Monday, December 29, 2008

A naked kiwi and making things public

Just musing on making things public.

The Johari window identifies 4 quadrants regarding self disclosure.
1. Whats known to me and known to others (obviously no new knowledge here).
2. Whats known (about me)to others but not known by me (my supervisor seems to think I write well...if he keeps saying it, i may come to believe it, but it may also be that affirmations make it so or at least increase the confidence with which I write, saying the opposite could always make it worse...).
3. Whats known to me and not to others (the data analysis and combinations of learning that are unique to me, and also some things that are better kept in the box!)
4. Whats not known by others or myself (the area of new knowledge, to be discovered...the phd)
But the Johari window was really only related to knowing oneself better. What of 'other things'?

There are some things that maybe shouldnt be public (for further ref see Susan Leigh Star who talks of such risks in terms of social justice).
And there are some things that need to be told (sensitive research via Renzetti and Lee)

Latour writes of whats hidden. Behind every initiative there are masses of other things holding in place, tugging, pulling. Some of the actors pushing, pulling are human, some are otherwise. In this pulling and shoving there is also no beginning, we are always in the middle of things.
In citing Samual Butler, Latour also reminds us/me that remaining silent is also political, for silence seen as a virtue may also be because it renders us agreeable to some of our fellows...
What remains said/unsaid....what is performed & not...

He also performed whats usually hidden in an art gallery exhibition looking at making things public. This brought together three modes of representation usually kept apart: How to represent people? Politics.
How to represent objects? Science.
How to represent their collective gathering? Art.
(I find, again, justification for performing a thesis in ways beyond the written text).

Latour provides direction for considering how things aggragate, what hold such shapes...provides imetus for considering disputed 'things' also.
To this end, there is reason to consider not only what pulls things together but what also pulls or tugs or attempts to unravel...or to hold fast, to resist...and that such things too may be human and otherwise. To tell the technsocial story/stories, the ontological politics, that are both shaped and shaping. And what to of whats not included but pushed away, or 'othered'?

I spent one of Auckland's glorious days inside the Auckland museum and its exhibition of secrets. I also revisited this exhibit this very wet day online.
The exhibition provides a different reality to that usually experienced in the museum. This performance was of the inner workings revealed an exhibition in its own right of the behind the scenes work.

I have chosen to describe the performance of secrets at the museum alongside actor-network theory and make use of reassembling the social for providing some structure to this.
The first scene is of crating and uncrating, and thinking outside the box. This involves appreciating that which is unknown. The opening on arrival is described as always a revelation. Long-hidden objects emerge, reviving memory and involing if not asking silent questions such as What am I? Where do I come from? How did I get here? Why have I been hidden for so long? What stories can I tell? The objects on display in a museum represent but a fraction of the total collection and invites viwers to therefore consider what is seen as the iceberg, not the tip.
The second scene is called registration, but its really of accounting, whats in and whats out, reminding me of Latours first source of uncertainty where groups and their makeup are disputed. Every object that passes through the doors – coming or going – must be accounted for. A political act of what fits and what doesn't..."Does it fit our collection policy? Does it need special conservation work? Are there any legal or copyright issues about displaying it? And when the museum decides that something is past its use-by date – known as “de-accession” – the whole process has to happen in reverse..."
The third scene extnds on this, What's grouped together? Who decides? Whats the structure of the performance in other words, how are things to be taken/othertaken? As a source of Latourian uncertainty, this reflects how things might be influenced as well as distributed.
The fourth scene is of the way things were. The museum isn’t 'just a big display case' it’s also a working space. Many objects are old (stating the obvious) and fragile or damaged when they arrive. "The job to preserve them, sometimes even improve them, so they can be exhibited, studied, interpreted and enjoyed isn’t always easy. Some exhibits are simply beyond repair. Others have been mistreated or neglected. And some are so unusual or rare that knowing how to treat them is a challenge in itself. And then there’s the question of whether to repair something at all – perhaps the damage or the missing parts tell their own story, every bit as important as an object in “perfect” condition. The museum conservator’s role is to balance all these considerations and stay true to the purpose of the collection or exhibition."
In this there is a marked similarity with ANT research, whats uncovered involves work, how this is then treated to let actors speak for themselves, as well as consideration for what's altered in the telling.
The fifth scene considers storage, "Not just any old storage, of course, because everything has its own special needs. There are very large objects, very old and delicate objects, very precious objects – and living objects too. The temperature and humidity of our storage systems has to be strictly controlled and monitored. Just as important is that we can find and access an object when it is required for research or display."
In this thesis the treatment of whats stored is practical as well as ethical and political and philosophical. How is content to be treated, what damage might display do, what might enhance, whats in, out, here or there...
The sixth scene is of artefacts in terms of books and papers. The exhibition details 2 kilomentres of manuscripts and archives, thousands of maps, words and pictures, ideas and knowledge and inspiration. Books are described as not sitting on shelves in isolation; they interconnect with the real world. I am reminded of much that i write being stored, of the mindmaps made and connected to, and of those not and of the millions of words written and the small percentage of these that are given life within a thesis. In the exhibit is the story of a golden frogs (supposedly) stolen...and recovered...or not. The story told is that the display stolen was never the real thing. My mind wonders if anything is as it seems.
And there's a sense of de ja vu for this web based cybertrip, trips on itself in act seven and repeats the 5th scene. Whats available through a different search onsite are stories of the naked and the dead. No-one knows how the kiwi, or at least this particular one, lost its feathers. As the kiwi itself says, plucked if I know... whether on school based travels, or moths or insects, or whether it should be kept to show deletrious effects or of positive aspects...providing opportunity to an audience to make meaning out of what is shared. Here is a sense of Latour's third source of uncertainty for actors too have agency, the links seem to twist on themselves, whats intended and what occurs differ, there are intended and unintended effects, unanticipated as well as unknown effects. In reviewing this, where might this story lead, what will the reader make of it?
A very Latourian moment ocurrs as the exhibition comes 'fullcircle". The fourth source of uncertainty is an awareness of 'things' being matters of concern rather than matters of fact, and the knowledge that things could also be assembled differently. And in ending is the fith source of uncertainty as there are risks inherent in writing down meanings, as if there were but one...

I am again indebted to Artichoke for bringing to my attention the museums display, great place for taking guests if your in New Zealand, its a free exhibit, and well worth repeat visits.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

living and learning in cloudland

I might be able to live without it, but can I learn without it?
Topping the list of the Australian-New Zealand Horizon report, identifying emergent technologies and key trends in higher ed, is the mobile phone.
The aspects of mobile phones that lead to this top ranking include ubiquity, portability, connectivity, and locus of control.

Critical challenges that they then identify include:
Teachers/lecturers not having the skills to make effective use of emergent technologies, much less teach students how to do so.
A research lag.
Lack of open broadband access.

At this point I would dearly love for any reader, philanthropist, parties with vested interest, or Santa Claus to financially support my PhD studies... a mobile phone, an iphone, and an internet service provider contract would assist me greatly in being a better teacher :) as well as supporting research in the impact that emergent technologies have on how care is communicated.

Adapting to change in institutionalised sectors is difficult. They tend to move slowly, despite the possibilities afforded. And its not only slow, its also resistant with bans on cell phones being prevalent. A trend more recently being reversed not because of learning applications but risk aversion with campus shootings a real concern. Actor-network thinking is useful because what keeps things in place as well as what reconfigures and stabilises gets to be considered. The parallel developments provide stability here. This and that strengthen each other. The actors in this network cohabit. The wherever and whenever affordances. Such changes seem unlikely to go away in the near future, they appear too useful.

A parallel 'emergent technology' development is 'the cloud'. The cloud refers to distributed data storage through to processing possibilities and applications ... for example Flikr, youtube, slideshare, and blogger 'live' entirely in the cloud. Such applications are not situated in any one space. Networkings hold the knowledge and to the end user the cloud is invisible. Such accessibility to data and to applications makes the mobile phone with internet connectivity an even more desirable commodity as content is easily sharable, easily distributed as well as easy to collaborate on.

These changes are important, the portability and access are changing how we relate to data as well as to each other. The actors are themselves reconfigured along with their technologies. Hence the need for further study...hence the PhD...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Moral hazards and what ingenious kiwis do with number 8 wire

Photo attribution to Brewbooks for this photo of a bra on a barbed wire fence in New Zealand. I trust no-one got hurt in the making/taking of the photo.

Moral hazards
are a bit like climbing barbed wire; there's purpose and there's risk and some of the risks are anticipated (can see the barbs) and some are not; there's a tension in the wire as it's pulled down to climb over. This (almost) without fail comes back and bites you as you let go... and then there's what's in the paddock once you get there...but also what's in the paddock you were leaving...
And even further effects coz here I'm writing as a New Zealander and its amazing what we can do with number 8 fencing wire... even philosophize!

Thanks for the prompt form Keith Lyons on moral hazards, I found myself exploring wikipedia and then trying to edit wikipedia and then discovered further hazards... the process is so convoluted that wikipedias story of unintended consequence was unable to be changed by me.
I wanted to enter into the discussion. To me the defined concept of moral hazard was a bit one sided. A top down bias where underlings did not fully disclose to the upperlings. And where there seemed to be a deliberate intent to deceive. And i just wanted to add a prompt to the discussion on the page regarding unintended consequences for the page editors to consider a link to
Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. (1991). Connections. New ways of working in the networked organization. Cambridge: MIT Press.
But there were no links on wiki to second level effects or to these authors, and by the time i wrote in my bit on a wiki discussion page and checked i'd done the right thing twice over, my scribblings got scrambled. So I'm blogging instead. Such are moral hazards also. Unintended sequalae when the process gets too hard.

Sproull and Kiesler make 4 points:
1. the full possibilities of a new technology are hard to see, likely to emphasize planned uses and underestimate the 2nd level effects.
2. unanticipated consequences usually have less to do with efficiency effects and more to do with changing interpersonal interactions, ideas about what is organization. This may change how each of us works and even the work we do.
3. these 2nd level effects emerge somewhat more slowly as people renegotiate changed patterns of behaviour and thinking.
4. 2nd level effects are not caused by technology operating autonomously on passive organisation or a society. Instead they are constructed as technology interacts with, shapes, and is shaped by the social and policy environment.

In looking at the moral hazard of using technologies for learning or for counselling that do or dont add substance, its worth considering what technologies are. Here I take a broad understanding on technology as defined by Ursula Franklin as 'the way we do things round here' (Ursula Franklin).
I then take a comment made by Jenny Mackness post on social networking and how come some people are getting something out of facebook or twitter when in her argument these are not communities of practice.
"Etienne Wenger has explained all this for us in his work on communities of practice. A community of practice needs the type of commitment that Facebook and other social networks of this type cannot give us. In addition social networks of the Facebook type don’t gather round a clearly identified domain and there is no requirement to share practice."

And I disagree, levels of committment are in the eye of the beholder.
Its working for some, to the level some want, and sometimes there might be a lot of highly visible to'ing and thro'ing and sometimes not. And sometimes the point is the connection, whats felt maybe, rather than whats visible. And this fits with a definition of community where community is based on value rather than on materially defined factors and for which further argument can be found in reading Raymond Williams. (Or in my own masters thesis, a philosophical analysis of community care, Auckland University)

Committment is never a stable entity, it fluctuates, and therefore so do communities of practice. Sometimes they work as communities of practice, and sometimes they dont. Sometimes they do for some of the people involved and not for others. The stability issue suggests there is value in a network way of looking, as afforded by actor-network theory. This encourages the discussion to broaden into what holds this thing called a community of prectice in place and whats pulling it apart. The tensions. And in using ANT there's also the added bonus in that the things to be looked at, the actors to investigate, can be human and otherwise.

This is part of the political environment. Whats in/out, whats considered and whats not, and even that some subjects are considered at all.
And the morality of this, and the hazards of this, are integral.

And so to in the research of such things there are further hazards. Moral hazards of invisibility like barbed wire in sand or in surf. Whats foreseen and whats not. Multilayered performances.
And in my own small way, I attempt to do more good than harm.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Ascilite08 paper; Cn I jus txt, coz I don wan 2b heard

I've attached the paper I gave at Ascilite08 here; its a taster of what I've been studying. In retrospect i attempted to cover too much :)
Haxell, A. (2008). Cn I jus txt, coz I don wan 2b heard: Mobile technologies and youth counseling. In Hello! Where are you in the landscape of educational technology? Proceedings ascilite Melbourne 2008.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

iwant an iphone, igot iphoney

The simulated iphone is unfortunately as good as it gets with no contract, no purchase, gift or other means of acquisition. The keypad is not touch sensitive, the camera doesnt work, no music capacity, nor any downloadable applications such as navman. The phone doesnt work either - not for talking and not for text, sadly not even to simulate txt.
Its a bit "all fur coat and no knickers" as my granny would say.
However I can at least see what my webpage looks like on it :)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

ascilite presentation and the joys of text

I have an unwarranted level of anxiety on getting this conference presentation for #Ascilite08 to work. Being cyborg is not growing on me, working with my mac i still find platform interchange difficulties annoying and untrustworthy, my flashdrive asks if i want to reformat it before it will open on a pc and i am unsure if that will wipe it or render it unfir for a mac... so have sent it to myself by email, but then unsure with latest update of aut groupwise how to get into this from outside aut.... and so have loaded it in to slideshare which on the 3rd attempt worked. The medium has altered the message a little, loss of one tiny graphic and loss of selected fonts, but its still got me to go with it :)
cant i jus txt

ailsa haxell can i jus txt
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ripples of change; Domesticated bliss and how Sony got a new home for christmas

My Sony Erikson mobile was a gift, but I had to get a sim card and establish a contract with a service provider, take it home, plug it in, charge it… Wait…Read the manual. Personalise it; set the language (English and predictive test) enter the ph. no.s I wanted (I’ve outsourced my memory). Send a message to all my family & friends so they know my no., set the calendar, clock, choose the background, select preferred ring-tone and volume. Reply to half the friends and relations. Set the alarm clock. Put in appointments. Phew. Work the camera, store the photos, learn how to send photos, and bluetooth (???) them to my computer…Read the manual online….Check with service provider online about overseas roaming to send or call from Aus to NZ on a NZ ph., learn to check for service provider coverage, remember to keep it with me or risk my relationship, check for missed calls for the same reason. Get conscious of costs and keep feeding it with top ups by prepay and ensure its power supply is maintained. Learn to clear messages sent and received b4 it tells me 'memory too full' and won't oblige. Transfuse it by credit card when traveling. Check the bank balance. I still don’t know how to use it for email or internet, play games, download music, pay for parking, check movies … it’s already old technology and I haven’t yet learned all its functions.
I’ve had pets that are less demanding. Well at least the tamagotchi and the goldfish... and the cats.
Oh… sudden flash of enlightenment; I’m the one being domesticated!

Thankyou Bruno Latour for addressing the second source of uncertainty;
actions are 'other'taken.
And thanks also to Annemarie Mol in "I eat an apple" and telling the story of grasses.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Reassembling the social, when is a group not a group...

The litmus test of an Actor-network study according to Bruno Latour (2005) in Reassembling the social, is that it attends to what makes up events. This includes both human actors and otherwise, as well as explaining and demonstrating the assemblages that sustain or change.

Such exploration ‘feeds off controversies’. The controversies include the difficulties of a counselling message being not only constructed in 160 characters or less but also in considering whether such an interaction is of therapeutic value or not. At present we do not know; there is no evidence base for the practices which are evolving.

In learning to feed off the controversy I revisited Latour. My study had identified groups to study. The ethics applications require a stating in advance of who and what might be involved, a naming of ‘groups’. What I am now considering is whether the groups I pre-identified exist. I have found myself explaining an opening I have kept in case more participants come forward. In describing where I am up to for funding grants or in presenting initial findings, I am asked where I am up to in my study, and I am not quite sure. I think actor-network as a research approach jars against such arbitrary constraints. I answer that I am at the end of my data collect . Knowing that I also hold a space open for what other change may evolve, what other artefacts emerge or if any more young people come forward. I had been thinking the limited data from this group might be to do access or trust r consent issues. Now I’m wondering if I wrongly assumed the groups existence. In saying this I am not saying that young people don’t use the service, the service is clearly used, that artefacts clearly support this. What I am reconsidering is my assumption that they are a group.

Latour suggests that such preconceptions might require revisiting. It seems obvious in retrospect, however I find myself having an ahah moment. The young people I named as a group in my ethics application never meet, never coalesce, never talk with each other. I’m not even sure that they are young! All I know is they are identified as being a group by those who provide a service. A group defined by their absence, defined by being external. Taking a performative definition, this group comprises those who use or could use, or might use, the service. ‘They’, are ‘other’.

The work of making, and remaking this group, is actively constructed not from within the group but externally for the most part.
Further controversy feeds this study; I provide opportunity for the data to speak, voicing presence when presence wasn’t wanted. The texts received talk of how hard involvement is and talk of concerns for privacy. I am aware of a tension in making the invisible visible.

Opportunities and Resistence CCK08

I am surprised by some of the ironies involved in the approach taken to connectivism and learning in the CCK08 course.
First jolt was a separation of those doing it for credit from those not. A two tiered system became established and no one commented negatively on this?
Then there was a philosophical intent of learning being because you want it to happen, but there's still a timeline and a curriculum of sorts. Admittedly, not doing it for credit means i dont give a damn beyond the fact that some level of social organisation is needed to make it possible to even bump into the people one might want to dialogue with. So serendipitous and individual learning benefits from at least some structural supports.
There was also a tendency to maintain one's own silos. Maybe an activity to deliberately select and cross from areas of habit would have helped here. I might have been enticed into 2nd life beyond the arrival space ... i might have been required to intersect this with that in terms of identifying a new area with one i had previously explored. I did this anyway, placing ANT (Actor-network theory) alongside connectivism, but will connectivism start having a look at ANT?

Nonetheless, I took opportunities to go where i hadnt before...and enjoyed the banter of connecting with dead people, as well as finding real live people who could expand on my own thinking of the intersect between ANT and connectivism. People such as Keith Lyons with a delightful treatise on wayfinding and both Roy Williams and Frances Bell brought a curiosity to ideas and applications I shared.

But the question i find most curious, is well addressed inside of ANT.
"Why is it so difficult to change the practice of education? What kinds of opportunities can we embrace if we are able to make fundamental and systemic changes?" For this is where ANT is most useful. For a formal read I recommend reading Latour on Reassembling the social." For a quirky approach, try Latour's Aramis. Not explicit about education but a great study in change, resistence, resilience...
If making the intersections in networking the ideas is in the too hard basket, take a more direct route, have a look at Bigum, C., & Rowan, L. (2004). Flexible learning in teaching education: myths, muddles and models. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 32(3), 213-226.
It is the network, the connections in place that sustains, and this also points to what might be altered. For it might always be otherwise, what's configured always takes work in being held the same and is always subject, at least potentially, to being reconfigured differently.

As Chris and Leonie say in the paper,

This matters because how we frame our work patterns are laid down, grooves formed, a kind of template is created which also limits, proscribes, {contains, constrains, constructs} what can come next...we need to be aware of how particular performances of flexibility close down what is possible, rather than the rhetoric suggesting an opening up ....
If we have a technology, a way of doing things, which is, in crude terms, an assemblage of people and things, then to justify replacing or adding to this existing way of doing things, a claim has to be made that things will be done better, faster, more efficiently and so on with the implementation of the new.
This is what Lee Sproull and Sarah Kiesler (1991) identified in their studies of communication technologies and named ‘first level effects’—‘the planned efficiency gains or productivity gains that justify an investment in the new (1991, p. 4). However, as they go on to argue, the only certain outcome of implementing a new technology is that things change: ‘ …people pay attention to different things, have contact with different people, and depend on one another differently’.
In telling of experiences and sharing ideas about how teaching and learning might be shaped, we too are shaped.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Being in the belly of the monster

I am consumed.
I have been reading Donna Haraway at the same time as my computer has decided to take me inside of itself. I never wanted to enter in to its inner workings. That's why I use a mac. But with a noticeable slowing of processes I have forced myself to clean up the desktop, declutter, virus check, and purge at least half the cookies. However these activities have still not had a significant effect on internal workings or external connections.
I suspect i will have to wait for the stars to be back in alignment.
Meantime I have a rash in the form of a white stripe on my blog that would require significant dosing in html code to cure. A risk that could wipe out my blogs existence...
And today my significantly sized PhD library in endnote X has developed what seems to be a neurological disability where synapses do not want to connect. The folder of files is there, the attachment icon for each article dutifully displays but inside of each entry the icon of the image has gone invisible and inaccessible.
Is there a prozac like application providing for reuptake opportunities for endnote?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On the way I lost it

I arrived in Melbourne at a reasonable hour. I politely waited telling hte elderly woman I had sat with that I was not in a hurry, that waiting for a wheelchair though a nuisance for her was not a problem to me.
I understood it took a while to get luggage offloaded. I took my time. I allowed myself politely to be immobilised in my window seat and only considered my need for a loo for the last 3/4 hour of the flight, and the 15 minute delay in getting a wheelchir.
And then I waited at a luggage carousel. The wrong one as it turned out before catching the audio system advising fina passengers of where they might pick up luggage for my flight.
And by then it was so easy then to see my luggage was not there.
Bother, damn and several more expletives.
What is it with a system that lets anyone pick up a bag and no checks?
Its a cool bag. Black of course. This helps with its coolness factor, and its slimming, must therefore be lighter...
Yeah right.
Faint check. So chic. so like another bag that wasnt mine. So I wait for Emirates to try to locate the Elizabeth with baggage that is tres chic also. But shes obviously cleared customs and the airport, despite not knowing how to fill in an address or contact details on a luggage label.
And then I start remembering whats in the bag.
All my PhD interview notes. Ok, but the interviews are on my ipod. But my ipod is in the bag...
I struggle not to get overly distressed after all the interviews are also on my laptop which is with me :) as is my conference paper, and I also have this on email so its not the end of the word. Yet. Guess where the charger is...
None with me, nor meds... clothes, jewels.
I remember Artichokes story of being caught without a change of clothes. At least i have several days i can shop b4 presenting at a conference.
Artichoke sounded so together.
I wasnt. By the third customs person to comment on my lack of luggage I lost it.
2nd lesson of the night: do not swear at customs officials. They do not like it.
They also dont take well to suggestions.
My passport photo while beautiful, looks nothing like me....
Eventually on to a bus to Southern Cross station... I arrive and let my friend know I'm there and await a pick up. Spencer street was soooo quiet one or two cars only. But Sue texts me saying me she was struggling with traffic. I patiently wait thinking I'm at the bottom of town and its quieter than a Saturday night in Auckland.
Eventually it dawns to Sue, the jammed traffic is because the street is closed.
Midnight here is 2.00 in the morning at home, I might be studying for a PhD but the common sense quotient is seriously lacking.

2b avoid(ant) or in the belly of the monster

A curious feature of Annemarie Mol's writing is that she does not use the language of ANT (Actor-network theory). She does not refer to actors/actants with or without the hyphen to networks. Material semiotics are used but not named.
Does this make her any less an ANT author?
In Ant(icipating) some discussion I'd be interested in any readers of her latest book The logic of care commenting on what makes this more or less informed by ANT.
Some unantlike contentions are noted:
Mol sets out to articulate a logic of care with the intent to improve health care.
She also distills stories rather than sketching a faithful representation.

As Woolgar et al discuss in A turn to ontology in STS, and in paraphrasing responses from John Law and Annemarie Mol:
Ontology has implications for for more or less preferred courses of actions.
At hte same time, there is no place from which to make a stable decision about what matters. We are all as Haraway reminds us, in the belly of the monster.
In performing our own practices, we too are in the belly of the monster, there isnt an outside; we arent innocent. We are caught up and done in a web of relations. This means that our doings are themselves in one way or another consequential. It materialises, it matters. It is after all where we are and what we do and how we make our differences.

And as Annemarie Mol responded, what happens is a shift from the question how do people know disease, into how do they/we live with it.
Maybe substituting disease for research would also be useful?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My mobile killed my....

Following two days of wired stories on cellphone, five gadgets the cell phone killed, then seven more... Here is my list:
alarm clock, wristwatch, calculator, locator, phonebook, the memory part of my brain that kept phone numbers, camera, torch ...the space in my kitchen drawer where old gadgets go to die...

The quality of music means it hasnt killed my ipod/mp3player player yet, nor that it records interviews of sufficient duration for my studies, but thats coz its not an iphone.
It hasnt meant the death of my landline yet either, but I dont know why. Stuck in a timewarp i think.
It hasnt killed my book of maps, but thats only because its not an iphone with navman applications.

Please, before i let it consumes more of my world, can they make the font size bigger?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A dingo ate my homework. CCK08

I'm maintaining a tenuous connection with CCK08. A spatial shift to the other side of the Tasman, and the end of semester tying up of loose ends in an academic institution left me somewhat distracted.
A (belated)second short paper for CCK08

Actor-network theory, connectivism and education
As an educator informed by both Actor-network theory and connectivist learning theory my approach to teaching and learning is shaped within a network. The challenge becomes how to create opportunities for the freedom to learn within mainstream education. It's not Ok in a University course, or at least not in a stage 1 paper, to set no learning outcomes, to leave the assessment criteria open ended, or to allow students to self select their areas of interest. However, accommodations are possible. This paper therefore looks at the role of educator as one who negotiates possibilities with students.

In negotiating possibilities I am assuming a student group who have sufficient maturity to anticipate consequences for setting learning goals and establishing endpoints and time frames. A framework for such a role could be that of agile project development. (I am bemused by the prospect of having 5 minute standing meetings.)

In philosophising education the purpose of that education needs to be considered. I do students a mis-service if I neglect the reasons they enroll in a course. Expectations of outcomes may not sit well with a connectivism learning approach. How to make learning happen within a constrained time frame? How to relate to curriculum content when this needs to be aligned with other connections within a network. In the area I teach, professional education has a significant part of the curriculum prescribed by registering bodies. The measure of success may well include obedience to learning skills deemed essential by others. While this does not sit well with the freedoms of education espoused by a connectivist learning approach, it may be possible to negotiate possibilities that still meet these requirements.

In utilising frameworks informed by Actor- network theory, I would add to the teachers role negotiating power. The lecturer is involved not only in student- lecturer interactions but also in negotiating the connections to both internal and external bodies where power and control have influence. As expressed in a paper by Stephen Fox (2000) on ANT, Foucault and Communities of practice, the strength or force of such connections, can be considerable. It is not just that the connections exist, at times the weight or force brought to bear can be considerable. However, an ANT informed approach is a reminder that this can always be otherwise; it takes work to maintain a network's specific shape or configuration and alterations can occur in a multitude of ways. Such a weight is unlikely to be malleable to a students concerted effort to effect change, but the role of a lecturer may well be in reshaping what makes this possible.

In this analysis I point to changing emphasis in teaching roles. The teaching is not too dissimilar to approaches I have previously enjoyed inside of a student-centred approach. However historical roadblocks remain evident in such approaches; the academy manufactures timelines of study that are finite, the curriculum is most often prescribed. However such roadblocks are not insurmountable. A networked understanding of learning is also about finding that networks currently configured might also be otherwise. Times of change permit reformulations of existing viewpoints. John Heron (1999) when describing techniques of the soft-revolution, talks of how there are cracks within the walls of even the most serious of institutions where a seed might germinate. Taking this opportunity to rethink "what could be" I am more aware of the role of educator that extends outside of classrooms and lecture theatres. The role becomes one that may spend time on reconfiguring the academy and or of professional registration boards. Or at least of challenging the constraints that one finds in the bureaucracy of academia. In this regard, an ANT analysis may well be useful to future planning for connectivism as a theory guiding educational practices. Informed by ANT an approach to sustainable change using appreciative and iterative approaches may be possible.


Fox, S. (2000). Communities Of Practice, Foucault And Actor-Network Theory. Journal of Management Studies, Volume 37, Number 6, September 2000 , pp. 853-868(16)
Haxell, A. (2008). Appreciative and iterative change. Retrieved 18 November 2008, from
Heron, J. (1999). The complete facilitator's handbook. London; Kogan Page.
N.A. (2008). Agile software development. Retrieved 18 November 2008 from

Monday, November 17, 2008

up close and personal, intimate relations with my blog

My blog seems to want me to get up close and personal; to get inside the blackbox and learn about its internal functions involving html code intimate like. I dont have the time for this level of intimacy.
Is my relationship in danger?
Seems i have developed a rash, of white stripe proportions.
Hope its not fatal.
Meantime i have been reading Donna Haraway,in NewScientist 21 June 2008 on an interview called the age of entanglement.... suppose the world doesnt revolve around huumans but that we are just part of a network of relationships, between...well almost anything.

to be human is always to be in a relationship with a host of others: plants, animals, humans dead living, fantasised.To be on earth is to be in a companion-species relationship in the sense of coming into being with a crowd of others, and in the sense that we shape and reshape each other into what we are.

Seems my blog wants me to spend more time with it. Am I up for this level of committment?
I am bemused by her comments on curiosity, she says that she "doesnt think its possible to be a serious person in this world without a major committment to curiosity and where it leads, but curiosity is not a nice virtue - and it never leads to innocence."
Am I ready for a loss of innocence?


One of my favourite authors in ANT, Annemarie Mol, has philosophized the logic of care vs the logic of choice. In on from my lamenting the loss of empathy, her writing supports the need for a focus on care and kindness. "over the years many books and articles have shown that all too often in healthcare practices there is just not enough kindness to go round. At the same time, 'kind' professionals find it difficult not to suffer too much along with their patients." She cites Arthur Frank in a plea for generosity on the part of professionals and patients. In an ANT analysis I am taking this further, the generosity also comes to academic committees deciding what is/isnt in course.
In other writing of hers, this network effect is also considered; where in the flow of a networked relationship does subjectivity start and stop? In her playful writing "I eat an apple. On theorizing subjectivities" she cites Donna Haraway with regard to humans and their relating with others, and then extends this to consider in the eating of an apple, that the apple becomes in part, her and she, the apple. The boundaries shift and even when invisible, the apple is still being metabolised, still present but reshaped.

"In the orchard, the apples. The trees carefully grafted. The colours and textures and tastes and cellar life attended to and the best fruit selected. And again. Without the work of ever so many generations of cultivators my apple would not have been. The cultivators, meanwhile, owed their lives to their apples. When and where in all these flows does subjectivity emerge? Where to stop the flow and point at it?"

In considering empathy, where in the flow do I point and say, here it occurs? Here there is responsibility. Here change can happen.
As Annemarie Mol continues she points to practices that appear incompatible, she is writing, typing, talking, not eating. The performances required would clash yet they do occur simultaneously . This reminds me of her writing in the body multiple, when practice is attended to, reality multiplies.
So I'm writing, and am still 'doing empathy'.
But it is a lie. Of course I am not eating an apple, not right now. I write. I am sitting behind a computer and my hands, rather than transporting fruit to my mouth, are moving over the qwerty letters of my keyboard. Writing and eating do not go easily together. With talking it is even worse. The practices implied in doing theory and the practices of eating clash. A body can only do so many things at the same time. But how many and which? In some place that without technical aids nobody can see, hear or smell, the apple that I had with my lunch is right now being digested.12 Is that still eating?

And like Annemarie Mol and Donna Haraway, I position myself in relationship and in relationships that span geographies as well as times. I choose to be visible in my writing and consider subjectivity.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Empathy is apparently in short supply amongst some health professionals (Morse, 2008).
Its also shown in at least two studies to decrease with successive years of study in becoming a health professional (Haslam, 2007).

To feel heard, to have one's own views acknowledged, to matter... these are all critical components for me as a both recipient and provider of health care. And, as Haslam (2007) identifies , empathy leads to:
Higher patient satisfaction
Greater sense of own wellbeing
Greater sense of accomplishment
Increased treatment adherence
Decreased errors and decreased malpractice claims

In my Faculty, a decision has been made to cut the teaching of therapeutic communication skills from the core curriculum all health professional students take. I concede it does not matter that a student health professional knows the name of the skill, more important is that it be used, and rather than learning it in large classes, and it may well be better taught at the bedside; but will it be?
My anxiety increases with this study reporting its not being shown 90% of the time when opportunities are present. So if its not being consciously taught, and what is unconsciously taught is how to ignore opportunities, then use of empathy is likely to reduce further.

“Emotional support has a protective influence on survival....Not only do people want someone who can ‘be there’ and listen to them,
they are physically better off if they have someone to do this.”
James Pennebaker (1988)

Haslam, H. (2007). Humanising the medical profession. MJA 187 (7): 381-382.
Morse,D., Edwardsen, E., and Gordon, H. (2008). Missed Opportunities for Interval Empathy in Lung Cancer Communication. Arch Intern Med.168(17):1853-1858.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Appreciative and iterative change

Nancy White introduced these terms to the CCK08 course this week.
The history of change, as I have read it in introducing technology in the education sector has been anything but.
I have experienced evangelical impositions, directed mandates and technology taught as a separate subject.
In contrast, this approach suggests a thoughtfulness for what has been, and how this might be enhanced, taking small steps with ongoing reconsideration. This also is congruent with what a colleague of mine,Sue, introduced to me - agile software development.
The approach rolls in with a pragmatic style. What works; how this occurs inside of consideration and reconsideration, bringing together the social (people involved) and the material(technologies) concurrently. Seems an adaptive integration, and while Nancy White's understanding of change hasn't deliberately integrated actor-network theory, her approach identifies that the change involves social + technology, and fundamentally this changes how we can be together.
Her use of 'we' suggests she is referring to how this shapes the interactions of people, of teachers, students...
At the same time, this also fosters an approach of change being iterative allowing consideration for what is shaped and what is shaping where the actors are both human and otherwise.

Nancy White's slides:

Saturday, November 08, 2008

reflective writing in research

Plus réflexif que moi, tu meurs
More reflective than me, you die

Like mirrors in the funhouse, the endpoint of multiple mirror regressions is infinite regression...
Latour (1988) denies the capacity for ever gaining distance on one's own work, or for their being more or less credence to be had in being the doer as writer or a writer of the doing...
Texts live in a democracy, each is still a story, not layered, but one among many.
Not inside of one another, but alongside.
No less and no more, just a performance amongst many.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

bad teaching made worse; a fascination of fatal proportions with the machine that goes ping

Technologies according to Ursula Franklin, are 'just the way we do things around here'. So of course they evolve.
The way we do things evolve; sometimes because the purpose shifts, and sometimes because the means shifts.
Sometimes such shifts make what is done, significantly worse.
Bad teaching gets to be so much worse when the teacher relates to the machinery and to no one else.
Sometimes its not so bad that the connections of the electrical/technological/mechanical kind fail. Such failure in the material connections cab be a good thing, because it forces thinking on means as well as ends.
When IT fails, it provokes a reminder to consider 'what are we here for and how might this be done'. As Latour and john Law identify, sometimes its not until things do not run smoothly that the (net)work gets exposed. The work in teaching is about engaging, if this fails, it all fails.

After a series of presentations taking 2 houra on the machine that goes ping, I am truly glad that some of the links did not work when it was my turn. Not only had I decided what i was not going to do, it forced me to consider if blackboxing also happens inside of people's heads, and what it might take to open this up.

On being trapped in a monty python sketch. A shared moment, despite the passing of years and a few hundred kilometres of geography, Tare Brabazon and the person next to me in a lecture theatre both comment on the experience of geing caught in a Monty Python sketch.

Cue the meaning of life; At the 'miracle of birth', the medical administrator remains most impressed by the machine that goes ping rather than the arrival, before his eyes, of new life. Then fast forward with a universal remote - Cue in powerpoint, elluminate, a variation on blackboard with bells, whistles and ping. Repetitive ping.
For further reading I strongly recommend a dose of Tara Brabazon (2002). Digital hemlock. Internet education and the poisoning of teaching. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press Ltd.

Nancy White from CCK08 talk this week:" You can’t usefully apply the technology unless you understand the teaching. Understand the teaching, then look at why it’s important. BUT sometimes looking at the technology first can spark an idea."

In this instance, looking at the technology sparked rethinking purpose.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

together wherever

A technosocial story.
The actors in mobile telephony include those who use as well as those who push.
In the advertising pushing mobile phones in NZ there are two major players. Its not surprising that the service providers will push the product, the contracts generate an ongoing source of income. Seems because of the costs of ongoing services the products can even appear very cheap if not 'free'. And then there are the other persuasive aspects these pushers sell in their advertising.
Vodafone is currently pushing the mobile ph (and contract) as it makes it possible to "take your bestmate with you wherever you go".
The accompanying imagery is a guy about to leave a flat but goes back packing his girlfriend by folding her as if a cardboard construction that folds successively small enough that she/it fits in his pocket.
"Now you can take your world with you when your part of the worlds largest network". His girlfriend then blows him a kiss from the screen of his phone before he puts her back in his pocket.

Or an earlier Vodafone advert had the miniature bestmate popping out of the pocket to share in the experiences to the accompaniment of a song:

Your my friend
and I'll depend
You'll be there forever
dear my friend
these words I penned
for your ears to treasure
oh my friend I'd like to spend
All my time with you together
let me be your second eyes
let me share in your surprize...

voice-over: with vodafone bestmate your together wherever
And the statement;
BestMate ™
Together, Wherever

The opposition also plays on the best friend anywhere anytime concept. Telecom has Kaz, one of their smart toy range- a play on phones as smart toys- saying of her friend, "hi everyone this is totally my best friend Bex, we go everywhere together". And where texting continues while a conversation ensues, and the texting being so available that txting can occur until your paw catches fire.

What the advertising promises is that one need never be alone, your relationship is as far away as your pocket, with you everywhere anytime, available always.
However, it assumes relationships are attractive, going to be positive in the connection and that the connection will be this easy.
What of the need to have the contract, the prepay paid up, be in a region covered by satellites of the service provider, have a ph that is charged, have a best mate who also has a ph charged and paid and in cell ph cover area plus have a memory that's not full if by text, has a mobile ph turned on, as well as being carried with them....And more than this, have a bestmate that's going to be available anywhere anytime, can talk or text, wants to hear, listen and or look and all in a positive way. The ph becomes a part of me and a part of them; always on.
If the service had not already existed, the businesses might have needed to invent it.
Youthline NZ telephone and text counselling- just as well its here, the service providers do well to invest in it.

For the reality is that our friends, mates may not be as available to us or as helpful as the adverts suggest.
Apparently, according to telecom, a cell ph (and a contract with them) provides "everything your household needs to communicate".
Both Telecom and Vodafone go beyond selling product (phones and contracts). They are also attempting to sell dreams. What people might want is not enough, they try to create a demand, and they do this as Mol (2007) states of other advertisements "not with arguments but with seduction".

For example; get this phone, free, on our best ever txter plan....comes with fm radio, mp3 player....roam the web, maps, know where your friends are... what might seduce them into thinking telecom, vodafone will provide is freedom or even love...
"Share the love with a gift from us ( Vodafone NZ, Nov 2008, web banner).
What people want is not enough, a mobile also needs to look appeals to people who want to go anywhere, its fun and its escape, captured.

In real life, relationships include sadness, loneliness and depression and can be distressing. The majority of calls and texts received by counselling agencies such as Youthline are about relationships causing distress.
In advertisements there is seduction and all-time, real-time, availability.
Who can't resist?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

what is knowledge; then what is learning; then what might be the shape of teaching CCK08

"Knowledge is, on this theory, literally the set of connections formed by actions and experience." (Kop & Hill, 2008)

This is a very actor-network way of thinking.
That knowledge happens in relation; in connection.

If we accept this as true, then how might we reconfigure teaching?
What is it we need to teach?

What becomes important?
The ability to discern the networks inside of which 'knowledge' is constructed.
The abilities to judge 'knowledge' in terms of how it explains or stands up in various applications.
The ability to cross networks.

These are contentious teaching and learning skills.
And more.
Power becomes central.

Foucault's knowledge/power inside of learning theory?
Bruno Latour's actor-network theory put to teaching about learning?

This has potential for radical transformation of education as we know it.
What would be taught would be critical engagement.
There is no need for learning facts, the emphasis shifts to what can be done with knowledge in relationship and how is that knowledge constructed in relationships.

Chaos and anarchy and power and control.

At its most base, a connectivist approach emphsises
"its not what you know, but who you know."
This is not tongue in cheek.
This is a radical approach to take on teaching and learning.

Who you connect with, what happens in those connections has been described in the writing of Johansson, F. (2006). The Medici effect. What elephants and epidemics can teach us about innovation. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Crossing networks creating opportunities for new knowledge to occur.

But what is truly radical here is the critical engagement with how knowledge is constructed and maintained. This is about power.
As such a connectivist theory of learning would, to my mind, be positioned within critical educational pedagogy.

I find myself disagreeing with Kop and Hill (2008). In their conclusion they argue,
"A paradigm shift, indeed, may be occurring in educational theory, and a new epistemology may be emerging, but it does not seem that connectivism’s contributions to the new paradigm warrant it being treated as a separate learning theory in and of its own right. Connectivism, however, continues to play an important role in the development and emergence of new pedagogies, where control is shifting from the tutor to an increasingly more autonomous learner."
What I think they have failed to take into account is the very serious business of what happens when knowledge is seen as and taught as being constructed in relations, applied in relations, and that this occurs inside and outside of formal educational institutions.
There is potential in this for a paradigmatic shift.
The balance of power gets shifted, or at least shaken, for a start.

This was brought on after an almost two week break from engaging in CCK08, and a very light reading of the paper by Kop and Hill
I could be totally wrong.
But its worth thinking about.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

the plot thickens

I had been reading Ken Alder (2007) Focus: Thick issues.
And this reminded me again of Sherry Turkle's Evocative objects, things we think with.
I keep thinking I should add a fanfiction site for Sherry Turkle but it has yet to happen, I would need more time.

Here's another thicker story:
In my childhood, we never had a wooden spoon. I had heard of these, they were after all a common entity, ubiquitous even had the word been known. But not in my family home.
My eldest sister and her friendly neighbour buried each and every one they came across. Or to be more exact, which came across them.
Or so I was told when I asked how come we didn't have one.
I know what wooden spoons are for, they are for burying in the garden.
Apparently they were also for hitting unruly children; stirring pots of jam, porridge, whatever.
I was never hit with one. They were all buried.
I have never owned a wooden spoon either. I had learned to live without this weapon. However, I have a spurtle. It's short, it's a Scottish variation; after all porridge is (arguably) nicer lumpless.
The shorter handle lends itself less to hitting.
And it's short length suits the modern size of saucepans, and the 'modern' cook who infrequently makes jam.
Has economics altered the ubiquity of wooden spoons?
Has birth control?
For myself, its also the less violent norms in domesticity.
A 'good' story provokes more questions, or so I am told.
A humble research approach doesn't tell others how their world is.
It suggests it might also be otherwise.

In providing a functionalist description of objects, Alder reminds me that this denies the incredible capacity for people to repurpose their tools. He says

"to reduce an object to its [stated] function involves more than a failure of attention: it is a slur on the human ability to repurpose the material world and on the power of things to reshape the contours of human experience."

As much as we think we shape our tools, they also shape us; there is push and pull.

Do you have a story? Write it with a backlink to here, I would be interested in 'hearing' it as I practice writing thicker stories.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Feeling contained; text messaging and I just dnt want it 2 b real

Talking therapies assume that being able to talk about how one is feeling is therapeutic.
Its an assumption worth talking about.
What are the necessary or sufficient conditions for this to be beneficial?

If I text, is this enough?
Is text a bandaid?
Deep wounds get infected and the bandaid is a superficial fix on something that needed a whole lot more...
Or is the text more like a lance? A way in- and out preventing a worsening of the condition...
The following txt message suggests its a way to contain what's going on.

talkn out loud makes it real, i dnt wnt it 2 b real

Suggesting: I dont want to hurt
I dont want to fall apart
I dont want to acknowledge whats going on for me
I want it to go away...and i also know its (t)here.

Texting, in this instance, allows for control over how much reality gets experienced. What could be overwhelming is contained.
In this instance, the scenario involved the death of someone very close to the person texting in. and seemed to provide a way of containing and of letting go.
I am reminded of being 8 and finding my sister who had died.
As children we worked out that we would make it easier on the grownups letting them know we knew what was going on, so they would not have to talk to us.
Talking about it with Mum or Dad would have made them cry and that would have been even more overwhelming.
I wish a youth telephone counselling agency had been around then, and I wish texting had been available.

The medium of texting provides a contained/constrained/constructed practical way of relating:
Contains in terms of being held gently.
Constrained in the sense that control is emphasised; that its not overwhelming.
And constructed, carefully, at my own pace, in the medium of my choosing.

Some wisdom from Australian cartoonist, Leunig, on holding on and letting go:

Holding on and letting go seems a recurring theme at the moment; i am rewriting, reediting, and not letting go of, a conference paper I need to complete by 5.00 today...
My supervisor has an inkling I will be like this when the thesis is being handed in also :)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

passion and reason; burden and blessings in connectivism; a feminist critique CCK08

Connectivism as a theory of learning values networks as a place of learning. However, what is valued within the network? How might a network be differentiated from a group? In an opinion piece, Stephen Downes argues his difference saying:

The point where group identity becomes more of a burden than a blessing?
So where is that dividing line? Where functional and healthy becomes dysfunctional, obviously. Somewhere between (most) football teams and the Symbionese Liberation Army. Somewhere between family bonding and wiping out your neighbours with machetes.

In my books, that line is the line between reason and emotion.
To put it most simply, groups are based on passion while networks are based on reason. Groups meet our need to belong and to survive, while networks meet our need to connect and learn and to know. In a group, passion drowns out reason, in a network, reason drowns out passion.

I'm feeling othered.
It's like revisiting a world where reason is praised and emotions devalued.
Pre Carol Gilligan, Simone de Beauvoir, Susan leigh Star, or Donna Haraway.
Feminism never had a hand in this construction of reality.
Being of the other sex, and feeling invisible, I suggest that reason can be as threatening as emotions to any aggragation be it named group or network. The division is at best, unhelpful and at worst, damaging.

Unhelpful because its a label for explaining after the effect, what was wrong.
Its damaging because it perpetuates a myth that reason is a better attribute than passion.

More work on what makes for a functional network is required.
The dividing line might do better to consider the different voice, and to consider as Haraway states:
I do not know of any other time in history when there was greater need for political unity to confront effectively the dominations of 'race', 'gender', 'sexuality', and 'class'. I also do not know of any other time when the kind of unity we might help build could have been possible. None of 'us' have any longer the symbolic or material capability of dictating the shape of reality to any of'them'. Or at least 'we' cannot claim innocence from practicing such dominations.

I concede this was posted in an emotional response to the first reading I have undertaken for the week. And to place this in context, I had read the posting in terms of my wondering "what are the necessary conditions for a networked connectivist theory of learning?" Reading the post,that group feeling, leaves me afraid. More reading may help dispel the sense of my feeling excluded.

CCK08 short paper, connectivism, what is it, where is it and can i get some?

This short paper is used to clarify my position on connectivism. In doing this, I choose to ‘connect’ my current threads of learning. I approach connectivism through actor-network theory. The paper then explores whether connectivism provides a new theory of learning and how it connects with prior knowledge in terms of my own learning experiences. This leads to consideration of what further questions, for me, need to be addressed.

I come to this course already connected; to people, my work, my family, and my doctoral undertakings. Such social orientations provide me with relationships that influence my beliefs and my thinking. In relating I am introduced to ideas, as well as challenges to the current ideas I might hold. I am also connected to my laptop, without her, I could not be networked. She extends my reach in terms of hearing and ‘speaking’ with others. In this sense, a network for learning is established. This is congruent with the core premise espoused by George Siemens(2006); learning is a network phenomenon, influenced (aided) by socialization and technology. The social and technological as part of the network is also central to actor-network theory (Latour,1999). Playfully, I name myself cyborg as a learner in the 21st century and embark on telling a sociotechnical story.

Sociotechnical stories allow for an understanding of events that weave together the social and the technical or material aspects. The connective learning approach, situated as it is, within a world more connected than ever before through the Internet, lends itself to such an analysis. This also provides me with an opportunity for weaving together two fields that seem to readily sit by each other, connectivism as a theory of learning emerging in a networked world, and actor-network theory being a means of informing discussion of what occurs within networks and how such networks are configured.

Such stories are not innocent; they provide scope for seeing not only how things are, but also how things might be otherwise.

Our stories are not simple innocent descriptions. They can make a difference, introduce changes, or alternatively bring aid and comfort to the existing performances of technological reality while it could have been otherwise. Technologies could have been enacted in other ways – imagined and enacted. (Law & Singleton, 2000, p.769.)

The story too could be otherwise. It will be otherwise when told by others or at different times, even by the same author. This is also a part of connectivism, knowledge is not located as an isolated event, its created in connections, culturally and temporally bound. In undertaking this networked course, I am situated within a connected learning opportunity. The size of my course is the world, spread across this world are something like 2000 people interested in exploring the topic of connectivism, and connective knowledge, as an emergent learning theory. They could not do this without some material means through which to connect. The material semiotics therefore includes the laptops to connect to the connectivism wiki and moodle and emails and elluminate discussions. Some have also chosen to extend this through use of their own blogs, and wiki, some also move into 2nd life. Others choose to connect through mobile phones utilising twitter, as well as the access afforded to wiki, blogs, moodle etc. The technologies and means of access form part of the structure of the network.
“Semiotics of materiality suggests that objects, materials, information, people and (one might add) the divisions between big and small or global and local, are all relational effects” (Law, 1999).

I could not be part of the course without the technology affording me access. In connecting with others the means is part of the message; social networking media extends the reach of others as well as my own, providing the means of connecting. However, the material semiotics of the network, are not the network. While they provide means, what is connected, matters. So people are connected. But it is how they connect that becomes a crucial component to connectivism as a theory of learning. For what then might be the necessary and sufficient conditions for connectivism to be considered a theory of learning?

First, I have to connect. This may or may not be through the media afforded by emergent technologies. These are not sufficient or necessary. What is essential is the connecting for learning. In doing this, I bring myself, my thoughts my abilities and I ‘meet’ with others who similarly bring themselves for the purpose of exchanging thoughts, beliefs, and ideas, even feelings. In this exchange, there needs to be movement for learning to have occurred. I need to be able to let go of ideas, or to reconsider ideas in terms of what they may be connected, how prior thinking may then be altered, accommodated or rejected. During this course, I am reminded that such ‘others’ need not be present; their ideas are what I connect with. Provocatively, Lisa Lane raises the spectre of a network of dead people (Lane, 2008) into my lived experience on connectivism and learning. I am also provoked to consider if the theory of learning is new in the blog post ‘Is connectivism shiny’ (tschofen, 2008) and while I had not been exposed to this authors previous readings, I am aware that I don’t think it is new. My own experience of learning can be traced through who I have listened to; dead and alive. My connections are not all new, some are to people I know such as Stanley Freilick who I meet with on a terrestrial weekly, if not daily basis. However, enrollment in a connectivist learning course creates opportunity for new discussions to occur, and these are not restricted to an Internet forum, but occur in front of colleagues generating further discussions. Such an approach might be considered viral, and this has been explored in the CCK08moodle threads. The approach also has similarities with neuronal physiology; with firing of nodes and catalytic sequalae evolve. Such thinking is not new, the interconnections are identified and applied to learning in Dave Cormier's article titled Rhizomatic Education: Community as Curriculum. The bringing together, and naming, and exploring the application, particularly with consideration for technologies now available within education, is.

Expanding on the usefulness of a theory of learning called connectivism, it is worth considering how the quality of such learning may be measured. As already outlined, new thinking is provoked. New means to shared ways of communicating are deliberately practiced and overtly explored as I bend my blog to new purpose. Minutes of fame quickly dissipate within a fast paced connected learning environment, but evidenced by clustermaps and delicious, my being connecting by others increased. My stated intent on the introduction thread was to apply my knowledge of actor-network theory within this course, this is both extending my thinking and knowledge of the theory as well as expanding my connections with other educators who have knowledge of the approach. In addition, there are new skills acquired. I discovered wordle, eluminate, and hyperlinking within prose. Nonetheless not all the learning is positive, some is challenging. Some students I connect with seem more intent on self if not group distraction and destruction. And not all the learning is straight forward; in moodle threads differentiation between concepts of computation, collectivism and connectivism created a chasm of ‘isms’ to fall into, and required Stephen Downes’ Professorial assistance to get back out. The role of teacher as facilitator, and role model, is sustained.

My current understanding of connectivism is that it’s not new. What is new is its naming and its affordance as a learning theory. I believe it provides a demonstrable and accurate portrayal of how learning occurs, as such it is an effective theory for it illuminates aspects of what is important and from this, deliberate consideration can be given to how learning might be extended. My question remains; what are the necessary and sufficient conditions and how does this extend my own thinking, my own connections, and my connections with others.

Lane, L. (2008). Networks of dead people. Retrieved 25 September, 2008, from
Latour, B. (1999). On recalling ANT. In J. Law & J. Hassard (Eds.), Actor network theory and after (pp. 15-25). Oxford: Blackwell.
Law, J. (1999). Materialities, spatialities, globalities [Electronic Version] from
Law, J., & Singleton, V. (2000). Performing technology's stories. On social constructivism, performance, and performativity. Technology and Culture, 41, 765-775.
Siemens, G. (2006). Connectivism: Learning Theory or Pastime of the Self-Amused?
tschofen. (2008). Is connectivism shiny? Retrieved 27 September, 2008, from

Note to self;
hyperlinks lost on moving word doc to blog (aargh)
However; its not for credit, I dont need to dot the i's cross the t's or get a 'grade'

And next q is how to sustain the links...and or put a word doc into the bog
But for now I have a life to get back to...

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Dear diary: Life gets in the way of learning; i need my head read

My mum has been in and out and in and out; and in and out and in and out; and in and out and in and out of hospital. That's accurate. This many times in the last 5 weeks. She has a cigarette induced lack of oxygenation, plus a disinterest in whats happening that adds up to a significant amount of being confused. But at the beginning of this week she almost died.
She has been having significant nose bleeds.
Really significant ones.
This is horrible.

Annenarie Mol is right, the experience of health and of healthcare is multiple.
Mum thinks she's fine, she wants to be at home.
The hospital is happy to discharge her, afterall, she wants to go home and in NZ at least there is no compulsion to provide care.
My experience of this part of my world is different again. I know she is not well, she asks me where my other daughter is. I only have one. She is hypoxic and also in acute nicotene withdrawal again, she is grumpy. So am I.

And to further quote annemarie mol;

Here you will not find sentences such as; we cannot imagine what it must be like to have a chronic disease. Such sentences are nasty! They do not state explicitly the author and reader are in good health , but they imply it all the same. This is not what i am after. On the contrary i want to avoid unmarked normality. To presume that you and i are healthy would go against the soul of what i seek to say. Within the logic of choice 'disease' is a strange exception, it has nothing to do with 'us', while the logic of care starts out from the fleshiness and fragility of life. I hold that dear. Indeed in articulating the logic of care i seek to contribute to theoretical repertoires that no longer marginalise, but face disease, As part of this it is good to underline that 'patient' and 'philosopher' are by no means mutually exclusive categories. 'I' am not immortal or immune to disease. And your normality , dear reader, is not presupposed here either.... i kindly invite you in to imagine yourself involved in the situations described."

While I feel that I have not paid enough attention to my day job this week, and have not done as much on my doctorate as I want to either, and combining this with my time in CCK08 plummeting and a rewrite for the ascilite conference and the moodle dse forum on hold...I am left wondering about my own normality!
Nonetheless: I did one interview for the PhD, and had a cafe breakfast reading Bruno Latour's Society is technology made durable; some excellent insights growing on the descriptive detail of actants and actant substitutions, and tracing of trajectories of actants, and of translations...
I suspect any 'normal' person would tell me to get a life!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Fairy bread and concept mapping CCK08

Computer generated word play from, I took my blog postings for CCK08, and this is what Jonathon Feinberg's software did with them. Similar to delicious clouds, the words most commonly used are biggest. So this representation at least captures what has been most topical for me in discussing connectivism.
There is no meaning in this for what lies next to what, and I justify this as linear connections do not seem to last for long enough in my mind for translation to the page, and the cmaps and bubble map software, while providing a this to that connectability dont seem to capture the accurate and repeated importance of concepts, or the 'messiness' involved.
Clicking on the image shows it in a more easy to read form, (at least all the words increase in size proportionally)
NB the software doesnt deal well to author names so John Law became two separated words, similarly actor-network theory gets sprinkled.
Its the fairy bread approach to concept mapping :)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

shape shifting; the effects of computer and communication technologies in counselling

I'm currently editing a paper I have submitted to ASCILITE 2008. The paper looks at how the emergent uses of communication and computer technologies are shaped as well as reshaping a youth counselling agency. The study is still in progress. I would appreciate comments, here's the beginning

Cn I jus txt, coz I don wan 2b heard

When integrating new technologies into practice, we tend to think of ourselves as designers or directors of our own practices. In contrast, this paper considers how technologies may be shaping practices and/or shaping us. In studying change as communication and computer technologies are integrated within a community youth counselling centre, I explore the web of relations where human and non-human actors have influence. The research presented in this paper is informed by actor-network theory (ANT), an approach investigating the material semiotics of what shapes, and is shaped. In this paper, the particular and peculiar effects of mobile phones for text messaging are explored. The effects are not considered in terms of being good or bad. To this author, attempting such normative evaluation is like asking: is talking to strangers good or bad? The answer must be: it depends. Whether the changes that occur are anticipated, desirable, able to be enhanced or moderated requires a fuller understanding of processes involved. Initial findings suggest there are implications for educators considering this medium, whether for providing pastoral care or in integrating text messaging as a medium for learning. The use of a texting medium provides unexpected challenges as well as the opportunities foreseen.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Folding time CCK08

"For while the past has left ineradicable traces within you, the future is already present too. You try to juggle with the future....the logic ... does not unfold in time, it folds time."

While Annemarie Mol was talking of the logic of care, I suspect it is not only care that this is true of. I believe that this is also true of learning.
(And am repeatedly reminded that with health and education the separations are purely institutional, divided silos, but both are about helping people live to the best of their actual and or chosen abilities.)
In Lisa's post the spectre of networking dead people is raised, and I am aware in my study of 'networking' Marshal McLuhan. I am not sure if the medium is the message guru would take kindly to the medium innuendo in this case, however, the great man did have a sense of humour, so maybe.
And in attempting concept maps for CCK08, I was increasingly frustrated by the unidimensional, linear nature of these;

Mol points to this in the logic of choice, where time is linear... whereas in practice
with a logic of care, time twists and turns.
Practice is messy, attempting to make it neat and tidy in a concept map, just might be making a mess of it (refer to John Law, After method; Mess in social science research)
Targets move, when the unexpected occurs it is integrated, there is no logic of arrows. Time is not moment by moment.
And in the immortal words of David Bowie:
time may change me, but I can’t chase time.

In the spirit of raising the past, 1973 brought us this.
Discordance, dissent and clashing of culture create new 'knowledge'.
It is the criss crossings and intersections that matter.(further reading see; Johansson, F. (2006). The Medici effect. What elephants and epidemics can teach us about innovation. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

educational iatrogenesis; when you swim with sharks try not to bleed CCK08

I'm in a course with a population the size of a small town.
The capacity to learn from connecting with people in this small town is huge.
The potential for being distracted by time wasters is also apparent.
The potential to be damaged in learning is also as sadly apparent here as it is in any schoolyard with its rocks, stones, sticks and bullies.
Horizontal violence is not ok.
Freedom of speech is a noble thing, but as said by Mills: no one has the right to shout fire in a full theatre when no fire exists. It can be damaging.
Its not ok to let criticism continue unchecked.
Staying silent with bullies, condones the activity.
While masquerading as an activity of free speech the outcome is harm.
If education is for achieving greater freedom, the only person achieving this is the perpetuator of a crime. It is not ok to subvert a learning opportunity set up for a particular purpose involving thousands of people for one's own grandstaging.
At its least harmful its a distraction, at its worst it is educational iatrogenesis; an educational environment that is damaging.
In health iatrogenesis refers to medically induced misadventure and illness. In education I suggest it is misadventure and damage to thinking, to learning, to connecting, to knowledge production.
Education is, or should always be, an ethical undertaking.
It should always be for the creation of greater freedom (ref Colin Lanksheare)and not for less.

Connectivism as a theory of learning needs to consider the dark side of networks.
Not all communities are good, warm, caring, supportive places.
CCK08 is not either.
A rosy glow is insufficient. Taking off the rose coloured spectacles, connectivism as a learning theory needs to consider the potential for harm as well as for good.
What then might be the necessary and sufficient conditions for connectivism to do more good than harm?
Being Rogerian in my professional background, I try to demonstrate all the qualities needed for setting up an environment whereby personal growth might occur; trust, empathy, unconditional positive regard. As a responsible educator, I am also aware that these attributes do not help when swimming with sharks.
Greater freedom for one but not for all is perpetuated where the learning environment naively and innocently and with the best of intentions condones distraction, name calling, and critique that is false or unsubstantiated.
Sadly, for an experiment in open mindedness the seeds of failure may be embedded.
Does connectivism as a theory of learning depend on chance?
On who is in the scholastic pool?
If its for a particular purpose, as CCK08 is/was intended, then mediating the mix is valid interference.

Friday, September 26, 2008


This week has seen me doing less in the threads and more in the blogs. There's a depth in the blogs, a thoughtfulness that i am not experiencing in the threads (these feel like a tug of war played with spiders webs....)

The links made by Stephen in the daily, make for easy networking.
I am captured with provocative titles such as I need more blog friends. This gets to the heart of networking, if nodes dont connect, there is no net. And as one other person noted on Heli's blog, this is the actual work of networking, not just a theorising. I also tracked back in her bog a bit, and enjoyed the use of a photo gallery instead of the connector map concept formation which i have found too linear, too constraining- shape and sizes and lack of ability to put things in whether pdfs or pictures... Such a frustration. And am suddenly reminded of John Laws pinboard approach.
And this is what network connectivism learning is about, this fires off that synapse and a new thing happens that then fires into another synaptic space and where there are receptors again something else then happens...

The other blog of importance to me was Shelleys where there seemed an ah hah moment,
I had read through Krebs notes and wasnt in awe (went to his website and was much more impressed). The ppt didnt seem to mention work, it mentioned things like herds of cows and i was thinking rubbish. Takes work for it to be a network, its not the lego in a box, or if it is that's at a trivial level. There are maybe 2000 people in the course but its not a network unless they connect.
So its not connectivist learning unless they are connecting and learning...

The connecting may be quieter, doesnt have to be loud, or visible, but it does have to occur. Susan Leigh Star on invisible work would be a worthwhile tangent to explore on this...Star, S. L., & Strauss, A. (1999 ). Layers of Silence, Arenas of Voice: The Ecology of
Visible and Invisible Work Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 8, 9-30.

While this is interesting, I think actor-network theory has it covered. The only difference is the concepts are being drawn into education by another name. The social is seen more than the technological, but i think this too will come.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The politics of knowledge CCK08

I've been looking at knowledge and am beginning to think its just a (current and temporary) explanation. Its not fact or truth as commonly understood, all such are socially mediated.
And then i did some more thinking...what causes things to happen or change, what changes knowledge?
Its the aggregation of things that make something more or less supported, more or less real.
To think this causes that is a little too simple, or as expressed by Latour(1988)

The belief in causes and effect is always, in some sense, the admiration for a chain of command or the hatred of a mob looking for someone to stone.
Latour, 1988. From an essay on the politics of explanation.
Again, I find connectivism is no different from an ANT analysis on the construction of knowledge.
And with regard to explaining change, I am back to describing the detail of whats happening, whats aggregated, what shifts, what do the actors say of their own actions...
Providing an explanation is, in a nutshell, working at empire-building; the more powerful an explanation, the larger the empire and the stronger the material in which it is built. What we admire in powerful theories we should also admire in freeways, multinational corporations, satellite networks, weapon systems, international banking and data banks.

Its always an aggregation, nothing as simple as a change agent (implying an individual does it by themselves). There is power and acquiescence, give and take and a reshuffling or resettling of the elements involved whenever a 'new' construction occurs. And not all of this is intended.
Knowledge understood this way becomes a product of heterogenous, historical and contingent factors.
How might I strengthen the validity or truth of a claim? Not by changing its substance, but by increasing the number of its allies, the supports maintaining this, whether human or otherwise (eg reports written, artefacts held in concrete form such as texts, the ease with which links to such knowledge is accessed...).
How to steer a course between fact and fiction? To be able to recognise the supports in place and personally evaluate the strength of such support.
And how to present such ideas to others that they might truly consider the veracity of knowledge I might hold up as evidence of my own research? By making my own positioning clearer; being an articulate reflexive practitioner? To provide a way through being believed too little or too much...
reflexivity goes against this common belief in asking no privilege for the account at hand. When I portray scientific literature as in risk of not being believed and as bracing itself against such an outcome by mustering all possible allies at hand (Latour,1987), I do not require for this account any more than this very process: my own text is in your hands and lives or dies through what you will do to it. In my efforts to forestall certain outcomes and encourage others, I too muster all available allies, all linguistic possibilities (if only, God - or Mammon - willing, I could write in my own mother tongue!).

Saturday, September 20, 2008

growing a thesis (PhD)

A thesis at Deakin requires 100,000 words.
I have 25000 & despite 2 weeks of study this has not grown alot and so was feeling despondent. So rather than wallowing, I am writing up what i have been doing:
Despite my best intentions, the lit review grew, weeding it is difficult, killing off the unruly that I previously nurtured is a struggle. And given the subject area, emergent technologies and change, its the stuff of sci fi mightmares; the stuff expands when your not watching it!
Growing a thesis takes more than inserting words into the page, it also involves taking them out.
And it involves peripheral juggling.
Progress also involves keeping it keeping on; relationships sustained, plans made that will make things in the future easier...and ways found through difficult patches. Sometimes the thoughts are clearer, sometimes it is more words.
Today I emailed my pro vice chancellor about study leave, emailed a student colleague who seemed less attached, ICQed another student colleague as well as my supervisor to share some thoughts from Mol that got me out of a writing block, read more of Mol, checked a dse forum on writing that I had contributed to the night before with what i think was an insight for me(the first task set connected to the second task, Checked in a connectivism course I am in- but connecting this to my methodology, confirmed appointments for interviewing research participants...
Looking at it this way, its not so hopeless :)