Saturday, August 27, 2005

I have tried very hard to keep this blog focussed on issues of relevance to digital literacies, however its been a looooong summer and they're so cute, who could blame me?

Introducing the cactus friends. Are they cute or wot??

Friday, August 26, 2005

I have been reading Mizuko Ito's new edited collection "Personal, portable, pedestrian: Mobile phones in Japanese life" (edited with Daisuke Okabe and Misa Matsuda).

The first paragraph of Mizuko's introduction notes:
In contrast to the cellular phone of the United States (defined by technical infrastructure), and the mobile of the United Kingdom (defined by the untethering from fixed location) (Kotamraju and Wakeford 2002), the Japanese term keitai (roughly translated, "something you carry with you") references a somewhat different set of dimentions. A keitai is not so mcuh about a new technical capability or freedom of motion but about a snug and intimate technosocial tethering, a personal devide supporting communications that are a constant, lightweight, and mundane presence in everyday life" (2005, p. 1).
Sounds pretty exciting doesn't it? I am loving it!!

Given that mobile technologies are becoming so embedded in everyday life, this is an important piece of work that foregrounds the ways in which technologies are taken up in the everyday and located in complex crossroads of culture, politics, economics and culture.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Well, shiver me timbers...

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum....International 'Talk Like a Pirate Day' is coming up fast -- less than a month to go until 19th September. We live in a world that is often way too serious, so when the opportunity to join a collaborative and well-intentioned day of pleasure and play comes up, we should all grab it!

As the website says:

Talking like a pirate is fun. It's really that simple.

It gives your conversation a swagger, an elán, denied to landlocked lubbers. The best explanation came from a guy at a Cleveland radio station who interviewed us on the 2002 Talk Like a Pirate Day. He told us we were going to be buried by people asking for interviews because it was a "whimsical alternative" to all the serious things that were making the news so depressing.

Pirate HQ in the United Kingdom is at

There are worse things than being a pirate for the day. Aarrr!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Dress up your iPod

I love my iPod. It absolutely deserves these must-have accessories.
will give your iPod moveable arms and legs. How can you possibly consider another day without arms and legs for your iPod?

Of course, if you are more worried about your iPod during the long, cold winter, then you need this iPod 'hoodie' (also from

For even more personality, Chuckles Central has these lovely knitted bunny numbers.

However, if you want to create something more personal for your iPod, apparently knitting iPod holders is very fashionable right now. If you're so inclined you should try's iPod sock
or SskeinS' iPod cover.

I do, in fact, have a point here. One of the emerging trends in relation to mobile technologies is the capacity to personalize them. You can bling your mobile phone, knit for your iPod, decorate your laptop.

This is an interesting and important phenomenon linked, i think, to the important role that digital technologies play in social practices, social networks and constructions/portrayals of identity in contemporary society. The Guardian recently reported on the rapidly increasing uptake of mobile technologies by women, however the practice of personalization extends beyond this group.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I blog therefore I exist

I've been thinking about blogs this week. I've spent an inordinate amount of time trekking tirelessly in search of blog sites that interest me. Frankly, most don't. However, that's not the point.

There are a multitude of blog genres emerging -- personal journals, journalistic sites, commercial blogs. video and photoblogs and aggregate sites. It's like watching evolution in fast forward. According to David Sifry, the number of blogs online have doubled in the past five months, which means that there is a blog created every second somewhere in the world. Of the 88,000 blogs that are created every day, around 55% are active. The point is that more text is being produced by more people than anytime in human history!! (Take that all you doomsayers who claimed that the internet and digital technolgoes would kill 'traditional' skills and practices....they're still there but are also evolving. Civilization as we know it is not ending).

Why are we all going blog crazy? There are a lot of reasons. I could cite loads but here's just two: the affordances of the technology enable and encourage it; the rapid embedding of digital technologies across all zones and cultures makes it an increasingly valued social practice. However, this last week as I've been clicking through blog and blog after blog, I've been thinking that there is one thing that brings all these other reasons to a sharp point (in all but the really commercial sites): the need to be heard. A couple of sites bring this home strongly -- there's one called "This is me writing...I write..then I EXIST" (the title says it all) and "PostSecret"(where people anonymously post their darkest secrets).

There's still lots of interesting work around identity and identity politics to be done in relation to online activities and cultures. And, of course, there's loads of implications for those of us who work in the field of literacy -- what else are literate skills for if they're not about enabling each of us to be heard?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Special edition - digital literacies

A Special Edition of Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education on New childhoods and youth: New literacies will be released in September 2005. Edited by Jackie Marsh and myself, the edition includes papers by Doug Kellner, Helen Nixon, Carey Jewitt and others, along with an interview with Gunther Kress (by Eve Bearne). From a range of research-based and theoretical perspectives, these papers all focus on the implications of new forms of text and new childhoods in a contemporary context.

This edition makes a significant contribution to outlining the parameters of the key debates and issues which form the context of this emerging field. For those interested in the changing landscape of literacy education and the sociology of literacy, this is a must-see issue!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Mobile phone for kids?

This is the about-to-be-released TicTac Cellphone for kids. Not so long ago we began analyzing the cultural relevance of the mobile phone toys given to kids.

Toys provide a lens into what is valued in adult culture and provide a way to enculturate children into technologies and cultural practices. At the same time, the toys of an era provide an insight into the prevailing narratives of childhood and children.

The mobile phone is now so entrenched in the everyday that phones are being produced for kids from 6 years of age. However, this model (which looks very much like a tamagochi to me) has features which limit its use -- for example, no keypad, one-way txting (in, not out) and control of phone numbers. These limits say quite a lot about the ways in which the relationship between children, technology and adult control is being played out (at least in the minds of designer and marketers). It will be interesting to see if a 'dumbed-down' technology (for all it's tamagochi-like cuteness it lacks the functions that most kids will associate with phones) will be greeted with enthusiasm by kids who have been given mobile phone toys since birth and who see them in use all around. Guess we'll have to wait and see.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Heavenly dolls

This is my current favourite place to spend time. I could explain it in terms of identity, avatars, blah blah blah. I could also make a case for the movement of offline children's activities online with all the implications for blurring of boundaries. I could talk about shovelware and echo Ted Nelson's arguments about the way that computers have been used to merely simulate paper culture. But really, I just like going through their wardrobes to see what kind of shoes and accessories the 'dolls' have.

Very therapeutic.

For more, go to Paper Doll Heaven

Thursday, August 04, 2005


(c) 2005 Darren Hester (cc) SA-NCIncreasing attention is being paid by educators to the rise (and rise) of digital texts and the impact of the affordances associated with new technologies. One that comes to mind is a change to the way we understand authorship. In a print-centric universe, the BOOK is a delineated piece of text. It has a beginning and an end and a clearly defined set of authors. The book itself is a cultural artifact with a physical presence in the everyday.

The certainty around this arrangement is becoming a little shaky I think. Have a look at wikibooks and see what you think. These are multiple authored, continuously edited and updated, online books. There is no delineated end, no strictly defined set of authors and while still a cultural artifact, one with a quite different physical presence.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

What does this mean for the ways in which we see academic work and the production of texts and papers? What does it mean for classroom teachers who depict the act of authorship in quite specific ways both culturally and technically.

Given that one of the key outcomes of new digital technologies is now being understood in terms of social networking and the ways in which the young construct and conduct their social worlds, what does social or community authorship mean??

I know, more questions than answers, but geeze they're interesting questions.