Tuesday, August 25, 2009

writing on the inside, performing a Phd

wordlebubble, originally uploaded by ai1sa.

If I wrote on the inner aspect of a glass sphere,
it couldnt be more difficult;
positioning me would be less important;
positioning you, wouldn't be my concern.

Getting in or out of the glass sphere
now there's a problem for another day :)

meat in the sandwich; and which relish would you like with that?

William Doll's approach to curriculum is very much one of relating, something neither he nor I see a lot of in a functional approach of outcome based ideas married to assessment processes; easily audited but loses the plot.
To instead take Dewey's vision of integrating education, schooling, curriculum and community into a seamless whole, would require conversation. A willingness to engage with those involved, with authenticity.
Taking Daniel Pink's suggestions in arguing the economical transition needed, for conceptual rather than knowledge workers similarly emphasises the relational also.
But that would take some fundamental shifts that valued communication skills; listening and empathy. Such skills seem to my mind to be in diminishing supply in the university that is increasingly focused on technologies mediating its purpose. Such devices as ppt and content management systems can be useful, but its worth looking at how such shaping impacts on teaching and learning...not just at a technological application level but a level that looks at the sociotechnical relationships that evolve. Jan Nespor does a fine job of this bringing together an analysis including the wider picture of how come there was a readiness for this evolution in current teaching and learning practices in the university. I'm enjoying his writing style with personable quips such as "how had my work ended up as meat on somebody's lunch line?" A sentiment I can relate to.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Flipping thoughts

Two days of not writing, and a mini sized crisis of confidence...
And then some thinking that came in on a tangent :)

I'd been reading Tatnall, A., & Davey, B. (2003). An actor network approach to informing clients through portals. Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology, 771-779.
Their very clear description of a network described from the perspective, primarily, of those creating the change, who happen to be service providers, had me do a flip on my thinking.
I was spot on way back when i thought the mobile was an obligatory passage point (in ANT speak). I just was unable to make it fit because i was coming at it from the wrong direction. AND was unable to hold that point of tension because of the multiple OPPs involved, which could all be explained in a pre and after Ant way.
ANT has been criticised for its management centred approach and i was blind to the bias as it resided within me. I knew the options for counselling made it far from obligatory...until today.
Turning this on its head I get this:
From the users perspective; the text format on the mobile is an OPP as its "use this or we dont talk."
Its the users who are binding the other actors into place.
Text counselling wasnt the first choice of counsellors, the organisation or its techy people.
Here's an example of an organisation that prides itself on its responsiveness to its target group...and inside of this is an example where the target gp even tho it never meets and has no 'leader' , and only has artefacts, or one-on-one conversations, is driving a change. Even where there is voice given to their concern, its created by users... This is a pretty unique experience in change theory. Unique in actor-network worlds also by putting the focus on the users in the network. It is relational and the change might be seen as initiated more by the ebb than the flow.
Worth following up a bit more Clay Shirkey in Here comes everybody, of how social media used in this way is shaping those it connects.

Working with a primarily volunteer / not for profit organisation, and with a service claiming to be responsive to its consumer group, challenges the conventional thinking on how change occurs.

Seems so obvious in hindsight...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Deskilling humanity or cyborg enhancement?

Ivan Illich wrote of the effects of school as more than a dependent variable within society; but as the reproductive organ of a consumer society. If I take the institution of schools as being nothing but a tool that leads to another end, the education of people, I miss so much of what does and doesnt go on. He argued for a radical change to how teaching and learning might therefore be envisaged, namely by deschooling society.

His 'deskilling' argument leads me to wonder about more recent innovations with the ways we might to do things,and to wonder if the outsourcing of so much of people's abilities to their mobile phones is a deskilling of their humanity or just sour grapes on my part.
See, I dont have one, iwant one, an iphone that is.

This mornings rant is following a nice little column on smartphones by Richard Fisher that helps that author find a cab, a cafe, is a note taker and records interviews, times his teeth brushing, maps and times his cycle rides, and even finds itself through a synch option with a computer. Fortunately he drew the line at only musing about the vibrator option (I know, don't go there).
The cyborg connection is made, there's enhancement of abilities. And there are questions of what does this do to how we function as people.

In light of my PhD study: I continue to consider the questions of what it means to be mediated by a mobile phone in our relationships with others, specifically with regard to counselling relationships mediated by text. And I continue to wonder about the assemblages that create changes in the ways we relate; how such changes occur and what the anticipated and unanticipated results might be.
I am prompted, again, to wonder of how we are shaping the mediums we use, and how they might be shaping us, for no other technology is so close, so much of the time.
What impact does this have on our relationships and on us?

As expressed by one of the young people interviewed for my study, "I had every technology possible, but it was my mobile i reached for." Texting was her first choice for a conversation she anticipated as likely to be distressing, not because it denied the emotions involved, but because it allowed her to express these.

And the reskilling that then occurs seems to more than compensate; have a look at this article on the positive associations texting has for literacy in August Wired magazine.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The secret life of text

I've been looking at the intimate relations of writers and their text to investigate how the written medium might carry the message.

On screen writing is easier on the eye, apparently, when it uses a sans serif font(one without the extra edging on each letter).
On paper, serif with its extra flourishes are, apparently, easier on the eye.
The default for mobile phone texts appears to be sans serif.

Apparently for higher academic grades, go with Georgia, at least according to a curious but lively little blog on The Secret Lives of Fonts posted by Phil Renaud on March 12th, 2006.
... or at least that's what was seen as preferable, back then, or more authoritative, or matches what newspapers (such as The New Yorker).

But my searching didn't answer my own question which is about showing multiple voices in a thesis and so am still curious of ways to do this.

Bruno Latour's, Aramis or the love of technoology divides the sections of different voice with inserted lines and changing fonts: using Times New Roman font for the main text to one sans serif for documents, and different again for interviews (where his own prompts to the conversation are italicised), different again for a senate hearing of multiple people that is all italicised but reads like a play, and also seems to change font between what is current time investigation to that which is written in the third person posturing a more theoretical voice, and then an italicised font for Aramis' voice.
It does get a little hard to follow.

John Law, in Aircraft stories, puts in the advertising voice as an inserted exhibit with sans serif. He also puts in pertinent conceptual discussions as a boxed text.
To my mind, it could have done with more voice.

I will continue this search for a text life
Happy to hear your views, or any reference to other texts that speak in multiple voice.
Its for a thesis, so I may have to draw the line on use of coloured font.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Designing a PhD thesis in a conceptual age

It does not seem to me that we have been as quick, in academia, to prepare ourselves for new threats, new dangers, new tasks, new targets. Are we not like those mechanical toys that endlessly make the same gesture when everything else has changed around them? Bruno Latour

How might the academy change? Taking a more personal concern, how might a PhD thesis be designed? If we take a whole new mind to information and to concepts as suggested by Daniel Pink in moving from an Information age to a Conceptual one, what might be the implications for the Univeristy and for PhD writing if such a shift were taken seriously? How might this inform a thesis undertaking?

Information age:

Knowledge accumulation

Conceptual age:


The thesis of the knowledge era suggests functionality: get accredited by following the rules: the thesis presents the coherent argument, is logical, focused, serious and contributes to the knowledge base of the world. In doing so, new approaches to learning are not being transferred, the institution that is the academy is lagging behind.

In a a thesis crafted in design, the very foundations of purpose are shaken.
According to Pink, design is utility enhanced by significance (p.70).
Design is more than titivation, it's about value added portrayal.
Latour's speech at design Cornwall argues design as a drawing of things together.
My undertaking as drawing things together involves a work of alchemy; combining myself, a supportive professor with a bent toward actor-network theory, and a voluntary organisation thirsty for establishing an evidence base for newer practices. The next challenge is in drawing in the academy to credential my doctoral work - to positively entice, bind and glue such readers to the undertaking.

In telling the story of change, I plan for intersecting slices of stories of practice. In story telling,a provocation is made where the reader is not a passive spectator but enters into the story. Stories encapsulate the knowledge, the context and the emotion into a compact package. In an argument, the information sledgehammers a point, and the outcomes are constrained, agree or disagree, yet such binaries no longer serve so well, if they ever did. I am not arguing against an analytical position but that such knowledge might be shared with a means that creates contextual relevance. As Pink describes it, "what stories can provide - context enriched by emotion, a deeper understanding of how we fit in and why that matters." In such a conceptual orientation the outcome is not telling others what to think or do; instead there is space for making local, contextual, even personal, meaning at a given point in time. An approach more akin to projecting light on certain aspects while recognising such practice also creates shadows. Given an orientation that suggests all knowledge as mediated, truths have a small 't' and have have limited portabiltity.

My study lends itself to a symphony approach, the knowledge gained, illuminated, presented and (re)presented require involvement. I am involved, and in that involvement, there's a negotiation between myself and others, myself and the material, myself and the reader.Such a thesis could not be seen as a one way viewing window, nor a sport for spectators. (And I am really not sure that the academy is ready for this radical provocation in their marking criterias.)

Being empathetic involves having the ability to see an issue from many different perspectives. There are politics then in choosing to be empathic, to consider others and to consider the issues of what is made visible or invisible. A dispassionate approach is one that I cannot accept as valid; people's lives can be made more and less tenable through such acts. Performing a thesis is therefore a political, ethical and moral act. What is studied and how this is portrayed and to what purpose are all critical questions.

Taking a serious stance often leads to total risk aversion. There needs to be space for error, for exploration, in this sense seriousness needs to be revisited. A more playful orientation can allow for ideas to be explored more fully. To toy with one's ideas, to bounce them around are not such unusual concepts to thinking peoples. Taking play seriously though will also need to accept imaginative possibilities. Imagining such change inside of well established 'tried and true' processes may have shattering implication. Will such explorative 'play' be accepted?

Making meaning to my mind, is the ongoing act of this alchemy, for meaning gets created in contexts, locally. The craft is in opening up possibilities, for as an actor network approach would have it, things can always be otherwise.

A final word on designing from Bruno Latour on design:
"To design is never to create ex nihilo. It is amusing that creationists in America use the word “intelligent design” as a rough substitute for “God the Creator”. They don’t seem to realize the tremendous abyss that exists between creating and designing. The most intelligent designers never start from a tabula rosa. God the designer is really a redesigner of something else that was already there —and this is even truer for His Son as well as for the Spirit, who both are sent to redeem what has been botched in the first place... If humanity “has been made (or should I have said designed?) as the image of God”, then they too should learn that things are never created but rather carefully and modestly redesigned. It is in that sense that I take the spread of the word design as a clear substitute for revolution and modernization. I do so furthermore, because there is always something slightly superficial in design, something clearly and explicitly transitory, something linked to fashion and thus to shifts in fashions, something tied to tastes and therefore somewhat relative."
A link to the pdf file of the speech is available here-

Monday, August 17, 2009

How to win friends and influence people; an Ant rant.

If you want to change what your boss believes, or the strategy your company is following, the first step is to figure out how to be the best informed person in the room(Seth Godin, 2009).

Seth Godin's approach on being willfully ignorant or aggressively skeptical is useful up to a point; being well informed helps, but of itself its not enough. What would take this a bit further is a consideration for the type of knowledge needed.

The type of knowledge is important. Actor-network provides a structured approach, as do many other theories, but central to this approach is a focus on relational knowledge; what it is that maintains what is, and in knowing this, there is scope for knowing that things might always be otherwise.

In looking at change, what's not so helpful, and could be considered offensive even, is an approach that is trivial, and neglects the multiplicity involved.
An informed, multilevel analysis broadens the options; being the best informed person in the room means understanding the network at play.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

moral panic & children's use of mobile phones

Daleks are training the children, seducing them with mobiles phones and texting, it is a world wide threat, and resistance is futile. Here's the empirical evidence:
Todays headline catastrophises mobile phone use and texting comes from the Sydney Morning Herald, a Melbourne University study says

Text-addict kids 'make more mistakes'
The spin maintained pathologises the behaviours as addiction and as impulsive and associated with error.
Basically its bad.
And its the cell phone that's training them?
A study of 317 Melbourne high school students found frequent mobile phone users were faster to respond in a series of tests but also made more errors.

A bit more balance might have said, "when you do things faster, the error rate increases, risk and speed are not associated with accuracy".

Those who made 15 to 20 calls or texts per week were more likely to respond quickly before they knew the correct answer.

Does that equate with people who like to communicate in quick ways, with little concern for accuracy are likely to respond in quick ways with little degree of accuracy?
The research, headed by Monash University epidemiologist Professor Michael Abramson, found predictive texting, in particular, was changing the way children's brains worked by teaching them to act before thinking through a response.
Now hang on a minute, there's a behaviour being commented on and suddenly the ways children's brains work is being altered? I'd suggest no pathologist is able to confirm this.
Furthermore, there is nothing presented here that any such alteration is in a cause and effect relationship, its a correlation.
Radiation associated with mobile phones, a long-held health fear, did not appear to be to blame for the higher rates of inaccuracy in frequent phone users.
Monash University researcher Geza Benke said children who were heavy texters, and were exposed to low levels of radiation, had similar test results as those who made a lot of phone calls and were in closer contact with handsets.

Bit more catastrophising, a long held fear, plus there's the radiation threat...
"There's a couple of hypotheses you can generate from this - one is that it's possible that the use of mobile phones is training kids to do this," Dr Benke said.

"Another possibility is that it just so happens that kids who are fast and don't worry too much about the errors they make tend to be the ones who also are using the phone technology more because that suits them.
Ah yes, but that wouldnt be a headline lead would it?

"I think there are already so many other things out there that affects kids' brains that I wouldn't worry about the mobiles," he said.
"I think there's nothing here that would show great concern from a public health point of view."

So what is it with the headline?
Some reading to inform the current moral panic:
Marvin, C. (1988). When old technologies were new. Thinking about electric communication in the late nineteenth century New York: Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

nomo phobia

Anyone noticed that the number of zombies increased with the uptake of cell phones?
Personally I havent met any greater numbers of young walking dead than elderly or middle aged walking dead, and i do not accept that this is due to an absence of my observation skills. I've taken a great interest in mobile phone use, particularly texting and cant say that it has increased the zombie population.
I do appreciate that there are people young and otherwise who are seriously attached to their cell phones. According to Chipman, a cell phone is the third most likely thing to be picked up on leaving the house (after a wallet and keys).
But I think that pathologising the attachement would be a bit like saying those who lock there houses (something my mum and dad did not do) are paranoid. I dont see that there is really a psychological problem here.
The projection that because others (read young people) act differently in terms of their connectability, is pathological has gained currency with the media. Research by Sherry Turkle gets reported so often I am tempted to turn off my google alerts on her name following the May, New York Times interview. At least she had suggested, tentatively, that it 'may' cause a shift in the way they develop. Well yes, it may. The same article cited another psychologist saying it also has potential for benefit. This doesnt get repeated. Nor does it get repeated where it said its too early to tell.

Seems demonising sells papers, but its not possible to trace 'the research' behind the suppositions. There are articles oft repeated in papers, and there are interviews with people with an interest in such things such as Sherry Turkle. But the evidence is more anecdotal and tentative than gets repeated in the media. In Sherry Turkle's publications at the MIT website, there is no research evidence demonstrating increased cases of developmental delay. What is present is speculation on possibilities, on how people are shaping their interactions and being shpaed inside of those interactions.

That others act differently does not indicate a change in physiology. There is no new form of psychiatric illness, there is no cell phone induced developmental delay. There is no measurable alteration in electrical wiring nor in chemistry.

The capacity to be connected by cell phone provides an avenue to do what has always been done, differently, and differently creates differences. But the differences worth studying may well be the other things happening concurrently ; We might want to look at other factors impacting on young people in terms of how tethered they might be to their parents...increasing debt secondary to the costs of study also significantly impacts on independence.

We are facing change, and it is worth looking at. Should we reject Turkle’s work and refuse to accept the suggestions of emotional developmental delay completely? Perversely, I say no. Latour quoting Kant says “It is not enough to show that something is an illusion we also need to understand why the illusion is necessary.”
There's something in this that suggests change is newsworthy, but is extra newsworthy when its frightening or provocative. In emphasising supposed difference, and in making technology the source of difference, anxieties are provoked that can help the 'rest of us' feel comfortable. What might occur if we were to take away this excuse for our anxieties? We might have to start accepting the needs young people have for feeling connected, we might stop blaming them and look at ourselves.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The tipping point; stickiness; and scale

Malcolm Gladwell's analysis on how small things can be responsible for substantive changes is an enticing read, and there are some similarities to an actor network intent; there is a mystery to unravel. However, Galdwell seems a bit too keen to attribute causative features down to the few things, rather than the many.
He describes ho (some) changes occur with a contagion like effect. If I look at the stats for Youthline's mobile phone text counselling service, there's been the exponential growth, it started small, grew in smallish increments, then starts doubling. All this with advertising that in no way is synchronised with such growth; first when it was launched- and even here the adverts could have been confused with the greening of a philanthropic company, the new free texting phone number has barely been advertised- once in tearaway magazine.
When I talked with 2 users of the service, neither had been consciously influenced by the advertising. One had known of it through extended family and one by associations with happier times, a presence at yoth events. This is something that is worth recognising in the committment of this community organisation to 'building the brick mother'.

Gladwell defines the tipping point as the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable.... a sociological term: "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point." There are growth curves that happen exponentially, but being actor network theory inclined, I disagree with the unstoppable. I accept the exponential nature of viral contagion, but he doesn't talk of what happens next, because such fads as he mentions also stop, such viruses do outgrow their nurturing environments and grow beyond sustainability. The conditions that made for the event, can also alter- because of that event or for other reasons. Things can always configure differently. If I pour boiling water on an agar plate the doubling stops...if the conditions that make for cheap texting stop, so too could the demand for Youthline's texting service.

In the liklihood of such changes moving socially, Gladwell also talks of stickiness. This is a concept that is also discussed by community of practice writers such as Wenger. The point of difference actor network theory might bring to these accounts is that stickiness can be held because of the nonhuman actor:
When Em texted Youthline, she could keep the responses on her phone, a cell phone's memory is 'sticky', unless actively deleted its a reminder. She kept them "because they felt good". The messages provided ongoing affirmation. The other thing she did was push a message saying "Youthline does txt counselling 4 free, # 234 and sent it to 6 people and she had sure knowledge that one of these people sent it to another 12. The forwarding function provides an ease of conveying the message; this message too is 'sticky'. Unlike the game called either 'Chinese whispers' or 'broken telephone', accuracy stays intact.

In actor network theory terms, its also about the cellphone as a non human actor having attributes that create the conditions that make something more likely to occur.
At the same time, it takes a network, not an individual. Gladwell's argument is based on the 1967 "Six Degrees of Separation" study by social psychologist Stanley Milgram.

Milgram distributed letters to 160 students in Nebraska, with instructions that they be sent to a stockbroker in Boston (not personally known to them) by passing the letters to anyone else that they believed to be socially closer to the target. The study found that it took an average of six links to deliver each letter. Of particular interest to Gladwell was the finding that just three friends of the stockbroker provided the final link for half of the letters that arrived successfully. This gave rise to Gladwell's theory that certain types of people are key to the dissemination of information.
In 2003, Duncan Watts, a network-theory sociologist at Columbia University, repeated the Milgram study by using a web site to recruit 61,000 people to send messages to 18 targets worldwide. He successfully reproduced Milgram's results (the average length of the chain was approximately six links). However, when he examined the pathways taken, he found that "hubs" (highly connected people) were not crucial. Only 5% of the e-mail messages had passed through one of the hubs. (Wikipedia re Gladwell's Tipping point)

What remains essential is the work required. Rather than multiconnected individuals, that might make the physical movement of a letter easier, the electronic actor has no such limitation.The absence of an intimate relationship makes it very easy to ask to have a message passed on. Who these days would willingly cross countries or states.
The electronic medium creates an easy option, cheap cost wise and effort wise. Clay Shirkey in Here comes everbody explains this in terms of cheap transaction costs. Lowering transaction costs provide a platform for communities of practice. The potential only evolves though, only picks up speed because of the ubiquity of the message carrier, the tool allows for increasingingly rapid communication.

Cascading knowledge of a service also results in increased scale for the service to meet demand. A challenge then for how to get counsellors up to speed with providing the service...but perhaps more importantly just as more is different, faster is different. How to manage multi conversations occurring simultaneously?

a thesis as slices of stories

Daniel Pink's book, A whole new mind, lists the aptitudes for success in a conceptual era. These include
Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning.
I'm wondering if the academy can embrace the shift from the knowledge age with its logics and linear approach and instead value Pink's conceptual concerns of engagement.

Since i am writing a thesis informed by actor-network theory, how might Pink's attributes be demonstrated?
Design would encompass what 'makes things up' not as fantasy but very much as an empirical analysis of what is pulled together. For the thesis, design is also about form with function, design not being an act of titivation. I can use art work, poetry, allegory ... but not as a gimmick, it has to progress the story. And because the academy may not be attuned to work in a conceptual rather than knowledge era, such use needs arguing.

The 'story' tells of how other actors are seduced into such design. How we enrol others and peel them off from prior, or distracting, concerns. In addition, an ANT thesis presents the research story as partial, and or fractal and or overlapping. The multivocal voice need to consider all actors, human and otherwise, so voice is uncovered for such actors; what is the influence of the environment, or of the tools of the trade.
In Aramis Latour demonstrates the use of story to convey multiple stories of a mystery in Who killed Aramis, a nascent form of transportation. In the Body multiple, Mol demonstrates through the telling of empirical stories the multiple performances of practice demonstrating arteriosclerosis as a multiple entity.
Stories are not lineal in the making, they are made lineal retrospectively.To simplify this ignores the messiness that is part of the social (dis)order, and as Law suggests, to make such complexity simple may be to make a mess of it.
The storytelling is not to imply that fiction or facts are necessarily separate entities. In ANT all research is also partial, it does not stand in isolation from those who create it....all facts are creations. In addition, to tell of 'facts' may not suffice, our ability to access knowledge has never been greater, but of itself this does not result in changed behaviour. We probably all know of smokers who are well informed on the facts. Pink tells us "What begins to matter more [than mere data] is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact."

In symphony there is a pulling together, how might it be done with more deliberate intent, if one were wanting a particular shape what could be pushed, pulled, left alone. Here its worth the time spent with Itay on youtube for there is an art to great composition and to leading.

This symphony also takes into account the custodial role of telling the story, for the storyteller too has impact. The story chosen and the way it is shaped, and to whome it is told...all these are alo political acts of researcher involvement.
"The most creative among us see relationships the rest of us never notice," Pink says. And this too is the major part of an actor network informed analysis.

Empathy- having a critical imagination is to consider how unknown or unexperienced lives might also be shaped within a network. To not pretend a God like view from nowhere but to appreciate the person's own experience as that which is experienced. To have voice, to make voice. And to know when to make things more and less heard, to have empathy includes considering if whats invisible should be made visible, or not. Susan leigh Star writes on this in her ant approaches to research analysis. It is also a consideration expressed by Latour in saying always consider putting yourself at the peak of enthusiasm that has actors act the ways they do, do not play the sly one advantaged by hindsight.

; suggests that there are serendipitous acts that will not be fully known in advance, that there needs to be space for the unknown. To be playful is also about leaving space for being creative, to consider that new learnings may be told in new ways. And also that what is planned for doesnt usually consider failure and risk.

Meaning, and finally to make meaning is also to know that things might also be performed differently, there is therefore scope that things might also be performed differently.

Seems to me that a conceptual approach is congruent with Actor- network theory.

Friday, August 07, 2009

a meme fashion victim

Visiting David Weinbergers joho blog, and followed a tail to memetracker,

MemeTracker builds maps of the daily news cycle by analyzing around 900,000 news stories and blog posts per day from 1 million online sources, ranging from mass media to personal blogs. We track the quotes and phrases that appear most frequently over time across this entire spectrum. This makes it possible to see how different stories compete for news and blog coverage each day, and how certain stories persist while others fade quickly.

My mind is just boggling as to what this one refers to
"I've got this thing and its expletive golden"
a relationship?
an investment tip?
the holy grail?
Just about covers anything.
My mum used to have a picture of the golden hand of Buddha above the doorway to the kitchen, could be that :)
Blessed all who entered her space.

The memetracker is a great idea, useful for looking at where stories evolve, and get repeated. I was surprised, for a little while, to see how highly rated www.odt.co.nz and www.stuff.co.nz were rated when it comes to an analysis of where breaking stories are reported...but then again, anything that happens overnight gets reported earliest by those whose time clocks are advantaged.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

getting smarter with your mobile

Back in the 1960's this is what a mobile phone looked like.
Obviously its got a dial phone, for the obvious reasons that if you stepped on uneven surfaces, or chewing gum, you wouldn't want to be accidentally phoning people or running up costly toll bills.
These were also emergent days for feminism. The problem was that while it was really hard on socks, it was an impractical device for women. Agent 99 had far too much to do in her working life to risk getting holes in her tights, in these olden days, getting holes, or runs, meant darning.
An additional problem, was that walking around with one shoe off was worse for women, the heel difference made this an impractical lopsided choice. Furthermore, the innovation developed at a time when stilettos were the fashion choice for female fashion victims, this made accidental tympanoplasty and self imbedded grommets a frightening surgical risk, especially without anaesthesia.
Then there was the social stigma attached, these were not very enlightened times regarding mental health issues, talking into ones shoe, in public, could have got you certified.
Amazing really that it ever caught on. Who would have thought That Get Smart a spy spoof would lead to the ubiquitous use of mobile phones that we have today.

Amazing also is that the phone is more memorable than the dialogue, this was 1965, there was a cold war (the war that you have when your not having a war) and remember this predated the pre-emptive strikes on weapons of mass destruction occurring 40 years later...

The dialogue between Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 in the episode titled Appointment in Sahara. Behind the two characters is an image of a mushroom cloud:

99: Oh, Max what a terrible weapon of destruction.
Smart: Yes. You know, China, Russia, and France should outlaw all nuclear weapons. We should insist upon it.
99: What if they don't, Max?
Smart: Then we may have to blast them. That's the only way to keep peace in the world.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

A lol approach to thesis writing

A pleasant wet Saturday afternoon at Borders, nice comfy chairs, read the book...buy the book, seduction. I have been reading and lol(ing)the latest Janet Evanovich, finger lickn fifteen. In Borders was the How to write a book by said author, so here's some wisdoms that I take on board for the thesis.

Show up for work every day.
Dont try for perfection in the first instance, rewriting comes later.
(This is my third worst fault, my first two are not taking the first two pieces of advice seriously enough)

Don't fall into the trap of rewriting chapter one until it's perfect. And don't discard everything you write halfway through because you're sure it sucks. Writing stuff that sucks is part of the learning process!

Show dont tell, the impact in first person is stronger than it is when describing.
Instead of stating a situation flat out, you want to let the reader discover what you're trying to say by watching a character in action and by listening to his dialogue. Showing brings your characters to life.

(If I take this piece of wisdom, i escape my trap of having an inarticulate research participant, I just need to describe the scenario, it is its own story)
And some nuts and bolts advice on structure;
Map the story; tell it with small arcs, there should be ups and downs, there should be mini moments of suspense; use a storyboard so everything keeps progressing the plot.