Archive for August, 2011
The OCA (Open College of the Arts) has a most wonderful blog with so many videos that are short, moving and good to look at. This one , without trying to, makes some excellent useful points about ethics and photography.
I will definitely be using this when I teach my Image Based Research session to the MA Educational Research students this year.
For me, films come and go and I so often only remember them very sketchily a week or so later. However I saw Never Let Me Go more than three weeks ago now and I still think about it most days. Similarly I saw Oranges and Sunshine about a fortnight ago and it it haunts me.
I have not yet read Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel but will do before long. Oranges and Sunshine was not a novel but a social-worker’s account (originally published as Empty Cradles) of how up to 150,000 children were deported from the UK to Australia between the 1940s and 1970s. The children, once in Australia were treated very cruelly – often involved in child labour, and often being lied to that their parents were dead. This all seems pretty incredible and more so that no -one seemed to know about it until the mid 80s. It was one of those things that was whispered about by those involved. Why did no -one blow the whistle? Amazing.
Never Let Me Go, on the other hand, a work of fiction, describes the relationship between three children brought up together in a boarding school for cloned children. Their destiny is to become donors of organs until ‘completion’ (ie till they die). The setting seems to be around the 1970s – 1990s. I think maybe because I was at school in the 1970s this seemed so resonant and so real. In some ways it seemed more real than Oranges and Sunshine. Perhaps it was the way most of the setting of the film is totally credible; set in a very authentic past that stayed true to the era throughout. Mixing in fiction with historical ‘reality’ in this way makes the thing ‘stand up’.
So much of this weird scenario rang true, especially looked at beside Oranges and Sunshine – which exemplifies how whole scale mistreatment of people can become condoned by those who may at first object. We very quickly turn away from human rights issues when they seem to happen on a grand scale, thinking that is the way it must be. If some people behave as if there is nothing wrong, then others seem to fall in with that way of behaving; it is normalised.
Strangely, these films were not the best acted, nor the best produced films I have seen lately. But they have really penetrated my thoughts in a disturbing way. Each one is so different, one is based on fiction, one on non-fiction. Both are about children and we often see children as a subset of people, who have not got rights yet; who will become people to take account of when they are adults – kids as ‘people in the making’. . Across the world there are groups of people who seem to be seen as subsets of humanity and we do not recognise their rights in the way we should – often to do with where they are born, or when. These films place human rights squarely in the frame and while one may seem surreal, it has very strong roots in the real world.
I love the way technology insinuates itself into so many areas of our lives. It helps to make everything join up together – making all these connections between people, things, activities , interests.
One example is the website walk, jog, run. My neighbour told me about it. You can use it to plot your running routes so others can follow. But you can read other people’s routes and follow them. You can use the site to hook up with other runners and find out about local events. I did this run designed by someone else. It was quite exciting as I hoped to see the designer of the run – I may have done as I saw a few people jogging along. It makes the whole affair companionable. I like the way I can use this software in such a local way. It is yet another example of how we use the WORLDWIDE web to usually do stuff in our neighbourhood (preferring LOCAL to GLOBAL).. (I have written more about this kind of stuff here ).
Perhaps better still are sites like this one which connects with wearable computers you run with – equipped for example with a GPS and heartrate monitor and so on. It taps into all the obsessions of so many runners (cyclists etc) and allows them to display everything on Facebook – for example. here is another example, where someone can log a run and show all the details of their run, their heartrate and speed etc.
I think it is amazing that some people hate that we are constantly being monitored n the street by cameras, yet others (or maybe the same people) , show the most intimate (I think) details about how their body works, (and more) to all their friends (and more) online. This is not just about tracking our performance, but inviting others to do so as well. Some would say this was showing off, some would say it is about sharing.
More info here. Note the 340++ reviews
When I first started research into what kids were doing online, it was oh so different then. I seemed to be one of the very few literacy researchers who knew about this weird stuff that the kids were doing – way back in the late 90s. They were keeping ‘online diaries’ and playing games and talking in forums about the software they were playing with. They were building personal websites and then came the explosion that we call Web 2.0. (My first article on this stuff was published in 2003 having been two and a half years in review!!)
I quite liked having the empty playground, where I could run round finding stuff out and leaving new footprints in the new snow that had fallen.
But now lots of research is happening and there is quite a wealth of material to refer to in writing up research data. I am having to read what everyone else is saying about Facebook. And then say what I am saying in the context of that. It all feels overwhelming now that the area is getting so established. What I don’t like … and maybe this is too honest … is the way that old fashioned and somewhat staid ways of writing are now being foisted onto me. To be specific, I am writing for journals who requite me to write in such traditional formats that I feel I am no longer in new territory. I feel like this horrendous structure is being forced onto the research so that it looks like it is about something else. It is very dispiriting re-drafting work in ways you don’t like.
I want it all to still feel new … not fusty.
The riots in the UK have rightly kicked up a different kind of storm. Politicians, parents, community leaders – pretty much everyone I know – have all got something to say about the riots. And if you know someone who had their entire home and contents burnt down, (as I do) it is hard to stay level-headed about it all.
However it seems to me very extreme to start talking about banning people from using Social Media, simply because it was used as a vehicle for communication amongst the troublemakers. And this sentence in particular seems senseless to me – where two people who tried to start riots elsewhere – but failed – were imprisoned because of their attempts to incite. It strikes me that the medium is being imbued with a negativity it does not deserve.
Frankly, if someone incites a riot and violence through social media, banning their access to this will not mean they start thinking differently. I go back to my roots. Think of The Tempest, where Caliban says:
You taught me language; and my profit on’t
Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!
Clearly it was not wrong to have taught Caliban language – indeed it is he who has the most beautiful speeches in the play* – but that in teaching people ANYTHING at all, you need also to teach responsibility in its use. Here we fall back nicely … into the arguments for teaching Critical Digital Literacy as a major thread in the school curriculum.
* Lovely speech …
Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.
(maybe I am arguing that in thinking about what we should do to prevent riots, we should think of all our looters as if they were Calibans. They are all Potential Poets. ) (Just Joking. I just mean that we should educate our young. )
It is really hard to concentrate in the summer. Somehow the more time you have, the longer it takes to do anything. I find myself drifting into Facebook; re-checking emails and … not working on my to do list.
I am supposed to be working on a re-draft of an article about teenagers’ uses of Facebook for Computers and Education … where the two reviewers are asking for different things – contradicting each others’ requests. All very frustrating and all reinforcing what we know … that even with peer-reviews, things are subjective. Writing in academia is pressurised … we are all so aware of the REF . It’s not just about quality it is about Impact and being able to demonstrate that once you have published, that your work is relevant to others.
Writing about Facebook for academic peer-reviewed journals seems to be the antithesis of what Facebook is about. One of the great things about FB is the way it embraces spontaneity; its write-now, publish-now affordance, and the immediate feedback that goes with it.
I like the way online social networking texts are at once ephemeral and permanent. Permanent because the texts stay online … but ephemeral because readers write things intended for the moment – and so they usually won’t get read more than a few days after being written.
So FB distracts me from writing about FB – I am after the immediate gratification it gives me, rather than the three months later, get your writing deconstructed by someone you don’t know.
I am tempted to look for another distraction and to write a book proposal. Cup of Jasmine tea?
Challenging the Binaries
It is going to be asking people to think about the oppositions we sometimes set up when looking at New Literacies Research. Examples are Home/School; Formal/Informal; Digital Native/ Digital Immigrant; Academic/non-academic; New/Old; Online/Offline; Multimodal/monomodal; Virtual/Real.
These binaries are often useful but more often we need to be aware that these are not hard and fast separate domains – and perhaps new technologies are helping us to challenge these boundaries more and more. Anyway that will be our theme – and preliminary dates are 29th and 30th June – but yet to be confirmed.The Call for Papers will be coming before too long.