Monday, February 28, 2011

Wish the inside of my head would stop snow globing

myspace layouts

myspace layouts

My thesis might as well be snowflakes in a snowglobe, then it wouldnt matter which part came first, was on top or bottomed out.
Suits ANT analysis but probably not a popular move for a thesis submission.
After a third major structural rewrite it is tempting to tell the reader, shake a dice, start anywhere, be damned!
Afterall, real life doesnt wait for the planets to align, for changes to run a lineal trajectory. In real life the trajectory is only ever sighted after the event.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Text messaging comes of age in a disaster

When I started my phd text messaging was seen as a trivial application, as was also the situation for twitter and for facebook, but as is shown in the New Zealand Christchurch earthquake disaster, these platforms have been invaluable.

Text messaging factoids: a cell phone tower covers a small distance. Most have little power and so cant reach far. In NZ most cell phone towers are not shared by the different telecos, but with threats of deregulation telecom had to share parts of the main network.
Also the towers when they are not plugged into main source power have temporary generators that last approximately 10 hours, and then will only function if the power is back on or connected to a generator.

What this means on a practical level: any one cell phone tower can only take about 60 calls at any one time. SMS is so much smaller so is more likely to get through.(This is now being recommended by the PM and civil defence and telecos during the Chch earthquake emergency) Also if the towers get busy, an sms bounces around till it finds a gap. A call cant do this, so just gets a busy signal. Sending pics and videos similarly take up more space, so can clog the towers when there are emergencies. (And so telecos are requesting people dont do this during the Chch earthquake emergency)

A further interesting telephone related fact that comes to light in the Chch earthquake disaster, cordless phones in people's homes require electricity to work. Donations of analogue, corded phones are being called for. This type of phone can work where electricity is still not operating.

Other social networking that has evolved;
Twitter and hash keys #nzeq, #chch to follow real time news
Use of trademe, to advertise free accommadation and labour:
Google freely provided a person locator really early on
Telecom making public phones in chch free
AirNZ cheap flights in and out of chch,
Distribution of solar charges for cell phones...
Facebook for accommodation relocation
Studentarmy, Thousands doing the suburban clean up, and
Telecom and vodafone are working together
(eg Vodafone New Zealand asking people to Donate corded analogue landlines to CHCH at any @telecomnz stores)
Help from the world has been amazing

Thankyou world.

Some light relief from flying cars:
Permanent link to this comic:

recapping the phd process

What i began with and where i have gotten to are different spaces.
I shouldnt be surprized, but the 'argument of a thesis' seems to suggest one starts here (problem) and gets here (recommendations).

And mine didnt do this.
Im studying change and what i notice is it only ever looks like a clean trajectory retrospectively.

What i began with was how to teach issues of heart and soul using IT.
By the time i got to colloquium I was advised just one of these would be enough, and by the time i had got to ethics application it had morphed and mushroom clouded into three separate studies, comparing professional with lay studies of how care is communicated through IT applications.

Getting real following this attempt to fly too close to the sun, and the process of writing the multiple ethics applications, had me falling out of the sky as my wings melted...

So after a serious and somewhat long talk with my very generous supervisor, i came down to earth; just one of these studies was enough. I remember we talked of which one would go the distance, would be 'sexy', would be the cure for cancer...

So i have an umbrella of studying change, and inside of this the use of emergent technologies in a community helpline, and this has of itself narrowed itself down to what evolved as most popular by the users of the service, being txt messaging for counselling.

Studying change as it occurs is like studying the blur...

I am now close to finishing...but have been at this stage for a year..i am rewriting the front end...and rewriting the back end...and rewriting.
My metaphor for this stage is a flatpack bicycle where every time i get the front end right, the back end no longer aligns and vice versa...but its getting closer, i think its beginning to look like if i 'rode it' it would no longer fall apart, the speed wobbles are less severe.

Interesting some of my most useful reading is what i have read after data is collected- reading i didnt even recognize as useful until i hit the wall, and then on rereading it made sense- and reading that i couldnt make sense of 5 years ago which is now comprehendable- and readings i didnt know i would need until the data analysis led me there- and some reading that wasnt even written when i began :)

And in writing when i hit a blind spot, sudden surprizes that blind me, i rewrite earlier bits while i let the current dazzle settle... had yet another fret about how to write of the research process and the sensitive ethics ...
The bits that are fast to write and the bits that are slow are utterly unpredictable.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Texting comes of age

Today the NZ Government is asking that people use text messaging instead of phoning loved ones in Christchurch.
(This is following a second significant earthquake in CHCH)
Seems SMS has reached a level of respectability, and is a preferred choice in emergencies.

Information from telecom:
The Christchurch 111 call centre has been successfully diverted to Wellington, and a back up site in Palmerston North is on standby if required. Issues connecting will be due to network damage, congestion or power-related issues.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

For Tom

Pilgrim Library Stained Glass, originally uploaded by Andrew|W.

What sunshine couldnt do without stained glass, nor stained glass without the light...
Living in a connected world matters, but i thinks its how we are shaped in connections that matters more.
A combination effect of relationality. Who I am and how I think, and what i learn is held in the network. The one does not happen without the other.
Such knowledge gained has this ephemeral quality, its held in the network; and does not hold the same shape when attempts are made to move it from here to there, such movement cannot help but shift it further.

On being in the prisms of possibility: from Thomas, a letter in reply

profesorbaker says:
February 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Hi Elise,

You are here with me today, as I was with you the past day, reading your writing.

Ailsa, you must know, that if I knew you, I would insist on calling you “Elise”, for that is the moment when your writing spoke to me, when your lovely voice first rose from the shadows of print surrounding it, and gave me the possibility of understanding what CCK11 means to me personally, when I first called you, “Elise”.

After reading your writing, I listened to this lovely pianist, playing your song, written centuries ago, and named, for you, “Für Elise”, “For Ailsa”, by Beethoven himself.

Yes, too much optimism, on anyone’s part, is a clear and present danger. On the other hand, a lack of optimism, a failure to believe that you can calm the wind, that you can sustain yourself over water, is also, a clear and present danger.

Only those crazy souls, who dare to dream that a man can fly, only those souls who see life not within the prism of its apparent limitations, but within the prism of its possibility, its potential, its “this-is-something-I-would-like-to-do-ness, and “why hasn’t someone done this before”, those are the ones who push the human race forward, I’ve been told.

Elise, we both agree on one thing, that life is beautiful, although scary at times, and if we strive for the beauty, I’m sure there will be music for us, even if we “be the only ones listening”, to Beethoven himself, playing your song, “Für Elise”…

Oh, Ailsa, your thesis is surely a majestic melody, and your smile, if it be like my smile, must surely last for a while….

My best regards, for my friend, Elise/Ailsa


And: A letter to Thomas from Elise

Do you recall a letter written to Carl Rogers by Rollo May? It too asked that we consider relationality, for optimism alone may not be enough.

May, R. (1982). The problem of evil: An open letter to Carl Rogers. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 22(10), 10-21. doi:10.1177/0022167882223003

Sometimes i get a little scared by too much positivity, a tyranny of niceness, a faith in connecting that assumes inherent goodness, and/or an evangelical regard for the wonders of machines that go ping.

Your post is very beautiful, eloquent and provocative…it has made me rewrite a part of my thesis writing, and has left me smiling most of the evening…it is also one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever made.
so i thank you, sincerely, ailsa

On: A letter to Elise

Ive kept a copy of our exchanges, and in trust i hope Tom does not mind.
But ive found before that a digital world is sometimes ephemeral, sometimes links no longer take me back to where i want to be, so this is a copy of an exchange held in the public spaces of our blogs.
I'd wrap them with a blue satin ribbon if i could, and place then somewhere precious for safe keeping, but the digital makes some things more and less possible.
Thomas' letter to Elise that followed my previous blog, on where the wild things are:

Hi Elise,

I liked a lot of things in your lovely post. I am a great one for “voice” and I listened to the “voice” present in this post of yours.

You (like me also) have looked at the criticism and controversy surrounding Connectivism as a theory of learning. Rather than turn to criticism, you turned to critique, doing the research required to present your points, well-supported, deliciously, eloquently offered to the reader, in this instance, myself.

Oh, the reading of your post was beautiful, and a measured voice, a reasoned voice, a wise voice emerged, to calm the wind, to view the water’s potential to hold us, if we but dare to walk upon it….

My point: Connectivism, as a Theory of Learning for a Digital Age, is not perfect, but perfectible.

In the meanwhile, a calm voice is appreciated, especially for those who defend the status quo, perhaps secretly fearing possible displacement by a digital age which is now demanding it’s own theory of learning.

No, I have erred. The digital age isn’t demanding anything. Real people are. “Who are these real people?”, you ask.

Digital learners. Digital learners, born in a digital age, the children of the digital age, the children of today, who will have to solve the world problems that you and I are leaving them as their lasting inheritance from us.

You see, you and I didn’t solve the problem of world hunger. As we sat at our tables yesterday, there were others who went to bed hungry.

You see, you and I didn’t solve the problem of world peace. As we watched the news on TV last night, maybe enjoying a pizza delivered by the home delivery service, there were people killing, and being killed, somewhere on this planet.

You see, you and I didn’t solve the problem of poverty. The children of the digital age have to live in a world where 1% of the world’s population has 80% of the world’s wealth.

Our digital children are a part of the 99% that’s fighting for a share of the 20% that’s left.

You see, you and I didn’t solve the problem of global warming.

While we talked about the appalling lack of scientific evidence to support such a claim, how Al Gore couldn’t be trusted, how the snow on Mt. Kilamanjaro disappeared in 2000 and came back in 2008 and disappeared again, how severe summers became the global norm, how wild whirlwinds whirled with regularity, and how the very Earth itself quaked incessantly in 2010, our weather and our planet simply became a bit more inhospitable for life itself, human life that is…

These are only a few of the problems we know we are leaving to the children of the digital age to solve. Their brilliance gives us reason to hope, to be optimistic about the future. But here’s the rub: what about those problems that we’re leaving the children of the digital age to solve, that we don’t know we are leaving to be solved?

You know, those problems that no one sees coming, the problems no one has thought about, no one has ever imagined? Will the education of the past century be up to that kind of task?

Listen to the digital age, for it speaks to us:

The digital age cries out: “Look at me! Look at my new clothes! Am I not more beautiful? Look at all my brilliant connections who share knowledge with me now!”

And we, the children of the last century, the vox populi, we too cry out: “We liked you the way you were dressed last year, ten years ago, last century! Was it not enough for you that I, and I alone, your teacher, poured my knowledge from my brain into yours?

Connections? Bah, humbug!

Who needs connections when you have me? Take those new clothes off! Come into my classroom, turn off that cellphone, put away your digital toys, turn off that blasted computer, no YouTube, no Skype, no instant messaging, no social media for you. By Jove, this is a classroom! We are doing education in here! Get in your seat, second row, third desk, behind student number 33.”

Teacher (smiling) “Good morning class. Today I will be telling you all about…”

Connectivism: A Theory of Learning for a Digital Age, is playing catch-up to Connectivism: the Practice of Learning in a Digital Age.

The transformation, the paradigm shift, the revolution, the reformation, call it what you will, but it has already happened.

We are not Einstein, we are not Newton, we are not the makers of the wheel.

No, we are simply describing the wheel: It’s round and it makes getting from Point A to Point B a heck of a lot more enjoyable.

We’ve already been hit on the head by the apple, gravity has happened, and now we explain why that apple fell down, on our heads, rather than rise into the sky…

E = MC squared? Now that was a tough sell, wasn’t it? But if Einstein could do it, working alone in a patent office, a-l-o-n-e, connected to no one but himself, then what do you think Mankind, the children of the digital age, will do, when they connect and share their knowledge?

Oh, I would think that they will solve problems that we children of the past century could not, or would not, solve…

Best regards,

Monday, February 07, 2011

Where the wild things are: Connectivism, CCK2011#

This unpolished rant was brought on by wikipedias flame wars on connectivism as well as by Latour's and Law's discussions as to whether Actor-network theory is a theory or not.

I always thought philosophy and theory were a matter of scale; the one grander, more over reaching, and the other more grounded, more empirically tested. That the philosophy required internal consistencies a complex arrangements of how the world is seen and constructed and so can make meaning of the world.

Isn't philosophising about what ontologies, epistemologies,are? what is knowledge and how is it known...and in talking philosophy down to earth, what produces the 'good life' which is essentially contestable? While theorizing is more grounded in day to day practicalities?

Kurt Lewin suggests there is nothing so practical as a good theory.
So a theory gets tested in empirical research, in application, in my view it is not necessarily predictive, though this is the stance of 'scientific method' that it be repeatable and so provide consistency... case studies too can provide more and less support, more or less weakening of a theory.

In philosophising a good philosophy, paraphrasing John Dewey (1958) in Experience and Nature:

“Does it end in conclusions which, when they are referred back to ordinary life experiences, render them more significant, more luminous to us, or make our dealings with them more fruitful? Or does it terminate in rendering experiences more opaque than they were before?”

So I'm thinking ANT is philosophy. And at its finest :)
Its descriptive, and there are empirical accounts
But its not predictive.
It does not over-reach itself.
It illuminates knowing this also creates shadows: a self-conscious theory.
But importantly it meets Dewey's account for being fruitful, for creating the conditions of also knowing that things might be otherwise.

For connectivism, it's still establishing its clarity, its alignments, its contradictions, its loves and betrayals. But theory does not come into the world brand spanking new ready to go...its a little unfair to treat it in the same ways one might treat an adult or a teenager, when its still toddling. And a toddlers survival is not just about it's own robustness, it's also about the readiness of others to engage in more and less supportive ways.

Law in a sociology of monsters describes the newness of things also, citing a story
I said 'I think they might also be called "hopeful monsters".'
She said' What are hopeful monsters?'
I said 'They are things born perhaps slightly before their time; when it's not known if the environment is quite ready for them.' Nicolas Mosley, Hopeful Monsters, p.71

So let us not forget readiness is a distributed state also. A networked proviso.

I now turn to how criticism might be enhanced taking a relational approach.
Latour suggests in doing research one should always be respectful of one's informants/participants/people we work with...and as much as reasonably possible:
Always assume people are right, even if you have to stretch the point a bit. A simple rule, my dear pupil when you're studying a project. You put yourself at the peak of enthusiasm, at the apex, the point when the thing is irresistible. (p.36)
No reason we should not be so generous to newer theorists and theories in the making. They are not attempts to deceive.

And like Donna Haraway, to say, from a distance, that one knows better, is to see everything from nowhere as one's own situated knowledge is not acknowledged but treated as a gospel truism. Some reflective work on one's own positioning and how one positions others in the network might be useful here. A network is not a hierachy. There is no one at the top with a supreme world-view, instead accepted wisdom (knowledge) is also made and distributed on a network.

I take an ANT stance with this, being connected means being in relationship, so what would happen were the question treated relationally? In considering critique instead of criticisms, if instead of thinking is this good/bad/right/wrong we were instead to consider, what does this bring to the relationships with others (human or otherwise): then not only might it illuminate, and render less opaque as Dewey would ask, but perhaps we might also ask in what ways might that which is looked at, as well as the theorizing undertaken, be otherwise?

The following is a beautiful piece of prose on the type of criticism yearned for by one philosopher, from an anonymous interview titled the masked philosopher:
"I cant help but dream about a kind of criticism that would try not to judge but to bring an oeuvre, a book, a sentence, an idea to life: it would light fires, watch the grass grow, listen to the wind,, and catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it. It would multiply not judgements but signs of existence; it would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent them sometimes- all the better. All the better. Criticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep; I'd like a criticism of scintillating leaps of the imagination. It would not be sovereign or dressed in red. It would bear the lightening of possible storms."

The masked philosopher was Foucault 1994, p. 326

To yearn for such criticism is to yearn for engagement, to enquire, and not to close down, but to foster connections...such that new learning might occur.

I don't know if i believe in connectivism as a new theory of learning, but what i do know is a connected world makes learning occur in ways that would previously have been very difficult. Technologies bring about new ways of being in relationship, and no learning is possible without relating.

Dewey, J. (1958). Experience and nature. New York, NY: Dover Publications.
Michel Foucault, interviewed anonymously in Le Monde by Christian Delacampagne, April 6–7, 1980; reprinted in M. Foucault, Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth (ed. Paul Rabinow, tr. Robert Hurley et al.), The New Press, New York, 1994.
Haraway, D. (1988). Situated knowledges: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. Feminist Studies 14(3), 575-599.
Latour, B. (1996). Aramis: Or the love of technology (C. Porter, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Law, J. (Ed.). (1991). A sociology of monsters: Essays on power, technology and domination. London, England: Routledge. Retrieved from,+technology+and+domination&source=bl&ots=PN2gGPt9al&sig=Y1kZy4EfVYcqKssYcB-J9L5zZ_8&hl=en&ei=XRHKTPfyJYfcvwPyl5nWDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBUQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false