Comment on Nigel’s blog

Nigel, this is brilliant! Your visual artefact is so rich in detail and I’m in awe of your ability to pack meaning into it. I really like the (ethernet, perhaps?) cable, not plugged into anything, and with an obvious kink in it: a sign of being slightly removed, not quite connected, perhaps?

I’m also interested in your decision to put a union jack on the keyboard when – as you say above – lots of people were posting in Spanish and possibly using an online translation site. Does that mean that within the image are the course leaders’ expectations as well as what you found in the reality? Or is it that what appeared on the screen was Spanish, but what was put into the text was in English? And if so, can I infer that you’re thinking of the computer in this particular experience as having a fairly instrumental role – a means to an end, rather than integral to the experience?

-Helen

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Comment from Eli’s blog

Gosh, Eli, this was not only such a clever idea, but your micro-ethnography is so stylishly presented. It’s beautiful!

One of the points you made that I’m really interested in is the idea of taking into account a peer’s intentions and goals in the feedback offered, and how that might reframe the feedback offered. There’s little point, I suppose, in commending or castigating someone’s ability to take photos of seascapes if their absolute dream is to photograph faces – I know nothing, but imagine they’re different techniques. The scale of MOOCs would seem to rule out the possibilities of a more intimate community, but do you think there was any way that the MOOC organisers might have encouraged more discussion around hopes and dreams?

-Helen

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Comment from Cathy’s blog

Hello Cathy! Thank you for sharing this excellent video and commentary; I’ve watched the video twice now and it’s packed full of interesting ideas and expressive, imaginative ways of describing what sounds like a rather arduous and very complex experience.

I was interested in comparing the three video clips of movement or cars – the first so quick, so intentional, so bright; the second in slow motion, with the snow, and with an entirely different perspective (a pedestrian perhaps); the third quick again, but quieter on the roads, less bright. I wondered if you might be making a point about the quick pace of the MOOC but also its rigidity in terms of the list of topics you showed. This, then this, then this, then this, ad infinitum, but without any real control over the order in which things are covered. The second clip, then, was a sign of both brake and break as you attempt to make sense of the complexity of the topic and of the micro-ethnography. The third clip of driving, then, perhaps the home strait.

-Helen

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Comment on Stuart’s blog

This is a really interesting post, slides and video, Stuart – thank you for sharing. It doesn’t sound like you had the most edifying time and your video encapsulates perfectly the experience you describe in your blog post.

I’m really interested in what you describe as the ‘lack of direction’ in the MOOC, and the way in which this contributed to feelings of being overwhelmed. The MOOC I did was structured clearly, but more than that was well signposted – it was easy to get a sense of how the course had been constructed.

I think you also have a super point about motivation, particularly this:

“participants seemed to want to satisfy their own needs rather than assist in the learning of others”

While I can see that this would have had a hugely detrimental effect on the development of community, I also get the sense that you can hardly blame them! If someone is treating the MOOC in a strictly instrumental way (like, to make money) then they’re not necessarily going to want to invest in the experience. It’s probably false economics, and I might not be able to explain this well, but I wonder if the fact that the MOOC was free to join contributed to this? If the MOOC had charged a small nominal fee to join (£5, for example), do you think it would have put off a lot of the people who joined for such instrumental reasons?

-Helen

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Tweets

This was a bit fortuitous (and came about because I jokingly suggested to my manager in the first week of EDC that I was now an “automation genius”), but I thought I’d share the gist of what I said. I was speaking to HASS graduate researchers, so I tried to provide them with a few ways that I thought IFTTT might be useful for research. If anyone reading has other suggestions I’d be really grateful to hear them!

  1. Publicising your work: e.g. getting IFTTT to tweet or FB blog posts you write, reaching a wider audience without necessarily needing to do extra work.
  2. Curating research: e.g. using IFTTT to save tweets on a topic, or things said about you during a conference presentation, and put them somewhere you can safely retrieve them at a later stage (or when someone talking about the REF asks you about impact)
  3. Organising your life: e.g. there are IFTTT recipes for getting reminders about starred emails you haven’t dealt with, or saving contacts’ details somewhere sensible.
  4. Backing up your back-ups e.g. I talk about backing up work a lot; but it dawns on me that if you regularly back up to say, Dropbox, you could get IFTTT to back up your back ups to Google and Evernote and lots of other places.

Comment on Stuart’s blog

This is a really interesting post, Stuart – thanks! I’m going to listen to the Ted talk myself later 🙂

I was really interested in your comments about different levels of experience and signposting; the MOOC I’m doing is about journalism and has a lot of professional journalists enrolled, yet the course content is definitely of a level suitable for someone like me – literally the lowest common denominator there. It also feels extremely Western in its approach but the participants are extraordinarily international.

I wonder how much you think the signposting is intentional, and whether there’s any way that ethnography or netnography could capture some of the detail around how course content is signposted…

Cheers for the blog post 🙂

-Helen

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Comment on Stuart’s blog

This is a really interesting evaluation of a very very complex topic. I agree that losing the ability to conceal our thoughts if we choose would lead to a very different situation than we’re in now. Though I wonder if we’re already on that road? There are definite issues surrounding privacy and surveillance and our ability to conceal what we think. However, I have two follow up questions:

– do you think that our ability to disclose (roughly) what we choose is actually connected to our mind and soul (which makes us unique)? is it innate, or a social construct? (I’m in two minds – no pun intended!)

– do you think that ‘thought’ in its natural form would make much sense to an onlooker? or is it our interpretation of that thought that makes it intelligible? I strongly suspect that if a robot were able to read my mind right now it would very quickly go into shutdown… 🙂

-Helen

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Comment on Nigel’s blog

This is great, Nigel! How did you make it? There is so much in this image.

I like the way you’ve used the juxtaposition of what’s happening inside and outside to make a comment on the prevalence of technology, as well as its inherent possibility for variance. Is there something too about the way in which technology can absorb our attention, physically(?) preventing us from seeing what’s beyond it?

-Helen

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Betty Sneezes

So here’s my digital artefact! I must apologise for the poor quality of it – I’ve not only been very stretched for time this week but I’m a horribly unvisual person, and I can’t do images. Which explains why I cheated and put a voiceover on it. Sorry about that.

Just in case you can’t see the video, it’s meant to be a commercial for a product called Betty Sneezes, which I’ve totally made up. Betty is a robot who can detect airborne rhinovirus, which causes 80% of instances of the common cold. Betty can alert you to this, allowing you to make a swift exit and therefore remain healthy. The end line of the commercial is: “you’ll never miss work again”.

I’ve wanted right from the start to make a commercial for a product – I haven’t personally given much thought to the intersection between cybercultures and consumerism but I suspect it is totally inescapable. Both from a practical perspective and an ethical one, technology can’t be economically neutral. This too is raised in the final line – while a common cold detector sounds pretty magnificent to me, I wanted to temper this with a slightly more pernicious message about human productivity.

Betty is a skeuomorph, rather than a cyborg. I did consider instead ‘inventing’ a chip or something that could be inserted into humans, but it (a) didn’t work as well visually and (b) I wanted to make a point about infection. One of the themes in this cybercultures block is what makes humans human, and whether cyborgs render debates over the differences between humans and technology completely redundant. Cathy Hills did an ingenious mentimeter poll to see what we thought the difference was, and I found the split of the results really interesting. But I wondered if, ultimately, the difference is going to be how the diseases between us spread, so I was playing a little bit on the word ‘virus’.

Finally, I just wanted to make it really clear that everything I’ve used in the video is available from Pixabay or Pexels and licensed under CC-0. No copyright infringements here 🙂 And, very much a hat tip to Cathy for her excellent poll!

Comment on Philip’s blog

This is a really interesting point, Philip – thank you for writing. I wonder in general about the privileging of ’emotion’ (over, perhaps, rationality?), even among humans, and whether that links in particular to the point you’ve made about the pre-programming of emotion.

Do you think this is reserved exclusively for androids? Or do you think there’s some sense of pre-programming of emotion among humans too? There appears to be some policing of emotions – in response to any event there is a spectrum of ‘normative’ emotions, and anyone behaving outside of that is treated as other, incorrect or suspicious. The digital space may affect this – allowing more or less freedom depending on the space, the possibility of anonymity, and a whole host of other factors.

I guess I’m just thinking aloud about whether we’re all (human, android, or otherwise) subjected to powerful forces which dictate the right way to behave AND the right way to feel. And – if this is the case – aren’t we all androids?

-Helen

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