Sunday, June 23, 2013

Body hacking

Any self-respecting cyborg has to be a fan of body hacking. Rather than some sort of grim ritual of zombie-like mutilation this sort of hacking is about collecting (and sharing) data on yourself, or as 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


As a sort of postscript to yesterday's piece on the commodification of early learning and literacy, I wanted to underline that this isn't a new phenomenon at all. From Dinky toys and Meccano to Helix geometry sets, Chambers pencils and Beacon Readers, my own childhood learning was strongly patterned by commercially-produced artefacts that often enjoyed global circulation. What has changed, I think, is the extent to which the tools of edutainment are scripted, mediated and marketed to consumers - both parents and their children. In a sense some of the products are more specialised and they tap into curriculum discourses about what early learning should look like, and an increasingly high-profile set of messages about the home as a site for influential early learning. Most of us in the field would agree about the significance of early learning, but the backwash effect from narrow models of curriculum could end up with narrow models of early learning - a toddler's home curriculum which is characterised by endless and unimaginative routines based on the alpahabet, the cardinal numbers, and shape - all driven by digital toys. If I'm right then it's important that we champion those toys, media products and apps that are informed by a more diverse, expansive and flexible view of literacy and learning.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Multiple things

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)