Digital Literacies

Researching New Literacies, Learning and Everyday Life

Archive for January, 2010

Virtual World Experiences

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I am a co-organiser of this seminar series. on Children’s and young people’s digital literacies in virtual online spaces. It has been a great series so far and we have had some fantatstic speakers – as you’ll see from the site. (Check out the slideshows etc.)
I was not very interested at all in Virtual Worlds until the last couple of years as I asociated VWs with gaming and the need to be able to be dextrous in mouse controls etc. I had a notion that you had to have brilliant hand/eye co-ordination – which I am afraid I have not developed. In fact whilst it helps to be quick – actually you do not have to have those skills and you can learn at snail’s pace and still get by like me. In fact I probably bump into fewer things in SL than RL, so there you go.

Anyhow, I have realised that like so many things online, there are lots of different spaces to go to, and different ways that you can interact with people within the one Virtual World. It is a heterogeneous space, and just like the blogosphere, or Twitter or Flickr (etc) smaller networks form and people negotiate their way through, usually travelling similar paths on each visit and interacting in habitual ways – just as we do in real life (my ‘Sheffield’ is different to someone else’s experience of the same city, for example).

Thus with Second Life there are academic spaces and shopping spaces; sports spaces and media spaces; there is a clubbing scene and there are offices and seasides and islands … the list is not endless however! It seems that SL – like all the other VWs I have seen- imitate a great deal of what we have in Real Life. In some ways this is disappointing, as the dream, I suppose, is to be able to exist in a different way in a different world. However we can only build on what we know and if we knew other ways of being with each other, we would have created them in RL too – if you see what I mean…. maybe.

Nevertheless it remains the case to an extent that we can try out new things and we can visit places virtually, that we may not visit in RL; and interact with others that we may not manage to meet in RL. We can leave aspects of our RL selves behind and take on new ways of being – thus SL can become (to an extent) liberating to the disabled, or a space where new skills might be developed – be it a new language or even people management skill, for example. A case in point is that a friend of mine in RL has, in her SL, run a night club and escort agency; she made good money, many friends and gave a lot of people jobs in-world. She was able to support others through friendships she made. Now, in moving into a new job in SL, she is thoroughly excited by working as a journalist on the news programme of metaverse. Here is one of the most recent news programmes, which includes Lisa reporting on issues to do with Education in SecondLife:

MBC News 1-27-2010 from Metaverse TV on Vimeo.

In case you are interested , this report has Lisa talking about the “adult continent Vindra” in Second Life.

Hats Off to Lisa I say!! I think her reports are fabulous and she has to research for them as well as be confident enough to talk publically and spontaneously on the show – with a view to her global audience. She has to temper her language (note her use of ‘spiffing’) – and be aware of local idiom. Sadly though, these activities (which involve learning of many kinds) that people are becoming immersed in, in a range of Web 2.0 spaces, seem to go unnoticed most of the time. Second Life participants are often held up for ridicule – with stories of marriages being made and broken being top ones in the tabloid press.

Obviously this kind of coverage adds fuel to the fire of all the other scare Discourses around why the Internet is so bad, why you have to stop your kids going online etc etc. It is part of the whole Toxic Discourse which I find naive in the extreme. Fact of the matter of course – as I always end up saying – is that because there are lots of people online there will be a diversity of experiences to be had, and you have to learn to stay safe online, just as you do off line. Hence, we need educators online, so that they can teach within online spaces as well as outside them; they need to become confident users of these spaces so they can teach in an informed way.

I love that we are thinking about ways of using Virtual Worlds in Education and of course we already know that many Universities are using SL as a space where students can learn as well as hang out. Lancaster University SL space had this slideshow in a presentation on their island; I spotted this after a meeting the other week

A lot of SL Education arenas use slideshows – perhaps rather an old fashioned medium now, but nevertheless I found this a powerful tool for sharing learning when I spotted it the other day. The reference in world for where to find it: Lancaster University, Lancaster University (52, 231, 22). If you drop by, you will se that each of the statements on this slide, is explained on others.

There’s an interesting conference up and coming on Virtual World Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) via Peak education conference in Second Life | Treet Business and also see info here.

We do need to think about Best Practice as just going online is not enough; although we see a lot of learning happening in out of school practices, I think that f schools, colleges and universities are going to spend time in Virtual Worlds, then they need to structure the learning and show they take it as seriously as everything else.

Maybe it could all become part of the Slow Education movement. A concept which I find compelling.

Finally , I went on the Sheffield wheel yesterday. That was an experience I found just a tad too physical – and also my partner TT kept blocking my view!

TT shoots in monochrome

Naked person on top of city hall

Here’s Hyde Park Flats in its current incarnation:

Written by DrJoolz

January 31st, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Pre-election fever brewing

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So far the election campaigning in the UK is pretty low key – with no date yet fixed – but there are rumbles growing. It was a week or so ago that I heard Evan Davies scoffing at Cameron’s air brushed posters. (I see Evan has blogged about the interview here.) I have now seen the posters for myself and they are pretty smarmy to say the least.

It is clear there has been a fair bit of air-brushing going on:

Obviously I love a bit of photoshop to improve on a picture … and I am pretty sure dear Obama’s team of little helpers will have helped him into office by using a fair bit of pimping and primping to make him look dashing.

Nevertheless I enjoyed myself participating in this particular meme where you can produce your own version of Cameron’s campaign. This is my attempt:

I was referring to the Tory ideas of improving Teacher Education. . Have a laugh … read about it here.

The 2005 election saw a fair bit of use of the Internet to promote their messages, but no doubt it will be used more this time around. But I am pretty sure also, that there will be a lot more stuff buzzing around the Internet which will be about the election campaign as opposed to part of the campaign. I wonder if this will make people feel more a part of the process? And I wonder if this kind of participation will encourage more people to actually vote.

Check out the urban dictionary for definition of a meme.

Written by DrJoolz

January 23rd, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Public / Private stuff

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I have been interested to see that the British tv and radio have had quite a lot of stuff about diaries recently. Richad E Grant hosting something, ‘Dear Diary’ for example. This documentary features diaries kept by a number of people over many years… the iplayer info explains:

Richard E Grant, a diarist since childhood, uncovers the power of the diary. He considers the diaries of Joe Orton, Kenneth Williams, Erwin James, John Diamond and Rosemary Ackland and asks whether a diary should, or could, ever be totally honest, wholly accurate and absolutely true.

I was surprised to find the first in this treble episode series to be quite riveting; Richard is quite posh so I found it fun watching him amble about poshly and awkwardly asking nosey questions (pretending not to be famous and giggling like a kid) – there is this great part where his wife calls him while he is doing a webcam thing and he answers ‘I’m just doing the diary programme’ or some such. Anyhow this is all quite weird as we watch him question diarists about why they keep diaries all their lives. He asks whether people should be totally honest – and I thought that interesting as paper based diaries tend to be thought of as quintessentially private writings – unlike blogs, of course. So it is strange to ask whether people should be honest – when there seems to be moral outrage if blogs do not seem to be honest. Why would you be less than honest in a private diary? Today the radio mentioned that the Green Goddess has kept a diary since she was a kid (and is now 70) . Then (Lady) Antonia Fraser was on book of the week reading her diary about her life with Harold Pinter.

So all this stuff about writing in a private way and going public with it is totally age old and I just find it fascinating that there seems to be this widespread interest … also Dr Irving Finkel is assistant keeper in The Middle Eastern Department of the British Museum and his collection of private diaries, written by ‘ordinary people’ appears in the Wellcome Collection’s exhibition ‘Identity: Eight rooms, nine lives’ which runs until April. (I would like to go) It was funny as he was talking about how apparently boring diaries are interesting as they show us things about ourselves. On the radio he read excerpts which included things like ‘ I really hate Lindsay; I hate her hate her” etc…. showing that teenagers have always been the same! But I will be very interested to see if any critics slate this exhibition for being banal – in the same way as they often slate Twitter, or blogs for being so. Or will the fact that they are written on paper (and are a bit less than contemporary) save them this fiercesome criticism? I think that we love to see traces of people – and I like to see the lives of ORDINARY people. There is something that immediately makes things seem special if you put them in a museum – maybe it is the glass cabinet effect that CHANGES the meanings.

Fascinating also, is the stuff you find on Flickr that is so diary -ike. Check out this custom made diary from Traveliter

see all the interesting comments under the photo. And then of course there are all the 365 groups which ask for one photo a day per year – and thousands of people commit to this. Fabulous, I say.

Interesting this desire to leave traces of ourselves everywhere; the web allows us to distribute the narrative across spaces and time and to share aspects of our lives and to provide a particular version (or brand) of ourselves.

The Guardian reported today on someone who one day, scarily, burned every photo he ever took …a professional photographer who had had ENOUGH. he said ‘Photography was dead by 1972’

I am so glad he is less right; i.e. wrong.

Here are some traces of people doing identity work:

Love 3>

Written by DrJoolz

January 13th, 2010 at 10:12 pm

My Illustrated Life

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It seems to be taking ages to get the year off to a start. The snow is still slowing everythng down and so I hardly feel I am off the starting blocks. In January there always remain a few post-Christmas traces…. not just the extra weight on my scales… but also stuff like unfinished chocolates:

Apres Huit Heures

and bits of tinsel still stuck between the carpet tufts. Beautiful as it sometimes is, the snow has been making it hard to get about. It seems quiet everywhere.

Crookes Valley Park

As I have been mentioning the last few weeks, I have been getting into Flickr again and been thinking about good shots to take and enjoying looking at things others are taking. I really love Sophies’ Photos and was interested in how this particular image draws on the book by Annette Kuhn – something I have used in an article I wrote for Discourse. What I have started to become interested in now, is images which show traces of what has been; which show a history. You have to be like an archeologist and look for clues – look at the layers of meaning, at the traces of what is there. This idea relates in some way to palimpsest; there is a good definition(illustrated) in the Palimpsest Flickr group here. Palimpsest might be this kind of thing:

Removed until further notice

this paring away of text is something that appeals to me and reminds me of the research process which involves tracings and the discernment of patterns – making sense from little things you gather. I am looking forward to February when I will FINALLY have the space to write my article on Streetart and spaces and how narratives can travel across time and space – often aided by online technologies. I talked about this kind of thing in Toronto – July 2008; details here.

Make your mind up time

And then I will focus on Facebook, where I will be researching how multimodal narratives travel across spaces via multiple, dispersed authors. Yes. That is what I will be doing soon.

Davies, J. (2007) ‘Display; Identity and the Everyday: Self-presentation through online image sharing’. In Discourse: studies in the cultural politics of education. Vol. 28, No. 4, December 2007, pp. 549_564.

Written by DrJoolz

January 12th, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Social Media Settling in Nicely

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Aaaaahhh. That feels a lot better now.

It seems that it is becoming much more common place to accept that social media is OK; that the big media people are coming along with us. That journalists and social commentators are getting stuff published which says that we can carry on Tweeting, blogging, facebooking, YouTubing … etc. Cory Doctorow has this in The Guardian. He argues that:

Criticising social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook is as pointless as knocking people who discuss the weather.

Such a relief to read this kind of stuff which recognises the social function of online activity. You never know, one day people may no longer have to defend the fact that they watch Coronation Street (or deny that they do). It seems that it is still not the case that television has ever totally shaken the ‘chewing gum for the eyes’ type of snobbery it attracted when I was at school (some 33 or more years ago). If things get popular really quickly then it seems that there is always some kind of backlash which assumes that just because the masses love it, it must be bad. There is an assumption that mass consumption means mass idiocy. But maybe, just maybe, lots of people can recognise a good thing when they see it.

Anyhow, here’s a tree which looks vaguely rhizomatic and networky:

Kate's Tree

Written by DrJoolz

January 5th, 2010 at 10:47 pm

Augmented Reality

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Hm. Do you need your reality augmenting? You might not think you do, but maybe the product creates a need. (I know I need my ipod)

TT brought my attention to this site just before Christmas. We duly printed off a piece of paper with an image of wind turbines,switched on our webcam and …. WHOA!!!!! We saw a 3D version of the picture. If you don’t believe me I reckon you should give it a go.

Wikipedia explains here, beginning with an explanation like this:
Augmented reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with (or augmented by) virtual computer-generated imagery – creating a mixed reality.

Benji Lanyado chats here on video about a possible way of using he same kind of technology. The application he demonstrates shows how you can overlay the reality you are currently in, with information from your iphone. The technology is still in its infancy and look forward to see what will happen with it since it really does blend the virtual with the real in a way I have not witnessed before; as Lanyado points out this type of technology could easily be taken over by advertisers to push particular info at you, but nevertheless it could also be a real help when you are in a new place with not much time to find your way around. The problem is, as with all these things, it looks quite complicated to use at the moment and is only accessible to a few. It seems to me that while research abounds in its celebration of what we can all do, I just think that the divide between those who can do this stuff and those (for whatever reason) who can’t, is going to increase. My guess is that there will in a decade’s time be a whole bunch of people who opt out of what they will see as incessant, insistent change, and those who keep up with it. It is very hard to know what to run with and what not to, and so I think a lot of people will opt out since they will not be able to, or will not want to, keep on dealing with change.

Written by DrJoolz

January 4th, 2010 at 6:16 pm

Getting back into it all

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I first opened my Flickr account way back in 2004. I only joined so that I could use it as a place to upload pictures to my blog. At that time you could not directly upload images into blogger and so I would upload to Flickr, get the code and paste into my posts. It was not until a while after I was using Flickr that I started to realise there was fun to be had looking at everyone else’s images, commenting and (most fun of all) joining groups and setting them up. Then started my OBSESSION with photographing my life and putting stuff up online.

However, I could not continue at that same rate forever and so I have gradually wound down so that last year I hardly used Flickr at all. This last couple of weeks, with more time on my hands, I am now uploading again and really enjoying it. It helps that TT bought me a fabulous new camera for my birthday – a Canon Powershot G11.


Much more portable than my SLR, but it still works so well – really versatile and can cope with some challenging macro stuff as well as handling night shots:

Sam prefers Cappuccino

Pure Gold

Sheffield Big Wheel

I feel like I am getting back in touch with the real me now that I am walking around with a camera again!

Written by DrJoolz

January 2nd, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Posted in everyday life,Flickr