Digital Literacies

Researching New Literacies, Learning and Everyday Life

Archive for August, 2009

Second Life

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I have been trying to negotiate second life – although the way I do it, it is more like half life.  At The University of Sheffield I use the InfoLit area set up by Sheila Webber who kindly lets us education folk onto her island.

It is very stylish and cool and today I went on a trip in the new hot air balloons. It was truly fabulous – Sheila whispered to me as my guide while I sailed safely round.  It helps having this kind of gadget I find; especially as I have been known to get stuck on the bottom of the sea unable to get out however hard I jump or try to fly!!  This afternoon I discovered how to get to The University of Idaho which was fun. I met a student of marketing and technology there. It was all very quiet everywhere today though and I can totally identify with the new Getting started Guide (from JISC) which hilariously notes that

get a sense that there are some really interesting locations in Second Life but that you just can’t find them. Most of them seem to be either deserted or a disco

I mainly roam around on my own not talking to anyone. It is quite lonely but then again I dread meeting someone as I constantly walk into walls, bump my head on stuff and generally behave like a buffoon.

It maybe gives an insight into what it may be like to be disabled when you go to a meeting and cannot (for example) get your sound working. Everyone else is talking and you have to type as your microphone won’t function. You are disadvantaged and slow at communicating and everyone has to wait for you to type.  Or they skillfully move about the place whilst you turn in circles, walk in the wrong direction, and certainly cannot behave as smooth and slick as anyone else.

I need to keep practicing though as I do want to use this in my teaching  – we have a unit in the Online MA in New Literacies where we explore new digital literacy practices in Virtual Worlds.  Jackie Marsh leads that section but I want to join in this year as well!

Written by DrJoolz

August 15th, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Teens not Twittering

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Hmm. Like, … whatever!!!

The Guardian ran a few reports here and here (one day after another in fact) …. and here.  And yesterday Twitter went crazy with a new trending topic when news hit from Nielson that Teens were not tweeting. I guess it all makes a welcome change from people moaning about kids being online all the time and from hearing the wonderment about all our little digital natives who are born wireless and with inbuilt bluetooth (etc.) It is a new refrain that implies disappointment that kids are not obsessed with the latest fad – that it is the oldies who are doing it.

As Apophenia has pointed out many of the tweets on Twitter’s 3rd most trending topic at the moment are from teens protesting that they do tweet.

Le’s face it hardly anyone uses Twitter – a fact you will find confirmed if you announce that you do so, to a bunch of people down the pub (unless they are all your tweeting friends). So it is not a surprise that not many teens tweet – and despite their protests, the tweeting teens don’t seem to be typical – just like their tweeting oldie counterparts.

Teens tweet Tweet Tweeting

Teens tweet Tweet Tweeting

I think it is interesting as we have become so convinced that all kids are all online and up for technology for technology’s sake, that we are in a state of shock when we find this is the case.  Facebook (and Bebo and Myspace etc) offer a space where you can do much more identity work than on Twitter. Facebook lets you play in lots of ways, Facebook is a fun thing to do. Kids seem to prefer it on there and frankly I think are glad if the adults migrate to twitter away from Facebook where they had made a brief and unwelcome appearance. Different online spaces have different affordances and I sense that as we are all maturing in our uses of online spaces, we are making decisions according to what we want from something. We know that teens migrate through the social networking sites as friendships change and develop – switching from Bebo to Myspace, to Facebook (etc.)  Twitter may not serve ther purposes so well… for me I closed down Facebook when I realised that all my friends were mixing with colleagues and ex students, present students were all mingling in my space. I found it unnerving to have brothers in with post grads  (for example) and could not manage to feel relaxed about writing on my wall in such a social mash-up!   Maybe the young don’t have such diverse networks and anyhow worry less about saying things in front of the ‘wrong’ people. For me Twitter is a space where I can custom build my network and have it as a space where I mainly talk as if in work, in my academic comfort zone. It’s like a very select staff room.

So yes … I feel a comparative study coming on … luckily I already have the ethical review complete and can start work on this in September!! And as I said on the blog yesterday, this stuff needs researching from both ends … looking at the data online and the stats … but also TALKING to the people.

In the meantime New Media & Society has this.

Written by DrJoolz

August 12th, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Researching both ends

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When I first started researching online texts I was drawn into looking at sites created by young people. This was way back in about 2002. I was looking at teens’ personal websites (not blogs) and discussion boards relating to babyz... all sorts of weird things like sites for Wiccan teens. I was really interested in all the stuff they were collaborating on and looked at the texts really closely – was totally bowled over by what they could do. S I wrote about all these online texts and about what the kids were doing and how they were playing and learning online.

Then I started doing a blog myself and getting into Flickr and so was writing about Blogging and Flickring (and eBay, and YouTube) . This was good as I realised very quickly how and why young people were getting so seduced by, absorbed by technologies.

As time has gone on, I have realised that it is important to not just look at the texts that are being produced, but at the processes by which they are being produced. A text that is online reflects a social process. It has been produced within a social context that cannot be presumed or assumed. In order to understand online text production, we need to know about the provenance. The meanings are also rooted outside the text, often in social happenings and events that exist outside the online space. As researchers of online spaces we have to understand that those spaces are often rooted elsewhere and the texts are not always self-standing, independent and self explanatory.

So I have realised that you need to look at the texts, but also at where they are produced so look at both ends.

Nevertheless in what I would call ‘mature’ online spaces, – spaces which have a social history, an often intricate set of networks that have been woven within the web, – these can be comprised of texts that root into the virtual space itself and have independence from geographical place. Not all mature sites do this of course, since some social networking function alongside or in support of offline activities and relationships.

So I draw a distinction here between mature sites and less mature sites … and texts which have roots in online and offline spaces; and texts which have roots just in the online world. I think that sites / online texts which root only in the offline world are less likely to survive.

Pic from Emblatame

Written by DrJoolz

August 11th, 2009 at 10:39 am

Social networking websites, texting and e-mails are undermining community life,

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…. the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has warned …..

See the BBC report here.

It’s a funny old world. Surely people who use facebook are aware of the difference between making contacts on Facebook and making ‘real’ friends. The archbishop’s concerns are around the way people are using text instead of face to face interaction….

Archbishop Nichols said society was losing some of its ability to build communities through inter-personal communication, as the result of excessive use of texts and e-mails rather than face-to-face meetings or telephone conversations.

He said skills such as reading a person’s mood and body language were in decline, and that exclusive use of electronic information had a “dehumanising” effect on community life.

Interesting idea – ‘excessive use of texts or emails’ …. I admit I get fed up of too many emails but this is because they signify an increased workload over the decades. This is not about reduced capacity to communicate – maybe even the reverse.

I am not aware of the research that says we can no longer read each other’s body language – and must admit I doubt this. I would argue that Facebook (and other sites) are not used instead of face to face communication for most people – but ‘as well as’ . It is about keeping in contact when it is not possible to see each other. Thus for the majority this kind of virtual contact is additional to other kinds of interactivity. Take Twitter users for example – the 140 word quickies mean that we can keep in touch on the hoof and that we are able to balance a whole range of complex relationships whilst doing other things at the same time. We are perfectly aboe to read the body language of others as well … especially that rolling eye movement when people discover you are addicted to Twitter!

Further it cannot be underestimated how powerful it is to meet somebody for the first time who you previously only knew online. But anyhow, that aside, it is the case also (e.g. see Sonia Livingstone’s work or Benkler ) that most young people keep in contact with just those people who they already know through face to face networks.

Finally, there are many people whose only networks are through online interactivity. I am talking here of people who are isolated through disability, illness – or even because they are carers – who find great friendships in online communities. To be forever reading in the press that such relationships are not good enough or are of lesser quality is a value judgement that puts such individuals in a deficit space. It is bad enough to be isolated without having condemnatory remarks made about what may be the only relationships that exist beyond the home for some people.

Nice little vid showing how the world can go ALL WRONG if we start behaving in RL how we behave in Facebook…. (don’t have nightmares now) ….

Written by DrJoolz

August 3rd, 2009 at 1:47 pm