Human and tech find it hard to relate in the cold: Do the police struggle with winter fingerprints too? #mscedc

A cute piece about the necessary interactions, and adjustments, between machines and human uers. Perhaps it never gets that cold in Silicon Valley for the design geeks to pick up on this. If so, an instance of geography shaping digital cultures. Context matters – I’m expecting, over the course of the course, to see that all the more.



Robots, workers and surveillance: “If you hear the term “people analytics”, worry.” #mscedc

It might be the press I read, but there are acres of worries and concerns about the impact of digital cultures on all sides of life. Here, not usually, it’s the warehouse workers and the delivery drivers, those who are lower down the economic pecking order, who are being most significantly effected. How far, does that restructuring extend, in times to come?

Also, do those kinds of asymmetries also play through education? Next week, I want to read more of the set literature for this block of the course, both to see how this reflects or refracts through education, and also to seek some wider theorisation or perspective on these kinds of articles.

Thinking historically, the imposition of clock-time during the Industrial Reveolution changed working life. Are digital cultures similar, different, or both? And the surveillance angel works through another article I read today, also in the Lifestream, about university surveillance of staff and students.


Looking round the other EDC blogs

Swimming in one’s own lifestream is tiring enough, but I’ve just had a quick squint at the other EDC blogs. Apologies to those where I’ve left no visible trace of my visit; I’ve tried to offer comment on some.

Here are a couple of general reflections:

1. When I visit, I’m quick. Sorry. It’s made me realise the importance of the metadata, the visuals, and short links and posts. I’m not always producing quick-to-read stuff, and it’s a challenge to do that and keep posts thoughtful / useful. Some of you have shown me some great ways forward with that. Thank you. I’m trying to learn!

2. The scaffolding has an influence. For instance, I worked down the list of EDC blogs from top to bottom. I’m culturally conditioned that way, and likely to do so each time. Hum: should I try to vary my approach? Do people at the top get most attention? I’m top on my list. Ha ha! Is that the case for all of us – are we all the top of our own list, but then is there only one order from there down? What, then, is the listing logic, if any? Do we have the same orderings, and does the ordering I see stay consistent over time?

I don’t know the answers – like with many digital things, it seems hidden from me, the end user (if I am the end user, and not merely somewhere in the middle of the food chain). But still I ask.

If you’re visiting my blog, I hope it works for you. Please post any thoughts about the ‘visiting experience’ below – either about visiting my blog in particular, or about the process of visiting some or all of the EDC blogs.

These questions come to my mind: How often are you looking? What trigger(s) lead you to do so? Generally, is visiting useful – and are visits from others useful to you? And, more generally, does the experience ‘say’ anything to you about digital cultures and education more widely?

Responses to post-truth cultures (part 2)

This follows from the previous post. That image reminded me of this 1996 stamp, which I’d liked at the time:

Back then, I was an undergraduate for the second time, in a completely new discipline. This certoon chimed for me, in terms of what the learning experience was about then. I’m feeling that digital cultures are needing a similar clean-up every so often.
The image then somewhat draws to a halt for me. What kind of flossing devices do digital cultures need and, even, supply? I’m open to suggestions. Mine tend to be theological / biblical, ideas which might well flow through coming posts. Any ideas from others, though?

Tags: mscedc
January 20, 2017 at 01:53PM
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Responses to post-truth cultures (part 1)

Wahay! I’ve just tested a new Applet on IFTTT, and it’s worked… Now I can get pictures and other clippings from Evernote in here, too. Hopefully this will reduce the hyperlink count, and enhance the graphics.

This image, and the one that follows, flow from my further reflections regarding digital epistemologies. Thinking around plays with words, I thought of ‘truth decay’, and made a Google images search.
As expected, lots of options, but I liked this one for its glitzy tone, the font choices and star bursts, and the (post-truth?) stat appealing to the experts. The stalking irony amuses and speaks of the topic too. Also, the mixing of the ethical (‘integrity’) with the medical (‘doctors’) is not completely stable. It captures some of the issues for me, and something of a (utopian?) hope: can integrity flourish within digital cultures, and on what terms and by what means?

Tags: mscedc
January 20, 2017 at 01:45PM
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@c4miller re. ‘feeling lost & out of touch with #mscedc’ Sorry 2hear, &wanting 2acknowledge it. Hoping it lifts, & is par(t) for the course.


I just got a tweet back from c4miller: “@Digeded thanks! Hopefully lift. My study pattern is mostly weekends due to work atm. Compared to IDEL, the volume is less, but pace faster”

I replied: “@c4miller If w/ends are key, Friday must be the worst day to be thinking about this. Go well over the w/end, & may it end up well above par!”

I’m reminded that life is about rhythms, not just algorithms (and wondering why they’re spelled differently…). Henri Lefebvre, in Rhythmanalysis (London: Continuum, 2004, p.15) claims that “Everywhere where there is interaction between a place, a time and an expenditure of energy, there is a rhythm.”

First published in French in 1992, after his death the previous year, Lefebvre does not know the digital cultures to come, but his claim speaks into them. As educationalists, and as learners, some sort of rhythm analysis will be integral for the good of our research and practices.

Have statistics (really) lost their power? Does that mean we now only have lies and damn lies? #mscderm #mscedc

This is a ‘long read’ from the Guardian. By it’s nature, it’s not quick to look at, but it’s a thoughtful piece and you’ll find it here:

“In theory, statistics should help settle arguments.” That’s the opening sentence of the essay. Digital cultures help deconstruct this sentence, following on in the track-marks made by postmodernism. There is no self-evident ‘theory’: rather, there are contexts and situations. Statistics are part of a modernist, western mind-set, linked to nation-states. Discuss! Certainly statistics have a long history: this article looks back 450 years, one could also go back at least to the Domesday Book of 1086 within England.

The article argues that, whereas, in the past, “statistics have been entangled in notions of national progress”, now this is changing. “Statistics, collected and compiled by technical experts, are giving way to data that accumulates by default, as a consequence of sweeping digitisation.”

Simultaneously, an “ability to develop and refine psychological insights across large populations” presents “one of the most innovative and controversial features of the new data analysis.”

Is this power accruing, albeit unevenly and stealthily, in the hands (or main-frames) of a “new digital elite”? If so, this feeds into “a serious challenge for liberal democracy.” And, with it, the educational cultures many of us take for granted.

What tensions and opportunities lurk between the ‘sharing economy’ (and ‘sharing culture’) and the competitive advantage of privately-held data?



Sterne, 2006:23 “One of the most important choices a historian makes is that of periodization.” + spatialisation: education = placed #mscedc


This tweet, and the reaction in it to this piece of recommended reading, reflects my long-standing interest as a human geographer in holding history and geography together as interweaving life-strands. I’ll tag this post as ‘geography of digital cultures’ and I anticipate it’s a current my posts will return to from time to time.

As this page from Hine (2000) on ‘Virtual Ethnography’ shows [clickable link below], the where and the when of digital cultures are both important. In my framing, this is akin to Sterne’s concern that the audible as well as the visible be included in our analyses. It’s not a question of one or the other, but it’s the complex and multiform interactions between them that constitute what we call ‘digital cultures’.

Hine p.62

Is ‘like-farming’ a real, or an imagined, risk? #mscedc


I read this piece online while trawling for something else, and it reminded me of the double-edged nature of possibility and threat within any culture, digital or otherwise. There are digital folk devils and moral threats, as there are in the non-digital worlds of past and present. Negotiating them is a challenge, for learners and for educationalists within the digital realms. My Tweet asked a question, and got no reply. Where is the village pump, the church, or wherever it is that one goes to gauge such risks and potential risks, opportunities and potential opportunities? I’m not a fan of ‘liking’: should this concern me? And visiting the digital knowers, such as I know them, such as they are, can amplify and expand the questions. raises like-farming, click-bait relates it to death hoaxes. Ouch. Educational research in and of digital cultures is going to be complex. I hope this course helps with the navigation, if not with the answers.

Meet the emotional radio that cares for you, and wants to be your friend Imagine one that doesn’t want to… #mscedc


I tweeted this after seeing the video in my morning newspaper feed. Here it is. It’s a piece on a new design of radio which uses facial recognition to appraise your mood and play the music to match it.  In 4:17 minutes, I think it’s a fantastic summation of much of what I think this course is going to address. For example:

(a) AI designed to have human characteristics – the cheeky smile on the dial; the language of being a ‘buddy’, and offering “self-care and well-being”. What’s the flip-side, the politics of this kind of technology – will the house-bound be offered this as a cheaper alternative to (say) state-funded face-to-face welfare provision, such as the latter still exists within the UK? Or, thinking in educational terms, a tutor-bot?

(b) The mystery of the algorithm. The video talks about the “tricks” within the algorithm, and seeks to demonstrate them via everyday graphics, but acknowledges that they’re “not flawless”. Humorously, the presenter talks about technology looking “inside my soul”, but the film also mentions Google’s face-recognition confusions which offended certain “cultures” and “continents” (see here for a less euphemistic take on this matter). Clearly technologies have contexts, and assume and exclude contexts. Education needs to be aware of these positionalities. Back to the video, and this radio, apparently monobrows, dimples, beards and make-up can distort outcomes. Perhaps the most chilling line in the piece is the comment that “we all need to look exactly the same for it to be perfect” . It drips and reeks with political connotations. Ironically, the radio is designed by a company called Uniform

(c) The manipulation of the algorithm. The radio uses Spotify. But, as the video notes, not the whole of Spotify, but 300 songs, so that “people recognise” the music. Call me old-school, but I have about 80 CDs within reach as I type. Are 300 songs enough for one person, let alone for people in general, let alone for self-care and well-being? Presumably this capacity is incredibly adjustable, and my elderly relative need not suffer my music catalogue, nor me that of the person with the headset next to me on the last bus I traveled on. But the questions of the filter-bubble lurk here. What are the differences, and connections, between music I like, and music for people like me, a distinction the video acknowledges? This brings me to a final point:

(d) Technology changes everyday things, education included. The internet of things is an unspoken context for this video. But in all areas of life, education included, ‘smart things’ are both the same and not the same as previous artifacts. Complex changes occur in “construct[ing] learning subjects, academic practices, and institutional strategies” (J. Knox, ‘Critical Education and Digital Cultures’). Thus, what are the implications for the production of music brought about by Spotify? At very least, varied, uncertain, and riddled with seen and unforeseen changes. Also, returning to this present video and the radio it introduces, what is the function of music, of a radio – to confirm or change mood? The answers will, directly and indirectly, influence education. Presumably the algorithm can decide – although, as the video notes, there is still a performative agency for humans standing before its eye, trying to put on a desired mood. Remember the passport-photo booth when you were a teenager??

There is a human response, at least at the first flush of novelty,  in the use of such technologies but – as the video notes with a ‘like it or not’ fatalism – we are “increasingly monitored and manipulated” by algorithms. My overall take on the video’s tone about this radio is that it’s like the coo-ing over a seemingly gifted baby or toddler. As with all radios, it’s the teenage years that will prove interesting.