Category Archives: Blog Posts By Me

For EDC students who may wander on to my blog. These are the posts I think would be most suited for others commenting. Of course, you are welcome to comment on my other posts if you want.

Code Acts – Further Reading

Educating Silicon Valley


So I’ve been dipping in and out of the free e-book and blog since last week’s set reading. What I am struck by is how neutral William’s tone is. Not that I think he should be more polemical but just the way that he identifies trends within education but then doesn’t give any normative views. I’d have to read a few more papers to be able to get an impression of whether he only writes occasionally about what it’s like to be on the receiving end of Digital Education. I get the impression that by focusing on algorithmists you end up having to take a more top-down approach. Which is totally legit, elites are worth studying.


Algorithmic Cultures – Spotify Playlist


Album Cover

Linear Notes:

Can you tell what songs were purposefully selected by me? Can you tell which songs I selected with the assistance of spotify’s search algorithm? Can you guess what key words I searched for? Can you guess whether I actually like the track or not? Or whether I have heard it before I added it to the list? By juxtaposing the playlist name with the lyrics of the song do you hear new meanings? Can you tell which songs were entirely made using random music generation algorithms? Can you tell which songs were written without algorithms? Or without their influence? Can there even be any? Are music and algorithms entirely entwined?

I suggest you listen to this using spotify’s shuffle algorithm without looking at the playlist queue.

Feel free to email answers to or leave comments on




Learning Analytics: The Emergence of a Discipline, Siemens (2013) – Collab Notes


This app felt too similar to padlet for it to be a properly new experiment for me so I decided to try and collaborate with other EDC students in order to see how that changed the process.

First of all I put out a call on Twitter. After a number of days I had two collaborators, Dirk and Cathy.

Having recently read Mike Caulfied’s post on the need for a choral approach to open resource textbooks I was interested in trying to have a combination of different collaborative process on the board:

Strengths and Weakeness, Key Questions – Written together/without attribution.

Please note that I am trying distinguish between truly writing something together and merely writing things “alongside” each other. For the 3 of us to write something together we would have to discuss and agree on a wording. This currently has not happened so it would be more accurate to describe these sections as written without attribution

Summary, Take Home Message – Written “chorally”

I thought it was an important to give everyone a chance to précis the paper themselves. We may choose different aspects to emphasise in the summary. It is also an important skill for every to have a go at, rather than just one person.

Noticeboards written on different sections of the paper – Written individually by the “main” writer then extra notes added by the others once completed.

Hopefully I divided the paper evenly. Again I thought it would be good for each person to have the space to take the lead.  I am a little concerned that taking charge of the set up and doing the first bits of substantial writing I will overly influence Dirk and Cathy’s approach. Hopefully them having their own sections and blank boards will mitigate that. I am mainly using text as the subject doesn’t lend itself to visuals but maybe other two will have some different ideas.

Doing the set up of the summary noticeboard before reading the paper was good for me. I was a lot more critical in my initial reading as the categories (strengths, summary, etc.) were more prominent in my mind.

As of Sunday morning I am the only person who has done any notes. This reflects the difficulty of coordinating other people’s schedules without institutional incentives (i.e. it’s your job).

Oh well.

Podcast and Slide reflection



I found making the podcast a lot more enjoyable than making the slide show. For me, slides are somewhat constraining unless they can paired with a lecture. If you have to do slides without being able to present them you either end up not being able to explain their content fully or putting so much information on there they are not visually pleasing.

The podcast was a laugh. What surprised me was how little time it took to read out what I had scripted. You could cover a few hundred words in a few minutes. The experience of actually saying things out loud was interesting as what had scanned well in my head as I wrote it didn’t translate so well to natural speech. This struck me as being a hidden skill that doesn’t get acknowledged enough when preparing lectures.

Obviously I could have done a far better job with the production on the podcast. I didn’t use a popscreen or sort out the levels of the different clips properly. The jingle took about 5 seconds to put together. I didn’t think focusing of polished production would be a valuable use of my study time. There were also another idea that didn’t make it into the podcast (click here for an explanation)

Conceptual Tarleton

I came across a talk by Tarleton Gillespie on soundcloud. My intention was edit the talk down to various clips, remix them and then insert my own interjections to make it appear like I was interviewing Tarleton in my own podcast.

The purpose of this was to experiment with different ways of engaging with the course material. To do re-edit the Tarleton talk I needed to listen carefully through the 2 hours of material and identify key ideas or phrases that could be lifted out of context but still be understood fully. This process struck me as being very similar to notetaking critically, particularly as I was always trying to think how could I phrase a question that would lead into Tarleton’s statement. It would also showcase my burgeoning digital literacy, specifically my ability to remix and repurpose digital materials to my own ends.

Sadly, my laptop crashes every time I try and load up the 2 hours mp3 in Ableton. I tried using Audacity but as I am not familiar with the software I found myself getting increasingly frustrated. Given that the final stage of the process is mainly based around clicking and editing rather than critically engaging with the course materials, I’ve judged it to not be worth my study time to see it through to completion. Instead I leave my notes below. It annoys me to leave a good idea unfinished but instead I am trying to think of it as a piece of concept art. The engagement and critique is more important than the actual execution.


In the previous review section I used some terms like patterns of inclusion that I had picked up from Tarleton Gillespie’s paper on Algorithmic Cultures. I am delight to announce that I have Professor Gillespie here on the show today as a special guest. Tarleton is a Professor of Information Science and Communication at Cornell University and is currently the principal researcher for Microsoft Research. One his many areas of research is algorithmic cultures. So Tarleton what have you been looking at recently?

1.02 – 1.08 nestling

OK that does sound interesting. So algorithms are becoming part of social landscape. What kind of questions does that raise for you?

1.21 – 1.40 systems like fb….

Ah. So you are focusing in on how algorithms are used to present particular bits of information to us and in doing so how that impacts on public consciousness. Can you tell us a bit more about what you mean about shaping public discourse.

2.14 what does it mean

For me that raises many other questions such as

2.38 do we need expertise then what question interests you most?

Yes, thank you. Just go ahead and interject whenever I am talking, I don’t mind at all.


So, this subject seems to be very now, very zietgiest-y. But is it really? Can you give us any examples of any historical precedents for these debates on how information is mediated?

34.02 maybe for a century… we’ve been prepped for information collection over the last century

26.50 we only get so far if we think about it as a 5 year thing, it might that a historical

27.49 search engines are like news editors

Fascinating. Sadly this is an audio only podcast so people can’t see me stroking my chin in thought. But believe me I am. Furiously.


So one of your primary claims is that algorithms are socially significant enough that they are resulting in what you have termed calculated publics. Can you expand on that?

23.50 – 24.38 – calculated publics summary

44.50 to 46 – relevancy and the Bieber problem

50.35 gaming trends, turn towards the measure see also 57.40 see also 1h18m49s

50.55 people act on trends

1h9.40s I’m interested in how twitter presents info to people

1h.10m30s impact of trends on politics, buzzfeed building information economy on trends.


If algorithms are significantly shaping public discourse as you suggest we need to be asking which social actors have privileged access to the data they produce

31.40 – who has the power to collect the data?

Some organisations can compel us to give up data, others have to entice others.

32.40 – companies that can’t compel have to do things differently.

33.17 relating the concept to contemporary social media


So these companies that own the most widely used algorithms, twitter, google, facebook, etc. How do they portray their use of algorithms and their impacts on culture?

46.20 who can produce them and how do they claim authority

19.25 we have the data, we can tell you about yourself

20.44 glimpses of public concern. Snapshots

48 – the algorithm offers impartiality claim

23.18 – 23.30 networks want it both ways

1hr 2m – should designers for algos be responsible for what comes out? Major platforms they want it both ways

1h7m40s twitter says they know things but they are not prepared to accept other responsibilities.

1hr 5m 50s its OK cos the algorithm argument will break down









Why do we have trending alogirthms in twitter

Stay on the site 7.15

10.20 why do you think it is interesting? Technicities of attention.

Treat it as legible.


13.20 – his own questions.


13.50 – summary of trending algorithms

16.30 spreading into our cultural vocabulary, scholarly journals

19.01 activity as importance

22.50 – 23.18 trending is an oblique catograry


25.10 – why do you call them calculated

26.20 – 26.40 what does trending mean to people?

35.40 – twitter is buying datahoses

35.51 – what gets left out of the measurements

39.56 – the claims of trends. It is everyone (?)

40.40 – what is it that twitter is actually measuring? – 43.46

54.12 – what needs to trends satisfy?

55.40 grasp?

56.20 – twitter measures cross cultural measures has an underlying belief system

58.30 – problems with language, reducing things to hashtags

59.35 why should surging be important, also 1hr 10s

Sometimes algorithms play with us

In this context I mean “play” in the sense of uncaring manipulation.

“As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods”

For gods read algorithms.

That kind of thing.


I keep thinking about the primer books I read on economics for my undergrad degree. I learnt about the Black-Scholes Equation and how human judgement was deferred to algorithms. When incidents were happening that were outside of the scope of the formula, it wasn’t captured. Bankers then based their actions on information that didn’t truly reflect market risk. This eventually lead to the 2008 financial crisis.

This narrative is debateable but it still shows the power of algorithms as social actors.

Padlet makes me want to puke-lette

The auto instructions and upselling mail outs of padlet are all given a faux-casual tone to try and provoke you into forming an emotional attachment to the app. The loading page for a new padlet says “it’s all sunshine and roses from here”,  the confirmation email reads opens with:

Hi, there

You signed up for Padlet!

That’s beautiful. You’re beautiful

and is signed

Love, laughter,


This exemplifies the ” omnipresent fucking TWEENESS of post-millenial culture and nervy chatty conversationalism that’s crept into all ad-copy (in the last 10 years)” (Kulkarni, 2016) < one of my favourite music writers/bloggers. Since reading his blog post I can’t look at a ukulele without thinking “this machine enables fascists”

This in turn made me think about the recent guardian article I had read on how data mining could be combined with AI and insights from psychology to precisely target internet users at an emotional level. The emotional tone of digital capitalism is often gloopy and saccharine sweet. It hides the smell of the infernal algorithmic gears grinding.

Anyway. Now for a bit more analysis rather than ranting.

Padlet also attempts to portray itself in a purely instrumentalist manner, to whit;

What’s a padlet?

In its purest form, a padlet is a blank page. You can dress it up or dress it down. From your hobby to your career, your class notes to your final exam, your mood board to your runway show, padlets help you organize your life.

Our Community

Collaboration is what makes Padlet special. We are beloved in classrooms because every student has an equal voice. We are instrumental to businesses because team projects are easily managed and improved. From distant corners of the Earth, individuals can connect on Padlet.

(padlet automatic sign up mail out 2017)

According to it’s creators Padlet is the invisible tool that will apparently enable easy collaboration. It allows social practice to be carried out without overtly influencing the eventual cultural output. As my post documenting my experience details, that is not quite the case. I certainly wouldn’t use it for my own notes.

Final Assessment – Open “letter” to my tutor

Hello Jeremy,


I’ve been thinking about the final assessment. A while back I listened to a talk by James Loxley from the History department Following this I decided to try out the app that was produced as a result of his research. I documented the experience in a sort of Digital Ethnographic manner:

As you can see where possible in the video I have tried to make my commentary link back to the readings and themes from the course.

During the editing process I had a chance to talk to Bill Jenkins about the Curious Edinburgh app he has been involved in making. I was intending to make another video documenting me and my wife using it with a similar commentary.

For the final assessment I was thinking of perhaps producing a video comparing and reviewing the two apps. Much in the manner of vlogging reviews e.g.:

I am trying to settle on a question that will allow me to structure the review. I was thinking maybe “How can digital, networked media be used to represent formal academic knowledge?: Two contrasting      app-roaches”

What is an acceptable length of video for the assessment? Depending on how much footage I am allowed to submit I will either include the raw “app experience” videos as part of my life stream or as part of the final assessment. I intend to reference the final submission video by adding hyperlink popups at any point I mention an academic text. As this is a bit laborious I would probably not do that for the “raw” videos if they are only going to be part of the life stream. I could also add some video chapter markers to help you as a marker to skip to the most pertinent comments. I think perhaps an additional criteria could be ease of navigation. In IDEL the additional criteria were optional. Is that the case here?