Sunday, December 29, 2013
The discourse of online reviews
Camilla Vasquez's book 'The Discourse of Online Consumer Reviews', due to be published by Bloomsbury later this year, explores the linguistic features of this new online genre. Using an eclectic range of approaches, the discourse of these (often humorous) reviews is given a detailed treatment. In a compelling exploration of stance-taking Vasquez shows how the quest for the perfect product inflects the comments of these self-appointed reviewers. As she observes in the conclusion to the second chapter 'on our quest to have a "mind-blowing" dining experience, or with our hopes of finding the "perfect" diaper bag - we will continue to consume.' We see how reviewers work hard to position themselves on the expertise continuum, often evoking professional knowledge or the views of others to bolster their credentials - and, of course, all this is indexed in their written comments. Advice, warning and product endorsement all feature here as review-writers gain reader involvement and encourage interaction. Vasquez majors on reviews of specific items such as multi speed blenders, diaper bags and yoga mats, throwing in more general ones such as hotel reviews from TripAdvisor, movie reviews from NetFlix, and recipes from Epicurious for good measure. A highlight, for me, was the mushroom tortellini debate on the recipe site - witty, yet spirited - and this is lovingly analysed for the play of voices in the extended online interaction! Through their evaluations and short narratives these reviewers create a shifting online community of consumer advice, and Vasquez shows how they deploy discursive resources to achieve this. All this makes goes to make this book an essential for anyone who is interested in online discourse.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Saturday, December 07, 2013
The text vanishes
LRA conference provided a rich fare. Some familiar things were being re-stated, some key work felt yet further developed and some radically new ideas seemed to be emerging. Cathy commented that the text itself received relatively little attention, and it does seem that with a growing interest in mobilties, and embodiment and affect, new constellations of sociotechnical and sociomaterial engagements are coming to the fore. Any signs of the text have now become ghostlike. Especially since now they have become open, provisional and often multi-authored, and in some senses ephemeral. Karen Wohlwend said something like 'I don't really like to talk about texts anymore, it seems that the kids are producing contexts.' I liked this, and although you could see in her work, and in that of many others, things that looked like texts - texts that formed and reformed - they were marginal things, like pencil shavings to the real sharpening of meaning that was occurring. The frozen fixed texts we used to pour over, the multimodal designs we read into them now seem to move backstage, as we watch gesture, movement and the claiming or enacting of meaning making spaces through mobility and countermobility. But what if the researcher's gaze is actually produced as much by data capture tools as it is by new representational practices and related theoretical advances? Does the availability of head-cams, spy-pens and flip cameras simply frame the segments of reality that we study in a different way? Perhaps though, we are learning more about the contexts that we always knew were there. Perhaps we have started to neglect text, or maybe it is slowly erasing itself as a fixed thing, a thing of privileged interest. When early emergent writing was a hot topic, we ran those paper-based artefacts under the photocopier and poured over the products while they were still warm. The contexts we tended to capture back then, if we had the time, the resource, and the inclination were more about talk, the stretches of verbal interaction that we caught on dictaphone tapes and then lovingly transcribed. As different then as new literacies might be, so are the possibilities for data collection. If we remain true to our reflexive project we are duty bound to think about what is newly acknowledged as well as what is omitted, erased or remains hidden, and how this influences the construction of knowledge. Did the play of power and the enactment of inequality, for example, just slip from our gaze or, if we are attentive, are those same forces simply seen in new ways and understood afresh?
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
here's my first post), but what surprises me when I look back is that even then I was preoccupied with trying to make sense of writing. A lot has happened in the intervening time, but that fascination certainly hasn't dimmed. Blogging for me now is about condensing my reflections into something that's about the size of an average paragraph and then finding a still or moving image that can sit alongside it. The post may be more or less complete in its own right, or it may simply be work in progress. But always it's what Rosenblatt describes as a transactional process: '....always an event in time, occurring at a particular moment in the writer's biography, in particular circumstances, and under particular external and internal pressures. In short, the writer is always transacting with a personal, social and cultural environment.' (1989:163). And in posting on the blog, at times it forms the basis of something I'll write more about, extend in some way, but more often than not it's just a sketch, complete in itself. The piece of writing that I started the first blog with actually turned into a book chapter entitled 'Barbie meets Bob the Builder at the Workstation', but many subsequent posts have been of the moment, a passing observation or a whimsical thought. Nevertheless they all form an important expression of writing as exploration, as a transactional process.
Monday, December 02, 2013
The grassy knoll
Bradley Garrett's excellent ethnography 'Explore Everything', that brought all this back to me. In a strange sort of way it offered me an intelligent rationale for something that had seemed like a half-forgotten, and somewhat quirky adolescent pursuit. At that time, I am sure that we didn't know quite what we were doing or why we were doing it, we certainly didn't discuss it, we just did it. It was fun. Yet we were 'reclaiming the city', blissfully unaware of Debord, or the situationists, or any guiding theory or politic, for that matter. If it was covered in the underground press of the time, I certainly missed it and so did my friend. And so all this makes me think how we may often do quite reasonable, intelligent things without exactly knowing why - at least at the time. Either that or we have an astonishing capacity to make sense out of the most random of things, thereby dignifying our seemingly unending acts of human foolishness. But once something like this is given a name, explored in a thoughtful way, it seems to articulate the motive - or at least part of the motive that propelled it in the first place. That journey of reading and recalling urban exploring reminded me of how my longstanding interest in visiting and sometimes photographing ignored, dilapidated and abandoned buildings took on new meaning when I read about the ideas of 'ruin porn' and bunkerology, how my regular and random zigzag walks around Sheffield looked and felt different when they were rethought as psychogeography. Now, or so it seems, I know why it interested me in the first place. Did a name, a theory, bestow new meaning upon it? Or was the meaning there, already awaiting its later discovery - in some way immanent? Did the incoherent blind interest simply gain respectability through a post-hoc rationalisation? Or more likely, or at least more attractively to me as an academic, did the act of reflection, in a dialogic relationship with others who have done and thought about similar things, help in bringing into being new experiences, and new perspectives on old experiences? A new way of looking. And does all this - this process of re-thinking, help us in imagining possible future actions, experiences, diversions or misdemeanours? I don't know, but either way one thing is certain, I will continue to explore, in my own way, buoyed up by what I have read, what I have talked about and what I have thought. Perhaps, just perhaps, that constitutes an invitation, too. After all, those old Victorian buildings are still there somewhere, as are both our current and our remembered experiences and actions!
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Massumi makes a useful contribution to the problem with affect when he says:' There seems to be a growing feeling within media, literary and art theory that affect is central to an understanding of our information- and image-based late capitalist culture, in which so-called master narratives are perceived to have foundered....belief has waned for many but not affect. If anything,our condition is characterized by a surfeit of it. The problem is that there is no cultural-theoretical vocabulary specific to affect. Our entire vocabulary has derived from theories of signification...' (Parables for the Virtual, 2002:27). Good point, well made. Still confusing affect with emotion? I found that this helped to unscramble the two (and 'feeling' at the same time).
Thursday, November 21, 2013
1. Teenagers are reading as much, if not more than they have in previous generations.
2. Very little of the material they read is in print books.
3. They make good use of a very wide range of online sources.
4. Their level of informal learning, understanding and knowledge is impressive.
5. They find (perhaps as a consequence) that what's on offer in schools is uninspiring.
6. They are developing social skills, literacy and learning through online gaming and social networking.
7. Parental concerns about regulating the frequency and duration of screen-time and the suitability of online content are persistent and under continual review and renegotiation.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
LeapPad, carries an implicit message about what literacy is, how it develops, and what roles adults, care-givers and children themselves should adopt. What is more, these implied roles blend in with current conceptions of parenting, defined by ‘social investment’ initiatives that reach into the relationship between children and adults to underscore the significance of what is done with as well as what is provided for the very young. Scollon's idea of a nexus of practice is proving to be a useful way of articulating the confluence of play practices involving literacy that are singular and situated, whilst at the same time acknowledging that play objects themselves are part of a political economy located in a global mediascape.
Wednesday, November 06, 2013
Ways of knowing
Sunday, November 03, 2013
Mastin Prinsloo's concept of 'placed resources', and the way in which he uses this in documenting practices in South Africa is particularly useful in this respect. I'm also interested in how the resources themselves are adapted and this is illustrated in Glenn Auld's work with the Kunibidji community in Maningrida in Australia's Northern Territory. Central to this work is the adaptation of old-style iMacs so that they can be operated as touchscreens, and this is described in non-technical detail here. It's a fascinating account, strengthen by the description of how the adaptation supported literacy practices that were embedded in the everyday social practices of the Kunibidji. This sort of approach could be a template for the next wave of iPad developments.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
For your pleasure in this present state
Friday, October 04, 2013
The pleasure principle
here. If you delve into the report you see that the key influence is defined in rather broader terms - 'home reading culture' and 'leisure reading' are described in some detail and these are to my mind rather more sophisticated concepts. However, put the headlines alongside this and you might quickly get the picture that print culture is doomed and with it the written word. I don't actually think is the case - there's probably more reading and writing going on with everyday uses of technology than ever before in history, and there are also more possibilities for narrative pleasure. But digital media are an 'and' not an 'or'. Children and young people simply have far more textual choices than ever before. We know about the claims made about bedtime stories - but rather than simply accepting this as a privileged ritual (or a ritual of the privileged), we need to understand more about what's going on. I'd put my money on the shared endeavour of skilled and apprentice meaning-makers making sense of text together. If this is accurate then the benefits could extend to any media, unlocking a wider palette of pleasures.
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
Social media: evolution and change
eview), that it made me wonder what an academic blog actually was in the first place! We had written about the first wave of blogging, and looked at how academics took up the practice and how, in quite creative ways they/we performed their academic identities online. This paper, on the other hand, took a much more limited view and addressed how academic bloggers wrote about and lobbied for change in university learning and teaching. Secondly, a round-robin email (to all staff) announced the VC's new blog post on MOOCs - one in which he makes reference to the impact of digital distribution on the music industry (draw your own conclusions). But it wasn't really about the content it was the mere fact that someone in a senior managerial position was using the blog to stimulate discussion - and canvassing readership through an institutional mailout. Like the first incident it all seemed to me very safe and mainstream, as if the edge had gone out of blogging. Then, thirdly, another completely unrelated incident. A random email from a researcher who produces materials for college students who'd read a rant on referencing I'd posted back in 2006, in the first flush of blogging. My despondency over the institutionalization and narrowing down of blogging was somewhat alleviated. Your humble blogger's voice might just be heard!
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Technology and learning
You might guess that a publication addressing the state of the art in pedagogical uses of technology would include MOOCs, learning analytics and badges - and that's exactly what you get in the OU review Innovating Pedagogy 2013. But you also get more varied material on geo-learning and 'maker culture' alongside useful critiques of familiar topics like learning from gaming and digital scholarship. I thought the idea of rating the impact and timescale for adoption was an interesting and original approach - much better than that tiresome trick of lifting a sentence from the text and putting it in a large font, as if it is more significant or somehow captures the essence of what's being said without subjecting you to the chore of reading the whole page. One of these inserts is 'technologies may change, but the innovations in pedagogy bring lasting benefit' - it's a rather vacuous statement in my opinion. Meanwhile the idea of 'one tablet per child', recently adopted in Thailand shows the extent to which national governments are willing to invest in technology - the scheme, still in the pilot stage is apparently paying off already. It's the sort of investment that's needed before innovating pedagogy can take place.
Monday, September 09, 2013
What's on it?
this story about using e-readers in Ghana as a way of raising literacy levels was inspiring, and an outcome of the work done by the Worldreader charity. So it begins to look like e-readers can be a relatively simple way of enhancing the reading experience of students of all ages. But yet it seems to me that there's two crucial things that are missing in this largely technocentric debate, and they are - perhaps inevitably - to do with the social dimension. Firstly, we know that something like a Kindle or an iPad is simply a platform for digital content. What counts then, once you've got over the love of technology, is the quality and values of that content. Is it a commercially-bundled curriculum? Is it worthwhile reading material, and does it really explore the multimodal (and other) affordances of digital content? Secondly, what happens when you insert this kind of device into everyday pedagogical situations? What sorts of new roles and routines develop (or could develop) for teachers and learners? There's a significant research agenda here, and we need some answers to avoid being blown away by technologists, or bundled into oblivion by commercial publishers.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
In retrospect I think Julia Gillen and I managed to capture something of the essence of microblogging in studying how Twitter was used in what you might now call 'the early days'. But it was still great to see that the paper 'Contact Calls: Twitter as dialogic social and linguistic practice' was the top downloaded article in Language Sciences, and as a special deal it's now available free till 31st October! The paper has a natural partner with one I wrote with Julia Davies on blogging. Both are insider accounts of how we as academics have taken up social media and used it for our own purposes. Trying to describe the approach we used is quite hard - insider account is probably the best, but we've also tried 'dual autoethnography' to try to capture the idea of a parallel and reflexive endeavour. Neither study really has the depth and nuance of autoethnography, but the idea of a two-handed approach in looking at adoption/ early adoption has its advantages. See what you think!
Monday, August 26, 2013
Your books are reading you
The flurry of concern over data harvesting has taken up quite a few column inches lately. It seemed that no-one was particularly concerned when Amazon first started recommending books to you, or when it was revealed that Tesco collected smart data on local shopping trends, but now a more general paranoia has set in. This is mass surveillance and where will it all lead, say some; what about personal freedom they ask. Now there's renewed concern that your books are reading you (see here, for example). Electronic devices know where you are, what you bought, what page you're on and so on. Do I care? Not really, to be honest. I don't think I've ever once bought what Amazon recommended - it's clever, but not that clever. After all smart databases are only as good as the people that design them, and I challenge anyone to design one that fits my fickle taste. And if they could design one, I myself would be the first to be interested. The police only seem threatening when you're involved in some wrong doing, and by the same token surveillance only becomes problematic if you've got something to hide. But the root problem lies in those definitions 'wrong doing' and 'something to hide'. If you live in a democratic and genuinely open society those things are relatively unproblematic, reflecting principles like freedom of speech, freedom of movement (and in a market-led economy - freedom to consume), but as soon as that changes, data harvesting turns into surveillance. That's the time to start getting worried.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Catherine Beavis and her partner at Purling Brook Falls (above), and now reviews, journal work, emails and some writing at Noosa. Although it may sound glamorous it gets very tiring, and I'm now looking forward to some down time. Moving about has highlighted some interesting, and perhaps unsurprising, themes in literacy education. The most dominant of these by a long way is the work that literacy educators have to do to legitimise what they already know, or think they know to be worthwhile in the light of new centralised curriculum and accountability measures. In the realm of new/digital literacies this is particularly noticeable, and makes little sense when seen alongside political rhetoric about economic competitiveness and 21st Century skills. Another theme concerns raising the achievement of marginalised groups, and particularly the recognition of different languages, cultures and forms of representation. In sum, for all the newness of these policy initiatives and curriculum changes, the same old issues come to the fore. Given increased connectivity, it now seems timely to encourage transnational connections between educators - connections that may provide challenge and support for those committed to real change.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Gary Wolf founder of the self-quantifying movement puts it, turning windows into mirrors. It's not just about logging your life - that's been going on a while - but the whole idea is to collect your own physiological and psychological data. learn to read it (becoming data-literate in the process) and then use the wisdom of crowds (and experts) to improve your well-being, your physical and mental state. You could see it as digitally-enhanced self-improvement or extreme narcissism. The Quantified Self movement may not be your cup of tea, but when I heard Rodney Jones it made me think how it just is the logical extension of a more general trend in digital life. The supermarket knows what I eat, Amazon what I read, Insight knows when I meditate, and Mappiness knows how I'm doing. Put it altogether, invest in a FitBit and then you're truly post-human. It's the way to go...
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Monday, June 10, 2013
Research Story from Chris Thomson on Vimeo.
We all have to juggle with competing demands and priorities, and it seems to get even worse when we start to research things! I was moved by this digital story produced by one of my Masters students - it illustrates the cost, the struggle and the emotional underlife in an elegant way, but also it highlights some of the benefits that accrue from doing this sort of work. It's well worth keeping all this in mind as we go on. In my own work, I've been wrestling with ideas about pleasure, everyday life and the commodification of early learning and literacy. In the light of this I returned to Helen Nixon's piece 'From bricks to clicks.' and the more recent piece, with Erica Hateley in Children's Literacy, Learning and Culture which ends with this: 'As children are inducted younger and younger into particular modes of literacy, and particular dispositions as 'consuming citizens', researchers committed to learning from and contributing to young people's agency and social opportunities need to pay attention to what is happening culturally when reading and playing and literacy and learning means tapping, touching, swiping, and scroling and combining online and offline activities.' (2013:39)
Thursday, May 30, 2013
Monday, May 27, 2013
Friday, May 24, 2013
I'm really enjoying the Fifth International Roundtable on Discourse Analysis with its focus on Digital Practices. Presenters have brought a wide variety of perspectives to a wide range of topics. There have been different takes on discourse itself and work that's focused on mobile technologies, machinima, MOOCs, Flickr, 'netspeak', virtual worlds, self-quantifiers and the comment genre - to mention just a few. Today is the final day and there's the unknown dimension of what themes will arise and what new questions will emerge. I always find that an interesting process. At the moment all that I've heard re-inforces the view that thinking about the online/offline binary is unhelpful. In some way's David Barton's notion of 'writing spaces' works a little better for me. The whole debate also confirms my belief that studying practices without a close look at people and things leaves out the complex and messy nature of the work that gets done. So materiality, embodiment and affect seem to me to be important emergent themes. But, as ever, what I think may well be modified by what others say; if it isn't, perhaps that's not discourse.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
simple phone too, so that they have at least one thing that works well. That's all very well, but as I pack for a trip to Hong Kong it's a logistical nightmare making sure I've got my phone, my camera, my iPad and my laptop and all the various leads and cables (each being completely different, of course). So, actually I'm a big fan of convergence technology, just because it makes life simpler, but it does seem that there's a way to go.
Thursday, May 09, 2013
All fingers and thumbs
I've just been writing another paper about toddlers and touchscreens, and it returns to the same themes about gesture that I explored before. Essentially, looking at the video data we have, you see how hand gestures and pointing are woven into adult-child conversations and that they also appear to extend quite naturally into taps and swipes on the touchscreen. Often someone starts off pointing at something on the screen and then ends up tapping - it becomes part of the interactional flow. And the toddlers (see index finger in pic) often seem to have their trigger fingers at the ready, perhaps mimicking adult gestures or maybe in readiness for when they need to deploy them. I'd been using the word 'index finger' so often in the writing that I began to wonder about its origin. For one feverish moment I thought it was connected to print literacy, being the finger that turns the pages at the index. But in the end I was convinced by this account, which simply connects it with indicating or pointing. Well even that is enough to confer on it a very significant place in human communication. I reckon there's a book to be written about the role the first finger plays in human culture. Someone's probably already written it, though.........no, just got lost at Amazon only to discover that someone called Al Fingers has written a book on Clarks in Jamaica (bring on Vybz Kartel). How random!
Monday, May 06, 2013
Adam Nicholson - a historian with impeccable qualifications - who dazzled viewers with his take on literacy in seventeenth century England. It was, or so the title goes, the century that wrote itself and he had lots of quirky examples to illustrate this idea. Although very entertaining, the major shortcoming was its rather narrow determinist view. That's the way we became modern: through literacy, through individual expression, from discovering the power of writing and so on and so forth. Major social, political and religious changes were relegated to the sidelines in these programmes- as if they were simply caused by literacy rather than intimately bound up with it. Power, and that century's particular shifts in economic and civic life were always hovering in the background: class, gender and race reared up as another version of how we became modern. Nonetheless this is better than a lot of TV, and if you're in the UK you might still catch the series on demand on iPlayer.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
I like Thompson's idea of mediated publics. He argues that public was once defined in terms of people, places and events that share a common locale. Print media disturbed this convergence by creating a 'reading public which was not localised in space and time.' (Thompson, 1995:126). Other media have helped to accelerate fractured or reconfigured publics. In the UK, the 1952 Coronation is often cited as a landmark event, in which the spectating public was dispersed as television ownership grew exponentially. A public event was witnessed in private surroundings by many people, often with neighbours crowding into houses to share the spectacle. Perhaps it could be argued that the first moon landing was another key moment in that the immediate audience was particularly small, but the mediated event reached out to a large and very diverse public. Interestingly though, for the upcoming funeral of Thatcher, the public is divided in other ways, but there's bound to be a heavy media presence.
Monday, April 01, 2013
Yes, I finally let go of my Flickr account last year, realizing that it no longer served any real purpose for me or, in fact, held my interest. There's a sort of archive of memory there, but a lot of it was rather ephemeral - or so it seems now, at least. Interestingly though, I'm using Instagram more intensively, and almost exclusively to share more intimate family-related images. In some ways it's a more traditional network. Barton & Lee pick up on a passage from Wellman that fits in very well with this: 'CMC supplements, arranges and amplifies in-person and telephone communications rather than replacing them ' (2001:18). This relates to our family use of Instagram which for me hybridizes the phone-call, the blog and the family photo album without replacing any of them. It all seems far more old-school than the sort of transformational social networking associated with Web 2.0 that I, and others, have written about extensively. Appadurai (2003) suggests that 'where natural social collectivities build commonality out of memory, virtual communities build memory out of connectivity.' - well he might just have produced a killer quote, but certainly the first half matches what we do on Instagram. We must be a natural social collectivity, then. For me this points to a very interesting research area which would look at how new media gets adopted and absorbed into family interactions. Next project?
Thursday, March 28, 2013
here. Welcome to the weird world of technology. Maybe I'll get out the vacuum-cleaner instead - do a bit of hoovering (sorry Hoover) if they'll let me!
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Le papier ne sera jamais mort / Paper is not dead on influencia.net ! from INfluencia on Vimeo.
I always thought that the idea of the paperless office was somehow flawed, and this video really brings home the point! Last week I was involved in so many discussions that helped to cement the view that the relationship between literacy and digital technology is additive rather than transformative. By that I mean, that it's not really a question of either pen and paper or keyboard and screen more 'both...and'. Literacies just got more complex, that's all! So rather than being digital, I'm enjoying a really good book at the moment (and I'm reading it on my Kindle and my iPad in turn, depending on which device is closer to hand - oops digital, sorry). It's by one of my favourite writers Michael Chabon. I thought that 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay' was a wonderful exploration of the world of early comic book artists and that got me hooked. Chabon has this wonderful ability to weave narrative around strong themes of popular culture in contemporary American life. Telegraph Avenue follows a similar pattern, based in and around a record shop - a purveyor of second-hand vinyl with a community-oriented feel to it, that's Brokeland Records. Collectors, fans, and the sort of loose (and tight) affinities that emerge are lovingly explored. I always like to quote and there's a bit set in trading card fair that I thought was brilliant (and also very funny) - but this, spoken by one of the characters sticks out: 'Trading cards? Little rectangles of cardboard? Stained with bubblegum? Pop one in the spokes of your bicycle, make it sound like a Harley-Davidson'. Why? Because, I think it captures multiple meanings so well. The cards, part of children's culture, can just as easily be taken seriously as they can be re-purposed in creative play; but at the same time, when they are re-contextualized at a card fair, there's an economy of circulation that takes place in a hallowed atmosphere of reverential seriousness liberally mixed with nostalgia. The same dynamic seems to lie at the heart of the vinylist culture as well. Let's hear it for Chabon - nice website, too. Paper, too could one day become a collectors' item. Imagine that.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
The surface of the news
This article seems to suggest that a) there is a debate and b) there are two dominant positions. Pushed for time, and faithful to the 'shallowness' principle, I decided to remain on the surface and just read the headlines this Sunday. In sympathy with readers who like a bit of depth, I've included the links. In my reading I learnt that some novelists are excited by the possibilities of digital fiction; that Collen Rooney tweeted: "Can't believe @WayneRooney isn't starting" at the beginning of Manchester United's big match on Thursday; that 'geek aesthetics' come into play as fashion meets Google Glass; that Samsung is taking the mobile market by storm; that Apple may have run out of juice, and that smart technology can help police detect crime before it happens!And I probably missed a lot more simply because I read on the surface. But isn't there a subtle irony, here? The same newspaper that berates our obsession with technology is the one that regularly feeds that obsession. It simplifies the issues about new technologies and then tells us off for simplifying the issues. It's a no-brainer: so stick to surfing and broaden your views!
Thursday, March 07, 2013
In the introduction to this book, Kallinikos, Leonardi and Nardi comment that: 'materiality is indicative of both the embodied and embedded nature of human experience, the multiple entanglements of humans with materials objects and artifacts, and the various supports these provide to human pursuits' (17)- and I find that very well put. As the edited collection progresses, ideas about materiality get more and more hazy - and the book is none the worse for that, by the way. We seem to land on terra firma with Borgman who re-iterates that matter matters and reminds us how we used to think that it must be 'tangible, have weight, and occupy a definite place and time.' But the rise of 'immaterial obects' he argues (and most of these are digital or textual) throws all this into disarray, and with a pleasing turn of phrase he suggests that the 'material solidity of the world seems to be slipping over the horizon' (335). Perhaps all we've got left is signs.
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
Movement of signs
Sunday, March 03, 2013
Signs of movement
Lancaster the other week based, at least in part, on the virtual worlds work we've been involved in. The journey was an epic of delayed trains, missed connections and travel adjustments, all of which worked out quite happily in the end. In the process we seemed to collect a rainforest of tickets (see pic). It all made me think of tickets as signs of movement. There's all sorts that can happen - wrong tickets, lost tickets, no tickets - whole stories can turn on the ticket. The ticket becomes the bookmark - even the souvenir. And sometimes the ticket is the proof - it tells the journey taken, the time, the cost and even (I noticed this on close inspection) the name of the purchaser. All very handy for those acts of surveillance connected with claiming expenses! I loved tickets as a child. The top-deck journey around the suburbs, the foot of Nottingham Castle and into the Old Market Square signified glorious independence. Often the journey was the best bit. I held on to my ticket as if my life depended on it (if an inspector got on and you couldn't find it, you'd be turfed off). After the excitement of the journey all you had left was the ticket. It was symbolic of something. I tried to collect them....and failed. I've never been the collecting type. But still so much connects to the ticket. It's all woven into the totality of the journeying experience - a bit like one of the nodal points Cathy and I were talking about. Yesterday I read something that seemed to capture this. In a review of the latest novel by Javier Marias, Alberto Manguel wrote 'every event, however minuscule, might develop into a sprawling web of roots and branches.' Despite a slight technical uneasiness with the word 'event' I found inspiring. In fact inspiring enough to re-mix as 'every ticket could explode into a sprawling web of roots and branches'. Apologies Alberto if that's plagiarism; I'm sure you understand.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
I've been looking closely at video footage of toddlers on iPads using a coding frame of my own design to try to understand what's going on. This is fascinating work, but as I'm doing it I've become aware of how the limitations of the video have already reduced and transformed the 'real' world into something else. The real has been transformed into data. Then in attempting to make sense of this data, my so-called analysis is actually creating a new kind of data - data which may well be the raw material that I end up writing about. From some points of view even that writing process itself is generating further layers of data - successive accretions or reductions, depending on one's preference. In the thick of all this there's a trajectory, a telos, an attempt to make sense of something. And only time will tell how that works out!
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Putting things first
ruin porn and object-oriented ontology (OOO), and some of the processes of artists - and somehow, in all that, it struck me that artists are often researchers and researchers are often artists. There's some really interesting blurring going on. In putting things first, humans often get erased - or at least all you see are their traces. Some of us wanted to re-insert people into their accounts, but presumably in ways that don't foreground or privilege them. All that was very stimulating, and the group project that we seemed to agree hovered somewhere between methodology and praxis. It's hard to say at the moment whether this signals a new direction for me, or whether it just sheds a different light on existing concerns. I'm content just to sit back and see what takes shape. So yesterday I took time out from taking time out, and spent the morning looking at ducks. Today there's only the duck sign left.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
The Trashmaster: literacy and new media
The Trashmaster: literacy and new media' which is an attempt to turn the tables on the whole disadvantage debate. I argue that schools are failing students by not providing them with the skills to negotiate the new media environment. I use an analysis of the Trashmaster machinima to explore the literacy practices that are associated with new media and then bemoan the fact that children and young people are not provided with tools that might help them to produce and consume in these textual environments effectively or critically. I'm sure friends and colleagues will point out its shortcomings, but from my perspective, I wish I'd had enough space to put this analysis alongside some extracts from curriculum documents. That would sharpen the argument - I don't know, maybe there's a chapter to be written from that. Going forward from that there is a complexities paper with my colleague Cathy Burnett (that's very exciting) and then I'm sketching out a first piece on very young children and their interactions with iPads. Somewhere, also, swishing around in virtual space is a book chapter written with Julia Davies which looks at digital literacy and teacher education, drawing on the work of the Deft project. Plenty of writing....and then there's the day job!
Sunday, February 10, 2013
content-based curriculum stuffed full of facts. Education has always been far more than that, and learning far richer. Jean Lave pointed out the habit that reformers have of trying to improve learning by focusing on teaching, powerfully asserting that whilst the two may overlap, they are by no means the same thing. Asking ourselves what is important to learn, is always a good starting point. But even before we get to that point we need some handle on learning itself. Gove seems to equate it with memorising. Remembering the capital cities of the world may depend more on memory than learning. What, for example, if they change - as they have the annoying habit of doing. Does that mean we've remembered wrongly or just remembered redundant information? Did we learn anything at all in memorising them? Would it help me in a pub quizz? It's not a simple matter. This is not to argue that we shouldn't commit anything to memory, merely to suggest that we should disentangle this from learning....and from education. I can remember the names of the original Clash line-up, the album names and most track titles: I didn't learn them; but I can't seem to forget them, either. It doesn't really help me in daily life, but then neither does knowing about the ins and outs of the English monarchy in history. Could I honestly say that I'm a better citizen, or a more cultured individual because I learnt these things in school and then forgot them as a young adult? My interest in the Glorious Revolution and what the Dutch monarch brought to England has been fired by living close to Revolution House and reading this book. We never did William of Orange at school; I thought it was humorous to have a king who was also a fruit, it appealed to my schoolboy humour. It was only relatively recently that I learnt about how oranges were actually used iconographically in portraits. That seems to be something called learning, and how it's bound up with relevance, interest and tactics. Can the same be said for non-human agents - I'm also interested in how we might say that the Tesco Clubcard (or Amazon) 'learns' about my consumerist peccadilloes - should we be sending technology to school. What might it learn?
Tuesday, February 05, 2013
Coding and all that
his celebration of the inclusion of programming in Gove's flawed EBacc is misguided. The idea that understanding coding might somehow inoculate us and our children against the ravages of corporate manipulation (ie: Facebook, Google etc), has already been elaborated by Lanier in his book 'You are not a Gadget', but if we look at the parallels - ie grammar in the English/literacy curriculum, we may have serious misgivings. In fact, given that digital communication is the cutting edge of new and emerging social practices we might be better to focus on promoting productive and ethical consumption and production. In an article written in 2007 'Writing the future in the digital age', I called this approach critical digital literacy. The term has been rehashed and developed by others since, and last year I revisited the idea, with my colleague Cathy Burnett. The result is here - I'm not claiming that it goes the whole way, but I think it introduces a perspective that the hastily reconstructed ICT brigade are in danger of missing.
Sunday, February 03, 2013
Language, signs and so on
Adam Kendon, the sort of gesture you make when you're going through the mental lexicon looking for that illusive word is called a Butterworth - itself a lexical item of some merit. I usually make rather disparaging comments when I hear people say they find language 'fascinating': after all it is a rather trite comment, but nonetheless there are some interesting and obscure terms around, like the aforesaid Butterworth. I'll now be trying to weave it into my everyday conversation. Just watch! But aside from the interesting and obscure, I must confess to being rather impressed with prose that has a good flow to it. Although Kendon's book on gesture is well-written it doesn't really flow. On the other hand in Calasso's book 'La Folie Baudelaire' it seems as if every single word is measured. I could see how it might be irritating, but I just love things like: 'On March 13, 1856, a Thursday, Baudelaire was woken at five by Jeanne, who was making a noise shifting a piece of furniture in her room. His awakening interrupted a complex dream.' (129). This gentleman-from-Porlock moment introduces the surreal Dream of the Brothel Museum, which Calasso then explores in an oblique way. For me he writes very well - even though he tackles the life of Baudelaire at a tangent. What he does with language is accomplished, and if that is fascinating, then I've just contradicted myself!
Thursday, January 31, 2013
comeuppance after all his recent meddling in the compulsory sector. The English Baccalaureate is one of his most reductive and divisive ideas - and the opposition is gathering strength. When it's compared with something more imaginative, like the International Baccalaureate, you see how we are hobbled by limited vision, a curriculum devoid of values, and an Education Secretary who is ideologically driven. Unfortunately we are currently in a position in which professional voices are ignored and political opposition fragmented. Is it too much to hope that the Labour Party can seize this opportunity to begin a movement that hands education back to educators?
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Batu caves illustrates.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The Hand (watch him here), and later I read Raymond Tallis's book with the same title. An interest I never followed up. Now I'm reading Herbert Clark's chapter 'Pointing and Placing' which is in this collection which is a carefully-constructed scholarly exploration of the ways in which communicative attention incorporates gesture in 'directing to' and 'placing for'. At first it seemed to be very culturally specific, but as the chapter progresses Clark acknowledges that these are cultural conventions - his data being North American (presumably Caucasian). His use of the idea of vectors in nodding, sweeping hand movements, general and specific pointing to objects and sites is fascinating. One dimension that needs more exploration is how this articulates with social relationships. Is it an accident that the majority of Clark's examples are of men pointing things out to women? To extend this to toddlers on iPads it raises the question of adults' attempts to direct to and place for young children - and, of course, because toddlers are so delightfully agentive, the reverse. How do they manipulate adult attention through gesture? So all this folds into the ways in which the hands are also controlling, opening apps, turning pages and the rest. More to follow!
Friday, January 11, 2013
Pointing out a myth
Gesture: Visible Action as Utterance' (2004) is a good start. You could also get quite absorbed in the deictic gesture and the segue between pointing and pressing with the first finger. In our video data you can see plenty of fingers poised in mid-air, children guiding adult fingers and vice versa....and then apparently, I'm not the only one who somehow imagines data stuck to my finger when I'm cutting and pasting! It's all fascinating stuff which will be written up in due course, but for moment the idea that iPads are tailor-made for young children has to join the list of myths.
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