Category Archives: Lifestream synthesis

Week 12 summary…and finally

Back in the day the final news item used to be a light-hearted  piece about a skateboarding duck or similar.

Lionel the skateboarding duck – borrowed from

This isn’t going to be one of those…

So, what have I learned?

My biggest take-out from this course is summarised by these quotes:

"division of the social and the technological, and [...]the reduction of their complex entanglements to a clear relation of subordination" 
Bayne, S. (2014)
"...the MOOC as a complex entanglement of humans, educational institutions, technologies and geographies..."
Knox (2016)
"...the algorithm represents a much more complex relationship between humans and non-humans in education, pointing towards an increased entanglement of agencies..."
Knox (2015)

The field of education doesn’t exist in a bubble, isolated from everything else in the world.  Aspects of all three cultures we have studied (and more) have an impact on it, whether that’s in the way people perceive digital technology, how me might use it, or the negative effect its misuse might have.

cyberculture logo

At first I thought of cyber, community and algorithmic cultures as different eras, akin to the past, present and future.  My view now is that the three coexist, although one may be dominant in a particular situation.

I found the whole enhanced-human / android concept fascinating.  It’s clear that we’re already there in some respects. In the field I work in contact lenses, wave-guided laser eye surgery and digital hearing aids all have the potential to provide benefits that go beyond the restorative.

In my professional practice an awareness of our increasing entanglement with technology translates into treating technophiles and technophobes with equal care and regard.

Having gained an understanding of ethnography is very helpful.  Supporting an on-line community is a big aspect of my job and one I see as, potentially, the most rewarding.  One if the reasons I joined this MSc was to experience on-line learning as a student, so I now know I had ethnographic intentions from the outset.  I found Kozinets (2010) particularly helpful and comprehensive and I’ve already quoted from it on several occasions at work.

algorithm culture

“Making visible the invisible” will stay with me forever! It’s a great way to summarise the possibilities (and pitfalls) of analytics.  There was enough content to spark my interest and it’s a topic I will study further in the future.

The format is liberating, although being time-oppressed I found the loose structure tricky.

  • The first block was the most engaging and stimulating for me, I’d put this down to the greater sense of community created by the group activities.
  • The (deliberately?) fragmented communication in block 2 was a jarring contrast at first.
  • Block 3 merged into finalising the Lifestream and I didn’t have enough time to devote to both.

One other element I had to come to terms with was referencing non-academic sources.  I’ve resolved the mental conflict this caused me by looping back to ‘complex entanglements’ and realising that these sources (even fake news ones) have legitimacy in the context of digital cultures.

To Jeremy and James and my fellow students.

Incidentally the ‘…and finally’ news format lives on here!


Bayne, S. (2014) What’s the matter with ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’? Learning, Media and Technology, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2014.915851

Knox, J. (2016) Posthumanism and the Massive Open Online Course: Contaminating the Subject of Global Education, Routledge Taylor and Francis Group

Knox, J. (2015). Algorithmic Cultures. Excerpt from Critical Education and Digital Cultures. In Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. M. A. Peters (ed.). DOI 10.1007/978-981-287-532-7_124-1

Week 11 Lifestream Summary

I’ve made a good start on tidying up my blog this week, finally getting around to finishing off several draft posts from earlier course blocks.   There’s still more to do though and I’m grateful for these two weeks to get the work done. I’ve not felt any compulsion to edit existing posts, where I have added comments I’ve clearly marked them as additions to maintain the authenticity of the ‘lifestream’.

I have also been researching predictions for the future of social media, machine learning and artificial intelligence. There are a couple of items relating to this in this week’s blog posts and my reflections on them are included where I have had time to reflect on the ideas expressed in the relevant videos and articles.   I intend to add more metadata to these during this week.

Currently I’m full of cold and feeling pretty grim so I’m hoping I’ll be over that in the next few days and ‘on my game’ for the final furlong. An idea I’ve had for how to present my ‘web essay’ will require some testing to see if it will work as I intend it to.  It’s a concept that takes its cue from the film ‘Sliding doors’ and will be presented in video format, a medium I’m reasonably comfortable with and one that I haven’t made use of in the course so far.  Fingers crossed!


Week 10 Lifestream summary

A work project moving from the planning phase into full on delivery, together with commitments over the weekend, left precious little time for blogging last week.  However, I did manage to find several periods of time over the week to write the required analysis of the Tweetorial.  I’ve since had a few more thoughts on the use of Twitter for education and I will either add these to the analysis or create a separate blog post.

The fact that I have what amounts to some self-imposed analytics on my Lifesteam, in the form of the calendar of blog posts, hasn’t escaped me.

Calendar of blog posts
Calendar of blog posts

I included the calendar for two reasons, firstly because I thought it might be helpful to future students of this course who visit my blog and secondly because it’s a reminder to me of the course requirement to ‘add to the Lifestream almost every day’.   The irony of this is that the Tweetorial analysis I worked on over several days only shows as a single post – another example of analytics not necessarily ‘making visible the invisible’.

As part of my current work project I’m using Articulate Storyline to create a tool that will enable our practice managers to review their current knowledge and use their input to point them to resources that will help them.  This has involved creating a means of filtering their input, which has required a multi-stage approach and several hundred conditional triggers.  In effect I’m writing my own algorithm and it will be interesting to apply some of the thinking I’ve done around Algorithmic Cultures to how the tool might be viewed by those it’s intended for, and by others in the business.

The Tutorial on Friday was lively and useful.  It was interesting to hear everyone’s views on the Tweetorial and the Algorithmic Cultures block.  In common with my fellow students my thoughts are now turning to tidying up my blog, continuing to add metadata and starting preparation for the multi-modal essay.

Week 9 Lifestream summary

flat design illustration of human development - self development

As well as taking part in the Tweetorial activity this week I’ve started to go back through each weeks reading and update / add posts where I have more to say, or where I feel I now have a better understanding of the topic.

A TED talk by Amber Case, that I happened upon when researching Haraway, D (2007) has featured in several of my posts as, for me, some of the concepts  she discusses resonated with all three blocks of the course.   I created this visual artefact in response and have updated my thoughts on cyborgs and aspects of digital communities here.

I’ve started to pull my Tweetorial tweets into an order and I was intending to add some commentary to them, although I’ve now seen that a much more in depth analysis of all the activity is required so I’ll focus my attention on that instead.  It was an interesting exercise in social learning and, because it was carried out in the public domain, it illustrated some of the concepts around community and algorithms very well.  My attempts to entice Twitter bot followers with keywords failed miserably, but worked when I wasn’t actually trying.  This was the original source of the cheese related content, which in itself illustrated some interesting social cohesion, particularly once @helenwalker7  had taken up the challenge and run with it!

I’ve also started adding more metadata to many of the links embedded via IFTTT to indicate why I linked them and to expand on the points raised in the linked articles and videos (this for example). There’s more to do and some general housekeeping to make the whole blog more navigable, but I feel this weekend’s efforts have moved my understanding a step or two up the ladder.

Week 8 Lifestream Summary

It’s been an interesting week experimenting with algorithms. I’ve enjoyed trying to ‘reverse engineer’ the Amazon recommendation algorithm and, ultimately, going some way toward disproving my own hypotheses.

Reflecting on the cultural aspects of algorithms, I see similar dichotomies in the views people hold about them to those we saw documented in the literature relating to cyberculture and community culture.  To me this is clearly a linking theme and I see possibilities in exploring this in my final assignment for this course.

As with many other topics, the views people hold are likely to be heavily influenced by the media and, just as all things ‘cyber’ are often painted as worthy of suspicion, this does seem to be a ‘go to’ stance for copy writers and producers when taking a position on algorithms.  The banking crisis is probably the biggest world-wide event that has contributed to this and other stories, such as reliability issues with self-driving cars, or inaccuracy of ‘precision munitions’, add to the general feeling of unease around the use and purpose of algorithms.  I chose the latter two examples deliberately as there is a moral as well as technical aspect to both.

So the stories about algorithms that help people control prosthetic limbs more effectively, or to ‘see’ with retinal implants, or even driver-less cars  travelling tens of thousands of miles without incident, can be lost amongst more sensationalist stories of those same cars deciding ‘whose life is worth more’ when an accident is unavoidable.

As a result I wonder how much knowledge the general public has about the algorithms that make their day to day life a little easier, by better predicting the weather, ensuring traffic junctions cope better with rush hour traffic, or even just helping people select a movie they’re likely to enjoy.

One could argue that this underlying distrust of algorithms is no bad thing, particularly if this can lead to unbiased critical appraisal of their use in a particular field, as highlighted by Knox, J. (2015) with regard to their use in education:

“Critical research, sometimes associated with the burgeoning field of Software Studies, has sought to examine and question such algorithms as guarantors of objectivity, authority and efficiency. This work is focused on highlighting the assumptions and rules already encoded into algorithmic operation, such that they are considered always political and always biased.”

This week has made me a little more uneasy about the way “algorithms not only censor educational content, but also work to construct learning subjects, academic practices, and institutional strategies” Knox, J.  (2015).  In my professional practice we do not have the sophistication of systems that would make this a concern, but our learners are exposed to and learn from other systems and their apprehensions about how we might use their data will no doubt be coloured by their view of ‘big data’.  With that in mind this is clearly a subject I should have on my radar.

Apologies for writing double the word limit for this summary and including new content rather than summarising, it’s one of those subjects that, when once you start writing, it’s difficult to stop!


Knox, J. 2015. Algorithmic Cultures. Excerpt from Critical Education and Digital Cultures. In Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory. M. A. Peters (ed.). DOI 10.1007/978-981-287-532-7_124-1


Week 7 Lifestream Summary

Last week I was desperately short of time and I’m still catching up with some of the secondary readings and videos from the Community Cultures block, as well as trying to find some time to engage with my fellow student’s end of block artefacts.

The White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland

My main take-out from last week was definitely an appreciation for how much can be gained from observing an online community from within and the similarities between this and participant observation in the the ‘real world’ where the “researcher engaged in participant observation tries to learn what life is like for an ‘insider’ while remaining, inevitably, an ‘outsider’.” (Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector’s Field Guide).

I also spent some time thinking about my work role and the Learning Community I manage, how much I’m the instigator of the ‘cultural norms’ (Kozinets, R.V. 2010) that exist within its discussion forums, how many of these ‘norms’ I’ve created for my own convenience and how much of this is simply an attempt to lead by example.

I was relieved to receive some positive feedback from Jeremy on my ethnography write up, as I was concerned that some of it was wide of the mark in terms of the way it should be presented.   Many description of ethnography call for ‘rich’ or ‘thick’ narrative; telling the story from arrival and first contact to becoming embedded in the community’s culture.  With so little community to comment on this was always going to be a difficult task.  However, I think the finished artefact ticks many of the boxes in this description of ‘How to do ethnography ‘Nursing Research Using Ethnography: Qualitative Designs and Methods in Nursing’

“An ethnographic report includes clear and thick description of research methodology, including of people who participated in the study and the experiences and processes observed during the study.” […] “The researchers prejudices and biases are also highlighted.”


Mack, N. et al (2005) Qualitative Research Methods: A Data Collector’s Field Guide, Family Health International

Kozinets, R. V. (2010) Chapter 2 ‘Understanding Culture Online’, Netnography: doing ethnographic research online.

De Chesnay, M (2015), Nursing Research Using Ethnography: Qualitative Designs and Methods in Nursing, Chapter 5, Springer Publishing Company, LLC

Week six Lifestream summary

As Dirk neatly summarised in his Tweet earlier in the week, the multiple communication routes have been tricky.  I’m very conscious that I’ve hardly visited the Digital Hub or Twitter all week.  Instead I’ve chosen to spend the time understanding the readings or in the two MOOCs I joined, it’s entirely possible that this was at least in part an avoidance tactic.  Was this fragmentation of the community deliberate I wonder?

Toward the end of the week the untimely death of a colleague I’ve worked with for around twenty-five years also had an impact on my motivation and I’ve only really got back to some serious studying over the weekend.  An email from James Lamb regarding featuring my block one digital artefact on his  COMPOSITION:
 project site were a much needed pick me up.  Now I just need to find some time to write a rationale to go with it!

I do feel I have a reasonable understanding of community cultures and the value of ethnography and I think my artefact demonstrates that I have an understanding of what ethnography is and, perhaps equally importantly, what it isn’t.


Week five Lifestream summary

This week I’ve focused most of my effort on the core reading and spending time on the MOOCs I have joined.  While this has meant less time devoted to looking at resource links suggested by my fellow students and less time in the discussion forum on the digital hub, I do feel it has been the most productive way to use the time I’ve had available.  There’s some irony in the demands of involvement with the MOOC(s) resulting in less time available to spend with this course’s community!

Photo of hands holding paper cards with concept words

Joining a second MOOC has been a useful experience.  Both are facilitated by the same provider but the way the course is constructed is very different.  I was surprised to find that the first exercise on ‘greetings’ in the Spanish for beginners MOOC was presented in text format, followed by a quiz which involved trying to spot the written greetings in pre-recorded audio examples.  Several course participants commented on this in the discussion forum, pointing out the difficulty of knowing how the written words are pronounced, the effect of the various types of accented letters used and the relevance of the ‘upside down question mark’.  So far none of the course facilitators have answered the queries and the only help has come from other learners.  The issue has created a small amount of discussion and problem sharing, so maybe it was a deliberate ploy to create ‘common bonds of shared adversity’ (Lister, M. … [et al.], (2009)).

Post early to class discussion forum... nobody replies

The level of interaction I’m seeing in both MOOCs I can see that I won’t be able to present an ethonography artefact  that delves much deeper than the level of a survey.  However, I do think there are some interesting trends in the way the forums are used that I can highlight.


Lister, M. … [et al.], (2009) “Chapter 3. Networks, users and economics” from Martin Lister … [et al.], New media: a critical introduction pp.163-236, London: Routledge

Week four Lifestream summary

It’s hard to believe we’re already a third of the way through, it’s been something of whirlwind experience so far.

I found the visual artefacts we completed this week more thought provoking than I think I would have found written pieces, for a few reasons:

  • They’re  more immediately accessible, particularly the static images
  • There’s a certain amount of ambiguity, which is open to interpretation by the viewer (much like viewing an art work)
  • I have a preference for visual representation

I’ve not had as much time to devote to the subject matter or blogging this week, with evening commitments and several house guests over the weekend.  However, I have been working my way through Lister, M. … [et al.], (2009) and distilling the points raised that felt important, or that particularly resonated with me.  The first of these “Understanding the self as a networked presence has almost become a commonplace – consciousness is increasingly understood as an ‘assemblage’ in which technologically mediated communications systems are as much part of our consciousness as ‘nature’ or the body.” felt particularly pertinent to our thinking, as it links the cyberculture topic with community culture.

I’ve also signed up to the ‘Spanish for Beginners’ MOOC with ‘Future Learn’ and, while I’ve yet to fully understand the ethnography task, I have found the the introductory discussion forum is a mine of data about the participants, in most cases providing information such as their location, gender, why they’re taking the course and other courses they are enrolled on.  I have started to collate this data and I’m already seeing some interesting gender, location and motivation trends.


Lister, M. … [et al.], (2009) “Chapter 3. Networks, users and economics” from Martin Lister … [et al.], New media: a critical introduction pp.163-236, London: Routledge

Week three Lifestream Summary

Looking  back over week 3 (week 2 for me in reality) it looks like I take a rather humanist approach to most aspects of cyberculture.

My end of block visual artefact was not intended to represent my view of digital technology.  I don’t see ‘it’ as something to be feared, although it’s clear that many do.  It is the use we make of it as a species that is my primary concern. Reflecting on the media linked by my fellow students and content I have found myself brings some of this into sharp relief.  Indeed the blog post mid-week that followed reading Katharine Viner’s  article in the Guardian was rather more from the heart than the head.  From a thematic point of view I’ve definitely been more interested in ‘the preservation of the authentic human’.

The Google Hangout on Friday was useful.  As an on-line student it’s always good to know that you’re not alone and to hear first hand that others are having a similar experience.  Availability of previous iterations of the course was queried and it left me in something of quandary.  I had found Tweets and post from the 2015 course when researching some of the terms used in the reading, but I had avoided looking for the Lifestreams so as not to be influenced by them, or risk inadvertent plagiarism.  However, I came away from the Hangout with two thoughts; firstly that the blogs posts of our predecessors would be useful in helping me understand the concepts we’re studying and, secondly, that I’m leaving a legacy in my own Lifestream.  This latter galvanised me into making my Lifestream more accessible, with the bonus effect of helping me understand the inner workings of WordPress a little better.

I’m still catching up on the reading and film clips and have saved up (put off) the Cyborg Manifesto until early next week.