Saturday, March 28, 2009

earthhour is upon us

Im sitting in the dark, hoping for appreciable drop in the external ambient illumination levels :)
Putting a vote of confidence in the peoples of this planets capacities for banding 2gether for a cause,

earth hour

despondent; change is so challenging

Deja vue.

I look at it and think, there's got to be reasons for it...maybe they dont know or that they forget?
But adding in wisdom externally doesn't effect the change.
And the medium doesn't create wonders of its own accord. Innovation does not diffuse itself.
There's an opportunity for change in an online teaching and learning environment, to use the medium fully, for the attributes the medium is best for... to construct, connect and engage...useful attributes for a higher ed sector, but instead what's being asked for might as well be an essay, the marking grid reflects attributes valued in the essay. That there's logical flow, spelling that's attended why blog it???

Really profound change can’t be directed; it has to be nurtured.
No top-down impositions, uniform and simultaneous.
There seems a need for discovery, that conditions for innovation and the passion of individuals in a context of trust and creativity, be nurtured. Top-down solutions don't tend to reflect this.

Leverage for change requires engagement (and even of those who may not be recognised as such, human and otherwise) in creating something new.
In examples of innovation in teaching and learning, if you come back later, oftentimes things are right back where they used to be. So I wonder about the enormous forces that maintain the status quo and actor-network theory seems a really useful one in attending to the details of what shapes things.

A major leverage point on the education status quo is beautifully spotted by Senge, "We all went to school together... we all share strong common assumptions about how school is supposed to work. It is not only that we want our children to learn, we want them to learn in the way we think they should learn, or more correctly, in the way we learned."

And so we might have students learn in groups, wikis, write on blogs ... yet what's 'always been' remains influential. "The disciplines want essay writing"...and the marking grid develops in kind.
So I find myself with a marking grid that values spell checking instead of hyperlinking of ideas, or of involvement.

And shaking my head cant but wonder at how artefacts of assessment shape the learning that will occur.
And we are back to same old same old...

Off to read more Senge on nurturing change coz i dont think i can take much more of this.
Plus, have a look at 12 work-relevant characteristics of online life posted by Gary Hamel, its got a few reminders of attributes needed in the 21st century that far outweigh essay writing and spell checking :)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Giving up texting for Lent

The devil comes in many forms apparently and texting supposedly is one of them.
Cited/sighted within "to text is to sin":

Only a few months ago the Pope was using his channel on YouTube to warn against our "obsessive" use of mobile phones and the net.
This week came the news that senior Italian Catholic clerics are urging their flocks to give up texting, Facebook and Twitter for Lent.
Renouncing texting would enable young people to "detox from the virtual world and get back in touch with themselves."

Now there's several thoughts here worth exploring.
Getting in touch with blinded by that one 8)
Getting real...detoxing from the virtual...mmmm...
Heaven, will just have to wait.

Deleting texts does not destroy them.

"Phone companies were required to hold SMS information for up to three weeks and police were able to access that information with a search warrant."
Senior Sergeant Mike Fulcher(2007)

Vodafone is no longer storing texts, and Telecom is about to follow suit (Reported in NZ Herald, July 28, 2007)
Police were able to obtain copies of text messages but a decision by the two big mobile phone companies to stop storing text messages is costing the police an investigatory tool.
The change, caused by the companies' introduction of new equipment, raised debate among police and lawyers about whether a law change should be sought to require the information to be kept. This was seen as not practical, because:

"It [text content] was a source so we will just have to rely on other means," Mr Peoples said.
If police considered an investigation was serious enough, they could apply for an interception warrant which would enable voice and text calls to be captured as they happened.
And, Police can still obtain records of text calls, but not the text.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Stimulating simulation conversation; being treated like a dummy

Seems Highered has only just caught up with simulation teaching and learning hazards as if this were a new technology/computer generating hazard.
The main issue identified by Sherry Turkle is the concern of transparency. And I agree. However, it seems superficial for both Highered and Turkle to only report the the wired hazards. Seems a little to easy to get a headline by demonising the online aspects involved. I would suggest taking this a step further as whether its a didactic class, a role play, or a session that is computer generated, there is always a need for critical thinking about what is learned and unlearned in such an environment.
Sherry Turkle is cited as being concerned that computer simulations introduce strange problems into reality. There is bias present in the title of her latest book 'Simulation and Its Discontents' (MIT Press) that tracks difficulties arising when simulation—from virtual-reality chambers for nuclear-weapon testing to computer programs for architectural design becomes integral in our daily and professional lives.
I do share some of her concern regarding what is accidently taught in simulations, and suggest looking at both first and second level impacts in the use of technologies. (For further reading refer to Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. (1991). Connections. New ways of working in the networked organization. Cambridge: MIT Press.)

I work in a health sector and it concerns me that a simulation of work with a patient may accidently teach that what you say or do doesnt matter so long as the task performed on the sim-man is technically proficient. A patient may live through the treatment, only to experience further abuse in being treated like a dummy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Latourian conundrum, please help.

"Existence precedes essence". Bruno Latour (1993)
from Latour, B. (1993). Pasteur on lactic acid yeast: A partial semiotic analysis. Configurations, 1(1), 129-146.

However, isn't this a chicken and egg dilemma?
i think therefore I am, I am therefore I think.
Or crudely, I think and then I do.... I do and then I think, whats preceding?
Isn't there's always a before?
I get that things get shaped iteratively, for example:
I can do counselling, and in the performance their is an essence, or several essences; belonging, being in the moment...empathy. They dont exist outside of performance, but htey are aspired to and recognised as valuable in a therapeutic interaction...and therefore they are taught and aspired to...seems to me ts an 'and and' issue.

To adapt some Latourian critique of Pasteur and turn it on Latour himself:
Is Latour not giving his entity a little nudge forward? ...He is doing the action, he has prejudices, he is filling the gap?
Are not the metalinguistic resources that I apply handed to me directly by the author...

Well yes, and it leaves me stuck. I think there's a middle ground here that could be better explored. Latour (2005) in Reassembling the social, suggests its always best to start in the middle and maybe I have taken this literally, that there is always a middle? And therefore the apparent inconsistency of existence preceding essence.

However, Latour (1993) also admonishes:
"As long as we have not understood why what appears to us as a contradiction is not one for Pasteur (read Latour), we do not learn from those we study--we simply impose our philosophical categories upon their work."

And so i stay stuck, I feel like I am in a mobius strip.
So I have some uncertainty here, and I'd truly like it discussed. Please help me with this, its interfering with my sleep and my study.

BTW I found my folder :)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Phdling in cloud cuckoo land

I have misplaced my phd notes.
They are in a beautiful, light blue, embossed, tactile pleasant A4 folder.
The nature of the folder is important, there was something inherently satisfying in the beauty of the object, an object i could touch.
I had recently shifted work offices but am reasonably sure the loss postdates the move.
I had recently also cleaned out the spare room where my notes used to fight for space with wall to wall mess but is now tidied ... i suspect I put them somewhere carefully at this stage, and though the room is now accessible, the space is still not suited to PhDling.
And I have searched boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes. Just four. And under the sofas and all the usual places (under the bed, in the car) as well as rounding up the usual subjects.
Note no. 2 for the farside equivalent of a desk calendar to be written in the postdoc life for prepostdoc students: keep your notes in the cloud....scan them....pdf file them....put them into the ephemeral digital them to yourself...avoid the seduction of the terrestrial world, live and study in cloud cuckoo land, its safer.

Having one's head in the clouds, far from being a derogatory comment, is an extremely wise option, and assuming i find said notes at work in the mess of my desk, I will scan and copy as pdf and place these in the emphemeral cloud network.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It is not a case of “either or” but of “and, and”.

But it’s not the original, it’s just a facsimile!”. How often have we heard such a retort when confronted with an otherwise perfect reproduction of a painting? No question about it, the obsession of the age is for the original version. Only the original possesses an aura, this mysterious and mystical quality that no second hand version will ever get. But paradoxically, this obsession for pinpointing originality increases proportionally with the availability and accessibility of more and more copies of better and better quality.

In discussing “The Migration of the Aura – Exploring the Original through Its Facsimiles” (2008) Latour explores an area that is patently contentious.
Bruno Latour says unequivocally the existence of something precedes its essence; the question is, does it? While I disagree with Kvond who appears to argue against this proposition with reference to art, yet his argument to my mind demonstrates exactly what Latour says. The minutae of detail, the pressure of the paint on the page, the texture of brushstrokes and the variability in paint pigmentation...are all 'things' preceding essence. Essence came in the aggrargation of such things in a time and place and viewed in a context, or so I understand Latour. But what then of other 'things'?
I find myself comparing these arguments of authentic art to the stories I have heard when talking of the shift of phone counselling to text. And am also reminded of the historic stories captured on moving conversation to phones. But to stay with counselling for the moment, is its 'essence' lost when the medium changes? The logic from Latours argument, is that it cant be as essence is always preceded by existence.
And now i get tangled up in knots, for what of the photo vs the painting? The reproduction has no pressure on the page, the pigmentation and colour 'enhancement' alters the rendition, the size becomes immaterial, the context within which it is many have commented on the smallness and darkness of the Mona Lisa. The original compared with a multiple hord of facsimilies is altere and sometimes rendered a dissapointment. Klimt's mother and child becomes more known than its original source, the three ages of women C.1905. Edited enhancement for popular release? If essence is in the existence, what is loved by the masses becomes a projection.

Latour takes the argument further from photography to plastic surgery. I would anticipate the argument to be its not better or worse but different, that translation creates a new entity.
Hidden behind the commonsense distinction between original and mere copies, lies a totally different process that has to do with the technical equipment, the amount of care, the intensity of the search for the originality that goes from one version to the next. Before being able to defend itself for re-enacting the original well or badly, a facsimile is discredited beforehand because it is associated with a gap in techniques of reproduction. A gap based on a misunderstanding of photography as an index for reality.

Instead of arguing a better or worse, there is space for arguing not the either or, but the "and,and". The photo is different. "Photographs of paintings are not respected as aura entrenched primarily because the change in recording surface and technique is understood to present a change in marked causal histories" responds Kvond. The photograph brings with it, its own aggragations, one of which is multiplicity for popular demand, which is noted by Latour as contributing to the originals own value.
In counselling then, is there an essence? Is being there in the moment an essence? One that cannot be replicated in the absence of synchronised connectivity? Is texting a poor facsimilie? The line of argument explored would suggest the answer is no. Instead it is different. The essence is in it's existence, not an antecedent event, but in it's being performed. Does the reproduction in another form lessen its value? Perhaps. The processes of translation from one medium to another may fail to capture the 'things' of importance , what then can be added or removed? Is it essential to counselling that it be 'in the moment' that it be synchronised not asynchronised? Far from becoming “sterile” counselling so reconstructed becomes more accessible. So where does the crime lie? I suggest it lies in the gap where the index for reality is misunderstood. Text counselling far from being barren or sterile is serving a purpose attested to by those who continue to make use of it.
It provides an option, the value of which is evident in its being used and in its ongoing development and ongoing translations.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

A change manifesto

The righter we do the wrong thing, the wronger we become. When we make a mistake doing the wrong thing and correct it, we become wronger. When we make a mistake doing the right thing and correct it, we become righter. Therefore, it is better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right. This is very significant because almost every problem confronting our society is a result of the fact that our public policy makers are doing the wrong things and are trying to do them righter.
Russell Ackoff

Jon at edufire
expands on this for education calling on Peter Drucker's distinction on management (”doing things right”) and leadership (”doing the right things”).

Purposing becomes incredibly important under such guidance. In considering change and the integration of computer and communication technologies into a youth counselling centre, this moves the question from is this a good or bad thing, to what is our intent and how best do we get there.

With my doctoral studies, I'm looking at the relationship between how people think about change and what they do to enact it. My recall of my mess of data suggests glimmers of such thinking, am off to immerse myself in it further ...hopefully i wont drown...100s of pages, hours of audiofiles...

Does help to revisit the focus b4 i get too bogged down :)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

ethnography: more than one less than many

I loved this very readable article on ethnography, it fits well inside of an actor-network informed approach. There are differences, for example ANT considers the material semiotics and provides for a symmetry in the analysis providing voice to both human and non human actants. However, most of the other differences are more to do with emphasis rather than inclusion or exclusion.
The article is not only an exceptionally thoughtful consideration for what makes for 'good' ethnography, it points to the variance is ethnography, is clear on what is/is not despite the variance and is exceptionally well written.
Thanks cj for sharing the link.

Agar, Michael (2006). An Ethnography By Any Other Name … [149 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 7(4), Art. 36,

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A web of good intent; communicating care using IT

Both Latour and Sloterdijk (Feb 17, 2009) caution designers to be mindful of their critical role in humanizing both public and private spaces. This can also be extended to what occurs in the space that is the web. What happens when we use such spaces for being connected, for meeting not only to exchange ideas, not only to exchange pages of knowledge or data, but also for interaction and particularly for emotional support?
There is then need to study the conditions, the relationships, the facets that make such 'being' a possibility.

Latour contends that it is the business of designers to recapture the “healing spaces” of the past — places that provide “immunity,” he said. Sloterdijk called these desired spaces “apartments” that are “a world for a single person … anthropogenic islands … that make human life possible.” I'm thinking that such places are not always so visible, but that 'the web' also holds such possibility. Twitter as described by Ewen Williams as a means to communicate for good, as well as the Youthline NZ experience of texting and emailing for counselling purposes are examples where this is occurring, and there are also numerous examples including where online support groups evolve through to deliberate use of web 2.0 as Beth Kanters network attests. In addition are educational contexts where students within a Health Faculty on placement can also be supported in a reflective environment, and my own experioences of postgraduate study... each of these point to a web of possibilty recapturing nurturing if not healing or enhancing spaces.

Latour holds that it would take “several decades” for humans to use the Web to its full potential for interactivity and “virtual witnessing” in the meantime it remains little more than a means of “reproducing pages.” Seems most uses are still in this area, yet there are also technosocial stories that challenge this and may help in shaping future possibilities when shared. There is therefore a need to understand and explore such possibilties. In doing this, the little things, the apparently superficial or trifle also need to be considered, for as explained by Latour:

"There’s not the slightest chance to understand being when it has been cut off from the vast numbers of apparently “trifle” [sic] and “superficial” “little beings” that make it exist from moment to moment." Bruno Latour, Feb 17, 2009.

Latour, B., & Sloterdijk, P. (2009, 17 February ). Networks and Spheres: Two Ways to Reinterpret Globalization; Presentation at Harvard University. Retrieved 3 March, 2009, from

(nb the movie seems to require University quality of bandwidth to open)

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Twitter changes

This post is in response to the TED talk (Feb, 2009) by Evan Williams: How Twitter's spectacular growth is being driven by unexpected users.

A summation of the 8 minute transcript- without visuals. The absence of visuals alters whats involved in the tedtalk; take into account that live feeds of tweet are an aspect that a transcript doesnt show, and interestingly graphics associated are ironic given twitter is not a picture oriented medium.

4 years ago on the ted stage i announced a company ODEo, raised venture capital and hired an engineer called Jack Dorsey, and a year later when deciding which way to go with ODEO Jack presented an idea he had been tinkering with for around with for a number of years around sending simple status updates to friends and we put two and two together and early 2006 launched twitter as a side product (had earlier launched blogger as a side product and it took over my life, so i learned to follow hunches even though cant really justify them or know where they are going to go.) Twitter based on a very simple seemingly trivial concept, you say what yu want to say in 140 characters or less, and people interested in you get those updates, and if there really interested in you they will get it on cell ph. in my case 60,000 people receive message in seconds sharing of momentus or mundane moments, sharing these moments as theyre happening despite distance and in real time, what we didnt anticipate were many other uses that would eveolve from this very simple system, eg during real time events, eg wildfires San Diego Oct 2007, people turned to twitter to find out what was happening, neighbours, but not just individuals LA times even dispensed with an rss feed, 100s and 1000s around the world then follow coz they want to know what its like to be here. There is also businesses eg to an insanely pop korean bbq truck as to where it will stop....47 members of congress, president himself most popular twitterer, even in presidential circles...originally designed as a broadcast medium, you send one message and it goes out to everyone, one of many ways users shaped was inventing a way to respond eg syntax @ailsa...and we didnt invent this or write this in, the users did, and they have shaped another is through api , it further, writing currently we know of 2000 applications interface either mac or windows, iphone or blackberry or even a baby when it kicks or a plant twitter when its thirsty.

Twitter search engines, an incredible resource to find out about any topic or event while its going on. We liked this so much we bought the company and built it into the main one of my favourites was following a gas shortage in Atlanta, appending a specific tag to allow others to search and to find out... a trend of people using it to help each other out, whether raising money or keeping contacts. Seems when you give people easier ways to share information, more good things happen. I have no idea what will happen next with twitter, I have learnt to follow the hunch but never assume where it will go.

As a story of change there are some fascinations here; change happens in tinkering, is iterative, is altered by users and designers, comes out of a history, the seemingly trivial can yield significance, whats designed differs from what is, whats envisaged differs from what is, shaped in practice...and that where things will go to is known retrospectively rather than in advance.
In contrast with conventional change theory wisdom such as that proposed in E. M Rogers diffusion of innovation text, it is evident that:
Technology is not so much diffused as infused; altering what it touches and in turn is also altered.
Unanticipated second level effects can be as powerful or more powerful than the expected or first level effects.
The myth of early adopters doesnt get a look in here; rather than who or how it is pushed is its perceived usefulness whether or not such planned usefulness was a factor or not.
Being connected or having a sense of this appears to matter to people. As Evan Williams notes here, having more means of communicating seems to make good things happen.

Monday, March 02, 2009

assemblages versus assemblies

I had been listening to a lecture given on assemblages versus assemblies by Bruno Latour in 1993, Milano (link is also available on the Anthem site). In it he reminds us of how pictures do not capture the intricacies and complexities of the network. He describes the limitations that are involved in representations that are not telling the whole picture. He uses the example of a space shuttle that until there is a catastrophe, the inner workings and the work of having produced this 'thing' remain hidden, blackboxed.
You could also take the example, as i did this weekend, where i bought a beautiful daybed off trade me (NZ equivalent to e-bay). I had anticipated a kitset/flatpack delivery for making this up. Instead it came fully made BUT wouldnt fit through the doors so needed dissassembly. In the rain. (A bit like a Hemmingway novel at this point). To dissassemble required Alan keys, not provided, and when some were obtained, this required two sizes, and the bolts involved 4 sizes, and some dooflickies i dont even know what their names are. Once undone and moved, further assemblage issues, what goes back in where??? And so the simplistic diagram that one expects with any IKEA type furniture would have come into its own, had it been provided. But it wasnt. And then there's the other parts of the picture not evident, there are people that make this happen, importers, markets, delivery persons, cash on delivery, ATM visit, the person for whome the bed was needed...
How to put make this fuller picture?
Here's what Exonn has for an answer :)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Wrapping up CCK08; Assessment matters; focus on being knowledge-able rather than knowledgeable.

My issues were:
1. an annoying split between formally enrolled for credit and those not
2. the value of ANT (actor-network theory) informing connectivism
And to some extent both were addressed in the wrap up.
Future renditions of the course might spend a pre course time in developing skills working with the technologies involved. This acknowledges the influence of non human actors on the learning possibilities, a very ANT accepting alteration. And the issue of difference for those taking the course for credit, or not, evolved into a conversation on assessment matters:

Innovative assessment being a significant block to creativity in education.In higher ed at least, assessment drives learning and how might this be altered? Currently what someone thinks they know is matched to what they think the learning should be about, and this predefined view limits learning. "What if assessment no longer drives instruction, instead assessment could be a byproduct evaluating at set times eg an eportfolio."
I had always considered assessment as a sample of student work and it frustrates me when i see it considered as driving and therefore limiting, the learning that occurs.

To my mind, even if we were to shift to an eportfolio approach this is still likely to reflect the limits imposed by the start stop nature inherent in the University where what goes into the portfolio is still controlled by those who think they know what is needed setting the tasks that accrue in an eportfolio...

What was better about the CCK08 course was i set my own goals more or less around a particular theme. It wasn't a predefined learning curve. The timeline was controlled, more or less and for those enrolled for credit even more so, but for myself its an example of a more open learning style. It is an example where what i developed 'inside' of CCK08 is useful to me for other purposes, my Doctorate, my career as an academic...
A reminder from Stepehen, 'assessessment tends to be a proxy measure'. That is, assessment tends to be of knowledge about rather than knowledge for. Might we focus instead on measures of being knowledge-able rather than knowledgeable?