Monday, December 15, 2008

5 minute interview with Dr Jennifer Rowsell

The latest in our series of mini interviews with key researchers in the New Literacy Studies: Dr Jennifer Rowsell from Rutgers Graduate School of Education. Jennifer is an Assistant Professor of Literacy Education at Rutgers where she teachers undergraduate and graduate courses in multimodality, multiliteracies, and New Literacy Studies. She is all-round fabulous.

What digital technologies do you have in your handbag/satchel?
I always have my blackberry and a tape recorder just in case I suddenly have to interview someone (which has never happened incidentally).

Which one/s can't you live without and why?
Clearly, I can live without the tape recorder, but I love my blackberry.

What's your current favourite blog/website/virtual world?
I really like YouTube. I go to it often when I miss big events like Obama's Acceptance Speech or Tina Fey impersonating Sarah Palin. Also, I go onto YouTube with our daughter when we want to look up goofy things like Funny Animal Videos or Funny Fart Animal Videos.

What are you finding fascinating in relation to technology/literacy/text at the moment?
When I think about technology and literacy these days, I focus on production and such questions as (currently): how do digital spaces create communities and communities of practice? For example, what happens when CNN develops a partnership with another digital space such as YouTube - especially given that CNN is quite conservative and YouTube is quite liberal. Or, Facebook developing a partnership with Vonage or Sprint - how do these partnerships shift the content of a website? How do partnerships impact users? Or, a war videogame partnering up with The History Channel?

What do you predict will be a key issue/s in digital technologies/literacy over the next 5 years?
1. New writing pedagogy - that accounts for multiple genres and using different modes to create these genres (and maping out what goes into our thinking).
2. New reading pedagogy - that accounts for reading multiple texts at once and closing the gap between reading and writing (because there is less of a gap between reading and writing when working online).
3. Assessing what modes best fit a text and having students explain their preferred choice of mode. In other words, how do we assess what goes when we use 'new literacies'?
4. An account of the material and artifactual nature of meaning-making instead of a focus on written accounts or more traditional technologies.
5. Looking outside of education broadly and literacy education particularly to explain what it means to make meaning with contemporary communicational systems (because the marketplace creates texts, practices, and digital environments).
6. Being greedy I will do a sixth point because I believe that there is a need to understand networks of information as well so that we have far more meta-knowledge of discourses and ideologies when we make meaning with texts (this will involve geosemiotics and multimodal-discursive understandings).

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mobile-based health education

I stumbled across a description of Project Masiluleke in the World Aids Day supplement of this weeks The Guardian Weekly. According to Pop!Tech, one of the funding partners, Project Masiluleke:
is a path-breaking effort that harnesses the power of mobile technology to address one of the world’s gravest public health crises. This ambitious initiative will leverage the ubiquity of mobile devices in South Africa to help fight the country’s crippling HIV/AIDS and TB epidemics.
Because nearly every South African has access to mobile phones they have become a most effective method of private mass communication. There is more detail about the project and the confluence of community health and mobile technology at The Praekelt Foundation...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

5 minute interview with Professor Jackie Marsh

The second of our 5 minute interviews with key people in the field of digital literacies. Meet Professor Jackie Marsh. If you haven't read Jackie's work, you need to.

Jackie is Professor of Education at the University of Sheffield, UK, where she is involved in research exploring the relationship between young children's use of popular culture, media and new technologies and their literacy practices both in- and out-of-school. Her blog is:

What digital technologies do you have in your handbag/satchel?
USB pen drive
Digital voice recorder
Creative Vado Pocket Camcorder

Which one/s can't you live without and why?
iPhone - music, email, web access, maps with GPS, alarm clock, phone, voicemail and txt messages all in one piece of Apple-produced hardware - need I say more? I only wish it made tea...

What's your current favourite blog/website/virtual world?
Second Life - I find it a creative environment for teaching, research and, increasingly, art.

What are you finding fascinating in relation to technology/literacy/text at the moment?
I am currently researching young children's use of virtual worlds (Club Penguin and Barbie Girls) and I am fascinated by the integration of literacy, identity and play in the children's use of the worlds. This combination is of course important in 'RL' also, but the affordances of virtual worlds do enable the creation of potentially interesting texts e.g. machinima, which not only combine modes in skilful ways but serve as a key identity work and are used ritualistically to promote social cohesion in-world.

What do you predict will be key issues in digital technologies/literacies over the next five years?
This is an interesting question for me at the moment as I have been involved in writing a paper on this with Victoria Carrington for the Futurelab/DCSF 'Beyond Current Horizons' project. In the paper, we have predicted the following as being key issues: ubiquity (which can mean access to texts at point of need); convergence (leading to new kinds of texts); personalisation (intensifyng the focus on identity and self-representation in textual practices); mobility (enabling meaningful textual engagement across formal/informal learning spaces). In my own area of interest, early childhood literacy, I think a key issue will be the acceleration of the blurring of boundaries across online and offline, 'real' and 'virtual' spaces - this is already occurring with, for example, the use of 'clickable' technologies linked to virtual worlds such as 'Pixie Hollow'. There are many implications for early literacy in the development and I look forward to exploring them.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Game review: Ninja Gaiden II

Game Reviewed by Tom

− Title: Ninja Gaiden II
− Platform: Xbox 360
− Creator: Team Ninja
− Company: Tempco
− Genre: Action/Adventure
− Players: 1
− Rating: 4/5

“In this action packed sequel to Ninja Gaiden you are Ryu Hayabusa, the ultimate ninja action hero. Destroy everything in your path as you embark on a quest to avenge your clan and prevent the destruction of the human race from a brutal and relentless enemy.” Doesn't that just say it all...

When you first turn on you 360 and pick up your controller you find yourself entering the life of Ryu Hyabusa, quite literally a modern day super ninja, while playing you are directed through a miriad of visually appealing levels, each with their own intrigue and dangers... Venice and Rome have become home to lycanthropes whilst Tokyo has become infested with black spiders and New York with fiends, so I guess you could say that it's your responsibility as a ninja to remove these threats to humanity. The combat control system in NGII (Ninja Gaiden II) is quite simple and thus allows the player to perform spectacular combos that blur your blade, send showers of blood and sparks through the air and leave you foes twitching and almost always limbless. And as if the intense fighting isn't enough to create suspense and drama throughout the plot, music is integrated so very well, offering much and aiding in the creation of a quickened pace and pulse. The visual quality of the movie sequence's is quite impressive with each one bringing I guess a break to the fighting, a moment to reflect on the story and some time rest your thumbs and be amazed at the detail of NGII's character design. Where would a ninja be without the teachings of ancient scrolls? In short... lost, you are constantly presented with the opportunity to read further into the plot and characters whilst progressing though the story. This information takes the form of scrolls and is quite interesting and helpful. Patience is a virtue as throughout the game levels become longer, enemies become harder, bosses become craftier and stronger and just plain cool. More often than not you will find yourself overwhelmed by copious quantities of foes, sometimes you will succeed, sometimes you will be devestated by them, however patience and reasoning will aid you well in your quest.

Anyway NGII with its flashy effects, intense fighting, impressive movie sequence's and enticing story gets a 4/5 from me... Great game.

5 minute interview with Dr Julia Davies

Sam and I are conducting 5 minute interviews with interesting and famous people working in the world of digital literacies. Our first interview is with the wonderful Dr Julia Davies from the University of Sheffield.

For more, visit her blog:

What digital technologies do you have in your handbag/satchel/pocket?

1. Flip video camera
2. Sony cybershot
3. Mobile phone – has camera and mp3 palyer built in
4. Ipod touch– wireless connection; music player. Dvd player; stores images
5. Palm pilot – has diary, addresses, camera, note book & memo pad
6. 2 USB memory sticks

This is just in my handbag – I also always take my laptop to and from work.

Which one/s can't you live without and why?
This is VERY difficult as different ones are more important at different times. But on balance, it is the least technologically advanced item, and also the oldest. It is my palm pilot – because this is my diary and tells me what to do, where to be all the time. I can take a picture with it if I have not got my camera – but would rarely use it for this. I would rather use the ipod touch for my diary– but I cannot synchronise that diary software with the one work uses and so I stick with the Palm pilot. (My University likes to keep track of our whereabouts at all times and they do this through an electronic calendar – I suppose that actually tagging us might seem a wee bit too invasive of privacy). So the diary is not just a personal technology it is also about networking – people being able to book my time.

What's your current favourite blog/website/virtual world?
I am glad you specify ‘current’ as it changes a lot … but at the moment I love YouTube as I like to see the wide variety of people using this space for so many different reasons. To me it seems to house the most diverse set of users – and that is without even seeing the probably even greater diversity of those who merely view rather than upload or comment.

What are you finding fascinating in relation to technology/literacy/ text at the moment?
Hmmm difficult to pick out the MOST fascinating – but I am thinking a lot about what motivates people to participate online and am interested in how more and more groups of people as seeing it as including them – there is much less of a notion that there are those who do and those who don’t go online. People are beginning to incorporate the web into their lives and seeing it as part of what they do normally – whether it is ebay, instant messaging, facebook stuff or Youtube. People are seeing it as a social resource and as a channel of communication. In relation to this I am staggered at how often speak out against the dangers of our use of the Internet – so that whole more and more people are realising the usefulness of the Internet as a way of facilitating normal activities, this is triggering fears around social change. I think it is odd as in fact people seem to be using the Internet really to make what they normally do more efficient. I see all these issues as revolving around ideas about literacy as a social practice and about identity.

What do you predict will be a key issues in (digital technologies/literacy/) over the next 5 years?
I think issues are likely to include:
  • The need to educate people for critical literacy – managing vast amounts of data and being able to wade through it and read it carefully;
  • Convincing schools that the above is the case;
  • I think that more and more publishing companies will supply schools with software that can be run separately from the Internet and provide a ‘safe arena’ – equivalent to reading schemes of the past – these may not be all bad, but are not the best way forward in my view;
  • The Internet is getting increasingly ‘busy’ - different spaces will increasingly acquire social meanings that will attract different types of people to them – and which will have ways of gatekeeping to ensure that the ‘right people’ get in – I think we will see this increase and a different kind of digital divide happening online – to do with social and cultural capital; We will need to educate for this. What do I mean? I see that for example, Bebo and Facebook attracts different demographies – these are usually based on local ‘real world’ social groupings – such as who at my school uses facebook – who do I want to be with? This influences choice of software and then locks you into groups – unless you decide to keep up a range of gateways into your wider social frame. As these networks grow (and as the young Bebo users grow up) these I think will translate and transfer into career groupings and so on. Probably class based? At the moment you can already choose to pay to use software that is also available free through other providers – e.g. you can have a free blog, or pay for one. Obviously paying is a simple form of gatekeeping. I think this will be one way of gatekeeping, but then there will also be password protected spaces that will be powerful to belong to. This is different to the utopia some have described, seeing the internet as a great leveller and as a way of hiding identities and so on.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

International Conference on Popular Culture and Education in Asia

Go if you can. It will be major.

The First International Conference on Popular Culture and Education in Asia will be held at the Hong Kong Institute of Education 11-13 December 2008.

The conference will bring together researchers from a variety of disciplines to focus on the implications of intra-regional flows of popular culture in East and Southeast Asia for educational practices and youth development. We welcome papers that elucidate changing patterns in Asian popular culture as well as papers that explore implications and applications of youth engagement with popular culture inside and outside the classroom.

We welcome researchers and scholars from Sociology, Cultural Studies, Media Studies, Anthropology, Language and Literacy, Music, Visual Studies, Asian Studies, Education and other disciplines that take popular culture seriously to join us in this event.

What are you doing?

A number of interesting articles/blogs about the social web and the details of daily life lately. Clive Thompson writes in the NY Times about the 'Brave new world of digital intimacy' and the ambient awareness provided by microblogging services like Twitter (what are you doing?) His articles describes the process where "each little update — each individual bit of social information — is insignificant on its own, even supremely mundane. But taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends’ and family members’ lives, like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting."

Joe Krauss of Google has also been blogging about the future of the social web, observing that it makes it "easy to share the small stuff -- to make it effortless and rebuild that feeling of connectedness that comes from knowing the details".

Interesting stuff.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Five pedagogies, a thousand possibilities

Ignorance is not a concept usually associated with the work of teachers (or at least with teachers that want to stay in work). But as the philosophy of Jacques Ranciere (see The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five lessons in intellectual emancipation) and Emmanuel Levinas has been increasingly taken up in critical pedagogy debates, ignorance and unknowing have become concepts of increasing theoretical interest. To my mind, unknowing, nonknowledge, or ignorance are essential concepts for theorising pedagogy in our current moment. That's why I've been enjoying Five pedagogies, a thousand possibilities by Michalinos Zembylas, which begins with an accessible and insightful meditation upon pedagogy and unknowing, before moving on to consider other themes such as silence, passion, desire, forgiveness, and reconciliation. It's well worth checking out... 

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Commoncraft: Explanations in Plain English

Commoncraft create short and simple videos that make "complex ideas easy to understand". They use a whiteboard and paper cut-outs to demonstrate how things work. The site includes a guide to the US presidential elections, surviving a zombie attack and how to use Twitter.

The guide to wikis (Wikis for dummies) is very useful. See it here.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

War on Terror board game

So much to analyze, so little time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Zombie Survival Guide

This has got to be one of the BEST book websites I've ever come across. Go and have a look because..

1. Zombies are way cool! 2. The site is brilliant. 3. Did i mention that zombies are cool?

The book is The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete protection from the undead by Max Brooks and it has spawned a range of fan creativity and merchandising.

Well played Random House!

Red the Robot

This article in The Guardian directed me to Red the Robot.

I grew up with the fantasy of robots who would become an integral part of our daily lives: The Jetsons, Astro Boy (aka Tetsuwan Atomu), the robot in 'Lost in Space'. I remember reading 'I, Robot' when i was a teenager.

In none of my fantasies did the robot sit down and teach me phonics. Robots were making lives safer, guiding young adventurers through the galaxy, forcing me to reconsider the moral code of my culture.

...i'm just saying...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I've been following the work of Genevieve Bell of late. Brilliant stuff. Genevieve is a cultural anthropologist working for Intel. I've been particularly interested to hear about her research across 100 households in 19 cities in seven countries in Asia and the Pacific focused on how people in these diverse geographic and cultural locations use technology. Emerging technologies allow both greater connection to a broader community and an increased localization across distances - an interesting complexity that has implications for rapidly diversifying nations and communities.

If you're working with digital technologies, new literacies/media and haven't already checked out her work, you should have a look. My favorite podcast with her is located here. Links to further Genevieve Bell resources can be found here and if you're in New York in mid-September you can hear her speak here.

Digital Futures: The internet in Australia

The ARC Centre for Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation has released a new report on the use of the internet in Australia. The report captures a snapshot of how the internet is being used, where and by whom. Important reading.

Download it here.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Schooling and virtual worlds

An interesting story unfolded on Paul Verhoeven's blog last week, which he also related on Triple J's breakfast show (the story starts two thirds of the way through the mp3).

Basically, a secondary school student playing World of Warcraft stole an item from his 'guild' (a group of players who work together within the game). Many of the players in the guild were adults that play the game very seriously, and they took exception to the theft of the rare and valuable 'Warglaive of Azzinoth' (pictured). So much so, in fact, that one of the guild members wrote a letter to the principal of the student's school, asking that the student be held to account for his actions. The letter drew analogies to the action that would be taken if the student, as representative of the school, were caught stealing in the 'real' world. Allegedly, the principal took action, the parents of the student were contacted, and the item was returned.

To my mind, this is an interesting response from the school: in this instance virtual worlds were considered to be a legitimate space of social interaction, with which the school should be concerned, and not 'just a game'. While student behaviour in virtual worlds may already be a subject of curricular and pedagogical focus in some places (especially in terms of online safety), this seems like a different kind of 'whole school' recognition, which frames these worlds not just as spaces in which students are vulnerable, but ones in which they must also be responsible and accountable.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Feeling your way through urban space

Erik Conrad's 'Palpable City' project allows you to 'feel' your way through space, by augmenting our optical sense with tactile stimulation:
"Palpable City is a site specific installation that transforms an everyday walk through the city into an exploration of a new tactile landscape. Participants wear a vest outfitted with a GPS, some custom hardware and software, and an array of vibrotactile actuators (vibrating pager motors) that are sewn into the vest. As they walk, they encounter varying vibrotactile patterns--changes in rhythm, location or intensity--dependent upon their location. The tactile 'textures' change in relation to the spatial form of their immediate environment. As they walk, and the shape of the 'empty' space around them changes, participants experience new rhythms of the city as tactile sensations generated by the vest."
Erik has designed a system that maps the tactile sensations produced as you walk through a space. His Palpable City page has a range of different maps that represent these sensations, including an interactive one which can be used to follow a particular walk through a cityscape, and to track the optical and tactile perspectives produced by this space. 

Friday, July 25, 2008

New lecture from Manuel DeLanda

The European Graduate School (EGS) posts a great range of lectures, seminars, and interviews on YouTube. I've just noticed that a new lecture from one of my favourite thinkers, Manuel DeLanda, has been posted. The talk is titled 'Materialism, Experience and Philosophy', and while I haven't had a chance to watch all of it yet, DeLanda is always worth listening to for his engaging discussions, and further development, of themes found in the work of Gilles Deleuze.

More lectures and seminars from the EGS (and the further 11 parts of this one) can be found here.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

ALEA 2008 Presentation

The 2008 ALEA/ATEA National Conference was held in Adelaide last week. I was privileged to be invited to give a presentation on my work around digital literacies. I spoke mostly about research I've done on social networking sites and the kinds of practices with text associated with them.

Here are the slides

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Mark Iwinski's photography is featured in the first volume of new the online journal inflexions. It offers an interesting perspective on changing urban landscapes.
"[Mark's] current work entitled This Was Now and the ghost buildings in Terrains of Absence use a photo-performative version of ana-photography. They reveal losses to the architectural fabric of our cites through urban renewal and create a spectral slippage between the past and our current sense of time and place."
More photos here.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Jackie Marsh @ UniSA in June

The fabulous Jackie Marsh is presenting a seminar at UniSA. Come if you can.

Professor Jackie Marsh
Her research interests include the role and nature of popular culture, media and new technologies in young children’s early literacy development, both in and outside school. She has conducted research projects exploring children’s access to new technologies and their emergent literacy skills, knowledge and understanding, and has also examined the way parents/carers support their engagement with media and technologies. A recent project was Digital Beginnings, a national survey of 0-6 year olds in the UK and their ruse of popular culture, media and new technologies in the home and early years settings. Professor Marsh has conducted a number of research projects that have explored how creative and innovative teachers have responded to the challenges of the media age, and has written a number of papers considering the way in which access to and use of media and technologies in the early years are gendered in nature. She is also interested in the interaction between digital literacy, gender and identity, and has examined the digital literacy practices of young girls.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ulrich Beck in the Guardian

For those of you interested in the work of Ulrich Beck, you might be interested in this article in The Guardian.

Nation-state politics can only fail the problems of the modern world

Europe is Europe's last remaining realistic political utopia. But Europe remains to be understood and conceptualised. This historically uniqueform of international community cannot be explained in terms of the traditional concepts of politics and the state, which remain trapped in the straitjacket of methodological nationalism. If we are to understand cosmopolitan Europe, we must radically rethink the conventional categories of social and political analysis.

Just as the Peace of Westphalia brought the religious civil wars of the 17th century to an end through the separation of church and state, so too the separation of state and nation represents the appropriate response to the horrors of the 20th century. And just as the secular state makes the exercise of different religions possible, so too must cosmopolitan Europe guarantee the coexistence of different ethnic, religious and political forms of life across national borders based on the principle of cosmopolitan tolerance. More here....

Monday, April 28, 2008

Virtual Worlds Conference

April was a great month. I got to go to NYC to the Virtual Worlds Conference. Fabulous!

I was looking to learn new stuff and hear new people and this is precisely what i got. Really interesting presentations from a range of perspectives about new and emerging virtual worlds directed at kids. The kids' vw market is astronomical and growing.

They're a traveling feast - next one is in LA in early September. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Meet Squidley... new KinderGoth from Bleeding Edge. Squidley likes bed bugs and dust mites (keeps them as pets), practical jokes, salt water taffey and surround sound. Dislikes being ignored (when on a blind date), meatloaf and rocky road ice cream.

What's not to like??

Monday, January 21, 2008


First Monday (one of the first open access, peer-reviewed, online journals devoted to the internet) has published a paper on the concept of 'transliteracy'. Written by Sue Thomas, Chris Joseph, Less Laccettti, Bruce Mason, Simon Mills, Simon Perril and Kate Pullinger the abstract notes:
Transliteracy might provide a unifying perspective on what it means to be literate in the twenty–first century. It is not a new behavior but has only been identified as a working concept since the Internet generated new ways of thinking about human communication. This article defines transliteracy as “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks” and opens the debate with examples from history, orality, philosophy, literature, and ethnography.

Read the full paper 'Transliteracy: Crossing divides' here - Vol 12, Number 12, December 3 2007.

Move over 'digital literacies'!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Google Maps Mania

Mike Pegg runs this cool blog. It keeps an eye on new mashups and tools using googlemaps : "An unofficial googlemaps blog tracking the websites, mashups and tools being influenced by googlemaps".

Some are more serious than others.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Map e-cards

Like pretty much everyone i know, i am obsessed by maps (which is interesting given that i get lost everywhere i go and can't follow a street directory to save myself - but that's another story).

I have found these e-cards based on maps at World of Experience. How cool! Admire, if you will, 'I hate you' and 'I want you'. There are a range of others designed to capture less polarizing moments, but i have to admit to loving the frozen wastelands of hate and despair.

If you're interested, you can create your own, customized map online.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Body Tattoos

There's an article in the Sydney Morning Herald this week about 'mummy tattoos'. When middle class mothers start wandering en masse into tattoo parlors you know something is going on.

What is this trend to permanently ink your body about?

I wonder, as I do, if it's movement into the mainstream is in some way linked to the increasing trend towards DIY biographies and reflexive self-narratives argued by Anthony Giddens and Ulrich Beck? Are we incorporating our material bodies into our self-constructed narratives? I've just written a paper about reading graffiti in terms of the construction of self-narratives in urban sites and now the connection between place-based narrative and writing onto our bodies is increasingly fascinating.

For more pix of the Beckham's various tattoos - go here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

2007 Horizons Report

The Horizons 2007 Report (New Media Consortium & Educause Learning Initiative) has been released. If you haven't already seen it, you might find it useful to have a look.

Among other things, it reports on six areas of emerging technology that it predicts will have significance for higher education over the next one to five years (read the report to see what they are!). It also identifies six key trends for higher education:

  1. The environment of higher education is changing rapidly (duh..)
  2. Increasing globalization is changing the way we work, collaborate and communicate (again...duh)
  3. Information literacy increasingly should not be taken as a given (getting more interesting now)
  4. Academic review and faculty rewards are increasingly out of sync with new forms of scholarship (now we're talking)
  5. The notions of collective intelligence and mass amateurization are pushing the boundaries of scholarship (yes....!!)
  6. Students' views of what is/not technology are increasingly different from those of faculty (Yes, yes!! How long have i been saying this??)
Download the pdf here

Ulrich Beck in The Guardian

Ulrich Beck has written a piece for The Guardian. Reflecting the arguments of his recent book "The Cosmopolitan Vision",
the article begins:

Europe is Europe's last remaining realistic political utopia. But Europe remains to be understood and conceptualised. This historically unique form of international community cannot be explained in terms of the traditional concepts of politics and the state, which remain trapped in the straitjacket of methodological nationalism. If we are to understand cosmopolitan Europe, we must radically rethink the conventional categories of social and political analysis.

Follow the link to The Guardian to continue reading.