Thursday, December 20, 2007

shaped 'for good'

Annemarie Mol's Keynote address at the 11th annual qualitative research conference provides the basis for this blog.
Instead of the random control trial (rct) being the gold std to prove that care practices studied are good, we would do better to develop research methods that work to improve care practices. She argues against foregrounding effectiveness but instead that we investigate the various effects of interventions. The effects on the bodily parameters and on the intricacies of daily life should not be separated out but studied in connection.

Now here lies a good idea because the faults in studying effectiveness are numerous. Through reading several horrible articles i have learned how to survive 'best practice.' The following articles should come with warning that they may be damaging to your health:
'Best Practice' for restraining people
(Evidence Based Practice Information Sheets for Health Professionals. Volume 6, Issue 3, 2002 ISSN 1329 - 1874 Physical Restraint -Part 1:
Use in Acute and Residential Care Facilities)
'Best Practice' in wound care demonstrating potable water is good enough for wound care
(Evidence Based Practice Information Sheets for Health Professionals. Volume 7, Issue 1, 2003 ISSN 1329 - 1874 Solutions, Techniques and Pressure for
Wound Cleansing.)

These articles, widely disseminated, fail to take into account
1. the purpose of care
2. not doing harm (saline doesn't hurt, water does).

Mol discusses this because what is 'for the better' is often not known.
This reading -in combination with it being Christmas and my having a pine tree in my lounge- reminds me of other reading, of E.M. Rogers, and of how the repercussions of change are oftentimes unexpected. p440 a story of Lapps and loss of reindeer and establishing a culture of dependence and poverty following the introduction of snowmobiles.
The effects of adopting innovations are oftentimes not known in advance, and maybe shouldn't wait for full implementation and formal evaluation before being revisited.

Effective and good practice are not unequivocal- Mol draws on examples from arteriosclerosis treatments and of type 1. diabetes.
She demonstrates how control needs to be social and material.
I remember a friend who killed herself. She too had type 1 diabetes, but she also had genital herpes. The diabetes would go out of control whenever the herpes flared up. Living between metabolic wards and gynae wards and the mental health unit for most of a year, she decided if this is life it sucks. Such control needed in her life made life unlivable. She killed herself.

Mol questions the notion of the good, 'what is good care?' Is the management so tight it risks hypoglycamia? This risks relationships as it tends to make people aggressive. There is a concurrent risk to brain cells; hypoglycaemia kills brain cells. The body and the social are implicated throughout. She concludes we cannot tell what good health care is, not simply, not in general. And so argues that it has to be established closer to home: in practice- in day to day life.

I concur.

If what is good care cannot be answered in effectiveness measures, an urgency still remains in providing an evidence base for practice. It is not a case that one treatment is better than another, as they come with different 'goods' and 'bads', qualitatively. How then to handle these? If there is trade off long term vs short term, what is more important? What is it you- as client- need /want to achieve...?
Clinical trials have a tendency to evaluate what is, what exists, what is known and market conditions support this. She argues though, that the market alone is not enough to improve health care. Treatments do not suddenly materialize of themselves. and treatment options are not linear. Goals+treatment+evaluation is not the only care trajectory that can or does unfold. The devil may be in all the details, but people are not automatons, almost every variable in a person's life is subject to change. Professional care involves tinkering, negotiating, and 'doctoring' to fit.

She further argues that this becomes obvious over time and not in snapshots or vignettes. The rct evidence to convince of best options, of funding, of external persons, of outsiders, of the quality of existing care, would do better to focus on insider issues. In tinkering and adapting, in calibrating. Such research is not in prooving rightness or wrongness but adaptability, of improving practices. Such unravelling of the tensions involved.

I wish i had written this myself. She's clever.
To further paraphrase:

A lot goes on without being sharply articulated, this then is our job as researchers: to unravel and to articulate, casting practice into words that allows them to travel, so that they might be more widely reflected on. Reality becomes foregrounded, and the intricacies of hopes and fears negotiated alongside the material technologies involved. The sociotechnical comes as a package, so it is better to study them together. In doing so we may come to discover how one form of practice differs from another, how practice is shaped 'for good.'

I am in awe.
I am not studying effectiveness of counselling in its various forms, but i am studying practice; practice as it unfolds and is un/told.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Proving or improving

The joys of being a PhD student! Just as I find my voice on an issue, I find I am not alone, my fumbled thoughts have found their way into words eloquently writ elsewhere.

‘Anyone can have big ideas”, said Concepcion. “I have had some big ideas, and most of them I thought of for myself, and then I found out that others have thought the same, and then I found out that other people have big ideas that are exactly the opposite, and when I think about it even more, I decide that only small ideas can be true, and the big ideas are too big to fit inside anybody’s mind, so there is no point in trying to have them. You know what my mother used to say when I asked her a question like “why does God let babies die?” She said “Pregunta a las mariposas”. Go and ask the butterflies, because they don’t know any better than anyone else.’
(de Bernieres, 1993, p 278)
Whether to prove or improve practices in health care research is well discussed by Annemarie Mol. I discovered this article while clearing a backlog of reading:
As it is, clinical trials are the gold standard of health care research, employed to prove that the care practices they study are good. Here, the author suggests that we would do better to develop research methods that work toward another goal: to improve care practices. This requires that we no longer foreground the effectiveness but, instead, investigate the various effects of interventions. If undesirable, they might then be tinkered with. As a part of this, the effects on bodily parameters and on the intricacies of daily lives should not be separated out but studied in connection. With examples drawn from studies into care practices for patients with diabetes or atherosclerosis, the author argues that instead of trying to turn the clinic into a laboratory, we should strive to support and strengthen clinical ways of working.
Annemarie Mol (2006),
Proving or Improving: On Health Care Research as a Form of Self-Reflection

This approach also encompasses the issues raised by cj:
... in new ways of doing things (aka technology)... for the most part, the original intent of the gizmo is rarely the use that is taken up....this points to an interesting habit where we tend to assume that gizmo X was actually designed to do what it is now being used for, i.e. the myth of design, make and appraise of technology as it is often taught in schools.
We also know that the making life easier line plays out interestingly when you, for example, have say two online information sources, one which is has richer resources but devilishly difficult to use, the other much poorer resources but dead simple to use. The easier to use resource wins. Then there is the small initial advantage a particular technology may develop, perhaps randomly, which is then amplified quickly over time. The Beta vs. UHS video format comes to mind. There are others.
For me, all of this underlines that we are always considering the sociotechnical, not just the technical that somehow gets taken up or adopted as diffusion theory suggests. It's all about negotiation between people and things. Delegation of work to a thing which is never a simple matter as Latour elegantly demonstrated a long time ago.

There is richness to be had in investigating the practices as they unfold, rather than attempting an evaluation of goodness, badness, rightness or wrongness.

It seems i need to take several steps forward to find myself standing in the same place and I am finding an essential ingredient for a Phd student is the ability to laugh at myself ;)

It works by magic

I don't know, and will never know, how come the funding application fell over.
However, it may have been the answer to the question on whether txt counselling is a good thing.
In some way i said that it was a difficult question to address in this way as the variables could not be controlled for and therefore a qualitative analysis on the perspectives of those involved would be important in informing future practice. (Reminds me of a poem, I will include at foot of this posting)
I didn't get the funding so maybe the answer didnt work.
And i don't know, but suspect risk aversive funding people just like sure things.
I also suspect the gold standard of randomized control trials was the only way to go for one panel member.
But the older i get, the less sure i am of rightness and wrongness.
When i was younger, i saw decisiveness as a good thing, and fence sitting as an inability to draw a conclusion.
In psychotherapy from an Assagioli tradition, it was about collapsing the point of tension too quickly. I personally found it uncomfortable to the point of distressing, to hold a point of tension.

I think about this differently now.
I have mellowed.

Applying a concept from Annemarie Mol's 'The body multiple' - reality is different for different players. I see this reflected in a review of elearning by Graham Attwell (2006).
Approaches re evaluation differ fundamentally with purpose, underpinning philosophy and ideological base. Different evaluations theories will be based on different assumptions about the way the world works and so models and practices based on those theories will be different as well. Despite this, the client base and majority of evaluation consumers, particularly in education are still wedded to the idea of objective evaluation and "finding the facts".
Attwell expands on this in several ways, one is about how the evaluator role is perceived, eg if seen as a judge or critical friend; how they conduct any evaluation and the conclusions drawn will vary.
In using ANT, my role is different again, I get to tell the stories, the performances witnessed.
"Evaluation theory also develops in a social context and practitioners work in different ways in different cultures, different sectors with different target groups, and different audiences. Consequently different approaches and models have tended to emerge based on these factors. For example, educational evaluation has developed along a different trajectory than for example health services. Theory in practice is a powerful determinant of evaluation approach and stakeholder perceptions and expectations of the evaluation process." (Attwell, 2006, p.19)
Here too, the performative turn is evident.

She asked me

She asked me if she took one pill for her heart
and one pill for her hips and one pill for her chest
and one pill for her blood
how come they would all know
which part of her body
they should go to?

I explained to her
That active metabolites in each pharmaceutical
would adopt spatial configuration
leading to an exact interface with receptor molecules
on the cellular surfaces of the target structures involved.

She told me not to bullshit her.

I told her that each pill had a different shape
And that her pills
could only work when both these shapes fit together.
She said I had no right
to talk about the shape of her body.

I said that each pill was a key
and that her body was ten thousand locks.

She said she was not going to swallow that!

I told her they worked by magic.

She asked me why I didn't say that in the first place.

Glenn Colquhoun (2002)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

evocative objects

In reading Sherry Turkle's (2007) book, Evocative objects. Things we think with. I am provoked; the essay on cell phones has yet to be written. In its absence i write the chapter myself. Fanfiction for the Fanfact world?

Objects speak in ways that destroy the simple stories of relating. This theme is enlarged upon in the writing of Bruno Latour (1996). In my own story, i too find complexity; a not so simple story of relating. In Turkle's book, each narrative is paired with a short excerpt drawn from theory, talking philosophy down to earth. The excerpt I have chosen is taken from Annmarie Mol's, "The body multiple."

...a philosophical narrative. If we focus on foregrounding the practices inside of which objects are handled, the far reaching effect is reality multiplies. If practices are foreground there is no longer a single passive object, instead objects come into being, and disappear, with the practices in which they are manipulated. This begs the question of how they are related. For even if objects differ from one practice to another, there are relations between these practices. Far from being fragments, these objects hang together, somehow. The question rather than uncovering some truth, is how are objects handled in practice. The objects handled in practice are not the same from one site to another; so how does the coordination between such objects proceed? And how do different objects that go under a single name avoid clashes and explosive confrontations? And might it be if there are tensions between them, various versions of an object sometimes depend on one another.
"If it is not removed from the reality that sustains it, reality is multiple."
Paraphrasing Ann Marie Mol, The body multiple. Ontology in medical practice.

My cell (mobile phone) is a bridge crossing distance, time, relationships and is integral in my transition.
She helps me manage my life, my engagements and disengagements.

The first cell (phone) was a present, then the present got a present, dressed up and personalised both on the inside (with her own directory of contacts, ringtones to differentiate mine from others...and also on the outside. A pretty cover to shelter her from an inclement environment such as being dropped, or the tortures of being stuffed in a pocket,a handbag or chucked in the car. Personalisation also decreased the risk of mistaken ownership; accidental or by theft.

I found she extended my reach; no more waiting by a phone for a call. Such a quaintness associated with memories of aged love.
Though the expectations of being forever available to the reach of others became a source of contention. "I tried to call you, turn your phone on." I wanted to throw her off the harbour bridge. I liked the convenience of calling out, I resented the intrusive beck and call nature it placed on my relationship. "Leave me messages that would make me want to hear you, i would reply. But I kept her; the ph. that is. And the relationship :)

She evolved, I still use prepay, and so there are reasonably frequent times when she's not topped up and i cant call or txt. Her charge holds fairly well- a few days at least, and her reception is considerably better than earlier incarnations. She's evolved, newer renditions have made her smaller, though her functionality is considerably enhanced. My functionality too has increased. I am more intune with her, I keep her on, she's almost always with me: keys, money, cell phone.
I am dependent; I have handed over part of my brain to her, she is now part of my external memory: for phone numbers, addresses, hairdressing appointments.... She is my surrogate timekeeper, alarm, clock, mini sized torch, camera... And security blanket.

I had a miscarriage while away on a writing retreat, and my cell became my best friend. Supported, she enabled me. I could stay in contact with the people i cared about, and who cared for me, as i got myself home the 200km needed. She contributed to my safety but also bridged love and belonging.

For my daughter, her cell too provides a sense of belonging, enhancing what it is to be human. Always tethered Turkle says, but there is also a knowing; a comfort that others are there. Anytime, always. She has friends, many of them, affirmed by a contact list. Security comes in a slim purple chic package of sophistication and aesthetic beauty. I feel safer in trusting the cell connection that our daughter can go further; do more. Tethered risk enhancement.

My cell has taught me a new language, txt. 160 characters or less shapes each message. I use even fewer:
c u soon.
am l8.
call me.
Am at *bucks
Each txt demonstrating variations on a theme:
I don't want to speak to you but will leave you a message.
I don't want to speak to you; either you or this message is of less financial value, than the pittance a call would cost.
I don't want to speak to you, but i need you to get it right- i txt what i want you to remember: there's the shopping list, the address, the time, there is no room for denial.
I want to know what you're doing, I remind you of my 'presence'. Do you respond? Do i still matter? i want you to know that i matter, im here, i care, i want you to care, notice me!

4 me 2 txt takes 2 hands, and reading glasses. I know im old when I txt. A default grammatical correction corrects me now in the use of my first language; i becomes I, but she does not know what to do with im. I choose to ignore the niceties of language construction. My sentences get shorter. My words shorten, was ok not short enough? K. My punctuation worsens and predictive txt brings a whole new level of confused relating.
"Dad has alot me rain"
Half a world away an answer, huh?

My cell is moody, she can be quiet in meetings, if I engage with her according to her rules. There is need to demonstrate the correct etiquette to make this happen. Neglected, she has a life of her own. She can at inopportune times draw attention to herself; our initial appointment with the school principal was interrupted by the attention seeking chirruping incoming txt message. At other times she spontaneously elects not to function. I nurture her, feed her with prepay, charge her up. In an act reminiscent of open heart surgery I open her up investigate her internal workings, take the battery out, remove her sim card, put her back together, watch for life to spring forth. She needs my care. And I am careful of her (one of her relatives was killed in a horrible washing machine incident). Smallness paradoxically increases some vulnerabilities but decreases others. She has learned to manage me better.
Our symbiotic relationship works. I am/We are technically co-dependent. Technologically enhanced, I am provocatively cyborg Donna Haraway (1991) expands on this shifting quality of the human species. A hybrid of machine and organism; we are shaped in relation to each other.

Having fun in the funhouse, with mirrors reflecting on mirrors on mirrors, I thought I had a cell phone, but now she has me.
"You think you have an organizer, but in time, your organizer has you" (Turkle, 2007, p. 310).
And you, thought you were reading a blog?
Has it taken you?
Reality is multiple.

Latour, B. (1996). Aramis: or the love of technology (C. Porter, Trans.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Haraway, D. (1991). "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century" in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature New York; Routledge.
Mol, A. (2002). The body multiple: ontology in medical practice. London: Duke University Press.
Turkle, S. (2007). Evocative objects. Things we think with. London; MIT Press.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Things we think with

We find it familiar to consider objects as useful or aesthetic, as necessities or vain indulgences. We are on less familiar ground when we consider objects as companions to our emotional lives or as provocations to thought. The notion of evocative objects brings together these two less familiar ideas, underscoring the inseparability of thought and feeling in our relationship to things. we think with the objects we love; we love the objects we think with.
(Turkle, 2007, p.5)
In the selection of essays edited by Sherry Turkle, each object brings together intellect and emotion, in each case, the author focuses not on the instrumental power or purpose but on the object as companion in life experiences. Turkle points to how a train is connecting emotional worlds and the mental space between computer keyboard and screen as creating erotic possibility.

I look at my daughter as her face lights up when she sees Finnish band HIM playing in NZ in March and secs later the mobile phone too is lit up, the appointment calandar loaded and txts sent. Its 11.00 at night in real time but for txt this doesn't matter. No family will be distrurbed, just the recipient- and if they did not want to receive txt they could have this component turned off, or on silent...we have discussed this before. (The teenager that lurks in her has 'all the answers.')

"We live our lives in the middle of things" says Turkle.
Turkle, with a psychoanalytic background emphasizes the emotional component. She makes links to Freud saying : the shadow of the object fell upon the ego.
And i think to myself, yes. The ego of young people seems held or contained in txting, a vulnerability less fragile. This is what my first interviews with a telephone/txt counsellor seems to endorse. When someone txt counselling sends an SMS txt that says I cant talk, there is the possibility that it is too hard emotionally.
Latour describes the sociotechnical involvement but not of such drives as ego. I recall cj's reminder that I should eschew structures, and I am back to following the actors on this one (I cant see them naming their practice as shaped by ego defence mechanisms and stories told need no imposed meanings ...)

She also cites Walt Whitman who said "a child went forth everyday/ and the first object he look'd upon, that object he became."
With my daughter I see the object and she have already morphed; extended as cyborg.
With foresight cj reminded me of Latour and the 'delegation of work to things not being simple'.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

potentially precarious

The network of relations are not all pulling together, sometimes they pull apart. The pushing and pulling on the strings that bind make for a precarious existence.
For txt messaging at Youthline, how useful is it that a sibling organisation, lifeline also uses txt, email and Internet postings? In part Lifeline's use provides credibility as a larger and more conservative organisation takes on practice that was innovative. Concurrently, this has been made possible through winning the contested funding. Its amazing that charitable organisations can work cooperatively when the processes shaping them encourage competition.
The Gods seem to be smiling on Youthline today; it is the Coca-Cola Christmas in the park tonight and it is not raining. This pulls on all the resources (people) Youthline can muster as its largest fundraising event. That the rain holds off contributes significantly to Youthline's wellbeing. The ability to raise charitable donations is to a large extent subject to the benevolence of God/s and/or the fickleness of Auckland's early summer weather.
There is the huge goodwill of volunteers, and also of paid employees (well beyond financial remuneration). What is it that creates the circumstances of giving the gift of time? (Titmuss wrote of this regarding the gift relationship; from human blood to social policy. What creates such philanthropy? What creates such philanthropy in NZ today? A whole new chapter to consider. A whole new thesis I suspect!).
There is also a funding war keeping the cost of txting down.
People dont use what doesnt work.
"People will use technology if it helps them, if it makes their lives better"
Stephen Downes said this regarding the 45-page guide to the evaluation of e-learning. The same might well be said of the use of txt, Internet postings, and email for counselling.
The philosopher in me struggles with such pragmatism, but here it is:
There is no pleasing everyone. Whats used, is used, to the extent that it is useful.
Sounds profound.
Might need to revisit this when the Oyster Bay wears off....
Circular arguments, and the profanity associated with such pragmatism, might not look so good in the morning :)

Pragmatism and fragility. hmmm.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Blogging the PhD

I was prompted today to consider the purpose of blogging while reading Biella's healthhacker blog triggered by a google alert on a particular writer, Anne Marie Mol. (I have her as an alert because she uses ant, shares a health focus, writes well of 'the performative turn' and utilised a creative writing style of a split screen between her own thinking and how this is informed by literature- a performance in its own 'write'.)

The reasons i blog; here they are, the unexpurgated version, Dec 2007:

1. my thoroughly modern supervisor suggested it
2. it helps me think! (writing creates my thinking, its not an after the fact activity)
3. being in the public domain forces me to be consider carefully; accuracy, acknowledgments, palatability- the approachability of what I write to a wider audience.
4. it links me to others who share similar methodology, or processes of study, or content; whether they know it or not.
5. provides for dialogue; real or imagined. Included here are my supervisor, other students (local and international, some I meet, most I never will), with colleagues, family, with myself.
6. provides a chronology of my own thinking and doing. (My methodology informed by ant follows Latour; he suggests 4 notebooks, one of which i have substituted with this blog- a chronology to keep track on the research process)
7. provides me a medium that hyperlinks to relevant resources; clouds that link me to other people's delicious use. And the software-
8. I am not limited to text or prose. i hyperlink, mindmap, use visual, auditary. The blog provides both actual and potential space for trials of creative writing.
9. its a playful forum, in many ways a forgiving forum, as i put it in take it off, move it around, wordsmith for impact.
10. Blogging allows for a work in progress to be shared, commented upon, revisited, reworked.
11. I stay writing, not as much by volume as i read, but time spent writing about what i read, or what i think, or can apply, to my areas of study, could be close to 50:50.
12. I 'perform' differently in this medium. The writing is less formal, less starchy.
13. I am shaped in doing this, and in this there is overlap with what i am studying- in (re)shaping practice, what is practice doing back. The exploring of how i am shaped in doing this provides for insights into how the medium shapes the message in counselling through use of txt, email and Internet postings. There is a walk the talk type quality. Havent started txting the PhD, yet ;)

So Whats different about doing this by blog rather than doing it in a notebook, using paper or a word doc?
a. Its still as public as i choose to let it be.
b. There is no doodling here, the medium and my artistic ability dont gel in the satisfying way of strokes on a page being pleasing aesthetically or soothing or whatever else my doodling suggests.
c. i dont have the satisfaction of crossing out, pushing the pen into a page, screwing up the page as a cathartic exercise. Moving to the delete bin doesnt quite do this.
d. I dont/didnt share as much in written hard copy formats. What i would have shared is so much more formal; i would feel compelled to have it at least halfway right, to be substantive, to look like chapters, essays. To look like a promising academic. The hard copy written format i find/found a slower more pensive engagement.

If you are visiting my site because of this posting linking to your own research purposes, or interest in blogging for academic purposes, please do leave me a post to let me know. Do you have similar reasons? what would you add? I will turn off the antispam number recognition thingy for a week (or as long as i can bear it) to make it easier (dont tell the spammers).

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

the strength of weak ties

"Strength does not come from concentration, purity and unity, but
from dissemination, heterogeneity and the careful plaiting of weak ties."
(Latour, 1997).
Plaiting the weak ties is the metaphor used in making a more durable entity: "...resistance, obduracy and sturdiness is more easily achieved through netting, lacing, weaving, twisting, of ties that are weak by themselves, and that each tie, no matter how strong, is itself woven out of still weaker threads..."
In applications of communications and computer technologies for counselling, there appears to be some strengthening of the weak ties; another actor is enrolled. Lifeline has launched txt messaging, and using an Internet based website for postings through a web page targeting young people with depression. This seems to add a little more substance to a 'novel' practice, the larger and arguably more conservative organisation seems to add a veneer of respectability to a method of counselling considered suspect by others.
I really want to follow this lead... it is a new endeavour for lifeline, being launched 3/12/07. Youthline's text service began December 2004 and Internet postings much earlier with the launch of the Urge website. One aspect argued by the CEO OF Youthline in an October 2007 press release was about not reinventing the texting wheel. The competitive funding model to my mind, continues to put services up against each other. The potential is that threads unravel.

A further musing installment on the question: what is occurring as counselors (re)shape their practice; and what is practice doing back?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Beam me up Scotty

I am just waiting for the newspaper competition of fill in the thought bubble: Tell me again why I should spend less time with the people I love and more time with strangers?
etiquette involved in martyrdom and suffering seems superfluous to many. The use of phone booths could be subject to an ant informed analysis, predating Dr Who and the TARDIS, the need to have a booth compensated for the vulnerability of the technology and the quality of the connection. Arguably such factors helped to create the expectation that calls occur privately. Current advances in audibility and portability may be aiding and abetting the publicly displayed intimacies that others find surprizing if not offensive.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Ubiquitous cell phone as common as muck

The worlds population reached 6,634,294,193 yesterday (at least according to International Programs Center of the US Census Bureau)
And cell phone subscriptions reached half this number...
Perhaps minus one
Please note, saturation of the worlds population with cell phones is not 50%; many of us have more cell phones than we know what to do with!
I confess to having more cell phones in my family than people (its useful to have a spare for people from o/s, or for when one goes down, gets washed, dies (cell phone I meant).
My last poll in a large lecture class showed all but one student had a cell phone, many had more than one, several confessed to living in households where the numbers were in excess of the people. I am not alone.
NZ Prime Minister Helen Clarke confessed she has 3, and arguably has found texting a useful diversion during Monarchy and Heads of State addresses. Nice to know she is multi-talented, and up with the play. I like this in a PM.
I can wonder if she was receiving the aussie updates on polling or playing that cute duck game with the traintrack you have to construct...
I like problem solving if not hand eye coordination in a PM too.
Sadly she cant remember; this is a less positive attribute in a PM :(
I wonder when she's going to get her own Bebo page so i can add her to my list of friends :)

On a more serious note, the use of cell phones is fast becoming a very normal practice. The rate of change as people debate the etiquette, the good, the bad, demonstrates how change is negotiated.
My description of cell phone use for counselling seemed to cause consternation amongst the group of psychotherapists I conversed with at a recent social event. Shock horror, I still have social outings... but there seemed to be furtive glancing about, as if a sudden need for crosses, holy water, garlic or stakes. I went looking for the chardonnay.
After all i might need a glass to put out my smoking paw...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

only in hindsight

It looks so easy to birth a gadget at least according to Wired magazine. (Gads, why did i have a child ...)
But the ease of conception is true only with hindsight, a more realistic rendition of change is described by Czarniawska & Joerges (in Weick & Quinn, 1999, p. 362)

First there were losses, then there was a plan of change, and then there was an implementation, which led to unexpected results.

So where are the losses, the blood on the floor, the relationships won & lost. And what of the unexpected results...
The retrospective application suggests there was but one route to an end. Not immaculate conception, but according to this representation, a well planned conception. I wonder what really happened?
Too-ing and fro-ing, reshaping, contamination, adaptation, translation...
Reality is much messier outside of biblical Genesis stories.
Fascinating; the performance of a clean story.
No smut, no blood on the floor,so what is the story's pulling power?
Do we like to simplify to pretend that its easy? Does this make it more likely that we might enroll others? Does tidiness have this attraction? Are we that gormless?
Give me a decent plot any day and a decent analysis.
When social science tries to deal with things that are complex, diffuse, and messy, the answer John Law argues, is that it tends to make a mess of it. Simple clear descriptions do not work well when the stuff itself is incoherent. The attempt to be clear, increases the mess.
For further reading, see After method. Mess in social science research by John Law.
The story in Wired is superficial, so much so that it might aptly be considered a work of fiction, but still fiction too is a performance in its own right.
I find it so hard to humbly accept that the actors might know what is going on.
I am struggling with letting go of critical analysis.
But i guess no one asked the writer... the editor...the reader...
However, as a reader, I'm not persuaded; the simplistic rendering has made a mess of it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Drowning in description

I lost the plot.
And revisited Bruno Latour

Professor — So… I take it that you are a bit lost?
Student — Well, yes. I am finding it difficult, I have to say, to apply Actor Network Theory to my case study in organisations.
Professor — No wonder— it isn’t applicable to anything!
Student — But we were taught… I mean… it seems like hot stuff around here. Are you saying it’s really useless?
Professor — [ANT's] a theory, and a strong one I think, but about how to study things, or rather how not to study them. Or rather how to let the actors have some room to express themselves.

So, no more discourse analysis.
I'm a slow learner.
The discourse analysis was a means to considering how txt is shaped by the cell phone. That being invisible to each other requires questions of identity and of clarification. That the first letter is default capitalised, that there are 160 characters incl blanks so messages are constrained.
(so why do people write txt as short as poss? They rarely use 160, seems the average would be between 50-70)
Back to following the actors....

Professor — ... I would abstain from frameworks altogether. Just describe the state of affairs at hand.
Student — ‘Just describe’. Sorry to ask: but is this not terribly naïve? ...
P — Because you think description is easy? ...I have, myself, always found this incredibly demanding.... we go, we listen, we learn, we practice, we become competent, we change our views. Very simple really: it’s called field work. Good field work always produces a lot of new descriptions.
S — But I have lots of descriptions already! I’m drowning in them. That’s just my problem. That’s why I’m lost and that’s why I thought it would be useful to come to you. Can’t ANT help me with this mass of data? I need a framework!
P —‘My Kingdom for a frame!’. Very moving; I think I understand your desperation. But no, ANT is pretty useless for that. Its main tenet is that actors themselves make everything, including their own frames, their own theories, their own contexts, their own metaphysics, even their own ontologies… So the direction to follow would be more descriptions, I am afraid... if your description needs an explanation, it’s not a good description, that’s all. Only bad descriptions need an explanation. It’s quite simple really....I have never seen a good description in need of an explanation. But I have read countless numbers of bad descriptions to which nothing was added by a massive addition of ‘explanations’! And ANT did not help…

I just revisited cj's advice on data collecting, its succinct:
stay broad, eschew structures

back to following the actors...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

help, not waving, drowning: Discourse analysis of SMS

I am not strong on discourse analysis.
I spent one summer trying to read Foucault and this convinced me two summers doing this would be unwise.
Please help. seriously.
This is not my intended methodology, but it may prove useful. If you are experienced in discourse or even curious regarding the application to an intriguing application, please play with me here. Beginning with a toe in the water rather than full immersion because i don't like drowning, here is my tentative discourse analysis of a series of txt messages in counselling. (Feel free to push me in deeper if needed, or tell me to get out of the water....)
This series of interactions are from one side of a txting counselling scenario.
(The stream of txt was never seen, it is based in reality rather than actual reflection of reality. To do any type of data collection wherein one does not have the consent of the authors of the text is not ethically defensible. To do discourse analysis on a reported composite of a text is also methodologically dubious. This is a work of fiction).

1. "I just want to disappear"
2. "I cant talk"
3. "what diff email"
4. "r you a counsellor"

Discourse analysis
line 1, an opening, a cry for help, a reaching out.
Txted to a 'netherworld" an unknown entity. The txter doesnt know the person who will receive it, Maybe the anonymity helps. A confirmation of no one responding might confirm the sense of disappearing. There seems an ambivalence, will i disappear, am i disappearing, do people notice me. There is also an 'i want to' do i hurt so much i just want to vanish, i just want it to end?
(Did you notice that, I switched from 3rd person to first, not only do i project in, i begin to imagine myself in...)

line 2, a response to an invitation to talk further. The counsellor has responded (affirming the person for making contact, acknowledging their distress or difficulty, and inviting the person to use a ph line to talk about it). Line 2 rejects using a phone. "I cant" without punctuation. Punctuation is extra difficult on a cell. Plus it may or may not be known by the sender. Or may not be important to the sender, it takes extra time and it doesn't significantly alter the message. But the message in its brevity remains ambiguous. I cant talk because its too distressing (I cant talk because I have no money on my phone? I cant talk because others will hear? ...)
The use of capitals for I, is probably auto generated on the cell phone.

line 3, responding to the counsellor suggesting other options, seeking clarification on those options. The txt is truncated, a word is shortened and syntax condensed presenting an incomplete sentence. The meaning is sufficiently clear regarding a clarification request. There is another quality though, the person sending the message is engaged in concrete specific concerns. The concern though becomes about the equipment, how do i , rather than this is what i am distressed about. My sense is not that there is no difference in that 'i' cant talk regardless of the medium. But a seeking of clarification, i may not want to verbalise it because its distressing. 'i' might be able to enter into an email dialogue if 'i' can see a reason.

line 4, in the invisible space of txting whose on the other end seems to need checking, asking. Just as with internet cartoon where noone knows your a dog, in txting too no one knows whose there. sex is indeterminate, age is indeterminate, role is indeterminate. If I can enter into conversation via txt with you, is it because you are a counsellor and this seems ok so far and i might generalise from this counsellors therefore seem safe. Or is it a question of if i take the next step will i see you. Interesting some words truncate some dont. The use of the cell phone and the ease of some words versus others?

Please, I am really happy to receive input on this naive analysis and will now go (internet) surfing to reduce my naivity.

Other theory relevant:
Sproull and Kiesler (1991) regarding emails say "people talk with other people but they do so alone". This too explains the need for checking out who is the person at the end of the txt receiving "my' message. In addition,they write of the conventions for communicating being weak - This may be reflected in the question of are you a counsellor- who are you, what are you, as well as other conventions of social practices such as grammar being weaker.
Constance, Sproull and Kiesler (1996) Reflect on the kindness of strangers and the strength of weak ties.
Turkle (I think, but i cant find this so maybe it is more Sproull and Kiesler) talk of the projection onto messages. In the absence of more cues- tone, body language and the amount of information exchanged, there is a tendency to read more into a message- project more onto the message- than is actually there.
Bloch (2002) said email is used for creating and sustaining relationships. and also
showed email not just about language but is also about negotiating identity in a way not done in a classroom. Suggests in a counseling scenario there is also the use for negotiating identity, who am I, who are you, can we work together.
Rich Ling, Telenor R&D (2005) on discourse analysis of sms in Norway: note that its cheap, relatively unobtrusive (can be done silently), they describe sms as an "odd duck": the size of the screen limits readability, the 160 character limitation of screen, the lack of traditional of keyboard. They also discuss the differences Male to Female with female being more attentive to emotion, to flourishes of writing (punctuation), longer messages male average 5.54 vs female average 6.94, females also use more salutations. I wonder if use by women is greater as women, at least stereotypically maintain connection, relationships. Its also cheaper to sms than a ph call, and maybe women have less discretionary income. These writers also identify the liklihood of first letter capitalisation because of a default mechanism.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

do u txt b4 sex?

am i the only parent of a teenager distressed about txt for a condom?
I am seriously concerned, not because condoms will be mailed out, but because two days later, or however long the post takes, is just not going to do it. Please, if a condoms needed, the mail service aint going to be of much help till its too late. Whats needed has got to be a sub 60 minute courier service!
condom alarm
Might take even longer if it has to cross the Tasman, but I found this also and although it targets a different group, on the end of a cell no one knows who you are. I do remember passion, and I dont remember it patiently waiting for mail.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Things that go bump


And then
something went BUMP!
How that bump made us jump!

I am musing about the right word/s to use. I want to demonstrate a second rendition of the network I am studying, the first was just a whose who, I am now finding that its not enough- the people who connect are only one facet of whats going on. And dare i say it for a counselling modality, they may not be the most important part!!!! So back to looking at whats going on, and i thought I'd place it here, but even imposing a title gets problematic.
As Latour himself says the actor network theory and the hyphen are all problematic.
One step at a time: The actors. The language assumes masculinity and actresses doesnt make it any better. Actants then. yuk. sounds like a chemical reagent.
Things that go bump...are not always human.
Latour is critical of the word Network and despite thinking i knew what hhe was on about, I still fell into this one. Just mapping those i connected with and how they were connected with others gave me a bit of the picture, but it was more about who was important to me in what I'm studying. Not the purpose of the study. Mapping the network in this way was not effective. To put it crudely; its not a sewer sytem. And this 'network' doesnt just flow one way.
So more words:
Typology: lists with out substance.
Topographic: a topographic map characterized by large-scale detail and quantitative representation of relief, usually using contour lines. But its static
Chorography: a systematic, detailed description and analysis of a region or regions. OK, slightly better but it doesnt encompass the alive nature, or the influence of one's self in the analysis.

Two words describe it better, but connotations need clarifying, and the rationale for long words is that short ones dont quite do it:
Ontology: the connotations in health tend to be about disease development and particularly cancer development. However, here is a word that describes the push and pull, and the 'alive' state of a network. From my online thesaurus:
1. A systematic account of Existence.
2. (From philosophy) An explicit formal specification of how to represent the objects, concepts and other entities that are assumed to exist in some area of interest and the relationships that hold among them.

1. the art of composing ballets/dances and planning and arranging the movements, steps, and patterns of dancers.
2. the arrangement or manipulation of actions leading up to an event.

Ann Marie Mol talks of the network as ontological choreography. And i confess to finding the language distancing. (Makes note to self: sounds academic but doesnt make the work readable).
Meantime, here is a draft on the choregraphed ontology of a txt counseling message :) The confidential nature of counselling meant that this is a 'for instance' type of counselling scenario, a composit of scenarios rather than an individuals experience.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

iphone: therefore I am

Time magazine 2007, November 19.Invention of the year
The phone, a mobile phone, not just any phone; the iphone.
Time's stated reasoning:
Its pretty 'surface is depth'
Its touchy-feely
It will make other phones better
Its not a phone: Its a platform
What will come will be better.
A huge indictment on Time magazine to grant magnamity based not on what is, but on what may come! And not for what it is: a phone, but on iphones not being a phone...
Whats left: its pretty and it feels good.
i want one.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

whose acting when I'm acting?

Wendy saw the shadow on the floor, looking so draggled, and she was frightfully sorry for Peter. "How awful!" she said...
Fortunately she knew at once what to do. "It must be sewn on," she said, just a little patronisingly.
... and sewed the shadow on to Peter's foot.

"I daresay it will hurt a little," she warned him.
"Oh, I shan't cry," said Peter, who was already of the opinion that he had never cried in his life. And he clenched his teeth and did not cry, and soon his shadow was behaving properly, though still a little creased.

...Peter, boylike, was indifferent to appearances, and he was now jumping about in the wildest glee. Alas, he had already forgotten that he owed his bliss to Wendy. He thought he had attached the shadow himself. "How clever I am!" he crowed rapturously, "oh, the cleverness of me!"
It is humiliating to have to confess this conceit ...

Just like Peter, my dark side gets left behind, and it takes effort to restore my shadow.
Creating the online persona takes active work, whether in 2nd life where self creation is overt, or on a blog space. There is still work in constructing as well as in deleting and hiding the unintended.
So in my blog I have blogs that never see the light of day, but saved as drafts they maintain thoughts, and chronology for me.
The shadow.
The stuff that would be unwise to shout in a lecture room, the stuff that would be stupid to have in a cv.
While tripping through delicious blogs I tripped up on thoughts on the less intentional profile

The unintended profile can publicly display my predilection for what I save, whether its music or websites or articles or my reading (self conscious and belatedly I note the trashy murder mystery is not listed in what I'm reading)....delicious puts some of me out there, but is it a part i want?
I find myself thinking twice (or more) about do i put this in endnote or in delicious... such as revolting articles involving a darker side of text or social media...
The intimate feeling created between myself and my laptop is deceptive, if i choose to hit post, a part of me is in the public domain.
I found myself surprized by the updated mindmapping tool, a work in progress. But a visible one. A widget so I should have known it would remain current...I embedded it in a blog, now i need to be careful about what's in; whats out.
I was surprized by my weather pixie dressing herself with logos in my blog, but i also found myself editing out names of logos that i have a problem with...
So, do I deidentify myself? or create myself deliberately without a shadow?
The foucodian panoptican is fully functioning here.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

actor net working

Using, thanks to a link on mindmapping and tracing connections on
A piece of free social software that lets me trace connections. Posting this edition, lets me demonstrate the starting phase of data collecting post ethics, in this research performance. You can move it to centre it, increase by zooming in... My posting it is more to keep a chronology going (as per Latour's suggestion of notebooks for different purposes).

Monday, November 05, 2007

How to do something worthwhile and have fun doing it

Unashamed advertising.
"Needed 400 volunteers for Coca-cola Christmas in the Park!!!"
Youthline is NZ s most recognized help site for young people. Its also best in terms of having a social life while having a social conscience. If you're keen to donate but can't afford it, try donating time...
8th Dec Auckland. Contact •
Any queries to or phone Caleb Butcher 09-361- 4167
If you still send christmas cards: $10.00 a pack of ten,
cool, blank inside, by leading designers: P Money, Trelise Cooper, Jon Bridges

Saturday, November 03, 2007

feeling used

Insidious use of product placement on my blog!
i just noticed the product placement on my weather pixie today, apple logo on her tshirt and carrying, i think, a clamshell apple ibook. Just as well i like apples, but am still feeling mildly used....
If other companies i do not have an affinity for, start dressing her I will have to revisit our friendship.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

evidence based practice

And where can i get some?
I am finding it hard to move on.
The day job has a mountain of marking, the family juggling has my mum in hospital after a fall and after a further fal while in hosp, a broken hip. The PhD would benefit from some uninterrupted dedicated thinking and data collecting time.

Meantime I have had reason to revisit my ethics application using the NEAF Australain system.
4.2.9 (c) The research aims to benefit the category of children or young people to which this participant belongs
The target group for Youthline is young people aged 14 years to 24 years. The research aims to benefit young people who access Youthline counselling involving text messaging, message board postings or email.
The purpose of the research is to investigate the use of text messaging, message board postings and email for counselling so that there is a better understanding of how these services are received, as well as provided, and to inform the shaping of services to best meet the needs of young people. There is currently no evidence base for practice in the provision of text messaging for counselling. There is no research in the transformation of a telephone counselling agency moving from verbally mediated counselling to include the use of txt and text mediated counselling. There is no research in the transformation from verbal to text mediated services of a telephone counselling agency whose target group is young people. There is local and international research identifying txt as a predominant mode of communications for young people (BBC News, 2004; Joyce & Weibelzahl, 2006; Statistics New Zealand, 2006).
The proposed research is responsive to having services shaped by and for young people. Requiring parental consent for young people has at times hampered research into adolescent health and is described as unethical when it is a barrier to participation, research validity, and improving health outcomes in response to research findings (Dagmer, Sanci, Patton, & Sawyer, 2005; Renzetti & Lee, 1993; Sanci, Sawyer, Weller, Bond, & Patton, 2004). To deny the participation particularly of young people who are estranged from their parents, or who are wary of parental involvement, denies an evidence base for practice that could result in improvements to health care as a result of the research.
There is no other group that the information could be obtained from.

Just sometimes, having an evidence base for practice feels incredibly important.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

how (not) to get funding

I didn't get to make a difference, the funding application fell over.
Things I learned:
1. It does help to make the application stand out, TXT gained attention
2. Saying you would do it with or without funding doesn't work.
3. Size matters, Starlings law: the bigger it gets the harder it is to squeeze.
Should have known this; its easier to love puppies, kittens, babies...pheromone quotients are high for fledglings.
3. Philanthropy likes desperation.
4. Decisions on funding endeavours for youth should be made by youth.

Moving on:

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Research possibilities in social networked spaces

Research possibilities in social networked spaces is an area i have been thinking about with regard to my own study on texting, internet message board postings and email counselling. In gaining ethical approval and in not wanting to damage an online community in any way, i am looking at self reported experiences rather than actual client experiences. I was beginning to get quite despondent about the research validity and reliability. When research occurs how do we know that everything involved is not contrived, if I want to study handwashing then self reporting is obviously going to give a different measure than observations. The presence or absence of reality was getting torturous. Sherry Turkle and Donna Harraway have convinced me that the borders of reality/unreality are blurred. I began to consider that all research is contrived to some extent, it all leaves a footprint, alters the events.... and then i began to think so the best i can do is virtual research in a virtual world. If i were an ethnographer in 2nd life then i might have observations, but again is it of any value, can it be useful for others in a terrestrial life... Fortunately some reading got me out of this funk. Bruce Mason's article Issues in virtual ethnography reminded me of actor network theory (as if i could forget....but had!) Latour says: follow the actors. So whether they are in this reality or a virtual one doesn't matter ....trace the connecting. Its of no real issue inside of ANT as to whether its a real person- its an actor, just stay with the actor in or out of whats called reality, trace the connecting through cyberspaces.
ANT is described in similar terms to a CSI programme, trace connections, let the evidence speak, doesnt need to be human (or a live human...) to be given voice. So I thought i would check out the soon to be released CSI that traverses 2ndlife:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

In my second life

Phoebe, despite feeling chronologically aged in this environment, can now manage to make and stack bricks like a toddler. I dont know if anyone has studied growth and development in secondlife, but i seem to be going through phases i last went through decades ago, learning gross motor movement before fine motor movement... I think I'm now in a stage best described as 'parallel play'. I can even dress myself!
In an extreme makeover Phoebe got the harjuku look she had been dying for:

Saturday, October 06, 2007

new media, new literacies, new teaching and learning

More on holding on and letting go.
There are so many questions raised in using social software in education; its huge, grows and evolves daily... so even getting a handle on what it is, poses difficulties.
Sheldon Kopp suggests, even a stone can be a teacher.
And just as surely social software can too.
But its about how and about the purposes and about having a match between the means as well as the ends in education.

In the brilliant discussion that I could only access because of socialsoftware, Sandy McAuley on the edtechtalk new literacies media panel at UPEI Sept 29 suggests any integration of new technologies should consider:
1. What problem is it trying to solve?
2. Whose problem is it?
3. What new problems are going to be created with the solution proposed?

I like the thoughtfulness here, there are no solutions or evangelizing of rightness or wrongness in the use of social software or of Web2.0 in teaching, just a thoughtful regard for whats involved.

In applying this to my research, the integration of txt for mediating counselling, this suggests looking at who wants it and for whom does this generate a problem.
Young people seem to be wanting it, txt seems a preferred means of communicating for this group. This might be cost driven, might be ego protecting, might be something else, but seems young people esp expect to be able to engage in this way and as a first choice.
Whose problem is it? Organisations that work with young people and especially organisations whose service is primarily communicating with young people, youth counseling by a telephone agency is obvious but also teaching and learning places ... Universities who want to notify students might consider greater use of this medium. For example, student support 1st year experience team contact students who haven't met assessment deadlines. (A new funding model with an emphasis on student success makes us more attentive to students not achieving). When its done by mail this tended to add a week to the drawn out process of not having got work in on time and didnt always get to the person anyway. Then it got a bit faster using email; but there seemed an increased likelihood that those most needing of the message were also most likely too be transient and least likely to have fixed abodes or Internet access. T'da the cellphone, these ubiquitous devices are everywhere. Seems every student has (at least) one (need to do a quick survey at my next class).
The problem involves evolving the services. Sometimes this is easy as with the example here, sometimes its about getting others (particularly the 'grown ups' to think txt friendly).

This leads to the next question, what new problems? This area is the unknown, some things we anticipate, some things we don't, and how do we alter as what we are altering alters us... This is the main area of my study. It (IT) alters counselling, can it still be counselling when its the 160 characters or less fitting the face of a cellphone?... Does it alter the people involved, does it assist those already socially avoidant to remain socially avoidant? .... Might it increase the likelihood of prank "ph calls' when the 'caller' is not seen or heard....But it may also decrease these as the traceability is more overt with numbers visible...
Bottomline, is it seen as useful by the target group- whats there experience, their hopes, does their use increase, decrease....Does it assist in making connections with a group who might not otherwise...

Dave Cormier suggests the social software opportunities create alterations in scale. He describes teaching in a room of 20 vs teaching when there is potential to connect with the world; a class with access is different. The boundaries have gone, its no longer me and the students, its the world. He takes this a step further suggesting the production of what is knowledge similarly alters. And that the transparency of learning also increases.
AND So does the transparency in teaching. On blackboard or whatever, what i do becomes highly visible. I'm feeling a Foucaudian panacopia coming on so it must be time to let go ...
Will Richardson idenitifies that maybe schools & learning institutions can't manage this. It is too much the square peg in the round hole... that schools cant change this much, letting go of the control of learning being be too much ...

So back to Leunig,
holding it gently ...
knowing that letting go will be just as important.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

holding on and letting go

Do an internet search for Leunigs holding on and letting go cartoon, its a special piece advising one to hold on as one might a day old chicken, or a live fish, or the queens handbag....and that letting go is a whole new area to be managed in another cartoon, another day.
In making change happen, the hype isnt enough.
No matter how evangelical the early adopters might be, this isnt enough.
No matter how sparkly the innovation, the sparkle does not create its own S shaped curved trajectory.
To make change happen in Health promotion there is a mantra about making the healthy choice, the easy choice.
Sometimes this is about letting go- recognising habits, letting go of whats comfortable, identifying goals, creating opportunities for doing things differently ...
Leunig's cartoon wisdom on how to hold on points to this.
Latour, Callon, Law all point to this. Actor network theory identifies the 'work' involved but it still seems that the letting go is often bypassed when talking about change. I have just been reading futurelab 2006 on social software and learning networks. Little regard was given to what would have to be unmade, unattached.
Looking at what maintains the status quo is as important as strategizing implementation.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Your panties are showing, the dark side of a novel medium

A literal novel use for the ubiquitous mobile:
NZ Herald , pge B4 Fri Sept 28,
Tom Leonard, a New York writer, has an article on the writing of novels on the screen of a cell phone.
Tracking the story, an earlier form of the story in the Wall Street Journal identifies that in
Japan novelists find a novel way of writing stories
Of the 10 Japanese bestsellers in 2007, half apparently started life as keitai novels.
A mobile phone novel website, Maho i-land, started 7 yrs ago and now lists a million novels. In Japan, more than 3 million text based novels were sold in the first half of the year, literally outstripping pulp (tree based) fiction!

The prose seems to have accommodated the medium, its described as heavier in dialogue, and has less descriptive build up of scene or of characters: and has short paragraphs.
I think its probable that the writers and readers as well as the screen size have influence. A network of actors at play/work.
Still, the medium is the message- working with this medium involves being contained by the small screen. Construction accommodates the constraints: the work arounds involve fitting the (small)screen. Thinking becomes blank areas, spoken speech takes as few words as possible to get meaning across... some critiques of the genre suggest this is similar to comic culture...
It might also be that the writers having a preference for particular types of literature, manga being a cited example.

manga characters

differ from their anime counterparts in both visual design and characterization. The manga has more "ecchi" and whimsy, but certain aspects of the plot are darker.

k, maybe the panties were too dark an example, but its a snapshot of the genre.

A preference for dialogue over scenery or character depth is portrayed, whether its readers and writer preference or cell screen sized influence.

I can't see the thesis being written on a cell phone...however

is huge. (I do not need to worry about my teenage daughters reading or writing, it just looks different when it involves fanfiction, the books are less visible).
It would be easy to say, but its just a tool, the reading and writing still happen. But it is more than a tool, this tool has extra 'special effects'. The reader chooses whether or not be a passive audience, whether or not to be an isolated one. While still awaiting the favourite authors next installment, , these readers are writing the next alternate installment, prequel or sequel! And actively contribute to shaping each others work by providing each other feedback on their writing.

So audience, you have your topic....
The thesis: how mediums used for counseling are both shaped and shaping.
The study: to be informed by Actor network theory.
What comes next?????

still waiting
still ...

write it?


Image obtained from
Rah_manga_panties.jpg‎ (300 × 299 pixels, file size: 53 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg)
Source: Momose Takeaki; Izubuchi Yutaka (2004). Kit Fox. ed. RahXephon Vol. 1. trans. Joe Yamazaki. San Francisco, CA: VIZ Media. ISBN 1591164079.
Website reproduction:
Original manga ©2001 Yutaka Izubuchi / Takeaki Momose / Shogakukan
Translated text ©2004 Viz Media (Viz LLC)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

afraid of the dark?

I was running a counselling training group for Youthline when the lights went out. My co-facilitator was part way through saying "is anyone afraid of"(with one person saying me) the dark. She had her cell phone out and had altered the backlighting faster than the sentence could be completed. Within 2 mins I also had a txt from my home alone teenage daughter saying the lights were out followed by a tearful phone call. The effect of too many horror movies were quickly relieved in being able to say that the lights were out where we were too. No personalized axe murderers, stalkers just for her.
Having learned very quickly from my student, I could advice re the use of the mobile as a torch and she could then find candles.
Being an aging hippy I had missed the learning of how to use cell phones at a concert..." "dangerous little devices these cell phones" Bono, U2
Here's an ANT informed rather gorgeous study by Chris Chesher of U2 creating the milky way using cell phones. The ubiquitous cell phone can:
1. make and receive ph calls (21stC daughter thinks it hilarious that anyone would ever have stayed home all night waiting for a boyfriend to ring)
2. send and receive txts,
3. leave and retrieve messages,
4. a means to check weather,
5. play music,
6. play games,
7. take, send, and or store store photos, videos,
8. a reminder of appointments,
9. my alarm when travelling
10. CSI forensic location tracking device
11. something for the self conscious to do with their hands now that smoking is frowned on,
12. a means of establishing social cred,
13. a means of political activism,
14. creating the milky way
15. and a torch.....

Not surprizing then that teenage daughter couldn't work out how to function without her cell this weekend past- no money on the prepay. I naively suggested the cute invention of landlines, but no, speaking to anyone was to be avoided.
Or of using a computer to send an SMS, no- they wont know whose txting (say what? I know you can add that in the message)
There's an attachment here that I could barely figure (if the hard drive hadnt died on my laptop recently, i dont think i could have empathized at all).

How to write funding applications

I want 2b all i can be & more
2live 2learn
2b a conscious human b ing
2think 2feel 2act
i want by understanding me
2 understand others
i want 2b all that i am capable of
& then i want 2 work & 0 <

Sorry, that last bit got a bit too cryptic;
"and nothing less"
How to write a funding application to make a world of difference in 160 characters or less ;) can it fit on the face of a cell phone?
My apologies to Katherine mansfield, I am sure she would see the funny side.
How you propose to make a difference, what skills or experience do you have that will benefit your chosen organization? In 350 words or less list your relevant skills passions and personal attributes whether they come from life experience or education your skills, your passion.
On being short with words Ernest Hemingway when challenged wrote an entire story in 6 words:
For sale: baby shoes: never used.

Such succinctness, sweetness and sadness.
Or as Phoebe said to Monica on Friends "going out with your last boyfriend's son is like going out with a Greek tragedy!" It's all there.

I am still scrambling with the word count, how to fit it in a nutshell, deleting the social niceties and trying not to be terse to the point of arrogance, make the words short, simple. Spell check it, use the active voice, Say it once, say it well. Cut the 'ands', use the comma, the semicolon...
Please, if you have knowledge or ideas on grant applications I will be happy to receive your wisdoms, humorous, helpful, real or just fun :) even commiserations :(

Saturday, September 15, 2007

how to write a thesis

Havent even got there yet, but even the steps of writing between where i am now and where i want to be continues to be in very small steps.
“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.” Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900)

In simplifying a plain language statement for a young audience, i began with may, I changed it to will, put it in, took it out...
I learnt how to use track changes, but halfway through learnt how to make it say it was me rather than my workplace that was doing the editing....then started again so I would look like a competent being.
I now need to proofread; and if not careful could find myself editing down to the blank page...
It might never be as good as i want it, but as Latour advises, "a good thesis is a finished one".

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

not articulated very well, a darth vader moment

Sherry Turkle, suggests therapists take Second Life seriously as tool for understanding their clients’ innermost thoughts and desires- "playing out the self that they want to explore....It’s not always who they want to be. Sometimes they can be exploring a dark side of themselves.”

This is a blog.
I use it as an unreal place, a musing space.
If I thought i wouldnt get lost in space, i could separate, compartmentalize or distribute myself, so that in this place it was only the phd stuff, but then I might want or need a different place for the higher ed stuff and a different place for the bits that are not work nor phd stuff.
I know my capacity to compartmentalize is not that efficient.

Welcome to the dark side.

The rapid movement between superhero/cyborg and Darth Vaderish dark moments seem more pronounced in a medium that only punctuates the moments. The reference to cutting and pasting now seems larger than the muse it was meant to be.
Maybe Ulises of Ideant fame might see this as an example of being nodal centric- we attend most to the nodes in a network, the actors, what is indelible. (I confess to skim reading what I found quite dense- If I understood it at all). However, what is not seen, is not necessarily not influential. Thats what the chardonnay does- makes for very convoluted sentences (even though the wine is invisible now also). But its a lot harder to give credence to actors, actants, and translations that are fleeting. Similarly, it must be quite hard to choose which ones to focus on in any research write up. In the writing, some things just look larger than intended. And in the reading also.

Friday, September 07, 2007

when i grow up i'm going to be a cyborg superhero!

Some light relief on being a doctoral student and educator out to change the world...

I have the power!

I have the knickers!

And I have the email and txt messaging to keep me busy for a very long time!
Feel free to join me, change the world!

Thanks to superheroine anya ixchel for pointing the way

Transformation Kit(free) available on line!
Now all i need is all the other ANT assemblages to aggragate.
Latour and Law identify that making stuff happen involves hard work & hidden masses. Star takes it further with invisible work.... and Mol with performance...
I'm finding i need more than the cut and paste knickers...

My hard drive died,the spinning ball, mouse freezing crashing stuff eventually caught up with me,"sigh".
My new macbook pro is cute,comes with mega power but doesnt know how to talk to itself or resurrect old files such as my blog searcher engine thingy or its history of a years searchings.... am feeling somewhat over-rated as a superheroine cyborg.
Wont give up the day job(s) just yet.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The joy of txt


silent loquacity,
taciturn turn taking.
160 signs, or less.

Pleae add to the joys of txting;
1. Haiku anytime, anywhere.
2. As appointment reminders
3. Volunteer roster reminders
4. pull down short bites of health promotive content...

Seriously; I am looking at the positive contributions of a txting world, how might txt be used in working with young people?
Is it a signpost for other services, or can it be the service itself???
What are the application possibilities 4 txt counselling?
Please- no advice re phone sex.
This is a serious inquiry

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

computer literacy and academic literacy

A further discussion of adult literacies.
This argument - that there is nothing wrong with cut and paste- pressupposes that the sources are acknowledged, to do less being academic theft.

The university I work at has recently started using turnitin,software to detecct plagiarism. Having used it and discovered that a few, maybe 1-2%, have aproblem in writing there own thoughts, I'm prompted to consider whats wrong with a cut and paste culture and just maybe there is nothing wrong with it.
The advantages:
Clearly delineates what is not the students own work
The disadvantages: the risk is that no knew thinking is generated- or at least that there is no evidence of new thinking generated- so maybe the task of academics becomes a little harder- how do we know what a student learns if they dont put it out there.

A further tangent to consider is that maybe its the way of our future? The use of cut and paste is so easy, there's an accuracy that cant be denied in using the authors own words, a bricolage or tapestry- stream of multiple persons consciousness on a theme.
The adult literacies of a future could be establishing the knowledge base (just like a lit review does) And then be followed by the authors own discussion.

In reading danah boyd, on social networking, she makes a link to
Copy and Paste Literacy? Literacy Practices in the Production of a MySpace Profile.]

In this article by Perkel, the making of identity within a social network (myspace) is discussed, the cutting and pasting of othereness creating an identifiable self.
Its a fascinating article.

The concept of otherness in creating self can be taken further. With a little tweaking informed by ANT, this could be described as being 'othertaken'.
In Latour's, Reassembling the social, he identifies how assemblages construct parts of a social world, and taking this further, identifies that actors are also subject to being constructed- being overtaken or 'other-taken'.

"When we act, who else is acting?"
In academia who else is acting includes the actors that are policy, historiacl conventions on conformity. The use of software, turnitin, becomes another actor, a sort of silent policeperson, that does a job. There are also the less overt actors, myspace may have an effect on the construction of self and the construction of social conventions, and potentially even on academic conventions. Maybe there are other ways to write and to think and to contribute new knowledge.

Just a provocation, but I am interested in what readers think.
The 'machine is us/ing us' and its worth considering the effects.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

computer mouse and innovation

The mouse in
Wendy Warren's thesis
While E-magining English literacies, her thesis provided a performance in its own right (write? rite? ). The mouse wrote, had voice, or at least its own paragraph.
A performance involving human as well as non human actors.
The constraining structures of academia also had effect. Her describing rather than using a calligraphy E being one example.

In studying a sensitive research area, youth counselling via the internet, there are constraints. These are well founded- I do not want to do anyone harm. At the same time an absence of evidence base for practice also does harm. Maintaining the status quo supports current practice by default.

Back to progressing an ethics application-
1. how to be convincing on the absence of harm for young people. The target group this agency works with are 14-24yrs, participants could be as young as 12. I have argued against the need or desirability for having parental consent. I need to extend this argument to convince a committee that young people involved will be protected from harm in being involved.
2. rewrite the plain language statement so that a panel of grown ups with the best interests of young people at heart can read it. It needs to be plainer. I agree, despite the proof reading supplied by a 15 yr old this was conceptually at least, at too high a level.
3. review section on anonymity for those who developed or support the software involved for counselling; as these people will have been identified by others as relevant to this study, I need to make it clear to these people that their anonymity may be unable to be protected.
4. say how long a piece of string is, where consenting grown ups are interviewed, specify (again) the number of minutes involved.

I'm beginning to wonder about the conundrums created in expecting a PhD to add to new knowledge, while the constraints restraining how this be done are so binding.
Meantime my computer is going slower, the spinning beachball is more common, the mouse freezes, crashes, a battery holding less and less charge...
The 3 year lease expired today, how long does it take a bureaucracy to get a new one up and running
Despite Latour not believing in conspiracy theories or social forces, this little ant's endeavour is in danger of being quashed by forces human, (in)humane and/or non human.

Friday, August 31, 2007

adult literacy and communication literacies

Adult literacy isnt what it used to be: the advent of computer and communication technologies has had a significant impact on spelling. TXTng a message in SMS sets a max of 160 characters or less for each message sent/received.
This leads to significant changes in spelling and creative writing.
The combat against spam lead to obscure means for testing the humanity involved, u no the reading writing and recognze the human tests...
Today I learn "There are 600,426,974,379,824,381,952 ways to spell Viagra."
Brian Hayes
cites Rob Cockerham viagra/viagra.html
tho the link didnt work 4 me :(
Cockerham apparently gets this number from a combinatorial analysis. He starts by tabulating the various possible substitutions for each of the five letters V, I, A, G and R. For example, any the 12 characters I, i, 1, l, |, ï, ì, :, Ì, Î, Í or Ï might serve for an I. Considering just such one-for-one substitutions, Cockerham comes up with 3×12×17×2×3×17 variations, for a total of 62,424 spellings. Where do the rest of the 6×1020 possibilities come from? Cockerham observes that the spelling can also be altered by inserting extraneous characters into the word, as in V_i_a_g_r_a. Taking the basic pattern to be *V*I*A*G*R*A*, where each asterisk could be replaced by any of 192 printable characters, he multiplies 1927 by 62,424 to get the total cited above. (An addendum mentions a few more substitution possibilities, bringing the total to 1,300,925,111,156,286,160,896.)
Hayes suggests there are other compuations on this numbers game, but concedes the liklihood of over a million recognisable spellings dependent on context.

vi4gra v1agra vi@gra viagr@ v.i.a.g.r.a VIAGRA VI4GR4 etc etc etc
Such creativity, ingenious. The wonders of science, incredible.
We are shaped by nonhuman actors...

invoking a critical imagination

" Without imagination unidentified lives and situations will not become real to us and without becoming real, such lives are unlikely to engage our compassion. "
(Loewy, E. (1997). Moral strangers, moral acquaintance and moral friends Connectedness and its conditions. New York; state University of new york press.)
i have been considering what makes good teaching, and surely it is this:
1. the need to imagine what it is that students will need to know, in a future that I dont know.
2. the need to imagine what the life of a student is like, how to make the acquisition of knowledge and skill enticing, and memorable. Not as a need to know for an exam, but how to ground the learning in a practical way, a deep way.
3. to be compassionate, that the purpose is to make a difference not just for those i teach and learn with, but also for the community and the world we live in. To make such connections engaging and supported.

In contrast Biggs and Tang (2007) say:
OBTL in itself does not say how to align ILOs, TLAs and assessment tasks, only that they should be aligned. Constructive alignment provides the "how-to" by stating that the TLAs and the assessment tasks activate the same verb as in the ILOs.

Hello! say what?
i dont feel connected, i dont feel compassionate, considered or consulted.
I check my acronym conversion kit and discover:
OBTL is outcomes based teaching and learning,
ILO is the intended learning outcome,
TLA is the teaching and learning activity.
And discover we are on the same planet after all, 'sigh'

I was looking at this because i am also considering the funding application and in considering what things i have made a difference with previously- every time its this critical imagination.
email is what grown ups use, my daughter uses text, SMS, whats the better medium for providing access or entry to counselling for youth with crisis- i dont think its the Ministry of Health's approach. While they have an established web page on depression and advertising campaign, its not being used by young people. So add a page or add a new website.
i dont think its going to be whats needed.
Imagining seems a better starting point.