Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I live in an uploading country; there's an incredible amount of blogging going on

Godzone (New Zealand) tops a Californian run initiative that tracks how people around the world use the internet. (Reported NZ Herald 29 July 08)
1 in 10 internet users have a blog (thats 3/3 in this household)
1 in 13 New Zealanders have a blog.

Of the 78% of New Zealanders internet who use the internet:
66% have broadband (so why does it cost so much???)
77% of us check our email daily
28% use social networking sites (I note the Herald doesnt break this down but gives the examples of Myspace and facebook; all my friends, family are on Bebo)
13% maintain their own website (this is not rocket science).

The caption with a photo reads "anonymity allows internet users to say things they might not say in person." While this is not discussed in the story, its a really interesting take on what it means to be anonymous. The IPS makes identification more, rather than less likely. The 1:1 relationship with the screen seems to be experienced as an intimate one and seems to lead to indiscretions being revealed as evidenced by anecdotal reports as well as by media headlines of people sacked.
Might be time a new word was coined for this perceived sense of anonymity which is far from actual. A nony mouse?

Monday, July 28, 2008

An education paradigm shift; shift happens

The bullets have slowed somewhat.
Michael Weschs' video (a portal to media literacy) on youtube is a good antidote to despondency (thanks Arti). I have moved out of despondency, and into a parallel universe where resource issues don't matter, and where everyone plays nicely, and where what's taught matters, and who is taught matters, and where learning is not filling the empty vessels with content, and assessment is not checking on the volume of what's put in.
Now I just need to be able to shift between realities at the speed of light, because both realities exist and i seem stuck between the two.
And no one really wants to watch wonderwoman undress when she twirls.
Except the others, people in another space again, who like seeing it all come unstuck...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Growing a PhD; resilience is futile

My resilience has plummetted, and then i found this, and it helps explain how come.
And the resemblance to the koru is remarkable.

I guess its just the spin on things that makes it seem a never decreasing circle of despair or potential for new growth. Maybe meditating a few affirmations will help :)
My cup of spirulina is not slime and is half full, not half used.

Friday, July 25, 2008

not engaged, not enrolled; how not to make change happen if you want your actors on board.

From the Hunting of the Snark:

What I tell you three times is true.

I think i just got snarked.
I am apparently scared of innovation.
This is untrue.
What i am afraid of is daleks, deception and snarks.
All for very good reason.
Daleks could be construed as innovative its true, but so are tardis' and these do not scare me.
Innovation is not scarey of itself, IT does not have its own trajectory nor its inherent application of good or evil.
It's a 'depends' type statement.
The different branches of Arithmetic -- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.

Some of my very best learning happened when i was 7, the first chapter book I ever read; Alice in Wonderland.
Questioning resource allocation of 2.8 staffing for an entry paper into 3 degrees involving 1400 students makes me
a) scared of innovation
b) a staff member in a liberal centre of education
c) bad at maths
d) subject to derision
This one is almost as good:
Using fewer staff to teach more students over more days in a week is working smarter.

Engaging actor-networks

‘an experience by which both the body and what affects it produces each other. Each of the events (wine, thoughts, vessels, jests) creates an occasion for the others: should we say that the wine made us happy or that we made the wine joyous?'
(Despret 2004, p. 127)

A material semiotic; the wine is not joyous until it enrolls an actor, and on being consumed inscribes practice (at least in as much as there is an inscription effect of disinhibition).
When actors are not presupposed or credited with agency there are some curiousities that can be explored and explained differently, even in jest :)
I am indebted to Nana for this gem.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2b or not 2b; blogging a PhD

I was explaining (my) phd behaviours of picking it up and putting it down and my need to manage this ... there are similarities and differences with earlier study. I worked out that at this (non existent) rate i guesstimated i needed 6 weeks for each chapter, say 10 chapters... and then enlightenment hit me. 60 weeks for completion.
Time to get real.

And last time I skyped with peers undertaking a similar process, Nana named it - a thesis involves enrolling the actors, the theory that supports, the lit review that gets enrolled to provide the scene... the methodology that needs to be shown to be congruent. The politics of whats in whats out; an ontological choreography.
And some very pragmatic enrolling occurs; my own.

Latour talks of how things get made less or more real, it involves work, active engagement.
How does an innovation arise in the mind of inventors. The answer is always to be found in chains of translation,.. always comes from a blending or redistribution of properties previously dispersed.... I was interested in this, and that, and it coalesced here... and in this way. Experienced locally, personally.

The mix i bring, the assemblages i work at, managing my artefacts (literature reviewed ... data collected), managing the technology (always make back ups, never leave the laptop in the car, check the ipod battery...persevere with endnote word interface issues...database searches....skype for international chats with supervisor....other students...enter into web 2 blogging...always check the file attached before hitting send etc etc)

Interest people and things at the same time; recruit actors, human as well as nonhuman. Latour's words here: seduce, modify,transform, develop...

Enroll a supervisor.
That turns academia on its head :)
Keeping them enrolled also takes work :) and chardonnay maybe
They too may allow or forbid alliances...require, constrain, provide....

As Latour says: we have to negotiate.
What kills a project? Everyone and no one; a lack of negotiating.

A story then told of this and this and this and...i am compatable!

10 chapters = a chapter every 6 weeks.
Time to get real.
Enact it, perform it into being.
Enrolling and negotiating the whole way; this and this and this...
Watch this space :)
A chapter by this time in August.

Another Zen moment;
before enlightenment there is chopping wood and peeling potatoes, and after enlightenment...
...there is chopping wood and peeling potatoes

Monday, July 21, 2008

2b or not 2b; further ontologies of practicing being a PhD student

An ontological performance includes the writer as well as what is written.
This is a creative performance.
Not just of the thesis, where what is studied is made more real by the very act of being researched and written into the world.
What is studies cant help but be altered by the act of study.
Who is undertaking the performance is similarly altered.

An actor-network theory (ant) approach is humble.
I have a lot to learn about this.
In my past life as a critical social theorist i expressed judgements.
My big learning in this life as an ant type of being, is dont.
Belatedly, I remember Latour: Always assume people are right...put yourself at the peak of enthusiasm, the apex, the point where things were/are irrestible. (from Aramis)

7 things not to do as a PhD student, and in no particular order:)
Do not hit send on emails late at night.
Do not attach files to said emails without checking them.
Do not say that there is no writing in an area before you google the background of the person you talk to.
Do not neglect family and friends, you will need them when the phd stuff isnt going so well.
Do not have so many windows open on the screen that when your computer asks you if you want to save changes you say no by mistake.
Do not take your studies so seriously that you cannot laugh at your mistakes.
Do not blog yourself into a bog.

Feel free to add to the list, i could do with a laugh.

Oh Lord it's hard to be humble
when you're perfect in every way.
I can't wait to look in the mirror
cause I get better looking each day.
To know me is to love me
I must be a hell of a (wo)man.
Oh Lord it's hard to be humble
but I'm doing the best that I can.
Davis Mac

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

2b or not 2b; ontologies of practice

What is at stake when a decision between alternative performances is made? The notion of choice in deciding between alternate performances presupposes an actor who actively choses, while potential actors may be inextricably linked up with how they are enacted (Mol, 1999).
Some actors express more choice than others. Some of these are human actors, some not. This post is a playful exploration of the not human actors exercise of choice.

In considering these actors, preference or choice' is linked inextricably to how performance is enacted.

Hmmmm, well some things are easier than others.
I find it easier for example to know my own mind than to presume the thinking/choice/preferences of a sony ericson k700i. I 'll try 'listening' with more intent to how this actor manages his/her/itelf in relationship.
Preference are expressed: there is ease in connecting across certain platforms and not others, seems some of us speak the same language, use the same channels and ome of us don't. The paths of technology linkups being more direct for users linked to this network than to that.
The technology of the organisation is funded, shaped and paid for by this provider vs that.
Costs are assigned by the service provider, the advertised txt number and counselling voice service is free if the txt or call come from one service provider and not from the other.
This inextricably pervades the linkages made and not made by other actors inline.
A pushed and pulled if not a forced choice for the next actors linked in the line.
As a mobile entity I contain and shape the message, there are rukes 'i' follow. Any one message gets 160 characters, x lines, s characters to a line. Exceed this and as a linked in actor you get to send two messages at twice the cost.
The keyboard also forces choice. My construction of a keyboard does not follow the conventions of a qwerty board. 'S' one of the commonest of letters used in English requires tapping thenumber board / keyboard four times. To access E, the commonest letter, takes a double effort; every vowel except the letter A takes additional effort. All actors, inextricably linked, get shaped. Conform or not. The techy actors develop a workaround, use a qwerty keyboard, feed the response through by computer, do a character number check, send twice and it will cost you twice as much....truncate the message.
The reader and writer make accommodations.
Even where the message is small, the truncations remain stable. K as if ok wasnt short enough.
And then there's the whole area of what is conveyed...counselling shaped by the medium. An agency with a history of counselling in a reflective mode, no longer is reflective. Seeing text distorts counselling practices of reflection and of active listening as if verbatim restating what is patently obvious in the txt medium becomes redundant. Obviously repetitive, there are no nuances, no subtle questioning, no intonation to imply an exploration of meaning or to provide emphasis by nuances of spoken speech. The reflective approach comes though as repition and therefore redundant in a medium where what went before stands self evident irrespective of time passing. Other performances evolve, A choreography of push me pull you.

The ontological choreography produces its own stickiness where particular ongoing performances become less or more likely.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

2b or not 2b

I claimed too soon my winning of text poetry.
I have competition it seems.
A utopian analysis suggests txting aids language acquisition skills!
Apparently blogging also increases social skills.
Seems i am so well adjusted, i could just purr.

2b or not 2b?
Saturday July 5, 2008The Guardian:

Despite doom-laden prophecies, texting has not been the disaster for language many feared, argues linguistics professor David Crystal. On the contrary, it improves children's writing and spelling...

Texters use deviant spellings - and they know they are deviant!
the need to save time and energy is by no means the whole story of texting.
... one of the most enjoyable things you can do with language is to play with it ...

To celebrate World Poetry day in 2007, T-Mobile tried to find the UK's first "Txt laureate" in a competition for the best romantic poem in SMS. They had 200 entrants, and as with previous competitions the entries were a mixture of unabbreviated and abbreviated texts.

The winner, Ben Ziman-Bright, wrote conventionally:

The wet rustle of rain
can dampen today. Your text
buoys me above oil-rainbow puddles
like a paper boat, so that even
soaked to the skin
I am grinning.

The runner-up did not:

O hart tht sorz
My luv adorz
He mAks me liv
He mAks me giv
Myslf 2 him
As my luv porz

(The author of the latter was, incidentally, in her late 60s.)

The length constraint in text-poetry fosters economy of expression in much the same way as other tightly constrained forms of poetry do, such as the haiku or the Welsh englyn. To say a poem must be written within 160 characters at first seems just as pointless as to say that a poem must be written in three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. But put such a discipline into the hands of a master, and the result can be poetic magic. Of course, SMS poetry has some way to go before it can match the haiku tradition; but then, haikus have had a head-start of several hundred years.

There is something about the genre which has no parallel elsewhere. This is nothing to do with the use of texting abbreviations. It is more to do with the way the short lines have an individual force. Reading a text poem, wrote Peter Sansom, who co-judged a Guardian competition in 2002, is "an urgent business ... with a text poem you stay focused as it were in the now of each arriving line." The impact is evident even in one-liners, whose effect relies on the kind of succinctness

Several competitions have focussed on reworking famous lines, titles, or quotations:

txt me ishmael

zen & T @ f m2 cycl mn10nc

The brevity of the SMS genre disallows complex formal patterning - of, say, the kind we might find in a sonnet. It isn't so easy to include more than a couple of images, such as similes, simply because there isn't the space. Writers have nonetheless tried to extend the potential of the medium. The SMS novel, for example, operates on a screen-by-screen basis. ...
In Japan, an author known as Yoshi has had a huge success with his text-messaging novel Deep Love. Readers sent feedback as the story unfolded, and some of their ideas were incorporated into it. He went on to make a film of the novel.
Plainly, there are severe limits to the expressive power of the medium, when it is restricted to a screen in this way. So it is not surprising that, very early on, writers dispensed with the 160-character constraint, and engaged in SMS creative writing of any length using hard copy. Immediately there was a problem. By taking the writing away from the mobile phone screen, how could the distinctiveness of the genre be maintained? So the stylistic character of SMS writing changed, and texting abbreviations, previously optional, became obligatory.


An extraordinary number of doom-laden prophecies have been made about the supposed linguistic evils unleashed by texting. Sadly, its creative potential has been virtually ignored. But five years of research has at last begun to dispel the myths. The most important finding is that texting does not erode children's ability to read and write. On the contrary, literacy improves. The latest studies (from a team at Coventry University) have found strong positive links between the use of text language and the skills underlying success in standard English in pre-teenage children. The more abbreviations in their messages, the higher they scored on tests of reading and vocabulary. The children who were better at spelling and writing used the most textisms. And the younger they received their first phone, the higher their scores.

Children could not be good at texting if they had not already developed considerable literacy awareness. Before you can write and play with abbreviated forms, you need to have a sense of how the sounds of your language relate to the letters. You need to know that there are such things as alternative spellings. If you are aware that your texting behaviour is different, you must have already intuited that there is such a thing as a standard. If you are using such abbreviations as lol and brb ("be right back"), you must have developed a sensitivity to the communicative needs of your textees.

Some people dislike texting. Some are bemused by it. But it is merely the latest manifestation of the human ability to be linguistically creative and to adapt language to suit the demands of diverse settings. There is no disaster pending. We will not see a new generation of adults growing up unable to write proper English. The language as a whole will not decline. In texting what we are seeing, in a small way, is language in evolution.

· Txtng: The Gr8 Db8 is published this week by OUP. To order a copy for £9.99 with free UK p&p go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop

Saturday, July 12, 2008

i txt there4 i am > or <

Whose voice is heard in txting?
Seems like the zen question of a tree falling in the woods; If you dont hear it, did it make a sound?
Young people voice they would 'rather text the whole time cos feels whole lot more comfortable.'
And YL says they need to be relevant and where the young people are.
The policy says Counsellors should encourage texters and emailers to call the youth helpline, engage in face to face counselling or seek support from an appropriate referral. Counsellors are not to engage in in-depth conversation via text. After a maximum of five to six texts the counsellor should dis-engage from the text conversation, letting the caller know that they cannot continue to fully discuss the issue via text and that Youthline would be happy to support the caller more fully over the phone.
There are different performance espoused here.
There are also differences in the enactments.

With investigating textual innovations made possible using digital media Teemu Ikonen discusses the manipulation of text as an integral variable separating digital literature from printed literature.
In poetry in motion, Teemu Ikonen (2003) argues that the distinction between digital and print media is indefinite. He points to Brian Kim Stefans' Dreamlife of letters as an example of the non static text mode provoking meaning.
For counselling too, perhaps there are possibilities where the medium reshapes.
A further playful example in being shaped is described in the UK Guardian, Winning text poems:

2001 winner Hetty Hughes:

txtin iz messin,
mi headn'me englis,
try2rite essays,
they all come out txtis.
gran not plsed w/letters shes getn,
swears i wrote better
b4 comin2uni.
&she's african

2002 winner Emma Passmore:

I left my pictur on th ground wher u walk
so that somday if th sun was jst right
& th rain didnt wash me awa
u might c me out of th corner of yr i & pic me up

Cute and quirky. Hmmm. Meaningful? Arguable.
Emotionally provocative, I think so. A subjective appreciation.

In texting, I'm shaped; constrained, contained, and constructed.
I proclaim myself ^-^ winner 2008

a persn
takes f it
makn meanin
i b thinkin

Julian Bleecker provides an example on who is heard informed by Latour and Haraway. Active, worldly participants that communicate meaning are not limited to people. Referring to Pigeons that Blog, he describes a blog effectively updated accepting info via a flock of birds loaded with GPS and environmental sensors for pollutants. The info is sent to and accepted into a google mashup making info available on request.
Whose voice tells the story? Non human actors to non human actors about info human actors cannot see but might want to...
The person who set up the possibilities, wrote the software, the GPS provider, the internet service provider (IPS)....the pigeons... the list goes on and on.
Some human and non-human beings create data, providing a message that may or may not be useful.
The medium/s continue to shape the message/s, and the messenger.

In blogging, the robotic slime that targets my blog for buying/selling things from theses to viagra etc etc, have resulted in my behavioural changes. I adapt to forestall such advances, I rant then electronically set limits. I too am shaped and shaping. the trolling slime will work around such barriers.
I am annoyed that I seem to trust a little less. I become a little more technologically savvy setting up limitations. And I am a little less accessible.
More and less.

I place my thinking here, chronologically saved so i need not monitor time or dates. Outsourcing my memory. I allow spelling errors to be picked up electronically. Arguably, I have deskilled myself. I hesitate to describe myself as domesticated by the machinery I use; instead I accept myself as a hybrid (ref Latour) and choose cyborg (Haraway). Electronically enhanced.

More or less human?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

breaking stuff: I think therefore iphone

This is the stuff of my research, yet another reminder to start publishing, fast.

I read the February research from two Canterbury University academics Lee Thompson and Julie Cupples, regarding spatial geography and the use of text messaging by young New Zealanders. They are cited on stuffit as saying:
"They facilitate communication among teenagers rather than destroying it. It doesn't make them avoid people; they use it to meet up"

This too is the dominant approach taken by Youthline, an entry point.
The use of texting on the lifeline lowdown website seems to provide further substance if not authority for a radically new approach. Durability is added in.
In actor-network terms this is about translation of counselling using emergent technologies. The translations I have mapped so far include how counsellors distribute counseling; different performances occur whether its in through a phone or through text or through email. Some things change, some stay the same: the strengths based model of affirming, acknowledging and inviting continue to occur. I am surprised that the skill of demonstrating empathy translates across this medium, and all in 160 characters or less, including gaps. Takes talent, and maybe some optimism. As one interviewee told me, its only 160 characters, so its hard to screw up in such little space. Seems one's glass can be half full or half empty on this. The dystopian and utopian arguments seem to prevail. An actor network approach allows a much wider picture to emerge.

Texting is a preferred medium of this generation and whether it can be more than a doorway is part of my research.
There are multiple aspects sustaining what is/isnt:
It's arguable that texting helps define the generation, a medium of choice with a language demonstrating rejection of authority or a playfulness. The 'thumb' generation.
There has been a pricing war in NZ between two major providers Telecom and Vodafone creating conditions where texting seems the only viable fiancial option for mobile phone use pertaining to young people with limited income.
There's an extension to one's connectivity, a cyborg like addition in becoming extraconnectable. Being available and being able to; an extension of the peer group that's always accessible. The cyborg like quality also adds the dimension of being inaudible, appearing invisible and perhaps, contributing to the sense of invincible.
The 'voices' I have been listening to suggest that texting provides an opening for talking when talking would be hard. An ego protective mechanism. There's also the advantage of responding in one's own time. Without the appearance of awkwardness.
And more recently there's the increasing authenticity, lent substance by more and more applications of texting whether its notification of library pickups, messages about delayed travel plans, or the increasing normalcy for communicating not only the mundane but the worrisome aspects of what it is to be. Lifeline's acceptance contributes acceptability in wider circles.
Meantime significant hidden work occurs to sustain practice. Funding is vulnerable being reliant on goodwill, a generous act of goodwill established the practice with the donated costs of not sending Simpson Grierson seasonal greetings, remarkably sunshine influences text counselling's survival with the intake potential of donations from Christmas in the park being vulnerable, and sustaining minimal costs is depenedant on major marketshare providers being seen as philanthropatic.

Whats your take on this?
While such services are shaped, what's happening to all those involved?
Meantime my infatuation with mobile technology has left me wanting.
I can afford the iphone but sadly not the ongoing costs.
Bit like my car really, still paying for the gas :(

Youthline - Changing Lives
With thanks to Simpson Grierson at Christmas time and beyond.
In lieu of sending Christmas cards Simpson Grierson continue to support Youthline's work with young people and their families across New Zealand.

communities of practice

Having spent Saturday morning with Etienne Wenger, I can see that there are areas of compatibility and difference with actor-network theory.
This post identifies some relevant to the 'community of practice' I am involved with in my doctoral studies; a youth telephone counselling agency utilising text messaging.

There are compatibilities.
Shaping of people, identity formation happens in relationship.
Maintaining a community of practice takes work.
A community of practice is 'most interesting' when confounded.

There are also substantive differences:
There is no consideration given to non human actors. Semiotic relationality is limited to shaping people and does not consider the influence of non human entities whether technological, or of place.
The theory regarding community of practice is restricted to the learning environment rather than all assemblies that shape. In assembling the social, there is so much more learning that happens in hap hazard ways.

I recall reading of communities of practice when doing my Masters thesis (A Philosophical analysis of community care)and at that time was hit by the rosy glow effusing; a saturation of warmth emanated from such communities, and at the time this was far from my experience of community (where an absence of care seemed to be in ascendance politically, though I acknowledge my analysis is contestable).
Etienne openly acknowledging the validity of earlier critique identifying that communities are not necessarily warm or embracing places.
He also engaged in discussing a dissertation he had recently been involved with where the notion of community of practice for learning was argued as being amoral. This evolved into a discussion of identity formation. How we might be influenced or shaped also occurs in choosing to distance oneself from a community. How free we are to choose being an interesting debate that reminded me of Sartre's philosophical questions. Latour I imagine would respond that the influence needs to be tangible, connections, even if fleeting or via secondary sources still needs to connect, need to be traceable.

More recently I had read Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, w. (2002) Cultivating communities of practice. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
I enjoyed the way they describe how knowledge 'sticks' to practice in unexpected ways (p152). That knowledge can have difficulties crossing boundaries of practice even within an organisation. The tendency for practitioners to stick to their own kind- and the resulting 'stickiness' of knowledge itself, apparently explains why knowledge brokers are so important in organisations that depend on combining knowledge from different domains (p.251).
However, I am not convinced that 'knowledge brokers' are not just another morphing of the notions of change theory where people are seen as holding stable attributions such as being an early adopter etc. They cite a reference on this from Hargadon and Sutton, 1997, Technology Brokering and innovation in a product development firm (Administrative Science Quarterly 42, no 4; 716-749.) The language of innovation from E. M. Rogers is pervasive.
I like how they name knowledge as sticking in unexpected ways. I agree. I'm just not convinced that its because of any inherent stickiness of knowledge. (As with technology, so too with knowledge, neither have their own trajectory.)
I would argue that practices or performances do stick, but there are assemblages that make it more or less likely that these are sustained.

They also describe knowledge as 'leaky' where it flows easily within a practice, even interorganisationally. Again, I think Latour and Law and others, nail this in assembling the social, assemblages make it more or less likely.

The community of practice argument is that boundary crossing can be a scene of deep learning. Radically new insights and developments often arise at the boundaries between communities. Something very creative can take place in the meeting. Extending on the idea put forward that boundaries are learning assets in their own right as argued by Wenger, McDermott and Snyder (p. 153) I suggest this is because the assemblage is altered. Things can always be / always are different.