Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hymn to her, God save us from people who have our best interests at heart

Its an opinion piece.

Internet addiction appears to be a common disorder that merits inclusion in DSM-V.
J. J. Block writes in the American Journal of Psychiatry (March, 2008): Conceptually, the diagnosis is a compulsive-impulsive spectrum disorder that involves online and/or offline computer usage (1, 2) and consists of at least three subtypes: ex-cessive gaming, sexual preoccupations, and e-mail/text messaging (3). All of the var-iants share the following four components: 1) excessive use, often associated with a loss of sense of time or a neglect of basic drives, 2) withdrawal, including feelings of anger, tension, and/or depression when the computer is inaccessible, 3) tolerance, including the need for better computer equipment, more software, or more hours of use, and 4) negative repercussions, including arguments, lying, poor achievement, social isolation,
and fatigue.

The contributers to DSM are just people too (seems often a conservative group with past inclusions including sexual orientation as a mental illness.)
What surprizes me though is the ignorance brought to these deliberations.
In a comparative analysis of landlines with mobiles, the literature reviewed by Amparo Lasen shows "... civilisation advances new kinds of diseases produced by novel agencies brought to bear on man’s body and mind” as reported by the British Medical Journal in 1889. The fear of health risks derived from telephone use also arose in the
early days of its development. Even “strong-minded and able-bodied men” were considered to be susceptible because of the “almost constant strain of the auditory apparatus” in people who uses the telephone very often. The symptoms were nervous excitability, buzzing in the ear, giddiness and neuralgic pains. A certain amount of "moral panic" often follows the introduction of many new technologies. Some of the risks considered are the same in both landline and mobile phones; others are different, following the more feared diseases of each period."
Seems phones have been contributing to our madness ever since their inception.
The fears of inconsiderate behaviour, neglect of 'actual relationships' and social hysteria are not new.
Somethings change, some stay the same.
What truly surprizes me is that it gets published and reported.


Hymn To Her

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

building a brick mother

The material semiotic of existence for this organisation (Youthline) involves deliberate and significant work.

The metaphor of building the brick mother was how this was shared with me while data collecting. The entity being one that young people know is always there, unconditionally, and with which they associate positively outside of times of crisis.
She is described as a taonga (precious vessel) spanning generations, and being carried through changing mediums.
She is actively nurtured, maintained, shaped, constructed. Her presence supported through 'guerilla marketing' and carried by word of mouth into schools, events, media. Her presence as a Youth oriented organisation aims to be and is, the most well recognised youth support service as identified by young people. Youthline has a name amongst young people for being relevant, purposeful, and involving them.
2005 stats: 19 schools, 447 students; Youthline was most recognised at 79% as support for young people.
Assembling, maintaining, reassembling, all take work. (ref earlier blog on reassembling the social)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Semiotic relational logic/s

A little bit of writing in the style of John Law helps me to explore the language of ANT and to see similarities as well as differences between theorists. If nothing else, it makes my reading of the works of these giants a little more palatable :)

This study displays the ingredients of actor-network theory. There is semiotic relationality (it’s a network whose elements define and shape one another.)
There are artefacts of philosophy and policy, influence of juggernaughts in telecommunications, there is also goodwill of a charitable nature which makes the potential possible, by donating cash and hardware and time. There are actors in the form of mobile phones, a palm pilot, counsellors and counsellees. The heterogeneity can be pointed to (there are different kinds of actors, human and otherwise), and materiality (stuff there is a-plenty, not just 'the social' but contracts, money, technical equipment, text artefacts...)
There is an insistence on process and its precariousness (all elements need to play their part moment by moment or it all comes unstuck; without ongoing funding, without ongoing commitment, without ongoing advertising, without ongoing development of skills, without sunshine...)
There is attention to power as an effect (it is a function of network configuration and in particular the creation of immutable mobiles) (In another article Law cites Bruno Latour - the immutable mobile is a network of elements that holds its shape as it moves), to space and to scale (how it is that networks extend themselves and translate distant actors). Law attests that it is new to actor-network theory to acknowledge an interest in large scale political history. Here I see ontological politics: for without a commitment to voice, this cannot be sustained. Without ongoing goodwill from a major sponsor and such activities as Coca cola in the park the financial costs to Youthline would be too burdensome, without goodwill there is political precariousness.... There is the deliberate making and shaping of 'the brick mother' (tangible knowledge of support services for young people, making Youthline a known entity that's 'always there'.)
(I am glad that my friend Sue pointed me back to Law on material semiotics for I find Latour all to easily denies the political.)
And, crucially, it is a study of how the network works; how it holds together; how it is shaped and shaping; how it configures that which is central and peripheral; in short: how newness and differences in old practices are generated in semiotic relational logic/s. (The 's' is important to me; a logic may presume a singular entity, while I suspect there are many logics occurring simultaneously in the form of concurrent performances as per Annmare Mol's the body multiple.)

If I see at all, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

where do you go to my lovely

Or the secret life of cell phones.
Consumerism related to cell phone acquisition involves many of us having more cell phones than people in our families. The spare, or two, in the drawer for just in case...leads me to discussing some of the invisible work involved as change happens. There is strategic invisibility in not acknowledging built in obsolescence. Manufacturers do not want their product to last forever or they wouldn't stay in business. The mobile phone becomes a fashion accessory with a life expectancy of approx 1.5 years but what happens to the old one?

Star and Strauss (1999) in Layers of silence, arena of voice: The ecology of visible and invisible work talk of the complex matrix that develops between visible and invisible, a relational ecology where illuminating one corner throws shadow on another. A phenomenon of tradeoffs and balances.
That a cell phone can now do this... hides the discard mountains of landfills.
(As well as other practices which in hindsight may be deemed quaint, when you call someone do you tell them who is calling or assume the technology has filled the gap?)
In an ANT exploration of networks it is possible for work that is visible to be shown as well as providing space where tensions can also be acknowledged.
With reference to John Laws pinboard approach to an ANT analysis I must go add to my whats invisible, where the known world ends, and
'here be dragons'...

Friday, March 21, 2008

The ontological politics of voice

Reading for a PhD is an iterative process (the big words come thick and fast, my earlier reading let them slide past while I hoped that familiarity would one day lead to enlightenment. And repeated revisiting, rereading and reading the readings others have made of books i have read, does make understanding easier). Helen Verran pulls on the writing of Annemarie Mol, reminding me of Mol's intent of exploring the ontological politics of medicine.
And I am back to wondering: what am I doing?
I suspect half way through data collect is not the time for doubt, but it feels to me that there is no better time than this. My research does not follow a straight tangent regardless of the texts or the ethics application that suggest that this is so.
While exploring the actor network of a voluntary youth telephone counselling agency undergoing change with use of text, internet and message boards, I begin to appreciate that I am involved in a study that explores the ontological politics of voice.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ever had txt with a kiwi?

Seems Kiwis are well connected.
Not only is the 'bird' variety reputed to be highly promiscuous at 20.4 partners;
as a species we kiwis are sending 640 million texts a month.
In a country estimated as having 4,262,361, people.
as at Thursday, 20 March 2008 at 7:50:06 p.m.
that sounds like a lot of txt going on.
Vodafone has announced it has stopped archiving texts and Telecom says it will follow suit. My guess is those having txt didn't even know they were watched.
2006 census stats:
Almost 2.6 million NZers had personal use of a mobile phone. In the 15–24 year age group, 90.6 percent had personal use of a mobile phone. (data doesnt indicate txt capable).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

If the technology works, it will be used .... for porn, activism and cute cats

Of porn, cute cats and activism,; the measures of successful web 2.0 at Ethan Zuckerman writes of successful digital media.

I’d offer the hypothesis that any sufficiently advanced read/write technology will get used for two purposes: pornography and activism.

Text messaging by this premise is working.
As far as the Porn goes, "its a weak test for the success of participatory media - it’s like tapping a mike and asking, “Is it on?” If you’re not getting porn in your system, it doesn’t work.

I was naive when it came to the stories of txt counsellors, no they don't do the smiley face thing, and definitely no winking. The people who make calls just to get a sexual gratification find such inducements too enticing. So no-one gets the softening touch. And so txt counselling is shaped. Whats possible vs what could be misconstrued albeit by (thankfully) a very few. The work that goes into shaping a txt could be conceived as the missing the work, whats taken out.
Activism is a stronger test - if activists are using your tools, it’s a pretty good indication that your tools are useful and usable.
Its the method of choice when the young person has no voice, or is scared of their own voice- hearing yourself saying your not coping can be a trauma in itself. Txting seems to make the personal aspect less threatening. I hear young people who text saying, there's stuff i say in txt that i wouldnt dream of saying outloud or 'to the person' (!). There is some sort of a cognitive dissonance thing going on here.
And then there is the cute cat syndrome.
As stated:
Web 1.0 was invented to allow physicists to share research papers.
Web 2.0 was created to allow people to share pictures of cute cats.
They are a little harder to fit into the 160characters of the txt SMS, but so far I have received cute bears, so i am pretty sure it is ony because i dont have enough friends that i have yet to experience a cat in this realm...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I SIM therefore I AM

John Law explores the potential of the pinboard to hold artefacts, AND to hold points of tension. This is discussed as a method user friendly for ANT research as it allows the bits and pieces partialy connected, juxtaposed and partial in their disconnection as well. Not a view from nowhere, but allowing for the exploration of difference, ontological difference, as well as of similarities. (One day this might begin to occur as i move objects in or out or trace links through the network, at present the juxtapositioning is enough. But i find myself even finding points of tension as i virtually engage...

John Law describes his own pinboard of data collected where a cartoon sits above the board, this one by Leunig would be mine :)
The view of the Sistine chapel will never be quite the same now i know that it depicts Adam receiving his SIM card from God....
Or that my haunting fears of forgetfulness are less about dementia than my repressed memories stored on my sim...I SIM therefore I am
My memory is almost full; was the jacket cover for a Paul McCartney recent release and is the message my cell phone often provides me with, in my mind such bits of memory deleted randomly and haphazardly ...They are wanted bits as I struggle to find what i have done with the written artefact of students who want to text...
There would be the artefact of txt counselling policy guidelines.
There are the data collect field notes, of the interviews, of some who counsel, some who support the staff who counsel, some who support the technologies of computers .... and the interview fo the CEO and his stories of txting and of change, of policy development...
There would be artefacts of txting: sent and received by the counselling agency, the links internal and external, the ongoing inks to police involvements...
And then there would be censorship.
The less seemly might find space on a blog but not in the normal/formal academic circles as mum mistakes the vibrator for a cell phone ....

There's the actual transcripts of counselling, whats in, or out, as the ethics of anonymity and of confidentiality are negotiated, and of not harming the community or agency, and of participatory research...
Then there's what can/cant be physically pinned: the wmv clip, the links to my itune library for audiofiles made on ipod of interviews of staff.

He describes how practices are written historically with a unidirectional arrow,
that processes look shiny gleaming and streamlined, but that we can be sure we arent understanding them very well if this is what we see. I am reassured. My thinking is a mess, I must be in the right place...or places :)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

titillating classes in highered

I have been meditating on my teaching having read really bad powerpoint, death by powerpoint and presenting me!
I come to the conclusion through all my summer navel gazing that at least in part my goal is to titillate: to excite pleasantly.
I am not suggesting a voyeuristic approach as I do not believe that education is a spectator sport.
I have erred in trying to make education more palatable, more pleasurable. Titivation (to smarten up, make pretty) is not enough, it needs to be meaningful.
I am back to 'what is it that they need to know/want to know...and whats the best way of our getting there.'
And given its about teaching and learning communication skills, communicating as a two way occurrence seems necessary, form and function should align.
I have reread Parker-Palmer's the courage to teach: and do not want to be the person with the ballooon bubble that gets in the way of engaging; air bags are better in car crashes, than for cushioning out engagement.
However, student numbers in excess of 700 and staffing at something over 2.3 fulltime staffing equivalents creates a 'challenge'. Compounding this further is that the course be accessible to distance students.
So, Monday brings a new vamped course; titillation with podcast supported through a blackboard medium. Lectures with 200+ students attending and with 'small group' (n=30) tutorials.
Maybe the courage to teach isnt enough.

Taking wisdom from an unlikely source: the wizard of oz

(Cowardly Lion)
Yeah, it's sad, believe me Missy
When you're born to be a sissy
Without the vim and verve
But I could show my prowess
Be a lion, not a mowess
If I only had the nerve

I'm afraid there's no denyin'
I'm just a dandylion
A fate I don't deserve
I'd be brave as a blizzard

(Tin Man)
I'd be gentle as a lizard

I'd be clever as a gizzard

If the Wizard is a wizard who will serve

Then I'm sure to get a brain

(Tin Man)
A heart

A home

(Cowardly Lion)
The nerve

Maybe the emerald city needs fixing....