Data Anamorphs in the use of LA

The Ambassadors – 1533, Hans Holbein the Younger

In critiquing our EDC Week 9 Twitter discussion I was hoping to draw out some easy to read trends and findings. However, on closer inspection, it appears that our little study on the use of data has been anything but easy to understand. Without taking a statistical viewpoint how well dos this exercise really demonstrate the real use of data as a means by which to adjudge performance or even participation. Taking it further, if, as educators, we were to use the data as a form of assessment could we be certain that we are indeed seeing the full picture? To my mind the mini study on our activity is somewhat like an anamorph – ‘A distorted or monstrous projection or representation of an image on a plane or curved surface, which, when viewed from a certain point, or as reflected from a curved mirror or through a polyhedron, appears regular and in proportion; a deformation of an image’ (Source:

I offer the following to validate this view:

Volume of Tweets

User phillip_downey’s top count of 70+ tweets put his score higher by some way than even second placed on the list. Was this part of an ulterior motive to ensure the highest number or was there a genuine accompanying development or promotion of learning or capability? Without a demonstrable mechanism to determine if the latter is the case the volume achieved does not indicate anything other than a sort of ‘gaming’ of the process. This data, in the hands of the LA uninitiated could be very misleading.

Top Words

It is interesting to note that word 9 and 20 (I’m & I’ve) on the top words list are both contractions of the original pronoun ‘I’. Users, it shows, are continuously internalising to understand all that is presented through the online tweet based discussion. But, what is this saying about us as an online community that has been interacting at length these past 9 weeks. Where are the ‘us’, ‘we’ and ‘we’ll’? We are, it could be posited, still islands in the vast connected ocean of the web. Maybe we have become a chain of common, closer islands but islands we remain. What does this say for the theory of community of learning?

Sources of Tweets

Tweetdeck was by far the most popular application of choice by which to receive, view and disseminate Tweets. Although I have made use of it in the past I didn’t on this occasion and was limited to the 4th most used medium, Twitter for Android. Does technical supremacy ( a bigger gun?) show how it can provide a medium for greater Tweet volumes? (Quick! Someone call CSI Miami to cross reference Source with Volume of Tweets..) I think this points to a potential danger in the real use of LA in that administrators assume all users are all the same in terms of social status, wealth, culture and behaviour. Where is the social study of the data and what will it reveal? Is LA only good for these people or those kinds of learners? Social and educational inequalities as described by Eynon, 2013. Discrimination, as we have learned, can be automated too.

User Mentions

Let’s be honest, the facilitators hold the centre and are critical to the success of this exercise as is demonstrated. Can we claim to be a high functioning learner body with a maturity level to match? Personally, I’m not that confident that we could have pulled off this exercise as well if Jeremy and James hadn’t led with the questions. But to be fair that was the brief, so perhaps a bit harsh? What is positive though is that this exercise demonstrates to me just how important the modern teacher is and just what an effect they have on the guidance of development of thinking and learning on the web.


#mld2017? #immersivetechnologies? #totallybroke? Im confused, was this part of my discussion stream? Confusing or unaccountable data that I can’t relate to reveals that either I have missed out on a large section of learning or an important experience or it is totally irrelevant – which is it? Having some inkling of what should be revealed about activity in the data is important no? Isn’t that the point of LA? ‘Algorithmic cultures described a current phase in which automated computer operations process data in such a way as to significantly shape the contemporary categorising and privileging of knowledge, places and people – Knox, 2015’


From the graph provided it appears one or two tweets from Crafty_AI has some major bang for the buck spent. How should this be considered in the greater context of our data? What if one insightful comment, an influential user’s action or even minor, collective, action could skew an entire reading of LA to the point where administrators or facilitators adjust course on a learning programme in response? Are we even comfortable potentially leaving this to more competent AI’s in future who could do the same?

I think this, and all of the above, points to the fact that we don’t really know enough about what we see (Knox’s,Abstracting Learning Analytics (2014))  – abstract art angle personified) and create in our own data. Just as the anamorph is distorted and misshapen from our current viewpoint we still, perhaps, need to develop a method of assuming an oblique vision so that its true representation comes into view.

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