Wednesday, December 20, 2006

disturbed; shaken not stirred

Sherry Turkle has expressed concern, a rest home she had left Hasbro's 'my real baby' dolls thought they were so useful they bought 25 more.
She cites how a depressed elderly woman projected her own depression on to one of these robot toys saying that it was also sad.
In a Wired article on the making of these interactive toys irobot CEO Colin Angle said "You need to create a life-form that understands that it's being played with... A lot of interactive toys simply drive the conversation. You push a button, it talks. My Real Baby had to be a life-form, not a forced march."

I see a forced march.
I am relieved that Turkle is disturbed. In who am we, she wrote of whether our use of IT extends or constrains us.
I am disturbed, under what conditions can or should a human touch be replaced with a robotics? The move from toy to human substitute begins insidiously.
ITs not just a doll, ITs not just a toy. This a political animal.
This is not ai, this is real life, a real world absence of care; a lack of human resourcing masked as care.
IT is seductive, not only because it is beautiful, but because it is cheap (when compared with staff, time, love, affection).
To quote a famous self confessed cyborg, Donna Haraway, - and to bring forward a critical social thread into the discussion- it could be otherwise. An aggragation of actors is required for care to be replaced by toys, this could be otherwise. The world's 'most therapeutic robot' should be contested, surely it depends on how IT is used as to whether there is therapeutic value or harm?
Techtoys blogsite links to paro seal with a beautiful movie clip of this 'toy' set to the music of Zeeche. "If you love her...mamma said... don't do it. ' or at least, do IT alongside care not as a substitute.

Paro fur seal

lost or added to; a disturbed existence?

I am quivering, my disturbance being prompted by a social commentary on Bebo produced by Daxon & students at DCU Dublin City University, Ireland. Bebo: The Movie portrays some moments of a life online. If most of us wouldnt do it in 'real life' how come we do it online? From little throw away lines- post it comments, a flame war, photos and video clips, 'show us your flashbox revealed as flashing photos through to videos of pole dancing! Plus the pun intended i assume with polls and poll masters. In addition are the on/off nuances of the medium. Whose online or offline and when and for how long being choreographed.
The medium in this instance is very much the message /massage. Marshall McLuhan identified how a new invention or innovation "introduces into human affairs'. Not just the channel or media used, but the change in interpersonal dynamics that the innovation brings with it [the massage]. The medium as culture, simplified right down to a cultural medium (like agar) growing change in the people, change in attitudes and in behaviour, in interpersonal dynamics. Changes occurring both interpersonally and intrapersonally, and if i go a little cosmic here, transpersonally also.
On one level its about Bebo, with its fixtures as well as its social mores shaping what is/isnt done.
And at the same time, I am feeling lost in the funhouse (Barth, 1988). This raw little movie prompted my multi mirrored experience with actors out of context and still embedded within. And my own online blogging about life on the screen on life on the screen on the screen.
Calling on and repeating a previous quoting from Max van Manen (1990) "... realizing that the meanings we bring to the surface from the depths of life's oceans have already lost the natural quiver of their disturbed existence. (p. 54)
In bringing to the surface, making whatever 'it' is more overt, I dont think that there is a loss to a natural quiver, there is something quivering, altered definitely, but I am not convinced that it is an unnatural quiver, though different- and it does disturb.
It is these moments of insight into the human condition that provide reason for my doctoral studies- how are we both shaped and shaping? What influence do we bring to communicating and how are we communicated with, and altered by, the technologies we choose to use.
You can view this at youtube,
Bebo: The Movie

Friday, December 08, 2006

small (a)musings for a doctoral student

While staying on the theme of how I am bumped and bumped back in the use of IT, I am amused by the God(dess) of small things: trying to put Donna Haraway's book
Modest-Witness@Second_Millenium.FemaleMan©_Meets_Oncomouse™ into my endnote library involved at least half an hours concurrent meditation on the subtlety of how come she didn't give up on a title that was so difficult to type in to software that was less than pliable? How come I didnt? And on this software associated with Blogger, i cant make the script fot the copyright symbol behave but rather than place more time on the trivia...
These are the very small pleasures that put a smile on my face- success at making something I could have written by hand in 2 seconds, can be produced by the wonders of technoscience in 1800 seconds!!!!
How I am shaped! I smile when i can make an un intuitive package behave! I smile when my own obedience to form entices me into trivial successes, and then I'm left wondering, how much am i shaped when i think i am the creator...and then i get very humble and realize being a modest witness is important (and there's another tautology in the making...)

AND THEN BLOGGER ALTERS ALL THE LITTLE HIEROGLYPHS ANYWAY! There are always translation, I just didnt expect this literal lesson today... got to laugh....back to work...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Things that go bump and the things that bump back

cj had told me about Pandora some time ago, but today I tripped over it. While it invites me in to think I'm shaping a personalised radio station, I am aware its also shaping me. I bumped it, and its bumped back...I told it what I like, it comes back with that and more. Its now adding to my repertoire of music i like and expectations of my capacity to shape my world. In a matter of mins my taste has expanded to encompass artists i had previously never heard of. And my expectations too have been bumped - i want this in my car! I want more choice like this in my life. As much as we think we shape our world as actors, the things we interact with, push back. Actor network theory provides me with a framework for exploring the recipricosity in shaping and in being shaped. And the actors involved are not all human; my taste in music (as well as my expectations of freedoms) are being shaped by non-human actors. I see myself rapidly becoming less tolerant of less adaptive media.
I have mulled over my ethics applications for two months, Bumping around the ideas- until they bumped back. Talking my studies through, and through and through. I have now clarified and minimised potential risks, its been a bit like tumbling it around till some of the rough bits are worn away. Now if only i could make sense of the forms... being a student in one institution and studying in another, crossing international boundaries in addition, plus being both student and staff... the real world is messy.

Monday, November 20, 2006

the missing work that makes things look magical

I have been *waiting* on some divine intervention that will produce the ethics application, i suspect its called work. I have chased white rabbits down a blog hole, but am forced to concede a doctorate doesnt materialise without being attended to. In following the white rabbit I was reacquainted with Susan Leigh Star (such a great name for someone who uncovers magic) and am reminded to be discerning and unwrap the hidden work.
I have been enjoying the clouds that sparkle in tenuous connection one to another; a quality of magic that's enticing, and consuming and i fear distracting. Some glamours of magic nestled in cyberspace- I loved reading Beth Kanters link capturing the ephemeral ... applications of links to buddhist digital prayer wheels, not to mention discovering my supposed true religious path... and email conversations with the toothfairy citing the softer side of social media at a.fine blog
But there is no trajectory that keeps a thesis on track when I am off chasing rainbows or scatterings of clouds or ephemeral beings, gods and or goddesses.
Back to 'real'; For my ethics application what is the possible good, as well as permutations of harm, in a research study of how people conceive of and act on change when using txt and e-counselling.
Some strategic use of will might be useful here (calling on some distant psychosynthesis training). If I name my intent here, maybe i can invoke it into being... daily blogging on a theme, ethics application * watch this space*

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

On becoming more and less real

To misquote 2 of my fav sources: Carl Rogers (On becoming a person) and Margery Williams (The velveteen rabbit). velveteen rabbit mp3

I was wrong in the way I worded my last post- its not that there is nothing in spaces between nodes or actors- but that there is no grand theory.
Latour says "it will be clear that it is not the solidity of the resulting construct that's in question, but rather the many heterogeneous ingredients, the long process, the many trades, the subtle coordination necessary to achieve such a result. The result itself is as solid as it gets."

ideant prompted my deeper consideration for what occurs in between nodes, between the actors- a relational space sometimes subtle sometimes overt, but there is always tension- pull, shove; grooves worn.
What's occurred and occurring is always the outcome of an aggregation of actors, its permanence always subject to flux. And things could always be different.
(Putting this crudely I can combine eggs, milk, and a cook, and the result might be scrambled eggs, custard, eggnog or a cook crying over spilt milk with egg on the face...)
'Subtle coordinations' produce different outcomes.

My research question involves capturing such subtleties: how do people think about and conceive of change; and what do they do in enacting such changes?

To ‘know’ such subtlety, Latour in Aramis advises researchers ‘follow the actors’. On rereading his essay on constructivism, I am mulling over just how one might ‘listen to the slime’! In his introductotion Latour cites Hackings, citing John Tyler Bonner:
'The experience also taught me a great lesson. I had not carefully designed an experiment that would prove diffusion; I had managed it by accident. That and all the other observations I had made told me that the slime molds were in charge, not I. They would let me know their secrets on their own terms, not mine. " John Tyler Bonner, Lives of a biologist : Adventures in a century of extraordinary science, Harvard, 2002, p. 78

Inside on the slime, did you notice the weird little hieroglyphs that occur on pasting from a word doc into a blog? I left a couple as evidence of the pushing, pulling, shoving...such subtleties would plague me if i was not choosing to be amused by attending to their presence. Do i start worrying when i start talking back to the slime?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What a tangled web we weave

I have just managed to make RSS links work (thanks cj and peter) and the world is suddenly connecting with me in new ways;I'm tripping over threads of people in unexpected places.
I came across this today from ideant
"The tyranny imposed by social network theories is that a node acknowledges only other nodes.... If we are going to go with the network metaphor, we need a praxis and an ethics, for engaging with the world beyond our interests, which means accounting for the space between nodes, becoming invested in the non-nodal."
Is there value to be had in looking between the nodes, between the actors? Callon and Latour (1981) seemed discouraging of this- ant is 'far from being a theory of the social or even worse an explanation of what makes society exert pressure on actors...'
If the tyranny of network thinking is an overly developed concern on nodes - nodal centric- how do we/I go about recognizing what i/we dont expect to see? Like Donna Haraway (1994) "I do not know how to leap out of my natural-cultural history to make it all come right."
I am reminded of a Charlie Brown cartoon of Snoopy lamenting that when he wanted to end his existance in the puppy farm, leaping over the fence still left him in the world.
I am still part of the tangle.

The only thing I knew how to do
Was to keep on keepin' on like a bird that flew,
Tangled up in blue.

Bob Dylan (1974)

Monday, November 13, 2006

digital artistry or digital delusion

I had been reading a classical piece on the purpose of education, to teach carpentry not hammering.

In 1997 Todd Oppenheimer was saying
Last fall, after school administrators in Mansfield, Massachusetts, had eliminated proposed art, music, and physical-education positions in favor of buying computers, Michael Bellino, an electrical engineer at Boston University's Center for Space Physics, appeared before the Massachusetts Board of Education to protest. "The purpose of the schools [is] to 'Teach carpentry, not hammer,'" he testified. "We need to teach the whys and ways of the world. Tools come and tools go. Teaching our children tools limits their knowledge to these tools and hence limits their futures."
Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; July 1997; The Computer Delusion; Volume 280, No. 1; pages 45-62.

Then arti sent this misguided example of a kiwi ingenuity. Is this what happens when we teach hammering rather than thinking? While i am wanting to include digital narrative in my own thesis, i hope such a fate does not befall me as I note that this is an animation produced for a master's thesis by Dony Permedi...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

txting issues of heart and soul (<3 & soul)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

ailsa haxell (2007)
? do I <3 u
let me no. the ways
i <3 u 3d !

NZQA will neither confirm nor deny; but appear to have acquiesced.
TXT is acceptable (but not desirable) for students to use in NZ exams.
NZ Herald

a muse thing,
a muse space
amusing pace
maybe less is more
editing back to the blank page...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

performance in an actor network thesis

"... realizing that the meanings we bring to the surface from the depths of life's oceans have already lost the natural quiver of their disturbed existence. (van Manen, 1990, p. 54)

I was reading the blog of another NZ educator today-

  • artichoke
  • - and arti has prompted me to rethink the digital and visual imagery.
    In my colloquium document I had argued that there is an advantage to be had in undertaking doctoral studies: there is no market force constraining the area of study or the form of submission. The process of my learning allows for a gift of research to participants who could not afford to have their fledgling projects studied. In respect for the gift of their time and their trust, the research process needs to honour the participants in a format that they can connect with and/or use. Reading a book (thesis) just might not do this. I am therefore arguing that data be presented in forms outside of the traditional written format. This argument is described by Weber and Mitchell (2004):
    "...arts-based research can be more accessible than most forms of academic discourse, citing Williams and Bendelow (1998), they argue …artistic forms of representations provide a refreshing and necessary challenge to prevailing modes of academic discourse. The use of widely-shared cultural codes and popular images make some visual expressions far more accessible than the usual academic language. To the degree that the mandate of the academy is to provoke discussion and thinking, and to communicate research to a broader audience (even within the academy) the use of the visual arts becomes significant. (¶ 11)
    While artistic representation can be more engaging, the important word here is can. As much as it might, it mightn't. There is risk. The mandate to provoke discussion and thinking and to communicate research to a broader audience requires a regard for what is being communicated and consideration as to whether text is the most appropriate means. The conventions of academia usually reflect a commitment to written text, but this as a tradition is subject to change. An exegesis within the performing arts allows for performance to be accompanied by text, "Since a performance cannot always present this information without ambiguity, it is appropriate that a written component is included." (Deakin University, 2006). But what if we were to consider text as but one performance? Logic would suggest a performance, whether written, visual or audio, always presents a level of ambiguity. If ambiguity is reduced through having (non text) performance enhanced by the use of text, then perhaps the converse is also valid, there is a potential for enhancing text by the use of (non text) performances.

    Or is the inclusion of visual imagery, a fashion statement, a titivation? A seduction?
    Dr Scott Lukas suggests that the digital facilitates human separation: a fascination with capturing of moments in a fragmented world. Drawing on Baudrillard, Lukas describes his photographs emphasize the lack felt on traveling beyond that moment. , conveying the state of the world in our absence. ... armed with a battery of artificial memories ... the digital facilitates human separation.

    In this separation does the image add or take away? Does it make for fuller, thicker ways of knowing or detract, distract,distort. Does it do this any less than other media.
    Does it add to that which quivers?

    Tuesday, September 12, 2006


    i was on a moodle discussion space where all new participants are begun with an image of a smiling yellow pill wearing sunglasses, you know, the smiley face of the 60's....with google i discovered it wasnt a pill at all but a bright yellow iced cake, anyway, i changed the pic for one of me, cept then i mucked about a bit and morphed and couldnt get out again, somehow the iconic mountain of the city where i live became my representation. transcended or IT illiterate clutz? Rangitoto in the Waitemata (water stars).

    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    Environmental effects on thinking?

    I was taken by this advert as an example of actor network at play

  • simplifying summer @ youtube
  • -

    How far away from the beach do togs become undies? An aggragation of 'actors' support a construct, as these peel away, what's left is changed. Not all these 'actors' are human, the environmental factors hold influence.

    Friday, August 18, 2006

    txting heart and soul

    The ubiquitous cell phone: Sherry Turkle talked about how her father would shout into a phone so as to cross the great divide, her daughters would giggle into it in the way teenagers do in using the medium to connect for company. My daughter plans to leave hers with a friend when she's away as it apparently needs someone to care for it!

    Saturday, July 22, 2006


    I'm looking at how communication and computer technologies are being integrated within the health sector.
    Seems that there is a lot being done, but its not adding very much and may even be distracting or detracting or even degenerative.
    Is this as 'good as it gets”?
    1. There is a lot that disseminates, info, its novel, and or available as and when wanted so it’s an improvement on pamphlets. It’s also pulled down rather than pushed at, so there might be an assumption of it being more effective as it gets to its target group.
    2. There is a lot that seems to replace people with machinery, go to a clinic and instead of being interviewed we can have you directly input data.
    3. There is connection: live chats, online forums, support groups. More info available and accessible, wider and more accessible Q&As, support of a different shape is possible.
    But in our shaping of CCT use in the health sector just to do the same old in new ways, and if so, is it destructive, distracting or detracting from services that would be better provided? The number of self help initiatives, any self-help book could have provided. The support groups have always occurred, maybe the medium allows some different people to be involved - and maybe it’s excluding others. Are there real gains or is it a novelty factor that’s distracting funds and energies away ...
    In these examples we appear to repackage. Is the new just better used to perform the historical ( Milio, 2001). ?

    Sunday, April 30, 2006

    actor-network theory in a doctoral study

    I am undertaking a study into change. The area I am focussing on is counselling and communicating care. I am using actor-network theory to look at how people's beliefs about change influence what they then do to enact and shape change as they integrate new uses of technology in their lives.
    What I would like any reader to comment on, is there own beliefs regarding the use of technology such as TXT or email or online exchanges for sensitive areas of communications.
    What are your beliefs about change related to this area?
    How do these beliefs influence what you do in the use of newer technologies to communicate care?