Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How did you travel 2010

Frequently, happily, idylically as well as troubled. There were many journeys.
France was sublime, canal boating sublimer... not a word? Tell it to someone who cares.
And with the ANT research, I travel slowly, which is just the way it is supposed to be according to Latour.
Today i travelled between collateral realities and sensitive research.
Maybe tomorrow is soon enough to check out skype or icq or my groupwise email, meantime, I am having to travel in restricted well.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Beyond avoidance

I've avoided being honest when i know it would hurt, truth without empathy is not a virtue.

Ive also avoided going mad; a phd and fulltime work is majorly taxing.

And Ive avoided finishing the PhD.
Ive avoided managing my time with deadlines. I know they are elastic so why would I?
However, i would quite like my life back now.
Ive avoided strategies that are available, but will use at least once in January. If i make a statement such as this, is it any more likely to occur- i dont know. Ive not tried it before :)
We will see.
I will use 1. the unorganizer to do an accounting of my use of time
2. the writeordie website where writing inside a square can be either time limited or word count limited.

I have meantime avoided the garden; a phd and a garden are incompatable.
I struggle a bit in avoiding guilt. Not of the garden, but of exercise and well cooked meals and of being there for otherss.
The body may recover, the family seem tolerant. I avoid talking to them too much on the content, but it seems it consumes me and spills from every pore, every day. I suspect they would like it done with too...

My biggest regret will be if the methodology section is not done by Dec 31. I work and work and work it, and i feel done over with it, but its still got a little way to go. It is the first time i have attempted a personally set deadline and it frustrates me that the work seems to have its own ideas on what is needed. Resistance seems futile. What it takes is what it takes, i've already put down my clever to pick up my ordinary on this.

What am i unsure of?
Will it/I be good enough? Ive never written a methodology before; am i doing whats wanted? Will a rewrite be required? Its not stopping me though, the learning is useful. When i write, I learn.

This blogpost is in response to the Reverb10 prompt for 20th Dec.
Reverb involves a pledge to write every day: because writing makes you better at it.
I hope so :)
What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Lesson learned

When you hit someone with a brick, it doesnt't make them prettier.

Im glad my friend is still alive.
Tears as i write this, prickles of salt dry under my eyes.
I am tied by etiquettes of silence; its not my story to tell.

But in the silence is also learning; connections to a future, I know now what i will never do:
I will never hit someone with a brick and expect it to make for better performance.
Do not confuse my silence with absence.

Cartographies of Silence
The technology of silence
The rituals, etiquette
the blurring of terms
silence not absence
of words or music or even
raw sounds
Silence can be a plan
rigorously executed
the blueprint to a life
It is a presence
it has a history a form
Do not confuse it
with any kind of absence
–Adrienne Rich,

This blog was brought about by the following post about staying away from the whine and producing better wine...
In wanting to improve writing: write.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

innovations own seeds of destruction

What innovation does:

Everything we invent, Marshall Macluhan concluded, has four essential effects:

€ First, each invention enhances or exaggerates the body part or faculty of which it is an extension. Thus, the car allows us to "run" faster and farther, thereby shrinking our experience of physical distance. Cars created suburbs and ‹ because we climb into them and wear them like skin ‹ they also create private space in public places.
€ Second, each invention obsolesces an old technology by replacing it with a new one. Thus, just as the telegraph displaced hand-carried messages, telephones displaced the telegraph, thereby shortening time and contributing to the immediacy McLuhan called the "global village".
€ Third, each new invention retrieves something old by using it in a new way. Thus, the first content of television became old movies, thereby inviting a nostalgia by rekindling our reflection of the past. TV has also rekindled our interest in nature by bringing it ever more vividly into our living rooms. Cities have inspired a romance with nature.
€ Fourth, when pushed to the limit, each new invention reverses the effect for which it was intended. Thus, the car, which was supposed to eliminate the horse manure that polluted 19th century cities, has now rendered some cities nearly uninhabitable because of toxic air emissions. And suburbia has created the traffic gridlock that increasingly renders car travel impossible.

Each of our inventions "massages" us into a new shape, changing how we think and behave. We become what we make. "You shape your tools and they shape you," McLuhan said. "It's a loop ‹ you start out a consumer and you wind up being consumed."

But its more than context that makes this Latour notes, only sociology seems to get away with blaming the social on the social.

So the seeds of destruction are built in to the object...
We invent cars...i want one, get one, use one...and so does everone else...we have to pay for them, drive to work, manufacture the traffic jam...more time driving less time working to pay for the car...and i find myself in a mobius strip...consumed by consumerism.
Its not 'the social' that creates this havoc...its collected beings, human and otherwise making it so.

I like to be in contact, i take to email...i get 10 a day, no sweat, 20 a day many a day before being overwhelmed...30-50? And then i stop looking...i dont want to i switch media...i go to blog...but get spam..facebook...twitter but before i know it there's too much junk there too... want to gain my attetion?
quaint...write me a letter :)
they are so rare now
i would open it

How to finish the phd in 10 easy steps; Levelling up one chapter at a time

If this is the answer what was the question, post number 2.

Getting a phd is mighty time consuming and i want my life back.
And compared to facing a line up like the one above, my getting educated should be a walk in the park.

So I have:
1. Done the maths, counted up whats written, yay80,000 already (some thesis are this short!!!) but im still some chapters, bother. I need, Im guessing, but i have aword limit... 20,000 words: two and a half chapters in two months, 60 days if i keep 10 up my sleeve for having a life...before the next semester starts and work gets in the way...if i only write 182 words a day, current average, then the 20000 words i still need are going to take too damn long.
Time to get serious about levelling up. It is only 333 words a day...
2. Redownloaded the phd toolkit- includes chart for unscheduling time so i can 'fit it in' - the phd. And read all the affirmations and anti-procrastination info the toolkit provides
3. Look at #phd and #phdchat on twitter so i dont feel alone; checked today's 'group' time on GMT and participated :) heh is this getting in the way of writing...being connected, find myself smiling lots in the not procrastination, i feel happier about the phd...
4. Looked at the photos of UK student protests fighting to be educated and realise i have nothing to complain about. Trebled student fees makes a PHD cost how much, jaw dropping open...9000 pound a yr... Blood on the faces of students for Gods sake... More procrastination? Strong motivator. Education is wasted on me? NOOOO!
5. Set up the working space, feet up, laptop, books in arms reach, cats on their own chair. Put nurofen gel on the wrist and kept it within arms reach, put the hand splint similarly within arms reach.
6. Googled writing methodology chapters to check I'm not going astray, as well as rechecking the book i have on helping Doctoral students write by Kamler and Thomson (not that useful on this bit, but sstill always good for the way they write) And reread articles by Lankshear and Knobel on the ambiguity of methodology, plus another on ethnography by Agar
Checklist time:
Is the methodology chapter a logical progression from question? YES.
From lit review? YES
Is the chapter a synopsis of what research method has been chosen or a critique as well???MMM Not sure. Think I'll do the synopsis then in next chapter look at how i talk it down to earth. OK tim eto move on.
7. Set achievable goals. Chunk it down. Made the decision to 'level up' by months end; to finish the methodology chapter...just a few subsections to go...thats 10 days...with 5 days for socialising (heh its christmas) and for editing it....or if i fall behind...and i figure this chapter has so far addressed= 4/5 ANT uncertainties...the 5th has some accrued notes, ...then need to ensure performativity, reflexivity and multiplicity are covered if not done seriously enough in 5th section...and maybe arts based research or allegory...if not in the aforementioned bits..
8. Check in to write or die, if/when i get really desperate, and if i ever stop blogging...there's a free online writing box set the word limit, set the timer...
Time to seriously get down to the business of being an educated person
9. I still have the writers diet up my sleeve. Is your writing flabby, useful for editing, given i think i might write too much...good site for writing in a more direct way, how to take out those extraneous words.

and too busy writing to try to think up extra steps just for rounding up the list feel free to add your own :)
...see you when write or die has finished with me :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

If this is the answer, what was the question?

In a reverse of what most quiz shows do, Jeopardy gives the answer, and asks contestants “What is the question?”

“What question was this device designed to answer?”

Mr Watson come here- I want to see you

A landline:
Over time the question shifts:
Is so and so there?
Can they talk with me?
A negotiation
I'd like you to stop what you are doing and talk with me
I want to be with you; together and apart

A mobile:
1992, Dec 3, a three week early naf merry christmas that went unnoticed
I'm writing you a note, it's a message you can look at or not.
And overtime this also shifts, the message is for you, it's for you because a mobile is personal
I have your attention, attend to me.
Manage it
But just because it's short and succinct does not make it impetuous. There is opportunity for review.
I want you to attend to me.
Digital traces of attending, of gaining attention and of being connected.
Digital traces of connecting.
And at not too much cost. The effort can be masked, I dont want ot presume to much, I dont want to appear overly interested...Im a casual kind of medium, the cost is minimal whether financial or emotional.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Education's reigning error

Why do students fail?
And closer to home for me personally as a student:Why do phd students fail?
I have a friend, heh more than one, and I see that their phds have failed them.
What happened?
The ducks didn't get in line; was it a lack of duck flocking skills, or their duck herding skills? Os a combination of the two? Perhaps a weakness in superglue...
Somehow getting the ducks in a line, and keeping them aligned and recording the process of said alignment, all in a way that would make meaning for others, gathering in the supervisor, the marker, the reader, all didn't come to pass.

At this point I recommend reading Machiavelli's The Prince.
Should be compulsory reading for any Phd student intent on completion.
(And it's freely available from the Gutenberg press, and it's a very short little read for a book that is timeless. Machiavelli certainly got a lot of bad press for a book that is basically about winning friends and influencing people. The moral compass is in the hands of the reader.)

I've just been reading some Actor-networking by John Law (2010) on research methods, and there is an overlap point well worth making in regard to seeing what you expect to see in education. He cites Robert k Merton on "the reign of error".
And there is scope for addressing this in regard to education.

Robert K. Merton elevated the principle into what he called the ‘‘reign of error’’.
Banks fail,he said, because people first wrongly think that they will, but then this definition of the situation become true. STS writers Donald MacKenzie and Barry Barnes have shown how this may happen, for instance in finance. But I also think the point needs to be reworked. Methods, it seems to me are potentially more profoundly self fulfilling than Merton’s talk of the "reign of error" might suggest.

And here's what happens in education, the self fulfilling prophecies become embedded in consciousness, girls cant do hard sciences etc etc...
I knew physics was going to be hard...and it was.
And here's a link demonstrating it
When a teacher told me "everyone in this class can pass maths" ...I did
When my phd supervisor tells me i write well, my confidence is boosted, i write more...and i write well :)
Or so I'm told.
And so I continue.

When I see a colleague hit with a brick because performance isn't great, I see something much less pretty occur. Being hit with a brick does not make things prettier or more effective...
It's not rocket science. It's much more important than that.

Law, J. (2010, 31 August- 3 September). The double social life of method. Paper presented at the meeting of the Sixth Annual CRESC conference on the Social Life of Method, St Hugh's College, Oxford, England. Retrieved from

Machiavelli, N., &. (1998). The Prince: Retrieved August 19, 2010, from Project Gutenberg, (Original work published 1532).

Monday, November 22, 2010

The plot thickens: Conversational moves in phd writing

Kamler and Thomson suggest developing the thesis as argument might be progressed through conversational means, so here goes:

So here's the problem
Change is bloody hard to make happen. (Ch.1 contextualising)
Even when its seen somewhere else and looks like its the best thing since sliced bread, making it happen, getting others to align, how then to win friends and influence to get all the ducks in a row...And as much as i think i might be making a change happen, whats it doing back?
So I'm going to look at change.

I take the example of emergent technologies in a youth counselling centre.
How do things get off the ground, where's it come from...everyone's implicated, and so are things...
Something that's not been done before evolves, there were a few things up in the air, one of them really takes off. Whats involved?
How does it reshape those involve; people, practices, and the things.

So there's a multitude of ways change gets looked at, and they only ever get part of the picture.
How would we know whats needed and whats possible if we only get part of the picture?
And how could we intervene to make such a change more positive, and on what grounds, because things might be otherwise.
And this brings up alternate realities, for which groups or individuals do we talk of when we consider the positive?
Ah there's a controversy in this: What to do with concurrent positives and negatives? And what of multiple realities that sometimes converge, clash or are distributed so that they not clash.

This change that happens crosses disciplines and has never been explored before, so there's a need to check out education, health, psychology- inter and intra-personal, and there's organizational change, top down and bottom up.
And there's consideration for the technology, and consideration for counselling.
So i make a space inside of which I can portray the multiplicity involved. I make a space I can talk from. (Ch2 networking the theory space being clarifications and ch 3 illogics and logics of change lit review)

And in looking at approaches to change, I can say why they are flawed, or at least fractional, and partial in both senses of the word. Can it be otherwise: no.
They give a part of the picture, they simplify too far. I use the literature on change as an example of how realities do this; they're partial always.
I introduce ANT, an approach that seems more robust, while at the same time is very humble; it doesnt prescribe, and it doesnt do causation, and it works with partial- in both meanings. Considerable justification is given to my choosing a method that openly acknowledges no claim to understanding everything nor provides answers.

(ch 4 ANT sensibilities) how to do an ant informed study, what further knowledge of ant is needed

(ch 5 methodological praxis)I negotiate work with a not-for-profit organisation i have been associated with who are expanding the repertoire on approaches they have taken to counselling.
Its important to understand whats going on in as much as we can because:
1. the agency wants to understand how change may then be shaped for good. Shaping services for good matters, it matters for young people; they have a need to be heard and to be taken seriously with regard to services that purports to meet their needs.
2. this research shares practice that has not previously been written of (text counselling).
3. to contribute to discussions of social material relationality particularly in regard for how digital spaces might be interfered with for good; to better meet human purposes

(Ch 6 Slices of practice) So what i did was a three dimensional capture of the network involved in the semisolid practices of text counselling particularly.
I present the findings, some of the findings, sufficient of the portray the knowledge of whats shaping the service. These are presented as slices of practice.(ch 6, data analysis)
This involves giving voice to artefacts, to data- 6000 text counselling messages, to CCT's, interviewing clients and providers of the service, and staff who make the serive possible.

(ch 7 discussion) And it allowed me to see

1. how things might be otherwise, considerations for the organization, including opening up areas of discussion, opening up questions of what if...what of scale, what of 'stickiness of the medium, what of smartphones, broadband access being more available, costs shifting...
2. considerations for practice: writing up a practice shift; identifying the significant aspects of this new practice
3. consideration for ANT in regard to issues of identity and agency; of multiple realities; of making digital spaces more amenable to human needs

(Chapter 8, conclusion)Realities are multiple; diversity required, conclusions are multivocal:
Whats learned in doing this?
That things can be/are now otherwise:
for the agency
for ant
for counselling
for me: that change takes work; that research involves researcher repsonsibilty.

Some further plot thickening: how to turn the genre of a storyline into the argument of a thesis... I think there's a tautology involved: Seems to my mind that a networked approach just isnt going to do nice straight trajectories.

Kamler, B. and Thomson, P.(2006). Helping doctoral students write. New York, NY.: Routledge

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Poetics of place and space

Ze Frank's web playroom reached a TED talk

Ze Franks TEDtalk begins with a picture, a metaphor of the virtual world.
And he says something like how every talk of the web uses a picture like this, the digital traces made apparent. Its a tracing of the social web from wikipedia, it might have been a network via ANT but the anthrocentrism of social networking per wikipedia doesnt acknowledge the non human actors.

Ze Frank also brings in a picture of a Netherlands street crossing sign. The person looks to be really interested in the button, but seems he's not that interested in crossing the street, having fixated on the button...
and it reminds Ze of a photograph from any current street corner, a person looking at the text on their mobile phone. And what he makes of this is:
"Truth is, life is being lived there,
when they smile,
life is being lived there, somewhere up there in that dense network.
To feel and be felt...

He might have said instead: To love and to be loved in return...
Really connecting with people isnt easy"

But Ze Frank manages it, mediated by web
His examples include the very beautiful audio hug; Hey you're ok, you'll be fine, just breathe...Made by strangers around the world.

And it reminds me of my phd study with youthline and its text counselling. What it takes to be supported, to feel affirmed, to be connected, might look small, but its a moment in reality nonetheless.
Its not necessarily the people i am with geographically with that make me feel connected. It can be the book I'm reading, the ideas of writers long past or very distant, people I am unlikely to meet, but whose thinking resonates, and a web of connection made it easier.
And the connections don't stop with the people, but with things of import also.
Transitional objects Sherry Turkle calls them.
And her book Evocative objects, things we think with demonstrates the point, we are shaped in connection not only with each other, but also with things.

Taking this a bit further, into philosophy and into metaphysics, what is, is shaped in connection with us, its not a chair or a table or a ...unless i think it so...its there...but its purpose is established in connection with me.
My mobile is also my outsourced memory, my torch, my holder of talismans- the little messages i dont delete.

Its what helps me feel good about myself.
oh...and its also a phone.

Both human and non-human identities are shaped in connection.
And neither are totally separable one from the other, but entwined, the sociotechnical is made in conjunction.

Gregory Bateson in an ecology of mind explores such connection also:
Is there a line or a sort of a bag where I can say that "inside" that line or interface is "me" and outside" is the environment or some other person? By what right do we make these distinctions?

This challenges bounded ways of thinking, arguing that relational processes are entwined in the forming of people, and of potentials:

It is through relational process that whatever we come to view as independent beings are given birth.... in whatever we think, remember, create and feel, we participate in relationship... we carry with us traces of myriad relationships, past and present, existing or imagined. These traces essentially equip us with multiple and often conflicting potentials for action. (p397)

Its not only our relating with people that has this import.
The social and technical are entwined, identities of both made in the moment, and the agency of both made in networks of possibility.

One of few memories of my Grandad was him repeating the maxim 'clothes maketh the man'
On reflecting, across time, and networking with dead people's thoughts, I find this a very ANT like saying.

But the ANT connection here that I really want to make is that there are people constructively using digital spaces that enhance the very human condition of feeling loved, feeling heard and being connected.

For Peter Sloterdikt, the spaces we make to live in, while talking of architecture, might also consider the digital spaces we choose to shape and be shaped by. Using the metaphor of spherology: a bubble's interior and exterior are made in the same breath. In designing where we live, such shaping influence us.
In moving into digital spaces how too are such spaces shaping us, and how might we shape them better to meet our human needs?

To use cutting edge technology in order to orchestrate the most archaic of all needs to be met, the need to immunize existence, to construct protective islands, to nurture human fragility...we arrive in a world of fingertip buttons.
Sloterdikt refers to his own explicative work; he refers to the dynamism of our being-in-the-world...where every created space enatils a projection.
That we take into each new space the memory of a different space, a past space we have been in.
What interiors are/were needed...becomes...what environments might produce such interiors...
Interiors that trace immunizing capacity, a protective capacity, a protection against the less fortuitous moments of life is what is wanted.

And so he infers that for architects geometry is not a starting point, but instead the atmospheric effects of space.
SO in teaching an dlearning, the starting point shouldnt be ppt...
Obviously not everyone's idea of what is desirable in nurturing spaces will be the same. But there are places to start from that are more and less helpful, the tools or the human values...shouldnt really be a hard question, mmm?

To appreciate technology's usefulness consider a functionalist question of what does the system achieve in current form? and at the end, What could be done instead? Rather than what do we use, begin with intent.
Just as modern achitecture sees itself as molders of humanity, , if one ignores the shot of meglomania, so too might designers of digital spaces.

This links a media as environment approach, in using emergent technologies consideration might first be given to the design of such spaces attentive to the needs of the human condition, remembering that variation exists and that diversity is therefore required.

'Language is the house of being' postulated Heidegger
'The medium is the message' asserted Mcluhan

I'm thinking that reals are made in unreal spaces also.

Bateson, G. (1972). Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology. Chicago, IL: University Of Chicago Press.
Sloterdijk, P. (2009). Spheres theory: Talking to myself about the poetics of space. Harvard Design Magazine, 30(Spring/Summer), 126-137. Retrieved from
Turkle, S. (Ed.). (2007). Evocative objects. Things we think with. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

beautifully entwined

Dont show them, tell them,
a beautiful example of this writing technique:
And I dont even like tennis, nor does Andre Agassi it seems.
He's beautifully entwined, mind, body, family, the tennis opens...
The opening pages just pull.
What tennis means to his children- failure would mean a new puppy...
Realities are multiple.
His children 1, and 3 know not to run into him, his body is known by so many others in so many ways. For himself in these opening pages he knows his body as pain, his children, such young children, know his body as fragile.

There's seamless movement from one aspect of the network to another, Ramon his racket stringer, the art of tension held physically in his Agassis' own body and also within the focused work of the craftsman tennis rackett stringer and within the physical entity of the rackets.

This is a beautifully written illustration of actor-network theory, beautifully descriptive, the network just gets shown.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Persuading an octopus into a glass jar; literature review writing in a PhD

Persuading recalcitant octopi into glass jars could well be a future vocation.

Certainly i have enough practice. I had wrongly it seems considered my lit review section an an extension of my own thinking, it just needed a bit of shaping. I now know it as a thing that writhes, seemingly with a mind of its own. Seems my having will is not enough to constrain it, it needs to want to go.

Wish it would stop sucking to me, I'm sick of its tenacious clingyness and want it to let go.

The gem with which I have titled this blog comes from Kamler and Thomson (2006) in their text Helping Doctoral Students Write.

How to write to lead a reader in the directions I want...
Involves making it palatable- plain white bread loses its appeal...sprinkling it with glitter doesnt make it taste any better.

Is gritty better than bland? Mmmm masterchef question...

And I get through the tough patch for another day with a little help from Bruno Latour: I put myself at the top of the arc of that excitement.
And then i can tell a story that doesnt want to choke me, let alone the reader.

This links in well with reading some John Seely Brown on the power of pull.
Heres a pdf from a keynote, good slides on the difference between Cartesian learning and social learning (again, I nod my head to Latour, Networked learning)
Another good slide: Change the music and you change the film.
What we see, how we see it...all networked...
...its back to Turtles all the way down.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

On being multiple

I hate personality tests, they seem to assume I'm a stable personality when i have insider knowledge that clearly I am not.
However, I can accept that there are particular contexts inside of which my behaviour is more of this and less of that. At least retrospectively this can be measured. I still have problems with the presumption that this is a forward measure of what I may be like in the future, and the very effect of my having been measured, and found wanting, in some respects may well negate the validity of such testing....
However, I found i could not help myself and slipped my blog into a blog personality profiling website that uses for its analysis Myers Briggs type profiling; presumably it will have a rubric that favours certain words in certain ways (thanks to Heli for the link)
and this is what i supposedly am:
INTP - The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

I wondered if that's just what blogging brings out, esp for a blog oriented on PhD.

I was amused to see on Heli's blog others whose analysis seemingly annoyed them: a scientist who didnt like getting scientist in the analysis, lol. I presume she is too far gone, contaminated, and now a meme carrier for the language of science?

Maybe I really am insensitive?
Am i really that indifferent?

I think its just the blog brings out a particular type of me, the part of me that gets distributed here. The Mummy part of me gets distributed at home.
We r multiple ;)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

not getting very far, fast

I have been around a lot of students lately, the one that lives here is promising a month of pmt, and Im thinking it must be that time of the year.
The ones training to be counsellors on a young people's helpline for two weeks have been practicing skills on each other; number one issue is not getting the work in, they describe it as a fear of procrastination. They seem hard on themselves. I think they are tired.
And its how i feel too; I found i had spent an hour reediting a chapter having forgotten what was in it, after putting it down for two weeks, and then discovering it was an old copy...
I'm concerned that I am losing the plot for a lack of thinking time.
And worried if i dont do it all the time, i'm back to forgetting what i had done...

So, having been practiced on by a novice counsellor, I went searching for the a time management tool to block time, so i would at least have tracked a path of work in another way. ..
instead distracted, not procrastinating, i found this. Its worth repeating. It's by Julian le Grand and he talks of PhD supervision, but also of academic papers.
He describes - where 90% is done but it doesnt get finished
Ive felt 80% finished all this year...
he suggests a misplaced perfectionism
I have re-edited and re edited and then removed patches...

All the loose ends have to be tied up, every argument must be polished, every counter-argument effectively rebutted.

oooh i havent yet rebutted...
Once the thesis is submitted, the article sent to a journal, or the book manuscript dispatched to the publisher, they are open to judgment. No longer can they, or their author, remain in the realm of glittering potential; now they, and their author, are out there in the open, for peer assessment - and for peer criticism.
No i dont think thats quite it
Nonehteless he does say , both positions are needing to be faced. And then he says
Nothing can ever be perfect, nothing immune from potential critique. There will never be a finishing point where it is all done. To misquote someone else – Iris Murdoch, I think, but irritatingly I’ve never been able to find the source - you never finish a piece of academic work; you only abandon it.

I know it will never be perfect...i just want it strong enough to survive.
And I know it just needs a bit more time in the womb.

Today's writing was slow, but it was an uphill part of the journey.
Having meandered my way a path, i could mark the distance covered, the journey taken, map the scenic route and fix it. Ive got a route mapped retrospectively, cleaned it up. looks like i knew where i was going before i got there. Nice tidy research. Retrospectively.
I have alot more respect now for Deleuze, G., & Guattari(1987) A thousand plateaus... daring to write in a stream of consciousness. Dont think the thesis committee of markers would like it though. Maybe a postscript will suffice. or i save it for here :) where grammar and trajectories don't matter.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


am finally reading some John Seely Brown...I have a working premise that useful connections will hit on me at least twice.
Its probably not the most reliable premise for incidental learning, but in being slightly more discerning than 'read everything', its working for me as i continue to be overwhelmed by the too much to read, too little time, of being a phd student who wants to complete.

so when i tripped over this person's name twice...i googled it up...and found some pleasant writing :)

Here's a snippet

Clues provided by context

Consider, for instance, something as simple as a telephone-answering machine. Its use is not quite self-explanatory. A moment's thought reveals that the common message "I'm not here now" is, in the abstract, nonsense.
Whomever "I" refers to should be "here", wherever here is, "now", whenever the phrase is uttered. Yet in practice, despite its formal incoherence, the phrase turns out to be much more efficient than attempts at formal coherence, such as "If you're hearing this message, then I will not be at home at the time at which you will be calling."

What gives the more pithy phrase its effectiveness? Clearly, the words alone do not clinch the matter. To be understood, they rely on peripheral clues for interpretation. Background clicks and whirs, hisses from the tape, and the recorded quality of the voice itself all help callers realize that they are hearing a recorded message, and thus prepare them for a message's particular - if in the abstract peculiar - logic. These peripheral resources are not usually regarded as part of the information with which information technology is concerned. Yet, appearing unproblematically in the hiss of a recorded message, peripheral contributions can nevertheless be quite informative, allowing someone leaving a message and someone hearing it to communicate with a simple efficiency.

Important though they may be for design, these peripheral resources are not necessarily designed themselves. More usually, they evolve, as people - often quite unreflectively - enlist the support of contingent properties of a technology to keep things simple.

He writes directly, and he writes how the detective novel clues are missing in this webpage of subtitles and headings. There's playfulness; enjoyment and enticement in the multilayered approach.
And it reminds me of bits of my thesis writing.

He argues for the use of materiality, or performativity, though these words are not found on this page. He argues for simplification, yet what is here validates the complex.
and here he writes what i feel...and clever is that?
"the new information generated in one year is more than a thousand times larger than the size of the entire print collection in the Library of Congress. It is hard to grasp the consequences of this much new information being generated each year, year after year. But people have invented their own strategies to navigate through this immense sea of information."

And here another i am ...unable to sleep...and turn to my computer for a useful way to while away my time...i might as well be doing something useful....a phd...and that requires engaging with thinking- my own and im blogging up my thoughts...
Communication technologies have become our central tools to socialize, exchange, build knowledge, they have become part of our private and domestic lives.

I'm entering into ... media as an environment (see macluhan or melkowitz) a context not as imaginary world or of distant world with me as voyeur...but of connection.

Im in it...and if you are reading this, you are too.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

on being an incidental on one' s own thesis

Or at least, sssslightly invisible...
hey its not so bad.
On some days the thesis writes itself.
on other days it co-opts me to write it.
I'm still waiting for it to co-opt others into it's progression, they seem even shier, shire, shyer, than myself...
i quite like this from my niece and her mum:
Philip Ardagh, author of the Eddie Dickens adventures talks about his latest series of children's books, Grubtown Tales, the joy of beards and how he can't keep out of his own stories
I seem to have this double layered story going
level 1 its a thesis; speak in the third person and occassionally slip into co-opting the audience with an arrogance that says we ...
Then in other spaces, I'm back to being me, I say I, I get listened to...and then i turn into a shrinking violet...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Doing better; creating conditions for engagement in higher ed

Ive been reading some trite rubbish on the ranking of universities for their teaching and its not hard to come up with some more worthwhile gems:

Prof Mollie Neville, writing on value added schools, traced young people's descriptions of "it was like i didnt exist". She recognized what worked was strengthening relationships.
Its not a hard ask to call people by name :)
It's super easy when the medium is online.

Not talking with anyone at school is the sad experience of many young people at school. Prof John Hattie talks of the filmed experience of children at school who didn't talk with anyone all day. This happens at universities too. Assuming learning might involve bouncing ideas around then setting up opportunities for this to happen, fostering engagement in class and online becomes a teaching imperative.

There's a theme here. Knowledge doesnt happen in a vacuum, its made in connections. A focus on relationality provides possibilities for things to be otherwise. Active networking is an approach worth investing in for successful education.
Consciously nurturing the relationships seems a more useful approach than the audits i have seen scoping irrelevant conditions.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A convenient blindness; sessional contracts in higher ed,%20L.%20Gale,%20I.%20Campbell.pdf

May,R., Gale, M., and Campbell, I.(2008). Casually appointed, permanently exploited: How is NTEU responding to the casualisation of academia in the current climate? Paper presented at AIRAANZ. Melbourne.

Many in the university community take comfort in the idea that sessional academic employment is a privilege and an opportunity – a kind of apprenticeship that leads to tenure. It may once have been so. However the data and the qualitative experience of sessional staff demonstrates that this is not the case in Australia in 2007, and has not been the case for many years. The illusion of the sessional apprenticeship, like the illusion that young people prefer casual employment, contributes to a convenient blindness that allows extreme exploitation to continue. That exploitation is not accidental or self-imposed. It is the necessary outcome of
decisions taken by governments, university administrations and staff in supervisory positions throughout a devolved budgetary structure.

This is an excellent article, that needs wider discussion.

It is so easy to attribute blame, but there are a myriad of factors that have resulted in the current situation.
An ANT analysis, without using the language of ANT comes through.
Revisiting the relational aspects in improving the current scenario would also be useful. For things can always be otherwise.
If you work with sessional staff, start with valuing them :)
The stories pointed to here are of unpleasant experiences; offensive and devaluing, largely invisible, but always personal.

Issues identified:
Not being provided the necessary conditions of work.
Being seen as being part of the problem.
A misleading terminology of flexibility and choice-
Most people do not like being seen as a disposable section of the workforce. Citing a large survey of general and academic casual staff by Junor (2004:284) found that over 80 percent of the casual academic staff who responded wanted ongoing employment.

The article cites Evans (2007)
As one casual academic noted: ‘It used to be that tutoring was a kind of indenture, a poorly paid but pleasant part of post graduate study, valuable experience on the path to an academic career... (now it) leads to nothing’.

Taking a 'relational turn' (Kenneth Gergen, 2009) is worth further consideration;
to approach human beings exclusively as seperate or bounded units- whether individual selves, communities...-is to threaten our future well-being ... It is through relational process that whatever we come to view as independent beings are given birth. ...whatever we think, remember, create and feel, we participate in relationship ...We carry with us traces of myriad relationships, past and present, existing or imagined. These traces equip us with multiple and often conflicting potentials for action. (p,397)

It is in relating, rather than avoiding or in pointing elsewhere a finger of blame, that there is potential for movement.

meantime, leading nowhere sounds like a potential paper...
Must finish the phd...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A cunning plan, or a culling plan? Education on the edge of reason

Just when you think it cant get any worse, it can.
Today i am seriously asked to consider outsourcing marking to the other side of the planet.
The latest 'cunning plan' is argued in terms of better consistency and saving us from re-training markers each year. And here's a paper for discussion at Mondays meeting:
Some papers are uploaded to Bangalore to be graded
alongside its serious brochure from VTA.
This surely is a solution in search of problems.
Where i work has made 110 people redundant over the last 4 years, presumably this was due to lack of work...or at least lack of work that might make use of these people's expertise... what I cant fathom is expertise from the other side of the planet is apparently better?
And its all sold with a cost-benefit ratio that's "completely in our favour".

A slippery slope?
mmmm just maybe
If they can do online PE classses, sneakers optional you can also do weight training online...

Hoping it was all a bad joke I responded to this latest innovative technological holy grail and ask:
Please tell me its got to be tongue in cheek
Maybe we outsource our work like we have students who outsource their work ...
Except buying someone to do your work when your a student is called cheating...
When its the institution its called efficiency.

The response back: Not being funny - we already out source the marking to Teaching Assistants, many of whom are not New Zealanders - so there is little difference.

Time for a joke?
What's worse than a full glass of digital hemlock?
A half a glass of digital hemlock
... ROFL ...

Love to know your views,
1. Should taxpayer money be spent on paying for tertiary students assignments to be regraded from the other side of the planet.
2. Should content be so homogenized that its not a problem for people in Bangladore or any other place, to mark it?

On the cutting edge, there's blood on the floor

I love learning in a virtual world, its teaching in it i hate.

The control embedded by 'you cant do that...the rooms had to be booked a year in advance' has changed, yay!
But such vinegar is now in new bottles...
It has become you cant do that because it all has to be the same...every course....looks like this...put up notes a week in advance.... make the readings this size, this shape, from this book...make the ppts using this template...that way when its 'beamed out' the 'live head' wont obliterate what you want the students to know, see...and make sure that whatever you test the students on can be answered from the ppts...
And at its worst it is about surveillance; being watched, kept in check, controlling for sameness and creating mediocrity.
At best it might be about a lack of resourcing that presents a method as resource efficient. What's really dumb is its not resource efficient if the learning is only a regurgitation. And I dont want vomit!!! I dont like vomit. Not my own nor from students.

I want learning to be about freedom, and am a tad gobsmacked because it's what took me into teaching in virtual spaces in the first place; the escape from reality that was constraining.
Now i find the constraints have caught up and i now need to plot my escape from unreality.
Reminds me of snoopy...
jumped over the fence to escape the pound but still in the world *sigh*
Or the man dressed as Snoopy in worst jail break ever...

How to change?
'Cause Im certainly not resistant to changing this...
Am looking forward to hearing from Steve Wheeler next week, he's authored a provocative chapter titled Teacher resistance to new technologies: How barriers to Web Enhanced Learning can be overcome.
Heh? I dont like what's being done to me, I'm happy to work with technology and others so long as its about nurturing the freedom to learn. Its the current imposition that needs the two fingered salute.

And since I started my thesis for these very reasons, change and resistance therein in teaching and learning, I've been thinking a lot about shaping the digital spaces to be more responsive to human needs. (see Peter Sloterdijk and Bruno Latour's)
As does my reading of Kenneth Gergen,in his book on relationality, where there is also a chapter on ANT.

It is through relational process that whatever we come to view as independent beings are given birth. ...whatever we think, remember, create and feel, we participate in relationship...
We carry with us traces of myriad relationships, past and present, existing or imagined. These traces equip us with multiple and often conflicting potentials for action. (p397)

I think the only way is to get relationality back in to the picture.
Whats held in place by relationships can also only change by relationships.
Back to rereading Machiavelli's the Prince, which btw is freely available courtesy of the Guttenberg Press and the wonders of technology, web 2.0 and people who want to help people...
Strategising how to win friends, fight the battles that matter, and make some change happen.

Having got that rant out of the way, i might now be able to get back to marking or maybe the thesis...
Gergen, K. J. (2009). Relational being: Beyond self and community. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Latour, B., & Sloterdijk, P. (2009, February 17). Networks and spheres: Two ways to reinterpret globalization. Presentation to the Graduate School of Design [Video webcast]: Harvard University. Retrieved from
Machiavelli, N., &. (1998). The Prince: Retrieved August 19, 2010, from Project Gutenberg, (Original work published 1532).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Studying what isnt there; a PhD by another name

PhD writing is very much about finding what's not there, and hoping it will stay empty while one studies it.

Studying the blank space is a really peculiar past time for entrance to the academy
Lewis Carrol or Stephen Fry could have written about the absurdity of it.
I recall seeing a poster in London by Stephen Fry saying something similar:
An original idea. That can't be too hard. The library must be full of them.

I have enjoyed an entertaining diversion watching Fry's interviews on everything from what is learning to what is web 2.0and he may not have written of the Phd (note the caution with which i say this) but at least it was 30 mins of life i would happily spend this way again.

My problem is, and i think most PhD students would agree, is having confidence to say, yes, the spot is blank. I've invested 6 years in it, and i know there's nothing there.
It's an absurdity really.
Nonetheless (and i do love this word- less than none is worthy of my study... )
there's always a worry that one just didnt look hard enough.

There are so many ways to waste time, if not a life, angst being one of them.
(Housework's another)
But at least looking for Stephen Fry quotes put smiles into this day. Bless him.
Now i really must get back to the writing, and like Fry:
I get an urge, like a pregnant elephant, to go away and give birth to a book.

(BTW this post was inspired by some very light musing on
1. what i wish i had known before i began the thesis, and
2. what i wish i knew when i finished the thesis.
Topics the thesiswhisperer will be working on.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Folding time; transference and counter-transference

Wicked wikipedia. And not in a good way.
Somewhere between August and September 2008, a new little take on transference and countertransference entered the world of wikipedia...and now its everywhere. The same little saying.
I confess I have not read all there is to read on transference or counter-transference.
I am not trained in a psychodynamic tradition.
So maybe I am just ignorant.
I have, however, done counselling in the voluntary sector for 30 years, worked as reg nurse in psychiatric hospitals (a time of deinstitutionalising in NZ) in the 1980s and done a fair bit of reading on counselling and communication skills.
Nevertheless, until i looked it up just now, i had never heard the terms of transference and counter-transference refered to in the way wikipedia and now countless other 'sources' do:

"During transference, people turn into a 'biological time machine.'" A nerve is struck when someone says or does something that reminds them of their past. This creates an "emotional time warp" that transfers their emotional past and their psychological needs into the present."

And now everywhere i look are the same repeated phrases. doesnt list a book called the Source published in June 2001 that would have credibility in the field, so i am at a loss to know where it came from.

The 'stickiness' of the web, doesnt look likely to let it go, or spit out where it came from.
A curiousity that i wish i could source.

I quite like the imagery generated, very Latourian to have folds in time where disconnected things connect.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

hopeful monsters

Technologies are not born ‘usable’ and ‘reliable’ regardless of their users. (Gherardhi,2010, opening lines)
I love this, I get positioned as a user, yet am feeling used.
But more seriously, when my daughter was born, i was a well adjusted being, and i had a very rude awakening that my parenting said babe didnt make said babe pleasant to be around. She certainly didnt enter the world reliable. makes me think i/we should always know better when it comes to other things we parent.

However as someone who works with technologies, I do find it refreshing and disarming to be reminded that new practices do not come into the world, born, usable and reliable.
They need to be made so, and I need to be made more able to interact with them in their infancy.
As written of by Latour in Aramis, adaptation required not only by Aramis but all those involved; adapt or die.

Gherardhi (2010) has been summarising some of the research on technologies coming into practice:
Such practices become such when use institutionalizes them as one ‘practice’ among others working practices (Suchman et al., 1999).
The concept of technology-in-practice (Orlikowski, 2000) reflects the way with which its users have learned the interaction between humans and non-humans.
And involves the ‘invisible work’ (Star & Strauss, 1999) required of users so that a technology can become ‘usable’ in a given context of use.

The myriad of factors required to nurture into being the new entity of practice involves a network, or as the parable says, it takes a village (an unusual one that lists the social and technical as parents of such protege)

My colleagues recently gave a presentation on the bruising that occurred/occurs with the 'beaming out of lectures across 4 sites via teleconferencing that does or doesnt hook up. It reminded me very much of this videoclip

Our conference calls arent quite so funny.

They talked of having their professional identities implicated in the errors. Identity over which they had little control. such identities are made they do not come ready made, and are not as intrinsic as might be presupposed.

In the intro by John law to A sociology of monsters: Essays on power, technology and domination he starts with a quote:

I said 'I think they might also be called "hopeful monsters".'
She said' What are hopeful monsters?'
I said 'They are things born perhaps slightly before their time; when it's not known if the environment is quite ready for them.' Nicolas Mosley, Hopeful Monsters, p.71

It has always stayed with me, the birth of a hopeful monster, a little bit like an idea before its time, born into a space that isn't prepared for it. How to nurture it through to survival?
Reminds me of the birth of a child and what i was told on the birth of mine, that it would be 100 days of crying. In the romanticism with which parenting is glossed I hadn't expected the tears to be my own.
What are the components that make spaces more and less nurturing?
Such questions are touched on in Latour and Sloterdijk's presentation at Harvard Architecture Faculty, and are the questtions of my thesis.
How might care be communicated when a youth telephone helpline is increasingly being mediated through sms text messaging. Will such text counselling survive, will the other actors?

Like Gherardhi, my intention is to direct attention to practice in which the new practices encounter and conflict with practices already established, and where new activities necessitate negotiations with established power relations.

Gherardi, S. (2010). Telemedicine: A practice-based approach to technology. Human Relations, 63(4), 501-524. doi:10.1177/0018726709339096
Latour, B. (1996). Aramis: Or the love of technology (C. Porter, Trans.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Latour, B., & Sloterdijk, P. (2009, 17 February). Networks and spheres: Two ways to reinterpret globalization Retrieved from
Law, J. (Ed.). (1991). A sociology of monsters: Essays on power, technology and domination. London, England: Routledge.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

listening and being heard

"But speaking depends on listening and being heard; it is an intensely relational act." - Carol Gilligan

This post got started by a reading a tweet that got repeated. An interesting aspect of voice that it found resonance here :)
and will resonate elsewhere- in the thesis- but here's the roughish notes - there's a problem in writing a thesis when your mind is two chapters ahead of where you are currently writing...

But it took me on a search of google and back to Carol Gilligan's In a different voice, and I do love being able to read the pages provided by publishers.

In her writing she talked of not being heard when working in the 70's 1970s (on moral development with Kohlberg). A bit like an idea born before its time but also having different voice that just wasnt out there yet.
Now this 'resonated' with me because i had just been talking of moral development and of different voice relating a very poorly executed rendition of Gilligans critique with students last week. I had been looking at adolescence and had ditched the textbook (Berk) for its lack of respect for difference: "Delinquency peaks in adolescence" and opted instead for a New Zealand text, (see ref below)
given that many/most/almost all teenagers live lives with integrity, intelligence and good common sense. To quote Claiborne and drewery:
"Perhaps we might celebrate the competence of young people instead, as a ‘work in progress’ more in need of extension than colaapsing down to their being no cure but aging."Claiborne & Drewery (2010)

In Gilligan's writing was a fuller picture to 'seeing difference not as deviance but as a marker of the human condition'.

She says she moved away from relativism to relationship. i take this to mean a movement away from 'this is my position this is what i see, and from your position you will see it differently'; to relationship, 'this is my experience, my reality is different to your'. For myself, this suggests an ANT analysis; reals are made in relationship.

On being asked what is voice she says:
By voice I mean voice. Listen I will say, thinking that on one sense the answer is simple. it is simple. And then i will remember how it felt to speak when there was no resonance, how it felt when i began writing, how it still is for many people, how it still is for me sometimes. To have a voice is to be human. To have something to say is to be a person. But speaking depends on listening and being heard; it is an intensely relational act. (p.xvi)

Hauntingly familiar is when those spoken about have no voice, are not heard.
(Tis always a good question; whose voice is being heard.)

Often repeated is that teens are tethered to their phones (Turkle) but it is not teens who are describing it this way.
And in my data collect on youth counselling there were counsellors saying that young people would manipulate them into conversing by text instead of by calling. 20% of all texts coming in were loud and clear, for example: 'if i wanted to call i effing would have', and 'cnt i jus txt coz i don wanna be heard'.
The 'voice' moved to a different medium, it wasnt that relating wasnt wanted. On moving into this medium with young people, relating is enacted.
It connects inner and outer worlds.
To not listen is to deny the choice to relate.
"To give up their voice is to give up on relationship and also to give up on all that goes with making a choice."(xvii)

To choose not to relate in the spaces young people were/are choosing for counselling would be offensive twice over, first for not listening and secondly for disempowering choice.

Carol Gilligan further expands on what it means to have voice:
When people ask me what I mean by voice and I think of the question more reflexively, I say that by voice I mean something like what people mean when they speak of the core of the self.

It is the relational that is mediated by speech, it can also be mediated in print form; while voice in the digitally texted space of SMS messaging being used for txt counselling, is not part of a seen and heard experience of breath and sound in a rhythm of speech, this does not alter that breathing and being heard continues, that an intensely relational act is occurring.
And the costs of detachment are too great to think otherwise.

Claiborne, L. and Drewery, W. (2010) Human development; Family, place, culture. Auckland: NZ. McGraw-Hill.
Gilligan, C. (1993). Letters to readers In a different voice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Friday, September 03, 2010

How to execute a dream

In Every bastard says no. The 42 below story is a 'rollicking good story of how to go from woe to go...The NZ vodka story- from $5.00 a litre of product made on a still in a garage to a company sold for 138 million.
The product was named for the latitude at which the company developed down under.

In Pandora’s Hope (Latour, 1999) Latour’s question was:
‘how do we pack the world into words?’ (p.24) And

This is one read that does this exceptionally well.
There is a chronology, but it doesnt restrict the construction of the book which is interspersed, sliced, with vignettes and with visual imagery of the advertising that aided the seduction of a market, as well as its betrayal of competitors.
For example the required public retraction of a defamatory comment on competitors product which is portrayed below.

The title of the book points to the reasons given by the actors who invented the company for its success: "Every bastard says no."
In the "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" ethos, this company had directors who decided to prove the naysayers wrong. The bastards who said no drew a resistance to failure, a dogged determindness that might not have occurred otherwise.
The treatment of product, branding and company as their baby reminds me that the product itself is an actor here, given some voice...and more wouldnt have been a problem to me.

Latour (1996b) acknowledges that ANT ‘is an extremely bad tool for differentiating associations. It gives a black and white picture not a colored and contrasted one’ (p. 380).
The quality of the associations is something that requires thick descriptions, this book provides it.
For Jan Nespor, the questions shift from what the assemblages are, to also inquire as to the nature of the interactions- The question is "how and why ‘commingling’ happens, for example, how important to a given outcome is the sequencing of assembly, the pacing of composition, the speciļ¬c mix of the elements associated, whether a given element is essential to the mix or open to substitution, and whether the associations are reversible or easily changed. Do associations and delegations come slowly and incrementally, allowing different kinds of uses at different stages as a device takes form (or as different versions of a device are produced), or do commitments come together all at once (the organization bets on a particular product)? Are commitments large at the outset or do they gradually build? How does one translation relate to a preceding sequence of translations (e.g., Latour, 1996a, p. 91; Law & Callon, 1992, p. 52)?"

Stephen Fox also questions the quality of the connections, when he enquires as to what force there may be in them.
"Where is power in Ant? it is in in the acts tions in the network including the actions of inanimate objects such as newspapers, metal...And that non human entities also 'act': eg radiation on atomic structures. Force is tangible. Force is relational- it implies active and resistive entities. Even the self can be acted upon and resisted. If we think about force relations at every point in a network we begin to think about learning in different ways.

Power needs to be explored and demonstrated in the thick descriptions.

The similarities with the changes i have been studying include a dogged determinedness, fickle funding, a transience that makes some things easier and others harder.
Retrospectively it is easy to see the strength of the assemblages; at the time it is a more tenuous reality made solid in enactments.


Fox, S. (2000). Communities of practice, Foucault and actor-network theory [September 05]. Journal of Management Studies, 37(6), 853-867.

Latour, B. (1999). Pandora's hope. Essays on the reality of science studies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Nespor, J. (2010). Devices and educational change. Educational Philosophy and Theory. Retrieved from doi:10.1111/j.1469-5812.2009.00611.x

Troy, J. and Ross, G. (2010). Every bastard says no. The 42 Below story. Auckland, New Zealand: Random House.

(click on the picture for a bigger image, then hit your enlarge view...or at least read this:
In our ad we had said absolut vodka was judged "the least favourite". The Board (advertising complaints) told us this was a fib....What was actually said was..."no one had kind words to say about absolut..."
They were so apologetic they published this retraction at huge expense...saying they should not have said absolut was least favourite and correcting this to say had no kind words a further three times.
Deeply sorry, very, very
Machiavellian :)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Juxtapositioning technology with heart

Summarising Latour (1996), maintaining something requires active work on the relationships that hold it so, while at the same time a turning down of other possibilities.
Similarly for a change in the order of things, this requires betrayal of those previously held relationships to be seduced into new ones. (Or at least for the making space for newer ones)

Today I have been reading Latour's wriitng on Macchiavelli's The Prince, while concurrently listening to a TEDtalk by His holiness the Karmapa: The technology of the heart.
(This truly is the oddest juxtopositioning i have ever engaged in)

He talks of the bombing of the Bamyan Buddhas with a startling re-frame: the bombings have drawn people together.
In tearing down, there is a building up, one he equates with pulling down of the Berlin wall.
An act of destruction draws others together. With differences of tradition and tragedy, the depletion of matter, some solid substance disintegrating, a divide that keeps two kinds of people apart had collapsed and opened a door for further communication.

And advice from his holiness:
In climbing trees we risk damaging the tree's roots
We need knowledge of what is going on under the tree.
Whatever work you are doing now to try to benefit the world, sink into that.
We often miss the subtle changes, we develop grand concepts of happiness, but if we pay attention there are little symbols of happiness in every breath we take.
Take a moment to appreciate fortunes of coming together, and an aspiration then to take the good and the positivity that comes with that and to spread this to all the corners of the world.

From Latour
“the burning desire to have new entities detected, welcomed and given shelter is not only legitimate, it’s probably the only scientific and political cause worth living for” (Latour, 2005: 259).

And if i take the technical as Urula Franklin does,(the way we do things round here) as process rather than object. Then the technology of the heart espoused by his holiness makes some sense.
It is about the way we do things round here, with moral purpose, and with the knowledge of the myriad of things that make being, an understanding of and a respect for not damaging these.
Making some meaning that is engaging of hope.
Or as Peter Sloterdijk suggests designing spaces for being that are nurturing.

Relevant readings and references
Franklin, U. (1999). The real world of technology. Toronto, Canada: House of Anansi Press.
Latour, B. (1988). How to write 'The Prince' for machines as well as for machinations
Latour, B. (1996). Aramis: Or the love of technology. Cambridge,MA: Harvard University Press.
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social. Oxford, England, Oxford University Press.
Latour, B. and P. Sloterdijk (2009, 17 February). "Networks and Spheres: Two Ways to Reinterpret Globalization " Harvard University. Retrieved March 3, 2009. from
Machiavelli, N. (1998). The Prince, Retrieved August 19, 2010, from Project Gutenberg, (Original work published 1532).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

21st Century enlightenment

Excellent video by Matthew Taylor of RSA Animate, follows on the thoughts i am aggragating in my networking of the literature for my thesis:

Turkle (2003) suggests “the challenge is to deeply understand the personal effects of the technology in order to better make it suit our human purposes” (p. 44). A challenge not dissimilar to that previously pointed to with regard to designing spaces suited to the humanity required by Latour & Sloterdijk, (2009).
Latour and Sloterdijk (2009) argue for designers to be mindful of their role in humanizing both public and private spaces, for such spaces create the conditions for being. For Sloterdijk the role of the designer is to create such desirable spaces as make human life possible, to consider aspects that make intimacy more and less likely. To create supportive, environments that cultivate humanity and cooperation “an architect has to know more than a simple hut maker.” To recapture the healing spaces of the past, places that provide immunity spaces, understanding the conditions of being become a crucial area of investigation.

Latour and Sloterdijk (2009) both approach ‘being’ as something made, rather than something inherent. And as stated by Latour,
There’s not the slightest chance to understand being when it has been cut off from the vast numbers of apparently “trifle” and “superficial” “little beings” that make it exist from moment to moment.
In saying this, Latour introduces what he names a ‘radical theory of the social’ where ‘being’, whether of people, things, or practice, is created within continuously moving networks. Two important aspects develop from this account; one is the continuously emergent nature of things, that nothing is ever fixed whether it be practice or the identities of those involved, that these emerge as a result of contingent relationships. The other aspect is that this is an existentialist account of being, and one oft repeated by Latour: “existence precedes essence”. In the context of this research, this would mean that more or less therapeutic interactions are not held in the tenets of counselling, or in policy guides, but created moment by moment, practiced into being.

In looking at the use of emergent technologies in a youth counselling centre, this thesis directs a mindfulness to the less visible spaces of CCTs, and particularly to the non-verbal spaces of the Internet and the digital spaces accessed by mobile phones. When CCTs are used not only to exchange ideas, not only to exchange pages of knowledge or data, but also for emotional support, understanding the facets that make 'being' possible becomes vitally important. How might such spaces be humanized and actively created for conditions of being? Rather than addressing this question in the abstract, this thesis explores the shaping involved with such spaces when newer forms of CCT’s are used within a youth counselling centre. And it explores such new constructions of practice as they occur rather than after the effect.

Latour and Sloterdijk (2009) argue for designers to be mindful of their role in humanizing both public and private spaces, for such spaces create the conditions for being. For Sloterdijk the role of the designer is to create such desirable spaces as make human life possible, to consider aspects that make intimacy more and less likely. To create supportive, environments that cultivate humanity and cooperation “an architect has to know more than a simple hut maker.” To recapture the healing spaces of the past, places that provide immunity spaces, understanding the conditions of being become a crucial area of investigation.

Matthew Taylor talks a little fast, i can see myself watching this repeatedly as there is so much crammed in. What is needed he suggests is empathy- but how to put this into our 21st century world in the digital spaces many of us relate within remains a challenge.
I would suggest that there is a need to look beyond the social to make headway on this. The many little things that make up being need further study...and hence my thesis...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

lived experience of an actor-network in a Phd thesis

Networking a thesis begins to get tiresome when the same recalcitrant keeps wandering off and doing her own thing; endnote really is a pain in the behind.
I do not need this lesson in gathering; working the same damn thing just to keep it at the same point let alone moving forward.
I already know that keeping things the same takes work.
(Ok so it was just a weak moment where i almost wrote that an absence of change maintains a status quo. But please, I deleted that already.)
This week, the laptop battery got to a stage where it wouldnt hold a charge for 20 minutes.
The disc drive wouldnt copy to discs. At least flashdrives are now big enough to cope with the endnote library.
Im having to work on a somewhat lesser life form, having been temporarily downgraded, I am already sufficiently appreciative of the fact that the technology and social are enmeshed.
However endnote is driving me batty.
She doesnt format when i have her programmed to do this. She doesnt do this when i manually ask her to either.
Eventually after a lot of fluffing around, creating a new doc, turning off track changes, unformatting all previous citations, ensuring i dont have any boxes ticked on whatever else the Norton endnote website suggested, she would do them one by one....and then i could move each pretty little citation back to my original document...or so i thought, but no, they dont get added to the reference list.
Damn sulky programme.
I am beginning to suspect either the document is too big for endnote or that endnote is too small/frail to cope with the amount of notes, attachments and references she is holding. Ok so this is no little librarian holding 759 refs and somewhere in the order of at least 400 attachments, plus notes from here to there on almost every one of them, and doing this 24 hours a day for 6 years...what is her problem?
OK i concede perhaps its a hard ask.
How much gravel rashing can i expect to do before she decides to play nicely with me again?
Its really difficult to seduce her back in when i am actually really pissed off.

OK, seems i need to stop working with a large document. Even though this stopped me getting repetitive, and handled the cross overs between contextualising the problem, networking the literature and discussing the sensibilities of actor network theory as well as discussing the praxis of research methodology. The technology is adamant that it can no longer cope.
I will, split the chapters into separate documents...just like it suggests in the endnote help for creating a bibliography from multiple docs...and re-enter all the refs it doesn't remember were entered... a guestimate of a few days...

For some black humour have a look at this for a Dear John/thesis breakup letter

I am not ready to part from the thesis, but endnote could well decide on a parting of the ways.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

a (PhD) thesis is like chocolate cc

Both make you fat
Can be bitter sweet
Some look better on the outside and have centres that dissapoint
Can be a self indulgent activity
Both give highs and lows
Both can result in guilt
Over indulgence in either is sickening
Some are better quality than others

Thanks to Nick for reminiscing on winter schools long past
Please feel free to add to the list

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Opening the black box that is text counselling

The 3 minute thesis has parallels to text counselling; i want to say more- I have to miss lots out, the constraints are huge, it makes me come to the point, it stops me going round in circles. And did you notice the staccato rhythm that evolved?
Ironically this matches what occurs in text counselling.
The medium we use shapes us.

The phones hardly ring anymore at YL; youth still have problems, and still seek help, but this happens silently.
So what happens when counselling moves into text spaces of mobile phones?
How are such spaces both shaped and shaping those involved?
This introduces a political agenda, seeing the things that make something happen provides opening for seeing that things could also be otherwise.
I Traced what’s involved that makes texting the first thing young people reach for when they reach out.
There’s seductive advertising. Bestmates are shown as unconditionally accessible and willing to be available, suggesting lonliness can be bypassed.
NZ is also in a pricing war making for cheap texts. But cheapness is only one factor; when it’s free to call YL, texting is still preferred.
So I looked at reasons young people and the environment that online spaces provide for them.
Texting provides Control: on talking about her dad who had died, one said: talking makes it too real, with texting I can take it slow.
I don't hear my own voice breaking
Another described how texting stopped her going round and round re-traumatising herself . The visual trace reminded her of ground already covered.
Texting provides Voice For example: txtn is ok because i cn keep goin evn if im crying.
Texting provides connection
If you've run away at night or
ur hiding under the house from your dad whose going to give u a beating, texting works.
‘its in ur pocket, its where u r’
Anywhere anytime also allows for keeping strategies and evidence of being connected in the world. I was shown a pocket full of Affirmations, texts not deleted even 6 months later, she said they felt good.
What’s important for counsellors is to see texting as a conversation and not an expectation to mend everything in one utterance
However, Receiving 18000 txts a month provides challenge in sustaining the threads of the conversation
Counselling is Reshaped some skills work in the medium, some don't.
Caution is heightened in a medium where digital traces feel ephemeral but are more solid than conversation or phone call.
Textual traces provide advantages as well as risks.
Privacy remains an area of ongoing tension.
Fewer cues requires caution.
Opening up text counselling allows us to see how practices are shaped, and might be shaped otherwise.
Currently There is no evidence base for text counselling, there never is for something new. This thesis is seen as providing insights into the practice of text-based counselling.
My hope and intention is that practice is shaped in listening primarily to the voices of young people.

Value of the 3 minute thesis is that it forces consideration for the 'so what' question. At the same time i found myself forced into overwriting what participants had said, so as to fit this medium. An actor network approach lets me explain so much more in taking littler steps but covering the distance. in contrast, this covers the distance but at a height where there is a loss of so much detail.
Where this has really been significant is in making me aware of the responsibility i have in writing of practice-
i hope i do it justice.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Counselling by text

The NZ Herald reports on the findings of the Health and Disability Comissioner where text messaging for counselling is dangerous:

"A young man committed suicide after his counsellor told him by text message not to take his medication, provided he was undergoing regular counselling.

Acting Health and Disability Commissioner Rae Lamb, in a finding issued today, said the case highlighted the importance of consulting other health professionals working with a person, the dangers of providing advice by text message, and the risks associated with "no suicide" contracts."

While not wanting to take away at all from the fact that suicide is tragic, always, what I am going to do is an intellectual argument here on text not being.
The counsellor involved was unethical. There was a lack of assessment and a lack of professional boundaries. One might have said counselling is dangerous, or that this specific counsellor in this particular situation was dangerous.

To pit texting within a context where it can be considered seriously, it needs to be noted that it is an extremely common practice now. It is not just for the young and it is not just for trivial interactions. It is a serious application. SMS text messaging is the commonest use of mobile phones, is used by 53% of people world-wide, and is now the most widely used data application on the planet.
At some stage it would be used for giving wrong advice.

All conversations have the potential for error ...all mediums through which messages can be conveyed whether face to face, phone, letter, or SMS, have given wrong advice at some time with tragic consequence.

Text/SMS messaging has its own foibles, and rather than demonizing it, there is need to attend to the particular factors and foibles with regard to it's use for counselling (and hence my PhD in this field).

1. Messages are brief. 160 characters per message, and a cost per message encourages brevity. With brevity there is less information on which to base any advice. This brevity need not restrict an ongoing conversation. As with a verbal conversation, an utterance may be short, the conversation may be longer.
2. Beyong brevity, the medium also shares less information. There are fewer paralinguistic and non-verbal cues, and the ones that are there are ambiguous. Slowness to respond may say as much about the state of the telephone network service provider as the person sending a message.
3. The medium may be chosen because of 2. While I have something difficult to say, I may be able to construct my response more deliberately , more carefully, because the medium provides me time to compose myself and my message.
4. The apparent anonymity along with 1,2 and 3, has a disinhibiting effect. Things can be said in a forthright tone that would not occur face to face without checking for more obvious cues.
5. Identity flexibility (Suler, 2005) is associated with 4, 3 and 2. I can elect how I present myself by text. Male, female, young, old, gay, straight, happy, sad, attentive, distracted.
6. Absent presence (Gergin, 2002)
6. In entering into text, attention is shifted, reality moves. One is no longer attentive to the present but engages with an invisible other. At the same time, in the virtual space of talking with someone silently, in conjunction with 1,2,3 and 4 this inokes imagination as to what is going on, it involves projections; the world engaged by text becomes surreal- it is what i perceive it to be. It creates a space in which I am not fully here, or there, but somewhere else instead. I'm not sure that this isnt always a condition of counselling regardless of the medium. I have compassion invoked- I try to appreciate the world view of the other...however with text I have so much less to go on, projections (or assumptions) in the absence of cues increase.
7. Flexibility of anytime. I don't have to wait for the person to be ready to respond with messaging, they can get back to me when they are able, and i can leave the message when i think of it.
8. Flexibility of anywhere. Its where you are, its in your pocket. It doesnt matter where they, or I, are currently situated.
9. Digital traces allow for messages to be kept, this allows for a pocket full of evidence that one is connected in the world, strategies and affirmations can be as close as one's pocket.
10. Associated with 8 is that messages that are unpleasant are also as close as one's pocket, and associated with 7, they can also be intrusive. Strategies to manage these can be taught.
11. Privacy in spite of the sense of intimacy is questionable. In hitting send, errors can be made. As with 9. there is risk of others accessing ones phone and its messages. Messages can be intercepted. Message are visible to network service providers, or police (with warrant).
12. Its affordable. Financial costs can be kept small. Whether charged by the text, 20 cent per message by major providers in NZ today, or on a preplay plan allowing unlimited or very generous texting such as 2000 texts for ten dollars, texting is a cheaper option than being charged over a dollar a minute for a call. In addition texting does not have the transport or opportunity lost costs that might occur with an appointment.
13. The microskills of counselling such as empathy, active listening, sensitive confrontation, translate into the new medium (Haxell, 2008). An empowerment approach of being strength's based can also be identified within text counselling as performed (at least at Youthline NZ)

Gergen, K. J. (2002). The challenge of absent presence. In J. E. Katz & M. A. Aakhus (Eds.), Perpetual contact, mobile communication, private talk, public performance (pp. 227-241). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Haxell, A. (2008). Cn I jus txt, coz I don wan 2b heard: Mobile technologies and youth counseling. Paper presented at the Ascilite; Hello! Where are you in the landscape of educational technology? Retrieved January 23, 2010, from
Haxell, A. (2010). Empowerment in tight spaces: Youth counselling in a text-messaging medium. Paper presented at the E-Youth Multidisciplinary Conference Balancing between opportunity and risk.
Suler, J. R. (2005). The Psychology of Cyberspace Revised edition version 2.2. from