Monday, December 22, 2014
At this year's LRA conference I found myself repeatedly asking whether presenters felt that their video data was producing them, rather than the other way around. It probably sounded like someone trying to make a clever point, so I thought it might be worth trying to unpick what I was driving at. The thought first occurred to me a while back when it seemed as if researchers had 'discovered' mobility, as if it was something akin to a previously overlooked landmass - already there, but as yet unchartered. At that point I wondered whether that new interest in movement was simply a by-product of moving image technology. Were we simply seeing what our technology enabled us to see? Looking back then, was that earlier fascination with spoken interaction, turn-taking, transcripts and all the paraphernalia of oracy simply the result of affordable recording devices and magnetic tape? Thinking in this way might just exemplify how data produces us - and also at the same time how technologies of data capture enact exclusions. In our rush to study mobility do we ignore turn-taking, or indeed anything that falls outside the frame? You could take the argument to another level, as Barad does in Meeting the Universe Halfway, when she argues that 'technoscientific practices play a role in producing the very phenomena they set out to describe.' (207:2007). Or on an everyday level you could see how the way the iPhone camera gets used creates a new way of seeing the world. That wide angle lens, the heightened colour values, and also the simple ubiquity of the phone itself melds with our experience in new ways, creating radical departures from photography as it was. Put that into a slideshow (as above) and the way we participate in the world is changed.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Reading Digital Fiction exhibition on Thursday evening, I was struck by how a different discipline works its way into the same territory. In her succinct opening remarks Astrid Ensslin reminded us how digital fiction sits somewhere between literary fiction and video gaming, as well as how print fiction lives on whilst digitally-born narrative continues to evolve. The common thread of how new and old narratives work to engage our imaginations emerges again, along with the idea that digital technology often end up troubling existing categories such as the distinctions between games and stories, art and life, the real and the imagined. It was a successful thought-provoking event, and underscores the fact that digital fiction is now old enough to have a history.
Wednesday, October 08, 2014
Will Self about the impact of new technology on what he calls 'deep reading', I found myself recalling this image. Is this 'deep'...or did it suddenly become shallow because its read on an iPad? Clearly not. But of course, in an otherwise intelligent and nuanced piece, Self is actually equating the immersive experience of reading fiction with depth. Although he offers a balanced account, and is certainly not bemoaning the rise of digital text, there is a sadness in his tone. He thinks we have lost something. If he's right, though, its not depth we've lost, but a way of accessing imagined worlds.
Friday, August 01, 2014
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Death of the book
Malorie Blackman is currently campaigning for more reading for pleasure, I don't believe that things are in terminal decline. Of course we want children to read, and to enjoy reading as a leisure activity, but we also need to recognise that new digital forms have an important a part to play in this. It's probably true to say that with the advent of widely available tools for digital communication, there is more reading and writing going on now than at any other point in our history. This means that there's more competition for our reading time, and of course narrative fiction has to compete with both film and videogaming for our attention. But, at the same time, print books continue to be popular and attractive (they gain media attention - witness the Harry Potter phenomenon) whilst on the other hand more authors and media producers are investigating what digital fiction might look like, and indeed how 'transmedia' narratives gain traction. In my own work I have shown how young children respond positively to interactive story apps on iPads and there are some great resources available - and huge potential for future development. However these developments don't sound the death knell for the book, they just provide more alternatives. Parents shouldn't be worried by the growing availability of resources like story apps - they should embrace them and allow them to take their place alongside familiar storybooks. Although school and public libraries are threatened by funding cuts, there are some compelling reports of libraries that have embraced digital media, giving them a proper place alongside more traditional forms. In short, books matter - we need to introduce children to them, celebrate them, own them, share them and lend them. But we also need to be aware of the alternatives and the exciting developments that are now possible.
Monday, June 30, 2014
Coming and going
Monday, June 16, 2014
cybergogy, at other times the idea of heutagogy and on a more fundamental level the differences between VC delivery and face-to-face teaching. What becomes clear is that there are all sorts of different blends and possibilities for creative learning designs, and although institutional systems tend to be a bit primitive (with the exception of thin VLEs) there's plenty of ways to enrich the student experience. But in a discussion with Masters students, what impressed me most was the value they placed on the 'tutor in the room'. Here you got the sense that what I called embodied expertise has a significant, affective impact. Watching the expert, who is perceived as being at the cutting edge, thinking on her feet, responding to questions, outlining the dilemmas live and unplugged as it were, was still one of the most valued experiences. So, in situations in which this is still possible the real challenge is how to make other modes work effectively and creatively to free-up live performance. And of course, the related to challenge is to find the kinds of online experiences that could be the next best thing to witnessing embodied expertise.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Children's Literacy, Learning and Culture expresses something similar when she writes that: '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 scrolling and combining online and offline activities.' (2013:39). I also pointed out how some of what is available carries an implicit message for parents - these are the sort of literacy routine that are important. This has been called the discourse of the 'good parent'. But this tension runs through everyday and institutionalised uses of technology at all levels - its potential both to free us and to enslave us.
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Sunday, May 11, 2014
Boxes of poison
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Points of View, we experimented with deconstructing the notion of 'the event', partly because we found it hard to define any clear boundaries between different instances of meaning-making in the material we were dealing with, and our multiple readings of the data, the stacking stories we developed, highlighted increasing levels of complexity, rather than coalescing around a single version of what was happening in classroom virtual world play. We struggled to find a word for what we were observing - maybe occurrences or action sequences might work - otherwise just call it the project! Part of the problem with the idea of 'events', which we haven't so far articulated, is the way in which they tend to associate too easily with 'activities' or 'routines' in the world of literacy education. And one thing that is clear about the virtual worlds work is the way in which it challenges just those sorts of boundaries, planned learning sequences, activities, objectives and all the rest. In our AERA presentation, we deepened our baroque reading of the data, using this to critique simple, reductive models of literacy in classrooms. Cathy introduced the notion of a baroque pedagogy, an exuberant expression of free roaming gameplay, one that is hard to describe, hard to understand, but thoroughly absorbing for participants. But we also used baroque techniques to illuminate the heterogeneity of meaning-making in classrooms, and that, I think, will be at the heart of the next paper that we're working on.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Norris's work on modal aggregates is a powerful way of conceptualising the iPad data that I've recently been writing about. Although her argument that multimodal perspectives destabilise the primacy of language in social interaction is not exactly new, the focus on action, as a unit of analysis, helps to highlight the shifting dominance of modes - how, in her words, modal hierarchies fluctuate. In the sorts of multiparty interactions that occur between children, adults and iPads, we can see how deictic gestures, at times dominant, give way to spoken language, onscreen visual movements, object-handling and so on. Accepting that overall meanings are always greater than the sum of these modal parts, this perspective helps to incorporate materiality and embodiment into the analysis in useful ways. There are some limitations, though. The analytical work that Norris (2012) engages in places humans as social actors at the centre of the interaction, thus following in the footsteps of earlier sociolinguistic approaches, but in doing this objects are cast as rather mute associates. For example, in Norris's data, a painting is moved (object-handling mode), pointed at (deictic gestural mode), and then talked about. But when scripted material objects - like iPads - are so deeply woven into activity, I think we need a broader perspective, one which shows how things (such as technologies) can generate, initiate, or participate in action. Perhaps it would help to focus on developing accounts of action sequences with different trajectories - the vibrating alert from a mobile phone that heralds an incoming text message, prompting some email checking, a phone call and so on, for example. Thinking about fluctuating hierarchies in modal aggregates might well be a useful way of approaching and understanding the emerging patterns of communication associated with new technologies. This could then lead to a more sophisticated account of how objects participate in social interaction, bringing what we read in Latour to bear upon our discussions of multimodality and discourse analysis.
Monday, March 31, 2014
Digital Technologies for School Collaboration, explores some of these themes and recognizes that although programmes that provide opportunities for transnational collaboration between schools have a respectable history, the potential expansion of these opportunities through new technology has yet to be evaluated in a principled way. Gouseti's book does just that. Based on a case studies of teachers' and students' experiences of the European eTwinning programme she provides a detailed analysis of the promises and pitfalls of web-based school collaboration. But the book is much more than that, providing an excellent overview and critique of the rhetoric associated with web 2.0 and 'participatory culture.' This is a book that is well-informed, well-argued and scholarly throughout, offering practical guidance on how to develop school collaboration through new media.
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Is it a book or is it an app?
Sunday, February 09, 2014
Digital futures for teachers
Julia and I have written for this collection (now available). The chapter draws on the work of the DefT project.
Sunday, January 26, 2014
Nighty Night'). It's his favourite because it's an engaging app, and just right for 2-3 year olds. In the story, it's night time and most of the village is in darkness - apart, that is, from the farmhouse, which is still blazing with light. The reader is invited to 'go' to each light in the farmhouse, say goodnight to the animals found there and turn off the light. Once the light is turned off, there's no going back. Sure, you can return to the barn, the dog's kennel and so on, but they've gone to sleep and there's nothing at all you can do about it. It's a simple scenario, that helps with prediction, naming animals, and the simple and repetitive night time rituals of saying goodnight and turning off the light. So in this way it does what good picture books tend to do, in supporting language, helping children to make predictions and making connections to firsthand experience. What might the app add then? Well first off, even though, it's made for sharing, the child can look at it independently and still hear the story being told - a small gain admittedly, but nonetheless a difference from a print book. Then there is the important fact that it is user-driven. This happens in two ways: firstly, the animals and insects won't go to sleep unless you switch off (tap) the light and secondly, the order in which this is done is entirely up to the reader - so it's not unilinear, the child dictates the reading path. Because this is an app for young children, these features are simple and easy to see, but imagine if they were scaled-up and you begin to glimpse the future of digital fiction. Rather like a videogame, you are in 'Nighty Night' because you change the story environment as you go along. And then, of course, there's the upgrade I started with. I really enjoyed the surprise Dylan felt when he suddenly discovered that, overnight, more animals had moved into the farmhouse! The potential for a story that has add-ons is quite something. Of course, the same business model as in-game purchases is lurking behind the scenes - but I want to keep that in proportion. The app plus add-ons, is cheaper than most good quality picture books for this age-group.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
Make up money
here, if you haven't caught the story - and this isn't about smartphones, we're talking basic models, here. What a wonderful illustration of the ways in which social groups take up the affordances of mobile technology and make it work for them to fulfil their needs. In fact, I can see myself doing the Kenya thing rather than carrying around make-up (or cufflinks, apparently).
Sunday, January 12, 2014
New Literacies around the Globe, we've had to confront some of the myths surrounding the idea of 'the global' as unbounded free space. In its place we use the term 'global assemblages' (from McFarlane, 2009) to capture how complex and multiple forces coalesce as place-based events. We suggest that these events are constituted by the exchange of ‘ideas, knowledge, practices, materials and resources across sites’(McFarlane, 2009:561) as language and power intersect with socioeconomic status. Although the word 'global' is so much easier, it often erases all this. Increases in the extent of broadband connectivity, and growing access to resources (particularly powerful handheld devices) is accelerating the sorts of exchanges that constitute translocal assemblages. But this isn't a universally even process. In the studies featured in the book, we see how practices are patterned by local forces as cultural resources are accessed (or not), appropriated and recontextualised within specific social networks. To be specific: things like PlayStations, jacuzzis,and mobile phones take on different meanings in different settings and practices like texting, chatting and flirting are given local nuances. More often than not, in translocal assemblages we see that sociotechnical practices are absorbed into existing ideologies, sustaining and sometimes amplifying them. In other words, technologies and the global flows that are associated with them rarely flatten out inequalities, but they certainly can draw our attention to them.
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