Sunday, September 26, 2010

Computer head

Reading Katherine Hayles helps you to reflect on the relationship between bodies and technology. One theme she doesn't address though is how moral panics about new media often revolve around how our bodies are changed: corrupted from their natural state by our unnatural inventions. From the jokes about square eyes and playstation thumbs to the more real sounding fears that mobiles fry our brains, computers ruin our posture (and our memory) and too much time online makes us obese, the idea that we are being changed, and changed for the worse, propels these narratives. The poster in the picture is an advertisement for mental healthcare and although there's no caption the message is clear. Technology is doing our heads in (as well as our bodies)! But is there any evidence to support this? All right, let's be critical for a moment, there isn't a shred of evidence. Yet, wait a minute, the latest idea that working on screen is leading to my premature ageing must be true. I look in the mirror and I see hard evidence of COMPUTER FACE. Yes, it's true because the Daily Mail says it is. The story is syndicated around the world thanks to new technology and Dr Michael Prager's homepage climbs Google rankings. Now who would believe a cosmetic surgeon? Me. Pass the botox, I think I'm ageing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fandom and participation

Ika Willis was certainly the most thought-provoking speaker at today's ESRC Seminar Series on Rethinking Youth Cultures in the Age of Global Media. Lots about active reading of media texts in fandom - new readings, new subjectivities and plenty of meaning-making through production. I think she called it over-invested interest and provided plenty of examples of the kinds of participation that some people engage in. She also showed this Harry Potter mash-up which really brings out a particular reading of the text.

Friday, September 17, 2010

It's virtual, baby

Laila Shereen Sakr is thought provoking when it comes to virtuality. She argues that belief is crucial. Belief 'allows the virtual or the image to represent, refer to, or even engage with' the actual person. It's a telling statement about how technology can make the strange familiar. I can't even claim to explain how a digital image becomes pixels on the screen, let alone tell how it gets from A to B. The envious ghost of Johannes Gutenberg peers over my shoulder as I type and publish, but I can offer no commentary except about the keys I press and the mouse I click. Shereen-Sakr tells us that virtuality bridges the material world and the world of data. 'Virtuality is a negotaiation between materiality and information..', I keep thinking about that when I look at the video and reminding myself that it's virtual baby.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Simple model of reading

I've been thinking about a simple model of reading that can be applied to texts of all kinds - books, new media and virtual worlds. There's only 2 aspects to the model (although that's a bit of a cheat, because they all break down much further). They are: 1. operating the interface, 2. engagement. First of all then, operating the interface in the typographic world involves all that book knowledge, directionality and decoding stuff, whereas the analagous skills in online texts are sometimes the same and sometimes different with large doses of clicking and pointing, dragging and dropping and so on. The important point about operating the interface is that for a skilled user it becomes naturalised and usually takes place beneath the level of consciousness. That frees up attention for the second aspect engagement. Not, of course, that they should be seen as sequential operations or to suggest a developmental path for learning. Engagement is all about meaning-making and at the moment I see it as having 3 dimensions. The first is interest, because without that we won't have the energy to give the text enough attention. The second is point of view. Somehow or other an interaction between our point of view and the point(s) of view in the text needs to happen. In other words we need to negotiate the meaning. Finally, we have belief. Seems a bit strange, I know, but after reading about virtuality (I recommend Laila Shereen Sakr) I'm starting to think that the textual meaning is in some senses virtual. We have to believe in it to engage with it. That doesn't mean we have to believe or accept the point of view or the message, but we have to believe the text to bring it into being. More on this, no doubt, in future postings. Stay tuned!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Multimodally Jung

Published in October 2009, Jung's Red Book is of interest to literacy scholars not simply because of its rich multimodal style. As you can read here, it was locked away in a bank vault for nearly a hundred years. Was it ever meant for publication? Well I suppose we'll never know. But what is really interesting is that Jung, who after all was a man of letters, chose this highly visual form to explore material, his own journey if you like, which would later inform more conventional scholarly work. You can see some more of the visual material here.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

It's critical

Recent debates on the fate or future of critical literacy and what we really mean when we talk about critical media literacy have made me re-examine the nature of criticality itself. It strikes me that the aim of producing critical consumers of media pleasures is preferable to one of producing market-driven consumers whose choices are driven by rating and popularity ranking. To be critical, though, one needs a vantage point. That's probably why Marxism and Feminism (and other isms) have flavoured intellectual life over the last 50 years: they offer a position from which to observe and critique social and cultural matters. Criticality should not be about claiming the high ground, but about looking at things differently. Gergen hits the target when he says 'To think critically is essentially to deliberate on one tradition through the discourse of another. The advantage of the critical thinker is not in having a superior tradition, but in being capable of seeing the advantages and disadvantages of both traditions. The critical thinker who claims superiority of perspective, not only loses this advantage, but strangulates the potential for action.' (2009:261)

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Nobody texts any more

A few years ago the cool hunters of adolescent literacies were reporting that young people thought that email was dead. You might send an email to your parents or your tutors but that was about it. Young people in the UK began the massive communication migration to texting a while back. In fact many reports suggested that texting was bigger here than elsewhere (maybe the cost factor?). But what next? My daughters are no longer teenagers, but I was still interested to hear Ruth say 'Nobody texts anymore, there'll all on messenger!' It was new but not new, if you see what I mean. True though, to the extent that regular bulletins on the lead-in to the birth of my grandson, Dylan (pictured above) all came through Blackberry Messenger, as did the photograph itself. Born into a world of mobile messaging and phonecam images. New born babies are surrounded by our devices and their arrival in this world is recorded and distributed in new ways.