Tuesday, 11 August 2009

What??? Again??

I have moved blog spaces AGAIN.
Fourth time I think. I am now posting here

It's lovely. Do drop by.

Researching both ends

When I first started researching online texts I was drawn into looking at sites created by young people. This was way back in about 2002. I was looking at teens' personal websites (not blogs) and discussion boards relating to babyz... all sorts of weird things like sites for Wiccan teens. I was really interested in all the stuff they were collaborating on and looked at the texts really closely - was totally bowled over by what they could do. S I wrote about all these online texts and about what the kids were doing and how they were playing and learning online.

Then I started doing a blog myself and getting into Flickr and so was writing about Blogging and Flickring (and eBay, and YouTube) . This was good as I realised very quickly how and why young people were getting so seduced by, absorbed by technologies.

As time has gone on, I have realised that it is important to not just look at the texts that are being produced, but at the processes by which they are being produced. A text that is online reflects a social process. It has been produced within a social context that cannot be presumed or assumed. In order to understand online text production, we need to know about the provenance. The meanings are also rooted outside the text, often in social happenings and events that exist outside the online space. As researchers of online spaces we have to understand that those spaces are often rooted elsewhere and the texts are not always self-standing, independent and self explanatory.

So I have realised that you need to look at the texts, but also at where they are produced so look at both ends.

Nevertheless in what I would call 'mature' online spaces, - spaces which have a social history, an often intricate set of networks that have been woven within the web, - these can be comprised of texts that root into the virtual space itself and have independence from geographical place. Not all mature sites do this of course, since some social networking function alongside or in support of offline activities and relationships.

So I draw a distinction here between mature sites and less mature sites ... and texts which have roots in online and offline spaces; and texts which have roots just in the online world. I think that sites / online texts which root only in the offline world are less likely to survive.

Pic from Emblatame

Monday, 3 August 2009

Social networking websites, texting and e-mails are undermining community life,

.... the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has warned .....

See the BBC report here.

It's a funny old world. Surely people who use facebook are aware of the difference between making contacts on Facebook and making 'real' friends. The archbishop's concerns are around the way people are using text instead of face to face interaction....

Archbishop Nichols said society was losing some of its ability to build communities through inter-personal communication, as the result of excessive use of texts and e-mails rather than face-to-face meetings or telephone conversations.

He said skills such as reading a person's mood and body language were in decline, and that exclusive use of electronic information had a "dehumanising" effect on community life.

Interesting idea - 'excessive use of texts or emails' .... I admit I get fed up of too many emails but this is because they signify an increased workload over the decades. This is not about reduced capacity to communicate - maybe even the reverse.

I am not aware of the research that says we can no longer read each other's body language - and must admit I doubt this. I would argue that Facebook (and other sites) are not used instead of face to face communication for most people - but 'as well as' . It is about keeping in contact when it is not possible to see each other. Thus for the majority this kind of virtual contact is additional to other kinds of interactivity. Take Twitter users for example - the 140 word quickies mean that we can keep in touch on the hoof and that we are able to balance a whole range of complex relationships whilst doing other things at the same time. We are perfectly aboe to read the body language of others as well ... especially that rolling eye movement when people discover you are addicted to Twitter!

Further it cannot be underestimated how powerful it is to meet somebody for the first time who you previously only knew online. But anyhow, that aside, it is the case also (e.g. see Sonia Livingstone's work or Benkler ) that most young people keep in contact with just those people who they already know through face to face networks.

Finally, there are many people whose only networks are through online interactivity. I am talking here of people who are isolated through disability, illness - or even because they are carers - who find great friendships in online communities. To be forever reading in the press that such relationships are not good enough or are of lesser quality is a value judgement that puts such individuals in a deficit space. It is bad enough to be isolated without having condemnatory remarks made about what may be the only relationships that exist beyond the home for some people.

Nice little vid showing how the world can go ALL WRONG if we start behaving in RL how we behave in Facebook.... (don't have nightmares now) ....

Thursday, 30 July 2009

I love YouTube

Why do I love YouTube?
I think its because people can have such a laugh making daft films.
A lot of the time they laugh at themselves and spoof big budget movies.
It is often an opportunity just to play and to celebrate amateurism.
I think this is what attracts so many people to watching YouTube as it links you to others and (sorry this is cheesey) you share a kind of humanity through your solidarity at being amateurs together!

Identity stuff: I also think we like to look at representations of ourselves on screen - having been mesmerised for decades by enigmatic folk on the tv and in big films - we can see that actually there is nowt special about people who appear on screens.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Bless us and all who sail in us

This is Guy and I happy at our book launch a few weeks ago... many thanks to Lynda Graham for the picture. This was also the day when we launched our new research centre - The Centre for the Study of New Literacies at Sheffield. We were so lucky to have Anne Haas Dyson from Illinois University and Angela Thomas from Sydney. They both gave fantatsic keynotes, focusing on their research. We had so many of our friends ad colleagues - teachers and academics, come along to wish us luck with the Centre. It was a great start for a centre that we hope will be a catalyst for research as well as a showcase and discussion forum. We plan lots more events for the coming year - not least a conference in July 2010.
We hope that students from the MA in New Literacies will like to come along to events - and that our doctoral students will be playing a role in the Centre too.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Repositioning the value of individual knowledge

A company called 'Common Sense Media' publishes a lot of stuff which I think is rooted in old school values that need to update and move on with the times.

They are of course not alone in continuing to value autonomous learning over collaboration; assessment of each individual's grasp of facts & knowledge; a desire to separate learners in an attempt to ensure that they can be evaluated more easily. This is what schools and schooling have been based upon over centuries.

But nowadays I think we need to value collaboration and participation far more; we need to think about how we teach students to read critically and to share knowledge; to show where they got ideas from so that others can look too. We need to be teaching them to understand that many people working together can achieve so much more than individuals working competitively. We need to show learners that it can be good to produce texts in collaboration and to amend them time and time again to add detail, to refine, to bring up to date (etc)

Thus in this article about hi tech cheating, the emphasis in my view needs to be on making sure kids acknowledge their sources. Showing them that it is of value to research and find information, will mean there is no need to deceive others. In this age of always on acess to info, there is no need to set such a high premium on reproducing facts. By continuing to insist that this is what is important, we are teaching kids skills that belong to past centuries.

Just in case you think I am totally utterly barking mad .. I do agree we need to know lots of things without the need to look up stuff online all the time - but I am arguing about a principle here. This is the principle that we need to relax a bit on knowledge stuff and concentrate far more on helping kids to use sources carefully and in a critical way.

End of rant.

Btw - does this sign mean 'No Arm Swinging'? Or is this an example of alternative readings? (Answers on a postcard please.)

no arm swingers

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Presenting the data

Many researchers are now asking the subjects of their study, not to be subjects, but participants.

Amongst other things, this is an attempt at making the whole process of research a more equal relationship - so that research participants get a say in how they are represented and in what data is used. They may also even help to design the research tool - such as put together the questions for interviews and so on. Researchers might otherwise risk representing participants in ways they are not happy with - or indeed which misrepresent them (this is an abuse of power imo).

More and more researchers are also using visual data as part of their research evidence - for example, giving people cameras to record aspects of their lives or to present the way they see things.

I love the site Duckrabbit as it shows what can be achieved when people are shown ways of representing themselves through words and images. Here the work is described as journalism - but there is sometimes a fine line only between ethnographic research and sensitive journalism which seeks to document people's lives rather than sensationalise.

Maybe the researcher and their participants will then look at the films as if pure data and discuss what they show. However I don't believe in 'pure data' and so think discussion between researcher and participants - around what is ahown and what is not, would be very fruitful.

Interesting also to wonder, is what is the effect on research participants of making their own films? How does the process of making the films affect (or not) the way they see themselves and their lives? And is this the same as the effect of the final product? (Does the product reflect what it was intended to?) Can the research process be transformative or therapeutic? Asking and thinking about these questions takes the research on a stage further.