Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Peppa Pig pedagogy

The first word my grandson said was 'Peppa'. An inveterate fan from 18 months, the Peppa Pig series is available to him on TV, a choice of iPhones and iPads, and on his own DVD player more or less on demand - and he demands quite a lot! And of course there are Peppa Pig toys, interactive books, and magazines at his disposal too. For his birthday, his mother plans to make a Peppa Pig cake. So Peppa and George are available across media platforms and his everyday experience is mediated (sometimes in advance) through Peppa Pig. Yesterday he did 'jumping in muddy puddles', and as is the way with popular narratives, his family were quick to cross-reference this to a pig episode he was already familiar with. The animated pig family sits at the centre of a web of meaning-making practices through which very young children are introduced to their social world. The self-aware pig family features Peppa, her younger brother George, the over-confident and often inept Daddy Pig and the can-do Mummy Pig who regularly flies the flag for competent women. Social and cultural values are woven into the fabric of the Peppa narratives, and alongside parents and caregivers, they are the young child's first teachers. But its not a single-track road. Dylan, my grandson, has appropriated the word 'peppa' so that it stands for a range of things. Prior to his mastery of 'herro' it worked as a greeting, and more recently it has started featuring as a term of approval: something is 'peppa' if it is cool (just as 'go' is not good at all, and usually accompanies separation from his mother). Some may bemoan what they see as the corrosive influence of popular media culture, but actually it seems to me that Peppa Pig is a pretty sophisticated teacher. Meanwhile Dylan's mother won't need a cookery class to make that cake, she's already found a YouTube tutorial. And Dylan's early years teachers may face some pretty stiff competition in the coming years!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Psychogeography again

I haven't written about psychogeography for a while, but my interest was rekindled by the recent broadcast of walking with attitude which included segments from favourites (Iain Sinclair in particular) as well as some learned commentators. Referencing back to Guy Debord was carefully done and the presenters did a thorough job of underlining the political nature of these ramblings, connecting up with magico-marxism (he! he!) in interesting ways. Using the map of one place to explore another, or adopting an algorithm like first left second right may seem a little bit left field at first sight, but what it actually enables you to do is to make new connections, to trespass, to chance upon an otherness and eventually to see how the landscape is patterned by power, ownership, neglect and erasure. If that sounds is!

Friday, August 24, 2012

On hold

The phonebox, or public payphone, is quickly becoming a historic trace, an archeological remnant of earlier patterns of communication - of a time before the mobile phone. Gleick's book 'The Information' draws our attention even further back, to a time of telegraph stations and semaphore masts. In a similar way, they left their mark on the landscape. But because 'the phonebox that works' still exists in living memory, we can watch its slow slide into redundancy. The modern phonebox is like a scar on the urban landscape. A scar that has not yet healed. And yet we can still remember the strange social space that was defined by the phonebox: a place to queue, a place to wait, a place for teenagers to congregate, a place to shelter from the rain. The unique aroma; the opportunity for vandalism; the forgotten purse; the cryptic message scrawled on the damp directory and so much more. And of course, in the real world as well as the world of the imagination, the phonebox became the way to connect with distant places. The phonebox became the tardis, Dr Who's gateway to other worlds. Attempts to revive the phonebox have failed, because it has had its day. This one, discovered on a recent derive, is a hopeless case. All the windows are smashed. The door was removed a long time ago. Even the graffiti is sun-bleached. It promises 'text', 'email' and so on in a lost hope to move with the times. Perhaps an earlier version was a hub for the local community, but now there are better places to hang out, easier ways to communicate.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Return of the Trashmaster

I'm putting the final touches to my paper on the The Trashmaster machinima, and its been fun returning to this. There's a delicate balancing act between writing about The Trashmaster and referring to GTA IV. I had to underline the moral panic surrounding the latter and in researching this found the following - in a recent case it was suggested that a 19 year old convicted of a number of attacks on women ‘may have been influenced by the virtual reality game’. The Sun newspaper reports how ‘A copy of Grand Theft Auto was found at his home by police’. Just take a look at the report (spare a few minutes to stare at The Sun) and you'll see how the report is interspersed with a number of images from GTA game series as if to highlight the media effects, rather than the actual suffering and the complexities involved.