In conclusion…

January 2nd, 2010 by Sarah Payne

Early thoughts on the course structure were often of distraction, frustration and the urge to ‘throw in the towel’ which had to be resisted.

“I’m not yet sure that my Lifestream will eventually portray an objective picture of my involvement with digital culture and I don’t see lifestreaming as a mash-up … but I’m willing to give it a decent try.” Bill Babouris Blog entry 30/09/09

Many battled with the technology but swift intervention by tutors helped, though more in-depth textual support at the outset in the course guides would have been useful, with screenshots to help the less technologically-advanced students.

Using the lifestream to assess strangeness is to demonstrate the disjointed and spectral nature of our studies, and the lack of boundaries was noted:

@damiendebarra working with barriers can be comforting as well as restrictive. total freedom can be a scary place!” @sarahp 22/09/09

However, collating  these resources in the lifestream creates the familiarity that Bayne seeks to avoid.  It may demonstrate the “learning process as volatile, disorientating and invigorating” (Bayne, 2010: pg 8), but surely putting everything together gives us as learners our own VLE?

Having completed the course I would have to state emphatically that I believe this course has succeeded in demonstrating discomfort as a learning method. This has been the most challenging, infuriating and ultimately rewarding course of study that I have ever undertaken.

“Predictability and certainty become less the norm and paralogy, or the acceptance of dissensus and conflict in what constitutes knowledge, is more readily seen as a positive value” (Usher 1998: pg1)

When something is strange and disjointed I believe that you intensify your focus to make sense of it. It is in man’s nature to impose order on the world, to find patterns, as he regards the stars and reforms them into the image of gods. This takes imagination and deliberation and what Usher calls “multi-disciplinarity, multi-literacies and transcoding, and ‘imaginative’ skills to gather information and connecting it together in new ways” (pg 1)

The uncanny allows us to manipulate existing and accepted knowledge to create new knowledge.

References Used

The theory of uncanny pedagogies and how one online course is attempting to use technology to promote discomforted learning. By Sarah Payne

January 2nd, 2010 by Sarah Payne

This piece is designed to supply the reader with a beginning and an end – but the route taken on this journey is decided by the reader.

The design pays homage to Kress and allows me to use new technologies to address “the relative power of author or reader” (2005: pg9). In conventional essays the reader is passive – following a path set by the author. Here I give control to the reader and allow them to choose their own path.

The topic is the uncanny nature of learning and specifically with reference to this course; the uncanny nature of the delivery should match the uncanny nature of the subject matter.

Introduction

As new media technologies become more part of everyday life, consumers experience a new type of reality that can be far removed from their lived existence.

“Ubiquitous computing disturbs the sense of physical location, extending and multiplying the body throughout the globe”  (Poster, 2002: pg758)

Poster (2002) argues that information media “transform(s) place and space in such a way that what has been regarded as the locus of the everyday can no longer be distinguished as separate from its opposite” (pg743)

We can no longer discern what is real.  The act of engaging in a new reality, for example, recreating a facet of personality in a personal journal (or blog), can blur the lines between reality and unreality. The author writes, and the creation can be “unapologetically confessional, a space where the self is carefully and painstakingly constructed and consumed”  (Bryson, 2008 :pg801) but it can be ‘consumed’ and manipulated by anyone else.

“Reliance on the familiar distinction between the public and the private becomes no longer possible, fundamentally upsetting the markers of freedom in each domain.” (Poster, 2002: Pg758)

This is a new experience for many. The digital narrative that individuals now inhabit online can be a strange, unstable and frenetic place.

“It is no doubt the case that when we work in internet environments, we work with technological spaces which are highly volatile, and which offer us new and potentially radical ways of communicating, representing and constituting knowledge and selfhood.” (Bayne and Ross, 2007: pg1)

This volatility leads us to feel disjointed and distracted – too much is happening and we may struggle to control the “sudden unfamiliarity of our textual and communicative practices (Bayne, 2010: pg2). This ‘uncanniness’ and sense of strangeness that this engenders causes the familiar to feel unfamiliar – we view our own reality in a altered fashion and often we cannot recognise it. In the wired world notions of time and place, the (un)reality of the body, and the source of knowledge is constantly challenged, where previously we have understood their nature.

“Each new reader in the electronic environment can her- or himself become a contributor/designer/writer; the lines between consumer and producer can be transgressed, blurred.”  (Carpenter, 2009: pg140)

This blurring of the lines  is a challenge to educators if they intend to embrace digital culture in academic practices:

“The university, its inhabitants and the project of teaching and learning are being rendered uncanny by the workings of digital technology” (Bayne, 2010: pg1).

This requires a new language/understanding on the part of academics as Usher points out, “Pedagogy can no longer be seen simply as the ‘authoritative’ transmission of canonical bodies of knowledge by research-based ‘experts’.”  (1998: pg1). Learners require more than being fed facts to be memorised and they expect to encounter knowledge using a multitude of methods and technologies:

“Learner-centred approaches are reflected in practices in which the instructor still defines largely what needs to be learned, but how that learning takes place and how it might be represented are things students are increasingly empowered to determine. Learning-centred approaches, finally, acknowledge that the world is changing”  (Brown and Peterson, 2009)

This approach empowers learners to manipulate their own learning, and maybe even the traditional Virtual Learning Environment has become too outmoded to fulfil this requirement.

Confusion

Confusion

Lifestream Summary

December 13th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

The lifestream is intended to:

  1. Map (and demonstrate) the path of learning.
  2. Collate the ‘chaos’ of the course.

1) was stated in the course outline.

2) became obvious only once we began the week 10 reading. The design of the course structure was to disorientate us to facilitate a deeper engagement with our own learning. However balance must be maintained between order and chaos – and this is the second (though not secondary) role of the lifestream.

One of the decisions I had to make is how the lifestream should appear. How authentic do I want it? For example, many early items demonstrated a tussle with technology:

Am struggling with twitter and delicious. have added them to my lifestream. doesn’t show reply tweets or any tagged pages. ideas? 22nd September Twitter.

However, I decided they should remain because they demonstrated what we later called the ‘uncanny’ nature of the digital experience. They show the struggles as well as the successes, and we must demonstrate the whole of the journey, not just the highlights where we stopped and took a virtual photograph of the local sights!

I have managed to provide “evidence of new material every day or so” but only at a considerable amount of stress. The problem has been to maintain the quality of material, as well as quantity. When editing the lifestream I have removed many entries not pertinent to the course, deciding if a ‘full’ day with tenuous entries was preferable to a ‘sparse’ day with pertinent content.

The ‘live’ state of the lifestream effectively removed the power to ‘catch up’ and the readings could take a week to complete, so comments I made were often at the end of that week. To manage that I wrote ‘initial thoughts’ entries without having finished the reading, sometimes meaning I was commenting on incomplete understanding, and I was not able to satisfactorily comment on Haraway and cyborgs until I had read the core and secondary reading, but not to remark  would create a definite gap. Conversely, reading back it is interesting to watch my developing understanding at various stages of the reading. For example, the cyborg reading was quite difficult for me:

finding Haraway so frustrating! is it just me or is she a bit ‘whiney’? 11th November Twitter

Nonetheless this is the topic that I posted the most blog entries and comments about. In this case my lifestream truly demonstrates my (sometimes erratic) path of learning.

The lifestream has also acted as a consolidating tool in that it has successfully brought together and maintained all my sources and the differing technologies. As a learner not used to using VLEs, the concept of studying without one was daunting;

Studying without a vle feels like tightrope walking without a safety net! 22nd September Twitter

However, the lifestream meant that I could easily maintain and then re-engage all of the sources I collected as I journeyed through the course.

Without the lifestream this course would not be possible.

Nodes on my nexus

December 10th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

As I have been re-reading my lifestream I have really begun to realise how many different forms of communication I employ to reach out to those around. this may be a ‘new’ technological form of communication, like Twitter or Facebook, or a more physical method like face to face or by telephone. Also, when I began playing playing with Prezi in order to use it for my final assessment, I hit on the idea of creating a virtual form of my nexus. A nexus is a series of connected forms – of which I am the centre (as it is my nexus!). The people I know are nodes on that nexus. Then I thought about the common methods that I use to communicate with my nodes… and it simply grew from there. I have stopped at a relatively early stage because I can see that I could continue adding nodes indefinitely, but it was interesting to see in a graphical form.

This is my very own little community and I live right in the middle!

Some of you will see yourselves on it, but not everyone would fit so please do not be offended if you are not there. I really should be getting on with my assignment instead!

You can view my nexus here

There is no pathway – just feel free to wander!

Week 11 Summary

December 6th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Well we are into the final week of the lifestream so I imagine that this will be my last summary before the ‘final’ entry next weekend, and I  have to say that I will be rather sad to see this end.

At first I did not respond well to the lifestream. I found it fiddly to set up (whilst also suffering from a bout of the flu) and I thought it was a bit ‘gimmicky’ for my liking; simply an example of introducing the ‘latest thing’ to show how terribly modern this course is. (no offence intended to Jen & Sian!)

However as I have moved on through the course I can see how incredibly useful it is as a learning tool. This course has been designed (we have discovered over the last week or two) to unnerve we poor learners, and take us out of the warm, comforting embrace of the VLE, and set us free (or simply unleashed) in the uncanny, haunted realm of cyberspace. And all to see if we sink or swim! ( my apologies for mixing a few metaphors there).

I have spent some time going through the early entries on my lifestream to prepare or the close next weekend and it has reminded me of some of the great content we have discovered, as well as recording the path of my own learning. Often links are added because they are simply in the news that week, but often they reflect the topic of discourse for that week.

So the content in my lifestream this week has mainly been in preparation for my assignment. Again I have been making extensive use of Tumblr to collect together quotes applicable to my assignment as I re-read some of the earlier papers for this module. It is strange how only a difference of a few weeks can put a completely different slant on some things that I thought I understood earlier in the course. Looking back at them through the lens of additional reading gives some of it a whole new meaning!

I have been reading up on our uncanny digital pedagogies, as well as collecting tutorial and tips for possible media I may be using in my assessment. I have also published details of my assignment- though I was initially unsure of the appropriateness of this early on, but as others seem to be happy to do it I felt it would be rude not to join in! It looks like there are going to be some interesting work done across the course and I hope we will get to see some of it at a later date. I have also posted a blog on whether my delivery method would be considered academic enough. I had initial thought about producing a hypertext essay, but I wanted to push the boundaries a little more on this uncanny course. This may of course turn around and bite me!

Choosing my delivery method and asking – is it sufficiently academic?

December 5th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

I have got to the point in my assignment planning that I am beginning to look at the method of delivery because a traditional essay or simple hypertext essay just won’t cut it. However I have concerns that what I am considering will not appear to be sufficiently academic. With these concerns in mind I have been re reading Rick carpenter and Boundary Negotiations: electronic environments as interface.

So what am I planning?

My intention is to create a piece that has an obvious beginning and end, but the path that you travel to get from one to the other is entirely set by the reader, harking back to Kress pg 9 (2005) and allowing me to use new technology to address “the relative power of author or reader” . In a normal essay the reader is relatively passive – following a path that is set by the author. In this case I want to give the control to the reader and allow them to choose their own path. I am restricted in that I need an intro section and a conclusion to tie it all together and give it ’some’ kind of structure, but beyond that I want the reader to explore!

Why let the reader choose?

The topic is the uncanny nature of learning and specifically this course and I want the uncanny nature of the delivery to match the uncanny nature of the subject matter.

Within this bundle of elements woven together, I want to engage different technologies to maintain variety, including using text, video and possibly a small amount of Prezi or something similar. I am still deciding exactly what to use but you get the idea!

Is it considered academic?

Carpenter adequately covers the issues with integrating our “convergent culture” into an academic framework when he states:

“Although popular discourses and genres are no longer denigrated within academia as they once were (or at least not to the same extent), they are not always or entirely welcome either.” Carpenter (2009) pg 139

So moving forward into a more integrated, liberally interpretative academic scenario may prove difficult:

“The logic of digital technology leads us in a new direction,” Neil Kleinman (1996) reminded us. “Objects, as well as ideas, are no longer fixed, no longer tangible […] In this space, stories are written that change with each new reader; new material can be added, and old material deleted. Nothing is permanent” Carpenter (2009) pg 140

It is this loss of author control that Kress deliberates at length.

“Each new reader in the electronic environment can her- or himself become a contributor/designer/writer; the lines between consumer and producer can be transgressed, blurred.” Carpenter (2009) pg 140

It is possible that such fluidity of nature is unnatural for educators – and therefore it makes them uncomfortable. The argument could well be considered as ‘If nothing is permanent, how can it be assessed? And if it cannot be assessed how can it be academically significant?’

maura.person-studying

References

Rick carpenter:  Boundary Negotiations: electronic environments as interface

Gunther Kress:  Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge, and learning

Another assignment proposal

December 3rd, 2009 by Sarah Payne

As we appear to be sharing our assignment ideas – here is mine (though still at an early stage as I am still working on my lifestream)

I have been really inspired by this last block (now that we have moved away from Haraway!!!) and I have been able to see the thinking  behind the innovative structure of this course (which I have to say I have found immensely challenging, interesting and rewarding).


So this is an outline of my thoughts so far (including some ideas on delivery).

Topic: The theory of uncanny pedagogies and how one online course is attempting to use technology to promote discomforted learning.

Rough outline
Intro.
1 What is uncanny learning and where does the theory come from. Drawing on work by Bayne, Usher and McWilliam. Also relate to early reading (Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge, and learning – Gunther Kress) about the reflective power of images over words and imagery in Norman?s ?Machines that make us smart?.
2 Why is discomfort learning a good thing drawing on the above and the theories of reflective learning in Socrates?

Main sections:
1 Outline of the course inc technologies used.
2 How each can be said to take learners out of their comfort zone.
3 Additional methods that could be engaged.
4 How far is ‘too far’ – when does discomfort lead to an inability to learn?

Conclusion:
1 Is uncanny learning a valid theory relating to my experience and empirical evidence? Has the course succeed in generating this type of education. Is there any way it can be taken forward? Possibly include a quick twitter poll of other learners about how they feel it has worked for them? Will need to confirm feasibility of this idea!

Method of delivery.
Use multiple technologies grouped together in a single place i.e. Wallwisher or a web page so that it can be navigated in different orders. Use tumblr, vlog, prezi, PDF with hyperlinks etc. Try to make it as structure free as possible; however there probably does need to be an intro at the beginning and a conclusion at the end otherwise it may be too disjointed to work coherently. I would like it to reflect the strange nature of our learning experience.

Additional Marking criteria:

Does the work truly represent the uncanny nature of the subject, or is it too disjointed to adequately function as an academic piece of work?

Jen’s response

“I love the idea of focusing your final assignment on the structure and pedagogies of the EDC course itself. Your suggested format sounds like it would fit perfectly with the themes that you want to explore. The main thing that would concern me is that you may find it difficult to be critical in the context of a course that you’re in the middle of and an assignment that the course creators will be marking! However, I see that you are explicitly building in places to talk about the implications and possible problems with uncanny pedagogical approaches, so if you can hang on to that aspect, then I think it should work well.”

Do you mind if I quote you on that..?

December 2nd, 2009 by Sarah Payne

I am still working through the possibilities for my assignment, and they are still very much in a state of flux. However I think that I will probably be drawing on some comments made by other course members and therefore I think it is only polite (and probably ethical) to ask if anyone minds being quoted in my assessment?

Which quotes I intend to use has not been decided yet, but it could include blog and twitter comments so if anyone minds me using their words, please let me know.

Twitter Hacked

December 1st, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Just as I was beginning to enjoy Twitter… Last week my account was hacked (as some of you on my friends list may have noticed) and as a result many people were sent odd messages by me asking about their IQs.This may seem harmless enough, though I can’t confirm that if you actually clicked on the links in my faked tweet, but it seems to me that it is representative of a wider issue, that of security.

With many people storing their lives online, you only have to look at the front page of almost any web application and you will see evidence of  just how terrible we are at managing our online lives with “forgot my password”, “forgot my username” and  “keep me logged in” buttons in abundance. These are features that were designed because we seem to be incapable of remembering one password or four-digit PIN number, let alone a unique password for every application we ever sign up for.

Each new service that we sign up for creates excuse for the unhealthy habit of using simple passwords, the same password, everywhere. So every time we go on line we run the risk of any one of our services being hacked, and the danger that that password will be known for all of our other accounts. All of a sudden that harmless Twitter hack becomes a much more dangerous event.

“Most of us got a good chuckle out of the various messages that were left on the Twitter accounts for Barack Obama, Britney Spears, Bill O’Reilly and others this morning. But one other message came through loud and clear – Twitter is not yet ready for prime time, even though users continue to flock to the service.” Twitter Gets Hacked, Badly (first accessed  30th November 2009)

Rest assured I have since changed ALL my passwords!

scream

Week 10 Lifestream summary

November 30th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Well this is the final week of the course over now – we have worked our way through 3 blocks of some interesting (and some very challenging) reading. There is now only 2 weeks left before the lifestream needs to be completed, and I have been revisiting the early weeks to ensure that all is in place. Going back over earlier readings has been an interesting experience in itself and I have been taking the opportunity to re-read them before starting the assignment. Another interesting task has been the process of deciding what elements to keep in my lifestream. Many of my earlier tweets were lamenting my technology traumas and I am still unsure whether I will leave them in.

This week I have continued to use Tumblr to store (possibly) useful quotes that I might wish to use in my essay, and I have been commenting on the Bayne reading by way of a couple of blog posts, and commenting on other learner’s blog posts. This particular piece has really resonated with me this week, and I am mulling it over in the tired old brain for a possible final assessment piece. More to come on that at a later date.

I have continued to Twitter this week, especially now that I have managed to configure my Blackberry to send and receive tweets. However I appear to have been hacked over the past few days and seem to have sent messages to many of those in my friends list. I have reset the password now and hope this doesn’t happen again, so if you got some odd messages from me I do apologise. That is always the problem with technology – the more we use it the more others will misuse it!

Just a fun aside – I have generated a Twitter cloud to analyse the most common words that I have used in my tweets over the last three months:

My tweetcloud

The top three are Getting, Kress and found – which do not seem very telling! Perhaps if I try this again at the end of the course I may get more interesting results.

Further thoughts on Bayne and a place of ghosts

November 27th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Well I have finished the reading now and wanted to comment on some other elements not covered in my last post. I wanted to talk about ghosts.

So who are the ghosts?

The answer is – we create the ghosts and we are the ghosts!

“The ghost… is a figure who is both without body and out of their own natural time, and hence unsettled on two counts” (Bayne on Hook 2005)

As Bayne points out, when joining a site like Facebook:

“ we are invariably invited – almost as a first step – to ‘upload an image’, to duplicate ourselves visually”

That duplication creates the ghost.

We also become disconnected from those avatars in the sense that they continue to exist even when we are not connected. Think of ‘Numa Numa man’ and the ‘StarWars kid’ – their online personas have been taken, mutated (mutilated?) and sent on around the world without their permission or even compliance.

“we scatter our ‘bodies’ across the web where they gain a kind of independence as nodes for commentary, connection and appropriation by others  into new networks and new configurations.”

But are these avatars truly shadows, or are they simply representations of distilled personality with the dull (and irrelevant) bits removed? If you where to scoop up all of my virtual ‘ghosts’ and squish them back together, would you get a true representation of me as a rounded human being? Or would there still be ‘bits’ missing that leaves me looking 2D and a little transparent?

Using the lifestream to assess strangeness

The purpose seems to be to demonstrate the spectral nature of our studies by showing just how disjointed our work is. However, surely bringing all of these sources together creates the familiarity that Bayne seems to seek to avoid? It may demonstrate the “learning process as volatile, disorientating and invigorating” (Bayne pg 8), but surely putting everything together gives us as learners a framework to ‘hang our learning hats on’. It allows us to build a single virtual identity out of our multiple ‘faces’ in Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Tumblr etc. The act of drawing them together knits it all together in a nice safe comforting blanket.

Reference

S Bayne Academetron, automaton, phantom: uncanny digital pedagogies

Early thoughts on Bayne

November 26th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

I am currently working my way through S Bayne Academetron, automaton, phantom: uncanny digital pedagogies, and I am enjoying it so far. I am still bringing these ideas together into a coherent space, but for now I want to talk about some of the quotes that have jumped out at me so far and that I feel I have really connected with:

“For in working online as teachers and learners, we are working in ‘destabilized’ classrooms, engaging in spaces and practices which are disquieting, disorienting, strange, anxiety-­‐inducing, uncanny.” S Bayne pg 2

This definitely spoke to me of my own experiences early on in this module which is illustrated in my week 1 summary. I found the early weeks extremely ‘anxiety -inducing’ simply because it felt so strange. Many of the MSc elearning modules encourage us to manage our own learning, but there is always a framework in place for us to to ‘hang our learning hat’ from. But not here! No comfortable wardrobe to follow instruction, not even a rusty nail to hang our learning from. Complete freedom – a very scary concept!

“to make the unfamiliar familiar, to ‘normalise’ to an extent the uncanniness of the digital text”

I wonder if this is why I still print out all of the course readings, and make notes on them in biro. Is this me ‘normalising’ by turning the virtual into pen and ink reality?

Bayne quotes Meyer and Land (2005) stating that:

“the insights gained when the learner crosses the threshold [into understanding] might also be unsettling, involving a sense of loss”

I am not sure about this. When I pass over the threshold from not understanding to understanding (experienced recently after some help with Haraway), I find it is like a light going on in my head. I feel a sense of relief, and release, but in a positive sense, not release in terms of losing something.

“Teaching inthis vision becomes focused on ‘the production of human capacities… for the personal assimilation and creation of strangeness’:

“Such a conception of ‘teaching’ looks to a fundamental break with conventional pedagogical relationships and look to curricula that present awkward spaces to and for students. Through such spaces, they will realize for themselves their capacities for assimilating and even for producing strangeness.” (Barnett 2005)”

When I read this I thought “ahhhh! I see why they have done this all to us now!” The initial ’strangeness’ of this course has been aimed at forcing us to think ’strangely’ and produce our own ’strangeness’! An example of this would be the early piece of work that we all created for the digital artefacts. Giving us very little in the way of guidance, and not having the opportunity to really discuss it face to face ensured that we all produced completely different artefacts. With no preconception of what was expected, we all let our imaginations roam and generated some weird and wonderful output. If we had seen examples prior to creating them, I am sure that it would have influenced what was generated and the results would have been far less interesting.

Bayne quotes Barnett (2007) when describing students as being:

“asked to submit to the strangeness of new worlds opening before her. If they were not strange worlds there would be question marks over whether we were in the presence of higher education, (pg7)

Is Barnett suggesting  that this is the point of higher education? Is it called ‘higher’ because we expect to see higher reasoning and higher brain function as a result? This also suggests to me that all education prior to this could be classified as ‘lower education’.

So far the sense that I am getting from this piece is how discomfort is thought to encourage original thinking. I am not sure about this yet – perhaps I need to find myself a cold,wet piece of concrete to sit on and think… would that be uncomfortable enough?

Week 9 lifestream summary

November 24th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

The more I use this lifestream, the more I love it. I have found it invaluable to store resources, and the weekly summary forces me to draw them all back in together again, like unpicking a tangled ball of wool!

I have been using Tumblr to store interesting quotes from the reading as I go through the articles, so that they are stored for me to reflect on later. This is a great method of ensuring that the quotes are easily accessible when I want to include them in a blog! It also allows me to take a leaf out of the ‘book’ of Socrates who was concerned that the seat of knowledge came from reflection, reflection, reflection! My lifestream allows me the time and the freedom to reflect.

This week I have been working my way through Hayles “from Cyborg to Cognisphere” which I really rather enjoyed.

Hayles has borrowed the term cognisphere from Thomas Whalen, who in 2000 presented a text on knowledge spaces in which he used the term cognisphere:

“The earth provides us with an atmosphere, a hydrosphere, and a biosphere. We have created, for ourselves, a knowledge sphere. Maybe, for aesthetic purposes, we should call it the cognisphere.” Whalen, Thomas (2000) ‘Data Navigation, Architectures of Knowledge

In Hayles, the cognisphere is a man made state where humans are almost part of the machine.

In highly developed and networked societies like the US, human awareness comprises the tip of a huge pyramid of data flows, most of which occur between machines. (…) Expanded to include not only the Internet but also networked and programmable systems that feed into it, including wired and wireless data flows across the electromagnetic spectrum, the cognisphere gives a name and shape to the globally interconnected cognitive systems in which humans are increasingly embedded (Hayles 2006:pg 161).

This cognisphere is a planet wide flow of information, with humans and cognitive machines interacting at every level. This is already taking place with the US National Security Agency using algorithms on a computer to search worldwide communications for ‘dangerous’ words and concepts. These searches can take place with no human interaction at a base level, with possible queries being flagged by the machine when human analysts intervene. There must be an issue here with what is considered ‘dangerous words and concepts’? For now it is the global threat of terrorism that drives these actions, but who is to say that we are not heading towards a dystopian vision of the future when words like ‘independent thought’, ‘freedom’ and ‘imagination’ are considered dangerous concepts. After all, it is often said that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. If this is the case, and machines are able to make these decisions based on a set of rules set by humans, how will those humans in turn be ‘judged’ – will we all simply becomes cogs inside the machine, ‘matrix’like, serving the cognisphere? Or have I been watching too many youtube videos!

I have also been reading up on the ‘posthuman’ condition and trying to get my head around the concept. This week I have blogged on how to define a posthuman, as well as some reflection on the work of Muri about why we may not become posthuman! The overall feeling that I have taken from these is that we are posthuman in the sense that extremely complex systems can be integrated in our lives and be experienced as commonplace ingredients of everyday life. For example, GPS has become in recent years a necessity in our daily lives. It gets us around in our cars, helps the Ordinance Survey improve their mapping systems and can even make your mobile phone tell you where to find the nearest cafe. Everyone will have at least one piece of hi-tech equipment within arms reach at any one time. At this moment, sitting at my desk I can look around me and see that (apart from my laptop) I have 2 mobile phones (1 personal and 1 work Blackberry) a netbook, my SatNav, a DAB radio and my digital camera. All are items that I use almost daily to augment my life and I am lost without any one of them. If this makes me posthuman, it surely also connects me to the cognisphere through the data generated on all of these pieces of tech.

However I certainly am not posthuman in the sense that I wish to leave my corporeal body to float around in a virtual reality. Muri quotes Michale Heim in 1993 when he wrote:

“At the computer interface the spirit migrates from the body to a world of total representation. Information and images float through the Platonic mind without a grounding in bodily experience. You can lose your humanity at the throw of the dice”

This sounds horrific to me. How can imagery and data have context and meaning without embodiment? And surely a life without meaning strikes me as no life at all!

Some initial thoughts on Muri

November 23rd, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Silvana has left a comment in response to my previous blog entry Defining posthumans where she states that:

“I think the key is the rejection of individualism which I think is central to a humanist view”

This tied in neatly with some additional thoughts that I have been mulling over today, so I thought I would blog about them.

I think that Tracy is correct in her determination of Hayles view on the posthuman. However, I have just completed reading the article by Muri ‘Of shit and the soul’ which seems to dismantle this view. She draws upon the work of Arthur Kroker and Michael Weinstein who stated that:

“the body has become a passive archive to be processed, entertained, and stockpiled” (1994)

They also considered that:

Networked communications speak the ‘digital language of the world’s first post-flesh body”

However Muri points that that during the period when we can expect this ‘disembodiment’ to occur;

“the human body has never before been so present” pg 75

She states this in terms of a huge population explosion, as well as the increasing pollution that we create from our own bodies. I may be inclined to take this one step further and talk about our obsession with the physical body and the culture of celebrity. Our culture is saturated with reference to beautiful bodies, in song lyrics:

“Bodies in the Bodhi tree,
Bodies making chemistry
Bodies on my family,
Bodies in the way of me
Bodies in the cemetery,
And that’s the way it’s gonna be

All we’ve ever wanted
Is to look good naked
Hope that someone can take it
God save me rejection
From my reflection,
I want perfection” Robbie Williams “Bodies

As Robbie says, all we want is to look good naked.

These ideas are fed to us in imagery and advertising:

Beauty as an advertising tool

Beauty as an advertising tool

It is even possible to book a holiday and come back with a better ’surgically enhanced’ and more beautiful body. What these images sell us is perfection, and that we too can attain perfection, but we must not look like we are trying too hard. That is why celebrities are often none too keen to admit to having ‘work done’ – they want to be seen as natural.

If we take this a step further and move into a virtual world where everyone appears exactly how they wish to, wouldn’t this diminish the concept of beauty? As Beautiful South inform us:

“And everyone is blonde
And everyone is beautiful
and when blonde and beautiful are multiple
they become so dull and dutiful” Rotterdam

In a world where we care so deeply about the physical ‘wrappings’ that our conciousness arrives in, how could we possibly take steps that result in what Muri calls:

“the loss of selfhood and elimination of the ‘real’ or ‘natural’ body”

Surely the ‘perfect’ ‘natural’ body is the ultimate prize, so where does that leave Hayles posthuman?

Defining posthumans

November 22nd, 2009 by Sarah Payne

I really wanted to get the concept of posthumans straight in my head, and the best way to do that is to blog it!

Hayles defines the posthuman in the following manner:

“First, the posthuman view privileges informational pattern over material instantiation, so that embodiment in a biological substrate is seen as an accident of history rather than an inevitability of life. Second, the posthuman view considers consciousness, regarded as the seat of human identity in the Western tradition long before Descartes thought he was a mind thinking, as an epiphenomenon, as an evolutionary upstart trying to claim that it is the whole show when in actuality it is only a minor sideshow. Third, the posthuman view thinks of the body as the original prosthesis we all learn to manipulate, so that extending or replacing the body with other prostheses becomes a continuation of a process that began before we were born. Fourth, and most important, by these and other means, the posthuman view configures human being so that is can be seamlessly articulated with intelligent machines. In the posthuman, there are no essential differences or demarcations between bodily existence and computer simulation, cybernetic mechanism and biological organism, robot teleology and human goals.” pg2

I read this as:

1) The human body is incidental – it is the information that is key.

2) Western ideas of consciousness are not a vital component.

3) The posthuman will update the biological as necessary. Augmentations will be used whenever they will improve the performance of the posthuman.

4) The man and the machine will be integrated and there are no boundaries between “bodily existence and computer simulation”.

Hayles also discusses the posthuman in terms of rationality, free will, autonomy, independence of spirit and sense of self:

“If human essence is freedom  from the will of others, the posthuman is ‘post’ not because it is necessarily unfree but because there is no priori way to identify a self-will from an other-will” pg 4

She states that it is the Western view that independence and individualism is an outdated view and that the posthuman is there to take us forward. It seems to me that she is suggesting the relinquishing of control, because a need for a semblance of control is human, not posthuman.  This seems a strange concept to me, and one that I am still wrestling with – that the loss of control can be good. I think I will have to mull that one over some more! However, Hayles view of the posthuman is also hugely positive:

“my dream is a version of the posthuman that embraces the possibilities of information technologies without being seduced by fantasies of unlimited power and disembodied immortality, that recognizes and celebrates finitude as a condition of human being, and that understands human life is embedded in a material world of great complexity, one on which we depend for our continued survival”. (p.5)

At a very basic level, it seems to me that Hayles is using the term posthuman to attempt to describe the positives and the pitfalls of our relationship with technology as we become increasingly connected.

References

Hayles, N.K. (1999). Toward embodied virtuality, chapter 1 of “How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature and informatics“. Chicago, University of Chicago Press. pp1-25

Gies and a Night at the theatre

November 21st, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Tonight I have had the immense pleasure of watching John Barrowman in La Cage Aux Folles in the west end – which I have to say was fab-u-lous! But on the train home I began thinking about the themes in the play and Lieve Gies reading that I have been working my way through.

Gies discusses the conception of the Internet as a form of freedom from conventionality, and a means of exploring who we truly are in an environment where we need not expose our real ‘faces’ to ridicule or persecution. The characters in La Cage live an unconventional life;  George and Albin (played by John) are a long standing a homosexual couple and Albin is a transvestite drag queen of considerable talent (he has a fine set of lungs!!). Their lifestyle is brought into sharp focus when George’s son wants to bring home the bigoted parents of his fiance to ‘meet the family’.

In the play, the couple live their true lives in the insular world of the transvestite club – a virtual world. In the real world, the world their son inhabits, and the scenes outside of the club, they hide their true identites. Albin wears a suit, and George is decidedly more butch!

Gies states that:

” the Internet may offer a more ‘authentic’ communicative setting allowing users to overcome the inability to express their ‘true’ identity in the offline world.”

In the case of George and Albin, they manage to move outside the safe ‘virtual world’ of the club and demostrate their true identites in the real world.

John Barrowman

John Barrowman

Lieve Gies and the line between fun and lies!

November 20th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

I am still working my way through Lieve Gies “How Material are cyberbodies?” but felt the urge to reflect on one element of the piece that I have read so far.

Gies quotes Jewkes and Sharp (2003)  stating

“when it comes to constructing identity, the line is increasingly blurred between “playful” and fraudulent, inclusive and exploitative, accesssible and extremist, “deviant” and criminal’ pg 315

This is an interesting point and one that will surely become more important as we become increasingly posthuman and more and more become inhabitants in virtual worlds. Where is the line between fantasy and lies? The article mentions the story of an early Internet user who masqueraded as a disabled woman named Julie. She forged some close friendships with women on line but was eventually exposed as a male psychiatrist. Gies uses the word ‘fraudster’ to describe ‘Julie’ but I am not si sure that this is the correct term. Fantasist? Or research (as he was a psychiatrist?) or simply engaged in what he perceived to be some harmless fun where there would be no negative outcome and no victims? These women were obviously upset at being some convincingly duped, but I have not been able to determine if any money was stolen or any laws were broken. So how does this make him a fraudster? Am I a fraudster because one of my World of Warcraft characters is a 6 foot tall male orc and I am clearly not (either 6ft, male or an orc!!)

Musing; who will protect our children?

November 18th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

As we evolve into posthumans, as our world becomes networked, and we exist in the cognisphere introduced by Hayle, who will protect those who cannot adequately protect themselves?

Social networking sites: why no abuse report button? by Nic Fleming in this weeks NewScientist may be jumping on the cyberbullying bandwagon whipped up by the media specifically against Facebook and MySpace, but it may have a point. Who’s role is it to protect our children in an increasingly connected world where they may not have the level of cynicism required to protect themselves?

Horizon, Haraway and artifacts of knowledge

November 17th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

I have just been watching ‘Horizon – How long is a piece of string?’ on BBC2. The concept of the programme was simply to explain quantum mechanics to the layman; a tall order! However, using the construct of an ordinary man in the shape of Alan Davies to act as our representative interrogating the experts, it allowed the possessors of the knowledge to pass it down in manageable chunks to me as the viewer. Now I have read a little about quantum theory and the notion of Schrödinger’s cat, but I have never seen it so beautifully explained!

This reminded me of a comment that I read yesterday in Arthur Hall’s blog referencing digital artifacts:

“I think the ‘artifacts’ we are producing only become cultural artifacts when they are accepted and widely used or quoted. This would mean that Haraway’s manifesto, for the reasons given – oft cited etc., is a cultural artifact” Arthur Hall blog: Culture, cultural artefacts and transition posted 16th November.

So here we have what I am sure will become a cultural artifact under Arther’s definition, because it would have been widely viewed and widely commented on in the future. So it is an artifact of culture, and more so an artifact of knowledge because it performs the function of imparting knowledge into a wider audience. This has also brought into sharp focus my experience this past week with the work of Haraway. Haraway is undeniably a cultural artifact in the sense of being widely accepted and quoted. But is it also a knowledge artifact? I would say that a piece of academic writing could not be described as a knowledge artifact if the knowledge that it contains has to be ‘deciphered’ by other academics before it can be fully understood and more widely consumed by knowledge ’seekers’.  If the work can only be understood by a few, it surely does not have the wider appeal to define it as an artifact of knowledge. The academics who ‘translate’ the work of Haraway do not necessarily carry the same kudos as the name of Haraway, but their work does more to foster the knowledge of what Haraway is trying to impart. In my opinion, they have more right to the truer description of ‘producers of artifacts of knowledge’ than the work of Haraway.

Do cyborgs resist the structure of sex/gender as Haraway claims?

November 16th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

This is a question that was posed at the beginning of last week and has been playing on my mind since then. Haraway states that:

“The cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world” Cyborg Manifesto pg 35

This suggests that the cyborg is gender free, and indeed this seems to be a theme running though the Cyborg Manifesto. But lets take a step back and think about this for a while. Could this be true? In pondering this we must consider the following:

  1. What is the cyborg ‘for’?
  2. Who creates the cyborg?
  3. What sources does the ‘creator’ have to draw upon?

When Haraway was writing her manifesto, much of the research and funding into cybernetics was coming from the military. However, since the end of the Cold War, and changes to the type of technology we expect to use (communication and connectivity rather that guns), the ‘use’ of the cyborg has moved from military to entertainment. This will surely have an impact on the structure and design of the cyborg.

Who creates the cyborg must surely have an impact on the type of cyborg that will be the result. As Haraway states, the cyborg will be born from:

“the tradition of racist, male dominated capitalism” Cyborg Manifesto pg 35

So these are the people who we can expect to create our cyborgs, and where do you think they will get their design imagery from. I am suggesting that a major source would be science fiction. Our cyborgs will look like ‘Seven of nine’ because that is what a cyborg is supposed to look like. Bjork’s video for ‘All is full of love’ (helpfully supplied by Damien Debarra on Twitter this week) is a case in point. These ‘fembot’ images are highly sexually charged, and have a power to inspire.

So if cyborgs are to be created by Haraways male’s of ‘dubious intent’, I would have to say that they will of course become sexualised, so you can rest assured that they will not look like Olive from ‘on the buses’!

Olive from On The Buses

Olive from On The Buses

Week 8 lifestream commentary: Haraway, Feminism and the war on boys

November 14th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Most of my time this week has been taken up trying to fathom the work of Haraway thought the aid of YouTube and various commentators (plus a dictionary or two). It was one of those occassions where I really missed face to face interaction with my collegues or my tutors so that someone could explain her work to me. However, with some external Internet sources and some helpful comments from Sian and assorted co-studiers through Twitter, I think that I finally got my head around it. It is times like these when the lifestream becomes such a useful resource because it has enabled me to track these sources as I find them, to be revisited at my leisure. Other people’s lifestreams can also prove to be a mine of useful links. I am considering continuing my use of the lifestream beyond the scope of this course onto my future modules.

Cyborgs and feminism

The basic premise is that cyborgs are sexless, colourless and free of prejudice. Therefore they allow us to imagine a ‘Star Trek’ like world where there are no constraints on who you can become. Nice idea and and interesting way of playing around with gender politics. Haraway seems to think that the age of the cyborg will be liberating for women, but it made me wonder if it would also be liberating for men too.

I have 2 brothers and a partner and they lament the fact that they often feel marginalised as men, because there is very little that modern women cannot do on their own (even the obvious area of reproduction doesn’t necessarily require a man to be physically present).

They argue that everything that had been associated with being male is being undermined in the name of feminism. Some men are derided for being too “macho” and are called “male chauvinist pigs” if they have old fashioned manners and hold a door open for a woman.

This can leave young boys with their own gender confusions over what it ‘means’ to be a man.

This led me to read two interesting pieces:

The War Against Boys, How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men by Christina Hoff Sommers and

Feminism Shames Young Boys by Pelle Billing March 18th 2009

Both of these articles lament the long term effect that denigrating men will have on future generations of young boys. If we do indeed look forward to a cyborg generation, it may not just be the girls who will benefit from a brave new genderless world.

defining the term ‘cyborg’

November 13th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

I have been collecting definitions of cyborgs to see if I can get a handle on the concept at the very basic level of ‘what exactly is a cyborg?’

The orginal term ‘cybog’ is widely accredited to Manfred E Clynes & Nathan S Kline  in a paper regarding how a man may exist in space.

“What are some of the devices necessary for creating self-regulating manmachine systems? This self-regulation must function  without the benefit of consciousness in order to cooperate with the bodys own autonomous homeostatic controls. For the exogenously extended organizational complex functioning as an integrated homeostatic system unconsciously, we propose the term “Cyborg. The Cyborg deliberately incorporates exogenous components extending the self- regulatory control function or the organism in order to adapt it to new environments. If  man in space, in addition to flying his vehicle. must continuously be checking on things and making adjustments merely in order to keep himself alive, he becomes a slave to the machine. The purpose of the Cybogy, as well as his own homeostatic system, is to provide an organizational system in which such robot-like problems are taken care of automatically and unconsciously, leaving man free to explore, to create, to think, and to feel.” Manfred E Clynes & Nathan S Kline Cyborgs and space (1960)

Haraway states that from a technological point of view, any person that associates themselves with technology and uses it at almost any level is a cyborg.

“A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction. Social reality is lived social relations, our most important political construction, a world-changing fiction. The international women’s movements have constructed ‘women’s experience’, as well as uncovered or discovered this crucial collective object. This experience is a fiction and fact of the most crucial, political kind. Liberation rests on the construction of the consciousness, the imaginative apprehension, of oppression, and so of possibility. The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experience that changes what counts as women’s experience in the late twentieth century. This is a struggle over life and death, but the boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion.” Haraway; a cyborg manifesto pg 34

According to Chris Hables Gray in his book Cyborg citizen: politics in the posthuman age:

“A cyborg is a self-regulating organism that combines the natural and artificial together in one system. Cyborgs do not have to be part human, for any organism/system that mixes the evolved and the made, the living and the inanimate, is technically a cyborg. This would include biocomputers based on organic processes, along with roaches with implants and bioengineered microbes.”Chris Hables Gray  Cyborg citizen: politics in the posthuman age pg 2

and

“If you have been technologically modified in any significant way, from an implanted pacemaker to a vaccination that reprogrammed your immune system, then you are definitely a cyborg. Even If you are one of those rare people who are in no way a cyborg in the technical sense, cyborg issues still impact you. We live in a cyborg society; no matter how unmodified we are as individuals.” Chris Hables Gray  Cyborg citizen: politics in the posthuman age pg 2

During an interview with World.information.org he stated

“Anyone who has been vaccinated is technically a cyborg, because their immune system has been reprogrammed to deal with certain stimulae, as if they were computers.” Interview with Chris Hables Gray

Gray uses the term posthuman and cyborg interchangeably.

So what can we decipher from these eminent academics? Is a cyborg someone who is flesh and bone, but has one or more robotic appendages electronically linked to his or her nervous system? Would the defining point fall when a cyborg is said to be half human and half machine? For example, the Terminator is a robot covered with human tissue and so is not a cyborg because he doesn’t have any bones? Is a human with removable artificial limb a cyborg? Or is a cyborg someone who has had a flu jab, or used an I-phone?

I open this one to the floor!

cyborg v posthuman

November 12th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Haraway seems to be using the term cyborg as a metaphor to discuss the fact that we are no longer sure who or what we are. The fact that the boundaries between machine and organism have blurred have left us unable to define ourselves even as biological entities. Instead we have become cyborgs, an amalgam of organics and machine so tightly bound together that the two can no longer be separated.

“A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” Haraway 2007 pg 34

From further reading about Haraway, she seems to consider herself a cyborg. This confused me a little as everything that I have read about cyborgs so far was founded in the bio-genetics field and the development of implants to enhance the human body. If this is the case, what is she talking about?

I think she is talking about the way we use technology, and how we integrate it into every area of our lives without even noticing it. In that case, what is the difference between the cyborg and the post human?

Early thoughts on Haraway and Feminism

November 11th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Firstly I would like to state that I do not consider myself to be a feminist. I do not agree that in any way am I limited by my sex. It is part of who I am, but it does not define me, and I do not believe that I have ever been restricted by it. I achieve by my ability, though I can appreciate that is not the case for everyone.

So when I started reading Haraway I found her frustrating because she seems determined to label the cyborg as a result of a “tradition of racist, male dominated capitalism” and therefore a weapon to further denegrate women.

However the idea of the cyborg as a feminist issue is actually an interesting one. At first reading I thought that she was taking issue with the female image of the cyborg as created by male fantasists, like Seven of Nine.

seven of nine

The sexualised image of a women with logic at her core and no messy emotions for men to have to deal with.

After some initial frustrations, I realised that what she was actually talking about how the cyborg could set us free (though I do not believe that I require ’setting free’).

“The cyborg is a creature of a post-gender world” (pg 35)

Women are often described as the weaker sex, but if we could all be ‘fused’ with technology, either physically or metaphorically, then surely that weakness disappears. Then women truly can do anything they choose to!

week 7 – lifestream commentary

November 10th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

The lifestream this week has been almost entirely made up of comments and readings for my ethnography and those  of my colleagues.

The ethnographies were all fabulous and led me to really think about communities in a new way. They were necessarily short because of the time constraints but this was not too restirctive because as Hine states (2000)

“ethnographic stories are necessarily selective”

One thing that quite surprised me is how that many of the communities studied fell quite neatly into the Utopian and dystopian views of the Internet that we were considering a few short months ago – even those that seemed harmless on the surface. For example, the disturbing sexual connotations arising from Silvana’s research into Davesfarm to the social disassociation of Sibylle’s sleeping cats which bubbled beneath what appears to be two outwardly friendly  communities. I wonder if this negative aspect would have come to light if the ethnographer had been more involved with the community? Members of a group have their own ideas about what makes that community ‘tick’ because they themselves have a vested interest in that group.

Hine paraphrases Van Maanen when she says that there is an issue with

“ethnographers taking their own analytic frameworks with them, and therefore failing to address the field site they visit on its own terms”

The Utopian communities appeared to be ones that maintained a skills that would possibly die out otherwise, like the Irish music in John’s The Session, actually connected people virtually and in reality like the swapping in my quilting community, and to empower expression with Nicola’s Torchwood group.

Apart from that I have added an RSS feed to Digital Revolution – a blog  from the BBC which is producing some interesting content. What I like is that many of the posts are available as video interviews, with the transcript below for those occassions when my internet connectivity is not good enough for viewing film.

All in all another constructive week.

Kevin Warwick – interview with a cyborg

November 8th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

I just wanted to expand on some thoughts that I had on viewing an interesting YouTube interview with Kevin Warwick re the chip tech he has added to his body to enable him to interact with machines (and his wife’s nervous system!).

No one can have heard of cyborgs and not be aware of the work of Kevin Warwick. But watching this video made me wonder if what he is proposing is the future or a nightmare of surveillance?

I am pretty certain that I do not like the idea of downloading education directly into the brain as suggested at 5.05 in the video where we can simply download all we need and ‘know’ it instantly. In that scenario what happens to skills like questioning and reasoning? Without questioning how do we create views and opinions? Will this lead to a generation of ‘yes’ men who are controlled by those with their finger on the ‘download button’? Will we all behanve like the Borg – controlled from a central hive mind? Not a view of a place I would like to live in!

My ethnography project

November 6th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

My ethnography project can be found here!

http://www.sarahpayne.co.uk/ethnography.html

Is my community authentic?

November 5th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Are the members of this community authentic in their responses in an ethnographic sense. The first step is to explore what we mean by authentic.

Hine (2000) questions whether non face-to-face interactions can truly be trusted because the ethnographer cannot confirm what they are told about the real lives of the participants. However an important consideration is what the individual sees as their ‘real lives’ and how they express that in a virtual world. Which ‘part’ of their personality are they revealing, and if they only reveal that part, does that make it a lie (or not authentic) simply because it is only a small sector of the whole person?  If I where to list the identities that I reveal on a daily basis, the ‘work’ me, the ‘friend’ me, the ‘family’ me, the ‘creative’ me, the ‘tired’ me, there would be plenty of identities. However showing just one does not make it more or less authentic, or diminish the importance of those other facets that I choose not to reveal at that moment.

If this is the case, as ethnographers, can we really call an online persona a lie if it truly comes from an individual? In my example, I think that the users of this quilting gallery could be considered by any measure to be authentic. Many of them use their real name, and include personal photos in their blogs as well as on their facebook pages. We can read about their families, their values as well as their creative endeavors. They share their emotions as well as the highs and lows generated by their work.

This is an example of authentic experience sharing.

This is an example of authentic experience sharing.

This blogger is sharing some very really emotional moments, with a loved one entering a hospice. This may of course be a fabrication, but it is a common theme running through this blog and it would be hard to see why a person would fabricate such a persona.

Reading these blogs you can get a real sense of the values that this community has, and the mutual support that it offers the members, especially in trying circumstance. It is not possible to tell if there are a large number of lurkers, but there do seem to be an unusually high number of comments left on the blog entries that I have viewed. Even more unusually for an online environment, all of these comments have been positive ones which would again reflect the warmth that seems to shine through with this group.
So in answer to the question, “is my community authentic?”, I would have to conclude ‘yes’ – as far as any community can be considered authentic.

Twitter

November 4th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Now I was not the greatest fan of twitter before beginning this course, because I listened to the hype and decided that it was definitely not for me. I love Stephen Fry – but I am not really interested in what he had for breakfast or that it is raining in LA. So trying to ‘get in the spirit’ in the context of this course has taken some time.  However, with the help of my colleagues and websites like The Complete Guide to Twitter I really feel that I am getting somewhere. It is not simply a social tool where we can complain about how much work we have to do, it is also a great source of links that I would have otherwise have missed. My colleagues are not shy in sharing these, and they have been incredibly helpful as well as making me feel that I really am part of a class. So long live Twitter!

Ethnography issues

November 3rd, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Like everyone else I am spending most of my time focused on my ethnography research. I have had dilemmas about what questions to ask of my research, how to go about it and how to present it. My conclusion has been to focus on 3 main questions that can sensibly answered in the time allowed (which I shan’t reveal here or there will be no point in examining my results) and to record my results simply (using a web page and vlog). I am not sure that I have the time to learn another new technique before this needs to be completed.

Once thing that I have noticed during the course of my research is that I am very easily distracted when moving from blog to blog. I am attracted to blogs with pretty pictures, especially if the item displayed fits my own personal taste. As the topic for my research is quilting, you would expect the blogs to be very image based, which is certainly very true of many. However there are still a small percentage of blogs that are largely text, and I find myself skipping over them. Perhaps I have simply read too many words over the past few weeks and my brain just can’t handle any more!

week 6 lifestream commentary

November 1st, 2009 by Sarah Payne

This week has been a very full one, both work wise and course wise, so it has been a real juggling act to keep everything ticking over. However I have managed to maintain my lifestream, often late at night in hotel rooms, and during lunch breaks in internet cafes. This is taking some getting used to but I think I am getting used to it all quite well. I have added a few more feeds this week including Tumblr which I had never used before.

The lifestream this week has mainly been concerned with the ethnography research on our chosen community. I have chosen a quilting community because I wanted so look into something that used to be a community activity, almost died out and has now been resurrected in the virtual world.

Another decision has been how to present the research. I initially started with Prezi but as I worked through it the medium wasn’t really suitable. Then I decided at a web cam and screen capture might be interesting, however this has led to a frustrating day with technology and all I have managed to do so far is record a test – at least it has sound!

So it has been a productive week, and unproductive Sunday but I thought I would upload my test piece anyway.

YouTube Preview Image

Never having used a web cam before I found it a disconcerting experience, but now my face is out there for all the world to see as I struggle to find the FINISH button!

A rape in cyberspace; Mr Bungle and LambdaMOO

October 28th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

During my reading of Bell & Community & Cyberculture, I read about the strange case involving LambdaMOO (an online dungeon) and a cyber perpetrator by the name of Mr Bungle, who, with an online voodoo doll and a piece of programming code, could take over the identities of other players and force them to perform offensive acts.

After some further investigation into this strange story I found that several users posted on the in game MOO mailing list about the emotional trauma caused by Mr Bungle’s actions. One user whose avatar was a victim, called his voodoo doll activities “a breach of civility” while, in real life, “post-traumatic tears were streaming down her face”. This made me question how deeply these people related to their online identites.

I once had my car stolen (bare with me because there is a point…) and after it was missing for a few hours it was located and returned by the police. Now I had really loved that car, but once I got it back it just wasn’t the same and a few months later we parted company. Later I was recounting the story to a male friend and his response was ‘ having you car stolen is a bit liked being raped’. Bless him – he was serious!

So my car was stolen and my love affair with it was over, but I had not been physically violated. There was no comparison between my experience and a real rape. Just like I feel that there is no comparison between what Mr Bungle did and an attack in the real world. What did suprise me was the very emotional response by the people who’s avatars where ‘attacked’. It seemed exteme. However, if we consider the power of this community, as the possibility that it has become a replacement for a ‘real life’ community, then this becomes more understandable.

“community has become a ‘lost object’, nostalgized and looked-for (or longed-for) in cyberspace” Bell, Community & Cyberculture pg 105

If this is the case, and these people are searching for utopia in cyberspace that they are missing in real life, then an attack of this nature could be incredibly disruptive. When I visit online worlds it is ‘just a game’ – if I get pwned (throughly beaten) it is not a big issue. However, my approach to cyberspace could be considered different to many.

“virtual culture is a cultural retreat from the world (Robins CR:91)” Bell, Community & Cyberculture pg 105

The next question is ‘is this healthy?’

My choice of community for the research project

October 26th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Well I have chosen my community and sent off an email to check that the administrator of the website would not mind be included in my research. I thought about taking what was traditionally a small rural/community activity and seeing how it translated into the digital age.

The virtual community I have chosen is Quilting and the part of that community I have initially chosen to focus on is Quilting Gallery. This site has a blog, a chat area and guest speakers. I also plan to bring in some of the blogs that exist around this website to give a full picture of this traditional craft has grown.

“Craft seems to have grown as crafters have gained a voice online and gone from being eccentric individuals to a supportive and economically strong community so I think it could be really interesting to see how one specific traditional craft exists online.” Nicola Osbourne – MSc discussion forum 26th October

Quilting began as a utilitarian exercise to use old fabric scraps to keep people warm in winter and dates back to Egyptian time, but grew into a community pastime that encouraged groups of women to get together and share their stories as well as their skills. Useful items became things of beauty and enabled women of all ages to support each other through difficult times.

As a recent convert to quilting I have only just discovered that this small rural and often home based activity has become an international community. I think this could be interesting…

Week 5 – Lifestream commentary

October 25th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

This week I have really used my lifestream to collate sources related to the ethnography project. It has proved invaluable for this purpose because it has been a very busy week workwise, and I haven’t had a great deal of time to do the reading. The lifestream has enabled me to save the links and revisit them in my hotel room when I have time to go through them at my leisure. It also allows me to follow hyperlinks without getting too lost!

So my lifestream this week began with some basic research into what ethnography means and how it differs from anthropology.

“The Objective of anthropology, I believe is to seek a generous, comparative but nevertheless critical understanding of human beings and knowing in the one world we all inhabit. The objective of ethnography is to describe the lives of people other than ourselves, with an accuracy and sensitivity honed by detailed observation and prolonged first-hand experience. “Tim Ingold “Anthropolgy is not ethnography” Aug 2008

According to Tim Ingold anthropology is a much broader topic than ethnography, with ethnography being a more focused beam of light shed onto an element of individual existence rather than the entire culture.

I also enjoyed the work of Michael Wesch at Kansas Sate University – there were some very usefull resources made available on youtube and using NetVibes which was a resource I had never seen before!

Face to Face research

Another issue that I have been examining is how we can undertake research into digital culture when it cannot be undertaken face to face. Does the anonymous nature of the internet and the lack of physical contact between participants mean that members of the digital communities are more inclined to lie than if they met researchers face to face? Hine asked the question; can non face to face interactions be considered authentic when the researcher cannot confirm the details communicated to them? This also made me ask the question; are the participants lying, or is there a different view of authenticity when the world inhabited is a digital (and largely unauthentic) environment? This is a question that I am still asking myself and I think it is a big one!

Therefore can textual research studies really be considered valid in the same way that field research was considered academically viable?

“Traditionally, oral interactions have been foremost for ethnographers, and texts have taken a somewhat secondary role as cultural products, worthy of study only as far as they reveal something about the oral settings in which culture resides.” Hine The Virtual Objects of Ethnography 2000

However the existence of the world wide web & the virtual world mean that the idea of the spoken word representing a more authentic statement of reality has to change. Therefore ethnographers will need to look at text as neither truth or lie, but should “draw on their own ‘socialized competence’ in reading and writing to interpret them as culturally situated cultural artefact” (Hine 2000). Therefore in our own research we should consider the value of text but not immediately ‘believe everything we read’!

Week 4 Lifestream Commentary

October 20th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

This week has been a very busy one! My lifestream has been very much in use commenting on the visual artifacts through my colleagues blogs. I had some issues when posting comments on Flickr and youtube because these didn’t show in my lifestream. Once I noticed I added these comments to their blogs as well so they did appear. The artifacts have been great – some incredibly imaginative and creative people on this course. I was pleased that I went text free on my artifact, but some chose to use text to great supporting affect.

On the rest of my lifestream, I have had a couple of great RSS feeds coming through this week including a podcast of a radio show on the World service called digital planet which included an interview about studying the Internet (web science) – which will probably be quite useful in the next block. This programme also discussed the case of a law firm slapping an injunction on a newspaper to stop the publication of a question asked in Parliament. This injunction was useless when the question was blogged and twittered around the world – this demonstrates the democratization of Internet media as discussed by Hand in the core reading in week 1, but it could be a dangerous thing in the ‘wrong’ hands.

So could Lifelogging; a concept that I discovered yesterday where you video your whole life with a camera hung around your neck. I don’t know about democratizing, it may simply bore us to death!

(Update – 07/12/09 – the links to Digital Planet have all been removed as the website now appears to be unavailable)

comments on my visual artifact and the end of week 4

October 18th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

What an interesting week this has been! I was surprised at the quality and range of the artifacts produced,  with people using Prezi, Flickr, Youtube and blogs. I have made my comments on their blogs and so will not repeat myself here – but well done guys. I have really had a good old think about all your ideas.

And now to my artifact!

The Experiment

I purposely didn’t name my artifact or supply any form of narration because I wanted to take this opportunity to see if Kress was right!

“because words rely on convention and conventional acceptance, words are always general and therefore vague” Kress (pg15)

and

“that which I wish to depict I can depict … Unlike words, depictions are full of meaning; they are always specific” Kress (pg15)

So I added no words, just made a list of what I wanted to say with an idea of how to represent them and away I went.

Themes

The title of the piece was Dystopia & Utopia and was correctly identified by everyone who commented (so a good start).

The two monitors are intended to show the two sides of the Internet – utopia and dystopia. The social networking and communication elements on the left hand monitor broadly represent the connectedness that can be achieved and all of the positives that it could bring us. The images on the right hand monitor (which are not always easy to see) are the negatives that may sneak up on us at the same time (described by Jen in her comment as ’surface’ and ‘reality’). These two sides as discussed in Bell and Hand really opened my eyes to the negative by products of my tech addiction that I had not previously considered. For example, I am a rather keen WOWer and though I have never bought ‘in-game gold’, I know that it happens. This gold is created by companies in China employing low paid staff to perform repetitive actions in the game  to earn in-game gold which is then sold on in the real world for real money. 1000 Gold could take me hours to achieve – but can be bought from ‘gold miners’ for as little as 5 euros per 1000. So you can imagine how much they pay these workers!

“I’m thinking: this image represents utopian and dystopian discourses around technology. Mobile, empowering, social etc. on the left and negative (dystopian sci-fi and the cheap labour of third-world and developing countries that supply cheap digital consumer goodies to the developed world) on the right” Tony McNeill

The energy between the human and the machine:

“You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” The Matrix.

I am glad that some of you got the red pill/blue pill analogy there with the energy coming from my fingers because I was afraid I may have made it a little obscure.

Andy made the connection that the girl (yes me) is physically connected to the technology and that the two sides of the technology are also connected by me – this second point was one that I had not considered when creating the piece but it actually fits in perfectly – thanks Andy! Taking this further I guess that acting as a conduit for the technology creates the negative as a byproduct. If no one was looking then no one would be suffering!

Sian “she’s re-positioning and re-aligning the multiple elements on the screens in an attempt to make sense of her digital existence” This was a reference to the UI in Minority report where Tom Cruise manipulates information with his hands to create connections. I am connecting with people, through the social elements on the left screen, with corruption on the right with my own moral responsibility and connections with the future because as an ‘interactor’ I am also a creator of the future.

My pose is intended to demonstrate that I am struggling to maintain order and possibly keep balance with all of the elements. It is also the case that I am shifting my gaze towards the positive and shifting myself away from the negative elements on the right  and though this is hard to tell from the picture, my weight is placed on my right foot and i am leaning more to the left while still maintaining balance. It could also be said that while I am morally drawn to the left monitor – the etopia, the power of the right or dystopia is signifacant to prevent me pulling away from it. I am afraid that this is not as clear as I would have like it to be when the photos were taken. I tried to modify my stance by making ‘ggrrrrr’ noises so it would have seemed very strange if you had stummbled into my room at that point!.

“Your body pose could be (a) pushing digital culture away or (b) your diving into it. Either way, you are physically connected to technology. The two screens appear to separate reality and fantasy – but both screens are connected via you.” Andy Murray

The point I was trying to make is that I should accept some responsibility for both sides of the technology simply by the act of interfacing with it.

Silvanad asked if I could find ‘a third way’? I think that this probably brings us on to the next block and thoughts of what it means to be human moving forward.

Conclusion

In this experiement, Kress may have had a point! All of the elements that I tried to communicate through a static image with no narrative at all seems to been picked up – though this may be because it has been critiqued by likeminded folk rather than those unschooled in this language. What has been a surprise is that some of the comments saw connections that I had not even intended and asked me some unexpected quetions:

“Does this mean you get a positive vibe out of the Social Web but hate contemporary TV?” Billb

As a result these responses have led me to think further about the image and the message itself.

Comment on Andy’s artifact copied from Youtube

October 17th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Andy – Commute to Digital culture

I really liked the positive message in this video with the idea that this journey can go absolutely anywhere you want it to. I also like the idea that ‘now I’m here’ referred to your digital self living the online life rather than the old OU attending you 25 years ago.
Good work!

Welcome to my visual artifact

October 13th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Whilst I agree that a picture is worth a thousand words, I am yet to be convinced by Kress’s arguement that text is vague and image is direct and meaningful. Therefore I am not going to tell you anything about my visual artifact, and I am curious to see how easy it is to interpret. If you all get it spot on then either Kress is correct – or I have simply created a very expressive piece of Photoshop art!Visual Artifact

Week 3 Lifestream commentary

October 12th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Much of my lifestream this week contains twitter comments about the reading we have been doing.  I am still getting used to using Twitter and often find it dififcult to find a thread – but I am not the only one!

“the chronological order does not necessarily guarantee a linear reading sequence*. There is no way to thread sub-discussions within a particular #hashtag discussion and if you post 3-4 tweets within a short period of time and someone replies, you can’t always be sure to which tweet s/he is referring.” Bill Babouris via Twitter 7th October

Too true Bill!

I found Kress to be quite frustrating this week with his insistance on the power of image over the word and that the future has to be graphical:

“Kress – true that language develops over time but so do images – is why it is hard to read hieroglyphs cos the meaning has been lost. ” Sarah Payne via Twitter 5th October

However I have already blogged about that this week and will not go into it further here.

I have been collecting some links on using image instead of words to support Kress and my digital artifact. This included a tweet:

“sarahp @andym3112 #ededc Kress. ‘depiction shows the world’- but open to different cultural interpretation that language avoids http://bit.ly/DusEQ [sezpayne2].”

This tweet link goes to an article called Ad Analysis – The HSBC campaign which discusses the dangers of using non-verbal communication instead of words. Something that Kress does not seem to consider!

Another topic of Twitter conversation has been how we will create our digital artifact. I have the germ of an idea in my head and I will have to go away and play with it – but I plan to tie it in with Kress and his thoughts that the image has the power. Lets see how well it goes without the words to go with it!

Week 3 readings summary – WTF??

October 11th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

I have to admit that much of the time I detest reading academic papers! They can be dry, uninspiring, and they often make assumptions that make me want to scream out loud in frustration. Hand with his ideas that the Internet removes power from traditional centres and places it into the common people has to be a huge simplification. These centres of power are the only ones with the resources to be empowered enough to communicate their ideas across a wide audience. In this instance power = readers – powers. No matter how good the message, it is irrelevant if no one gets to read it! Can a single citizen have true power when the individual would have to wade through so much rubbish before they saw the message, that most people wouldn’t bother. It is a fact that most people wont travel beyond the first page of a google search, so if the author cannot get themselves up the listings they are simply shouting at the dark!

Kress was another one that made me wonder what virtual world he actually inhabits! He laments the fact that reading forces a linear progression and that “this gives authors a specific power: readers are dependent … on sequence and sequential uncovering”. I thought ” well of course!”. In my reality, time is sequential, and therefore the events that occur in any given story has a sequence, and therefore I want the author to tell me the story in sequence. I don’t want to know ‘who dunnit’ before the end of the tale. Also, in many case authorship = authority, and I am reading precisely because I want them to tell me something. I want an answer, not the opportunity to enter a debate.

He also states “because words rely on convention and conventional acceptance, words are always general and therefore vague” (pg15) How can he say ‘always’? That has to be a pretty major assumption right there. I tell you that ‘I am going to put the kettle on and make a cup of tea, would you like one?’ Is that vague? I could try to ask you the question through images, or the medium of mime but words would be better!

Use of image as a form as communication surely removes the power of the author to pass on their message to the viewer (especially if the message is more complex than ‘fancy a cuppa’). The author has to make assumptions about the relative cultural position of the viewer and therefore try to communicate meaning within those boundaries. This is an issue that I am coming up against whilst trying to devise my digital artifact. How do i ‘know’ that what I ‘mean’ to say is the message that is projected?

While I agree with Kress that words alone do not always convey true meaning and can lead to vagaries, images alone seem to me to be just as easy to misinterprete and misunderstand. Thomas’s interpreation of a ‘lifeworld’ (pg 5) which is a “combination of physical environment and subjective experience that makes up everyday life” ensures that reactions to imagery and symbolism is purely subjective and therefore must be individual. Therefore your response to my images are equally individual.

So there is my lament on assumptions made by authors; possibly to inspire debate, or due to the limitations of the media meaning that they cannot explore all options, or maybe simply to annoy me (probably not the third option!)

So dont get me started on the language! As a fellow MScer Damien blogged on Friday:

“I find it peculiar and fascinating that a discipline of study which examines cyberculture and its endlessly fluid, constantly playful, hilariously subversive ‘genres’ is so frequently reported on in a form of language which is not just a thousand miles from the culture which it is studying, but seems a world away from the general speech patterns and communication forms of the average human being.”

My job as a trainer is to take complex ideas and reduce them to a series of simple nuggets that can be easily digested by the learner. If I spoke to my learners using this kind of language there would be complaints and I would end up having a series on ‘chats’ with my supervisors. So if I cannot get away with using this use of language – how can these authors? Is it intended to be exclusionary? To prevent ‘outsiders’ from interacting? Or simply to make them sound knowledgeable?

Kress and the passage of time

October 5th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

The basic concept of this piece is that words are ordered and therefore restrictive imposing an inequality of power between the author and the reader. The example he used to demonstrate this was the Institute of Education website and the Boy Electrician novel. He laments the fact that the boy electrician is textual and therefore linear, whereas the new IoE has a series of graphics and links allowing the user to choose the information they want to see.

The novel forces the user to follow the tale in the order determined by the author, and not in any other order of their choosing. This seems to be a very simplified view because I cant help thinking that a novel is linear because time is linear! One event leads on to another event and then another - a tale has a beginning, a middle and an end. Taking any of these events out of order renders the tale nonsensical and therefore pointless! However a website that is a disparate collection of facts can be grouped together in some sort of order but these groups do not need to be linear.

They require different treatments because they are different mediums. He could be considered to be comparing apples and oranges!

Week 2 Lifestream commentary

October 4th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

This week I have been feeling the pressure of the reading and maintaining the lifestream. Sometimes this degenerates into ‘noise’ and I feel that I am loosing my focus. As a result some of my lifestream research this week has been into writers like Gloria Mark who researches methods  into dealing with the amount of information that we need to manage.

This week has also been about collecting resources and journals that I can refer to as the course develops including anteresting collection of articles at Digital Culture & Education, and an Open University course on Accessibility of Elearning with interesting ways of view how we make learning accessible.

I have also been continuing my Twitter conversations with reference to the films we have been viewing, as well as any other topics that spring to mind.

Another hard but interesting week.

Thoughts on humanity and robot relations

October 3rd, 2009 by Sarah Payne

The videos this week  have really got me thinking about what it means to be human and how we respond to non-humans within our culture. So far we don’t appear to have too much contact with robots in our everyday lives, though this is beginning to change. Many people are beginning to form attachments to their robotic hoovers like Roomba, treating them like pets and often dressing them up in little outfits.

Taking the robot development one step further is the humaniform droid Geminoid who has been built in the image of his creator (God complex??) and looks a little too realistic for comfort.  Hiroshi Ishiguro the developer who plans to send the droid to meetings in his stead and speak through him. The droid is very impressive, down to making all those subconscious little hand movements we all make when we speak. Perhaps this is the future – instead of attending meetings we will pack up our droid and courier it to the site instead while we sit our office and watch it all on a video screen.
What I did find interesting was my own reaction to the droid. I was impressed but detached until someone prodded his face and he responded with a look of distaste. At that point I felt like they were being cruel, like poking a puppy which is ridiculous when you consider that he is a machine (and yes I did just call him a ‘he’!).  But if a machine looks and behaves like a human, how do we in all conscience treat it with anything other than respect? I think that is root of many of the films we have been watching – with AI, Bicentennial man and I Robot all exploring the ‘humanity in robot form’ theme and how we of flesh and blood can respond with humanity or with detachment, or with fear and loathing. Will we have to have a new class of rights, human, animal and robot?

Some thoughts for #mscworlds that I couldn’t fit in a tweet!

October 1st, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Virtual worlds

Is there a danger in the VR becoming so real we lose our identities within it? The Matrix clip suggests that this is possible, with Neo having to make a determined choice (taking the red pill) to see the world a it really is (dark and cold and mechanical). However in the World Builder there is a sense of the ‘unreality’ of the world created. It would not be possible to confuse an existence within that world with the real world. Perhaps that is why the female character has a sad expression at the end of the piece – she knows that it is never possible to truly recreate the real world and is therefore aware that she is not really there.

Week 1 Lifestream Commentary

September 28th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

This is the first week and using the multiple technologies has been an interesting and challenging experience. The lifestream entries this week have been varied and have not truely followed a theme apart from diarising my sometimes unsuccessful battles with the technologies and some early research into the dual images of the internet as a dystopian and utopian entity. This has included readings bout the digital divide and issues of access.

We have also been commenting on the first week of the film festival with a blog entry, and quite a few some tweets about the internet and sex:

“Sex as a species survival mechanism is surely behind many individual motivations so why not behind the internet?” SarahP September 23rd 2009

I have also had some tweets with @suchprettyeyes about HAL and whether he appears human because he is evolving, or because he is programmed to be so, and chats about whether it is human nature to destroy what we create!

A very interesting start to the course!

Poster and thoughts on Internet and pornography

September 28th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

What I love about studying is the way that the readings can blend and stimulate thoughts on seemingly disparate topics. For example, Poster started me thinking about pornography (along with the WOW Video), which is not something that I would usually muse over!

Having never purchased pornography, I can only assume that the process of going into a newsagents and looking someone in the eye as you purchase an erotic magazine carries with it a certain degree of embarrassment. My feelings are that this is precisely why the internet is so successful in providing erotic material. It removes that moment of embarrassment, and the danger of judgement regarding the predilections of the buyer. It becomes anonymous. The very nature of the Internet determines that it can be used in private – a singular activity with no imperative to ‘behave’ in an acceptable manner because there is no one ‘watching’. This could also explain the rise in convictions for collecting images of children because there is perceived to be no one to ’see’ and no one to ‘tutt’.

If this is the case, the argument is not that the Internet is simply supplying more pornography, it is surely that it is making it accessible to those who would be too embarrassed to purchase It openly.

week 1 thoughts on technology and readings

September 27th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

The use of technologies during the first week has been interesting tthought my first experiences were a little uncomfortable to say the least. Using the course guide helped to a certain extent, but when I had teething troubles not having someone to turn to in person left me feeling a bit isolated. Some Twitter comments I made prior to the start of the course give a sense of how I was feeling:

twitter (feed #6)

sarahp Trying to set up all these bits and bobs is trying to wade through treacle!! [sezpayne2].
twitter (feed #6) sarahp Trying so put an RSS feed for Wallwisher into my lifestream is making my eyes bleed! I think coffee and a muffin is urgently required!

twitter (feed #6)

sarahp Studying without a vle feels like tightrope walking without a safety net! #ededc [sezpayne2].

twitter (feed #6) sarahp @damiendebarra working with barriers can be comforting as well as restrictive. total freedom can be a scary place!

Once I got TweetDeck installed I could see that I was not the only one have issues, so I began to feel better about my technotraumas. So after some initial struggles with configuration I am beginning to enjoy the choice of content and immediacy of the technology.

Twitter

I think Twitter takes some getting used to, and have found the short, punchy entries to be both restrictive and liberating. On the plus side, reading a 140 character comment is much easier than a 2000 character blog entry! I have found it challenging to follow conversations using this medium, and am in danger of getting lost over a longer tweet chat, but for focusing the mind on the nuggets that you want to transmit it has been interesting.

Lifestream

The lifestream is turning into an incredibly useful tool that I wish I had discovered earlier. The ability to keep all thoughts and readings together in one place is goingto be incredibly useful going forward, easpecially as i regularly work from 3 different machines and therefore suffer from an occassional mismash when I can’t remember where I read something! So far I have been using Microsoft One Note and PC anywhere to getaound this, but Lifestreams are proving the way to go!

Readings

Hand’s “Narratives of promise and Threat” basically investigates the effect of technology and the Internet on the world we live in in terms of society, culture and politics from both Utopian and dystopian standpoints and Bell’s “Storying Cyberspace”  outlined the ‘mythology’ of cyberculture as a medium for white, middle income, middle class professionals based in the developed world. This I found to be a disturbing vision of the future  because the digital divide or “the  excommunication of the developing world” (Bell, pg 17)  is a concept that is detrimental to what we are educators are trying to achieve. It would all be for nought if the work we undertake is not freely available to all those that need it. I found Foster a very interesting read and all three of these authors have led me on to consider the role of ethics on the Internet, a well as the Internet as a source of pornography (reinforced by the video ‘the Internet is for porn’). These issues all come neatly back to the dangers of the Internet as an anonymous world where the normal moral and ethical codes of conduct that exist in face to face environments may often become corroded. This lack of physical presence and verifiable identity is a concept that we will be returning to throughout the course and quite frankly I can’t wait!

Mark Poster and a question of ethics

September 27th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Reading this piece and considering the role of ethics in media made me wonder about ethics and morality, and whether they are the same thing? Looking up the terms on www.dictionary.com ethics is described as “a system of moral principles”, and morals as “the distinction between right and wrong”. Sounds simple. They both seem to mean the same thing. However, this doesn’t quite hold true with me.

Following an ethical code suggests that the code is created by an institution, such as the ethical code of doctors or lawyers. However, morality is driven by what the individual has learnt to be right and wrong, and the teaching of this code would be down to society through education or from parents. Therefore it is possible for morality and ethics to clash in certain circumstances. For example, during my day job I work with a lot of defence lawyers and I often ask myself how they can do the job they do. Their professional code of ethics demands that the defence lawyer performs to the best of their ability to mitigate legal recourse against their client, and try to ‘get them off!’. However, the lawyer is also an individual with their own moral code and sense of right and wrong. They may be aware that their client is guilt of the most heinous acts, and possibly a continuing danger to the public. Their moral code would say that to support the client was wrong and that they should pay for their crimes and be prevented from re-offending, but their ethical code says that they must defend that client to the best of their ability.

In this case ethics and morality clash! In this sense, ethic are a set of rule that come with the force of regulation, and with that a threat of retribution from the institution if they are broken – for example, disbarring. However, morality is more of a question of conscience, and therefore the retribution comes from a spiritual centre.

Could we say that with the internet, the ethics is ‘netiquette’ because it is a set of rules set down by the institution? If this is the case, then this could explain why internet relations sometime degenerate to ‘flaming’ and ‘cyber bullying ‘because there is basically no redress for rule breaking. The virtual nature of the medium by its very nature means that the individual transgressor cannot be punished (except possibly by exclusion from offended groups, though the individual can simply ‘reinvent’ themselves and start all over again). If morality and ethics are different, and ethics can easily be overturned by the virtual nature of the internet, isn’t the same true of morality? Can we ignore our ‘inbuilt’ programming of what is right and wrong to misbehave on the internet and truly turn it into dystopia?

Some early thoughts on Martin Hand – Hardware to everyware: narratives of promise and threat

September 25th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Page 20 ” for many utopian commentators, the transcendent flows of electronic information described as cyberspace are thought to constitute a paradigmatic change in power relations” Hand talks about the democratization effects of the internet when power is taken away from the traditional centres and distributed amongst other communities. But is this really possible? Surely power = readers = power! A message has no influence if there are not enough people out there to read it. And how will an individual gain enough influence to get their ideas into the general populace? If not an individual citizen will never succeed against a larger institution. For the smaller contributor – the battle would be to make themselves heard amongst a billion other voices including some really loud ones! For example, the BBC website is often the first port of call for many seeking information – because it has so many readers it has so many readers! It becomes self fulfilling!

In fact, I think the internet is anything but democratizing. Governments and institutions only pay attention when they feel that their control is being challenged, and then only in a manner that suits their strategic needs. The consideration paid to individuals, and the opinions of individuals is minimal. The individual only has power if he/she manages to band together with enough other ‘individuals’ to make a community. He states the internet is regarded as “an increasingly important force for social inclusion and empowerment” and will “massively extend the volume and flow of information exchanges across traditional boundaries and divisions”. Again this is only true if the exchange is between large enough entities within cultural groups. For example, if I wanted to find out about a particular political idea, I would Google the term, and then look for information on one of the higher ranking resulting pages, probably on a well regarded popular website like Wikipedia. I would not usually bother to look beyond the first page of results and would therefore miss out on a smaller website written by an unknown who may have some interesting contributions to make. Therefore, in this example how does the individual get readers in the first place if we are never really checking out the little guy. Doesn’t sound like democracy to me!

Response to Film festival WOW video

September 23rd, 2009 by Sarah Payne

My first response to the Wow was to smile and tap my feet. However, after mulling it over for a while I began to wonder what the internet was ‘for’.

The Internet is for communication – whether this is textual or graphical. However, there is an awful lot of porn out there but this is true in all walks off life. Sex as a species survival mechanism is surely behind many individual motivations. For example, money and power in a man is deemed sexually attractive, because it suggests that he has good genes and would be able to support children and ensure the survival of their genes. likewise, we work to buy things to make us and our surroundings more attractive – and therefore more sexy. Even studying (to be deemed intelligent as well as to improve earning power) could be reduced to a sexual motivation.

Therefore at a very base level human life  could be described as all boiling down to sex!

Wallwisher

September 22nd, 2009 by Sarah Payne

After some trials with the technology I have managed to upload my image to the wall wishers page (though I still don’t appear to have a decent feed set up for it) – introducing what I think digital culture means to me. I have to say that at this point in the course I am still unsure as to what it ‘means’ to me, but I think that it would have to represent a world that is stranger than the one I inhabit in real life, but still has its roots here, simply because I create it and I have my roots here. The digital world is a world that I create and therefore must exist as some sort of extension of ‘me’!

Hello world – this is me!

September 14th, 2009 by Sarah Payne

Well isn’t this a completely new way to learn!!! I must say that I was getting quite cozy with the VLE and now that security blanket has been ripped from beneath me so I am gearing up for a new adventure!

I look forward to working with you all on this strange new journey and I am sure it will be an eventful one!!!