Sunday, 27 January 2008

Popular Culture in the Classroom

So0arcOz has a great post here about a tv programme that I have not seen - maybe it is only available so far in Oz, but it is a satirical sopa opera based in aschool.
I love that the kids in this school have the same uniform as kids in a local private school near me.

Aaaanyway I think the programme looks just spot on for use in the classroom as it provides hot topics for kids to discuss and would also be a good media studies topic in itself - 'what makes popular culture so controversial?'

Check it out.

Hilarious. I really wanna watch it on our tvs in the UK. Please can we buy it Mr BBC?

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Bebo as suicide risk?

The Today Programme had a piece about how some kids are arranging suicides online - an 'internet suicide cult'. (Listen to the first three minutes of the 8.30 section).

It refers to the 7 young people who have recently committed suicide in Bridge End, Wales. They suggested that it is websites that seems to be encouraging the spate of suicides. This is obviously a very serious business. And for some, BEBO gets the blame.

The MP interviewed suggested that young people 'lose reality' when they are online. The MP also said that she wished that young people realised that they could talk to 'real people' who could help them when they are stressed. (Mind you,closer reading of the newsreports shows that most of these people also knew each other in face to face contexts too.)

The Sun reported in this lascivious way. The Telegraph also ran this on the story. And they let readers leave comments. One person writes:

Posted by Steve (UK) on January 23, 2008 2:47 AM Report
this comment

It seems that many kids find it easier to talk to a computer
than to their parents. It is no longer sufficient for parents to leave their
adolescent kids to find their own way in life, hoping that they will eventually
turn out like themselves. Kids are being enticed by role models in the media
(including "cool" aliases on the Internet).

And there is also this vile remark:

Posted by K.Evans on January 23, 2008 1:43 PMReport
this comment

"I don't know much about South Wales, but here in New South
Wales, Australia, my kids are too busy surfing, climbing, exploring, camping and
having FUN to be sitting, gibbering over some Internet site." Well, there's your
big difference! This is England and all such activities were banned years ago by
the government in case someone bumps their head and empties the local authority
purse in compensation payments. The streets are therefore silent regards happy
playing children, all victims of the 'no ball games here' culture. Instead we
have bored, badly parented gutter snipes drowning their empty, hopeless lives
with cheap alcohol and the other end of the spectrum we have those whose best
friend is the social networking site. Well at least they're not out on the
street either drinking, battering law abiding citizens or getting knifed eh!

Aside from the sweeping statements about a whole nation (do we call it racist?) there is also the assumption that those who go online are lazy, 'badly parented' and so on. Hmm. Interesting stuff - they used to say that about people who watched TV, or before that, read popular culture novels etc. (Actually am glad that K.Evans keeps offline in the main - although what is s/he doing putting comments on virtual spaces?)

The Today programme mentions that there are 'memorial websites' and that young
people are wanting to have a site dedicated to them, when they commit suicide. I
found what they were talking about here. And here is one that has been set
for one of the teens who committed suicide in Bridge End. The argument is
that the teens are attracted to the idea of having such sites. They like the idea of a memorial.

It did not take me long to find weird stuff on Google by using key words 'suicide' and Bebo' - and certainly I think this blog is somewhat creepy.

Aaaanyway ... what do I think? I can only comment in terms of the Internet, rather than say something about teenagers' suicidal tendencies. In general it remains the case that teenagers' mostly interact with people they already know from face to face (f2f) situations. There is a smaller group who sometimes connect with some people who they don't already know from f2f situations; an even smaller group who exclusively talk to people who they only met and know from online spaces. So usually they are not confused by the virtual and the real. This makes me think that those who do get involved in this stuff, are already a bit 'lost' and impressionable.

Secondly, and most importantly, while I think that the Internet is GREAT and a wonderful opportunity in so many ways, it is definitely the case that parents and teachers need to understand what their kids are doing and guide them. Just as we give guidance to kids when they go out on their own, so too we need to guide them in the online spaces they go to. Many parents and teachers don't understand about how the Internet works and they need to know so they can guide their kids. BEBO and other social networking sites have, frankly, enriched the lives of far more people than they have hurt and I think we have to be very careful about what we say about popular cultural phenomena - an easy way to alienate the young is to tell them what they are doing is bad, dangerous and wrong.

So. The Internet is not about to go away. It is going to increase its presence in our lives. So we all need to learn how to read texts; how to protect ourselves and be aware of how persuasive/seductive some texts/ online cultures can be. This is the role of Education and Educators. Like me.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Oh wow!!

What can I do?

I want a Mac Book Air ... you can actually copy a CD or software from another computer without any wires ... oh wow!!

see this show or you can see on video here.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Learning and Teaching Conference

Had a good day at this conference on Monday.

Did a presentation about the online MA, which seemed to go down OK.

It is hosted on slideshare here.
In my presentation I was wanting to share ideas about how to make an online course, which uses 'clunky' software, into something a bit more like a web 2.0 experience. I also wanted to share thoughts about what we had learned so far as teachers.

In the actual presentation I went into the course space itself and did not just stay with the slideshow, but cannot show this here as it is all password protected. This system means that students can get on with their course without feeling that they are being overlooked by 'all and sundry'!

I love our course and feel I know the students better than I know my 'face to face' taught students.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

New stuff to look at:

First up, is Tumbla, a new piece of free bloggoing software. Looks clean and easy to use, supporting easy upload from mobile phones.

Next is Jacke Eames' new venture Intimate Boudoir. We all know the success of TV shows like How To Look Good Naked but this is a makeover without the need to go on national TV. So you don't have that humiliation but you do have the photographs to show your friends.
This kind of thing can be a real confidence boost I guess. And perhaps they will show you ways of having your photo taken without making you look like a hog. (I often look like a hog ... but then it may be the raw materials at fault. )

Definitely the shots on 'Intimate Boudoir' are well impressive and it looks like they really can work some magic. You choose from a range of packages, the most pricey of which comes in at just over a grand. A nice litle earner I have no doubt. Is is going to be a bit of a life coach therapy thing for some people? Maybe so.

You may remember this video from Dove, which I blogged sometime back.

There is a marvellous parody here. I like web culture. Yes I do.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Street Art as New Literacy


I think that Street Art merits a place as a New Literacy - I think it has always had many of the characteristics of New Literacies, but more so now.

If we think of New Literacies as being some or all of the following - multimodal; able to be changed by people other than the original authors; that it is often replicated - either exactly or showing slight adjustments to suit context; its meanings change over time and when it is used in different contexts - and the text itself can change as the environment interacts with it or as others 'upload' / 'paste-up' /'stencil' (etc) new content near it....As Lankshear and Knobel explain here:

They can “travel” without requiring particular
people to transport them. They can be replicated independently of needing
other human beings to host the replication. The particular kinds of codes employed
in literacy practices are varied and contingent.


Make your mind up time

These days more and more street artists are conscious of their work being photographed and being put online. Like Celso. And this sometimes influences the way they DESIGN it, or where they place it - perhaps in places that are often photographed.

Often the streetartists are also very active on sites such as flickr, keeping an eye on the way their own art develops in the street (evidence of other art around it; art being added; the art weathering and going through an aging process) as well as how it is developing meanings in online contexts.
In this sense we see 'the fracturing of space' occurring as part of the whole streetart process.

See how goreb for example can look at all photos tagged with his name on Flickr. He and others can then see how popular the art is, how it is progressing in the environment - and see it as an online gallery like a museum collection. Look.

I love how Banksy has played with Flickr like this:

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

You Tube , Memes, the classroom

Have been having a bit of fun looking around YouTube,
finding memes and stuff.

If a meme finds its way online or even
begins life on the web, it usually ends up moving into other types of space and
maybe back again.

here is some of the work from the clan du neon ... campaigning to save the environment by
turning off display lights in shops ... it looks fun!

So the meme exists partly online as
part of the whole clan du neon process involves filming the process of switching
off lights and to make the video available through YouTube.

You can see
more on this blog here. Or
on YouTube here.

Rosa told me about some other memes and we had fun looking up all
sorts of things ... such as the WonderWoman copycats. Jen Gray is Grrrreat:

I dunno where she learned those
moves. But wow.

There are more related videos here.

So what else?

There is the Pedro dance. It all began with the film Napolon Dynamite with this dance here.

It has all become a bit of an Internet occupation to mimic the dance and to put on'es own spin on it. See for example here:

But I like the ones which jam together several ideas like the ipod version:

There is this other stuff going on too .. around the controversial 'don't tase me bro' news story set in the University of Florida. Basically a university student was marched away from the floor when he was trying to ask Senator John Kerry some embarrassing questions. It has become quite a well watched incident on YouTube since the whole dreadful event was videoed.

There have been copycat uses of the line 'don't tase me bro' which tend to be used as a way of signifying the USA as a police state. Sometimes to comic effect (depending on your viewpoint)

15 Seconds Of Fame

I wonder what you think of the ethics of films like this.

This time have a look on a different video sharing site. Here we can take a look at Britney Spears using 'don't tase me bro' as a line in a song. Nice.

So, a lot of mixing and jamming here. Interesting in terms of literacy, shared and distributed authorship.

What of its significance to learning -

that the Internet promotes the sharing of ideas and the dispersal of information. That we can use and re-use and reformulate. That the power of texts can be increased and weakened through duplication.

Points of discussion:

1. Where do we draw the line in terms of ethical use of video material for parody?
2. Are political messages strengthened or weakened through their proliferation and adoption by online groups?

I like the idea of applying questions to texts such as:

What is the main message or content of this text?
What is the purpose/function of the text?
What media are used to convey the text?
Are these the most appropriate modes and media for the conveyance of the
text message?
Who benefits from this text? (e.g does anyone make money?)
What messages are prioritised and which information is undermined or
omitted? (Why?)
Does anyone suffer as the result of this text?

we can apply these questions to any text and we can teach kids to ask them. And for some texts we can also ask:

Why is this text so popular/unpopular?
Why do people want to mimic this text?
How do the original meanings and beneficiaries (etc) change as a
result of this text becoming a meme?

But .... Why would you want to do all this?
The answer is simple. Because in order to become literate,we need to understand social implications of texts as they are part of the whole meaning.