Digital Literacies

Researching New Literacies, Learning and Everyday Life

Archive for the ‘life Online’ Category

Social Media to Big Media

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This last week has been an emotional roller coaster. From tiny acorns great oaks do grow. (And other cliches).

After a disappointing result in the UK election, where the right wing Tory party for the UK got voted in by a majority, a lot of us here were gutted, especially as the Tories were voted in on a mandate that supports the ‘ordinary working person’. Many of us have seen this as a vote against the non working people – including the elderly, sick, infirm … etc. It is not great being ill or disabled to such a degree that you cannot work; work is about access to the world, participation in interesting and exciting things. It allows you to meet people, to socialise and of course, earn money. If you cannot do this your choices are limited. No one chooses this for themselves. Obvious to me. But I live with this reality through my daughter so I see it daily; but she and millions of others remain hidden behind closed doors from the rest of the world.

After the election my daughter posted on Facebook about her disappointment and was astonished to see how quickly her post received literally hundreds of shares by people she odes not know.

The following day Rosa was asked by The Guardian to write an article for their ‘Comment’ series. After a bit of angst about how to approach this task, she produced a great article that to date has in excess of 9,500 shares. It’s here.

She has now been approached by other newspapers and by disability organisations who are asking her for quotes and comments that they can use too.

So – out of bad, can come good. The Tories gave her the push to shout her head off.
Rosa has lived a difficult and isolated life since her illness, aged 11, stopped her from attending school and she has been virtually housebound ever since. The internet has been her umbilical cord to the word and she has friends across the globe. She is networked and respected. But this latest event has given her the recognition that gives her the confidence and assurance she needed. She has a voice that people want to hear. The Internet did this for her.

The Internet is enabling. Rosa has read loads, spent hours, days, months and years interacting online; doing MOOCs; joining forums; listening to podcasts; reading reading reading. She is not addicted to the Internet. She would rather be out there, face to face, physically present. But this is the next best, and Rosa rocks.

Written by DrJoolz

May 15th, 2015 at 4:02 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:

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

Performance, Sharing and Display

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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

Written by DrJoolz

August 21st, 2011 at 10:17 am

It’s been so long a coming ….

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Ah the blog. I am coming back to it – driven by a pact with Eve that we will write weekly because we think it will help our thinking.  Maybe this will also pave the way back for me to Twitter. A long gap of not writing here, partly caused by the fear that things may get personal when I did not want to mix up thoughts about heart attacks, cancer and research into Web 2.0. But in fact they are inextricably mixed as they weave through my life and so I guess will all at some point emerge somehow here. Why? Because web 2.0 technologies somehow bring together the public and the private,  and maybe that is because web 2.0 is so much a part of our personal lives. Perhaps this is what is scary to so many people and thrilling to others. The Internet (and especially social networking sites) weaves around us, mediates and constructs, pushes and pulls as we push and pull at it.

That’s all. I am being vague & mysterious this week as there is time later to be profound and clear.

So below is a mash up from the beach – whose relevance is vaguely that this blog will bring you all the stuff that has washed up during my week.

Sea Treasures

Written by DrJoolz

October 8th, 2010 at 10:27 am

You never know who’s listening …. (Lest we Forget)

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We all now know that poor old Gordon got caught unawares talking about a prospective voter in unflattering terms. After a walkie talkie stroll a couple of weeks ago, he had to try and be diplomatic with a woman who had (at best) some seriously strange views and weird questions to ask. At worst, she was a bigot – and maybe many of us would agree.

I think it is very normal to do what Gordon did; grin and bear it, be polite to her face, and slag her off afterward. This according to most linguistic ethnographers is normal; Ron Carter found that the most common topic of everyday talk is about other people. Also sociologist Erving Gofmann would say that Gordon just wanted to save the woman’s face and not attack her in public; so was polite to HER, but then slagged her off after. I know we all pretend we don’t do this; but you and I know, that this is what we all do.
The advent of new technologies meant that Gordon got caught being normal. He thought he was talking in private, but his comments were broadcast publicly because he left his microphone switched on. So he attempted to talk privately; journalists overheard, and then publicized it across worldwide media. Gordon was revealed saying something in private, and the reaction given was outrage. He was slated in the press for this incident days and weeks after. I anticipate it will be re-called repeatedly in years to come. Poor Gordon.

Technology broadcast the words of Paul Chambers also, in ways he had not anticipated. Tweeting in exasperation about the closure of Robin Hood airport, he joked to his friends (he thought) that he would blow up the place:

“Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week… otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!”

Poor old Paul; his tweet got read by a wider audience than he imagined, and he was contacted by the police … then done for time wasting.

How many of us tweet away; rabbit on on Facebook; blather on our blogs; (etc) without ever dreaming that more than our envisaged readership is reading?

We often forget how technology can make what we think of as a private space, a public one. By the same token, we sometimes confuse a public space with a private one.
We have to learn to be careful with new technologies. (Even when we remember their power most of the time …. sometimes we forget).

Here’s some nice technology for teachers:

Written by DrJoolz

May 10th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Connective ethnography

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Some time back, on this blog, I talked about ‘researching both ends’. this is about the need, when researching what is going on online, to take account of people’s offline contexts when they involve themselves in online text production. It is not enough to just look at what is online if you are carrying out ethnographic work, as so much of what happens online has roots in, or is influenced by offline contexts.

Fields and Kafai (2008) talk about ‘Connective ethnography’ which sounds altogether more sensible – in Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (2009). 4:47–68 They talk about how young people share knowledge in on and off line spaces in order to progress in the virtual world Whyville.

There are those who are now beginning to reject the idea of ‘Virtual ethnography’ since off line worlds are not completely separate from online spaces – we see much evidence of the replication of off line spaces in online spaces; and we also see how online spaces are used to do the social work needed to maintain off line relationships (and I am aware here of the clumsiness of my terms offline and online lives etc.) Rybas and Gajajjala prefer the term cyberethnography – emphasising the way in which the human is behind the digital activities.

I am going to explore all this stuff as it relates not just to the importance of getting the methodology right, but also to the whole issue of identity as it relates to digital activities.

Written by DrJoolz

March 29th, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Distributed Idenity and stickiness

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I really enjoy reading Sheila Webber’s Information Literacy blog, but I must admit I enjoy her Second Life blog even more. In the SL blog, writing as Sheila Yokishawa, she writes as her alter ego – her second life avatar. I love the way the blogs are separate but that they work together in some way, sometimes referring to each other. Sheila weaves her way between the spaces and somehow this has an effect on a kind of distributed identity across the spaces. (More of Distributed Identity later; I want to explore this idea when on study Leave over the next few months). Other peoples web spaces also interact in interesting ways – e.g from blog, to Flickr, to professional sites.

Anyhow, catching up with Sheila Yoshikawa’s blog today, I noticed how in the 12th January post she mentions chocolate.

As is quite customary on Sheila’ blog she begins with a series of ratings:

No of meetings attended: 2 (good); No. of trees felled: 8 (good); No of trees planted: 7 (good); No. of times have tagged a blog entry with the word “chocolate”: 0 until today (surprising: in RL would probably have to tag every day “chocolate”)

I am assuming that in Real Life Sheila is trying not to eat chocolate at the moment. This has made me think about the idea of stickiness…. . Here I am not talking about chocolate smears, but about the way there are certain aspects of our offline selves that show through our online selves. There are aspects that we decide to show and tell about; it is all about display (Guy and I wrote about this in our chapter on academic blogging). Then there is stuff which we betray about ourselves which comes through no matter what – aspects of our identity that stick like burrs. Maybe it is our anglo-centrism; maybe it is our love of chocolate.

Guy Merchant has written about identity in terms of anchored and transient identities – with the transient aspects appearing and disappearing at different times of our lives. But anchored aspects – perhaps gender – stay with most of us all our lives.

I think there are some choices we make about identity online, and what aspects we decide to ‘bring with us’. I am going to think about these aspects as ‘sticky’; they stay with an individual across spaces. Other aspects, we might choose to disconnect ourselves from. This is why some people find the Internet liberating (the disabled, for example); others may find the Internet frustrating and so for example, things like learning difficulties may have a stickiness that limit our ability to participate online.

Finally … the snow took me by surprise when I came to walk home this evening. It was quite beautiful as massive flakes of snow fell and quickly created a carpet everywhere:

Tree shadow

Written by DrJoolz

February 3rd, 2010 at 10:17 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

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

Sheffield University Students Love YouTube

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It is a year since the Information Commons opened at The University of Sheffield.

What better way of celebrating than viewing a YouTube video filmed in that luscious space…

The popularity of YoTube is immense and in a recent piece of research I found that this is the favourite website of 24/24 interviewees aged between 16 and 18 . What is the attraction … well for the most part it is WATCHING videos and then talking about them on MySpace, Bebo or Facebook. It is a vital part of online conversation. Videos most watched are music videos ..’ so you don’t have to buy them’ and ‘funny videos’ . they did tell me that they would love to make videos and upload and would like to learn how to do this in school….

Seems to me that just as on other social networking sites, people do stuff in order to upload to YouTube… not ust about recording stuffalready going on. Look at this bit of naughtiness as students trespass on the roof of the infamous Arts Tower.


Written by DrJoolz

April 13th, 2008 at 8:43 am