Wednesday, January 08, 2020

education likened to an exercise in civil disobedience

In response to a call from Frances Bell via the #femedtech twitter network, I've committed to making a quilt block for #FemEdTech Quilt of Care and Justice in Open Education. The #femedtechquilt  will be submitted to the #OER20: Open Education Conference (Organised by the Association for Learning Technology in the UK, and is the 11th annual conference for Open Education research, practice and policy.) (conference of the association for learning and teaching)  themes this year being:

  • Theme 1: Openness in the age of surveillance
  • Theme 2: Sustainable open education communities
  • Theme 3: Open education for civic engagement and democracy
  • Theme 4: Criticality and care in open education
  • Theme 5: Caring pedagogies and designing for diverse communities of inclusion
  • And also Wildcard submissions : open education practice, research or policy session proposals that address the overarching conference theme.
The commitment to criticality, care and justice are ones that seriously i just cant go past.

I've  submitted an intention of  a 13 inch block, finished size 12 nches 1/2 inch block, and the rough draft alludes to  how tweeting provided me a freedom i would not have encountered otherwise. Being from 'downunder' i intend representation freeing the caged bird (reference to Maya Angelou) but with a NZ twist. For if education is for anything it is for freedom.

So far I have talked about with three academic colleagues, took one with me on what felt like a truancy trip to a quilting shop to obtain NZ specific materials, and then talked with her further on how education if it is for anything, it is for freedom. All over the light banter of shopping and coffee  I introduced her to the poetry of Maya Angelou. 

I've now learned a bit more about the technology of my sewing machine. BTW it feels so academically disobedient to use a women's art for the creation of a research output !!!!
I couldn't reprogramme my mac to stop going to sleep every 5 mins of inactivity (discovered a work placed firewall to what i can and cannot do with my own password), but i did manage to programme my sewing machine to write "I know why the caged bird sings"
So I'm feeling somewhat chuffed with myself. I love the word chuffed. It seems so archaic, and relevant not only is it an old fashioned word but I've relearned some lost skills- how to use iron (let alone...) on interface to stiffen a fabric (and how to do this without making a gluey mess). I've reclaimed some house space (a sewing room subject to male colonisation!) and I've had a better conversation at work with some colleagues that reinvigorates a passion for education. 
A head nod to Colin Lansheare and Juim Marshall for having taught me that education actiually had a purpse beyond social control.

 Having an opportunity to talk with colleagues of what education is/should be  via Maya Angelou;  giving consideration to the UNs sustainability measures that acknowledge redressing poverty with  not having internet access being a measure of poverty; as well as giving consideration to women's ways of knowing and doing. All a very brilliant way to spend a day. 

This will be the first post in a series, so far I'm just reclaimed a passion for research, for freedom in education and reclaiming a  (this) women's way of being.


Sunday, February 03, 2019

Facts can always be otherwise, down a rabbit hole.

Science is made, it does not exist outside of our making.

This is not to say that the world, the universe, the salad in my fridge...does not exist. However, our knowledge of such things, our science of what is/is not,  is a communicated one, a negotiated one, a shared one.  Or as stated by Latour,  in an interview reported in Science magazine,  "To have common facts, you need a common reality." (de Vrieze, 2017).
Expanding on this Latour goes on to explain that, "Science has never been immune to political bias. On issues with huge policy implications, you cannot produce unbiased data. That does not mean you cannot produce good science, but scientists should explicitly state their interests, their values, and what sort of proof will make them change their mind."
Oddly, we forget this. We have an amnesiac tendency to blackbox our accepted knowledges, that is-we forget how we come to our beliefs. Oftentimes we no longer have access to how our thinking even occurs... but knowledge is something constructed, it doesn’t exist in some ready-made jar to be consumed, it doesn’t occur in a vacuum sealed pack. It doesnt occur in some individual...
"there is no sense for an isolated scientists to exclaim "cogito!" or "eureka!". Laboratories think, communities discover, disciplines progress, instruments see, not individual minds." (Latour, 1996).  What's accepted as fact or as an alternative fact, requires not only our own thinking but that our thoughts (and those of others) hit up alongside previously held thoughts. Current and past. A gathering of garlands in time as Serres is described as having said . This may seem a very esoteric or even ephemeral approach to an understanding of knowledge, but our thoughts, our cognitions, evolve and when espoused, verbally or in writing,  our views may then become aligned with those of others, allies if you will, or which also oftentimes, engage resistance. A 'science war' ensues. A tussle perhaps, or even a merger,  a resistance maybe, or outright denial and a rallying of others or their thoughts to negate such facts being accepted by oneself or by others. And so science is made, though not commonly thought of as a making.
And in these times of truths, counter truths, inconvenient truths, through to alternative facts, that might assume we ever had facts that were insurmountable then we enter a space of post modernism.  This could lead to the postmodern quagmire of anything goes, however, not just anything is ok. We have as Latour rightly points out responsibility in science to win back and to earn respect,  and to do so, he argues that there is need to present science as science in action.
This is a risky undertaking because when we make the uncertainties and controversies explicit, such acknowledgement provides fodder for everyone from creationists, to anti climate changers,  anti-vaxxers, believers in a flat earth, Santa Clause, fairies,  unicorns, or the need for a wall... etc etc.

Our 'facts' are made and they are political.
Socrates drank poison as punishment for asking unpopular questions.
Freud changed his beliefs with the Venice circle accepting that women telling of incest must be hysterical.
British PM Disraeli claiming "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."
Currently  USA President Trump claiming alternative facts.

This is then open acknowledgement of our world-making potential and of ontological politics at play. As Donna Haraway has said, "This is not some kind of blissed-out techno- bunny joy in information. It is a statement that we had better get it – this is a worlding operation."

Facts/knowledge/statistics/stuff is always elusive. That it devlops substance, becoming seemingly immobile, occurs as alignments hold it in place. To not acknowledge this, to not enter into open dialogue of how such stuff comes to be known, to be indifferent to alternatives as  Katherine Behar writes, is a “newfound inhospitability” giving face to “Botox ethics”: an ethic that seeks not to articulate connections but to inhibit them; to create not unbounded subjects but enclosed objects; it recommends not outward-directed networking and changeability but inward-directed unexpressivity and singularity.
It is the very reason for why science as a subject exists, and why studies of science and technology have to continue.

de Vrieze, J. (2017). Bruno Latour, a veteran of the Science Wars, has a new mission. Interview with Bruno Latour. Retrieved from

Gane, N. (2006). When we have never been human, what is to be done? Interview with Donna Haraway. Theory, Culture and Society, 23, 135-158.

Latour, B. (1996). Cogito Ergo Sumus! Or psychology swept inside out by the fresh air of the upper deck. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 3, 54-63.

Sheldon, R. (2017).You can't have me: Feminist infiltrations in Object-Oriented Ontology. Retrieved from!

 Worth noting what generated this blog:
 I was invited to do a blind review. It wasn’t very blind. The opening sentence referred to  to the author’s xxxx book xxxx (he was responding to a critical review). I started reading the manuscript. I was out of my depth - I instantly regretted not being as immersed in ANT as I had been during my PhD studies and I was missing this. 
Not having been immersed in said book, or  said critique- how to attest to the value of the article or its accuracy- I was going to have to do some further investigating. Reviewing can be truly exhilarating and rewarding and it’s great when it is (like today).
So, down an enticing bunny hole inside of which  my fluffy white tail got a tad grubby... (a ref to Stephen Fry and QI repeats) and I found myself (as much as I ever can)  back in the foundations of how knowledge is made. Part of the enticement is that this is area I have been mulling for a while, ever since a friend Ibrar Bhatt piqued my curiousity with a call for papers on 'Lies, Bullshit and Fake News Online: Should We Be Worried?'
In looking for a Donna Haraway reference to blissed out bunnies and the need to be aware of world making ontologies,  I fluked across the article by Sheldon. And regretted that the current day job is a sad distraction on what I might otherwise do.  The article by Sheldon is well worth the read, a story of bunnies of the less reputable kind that led to a deliberate defeminized portrayal.  Visual ethnography is no less susceptible to HIStory making than any other form of science.
Triggered also is the mullings of recent times on how reflexivity does not give wings (a bon mot of Chris Bigum's, my very excellent phd supervisor.. 
From the FB ANT group, I had also been thinking about how reflective writing is asked for /demanded by some methodologies, some PhD supervisions, as an add on. to tick a box which would in some way make the research more hygienic. It doesn’t. And Steve Wright referred me to the useful article by Passoth and Rowland (2013). Beware of Allies! Qualitative Sociology 36(4).
We are through and through implicated. As Latour has said in a lightly veiled response to Haraway's critical feminism: To explicate the implicit, unfolding  comes with refoldings and  the creation of further opaqueness...there is no enlightenment vs darkness. The light only exists because we also have shadow, and the reverse is also true. Such a position is encapsulated in Latour's calling for a science of the science, or more prosaically,  a technology of the technology.

Nonetheless, crude and flawed as they are, reflexivity and referencing are utilised in tracing how this argument is or isnt informed, it shows the allies drawn upon as well as those refuted if not neglected.

Going to need some of these...after all, I didnt reference Lewis Caroll...the first chapter book i ever read :-)

Friday, August 31, 2018

writing has always been a mobile art

While listening to my alarm/radio this morning I heard some 54% of workers commuting in the UK are working; they are answering emails while travelling to and from work. The spin put on this was a suggestion that a working day should incliude the travel time.
Then when browsing my email alerts before even leaving my bed, i follow a link to an article on how writers have always been mobile. The mobility of writing having studied text messaging as an emergent means of counselling prompted my curiouslity as to how come the  mobility of writing is newsworthy.  The shape of things in current times seems to have altered our thinking about things so much that we do not recognise the romantic past as also being one of commuting and writing?
So now this is news?

Surely it shouldn't be news - people stopped writing on cave walls and carving into rock some time ago.
The very purpose of our writing would seem for word to travel - it provides movement through both space and time - at least with bringing whats now to future spaces.
So how come it's now news?
I recall one of the oddities of antiquity my brother has is of a writing box. A sloped box on which to write - an addition to any flat table for the houses of the time without purpose built writing desks. It had a lifting lid for pens, paper, ink bottles. And the top surface also with its now quaint inkwell.
We had plastic pocket liners for our shirts so we could travel with pens. Indeed, we had shirts with bockets that seemed soley designed for the purpose of holding a pen or two and not much else. We had the invention of the roller ball pen so it coud literally write in the different spaces required of modern times. 
Now we have shirts without pockets- the type of pocket not being substantive enough for the tools of modernliteracy- a mobile ph isnt in that pocket. And the pen also becomes less evident.
I'm writing, but there's no ink, no paper -  the physicality of writing changes.
Though i may write of abstract things, writing itself never occurs in the abstract,  but occurs by means of objects—as well as by the involvement of experiences, memory, nostalgia, hopes, and more. Always it is an interaction of things. An internetting of things.

Acknowledgement to Laura R. Micciche  associate professor of English at the University of Cincinnati for prompting this little wander into  things we think with.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

higher education and the risky business of teaching

I am involved in a risky business, one that spans the capacity for crushing hopes dreams and spirits, to one that would help people to live lives aspiring to all that they can be (and nothing less).
threin lies massive privilige and a duty of care.

When i look back on my own learning there's been a lot of crushing soul destroying stuff.
I am lucky though for i did go on to learn that learning could be different to this. it was in higher ed

Palker Palmer suggests be reckless, be one ever died saying im glad for being self serving,
Grow instead
Value failure as much as success
dont cling to what you know, it is the path of an unknowing mind
 everyne has a shadow, buddhists quakers.... but when you can say i am all of this it means embracing brokeness as an integral part of your life

 if you are going to go on to live an unexamined life, please choose a vocation that does not involve working with others

Thursday, August 03, 2017

On critique

I've been ruminating on my use of critique, and hence this reminder from Foucault.

The purpose is not to close something down, but to provide a catalyst.

Critique is too often done as a means of showmanship; too often done for closing things down. What if instead it was undertaken to light fires... a catalyst invoking thoughts and possibilities?

Dream of criticism that does not judge but brings ideas to life.
It would light fires,
watch the grass grow,
listen to the wind
and catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it...
A criticism of scintillating leaps of the imagination….
It would bear the lightening of possible storms.
(paraphrased, Foucault, 1994)

Foucault, M. 1994. The masked philosopher. In: Rabinow, P. (ed.) Ethics: Subjectivity and truth. (Essential works of Foucault, 1954-1984, Vol.1). London, England: The New Press.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

In pursuit of what makes a difference in higher ed, and chasing rainbows....

The first thing to make visible:
"the minimum goal of education, when rightly expressed, should be for all students to make at least one year’s progress for one year’s input, no matter where they start" (Hattie, 2015)

The second concern Hattie argues is that unless an impact passes the 0.4 level, grounds for support are seriously dubious.
He makes this highly visible in the visual guide on what does or doesnt have impact  and its worth then considering what translates across to a higher ed sector.

The teacher having credibility, clarity and opportunity of discussion all score highly.
Providing timely and specific feedback scores well.
The size of a class, does not. Class size has a 0.21 impact.
Pre term birth weight is a more reliable indicator!
Often argued is that it is what the teacher does as makes the difference. Notably, this is not John Hattie's argument. He points out there is so much more going on; its the lecturers and the structures or wrap around services, the 'culture' of the learning environment, where learners (and teaching staff) are nourished and supported by the system as a whole.
In a PhD study by Molly Neville, it came down to feeling like I (the student) matters.

How come then, we get so distracted by quality measures that bear little resemblance to what makes a difference?

Informed by Hattie's meta-analysis, this is where we might be better focussed:
Instead of predetermined student outcomes, might we focus on what are the student's needs?
From this, what then are the lecturer needs in relation to the student needs.
Identify the required actions or behaviours for implementing.
Evaluate the impact, and
then do it all again, continuously...

Starting from know thy impact- what is it we do, that we would want to keep doing, and is there an evidence base for this in terms of desired impact on student learning?
Is it good enough, and is there evidence that this is 'good enough'?

THEN, we might consider what progress in this area might look like.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Actor-Networking with dead people.

Invoking a dead language I draw on the past to give meaning to where we are now,  nanos gigantum humeris insidentes.  While  attributed to Bernard of Chartres of the 12th century, the more familiar expression provided in English comes from a 1676 letter of Isaac Newton:

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Acknowledgement is then given to those on whose shoulders we have stood ; those who inform our gaze, and through whose learning, we might begin to learn even more.

Channelling knowledge drawn from a past, from those spatially and temporally challenged, is not new. Stevenson (2007) argues:
[in] the postmodern period....Traditional literature has been found to have been written by "dead white males" to serve the ideological aims of a conservative and repressive Anglo hegemony....disguised in literature and other discourses as positive ideals and objective truths – but they slant our sense of reality in favor of power and privilege. (pp. 9-10)

Accepting new research is situated on a body of knowledge that informs it is one aspect of this. Informing futures from current times is not a new phenomenon and despite the disparagement evident, in the  example above, a Euro-centric wisdom of patriachs is not the only wisdom that might be accessed.

There are alternate realities that might be explored:
 Literally a paving one's path to heaven by looking after the dead.
A reminder then that we live in differing realities.

Another example is the very recently passed legislation that has positioned the Whanganui river in New Zealand as having personhood status.
An ingenious approach consistent with the people of this place to grant legal rights to a living ancestor. This spiritual ancestor is not to be insulted by being placed under human control. Instead there is open acknowledgement of the one with the other.:
 "I am the river, and the river is me"

In actor-network theorizing,  the literature reviewed is not only providing a body of knowledge that provides a space on which to stand, or to speak from, enhancing perhaps on a current body of knowledge by "filling a gap" the literature is an actor that is also open to interrogation. Worth considering is how the literature maintains a status quo.

In the telling of an actor-networked account, the actors are human and otherwise,  and the human ones might be dead or alive. In addition there is no necessary seperation of what was that informs what is, the writer is implicated through and through.
As said by Mulcahy(1999),
Over the course of these accounts, I came to understand that the tale I was telling of my network was complicit with the tale it was telling of itself.

Where 'I' am in a study as Latour describes it, is situated and positioned.
" I insert my gesture in a ‘garland of time’ as Michel Serres (1995) has put it, which allows me to insert myself in a variety of temporalities or time differentials." (Latour, 2002).

The"gathering garlands in time"  metaphor used by Latour and attributed to Serres, relates to how networking is not just about geographically, spatially positioned networks. We have tendency to attend to what is geographically and spatially close. However, networks have no top nor bottom, left or right, no close or distant, big or small, but that thinking makes it so.
A network study needs then to be recognised as a moment, or clotting in time as Helen Verran has suggested:

'Given spacetime framed context' and 'clotted/clotting context' are metaphysically distinct, juxtaposing them recognises that the seemingly innocuous and helpful work of contextualising is a form of ontic politics. My aim here is not to promote one form over the other; the claim is that the stories express alternative forms of empiricism and that we need both forms to be explicitly held in tension.

Time; a necessary consideration then.

It is all too easy to criticise with the wisdom of hindsight, but what if instead we look at something in terms of how it was in its time,  when an idea is in its moment, the hopes inspired... a

"Always assume people are right, even if you have to stretch the point a bit. A simple rule, my dear pupil when you're studying a project. You put yourself at the peak of enthusiasm, at the apex, the point when the thing is irresistible. " ( Latour, 1996, p. 36).

Latour, Bruno. (1996). Aramis: Or the love of technology (C. Porter, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Latour, Bruno. (2002). Morality and technology. The end of the means. Theory, Culture and Society, 19(5/6), 247–260. doi: 10.1177/026327602761899246
Mulcahy, D. (1999). (Actor-Net) Working bodies and representations: Tales from a training field. Science, Technology and Human Values, 24(1), 80-104. Retrieved from
Stevenson, J. (2007) The complete idiot's guide to english literature. Alpha Books

Verran, H. (2007). Telling a story of a tender bids hearing and considering researcher responsibility. Paper presented at the Lancaster University STS Students-University of Melbourne Education ANT group. Video-conference 

Please dont get picky about the fonts, the grammar, the incomplete thoughts. Its a blog; a space for raw thoughts and playful writing.