Thursday, July 17, 2008
Travellers' Tales: Streetart into Cyberspace ... and Back Again
Julia Davies is speaking this morning. She is focussing on online spaces, the city and the people who interact with and across spaces. (View her slideshow here.)
Julia talks about her use of Flickr and how she began using Flickr when uploading photos to her blog wasn't automated. She ended up finding that Flickr itself to be very compelling. Gradually, she began titling her photos in her Flickr archive, and then adding tags. People began commenting on her photos and Julia began developing her use of tags even more so that people could more readily find her pictures.
She talks about folksonomies and how tag clouds these tell you much about the values of a group (keeping in mind that Flickr itself has censored the tags that are "counted" within their tag cloud; such as excluding rude words).
Julia talks about how she spent many hours looking at other people's photographs and how certain sets of images--such as "sugar dudes"--really captured Flick-ites' imaginations. People began discussing these little cakes in the comment threads below these images, and then talking about their birthdays and their life in general. Julia and her husband decided to go and liberate the "sugar dudes" and met up with other folk in the group in New York City.
The group documented the escape of the sugar dudes from the shop including the untimely death of one sugar dude under the wheel of a passing taxi.
Julia discusses how another Flickr user in Scandinavia enacted a similar event, and travellers from Sheffield--where Julia lives--on their next trip to New York City bought sugar dudes and took them to the same bar for drinks that Julia's group had.
Online social networking
Julia talked about how carefully everyone in the sugar dudes affinity space who met up online had clearly been reading each person's pictures and comments in order to evaluate the extent to which they could trust each other. She also paid attention to the ways in which people inserted hyperlinks into their comment posts and how these, too, added to the internetworked cohesion of the group.
Julia talks about another Flickr user, "Luna Park", and a list of testimonials posted to Luna's profile and how they endorse her as an expert on finding street art and helping to organise street art excursions etc., especially within New York City. Julia displays Luna's street art photo sets. Julia also discusses Julia Supine's photos and one set where she has taken photos from disparately placed in the real world into a new space so that they take on different meanings when placed together in this way. Julia Supine has also geo-tagged her photos, which shows the location where each one was taken etc, and displaying her expertise as a photographer and archivist.
Julia also talks about a portrait of Luna Park that was painted by a friend on a peice of found wood, and which was later placed back out in the street as a peice of street art--moving and mixing identity and space in very interesting ways. Luna Park is a librarian in the physical world, and has constructed a Flickr identity that is highly interactive through comments thread, her work to build up a group with similar expertise to establish a solid community within Flickr and working out what this group does and does not value.
Julia links Gee's concept of "presentation og a particular self" and his notion of a "projected identity" to the identity work that gets done on Flickr. Her definition of identity is drawn from Rebecca Black's work: "being recognised as a 'kind of person'.. within a social context" (2008).
Julia discusses a range of street art images--including in cognito photos of street artists themselves.
Julia problematises mythic conceptions of identity erasure online, and explains that most people *do* want to be known as a person of a particular kind online and often work very carefully at crafting the identity they present.
Julia discusses the work of Elbow-Toe and the work he does in painting portraits of friends on walls etc.
Streetart as a New Literacy
Julia talks about the subversive streetart work of Banksy. His work is usually political commentary. He works anonymously and his identity is really only known through his artwork.
Julia defines street art using Schacter's work and explains that it's more than simply graffiti, but can include assemblages as well. She explains how she herself is not interested in whether streetart really is art or not, but in the phenomenon itself. For Julia, not all streetart fits the "new literacies" label, but some does in terms of being a new literacy practice. she's interested in the ways in which stretart cn produce new spaces within which to act.
Julia uses the concept of "memes" as contagious ideas that are replicated and passed from mind to mind, with robust memes having longevity and fecundity. this concept helps to explain how streetart is often shared, circulated, replicated etc.--especially online. Banky's "This is not a photo opportunity" stencil has been remixed, distributed and become part of a community thread narrative (e.g., stencilled onto a rubbish bin, sprayed onto a war monument). these shared memes work like hyperlinks to link together disparate people and places. People's take-up of this meme adds to and extends the meaning of Banksy's original streetart.
Julia talks about a particular image of a stencilled "This is not a photo opportunity" that has been erased and re-stencilled many, many times, as well as talks of photos of old, almost disappeared signs. She talks about them in terms of "palimpsest" and how we write-over texts with the original texts nonetheless still visible.
She talks about the provenance of streetart--poaching the term of typically talk about "high art"--and how it comes to acquire a rich depth and breadth of meaning and how many pieces--especially Bansky's work--themselves become iconic within people's travel photographs.
Julia draws on Highmore's work to discuss city spaces and how histories accrue for urban landscape photos posted online by how they are taken up, commented upon, linked to, and the like. she exemplifies this with the Flickr group "Banksy - The Complete Works" - to which anyone can contribute, but no duplicates of his work can be included. The collection is therefore curated by a widely dispersed body of people and brought together within this Flickr group. Other people interested in Banksy's work have also mashed up images of is work (e.g., Banksy - Barely Legal) and posted these to Flickr. This last image "belongs" to a large number of different groups, too, which adds additional layers of meaning as the photo appears in different group sets of photos and thus new contexts.
Julia talks about the gentrification of New York City and how local people are often being driven out as real estate is being bought up, and street artists are making their own comments on walls and suchlike. This is a space where speech becomes writing
and creates opportunities for making all kinds of social comments. These images and comments when uploaded to Flickr can continue this commentary in a rang of ways.
Julia closes with a discussion of how street art can be seen as an "attempt to embody themselves into the very fabric of the city, to smudge the landscape with the stigmata of personhood" (Mitchell 1994).
- understanding new literacies a as a social practice ich challenges assumptions about space
- reconfiguring what we mean by text
- notion of the dialogic relationship between online/offline spaces
- increased participation in text making practices with implications for social relations ad sense of self
- collaboration over texts and production of new meanings affecting our sense of who we are
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Practices of remix are opening up avenues for young people to become and be "kinds of people" – including lots of young people who do poorly in formal education
The talk begins with a definition of literacies as "socially recognized ways of generating, communicating and negotiating meaningful content as members of Discourses through the medium of encoded texts." This definition approaches text in relation to contexts and practices. The talk will focus on the Discourse aspect of "literacies", with reference to two "new" literacies that draw on new technology affordances that enable activities of kinds and/or on scales that were never before possible.
Michele goes on to define remix in terms of practices that involve taking cultural artifacts and combining and manipulating them into a new kind of creative blend. Nothing new about remix per se – as Lawrence Lessig reminds us in his work on Free Culture.
Numerous kinds of "new" remixing practices exist that are predicated on new technology affordances. E.g., photoshopping remixes, music and music video remixes, machinima remixs, moving image remixes, original manga and anime fan art, remixes of TV, movies, books in fanfiction, and serviceware mashups (e.g., Twittervision.com).
Michele works through a range of examples and some of the issues – e.g., copyright – associated with remix practices.
Identity and learning
Begins from Rebecca Black's definition of identity as "the ability to be recognized as a "kind of person … within a given context".
The talk approaches identity as discursive and multiple and emphasizes "learning to be" rather than "learning about" (as discussed by Gee in his 2007 book); with particular references to the link between learning and identity, and to developing "appreciative systems" that come with deep learning within contexts of practices.
Will be looking at two young people in terms of this framework (Rebecca Black's case study subject, Tanaka Nanako, and Michele's own case study of am AMV fan known as Dynamite Breakdown).
Place and space (as theorized by Michel de Certeau in The Practice of Everyday Life)
Michele describes the distinction between "place" and "space", in terms of place being a property of the powerful, and space being the fleeting "locations" from which the less powerful operate on the fly to negotiate through the places of the powerful – making do and enacting the arts of the weak; working around the strategies of the strong by practicing tactics of the weak.
As Henry Jenkins has argued since the early 90s, this is a useful way for thinking about remix in terms of poaching on the resources of the powerful.
Rebecca Black's case of Tanaka Nanoko
Michele moves on to Rebecca Black's work, (especially her 2008 book on Adolescents and Online Fan Fiction) to discuss the case of Tanaka Nanako as a non English speaking migrant arriving in Canada from China, having to learn a new language, and finding the fanfiction.net site; picking up on the stories of migrant peers, and learning "how to be a successful fanfic practitioner". Michele is working through some key aspects of be(com)ing a proficient fanfic writer – e.g., making use of the author notes facet of writing a fic, as a means of articulating aspects of identity whilst taking on a new identity as a fanfic writer.
She turns to the ways Black describes Nanako developing an appreciative system as a fanfic writer, and the dimensions of doing so. E.g.,
Draws on the rich account of her case provided by Black to discuss identity and deep learning in relation to space. Notes how Nanako shifted aspects of her presentation of self in her author notes over time – identified differently as her work became increasingly popular. No longer had to present herself as an English language learner, etc.
Dynamite Breakdown (one of Michele's research cases)
Michele provides a short description of Dynamite Breakdown as an "average student" with an interest in Naruto anime and developing an interest in creating anime music videos. He spent a long time developing deep knowledge of the series and wider anime, and exploring AMVs.
She plays Dynamite's "Konoha Memory Book" AMV – which is DB's favourite creation, and which won awards at the 2006 Los Angeles Anime Expo.
"Konoha Memory book" - DynamiteBreakdown (2006)
DB's interview relates his ideas about what is involved in becoming a proficient AMV remixer.
Developing an AMV appreciative system
(a) Challenges the dominance of "learning about" within pre-packaged curriculum programs and resources
(b) Challenges top-down, imposed notions of "expertise" and "effective participation"
cf. ETS.org's "iSkills" test
AMV remixing cannot be described by a generic set of quality indicators or competencies; because it is so thoroughly embedded in a particular social practice that is shaped by the anime, popular music, fan practices, and the sophistication of low-cost editing software, markers of "proficiency" will always be considered contingent and "in process" rather than fixed and statically authoritative.
Black, R. (2008). Adolescents and Online Fan Fiction. New York: Peter Lang.
Gee, J. (2007). Video Games + Good Learning. New York: Peter Lang.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
"Digital Literacies" is out
Our new edited collection, Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices, has just been published by Peter Lang.
The book presents a rich range of perspectives on digital literacies and we are thrilled to have had the opportunity to present work by so many leading researchers and writers on the topic of digital literacy in the one place. As always, we are deeply appreciative of the generous efforts of our contributors and commend their work to you.
The book's contents are as follows:
- Introduction: Digital Literacies -- Concepts, Policies and Practices (Colin Lankshear & Michele Knobel)
- Origins and concepts of digital literacy (David Bawdin)
- Functional internet literacy: Required cognntive skills with implications for instruction. (Genevieie Johnson)
- Digital literacy as information savvy (Maggie Fieldhouse & David Nicholas)
- Definin digital literacy: What do young people need to know about digital media? (David Buckingham)
- Digital literacy policies in the EU -- Inclusive partnership as the final stage of governmentality? (Leena Rantala & Juha Suoranta
- Digital Competence -- From educational policy to pedagogy: The Norwegian Context (Morten Soby)
- Digital literacy and the "digital society" (Allan Martin)
- Trajectories of remixing: Digital literacies, media production and schooling (Ola Erstad)
- Digital literacies at work -- Employees' blogging (Lilia Efimova & Jonathan Grudin)
- Pay and display: The digital literacies of online shoppers (Julia Davies)
- Digital literacy and participation in online social networking spaces (Michele Knobel & Colin Lankshear)
- Digital literacy and the law: Remixing elements of Lawrence Lessig's ideal of "Free Culture" (assembled and remixed by Colin Lankshear & Michele Knobel)
Literacy and identity in virtual Worlds
How we see childhood, education and “growing up” depends on our theoretical lens. Guy discusses the rise of the sociocultural view of children and the increasing attention to the significance of interaction and networking.
There are at least two options available to us in terms of thinking about the internet and everyday life: To go the route of security—lock-stepped curriculum, filters etc. The other option is distributed learning that is open, fluid and interactive. This second position shapes Guy’s own position.
Guy shows us Google’s new Lively virtual world, and speaks about how identity is tied up with what the producers make
A virtual world is "an online space you feel as if you're there" (Schroeder 2002). Markham, in "Life Online", talks about the internet in three ways: the internet as a tool, the internet as a place, and the internet as a way of being. An online space, usually with the look of three dimensions, where you can move about and some sense of "network effect" (i.e., to interact in different ways with others). Some virtual worlds allow you to customize spaces, too (e.g., upload videos, build things).
Guy talks about a range of popular virtual worlds:
- Moove online--an avatar chat-based space.
- Moshi Monsters--an online virtual pet. (From the creator of Firebox - which sells things like rocket flares, star trek specs, i-sizebot "size is everything" which does absolutely nothing except sit on your desk and blink...)
These are examples of the "tools to hand for meaning making". A large percentage of school students are inhabiting these kinds of virtual worlds.
A brief history of virtual worlds for children:
1993 - CitySpace
1995 - Neopets
2000 - Habbo Hotel
2004 - Ketnetkick
2005 - Virtual Magic Kingdom
2005 - WebKinz
2007 - Club Penguin
2007 - Nicktropolis
2008 - Moshi Monsters
2008 - Adventure Rock
2008 - My Tiny Planets
2009 - Lego World
Market research strongly suggests that 10 year-olds are the fastest growing "markets" for virtual worlds.
Guy presents an analysis from a study that categorises child users into a range of types:
- Self stampers
Interested in presenting themselves to the world
likely to be both genders, possibly older children
- Social climbers
Interested in status, ranks and competing with others
- Collectors consumers
Interested in accumulating anything of perceived value, interested in gift exchange
- Life system builders
Interested in creating new land, constructing something, want to create a system
- Power users
Interested in giving everyone the benefit or yet knowledge and experience; likely to be experts within the game/space
- Explorers and fighters
Interested in solving a quest, solving a mystery, going on a journey, being "outdoors"
Interested in death and destruction, although most virtual worlds online don't include opportunities to kill things.
Guy asks, given all this, what use of these virtual worlds can or should we make with these virtual worlds?
Guy introduces us to his case study of "Barnsborough"--a virtual world project involving students, children and programmers. The world itself is located within "Active Worlds". The aims of this study include:
- to explore the digital literacy and the educational potential of virtual world gameplay
- to develop a literacy=rich 3D virtual world which children can explore in avatar-based geography
- to enhance boys literacy (paying attention to local and national concerns etc.)
Participants included at the start 10 schools (now 15) and students aged 9-11 years. the planning group comprised local literacy and drama specialists, ICT advisory staff, primary school teachers and myself as consultant and researcher. The development company was virtually Learning, which is based in Finland.
- a number of interconnected zones which are life-like and familiar
- town, complete with streets, alleyways, cafes, shops and administrative buildings
- park with a play area, bandstand, boating lake, mansion, woodland and hidden caves
- residential area, industrial zone
The "brief" upon entering this world is that the previous inhabitants of Barnsborough have disappeared and your task is to work out why.
The interface includes rich media, tool-tip clues (e.g., "The room apepars to have been trashed"), hyperlinked and downloadable texts. Different possible scanerios are hinted at: major bio-hazard issue (barrels lying around and polluting a local lake), alien abduction scenario, a political or big business disaster, or suggest something more mysterious (e.g., Big Brother).
In all, Barnsborough comprises a "constellation of literacy practices" -- chat functions, clues posted around the world, videos etc.
- What's real?
- Inter-related social worlds (the cultural worlds that the kids inhabit in the physical world, the cultural world of the school within which their doing this stuff, then the cultural world of the virtual world they log into)
- how to document this - had the opportunity to be "invisible" so that he could listen in on conversations, but declined this ability and interacted more explicitly with his study participants
- observation and disruption
- classroom visits, avatar interviews (conducted in-world), planning documentation, artifacts and fieldnotes
Guy displays some of his conversation/interview data and discusses some of the conventions they use that signals their understanding of how conventional print literacy works (the students are typing their speech).
- What adults think children will like (which rarely matches what they *do* like)
- Building a "unified social world" (Pratt 1991) - which is often the unspoken goal of teachers
- Creating and controlling (the environment (e.g., faux country-life nostalgia vs urban dystopia; participating teachers wanting to stop kids' avatars from flying because they would be "out of control" or "fly off anywhere")
The students' and teachers' discussions of their avatar experience proved to be particularly interesting to Guy.
- The children and teachers find it a highly motivating environment
- virtual worlds invite us to re-examine our identities and interactions
- what sorts of learning environments do we imagine
- digital literacy destabilises
- (for teachers) as control slips away...
Students are well-aware that literacy is being "done to" them in schools. they understand that progress is measured by individual results on test scores. they *also* are aware of the dissonances (e.g., trying to pick up guns as in games, escping from the town). The teachers replicate traditional classroom practices inside this virtual world, but it doesn't have to be that way. Virtual places like Barnsborough offer all sorts of real opportunities for exploring alternatives.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Postmodern "Migrations": Literacy, Identity and Place
We're currently in session at the Mount Saint Vincent University's Masters of Literacy Summer Institute in Toronto. Colin is about to speak on matters of literacy, identity and place.
He opens by framing two moments in time tat exist about 30 years apart: Chris Searle's "Classrooms of Resistance" (1975) and Southpark's "Make Love not Warcraft" episode (2006). The theme on which he's focussing is on these two texts as "solidarity tales" that are to a large extent not only set in different times but are worlds apart.
Searle's approach engaged students in examining their immediate contexts within larger spheres with respect to living within a post-industrial town struggling at the time to reinvent itself.
Colin explains that for him, place is space that is imbued with meaning. Place in this sense impacts directly on our identities. You can imagine a dinosaur's skeleton--you can imagine it in a theme park, or you can imagine it as a museum. If you are in the theme park, the dinosaur is used as a playful ride, while if you are in the museum, the dinosaur skeleton becomes catalyst for learning and/or for thinking about history. In this example,it becomes clear how place shapes and informs and constructs one's identity (e.g., as a theme park player, as a learner etc.).
Colin then provides an overview of Chris Searle and his work with students in Sheffield, England, who actively built on social class identity in order to foster solidarity among his very diverse students. He was thoroughly engaged with the lcoal school community and aimed at getting his students to think about who they were in class terms, race/ethnicity terms, etc. and how the social system worked to enable some people to buy a half-million pound apartment in the gentrified docks area, while the students' own families in the area struggled to make ends meet.
Colin plays a clip from the "Make Love, Not Warcraft" from Southpark and gives a precis of the episode. He explains how he reads it as a solidarity tale--where a group of very diverse people (from the four Southpark lads, to Stan's dad, to the developers of the World of Warcraft--Blizzard) as they work together to defeat a rogue player who--in this episode of the show--threatened the very existence of the "World of Warcraft". He explains that this particular tale of solidarity is not built around issues of class or ethnicity, but around shared affinities. The place in this case is not a physical location, but virtual. The boys triumphed largely by engaging in menial game work by the incredibly tedious strategy of killing boars in order to "level up", whereas Searle's students read newspapers and watched documentary films as part of their solidarity work etc. Both are very different literacy practices. another difference was that the Southpark kids were the "leaders" and the agents, with the adults more or less falling in behind to solve the problem of the rogue plaer. In Searle's case, he was very much the leader with respect to helping stduents to analyse their own lives and identities.
Colin then discusses key changes he sees having taken place in the past 30 years--and which he refers to as a "world of difference".
- technoclogical= digital electronics
- economic - "New Work Order"
- continuing global diasporas
- theorisation - rise of the "post" (the multiple)
- emergence of the "risk society" (Beck) within an intensified experience of "liquid modernity" (Bauman)
Changes over the past 30 years
- no longer singular, but multiple
- no longer fixed, but now unstable
- no longer homogenous, but multimodal
- no logner linear, but non-linear
- physical and now also "cyber"
- analogue and now digital
- local scale, now also global scale
- no longer singular, now multiple
- no longer fixed, now fluid
- no longer stable, now shifting
- not just physical, now also "cyber"
- not just analogue, now also digital
- local scale, and now global scale
- no longer singular, now fixed, now shifting
no longer unified, now juggled
Colin speaks about the case of "Violetta" in Angela Thomas' Youth Online and how she very much embodies these changes in identities and who is very well rpepared to be a "shape shifting portfolio worker" (Gee 2004).
He speaks about identity as discussed by Bauman; about the construction of identity as a fundamental social act. Allan Martin (2008) similarly talk about identity now as a "major life project." Shared affinities become central to identity work within current contexts.
Erich Fromm identified five human needs contingent upon their consciousness:
- sense of identity
- frame of orientation
Colin discusses how these needs can be met in different ways, although not all of these ways are "healthy".
Bauman's trends of "liquid modernity":
- we are passing from "solid" to "liquid" modernity. there is no logner any context for developing and pursuing a life project, and hence for strategies of that order (collapse of long term thinking, planning, action). Utopia is now the journey itself-just keeping ourselves running and surviving in the race is regarded as sufficient
- power is divorced from politics
- greatly reduced safety net/communal insurance. A devaluing of collective action
- individual is responsible for own welfare. A reluctance to take risks i the face of heightened insecurity
Bauman argues that some key outcomes are:
- a predominance of a "hunter utopia" -- living within the chase rather than the end of the journey
- hunter utopia does not offer meaning of life, but rather chases away meaning by keeping us pre-occupied with the "hunt/chase"
- Schools have not been good at paying attention to social issues and major trends in meaningful ways. C. Wright Mills argued for the concept of "sociological imagination" as a way of engaging students in thinking about social structures in relation to personal issues etc. (e.g., divorce in relation to the larger social structure)
- We need to be able to relate biography and structure. where in schools do we make space for stduents to ask about and analyse their own lives in relation to larger structures?
- Schools have never enabled "sociological, semantic and cultural imaginations, yet they are integral to transcending individuation, enhancing solidarity and a sense of "togetherness in the world" and to building the kinds of dispositions and orientations that make possible the mass meeting of human needs (e.g., little talk about oil speculation and its effects on masses of people)
- Literacy, identity and place as organizers for educational learning provide a excellent basis for rethinking effiacious humanizing education - an education that goes beyond individuation, beyond content, and beyond "commodification" of learning and knowledge. The bespeak situated, dialogical learning, and what Gee (2007) calls "learning to be." What constitutes our "situation" and how the meanings we make of th world relate to the meanings other people people make etc. Simulations that enable students to elarn to be "scientists" (etc.) can enable students to get beyond a "content fetish" promoted in schools and learn how to be (and act and value and work like a scientist). Colin argues for us learning to be 21st century inhabitants and to, in Friere's words, understand the world as a "problem to be solved". Building concepts of identity, place and literacy around a situated sense of self and others is crucial right now