Digital Literacies

Researching New Literacies, Learning and Everyday Life

little tiny libraries

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It is not often that I post about something that is so non-technology. But this caught my eye on Vivien Vasquez’s Facebook.
It’s a really cute idea that is designed to build on and develop community relations and also develop the reading of books. The project is described here.
The idea is that individuals and groups set up a little box or stall and place books in it for others to borrow/ exchange.

Books are placed in the box for sharing

I think I like the idea as it is so simple and so non-techy. I think a lot of people are reacting against this first manic take up and allure of new technologies, feeling somewhat over whelmed and saturated by it all. There is something comforting about the idea of re-reading a book that has been passed on in such an invisible giving kind of way. No digital footprint; no additional profit made. Something pure about all this – can this be so?

This is an innovation I think and one that uses no new technology and embraces the old.

Written by DrJoolz

August 8th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Private Facebook ‘Support Groups’

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Issues of Privacy Online

I have joined a private group on Facebook. You cannot find it through the Facebook search facility or via Google.  You cannot see if your friends are members of private groups. This is the info from Facebook about the different types of privacy for groups:

From Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/help/privacy/groups

Online privacy – or lack of it – has of course been a hot topic over the years and Facebook in particular has been held up as a major offender for the invasion of private information and selling it on. Despite offering services free of charge, Facebook has made a lot of money from selling our information. But now we all know about it, maybe we should just act responsibly and not say too much online that we don’t want shared:

Locked Gates - Cemetery Road Cemetery Sheffield

Private Facebook Groups
The group I have joined is for ‘ME Mums’ . I was told about the group through another support forum for carers of people with ME and it was only via invitation that I could have joined – being linked to the group by an existing member. The group allows us to talk privately  - sharing information and grievances. We also have some laughs.

Community / Grassroots level Expertise
The group has been a source of a great deal of valuable info that I would otherwise not be able to find out – in fact having a daughter who has had ME for 15 years, I  have gained more info in the last month or so than I managed to collate on my own over those years.  Expertise is of the kind Gee writes about when he describes Affinity Spaces. Expertise that is valued is the ability to behave like a hunter gatherer, bringing jewels to the nest from other parts of the Internet. Hyperlinks are common on the ME Mums space – reaching out to other support groups; marginal medical research; useful gadgets to buy – eg heart rate monitors being a popular one at the moment – ; ‘good people’ we can trust; videos on YouTube and to other ME organisations across the world.

The group has no official ‘certificated’ experts – no medical doctors and the like. Respect is earned through online reputation within the group – and the greatest gurus are highly valued and receive lots of ‘likes’ and affirmative remarks on their posts. They post daily, lengthily and bring lots of information. Furthermore, such gurus mediate the info – explaining its relevance to others in simple language. Other members refer to such posts and to the documents the gurus share. Other ways of acquiring respect is via the amount of support you offer; a sharing approach is universally expressed and no negative judgements are ever articulated. the ‘like’ button is used liberally – and with multiple meanings.

We have created – and continue to create – an archive of symptoms, of bad experiences and of good, that could be the basis of some good research.

Risks – Breaches of Confidentiality

This online space of which I am a member will not become the focus of my own research; this would not be ethical and would jeopardise other types of benefit I get from the group anyhow. But I am learning things from being a part of this new type of online space – which I think has real dangers as well as benefits. Because whilst we may all keep everything secret – there is no guarantee of this, we hope to trust members, but who knows? Also, maybe at some point someone will hack in – and maybe Facebook will decide to make our info available to a third party. We always have to be on our guard. Not just because there is information we are sharing about our children online – which they may not wish to share and which is confidential; but also because we are sometimes specific about professionals we criticise (perjury? slander?) but also because at this stage, children are still taken into care when they have ME – on the pretext of Munchhausen syndrome by proxy. We only have to think about politicians’ leaked emails to get a clue about the damage seemingly innocuous digital texts can do sometime.

The downside of user driven expertise
On the downside, I see some people getting in a big state over the information they are given and I have seen how they can easily end up worrying too much. The problem with people researching for themselves is that they are so close to the situation – and while this has absolute advantages (insider knowledge etc) sometimes distance is necessary for perspective. This kind of grassroots level research is a great thing but at the same time I keep thinking that it would be good if this were not necessary – that if medics and social services etc co-ordinated themselves as well as we have, we would be able to trust them to care for our children as well as they care for heart patients etc. People with orthodox carefully diagnosed illnesses get better help. Traditional experts – medics in particular – have power and also access to privileged information and funding for treatments and support and research. If they could only see our conversations sometimes, it would make them very angry; but after the anger they may learn something very valuable.

Educational application of private groups
In terms of education … I did not realise exactly how private you can make a Facebook group and so this does have some useful affordances for teaching and learning – will muse on this at a later date. I like the idea of creating a Facebook space for students now that I realise I can reassure them their friends will not see the group and it will not interfere with their existing presentations of self online!! And as I have seen, when the motivation is there, the group can work very impressively. This is what online participation is all about.

Written by DrJoolz

July 12th, 2012 at 11:02 am

50 Shades of Grey

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Apparently everyone is reading this. All women apparently. So make that, “apparently all women are reading this”.

book cover

But the punters are not usually reading it in book format. It is being mass consumed digitally – e.g. on Kindles – so that no-one can tell you are reading it. No one can see the ‘give away’ book cover. With your Kindle you can be reading anything from the Kama Sutra to Bicycle Maintenance for Boys. So says, for example, the BBC here.

A lot of my Facebook friends – all women – have announced they are reading it . But they make sure they announce that they are reading it ‘to find out what the fuss is about’. Fair enough, don’t blame them. One of my friends has apparently used the search and replace facility to substitute the ‘rude words’ for funny words and she reads it to her husband. So you CAN be seen to be reading it – but explanations are at the ready in case you think they are just consuming for enjoyment ‘ without thinking’. It is an intellectual and analytical pursuit, of course.

You can even get e postcards related to the book:

From here: http://crushable.com/entertainment/50-shades-of-grey-funny-photos-753/

Irony rules. It often saves the day as it cannot be achieved without a wry criticality; by being ironic you are saying you are clever.

I wondered whether we would be so ironically amused if all the men were suddenly reading a particular porno on their Kindles. I suspect not.

I presume this is because we are used to men reading porn and we have despaired of it. And we might also see it as being related to violence against women. Or simply the denigration of women ‘in their minds’. Now we women (they) are reading it and we have to celebrate this liberation or at least, giggle. I notice there are hundreds (so far) reviews on Amazon, and the star system is used at either end of the extremity (awarding just one star or five) and not much between. Depends if you like irony or not I suppose.

  1. Do I disapprove? No I don’t think so.
  2. Am I amazed at how quickly it has sold so many copies? Yes.
  3. What do I deduce?

That this is something interesting and it is about digital text  affecting literacy consumption in an interesting way.

Written by DrJoolz

June 25th, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Habbo Hotel under Siege

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For all the best possible intentions Channel 4 recently exposed how a large number of peodophile and predatory interactions take place on a very regular place on Habbo Hotel. Habbo is a Finnish social networking site aimed at teenagers, wiki describes it here.

In an extensive piece, they talked about how undercover researchers joined Habbo Hotel and found that they were immediately and regularly sexually propositioned. They were subjected to sexual talk and coercive behaviour which sometimes attempted to move virtual chat through avatars from online ‘sexting’ into requests for individuals to strip in front of webcams. The Channel 4 investigation also revealed the identity of a couple of men who have already been prosecuted for such activities.

Habbo seemed unphased at first but when they realized what a storm Channel 4 had provoked they immediately silenced all interaction on their site. This was undoubtedly exacerbated by one of Habbo’s sponsors immediately withdrawing their interest from Habbo.

Despite all my interest in researching teenagers’ online behaviour over the years, I had not been at all interested in Habbo. perhaps because not one of my research participants ever mentioned it to me – although I had heard of it.  In fact as it has been around so many years I had assumed there was not activity on there. This is apparently not the case with wiki reporting that by 2011 230 million avatars had been registered (such figures need to be regarded with caution as some people will have multiple avatars and many avatars will have been registered but never or rarely been active).

It looks like the site is going to only unmute the talk and text functions once it has put into place much better more stringent moderation features.

My comments on all this are that:

(a) As usual the research that Channel 4 undertook was research that I think is pretty flawed. The adult researchers did not behave in the same way as teenager researchers and I thnk they should have involved teenagers in a much more authentic exploration of the site. What adults do in the site is not going to be the same as teenagers. This could have been asking teenagers to consent to being involved in research, asking them to join and observing them while interacting on the site – obviously a range of safety and ethical features would need to be set up for the project.

(b) The researchers made all kinds of assumptions about how young people might react to the propositions and lewd interatcions from the resident peodos perverts etc. Agtain, involving teenagers in the research would have helped with this.

(c) The researchers had a model of teenagers and young people as helpless victims. They did not think to consult teenagers who were already using the site about their observations and experiences.

(d) the researchers made the classic mistake of trying to immediately understand the site and to participate without lurking first. I would always advise researchers to first lurk about a site before participating… and this is what most people do before they join in on a networking site too.

(e) I am against covert research. Although the researchers like to get a scoop and love the thrill of under cover operations, I think they woud have got a great deal more from the research if they had got permission ethical approval and then done a thorough and multi faceted research project.

As a result of Channel 4’s research, not only has Habbo itself reacted by taking action which it should have taken long ago in relation to trolls, peodophles and pervs (!!) but  many of the sites users are using the internet  as a way of speaking back, protesting and making it known that they would like to be acknowledged as having some agency. For example here and here.

I like the way that this player critiques Channel 4’s use of the site. You can see from the video that many young people are utterly distraught by this decimation of what they see as THEIR space.

(It is somewhat naff, btw, that Channel 4 have disabled the embedding of video material they put on YouTube.)

I am very happy to see also how young people were finally invited to be on Channel 4 to have their say and this was a very good piece.

Hopefully Habbo will involve young people in the moderation of the site and to play a major role in advising on policy etc. But the whole piece is a really great example of why we need to teach about and with social networking in schools and to see young people as research participants as opposed to subjects.

Written by DrJoolz

June 22nd, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Banned blog and back again

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Ah. The power of social media.

Google image Screenshot capture of school dinners.

Martha Payne’s very popular blog, Never Seconds where she posts about her daily school dinners – with photos – was banned. A popular blog – with over 2 million readers – her work shot to further popularity – 3 million readers – after the press caught the story.

This is the BBC’s take. And The Guardian.

Apparently catering staff feared for their jobs because of  Martha’s regular updates about the meals. The ban has since been lifted … but it is certainly food for though (LOL) that a caterer automaticaly gets upset about publicity. What did they have to be ashamed about? Here is Martha’s report of the ban.

Lovely to see this little girl taking the power of the media so seriously and equally wonderful that she just concentrated on doing the job well. What a sweetheart.

Anyhow we all love U-turns, and in a popular trend, apparently someone at the top listened, and changed their mind. Hurrah. And it turns out that this all helped Martha’s original cause – raising money for a school kitchen in Malawi!!

Written by DrJoolz

June 19th, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Live singers and ipod stuff

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From Heptinstall down the steep steps and path to Hebden. Lovely crisp and bright November weather.

We went to Hebden Bridge last week to see a band I love and also half a band that I love. The first was ChumbaWumba and the second was Becky Unthank from The Unthanks. I remembered all over again why I love country and folk music which does not carry with it all the paraphernalia of celebrity and useless stardom baggage. It is all about the music. All the bands were superb. In fact it was a Folk Festival so we also saw Grace Notes and a young band called Maia.

It is quite a while since I went to see a live band and it made me think about a few things. I do love listening to music on my iPod – either playing through speakers or headphones. But there is something important that digital sound cannot do for you. It is seeing the artists and understanding the physical and emotional WORK that artists do to produce their music that makes the live experience so fantastic. Especially when you see musicians who are really into it all because they have written, arranged or researched the music they are playing. I love the way they look to each other, that they produce music that reacts to the other band members that there is a kind of conversation going on within the band and aslo with the audience. I always feel that when you see a musician who is working so hard to produce the music, that you are being allowed to witness something intimate. Sometimes they even look like they are in pain; there is extreme concentration that you see; sheer physical hard work; enjoyment and a sense of fun – a full range of emotional STUFF. For me this very personal aspect of live music is so important and you cannot get it from your iPod alone.

So this is a post which remembers the value of things that digital reproduction cannot do for us and that it has its limitations.

Written by DrJoolz

November 26th, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Posted in everyday life

Facework, Hair work, Cut & Paste

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I am looking forward to having my haircut next week … by one of the hairdressers involved in my research project. It will be quite interesting and different – having your haircut is an intimate thing. You have your hair and head rubbed, and combed and pruned, and crimped and it is all very PROXIMAL. I don’t think I have read any articles before which involve having your haircut by one of the research participants.

So that’s cool.

I am thinking about a number of things in the project …. about the way in which the young women immerse themselves not just in a lot of work where they groom themselves in particular ways to fit a very definite hetero-normative style; they also do the same for other women in a serving type capacity. There are lots of photos in their Facebooks which show them posing in ways that have a postural intertextuality – imitative of styles like Beyonce poses; Kylie stuff even; Britney Spears I can see in the styling. But also they have photos of themselves in prom dresses and sitting in stretch limos. These are all images that can be indexed in global ways. Yet there is also something very LOCAL in the photos … the homey ones show them in English pubs; with very English looking boys who have rottweilers on leads; who are in pubs and clubs that have a very local feel. There seems to be a continuum in their lives that they move across and through and this is all displayed in Facebooks in ways that do not acknowledge the different worlds they operate in.

Often their chat online os very girlish; they talk about their Mums and Dads and they present as daughters, as hairdressers and also as sexual beings. They also adopt language that is quite male at times – positioning women in often sexualised and even brutal ways.

Written by DrJoolz

November 11th, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Facework on Facebook … at Oxford

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I am looking forward to going to Oxford today to give a seminar and to meeting people from the Education Department – and this will be my first time as a visitor to the University.

Thanks to sisyphus007 http://www.flickr.com/photos/kiedyszko/5658404181/

The presentation is based on a paper I gave at Manchester and have re-written for Computers and Education. .

Slides available on slideshare and draft paper on scrib’d.

Written by DrJoolz

November 9th, 2011 at 10:47 am

Gender, gadgets and Identity

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Wife as servant

Silly wife

This image was sent to my husband in one of those emails that has about 25 jpg attachments. All were ads from the 1960s and 1970s collated presumably because they all seem funny now. Each ad seems now being used to laugh at ‘the way we were’. Old ads depicting a different era, helping us to feel sophisticated and clever and think ‘ How naive we were’. And “so glad we are not like that now’. It’s all a bit smug really.

One way of reading this particular ad is the feminist way: the man is the wage earner and he has kindly bought his grateful wife a Kenwood Chef. She worships him; she is so happy. We the latter day feminists feel she is foolish; a dupe who is unknowingly her husband’s slave. We, in the present tense, are apparently superior.

Nowadays though, media representations of women and technology are more of this variety:

Here the technology is sexy and liberating. The dancing figure is clearly female, loving her life and feeling in control. She has leisure time and she has the cash to buy her own sleek, hold-in-the-hand mobile technology. She is able to dance. She is iPod woman. She is certainly not thinking about cooking (or eating). She only knows dance and fun.

I agree the ‘iPod girl’ seems to be a liberated woman. Not to put too fine a point on it though – she is sexy and a fat woman galumphing about woud not sell the product. All is not as liberated as we pretend. The detail of the graphics are like the gadget itself – cool, cool, super-cool and minimalist – pared down as a dramatic but sparse line drawing (in fact animation) against a dramatic coloured background. The background by the way, is the same as the colours available for the ipods … coming in pink, azure, lime green and whatnot. It is woman aligned with product – or even – woman as product . The marketing campaign did a great job. , (I really like the spoofs by the way). And these are not really about liberation but getting your cash one way or the other.

The Kenwood Chef is now seeing a revival and the whole cooking thing has been re-configured. We have all these TV programmes celebrating the frilly apron style of cooking again. It seems that the zeitgeist stuff of make do and mend; of home baking; of home grown; of ditsy cooky cutesy fashion, is also making a breakthrough and we need no longer feel ashamed of our cooking impulses.

Thank goodness because I wanted one and got one this last week. Yes dear readers. My husband bought it for me and I have been making bread, cakes, soups and even mashing potatoes in it. Because I love technology no matter what. And so we turn back again – is this a fresh look at feminism. I suspect not; I think it is a clever marketing move on the back of the recession, which pretends that if you make it yourself, you are doing it cheaper. But the love affair with technology lives on.

Just do this stuff with your eyes open. It is all consumerism. Whatever.

Written by DrJoolz

November 7th, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Identity, everyday life

Tagged with

Hot off the treadmill

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Most mornings you will find me jogging along happily on a treadmill at the University sports centre. I love it. The scene: rows of treadmills, bikes, cross-trainers and rowing machines arranged in lines facing six tv screens. I will be on one item (starting with a warm up on the bike and then the mad behaviour on the treadmill); I will be wired into my ipod, wearing a heart rate monitor and staring at the tv screens, but probably thinking about work. I watch all the screens, reading across them all rather than getting involved in just one. The whole thing is quite surreal and scuppers the notion that technology breeds couch potatoes. But that is another blog post entirely.


(pic from here Thanks.)

On Monday morning (my day off) several things got me thinking – first of all that the latest Beyonce video seems to be pornographic and also seems to celebrate male violence against women; I find it embarrassing to be in a place where there is porn (in my opinion) being screened.

Secondly it is so weird how many people who are on Facebook say that they hate it. The Jeremy Kyle show, as usual had anti-social people yelling at each other about their dysfunctional relationships. One young woman at some point started describing how her estranged boyfriend had been ‘mouthing off’ about her on Facebook. She also told how she had ’slagged him off’ on there and that she had ‘dissed’ him and lied about him and boasted about having a great number of sexual partners. She dumped him publicly on Facebook. At the end of all this she said ‘I hate Facebook. It’s crap. Only bad things come of it.’ It is interesting how people criticise the medium as opposed to their own behaviour.

Then on another channel at the same time this was all ‘kicking off’ on Jeremy Kyle, there was a tv advertisement for something called ‘Cell Phone Spy’. Yes seriously. You can use it to spy on what people are texting. I thought this would be illegal but apparently not. This is advertised on MTV. I found it online, but the site looks dodgy so you may prefer not click on the link – and I am not sure how long the link will be live anyway.

In my google search though, a huge list of results linking to sites advertising similar products showed how you could spy on ‘cheating spouses’, or become a ‘mobile spy.’ To me it seems the software is moving faster than legislation can keep up. Very sinister indeed. Maybe I am starting to realise why some people are so nervous of new technologies.

Written by DrJoolz

September 30th, 2011 at 9:52 pm