Thursday, August 28, 2008

Early adopter wants to meet like minded other

My partner told me he is an early adopter.
I laughed.
He attempted to convince me....he had a mac in the mid 80's, he belonged to a local internet group of like minded others....obviously he was at the forefront of technologies.
I laughed.
I'm surprised I still have a partner.
He has never learnt how to use the dishwasher, programme the clock on the microwave or use any function on the oven. All digitally enhanced technologies.

At least one of us is selectively deluded methinks.
The language of change theory continues to be uncritically accepted, but being an 'early adopter' is neither permanent nor a pervasive trait.

Nor is being a laggard :)
He managed to load and turn on the dryer yesterday.
The sun is shining and I'm still laughing :)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Teacher wanted; dead or alive?

Bruno Latour cites Dewey,

“Observations of consequences are at least as subject to error and illusion as is perception of natural objects.”
(p. 29).
Latour then focuses on the word consequences.
"Whatever has been planned, there are always unwanted consequences for a reason that has nothing to do with the quality of the research or with the precision of the plan, but with the very nature of action. It is never the case that you first know and then act,(if you are wise?) you first act tentatively and then begin to know a bit more before attempting again. It is this groping in the dark that is so difficult to map, especially when it is done by millions of people over the life of millions of others."

He spoke of this with regard to Thinking of the State.
But its also relevant to any implementation of change; the planned and implemented 'dream of reason' is not what occurs.
There are unintended consequences.
Though how these 'consequences' are perceived are also subject to bias. So with acknowledgment that this is a personal reflection its still worth thinking about the unintended consequences of what is wrought within a digitalised world...

Seems changes embraced have similarity with what went before, we 'surf on what went before'. The changes we accept seem to be changes that extend the possibilities of what was already occurring rather than radical alteration of form- or is it?.
When I am no longer geographically locked down,I have other freedoms; no longer bound to a geographical space has a trickle on effect; not just anywhere but also anytime.
My reach as a person extends.

There are also changes that are arguably less desirable. If my range extends, I 'cover more ground' the numbers of students taught by one lecturer can dramatically increase. The course content if taught once and embedded in a digital form can be made available to those present and not, by those present or not.

What are the consequences?
Teaching and learning becomes a provocation to thinking. Yup, happy with this so far.
By people unavailable physically, temporally. Still ok... having doubts; if I leave my teaching institution my online course with ppt, audiofiles of each lecture are whose property?
By a digital trace of someone who once taught... mmmmm, seriously less happy.
The 'lecturer' no longer needs a pulse. Uh oh.

Guess this blog is no different, with Dewey being post humously cited for bytes of wisdom.
And I guess I learn not only from the writings of dead people but also from the artefacts left on film or video. And there are a lot of dead French men with huge influence in academia...such power, knowledge, reach...

Online platforms for teaching and learning such as blackboard and moodle are increasingly entrenched in higher ed institutions of learning.
Whether this is seen as embedded, entrenched or a graveyard of teaching performances is not just a matter of perspective; realities are being made and unmade.

This was just a musing on what's required to teach and seems having a pulse no longer seems so important.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tickling my fancy; assessment matters in higher ed

On an interview recently i was asked about how I invisaged assessment for an entry uni course for 1200 studnets and an anticipated 2.8 staff. I have read assessment matters by the Shre people (not that i mentioned this though it was full of clever ideas regarding peer teaching/learning/assessing. And i fully agree with the premise that if you really want learning to happen, teach it...and then i found this on Alan Levine's site (cogdogblog) and i so wish i had been this creative:

A SYDNEY girls’ school (Presbytarian Girl's College)is redefining the concept of cheating by allowing students to “phone a friend” and use the internet and i-Pods during exams.

Being a survivor of a Presbytarian upbringing this really tickled my fancy.
In my response I had claimed knowledge is not individually created and for form to follow function, so should not be individually assessed; that web2.0 supports group process and makes this visible also. I really enjoy the ingenious approach this Presbytarian Girl's College bring to education. It works for me. When i get stuck I talk to a friend, phone a friend, text a friend or treat google as my friend, but i guess its also about discernment, who might know and who might be a valid source of info. Being able to access and to discern rather than being a repository of fact. I like this.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

sustaining change in the hinterland

I have been (re)reading John Law(2004) After method; Mess in social science research.
He argues for a reconstruction/deconstruction of current research methods. In doing this he also identifies how in science

"statements do not idly freewheel in mid-air, or drop from heaven. They come from somewhere....but without support from other statements or inscriptions of an appropriate provenance they do not go very far. So we might put it this way; if a statement is to last it needs to draw on- and perhaps contribute to- an appropriate hinterland. "

He then elaborates further describing elements in this hinterland:
A part of the hinterland of a statement is other related statements. Is it consistent with these? Do they tend to support it? If the answer is yes' then they tend to add to its authority...or toare there inscriptions that endorse or support such as might be emboddied in figures etc to which such statements might be compared and where such a relationship between ideas or inscriptions tend to reinforce one another. When this is the case the authority of a statement increases. Where this is not the case the statement is likely to enter the limbo of the might have beens.

I was thinking he could have been explaining the acceptance or not of ideas more widely.
He might have extended this to change generally.
It got me thinking of Freud (Ok, maybe i need to get out more...and I am pretty sure Law would be surprised by such an outcome for his work also). However, Freud initially accepted the stories of his clients of sexual abuse and it was only after the disparaging reception in a hinterland of disbelief and impossibility that his views changed and he developed theory relating to 'hysterical women'.

Maybe it takes a readiness in the hinterland for an idea to take hold and grow, its very difficult to sustain when there is no support for it. Similarly sustaining a new practice needs scaffolding of support...

There's the moment in the youtube video of web 2.0 where a nest is being built and it seems any sustained change is like this, it requires attachment and stability provided by other like minded or ready minded.
As Leadbetter says in his video, ideas take life when they are shared (what he doesnt say is that only when the sharing occurs in a ready hinterland where it can get a purchase on others- or on other things).
"Its like building a birdsnest where everyone leaves their piece" 'cept the material semiotics of what the bird, the birds partner, the twigs, trees, technologies, wind, rain, storm or sunshine, airplanes, food sources, local industry... are doing also need to be included. Hence an argument for taking an ANT approach to get a better understanding and a possibility for deliberately effecting change.

Monday, August 18, 2008

indefinite obects; elusive objects; or studying candyfloss in the rain

Law talks of how a 'committment to visible singularity' is a limitation on (orthodox) research. When what is observed shapeshifts, the singular entity metaphor becomes visible because it does not fit the data seen. And instead of blaming sloppy research or researchers or research methods, they argue for seeing practice as multiple rather than definite and accepting that in these realities, the object of study too may be multiple. Whats visible, definite vs whats invisible or multiple, or fractional with partial overlaps might then be studied.
That this is not a shoddy piece of research nor a failure to get to grips with something definite, nor an inconsistent or incoherent description from research participants, but is instead the nature of what is the object of study.
While this does remind me of Lewis Carrol and the hunting of the snark, it is also my experience of trying to be definite about counselling in my study of how it is altered by use of different mediums. (small aaarghh here, what on earth am i doing trying to get a handle on an indefinite object and then what do i think I am doing when said indefinite object is altered in different mediums, by multiple different players. The AAARGHH just got bigger or the snarks are closing in on me and I'm on the wrong side the a counselling relationship).
I am a little more settled with Mol's and de Laat's story of the bushpump, where its very success is dependent on it being a fluid object. But at least they had something tangible to point to, a concrete object with ongoing alterations. The indefinite communication skill set called counselling is considerably less definite.
I feel like I'm studying candyfloss, I can point to it, taste it, but i wouldnt want to study it outside on a wet day. New Zealanders, esp from the Westcoast, know greywackey, a stone that crumbles if handled too much and dissolves down to a silt like mud when left in water.
Standard research method does not seem to do justice to a nebulous entity. Certain kinds of reality are imposed. Politics of what is/isnt accepted, investigated, valued, othered.
Certain realities are reconfigured when forced into the written text.

Watch this space; a doc thess preprd 2 test boundrz usin txt

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

reality is multiple

There is a tension between multiplicity and singularity.
In my research this singular:multiple tension is evident in considering the practice of counselling. It's called counselling when its face2face, f2multiple faces, verbal but not f2f, nonverbal and not f2f, synchronised or non-synchronised.
In order for counselling to occur, at least two people are required. The practice occurs in relationship.
One initiates the conversation, and one makes themselves available to hear the story of the other. If counselling is to be enacted, it is crafted from the story of the one and the communication skill embedded with the other.
In this agency, responses from those who 'do counselling' suggest a singular entity, a set of skills or processes that fit together. The skill set of listening, affirming, being client-centred, a strengths based approach. A single reality. Definite and singular.

What then of differences? Obviously not every story is the same, nor every skill set. How is listening shown when the conversation is non verbal? What is meant by being client-centred, does this extend to intervening when the counsellor identifies saftey trumps autonomy? There are hen examples of contradictions. Differences in counselling when the story differs, when the actors differ, when the actors might include non-human actors such as mobile phones, computer screens...

The inconsistency with what is counselling is altered. How then is difference contained?

Mol suggests the need to work with multiple possible truths. What counts as best depends on circumstance. And points to Wittgenstein on how rules do not make their own applications. Rather than an actual inconsistency, the scenario is described in terms of apparent inconsistency. In respecting autonomy but acting on a person's safety expressing concern by contacting emergency services despite the client asking you not to, gets described as "if they were in their right mind, less tunnel visioned, less distressed, less drunk, less depressed, they would appreciate it ... they are telling us for a least they will know that we take their safety seriously..."
The implication is that what is best, desirable, advised as best practice, depends on the circumstances. Thus inconsistency gets explained away. Such storytelling of practice help to sustain the singular version of a cohesive practice. Such an analysis would suggest that concern for inconsistencies is one of perspective. However this does not do enough to explain how the same actor tells of their own practice.

When the counsellor says:
"no difference, phone, text, health.
then 15 minutes later says
"I am aware of doing it differently, role of psychodrama. Everyone does it differently, brings different backgrounds.
I am the triage(insert name), phone counsellor (insert name), text/email (insert name )counsellor.
Such an example supports what Law describes as poorly coordinated realities. Or what Mol points to in distributed practice. Contradictions evolve in enactment, working out what to do. In shifting between medium there's a sense that some things change and some stay the same, and even described as the same and different. Law picks up on the implications brought about by this same and different discourse.
He identifies how the contradiction provides opportunity to work out best options where there are contradictions, in the less than perfect world of health practice the work involved requires adaptation. In addition, this requires an ability to make judgments. The craft of counselling growing out of past experience, conversations and reading.

At the site of this study, the past experience in counselling was predominantly to use the medium of choice of the target group, telephone counselling. With a shift to the target group using mobile phones, an attempt to provide a portal to counselling by text was also initiated. The standard for counselling comparisons is frequently made. A need for judgments being contingent led to policy development. A guide for judgments when the situations were contingent on the type of 'call' or on the medium being used. The decisions required are even more complex. As expressed by one counsellor:
"I worry of how young the caller might be, could be 10-11 not teens, and I might be affirming sexual activity and stuff and assuming [they're] old enough and sending a mesage that might be colluding with activity that might not be appropriate for the age....on verbal if they sounded young we would probably find a way of asking that. Definitely makes [me] text cautious. If i have a 10 yr old saying my boyfriend wants to have sex with me, that's very different than an 18 yr old."
The type of response is contingent, shaped by the realities experienced in the moment. In texting a cautious response is then given based on how little is known, this counsellor describes herself as not being able to work with instinct or intuition on a txt platform. Nor having enough knowledge to do more than affirm that the situation sounds difficult and inviting the person to phone up.

What this reflects is that difference is produced with difference assemblages, there is an overlap but it is not the same, there are some things that stay the same, such as affirming, but there is also difference, call us. A move away from being client centred, or a reinterpretation of what it means to be client-centred.

Enacting is not then a matter of perspective, and includes more than a crafting by the people involved. The non-human actors too have influence. A combination of people, technique or skill, and text and technology evolves. The realities of practice are produced in relationship and these relationships extends beyond the people directly involved to include the technological actors. It also includes unseen actors, invisible actors and invisible work (and power differentials...all of which point to a new posting opportunity).

Saturday, August 09, 2008

beware, your imagination leaves digital traces

Artefacts tell a story.
Texting leaves digital traces inside of which imagination, thoughts, preferences can be located.
Artefacts, such as policies, documents, purchasing orders, emails, letters, texts...provide traces. Such tracings don't just substantiate or refute whats said by research participants.
They also provide a way of accessing voice. Whether that voice wants to be heard, or not. In this there are also multiple ethical concerns in making visible what might have appeared invisible.

This then begins a story told using the 'voices' of txt artefacts evidenced in txt counselling.

15% of texters to the Youthline service are requesting/demanding a text option for counselling.
Examples of texts (based on, but not actual) are reflected in the following type of comments:
"Il neva b abl 2 tlk bwt it. S0ri 4 bthrn u"
"k but na thankz.i cant.g0ta h0use fill n same1 c0uld easly hear me..."
"I cant fukn ring ny1 0k !!"

The pressure to provide a text service is clearly evident.

However, as pointed to by Bruno Latour, beware.
The cost of digital tracing needs consideration.
There are costs of privacy, confidentiality and trust evident here.
What's digitally texted stays.
In my own performance of pointing to this here, there is risk.
Does a community get damaged or empowered by having it pointed out that a trace stays?
In the past, counselling was a private affair.
Current costs are not recognised.
Such traces as are left in txting became evident in the Kahui twins murder trial; where you are, the calls connected, the messages texted...remain in the digital trace.
And as expressed by Latour "the inner workings of private spaces are prised open".
Those most likely to use this service, aimed as it is at a young audience, may not know of digital posterity.
For me as a social science researcher, my use of such tracing remains cautious.

Further potential stories from this 'silent' actor of txt artefacts include the trace of a service that changes over time and the variation that occurs in counselling
across a range of actors, and by the same actor distributed across a range of media.

Nonetheless, I am disconcerted. In the trace there is potential for a panoptican surveillance of Foucaudian proportions.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The bottom line

Flores's: "The soft issues are the hard issues. Your problems don't come because you don't know how to calculate entropies or to design plates. They come because you don't know about people. Our best comes out when we have honest discussions. Our worst comes out when we behave like robots or professionals. You all have the delusion that it's your business to sell hardware. But every company of the future is going to be in the business of exquisite care -- which means quick turnaround time and convenience. To deliver exquisite care, you need an organization that coordinates well and listens well. Right now, you are in an organization that has poor quality and slow delivery. You have one big mythology in your favor: Everyone believes that you Europeans are impeccable. But I know you are jerks."

The temperature in the room is rising. The air-conditioning is on arctic blast, but the men are beginning to sweat. "When you get into a situation like this, nothing seems to work," Flores says. "That's when you don't need solutions -- you need transformation. You've already tried everything to stop your losses."

Thanks Arti and cj; I can substitute in education for hardware.
Transformation seems a rational way out.
In my paid job problems are not (just) fiscal, they are also pedagogical; who controls learning and to whose benefit?
In my studies similarly, who controls the means of communications and to whose benefit?
Basically a Latourian or ANT question: whats shaped and how?

A whole lot more listening and working with good intent and with trust and with cooperation, and 'we' might get there together.
At the very least 'we' learn to work together.
Not a bad learning if that was to be the bottom line.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

thesis writing for dummies

"The footnote is the poorman's hypertext. it is not fancy...You dont need any software at all. All it takes is a little number, a little asterisk, and smaller type. it's great. You can choose. Do you want to go into the subroutine of the footnote and follow it out and move back, or do you want to skip it?... I was very proud of one of my footnotes that went on for four pages with only three lines at the top."

so cites Tara Brabazon of Nicholson Baker.She takes this further:
"This fickleness is very attractive in our era of tepid textbooks and predictable prose."
Wonder how she would respond to a thesis student who finds theses prose vapid...must go hunting for what she has supervised t see if the playfulness extends to this domain :)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

useless technology, new and improved...

"Teachers currently feel as if we are trapped in a Monty Python sketch, We are living the opening scene of The Meaning of Life where, through 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. Far too many administrators gravitate towards the ping, missing the magic being woven by teachers".Tara Brabazon

In looking at the technological changes that have "changed people's lives" a survey by UK website puts mobile phones top the list. (Nearly a quarter of those surveyed placed it at the top, and 42% of 16-24 year age group.)
2nd place was the laptop, and 3rd place the mp3 player.
Foot spas were named the most useless gadget, I guess they dont ping enough.
I also understand that they are the least appreciated gifts left for the citymission at christmas time.
Bread-maker a close second. Do the maths, how many do you need to make to pay for itself.
Heated hair-straighteners or curlers rated higher than TVs. curious.
And for one person their salad spinner was the gadget that changed their life.
hmm, am tempted to think they needed more ping in their life.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

when the proverbial stuff hits the fan, it's mobile and flexible too

There is no inherent goodness in being mobile and flexible.
Avian flu meets such criteria, anywhere, anytime.
Surely the substance of what occurs anywhere anytime has to be considered.

To this end, Digital hemlock by Tara Brabazon, is a provocative read.

In higher ed, a major point of tension is directed use of online teaching platforms.
I love them, there is potentially greater freedom; learning doesnt have to be at a predetermined time or place. But my love is not unconditional, and the conditions are rarely addressed.I take this moment to quickly affirm the conditions I believe and which are legislated imperatives: According to the Universities Act (1961) the purpose of a University is teaching, research and to be the social conscience of society. I take this to mean service, not profit ; and that things of serious importance to society will be attended to, such as social justice and equity.

However, what happens if this plot is lost?
Tara Brabazon notes, Socrates was not sentenced to die by his students, but by the Gods.
Attending to students is not enough.

...And I have just been invited to put in my cv and a vision statement to be able to keep doing what i have been doing for 2 decades;teaching and lecturing in higher ed.
Is this an example of what Brabazon points to with tenured staff fighting for their jobs rather than for social justice and social responsibility?
There seems too much truth in the preface for me to ignore this book.

In an analysis informed by actor-network theory one could consider a technosocial story of change in university life and consider the things that are needed to make an assemblage stable. In this instance, attending to students and to the content or purpose of learning is not enough, the management layer un-peels itself as well as the resources at their discretion, and enroll such actors as they can including online platforms such as blackboard, fewer people, more well as distracting academic staff in having them reapply for their positions... I feel that i am kept running to even be able to stand still.
No conspiracy theories here. Just a technosocial story that helps to account for how things are shaped as well as shaping, and a consideration for knowing that things might also be different.