Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Distributed agency, some messy thoughts

To be dispersed, scattered, shared around, fractional, partial, apportioned...
What does it mean to have agency distributed?

To make changes involves a networked world...inside of which what i want to have happen pushes and pulls on others and a consequence, what actually happens is a result of contingent relationships and may or may not be what i wanted, or you wanted, but something inbetween...points of tension. May even be what neither of us wanted or expected...and the effects of these contingent relationships, of push and pull (sometimes politely referred to as negotiations and sometimes much less pretty than such a term implies) are sometimes not immediate but way down the track .... I could trace the Guttenburg press and mass literacy to twitter...
In this network of involvement are not just people but things also...widespread literacy needed cheaper ways of making paper, and means for making ink...

The outcome of this tussle, of push, pull, of people as well as things, is something that happens because of a distribution of agency, of things with capacity for altering what is, things of force.

(At this point philosophically it would be good and proper to acknowledge my thinking having been shaped through my reading of Latour, John Law, Lucy Suchman, Annemare Mol).

Where i take this a bit further is to consider then that responsibility and accountability are just as distributed.
Our individuation being a creation of habit rather than of actuality; again a form of thinking that is normative- distributed.

Here are some textual musings from others on our mutual involvements:

Latour writes of the hidden masses of myriad beings
McLuhan tells us the medium is the message
Mol's conceptual analysis: being more than one and less than many in the body multiple
Pickering's mangle of practice
Turkle invites us to think of the things we think with, evocative objects
Lucy Suchman (bother the person who recalled her book on me, but that just goes to show the push and pull)...
Kaen Barad "agency is not an attribute but the ongoing reconfigurings of the world."
John Seely Brown; the power of pull - pdf of his keynote
(and the effects of blogging this then had me search for his work some more, finding an article on why the virtual matters...)

And some visual considerations:

The experience of distributed learning on a mooc by Gordon Lockhart

The internet of things Courtesy of Cisco ISBG

Need to do some tidying up of this post, attributions as well....
I'd never have got here without my enrollment in a Phd and the people therein,
And the making of a phd is also distributed: the attributions and acknowledgements go nowhere far enough in recognition of this...
but also I could not have got to this without a computer...many more attributions could/should be phones...the use of sms...the use of twitter, this blog...
But my time is a bit partial right now also...

#phdchat for a visual representation this site will do a graphic of twitterings
And for further food for thought, nurturing ideas comes from such places...distribution in a very organic way... some Latour and Sloterdijk on spheres as well as networks, where the tensions on spheres also produce some things that might be nurtured, in a world that may or may not be ready...tensions might or might not establish such space...

This is "rough as"
"jagged even"
a smoothing out comes later, tracing backwards allows for this, moving forwards less so...
a trajectory is so much easier to trace afterwards.

So its now a day later...and i add some more...and then a month later prompted through a tweet i think i should tidy it further...
so back to what does it mean to be have agency distributed...what i can or cant make happen...
in what Law might name a hinterland of you just entered...your touching this thread spreads the points of tension further....distributed.
And so i continue to mull it over....and you might too now...

how are the tensions caught up that make some things more or less possible,
the resources available,
the sense of "freedom from" and "to do"...
who has push and pull,
what or who is seduced and/or betrayed ,
what promises are made, dreams sold? Who are the purveyors, whose interests served?

What does it mean to be distributed?
of what materially,
and of what i can or cant do because of it- herein lies agency,
but perhaps also responsibility.

Not in the sense of blame as much as it is about
the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something to continue to work with something
a moral obligation
of being accountable

A responsibility to act moving forward?
vs accountability to justify what happened in a past without knowledge of the future....had i known i would have...?

I fear i could do a further decade on this and still be dwelling on such questions
:) could be a lifetimes work such questions!

Monday, July 11, 2011

How did a telephone insinuate itself into your life?

When i was pretty young I remember our house getting a phone.

It was a black wall mounted model and I remember there being a telephoneman that established its presence. I remember needing to remember my phone number, it was to be as important as remembering my name and my address. I wrote it on the wall in pencil in case i would was 82029...i think i wrote it on the skirting board in pencil with the twos going backwards, i think i may have been 4. It may have been about 1963.

It was placed in the hallway near the front of the house. As if to acknowledge its intrusive nature, it needed a space of its own such conversations could occur in a non intrusive way.
Or perhaps it was near the front of the house as acknowledgment of it being a point of entry for strangers.
Im struggling to remember where others in my neighbourhood had their phones, but my recall is that they were all in hallways.
They were answered with such formality, the number was recited, or the formal statement of who one was talking to; "Mr McLaren speaking" as my father would say.

I also remember shouted conversations where plans had to be negotiated between people in different parts of the house, or someone being told to 'hang on'.

It was at least 15 years before my family's phone intruded into the living space of the kitchen and a little ways later before a second phone entered into a bedroom.

I note in saying this that ownership of the phone shifted, it became 'familial'. No longer attached to the house, but more to the household. It was no longer an appendage of the house, but a shift occurred in seeing it as a possession of the family.

Being a child of the 60's and 70's i recall the staying home and waiting for a phone call...
I also recall 'being prepared' included having money for a phone call and at Guides there would be inspections for what was in our pockets...seemed string and phone money were requisits...not quite sure what I'd do with the string...
But I'd ring home to say i was ready to be picked up from the red phone box on the corner...I'd make a call and when someone at home answered, i'd need to press button A to talk, or if no-one answered press button B and the money would come back...

It was in the 1990s I remember ringing my brother in Aus and being surprized by his saying he was at a neighbour's pool party talking to me on a cordless pretty sure my jealousy had more to do with the pool but also surprize at the range for a phone.

It was late in the 1990s when my partner got a mobile phone, a weighty thing by todays standards, but so much more portable than a 'landline' of the times....several renditions later before it could be worn unobtrusively, but nonetheless an excuse for the posturing of here's mine, placing ti on a table. Not they rang so often, but a status symbol of importance: im needed anywhere anytime. A yuppie thing.

Several renditions later, a discrete object that was to be on the person of every member of the household...or at least on any member of the household old enough to go out by themselves. It became a way the youngest members could go out more safely
More recently it became my way of paying for parking, my address book, my torch, my watch, my alarm clock, my appointment diary...its as close as my handbag and it goes most everywhere with me.

The phone boxes have modernized somewhat, but Im now always surprized when i see someone in one.
And the landline home phone fixture seems to be going the same way.

What i would like to know is where were phones were positioned when you were growing up?
Please tell me the stories of phones entering into your life.

Here's how music positioned phones in changing cultural contexts...

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The one hour PhD, and other variations

Having spent 5 years on this so far, and a yet to be edited down to 100,000 word thesis, I feel more than well enough qualified to consider, and to write on, the one hour PhD.
My credentials include:
PhD in txt speak (160 characters)
A PhD in a tweet (140 characters)
A PhD haiku (roughly three lines and 17 syllables)
The three minute thesis
A PhD in plain English (for the intelligent "aunty")
The lolcat thesis
And an origami exercise in thesis writing relating to worldmaking

And now I have a new diversion: the one hour PhD.
This one's based on how to read a book in an hour, a useful consideration given I'm entering into my final year of my study (I hope) and have suddenly found books I wish I had read at least 4 years ago...
This however is not about the reading of a book in an hour, nor for those hopeful is it about the writing of a thesis in an hour.
I write of how to present the thesis such that it could be absorbed, if not "read", in an hour. A useful consideration for editing the product of several years of study. It's also a way of putting a smile on the face of a reader, its about a sell job- they are getting nothing less than what was promised and hopefully a whole lot more.

So a rubric to edit to:
1. The title, 10 words. If a word search was going to pick this up in a data base would it have done so?
2. The introduction, 10-15 pages saying what you-and-the-reader are getting into, and what you-and-the-reader will get out of it.
3. Outline the book. Is it evident in the table of contents? Do the chapter titles as well as headings and the first level of subheadings (if any) provide a map to the thesis argument? Alternately it can be a perfunctory outline of what a reader can anticipate of the order.
4. Check opening and closing sections of every chapter. Do these provide enough info to understand the main points. Would a cut and paste of these *and nothing else* make sense in progressing the argument?
5. Does the conclusion progress from the introduction? If the intro and conclusions were bookends, are they balanced; do they match? If it takes the reader somewhere else, has this been explained? What of the argument or journey is highlighted? How does this contribute to new knowledge? What does it contribute to practitioners, to the theory underpinning the study, to future researchers?

And then there's the bits in between...but that's the subject of the other 5-6 years of study time...and for that you actually have to write the book :)
...and read it.

All seems so clear when i put it like this...makes me wonder what i have spent so many more hours on...but then there's the thinking time...and the writing that makes it enticing, a pleasure to write and to read...