nothing left. There is no true inner self. We are not Emperors represented by clothes, because if we remove the clothes there isn’t an inner core. The clothes were not superficial, they actually made us what we think we are.’ (p.13). It’s the sort of performative account of ourselves that I was alluding to here. After all that I’m now in Houses: Accommodating Theory (Chapter 3), I wonder if that will be as entertaining.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Narratives of the self

Sartre wrote ‘a man is always a teller of stories, he lives surrounded by his own stories and those of other people, he sees everything that happens to him in terms of these stories and he tries to live his life as if he were recounting it’ (1964). Setting aside the rather unfortunate gendering, this is a particularly rich starting point for anyone thinking about identity and self narrative and indeed it forms the central motif of Bruner’s ‘Life as Narrative’. I’ve read the Bruner piece a couple of times and I have to say I’m a big fan. There is however a strong thread of determinism in the Bruner argument. He suggests that the narratives we inhabit are culturally constructed, rather than played out in a cultural context. I would argue for a more performative account...and I guess that’s the direction that Bruner veers towards in the end of the paper when he says ‘any story one may tell about anything is better understood by considering other possible ways in which it can be told.’

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Writers and social networking

I've just read a fascinating piece on how professional writers might engage with audiences (or prosumers) using social media. Alison Boyle's project is described on Write4Children here, and raises thought-provoking issues about social networking in general. There are some familiar themes, such as the observation that most online networks are extensions of offline ones, as well as interesting observations about language conventions and building an audience. She also points to the limitations of the common tendency for brief commenting; comments that may be positive, but don't actually help you to refine your ideas. I was also struck by the short consideration of ratings, as used on Quizilla and the implications of applying crude mathematical algorithms to content on SNSs.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Identity themes

Elizabeth Moje and Allan Luke have an interesting review that explores the relationships between literacy and identity in the current issue of RRQ. This follows the Special Issue of Literacy, on the same theme, that I put together with Victoria Carrington earlier this year. The Moje and Luke review explores some interesting areas and overlaps but in the end it failed to really impress. I found the most useful bits were the questions posed, and the issues raised, rather than the themes that were identified. However, the review sits well alongside the excellent Grenfell essay on Bourdieu, Language and Literacy in the same issue.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Return of the flaneur

Yes, it's true, I was in Paris at the weekend. Paris is now so much closer, thanks to the Eurostar. So it's perfectly possible to be a weekend flaneur. The only problem is that it can take twice as long to get to London as it can to get to Paris. So the picture shows the flaneur at rest or, to be exact on the Metro. That's one way to spend le weekend. The next three all involve teaching. Still, musn't grumble!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Beware the wordle tree!

I'm getting rather cynical about Wordle - what does it actually do? A glorified word count, that’s all. It doesn't really produce a tag cloud based on a folksonomy, or an aggregate of our interpretations. It scans the document and produces something that looks like a tag cloud, treating words as data rather than words as ideas. However, I did like this post on visualizing tools as an accompaniment to reading (thank you, Ian). I also came across this piece on tagging, which is really informative. Cathy Marshall investigates the up and downside of tagging in Flickr, a subject that I’ve written about (but not in such an analytical way). Her argument implies that we could be better taggers (maybe?). It would be interesting to get students to tag learning objects, such as the paper Ian refers to, after a close reading, maybe using a better tool to build a folksonomy within a more focused affinity space. Maybe that could be achieved by ‘negotiated tagging’ in a learning space like pbworks?