Digital Literacies

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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:

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


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Going down to London by train the other day, and then returning today, I saw a few people reading Kindles as they travelled. My Mum bought one for my Dad as part of his Christmas present – and apparently he is really pleased. I was quite surprised that Mum bought one for Dad, as I thought they might both think that it is better to hold a ‘real’ book. But he is prepared to give it a go and is looking forward to the new experience. Apparently this new technology is really taking off now – but will the book ever be usurped?

I wonder if Kindles will really take off – it is a couple of years since I saw them on the American and we had to wait awhile before they became available in the UK (as usual). Apparently a few schools are buying them now – thinking they may motivate reluctant readers. There is a lot of sentimentality about books however – and people say they like to hold them, annotate them, turn the pages – and even that shelves full of books make a place look homely etc. They are not ‘neutral objects’ and we sometimes imbue them with feelings that maybe are associated with when or where we read the book. The Kindle will be an object that mediates many books – however I have to admit that my laptop – maybe a mere mediator – has accumulated associations for me – so that it feels like it is mine; it is customised with my preferred settings and software etc etc. So too, other technology things – they acquire a history, a provenance, that makes them important to us beyond their material value. Will this happen to the Kindles (or their successsors)?

At the moment we still think of authors as writing BOOKS. You author a book and the idea of the electronic artefact is that it is an adaptation. This contrasts with musicians – who decide they will make a new record, or new album. Thus we anticiapte that music is mediated through technology, that it can be listened to via electronic formats. The idea is that musicians produce music intended to be mainly heard as a recording; the electronic aspect is not a translation of what was originally intended, it is primary. But novels are written, intended to be printed on paper pages, bound in sequence.

I think that it will not be until authors write with the intention that the electronic format is primary, rather than secondary, that they will really be accepted. So maybe authors will take more advantage of the electronic affordances – moving images maybe; words that sparkle; or where sound plays a more important role. Otherwise the electronic format will always be seen as a substitute.

Written by DrJoolz

December 30th, 2010 at 9:24 pm


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Day One of the DuckRabbit training, run by Benjamin, went so well today. The object was to learn how to approach the production of professional looking sound and vision narratives – using digital images and audio.

I was hoping to get ideas about using digital narratives with young people who find it difficult to express themselves through writing. I was thinking that I could work with teachers and develop a project that would be fun but also provide a way for learners to express their ideas multimodally. This looks like something that has real potential. Check out some of the Duckrabbit exemplar slideshows here.

However it also made me realise how, in academia, we are so staid in the way we present our work and how we don’t tap into the potential of multimedia digital presentations enough. Today we learned how to get across a much more complex message in a shorter period of time by using multiple modes of communication – using multiple sound tracks alongside images, making them work together in providing a complicated narrative. I think that using something like this in academic conferences, folllowed by discussion would be really exciting. (Academics at conferences are always stressed out by not having enough time to present complex ideas).

We are planning already, an exhibition of presentational work at the conference for The Centre of the Study of New Literacies in July, so I may try this idea there. It will be about Flickr and Streetart and the way in which streetartists are influenced by Flickr. I am doing a paper on this at the multimodalities conference at The Institute of Education and the idea would be to do a presentation that would work with that too. This is the Multimodality abstract.

TT Photographing streetart

*And why is it called Duckrabbit?? See here.

Written by DrJoolz

April 14th, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Shopping in Second Life…. where appearances count

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Shopping in Second Life: The point of view of an academic working in the field of New Literacy Studies

This week I have undergone a process that might be referred to as ‘blinging up my Second Life avatar’. Less than a week ago my avatar, (me?) was wandering around the University of Sheffield Education space in its (I now realize) pitiful looking ‘system’ shoes, hair, skin and clothes. I had skulked around in the safety of the education buildings where my colleagues were grown up , discrete and quiet about my lack of self-awareness.

In Infolit iSchool I have attended regular meetings and treated the space as if it were some kind of Skype facility – talking with colleagues, planning a funded seminar series and conference. I just concentrated on getting the voice facility to work; not bumping into things and on talking about the business in hand. I tried to disregard the idea of myself as a physical being in the space and just thought about what I wanted to say and making the communication work. I had noticed that others at these meetings, more experienced at SL than I am, somehow looked better than my own avatar. Fitting in to the community is to some extent, about looking the part – you show you are a insider by your physical appearance. The fact that you have shed your caterpillar skin is to show that you have been about in the world a bit and have investigated the options. You have to earn some stripes – or get your wings … (to mix my metaphors).

I was not really clear about what it was that looked so ‘system’ about DrJoolz; indeed it was just this week that I discovered from Sheila Yoshikawa this look had been inscribed in the language with the term ‘system’. The word seems to belong to the same paradigm as ‘insitutionalised’ (with all the suggestions of ineptitude) but actually identifies not just a lack of individual style, but also the idea that one is not yet an insider, someone who has not moved beyond the ‘basic rations’. The person who stays looking the same way after signing up for Second Life, is the person who has ot lurked enough; who has not looked about and tried to understand the culture. Essential, if one is to show respect, maybe?.

I have spent the last couple of days hitting the shops (and the bank balance), spending my Lindens and getting freebies to my heart’s content. Here’s me out and about, scouring for bargains. I found these freebies by Hyde Park (yes that’s right.)

Meanwhile, there are always those people jangling the can trying to get you give to charity while you are out:

A strange thing has happened, which is that in getting involved in shopping activities I have started to think about my avatar as a presentation of self within the world. My engagement with shopping activities, the act of evaluating goods, selecting and buying merchandise, has meant that I have invested time, money and thought. Whilst I have selected things that are in some way close to what I would wear in Real Life, I have also been influenced by what is available in-world and by what others are wearing. That is to say, there seems to have been some kind of accommodation process happening and I have gradually started acclimatizing to the new cultural spaces in SL. And with all this I have become further aware that Second Life is not one cultural space but many, and that different ways of behaving are expected in its different domains.

I have been pulling together ideas for a presentation at the Festival of Social Sciences this week. So maybe you’ll pop by Infolit iSchool tomorrow?

Written by DrJoolz

March 17th, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Breaking down the Walls

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I have a tough job keeping up with blogging, Flickr and Facebook. I like to keep up some kind of presence on all of them – communicating with different groups of people on each one – with my blog probably serving my purposes more than that of any readers’. My blog is me thinking stuff through; Flickr I like to comment on photos and have comments back. I definitely want interaction on Flickr. Most of my Flickr contacts are people I met IN Flickr rather than knowing them before. It has opened up new groups of people for me. Facebook is the place where I only talk to people I know face to face; it does the job of helping me keep in touch with friends and family I don’t see often. So I have my own ideas about how I want to interact in ecah space and who with. I wish I had time to keep up with Twitter – I follow loads of people who I think are interesting … and I am able to pick up their leads to useful sites and bits of info. I really appreciate it all – but at the moment don’t offer much. And I think I have not really yet worked out properly qhat I want Twitter to do for me and how I want to use it.

On Twitter I love how you can gather names of like minded people – I use mine to follow people interested in web 2.0 and education – but there are only so many hours in the day and I have not worked out yet exactly how to get the best from it, for my purposes. However I do really love to see what Orange Class (known as ClassroomTweets) are up to and think it is wonderful that a Year One group of kids are learning about how they can communicate beyond their classroom walls – that learning need not be confined to the space they are in. They have a teacher, MultiMartin, who is very inspirational and always looking for ways to broaden the learning experiences of his class. And in case you are wondering, here’s a handy list of reasons why teachers might decide to use Twitter.

In the meantime Mrs Cassidy has won an award and has showcased her Web 2.0 classroom activities on a super new video.

I love how her kids present the video and are so proud to show their learning. I am sure that knowing they can share what they do, engages them and motivates them.

Finally, I have another interest in the way people challenge walls … and that is with streetart. Here’s some from Toronto:

worship the walls


Written by DrJoolz

February 7th, 2010 at 9:37 pm

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

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

Dipping my toe in the water

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I would have imagined that anyone having three months off work would immediately take to incessant blogging; uploading zillions of back logged photos onto Flickr and even …. even …. starting to write the book she had been thinking about doing for a while.

But no, no no. This is not what has happened to me … so far. Just the opposite. I have been hiding under the keyboard and feeling strange and in a funny space of not being at work and not being able to think in joined up sentences. I have been off work now for about 7 weeks …. but look at this … I am blogging.

What has helped me feel brave enough to plunge in again? The culprit is Twitter …or specifically people I know Twittering me ….. allowing me to just dip my toe in and help remember how nice it is to get glimpses of your friends online… getting messages through of just a couple of lines has helped me back in somehow and maybe just maybe, when I get back to work I won’t feel so twitty having first been tweeting and blogging my way into digital literacies again.

So this is an interesting little use of social networking … a vehicle for helping people to make their way back into communities after absence.

What have I been doing meanwhile? Not a lot … but I have read this (yesterday) by mad old Janet Street Porter; this (REALLY hilarious); and this (not hilarious but totally not put downable) . I have over the last weeks been forced into reading articles about Jade Goody like this and it has driven me batty. How can anyone bear this stuff??

I have been eating healthily in extremis lately and so I have been reeling from looking at this blog which beautifully illlustrates the path to fattiness and obesitydom.

Written by DrJoolz

February 21st, 2009 at 2:15 pm

vegetables as instrments

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Obviously, we all know vegetables are good for you:

(OMG do not make the mistake of viewing the WHOLE of this video…)

This is perhaps a new take on the ‘five a day’ rule:

As you are aware, vegetables are great for your health, but it turns out they have a great number of other uses too. Plenty more where this came from:

I wrote before a bit about memes here and here and here. Just wondering if the whole veggies as musical instrument is also a meme.

I am pretty sure that the ‘How to …’ format is a meme of some kind… which THE PERKLETS have heroically joined in with.

I think that the term meme is a term to be used to describe a social phenomenon but is NOT something that determines what should happen. That is to say I think a true meme evolves through and across groups, but f it is kind of DIRECTED, it does not seem like a true meme to me As in this example here.

Or am I being too purist about this? If you want to row about this check out this

Written by DrJoolz

May 15th, 2008 at 3:35 am