Monday, February 27, 2012

Writing Symposium

Last Friday's UKLA research symposium gave us multiple perspectives on children's writing. Debbie Wells-Rowe opened with a critical multimodal analysis of young children framing and annotating photographs of themselves. That was followed by Cathy Burnett's look at digital texts in the classroom, and the sorts of negoataitions that surround textual production. In the afternoon Debra Myhill took us into some of the methodological issues around her project on Grammar and Writing with older children. Although the over-arching issues weren't immediately apparent, each speaker brought a different methodological lens, and each in her own way troubled the definition of writing itself. But for me there was something very interesting about formal and informal adult pedagogies and how children and young people respond to these in their text-making practices. In most cases there were multiple adults, as well - the adult in the writing process, and then the adult as researcher (sometimes they were the same person), and then of course the adult audience at the symposium itself!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Writing about trash

I'm currently writing a piece based around The Trashmaster. The Trashmaster is of interest from several points of view: it is an example of ‘machinima’, a movie made with videogame engine, and it is also the first of its kind to cross-over into mainstream cinema. Like anime music video (AMV), in which anime cartoons are edited and dubbed with rock music, machinima has its roots in DIY fan video production. It is is an 88 minute movie made from the popular, and in some contexts notorious, Grand Theft Auto IV videogame, and features a ‘vigilante sanitation worker’ involved in a battle against corruption and crime.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Virtually psychic

With a bit of help some of the problems associated with Barnsborough seem to have been circumvented. Yesterday, Chris, one of the teachers we're working with found his way in. What was strange was that when Chris materialised in the world I was on one of my periodic visits. I'm so used to being on my own in the world it was really good to have company! As if that wasn't enough of a coincidence, when I logged in this morning to check the enrolment tool, there was Chris, again, doing the same thing. I must be virtually psychic. With his help a further difficulty was resolved. Next it's firewalls. And the screenshot shows the scene of devastation at the petrol station!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Literacy as digital practice: the extra-textual

When I find myself constantly gnawing at an idea, it usually means its got something to offer me. This is the case with Cathy's notion of how, in literacy as a digital practice the textual, the material and the connected inter-relate. Her articulation of this is the best starting point, but I wanted to just try out my thinking around these ideas, which I'd like to suggest constitute something of an 'extra-textual' dimension. I'm saying extra-textual to make a distinction between, on the one hand those factors that are traditionally rendered as contextual (following, for example Halliday & Hasan), and, on the other, those that constitute the text itself (grammar, multimodal design and so on). Straight off, then, there's a bit of a problem, because one the dimensions is actually called 'textual' - so for me that might work better as the point of appearance of the text, the interface, place of inscription or surface. But essentially I think this is a sort of 'where' question. Where is the text? The next dimension is the material dimension. This the 'what' - the thingness or physicality of the text, the mobile window, the sheet of paper, the hinged screen and so on - and, of course, all those things that surround it. Finally, the connected dimension is about how the text connects to other people and other spaces. Now, I have a feeling that you could apply these extra-textual dimensions to non-digital texts, but that would be a further elaboration of the basic idea. At this point in time I just want to get my head round the basic notion.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

On evidence

Research, like photography, is a selective record of things that have already happened. The writing of research is inevitably retrospective, and in this sense is always a partial history - a flawed recollection of the past, albeit one that is consumed in the present. And this is what makes research design such an interesting process. It is the point at which we are planning the future selection of evidence from which we will attempt to construct the story of something that hasn't happened yet. It details how we will select, collect and analyse the materials that we haven't yet collected. No wonder, then, that when we read research - even good quality research - it so often feels as if some realities have been hollowed out, or that there is an airbrushed image of truth. As with history with a capital 'h' it is usually the lived experience of the human subjects that is hidden, perhaps simply because this is always so complex and fluid. It is only really the most patient of ethnographers who can capture the fleeting shadows of human intentions, emotions and their various attempts to forge meanings. In the Julian Barnes novel: 'The Sense of an Ending', there's a great quote about history which is attributed to a Patrick Lagrange. It goes like this: 'History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation' (p17). Since the source isn't formally acknowledged, are we to assume that it is a work of fiction? Whatever the conclusion, could it be re-worded as : research is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of interpretation meet the inadequacies of data?

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Siamese twinning

3 years ago my mother was taken ill, she was hospitalised, and never returned home again. She had 2 Siamese cats and I brought them up here to Chesterfield for safe-keeping. Within days the female cat did a runner, escaping through the bathroom quarterlight and all attempts to locate her failed. I never told my mother. And then just before Christmas, some three years on, I had a call from the RSPCA in Chesterfield - I was in Australia at the time - they'd found the cat! So now, after all this time, we're a 2 cat family again. Siri (we've no idea where she's been hiding out) is the one to the left. She's very shy and still getting used to us and the surroundings, but they say that Siamese are happier in pairs. I don't know whether that's related to the idea of Siamese twins or not.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Bare-knuckle fights and WoW

I caught an interesting segment on the radio today which was about bare-knuckle boxing in the early C19th. Given that I'm reading Bonnie Nardi's ethnography of WoW, I was tempted to draw some parallells - not, I hasten to add, about violence, but about popular entertainment and gaming. Big fights might attract an audience of thousands, and were a hugely popular affair mostly publicised by word of mouth, but what struck me about the history was the way in which the entertainment itself was embedded in a nexus of social practices. Firstly involvement in the fights was a fashion, but it also included many layers of betting and even the specific jargon of flash. Mainstream media eventually got interested, and there we can trace the beginnings of sport journalism. In an interesting parallel you can see how most of the broadsheet and weekend newspapers now have sections on gaming and digital culture