part of the MSc in E-learning at the University of Edinburgh

Lifestream Summary

My lifestream for EDC has ebbed and flowed sometimes gaining momentum as I find a topic that interests me and sometimes slowing to a trickle as I take time to catch breath and focus on a reading or merely deal will my real life stream of work and family tasks. I observe my digital activity weaving in and out of course related topics sometimes spinning off into areas of personal interest sometimes crossing the boundary into work related activity. At times the stream is divergent where many avenues of thought are being explored simultaneously and at other times it converges on a single point of interest as illustrated during the periods when focus is turned to course related tasks.

The artefacts I have collected have been predominantly textual and I have made extensive use of Diigo to capture them. Although I always tag my sources in Diigo I think I could have made my tags more granular and used the descriptions field more effectively to record richer semantic data for each source. I frequently find myself in a dilemma of how much of a source to digest and capture in the moment as opposed to merely flagging up for later.

I have experimented with visual media using Tumblr, mobile uploads to Flickr and YouTube sources. I find the visual an excellent way to stimulate imagination and spark new ideas.

The blog posts in my lifestream have acted as points of synthesis; for ideas, readings and the lifestream artefacts themselves. It seems that these posts are pivotal in turning what might be considered as simply ‘digital hoarding’ into a meaningful learning activity. The self referential nature of the lifestream for EDC is key as it seems to stimulate reflective and integrative thought processes. I have tried to capture how this has been working for me using this diagram.
My lifestream does not show extensive engagement with others on the course however I would argue that this is not an indicator that my learning has been an individual endeavour as the ever present audience shapes how I frame my lifestream activity. I also use my networks to help filter sources, for example when finding an interesting source I check to see if the author has a twitter feed and if they are active, I follow them. From time to time I scan my tweet deck and these ‘thought leaders’ take me to new sources.

Having whetted my appetite with this posthuman pedagogy I inevitably would like the ‘machine’ to do more to support the integrative activity of making sense of many disparate resources. Perhaps it could help me construct a personal concept map based on an analysis of my interests using as data my digital collections, my blog posts and who I network with. The visual understanding environment looks promising as a step in this direction.
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For me my lifestream demonstrates a truly personal learning environment (PLE). I have always found the definitions of PLEs that focus on individual collections of digital tools rather unsatisfactory see for example this extensive list compiled by Martin Weller. I would argue that it is rather by inhabiting the digital that one can appropriate a way of being that capitalises on the prevailing digital cultures to enact our personal projects and to achieve our personal learning goals.

Posted by Geraldine May Jones on December 11th, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Lifestream Reflections – Week 10

My lifestream this week is in spate – relatively speaking! However I see it is a focussed jet rather than an indiscriminate spray. Of particular interest are the connections I have been able to make with sources I had bookmarked prior to the course, in some cases years prior. A case in point was Michael Wesche’s film ‘The Machine is Us/ing Us’

I can now see that it fits well with the posthuman theme and in particular with the idea I mentioned in last week’s summary namely that we are teaching our non-human appliances about what it is to be human.

Sixth sense, Pranav Mistry’s user interface research at MIT is fascinating and illustrates how transparency of interface design means that we hardly notice the boundary between the machine and our human selves. Another boundary ambiguous view is portrayed by Makoto Yabuki’s artwork. However the machine is privileged here. The rather Matrix-esk image shows a human cocooned and connected but rather separated from the real world. It is a beautiful and delicate image so much so that we might imagine another, perhaps more beautiful being emerging from the cocoon at a later date.

However it was Andrew Feenberg’s Ten Paradoxes of Technology that really absorbed me this week! I blogged about it in order to capture the key ideas. Overall I was struck by the clarity that Feenberg brings to explaining our relationships with technology. that really absorbed me this week! I blogged about it in order to capture the key ideas. Overall I was struck by the clarity that Feenberg brings to explaining our relationships with technology.

Finally Amber Case adds her approach to researching these relationships by defining the new discipline of cyborg anthropology.

Posted by Geraldine May Jones on December 11th, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Lifestream Reflections – Week 9


This week my lifestream seems a rather eclectic mix which crosses context boundaries and demonstrates changes in pace of engagement. I began with a mission to get a better feel of the ideas around the cyborg and the posthuman condition. I was interested by Hayles (2006) idea of the cognishere as “distributed cultural cognitions embodied both in people and their technologies”. Searching on cognisphere led me to Alex Reid’s Digital Digs blog. He has a number of posts tagged with Cognishere and I spent a long time browsing and digesting these. His analysis the film Avatar
particularly caught my eye. He skilfully brought out the intertwined relations between the human, the digital and the biological not just in the film story but in the creation of the film and on the act of watching it! This is also a loop back to the Sci Fi examples used to trigger discussions around themes (utopian/dystopian) earlier on in the course.

A single rich source provided me with 50 postings about cyborgs. This again absorbed me for several hours and it was something I returned to on several occasions. To pick one of the many interesting points this series raised.

“It can be said that while we augment & extend our abilities through machines, machines learn more about the world through us.” “These sophisticated marketing and research tools are learning more and more about what it means to be human, and the extended sensorium of the instrumented world is giving them deep insight into the run-time processes of civilization & nature.”

Later in the week I found myself at a work related conference and restricted to short mobile posts via twitter. Some of these were notes or questions to self, the idea being to refer back to them at a later date. Of particular interest were some of the new technologies introduces by other delegates as I might be able to use them as part of the course. Thus my lifestream crossed from course to my work context and back again.
Hayles, K. N. (2006) Unfinished work: from Cyborg to Cognisphere. Theory, Culture and Society 23(7-8)

Posted by Geraldine May Jones on December 11th, 2011 at 8:46 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Lifestream Reflections Week 8

droughtDrought has hit my life stream! For a number of reasons including wanting to take time out to read and hitting a really busy patch at work my life stream activity has dwindled. In a sense the source hopping, skim reading modes of thought associated with collecting for my life stream conflict with the frame of mind needed for digesting readings. I have felt the need to move away form the computer to reduce distractions and help me focus. After a period of individual investigation in the form of the virtual ethnographies I also felt more distant from the course and my energy and enthusiasm took a dip. What can the virtual environment offer to ameliorate these arguably inevitable troughs? Perhaps future learning environments might assign all participants an ‘bot’ that would calculate/sense a reduced participation and offer words of personalised encouragement! A simple but timely ‘keep going’ may be all that is needed to boost motivation. Having carried out a brief search it seems the technical term for this type of ‘bot’ is ‘pedagogical agent’. It transpires that this is an area of artificial intelligence research for example see Baylor & Kim (2005) who identify three roles of pedagogic agent; expert, motivator and mentor.

In week 8 I was clearly in need of agent Motivator! However I wonder to what extent I would be able to suspend my disbelief and accept my pedagogic agent as part of my cyborg self?

Baylor, A. & Kim, Y. (2005) Simulating instructional roles through pedagogical agents. International journal of artificial intelligence in education. 15 (2)

Posted by Geraldine May Jones on December 10th, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Lifestream Reflections – Week 4

There are still connections in this week’s lifestream with the dystopian/utopian theme exemplified by the juxtaposition of Future Shock which clearly shows that techno-paranoia is not a recent phenomena and Nancy Messieh blog post “How our online connectivity is making us better human beings” which adopts a comfortingly utopian view.

I was pleased with the way my visual artefact turned out this week, the positive feedback from tutors and other participants on the course was a real motivator! To begin with I chose to publish my artefact on Flickr because it provided a better quality view of the image but comments were closed to those who didn’t have a Flickr account so I included a link in my blog too. Working on my visual artefact in tandem with trying to make sense of Sian’s uncanny pedagogies was a mutually supportive activity.

I began to explore the differences between text and visual modalities (Kress, 2005 ) in my blog post of 12th October. I became interested in how ambiguity was conveyed in these different modalities as this seemed to highlight the differences between reading a textual and visual text. It was clear from the comments on all the visual artefact submissions that we each read the same artefact quite differently. I was also struck by the way each visual artefact engaged the emotions. An interesting question was raised about the status of a text made visual e.g. a wordcloud. If we are inviting the audience to read it as an image does the source of the text need to be cited? Does a poem in the shape of an image need to acknowledge the image source if the intention is that it is read as a text.

This week I noticed an interesting paper (Bell, 2011) critiquing Siemens’ connectivism as a theory of learning. Although the theory of connectivism is widely cited and discussed in the blogosphere their are few scholarly publications about it so I was interested to know more. Using four scenarios of learning in a digital age the author illustrates that a variety of theories may be brought to bear for explanatory purposes concluding that connectivism fails to contribute anything further. Rather connectivism is seen as relevant to practitioners in developing their personal theories of learning in a networked environment that includes non-human appliances.
Bell, F. (2011) Connectivism Its place in Theory Informed Research and Innovation. IRODL 12(3)
Kress, G (2005) Gains and losses: new forms of texts, knowledge and learning. Computers and Composition. 22(1), 5-22.

Posted by Geraldine May Jones on December 5th, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Lifestream Reflections – Week 3

This week three distinct thought threads emerge in my life stream. Firstly there are still some thought echos around the week 1&2 readings. I particularly enjoyed Hand’s metaphorical language, I had actually thought about using some of his metaphors as possible starting points for the visual artefact. Hand’s dystopian view of our constant immersion in the digital through data streams, media broadcasts etc. led me to seek comfort in Scott Belsky’s advice for reclaiming our sacred creative thinking spaces in his blog post “What ever happened to downtime?”

My second project of the week was to start to think about the visual artefact task. I found the crowd sourced ‘Draw me a sheep’ artefact particularly appealing, it sparked a mental search into how I might incorporate this idea into my visual artefact task. It also raised questions for me around authorship. Even though each sheep artists was an author, clearly the sum was greater than its parts so perhaps authorship here is multi-layered and interconnected as each artisit is influenced by others.

Another avenue of thought was kindled by some short film clips made to mark Marshall McLuhan‘s centenary. In one clip a digital image is created using a text from a typewriter. (This did rather remind me of the early computer art where images were generated out of 0′s and 1′s!) However I suspect the creator was questioning McLuhan’s famous ‘The medium is the message’ slogan as the typewriter medium was producing an unexpected and rather out of character communication.

Thirdly I’m was seeking to make links between a JISC digital literacies workshop I attended and the EDC course. This workshop is the source of the tweets which mainly capture questions that occurred to me at the time. I’m not sure that I made any specific connections with the course other than in general digital culture implies new literacies and understanding these may help reveal new possibilities or challenges for education. Interestingly the boundary less nature of the life stream enabled items originating in a work context to intermingle seamlessly with course related items, simply by adding a tag two independent flows could be merged into one. Bringing these contxts together in this way may open the possibility of making interesting new links and sparking new ideas. Taking this further, I wonder how re-tagging might be used to capture meaning making with objects in collections of rss feeds.

Posted by Geraldine May Jones on December 5th, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Lifestream Reflections – Week 2 Memes and Streams

This weeks lifestream collection uses mainly diigo sources but includes a blog post and a single tweet. I’m clearly going to have to join in with the groups tweets a little more if I am going to fulfil my aim of being more active than in IDEL. The blog post picks up the distopia/utopia theme that we explored in the film festival sessions. This was mainly sparked by an article offering an explanation for the polarisation of views and the lack of middle ground with respect to visions of the future with digital technologies. Sian added an interesting comment that offered another perspective which caused me to revisit the ideas put forward in the article.

The rest of my life stream seems to branch into many disparate areas. I think the reason for this is that I am still trying to clarify for myself what constitutes digital culture and what the implications for education might be. My collection includes a variety of media. This video about contemporary creative online culture gives examples of how image or video memes are created then propagated around the internet. Memes may be thought of as units of culture whether they be tangible objects of contemporary art as illustrated in the video or less tangible items such as ideas. Whatever their nature the internet provides a medium through which memes can propagate and transform with great rapidity. Arguably the open nature of this course also offers the opportunity for local ‘idea memes’ to emerge, be remixed and propagated around the group . It would be interesting to analyse the course blogs and lifestreams to see to what extend this is actually happening or not.

My interest this week was also captured by the work of a group of artists that seek to relocate digital artefacts from the virtual into the real world space thereby drawing attention to the differences in norms of interaction in these two different locations. For example this performance uses computer play-worlds as a means of calling attention to the changing ways people deal with privacy and identity in the public sphere.

Looking back over my life stream this week I am acutely aware that it is prompting questions such as why did I capture this, why was it significant/interesting and are there any patterns and connections between the various items. Sometimes the connections are strong and sometimes less so. This week it seems as though I have several thought threads in progress at the same time.

Posted by Geraldine May Jones on December 5th, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Lifestream reflections – Week 1

Setting up my lifestream at the beginning of the course seemed to go pretty smoothly. I am a regular user of Diigo the social bookmarking tool, so that was my first choice for a stream to include. I like the richness of metadata that you can attach to a Diigo bookmark although I sometimes skimp on descriptions, and highlights. I resolved to make better use of those features in this course as I’m well aware of the old computer programming adage – “garbage in, garbage out!”.

I tweet from time to time, mainly in connection with conferences or events. Twitter useful for noting down a question that I want to follow up on later or for sharing and harvesting links but it is a fast moving stream and if items aren’t plucked from the ‘flow’ and stored elsewhere then I find that they are lost in the ‘froth’. I noted that there was quite a lively twitter stream with IDEL so I resolved to try and participate more in this course and included a feed from Twitter as well. I also wanted to try out mobile Flickr uploads so included that in my lifestream too. The lifestream seemed to me to be offering an opportunity to try out new technologies so I responded to Jen’s recommendation and set up a Tumblr account and tagged a talk by Maria Anderson.
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In ‘Where’s the “learn this” button?’ Maria speaks about the sheer volume of information that bombards us all the time and the fact that it rushes past us without really giving us a chance to think about it let alone learn anything from it. Her proposal is for adding a learning layer to the internet that would enable us to not just note down questions and answers around a source of interest but also have these items pushed back to us for review and reflection. The lifestream on this course seems to be trying to achieve something similar, by funnelling the flow of sources that have caught our interest, including notes and tags, back into our blogs we can revisit and reflect on them. Perhaps this lfestream will help me to ‘drink’ from the hydrant of internet information without drowning.

I was enthusiastic to make and early start with the course and my lifestream as I knew that in a few weeks time things would get busy at work and finding time for the course would be more difficult. I began to establish my lifesteam by making collections of examples of digital culture, in order to clarify in my mind exactly what is meant by the term. I also looked for broad connections to education. Even before the course officially started I was drawn to Leetaru’s (2011) article about Culturomics and fascinated at what new insights could be extracted from digital archives of news stories. “Recent literature has suggested that computational analysis of large text archives can yield novel insights to the functioning of society, including predicting future economic events.” It seems a small step from there to advising about what to learn in order to function in the world that is just around the corner. I wonder what predictions could be made from analysis of our lifestreams amassed as a result of this course – both individually and collectively? What future prediction/guidance could be made available for individuals about their future learning? Interesting stuff indeed!
Leetaru, K.H., (2011) Culturomics 2.0: Forecasting large–scale human behavior using global news media tone in time and space.
First Monday, Volume 16, Number 9 – 5 September 2011

Posted by Geraldine May Jones on December 5th, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Eco bugs as post human pedagogy

I have chosen the Future Lab demonstration of Eco Bugs as my example of a post human pedagogy.

The Eco Bugs ‘game’ may be viewed as a post human ‘gathering’ (Edwards, 2010) of children, game designers, the natural environment and a virtual environment which overlays the real environment but is connected to it through virtual creatures – the Ecobugs.

The intention is to preserve the virtual bug species. The boundary between the game environment and the real environment is blurred as the virtual bugs are affected by aspects of the real environment and vice versa. The children act on/with the virtual bugs to achieve a environmentally worthy outcome. As such the children are encouraged to undertake ‘responsible experimentation as a way of enacting an educational purpose’ (Edwards, 2010). In this entanglement of the human and the non-human the distinction between subject and object is blurred as each is affected by the other in subtle ways. The children learn through a number of hybridised relationships with each other, the virtual bugs and their shared real/virtual environment. Arguable the non-human elements of the game are also learning and adapting to the actions of the human and other non-human elements. Things arise as ‘matters of concern’ (Edwards, 2010) for the children, for example the issue of the litter in the school grounds. Together the gathering of the human and the non-human elements cause a symbiotic change in their shared environment.

The game story may be seen as a ‘fabulation’ – a ‘fiction that offers us a world clearly and radically discontinuous from the one we know, yet returns to confront that known world in some cognitive way’ (Scholes, 1976 cited in Gough, 2004).

Another interesting link with the post human is that the game itself is centered on an environmental theme which it seeks to illuminate in a holistic way, emphasising the inter-dependencies of the biological and the cultural.

Posted by Geraldine May Jones on November 28th, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Thoughts on Harraway’s The Cyborg Manifesto

Cyborg Manifesto  Wordle Many Eyes
This Wordle visualisation illustrates the strong (anti)feminist connection that come’s through in Donna Haraway’s essay “A Cyborg Manifesto”. Centrally Haraway’s cyborg world seems to be a device for abandonning the dualisms of (wo)man/machine, mind/body etc. The cyborg provides a predominantly individualist perspective that opens up thinking around different possibilities of being in particular through our relationships animals and machines. Haraway also uses the cyborg as a metaphor for exploring how humanity is interconnected and intertwinned with machines/technologies in complex interdependancies. This more holistic perspective starts to look a lot like being posthuman. So what is the difference between being a cyborg and being posthuman? Is it just a different perspective on similar ideas? For example I might consider my context as being coconstructed by technologies that permeate it and social norms aroung their use – the connections I make with other beings through wifi, the internet, the mobile phone network etc. (a posthuman perspective). My identity, who I am, is also is shaped by the technologies I choose to use and how I use them – my phone, my iPad (a cyborg perspective).

The cyborg metaphor helps to dissolve the subject/object perspective of our relationship with technology and thus empowers us. Instead of positioning ourselves as ‘victims’ or acted on by technology, (positions that arguably giving rise to the promise /threat, utopian/distopian binaries), we have through the cyborg myth, been given agency to imagine/coconstruct less polarised futures.

Posted by Geraldine May Jones on November 27th, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink