Category Archives: Blog posts

TWEET: Got to love these spam comments

Tin of spam
“A can of spam. SPAM is made up of “Shoulder of Pork and Ham and was a World War 2 favourite, it’s also a term used to describe irrelevant or unsolicited messages sent over the Internet, typically to a large number of users, for the purposes of advertising, phishing, spreading malware, etc. “

As the old saying goes “Flattery will get you everywhere” and that was clearly the tactic behind three of the latest ‘spam’ comments on my Lifestream blog.

I’m not going to approve them and no doubt others on the course have received the same or similar, but I thought I’d share today’s crop as they’re strangely life affirming…even though they’re spam!

“It’s nearly impossible to find well-informed people on this subject, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks”

“No, thank you – and I wish I did!”

Hi, I do think this is an excellent website. I stumbled upon it 😉 I am going to come back once again since I bookmarked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide others.

“Well I do have a lottery ticket for tonight…”

You ought to take part in a contest for one of the most useful websites online. I most certainly will highly recommend this site!

“One of the most useful websites online, wow, how about that, and it’s only my first attempt at blogging  in public.”

Oh well, one can dream, now back to the serious content – my mindmap of Knox, J. (2015) coming up next.

Brief reflections on Sterne, J (2006)

I’ve just read Sterne, J (2006) The historiography of cyberculture, chapter 1 of Critical cyberculture studies. New York University Press. pp.17-28.  The authors discuss some useful points regarding the need to consider what should be ‘in’ or ‘out’ when studying cyberculture, as well as the need to avoid merging abstract ideas.

The fact that I’ve now written and rewritten this short blog post about five times is testament to the wrestling match I’ve had with this chapter.   Nonetheless I’ve managed to gain an understanding of the need for an approach such as the authors are advocating.

Given that digital technology is present in and impacts on almost every aspect of our lives expanding the study of cyberculture into other histories such as communication, culture and politics,  seems inherently sensible.  When one considers the enormity of this task one can see why scholars have tended towards perhaps simplistic “there was analog, and now there is digital” / “everything before cyberculture leads up to it” approaches.

TWEET: blurred lines between biology and technology

This appears to be yet another example of playfulness resulting in a technological breakthrough.  The author of this article “remembers the scientists getting so frustrated by the expense and limitations of conventional computing technology that they started kidding about sci-fi alternatives. We thought, ‘What’s to stop us using DNA to store information?  Then the laughter stopped. It was a light bulb moment”.

My first laptop computer had an forty megabytes of hard hard drive storage that held all of the operating system, application and my user files (other than those I chose to save onto a 1.44MB floppy disk.  Today the Windows 10 wallpaper options alone would take up more than that amount of disk space.

I’ve found it fascinating the way that the data capacity of hard disk drives and now solid state storage has increased exponentially over the years.  I can now buy a tiny high density SD card that stores sixty-four gigabytes of data, that costs just a few pounds and would enable me to carry around vast amounts of data.

For the average technology user I guess there’s a limit to the amount of data we storage we could usefully use in a lifetime but the idea of being able to store it in an organic medium brings with it some intriguing prospects.  How long before we can directly insert data into our brains for instance?  Could Neo’s instant learning of piloting or Kung Fu skills ever become a reality?

Borrowed from

Despite sensational headlines early last year about research conducted by California research facility, HRL Laboratories, we would appear to be a way off from developing such technology just yet.

Meanwhile, back in the current world,  I believe the limitations for the average technology user, including our students, appear to be not in data capacity, but in our ability to curate data in a way that enables us to access again when we need it. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, some of that still relies on the mushy stuff in our heads…and maybe Google.


TWEET: Could your robot go to work instead of you?

Yesterday I worked from home, I do so two out of five days most weeks.  During the course of the  day I took part in a number of one to one meetings via telephone and on Facetime, as well as group conference calls.  With Facetime in particular I find the experience almost identical to a face to face catch up.  All of the visual and auditory clues one consciously or subconsciously notices are present and the interiors of co-workers home offices can become familiar places where ones ‘disembodied’ self can go, without having ever visited them in real life.

The article linked above states that “Microsoft Research, […] says the Beam enables its staff in Russia, India and China to have casual chats in the same way as if they bumped into someone in the hallway.”  However, this does appear to indicate that this is a one to one conversation that would lack the serendipitous input of those not directly involved in a face to face meeting, who overhear something they are able to contribute to (sometimes positively!)  The nearest online equivalent I can think of is the hash tag in Twitter, which can elicit unexpected input in a very similar way.  However, unless you’re constant ‘tuned in’ to Twitter those sorts of interventions are rarely sufficiently synchronous to alter the course of a real-time conversation.  Maybe that’s where algorithms would come in with the remotely controlled robot selves – spotting patterns in conversations one might be interested in and alerting you to get involved.  Scary stuff when one considers some of the office banter one can get involved in!


TWEET: Cyberculture timeline

Labelled on the web as cyberculture timeline, but linked page is dead

When I first saw this timeline my baser instincts thought this was a timeline of pornography (paintings in 1478, video in 1977, CD in 2006 and virtual reality in 2016)!  However, I’m sure there’s more significance to the dates and it’s probably not the following:

1478 – First printing of Anathomia corporis humani (the first complete published anatomical text).

1977 – VHS video machines released in USA

2006 – Introduction of Blu-ray Disc

2016 – TNW is the logo for ‘The next web’. Linking back to the 1478 date the 2016 date might relate to a VR tour inside the human body that was released on Steam and the Oculus store.

The relevance here is to the periodisation Sterne (2006) refers to.  I’m beginning to see that the three blocks of this course, cyberculture, community culture and algorithmic cultures do not refer to particular eras and I will return to this later when we’ve concluded all three block.

Sterne, J (2006) The historiography of cyberculture, chapter 1 of Critical cyberculture studies. New York University Press. pp.17-28. (ebook)

Tweet: musings on block one visual artefact

I’m pleased with how my visual artefact turned out and even more pleased that it has prompted lots of interesting and varied interpretation.

I’ve written elsewhere that I can’t lay claim to having considered half of what my fellow students and our tutors have seen in the piece, but one of the benefits of presenting ones thoughts and feeling about a subject in this way is that that it opens up an additional level of discourse and expands one’s own thinking.

TWEET: WordPress

I decided to complete as MSc in digital education for two reasons. Firstly I wanted to understand more about a field that was relatively new to me and, secondly, I wanted to experience digital education first hand, to give me some indication of how the experience might feel for the learners I support in my professional practice.

One of the ‘halo  benefits’ of this is that the course has exposed me to lots of digital tools that I might not have tried otherwise. WordPress is one of these.  It’s something of an ‘industry standard’ and for that reason we adopted it as the blogging platform for our company’s learning academy.  This education and digital cultures course is the first time I’ve ‘delved under the hood’ of WordPress and it has been a very useful experience, enabling me to help our bloggers present their own blogs in a more accessible and organised way.

TWEET: Are cyborgs set to become a reality?

Taken from BBC Radio 4 website description of the programme:

“Diagnosed with early deafness aged 25, Frank decided to turn his misfortune to his advantage by modifying his hearing aids to create a new sense. He documented the start of his journey three years ago on Radio 4 in ‘Hack My Hearing’.

Since then, Frank has worked with sound artist Daniel Jones to detect and sonify Wi-Fi connections around him. He joins a community around the world who are extending their experience beyond human limitations.

In ‘Meet the Cyborgs’ Frank sets out to meet other people who are hacking their bodies. Neil Harbisson and Moon Rebus run The Cyborg Foundation in Barcelona, which welcomes like-minded body hackers from around the world. Their goal is not just to use or wear technology, but to re-engineer their bodies.

Frank meets the creators of Cyborg Nest, a company promising to make anyone a cyborg. They have recently launched their first product – The North Sense – a computer chip anchored to body piercings in the chest, which vibrates when it faces north.

Of course, the marriage of technology and biology is commonplace in medicine, from pacemakers to IUDs. But now ‘citizen hackers’ are modifying their medical equipment to add new functions. Dana Lewis from Seattle has created her own ‘artificial pancreas’ to help manage her Type 1 diabetes and released the code online.

To me the prospect of being able to hear wifi connections doesn’t sound particularly appealing, especially if the sounds are similar to those that will be familiar to any of us who remember listening to their modem or fax machine attempting to modulate a connection.

But I’m considering this situation as one whose hearing is relatively ‘normal’.  To those whose hearing is impaired, being able to hear more than their fellow humans could be a tantalising prospect.

I know from experience that hearing loss can be a much more isolating experience than, for example, sight loss.  Some years ago the mother of one of my colleagues suffered almost total sight loss as the result of an illness.  My colleague’s father suffered from chronic degenerating hearing loss that could not be restored with hearing aids.  Her mother was able to continue to be as involved in everyday life as she had been previously, if anything the amount of activities she was involved in increased, thanks to the support of the numerous groups for the blind and partially sighted that she joined.  Her father became increasingly introverted, separated from even his close family by his inability to follow a conversation.

There are numerous sci-fi movies / TV series where the protagonist’s hearing is amplified to superhuman levels (Superman, Heroes, Robocop, Buffy the Vampire Slayer).  In the film Lucy, the lead character suffers Hyperacusia,  as everyday sounds bombard her from every direction.  However, (and here is the key to all this) she learns to filter and process her new abilities and use them to her advantage.

There are some similarities here to one of my earlier posts on play and playfulness.  Individuals hacking their medical implant and prostheses might sound alarming, or even dangerous, but who knows what new applications, new senses, or even new ways of learning, might be born out of such experimentation

An added benefit

One of the great aspects of this MSc is the opportunity to experience and learn to use a variety of digital media one might never venture toward or even be aware otherwise.

For instance it’s unlikely I would have ever tried ‘Second Life’ had it not been for taking part in the ‘Games’ course, and even the very first activity I was involved in, posting to ‘Lino’, added a new tool to my toolbox.

WordPress has been a regular hunting ground throughout the course and up to now I’ve used it pretty much ‘vanilla’, without getting too involved in its inner workings.  However, I’m integrating WordPress as the blogging platform for the digital community I manage, so for this course I’ve decided to be more adventurous and learn how to add pages, custom menus, use categories and tagging more effectively and anything else I come across as I trawl through the settings and other menus.

Today I’ve added a home page and an image map to link to pages that automatically filter my posts by category.  One issue I’ve noticed is that the place holders for the later blocks of the course, where there’s no content yet, are effectively ‘dead links’.  To resolved that I’m going to try adding a post for each of the categories to act as a holding page.

TWEET: Play and playfulness

via Twitter
February 01, 2017 at 01:09PM

This is one of those news stories that at first sight appears to be about expending valuable academic resources on trivial matters.  However, as with other areas of research there will be spin-off benefits in fields that perhaps have more benefits to society.

As the article points out Prof Sandholm said that the algorithm could be transferred to a range of other uses.  This is not just about poker,” he said. “The algorithms can take information and output a strategy in a range of scenarios, including negotiations, finance, medical treatment and cybersecurity.  Now we have proven the ability of AI to do strategy and reasoning, there are many potential applications in future.”

This playful approach to research can yield unexpected dividends and, as such, it would appear that the approach can be as important as the outcome.  The early research into Graphene at The University of Manchester, by Prof Andre Geim and Prof Kostya Novoselov is a story of playful experimentation.  “Andre and Kostya frequently held ‘Friday night experiments’ – sessions where they would try out experimental science not necessarily linked to their day jobs.”  The first time Graphene was isolated, their basic technique consisted of removing  “some flakes from a lump of bulk graphite with sticky tape”.  Today “Graphene is a disruptive technology; one that could open up new markets and even replace existing technologies or materials. It is when graphene is used both as an improvement to an existing material and in a transformational capacity that its true potential could be realised.”

Play and playfulness takes me back to the IDGBL (games) course and the work of  Johan Huizinga (1995) and Caillois (2001).  In Huizinga’s classic work, ‘Homo Ludens: Man the player‘ he defines play as a key building block of human civilisation’.  He shows how play can be seen in the arts, poetry, philosophy and even in the law and in war.  Caillois’ typography builds on these theories and categorises various forms of play, which have proved useful in many contexts, including in education.

I can’t remember whether it was in IDGBL that we looked at Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work (1990), but he defined an optimal state of being in adult humans (flow), that also seems to have a lot in common with play and playfulness.  Flow in this context is “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it”.

So the lesson is, perhaps, that we shouldn’t underestimate the power of play and playfulness or dismiss them as trivial or frivolous activities.


Huizinga, J. (1995). Homo ludens: A study of play elements in culture.  Boston: Beacon press

Caillois, R. (2001). Man, play and games. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. (Preptint edition; original work published 1958)

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: the psychology of optimal experience