When is a bookshop not a bookshop / not just a bookshop? https://t.co/q8i04bYTXH Size matters; scale = marketable, & thus political #mscedc

This Tweet refers to this article from the Guardian:

I find it ironic that these bookshops are treated as ‘unbranded’, in that they don’t have ‘Waterstones’ on the outside. Instead of being branded with a corporate name tag, they are locally branded: ‘Southwold Books’, and so forth. Rather than branded by source, they’re branded by site. And cosy, bookish, middle-class sites at that. (Would Waterstones soon come up with, say, ‘Toxteth Books’? Less likely.)

This appears to be clearly a new guise for market expansion by Waterstones. Perhaps it will feed local economies (the article mentions it boosting house prices: the now-standard UK marker of communal value?) and, as such forms another manifestation of civic boosterism.

What it is unlikely to be, however, is a site for “combatting tyranny, frustrating censorship, sustaining hope, providing meeting places for dissidents, and keeping minority languages alive”, to quote from one review of Jorge Carrion’s ‘Bookshops‘ (2016, trans. Peter Bush; London: Maclehose/Quercus), a tour-de-force of the world’s bookshops. I could be wrong, but I fear ‘unbranded’ shops will be surface rather than deep, corporate rather than conviction-driven, looking more like Borders than a border-and-crossing point between cultures, perspectives and exploratory learning.

High-street bookshops within the UK have suffered variously under digital cultures. I’d love to be wrong about these shops. And I hope our learning spaces more generally can be a little more edgy, diverse and genuinely open. A few weeks ago, apparently, the fight-back began for bookshops: the bookseller from hell. And is there, also, a word from the Other Place?


[A late addition: on 9 March, with an unrelated focus, Southwold’s shops returned to the news in this piece. Having said it’s unrelated, the Waterstones shop provides a fascinating angle on the pressures of and on the High Street of Southwold.]


from http://twitter.com/Digeded

Filling in online surveys looks like a slow way to build any communal spirit https://t.co/Lrqzv9HSa2 But so many do ask us to do so. #mscedc

Quite surprised by this article from the Guardian:

Surprised that it’s in the money section. More lack-of-money. Surprised that someone fills out surveys for four years in the hope of £50. But also glad it’s discussed. The points system sounds remarkable…

From the answer provided for NN, it sounds like a little creative tampering with one’s online profile might be more productive. Some false answers on the surveys, perhaps. Some outlandish outlier (-liar?) responses might speed it along. Of course, not very good for YouGov data. Nor for one’s ethics. But for £50….? Just posing the question, but not in any way any more attracted to online surveys.

from http://twitter.com/Digeded

@dabjacksonyang And technology getting us hooked can get very tricky when it goes wrong: goo.gl/D20YXH #mscedc

A further chip in:

This article from the Guardian is another marker of how quickly legal issues get drawn into technology’s use, misuse and mistakes. Memories of an earlier post about a Church of England bishop who pressed the wrong voting button at General Synod. Here, it’s much more communal, perhaps, much more of an unbounded echo chamber. But, in multiple scenarios, it’s going to be a matter of ‘the case continues’.

Education is also becoming increasingly drawn into legislative discourses: this isn’t driven completely or simply by technology but, again, there are multiple linkages and potential fracture points. I’m a little surprised that this legal dimension is not more evident in the Edinburgh 2016 Manifesto for Teaching Online. Perhaps ‘instrumentalisation’ and ‘surveillance’ hint at it, but the legal dimension within the manifesto’s horizons seems much more pervasive, and infused, than simply these two terms would allow.

@dabjacksonyang Indeed: ‘like me, like me, say that you like me’. The compulsive urge for a retweet. You (all) know what to do… #mscedc

I’d spotted this piece, but when I came to Tweet it, Daniel had already flagged it up. A chance for some conversation. First this:

And then this:

It was the tragic-but comic, comic-but-tragic angle I hoped to trace.

The original Guardian article sparking the exchange is here:

I’m aware I’m going with the flow of a pre-publication marketing campaign for a book (see yesterday’s post, on this same book – now, today, I’m fed the chapter sample), a campaign which I’m accessing via digital media, but irony aside, I think this is a cracking read. I’ll probably buy the book… I hope it has footnotes for its claims.

1. The psychological attractions of mixed feedback, where less positive feedback is more.

[Beyond this article, this week I’ve also been sent a petition by a close friend via change.org – and, having signed it, I’ve quickly unsubscribed: even one’s convictions become gamified with ‘like’ options from others. What if I don’t care, I just want to hold this or that option, regardless of ‘likes’? It seems harder to do so, online.]

2. “It’s hard to exaggerate how much the like button changed the psychology of Facebook use.” This section fed my Tweet line, and I think makes the piece worthwhile in itself. The non-neutrality of ‘liking’, even mixed in with its potential for banality, is a theme running through other posts this week in my Lifestream. The article mentions Lovematically, and an online search on that term throws up some fascinating responses and reactions to it.

3. Losses disguised as wins, and the design of games: free games where you can pay to keep on playing; Zodiac and Candy Crush, and the role of ‘juice’ in game design.

In the ‘challenge’ of a game, I’m reminded of what Vern Poythress describes as “a pattern of commission, work, and reward” being the fabric of human biography and history (Redeeming Sociology: A God-Centered Approach 2012: Crossway, Wheaton, p.100): are digital designs connecting with, and making use of, something deep within us all?

4. “Predatory games”: what a lively (and cyborgish) metaphor. “Some experiences are designed to be addictive for the sake of ensnaring hapless consumers, but others happen to be addictive though they are primarily designed to be fun or engaging. The line that separates these is very thin; to a large extent the difference rests on the intention of the designer.” They are two fascinating, fascinating sentences. The questions of (a) ‘the designer’ and (b) intention within design, are not often so bluntly raised. The contrasts with Donna Haraway’s ‘Cyborg’ myth are stark and suggestive. Here, there is talk of ethics, of games even being ‘predatory’. This leads to Tetris, and the comment that “Tetris is a game with a very strong negative motivation. You never see what you have done very well, and your mistakes are seen on the screen. You always want to correct them.”

5. “Humans find the sweet spot sandwiched between “too easy” and “too difficult” irresistible. It’s the land of just-challenging-enough computer games, financial targets, work ambitions, social media objectives and fitness goals. It is in this sweet spot – where the need to stop crumbles before obsessive goal-setting – that addictive experiences live.” And, I’m sure Alter would add, communities should be on his list here, too.

6. “You start playing because you want to have fun, but you continue playing because you want to avoid feeling unhappy.” Is this the human condition? Even a metaphor for games – or ‘Community Cultures’ – not being able to answer our deepest needs?

@j_k_knox Edinbugh looks gorgeous. For us in rain / indoors, this on nurturing communal learning spaces: https://t.co/cdZy4Mhuz0 #mscedc

Engaging with Jeremy Knox’s provocatively outdoors-shot opening to this week’s EDC course in this Tweet:

It landed while I was searching online for more about Adam Alter, the author of Irresistable, the book mentioned in a previous post. Specifically, it coincided with looking at Alter’s website, which has a stack of fascinating looking pieces written by him. This one article, from my rainy, wind-swept setting, at least gave me a handle on Jeremy’s setting, without the need for a train ticket.

Without reaching the station marked ‘environmental determinism’, there seems to be a lot of sensible wisdom in this piece. Clearly some settings will be more able to throw money at such things. Somewhere, randomly, I read over the weekend that Google spends $17 per employee on food per day (yep, I know, it sounds like a made-up stat, but it stuck for me). I don’t think my employer quite has that kind of budget, but perhaps we all have to do the best (and be creative) with what we’ve got.

And it’s interesting to consider what that means for digital spaces, too. The previous Post, about Alter’s book Irresistable, suggests design-for-addiction. Where, I wonder, is the sweet spot for effective encounters, relationships and collaboration – between addiction/determination and revulsion/apathy?


from http://twitter.com/Digeded

Another helpful collection from @StuartElden, here re. time-management. partic’ly for researchers. https://t.co/lOWNst7CtN #mscderm #mscedc

Like a similar Tweet last week, I’m trying to promote stuff that’s helpful to me, thinking that it might be helpful to others in similar circumstances.

Otherwise, the needles stay in the haystack, and it’s hard to thread threads. If I was a blogger myself, this is something I’d want to promote, so I’m trying to use Twitter as a micro-blogging tool.

Also, I’m trying to copy in some originators, both the thank and acknowledge them, and to encourage and build their networks. ‘Community Cultures’ seems best fed, that way.

This Tweet has been ‘liked’ and ‘retweeted’ by Stuart Elden, and is triggering (in my experience what constitutes) lots of ‘likes’ of it. A curious echo-chamber of momentary connection with lots of strangers. Perhaps a performative metaphor in there for some global communal digital cultures.

Another retweeting, and out go the Edinburgh hash-tags with it, too. I wonder, does anyone ever look at them….?


from http://twitter.com/Digeded

Another wk of ‘Community Cultures’. Here’s a thoughtful book review to help, if it’s all becoming addictive: https://t.co/uHEwf5e6UG #mscedc

As mentioned on a previous post, being here in ‘Community Cultures’ feels a bit like my own personal Groundhog Day. This review from the Guardian helps me settle into it:

My guess is that it’s not a completely new scenario. I expect (the book isn’t published yet) it will march in step with other commentators highlighting the early stages of digital incursions in our lives, and the need for vigilance.

I’m interested in the questions of design-for-addiction and, also, for connections with  a view of human nature as fundamentally erotic, as intended to love someone or something – and whether digital devices might be attuned to such longings. From memory, I don’t think he touched on digital cultures, but I’m thinking of this kind of book, from James K.A. Smith:


[That said, this is not just the digital. I remember standing in a supermarket queue over the weekend, and seeing this brand of yoghurt:

Seeing it, or hearing it? Somewhere in between. The brand label does try to function as a speech-act but is not quite as effective (for me, at least) as is often the case with electronic hardware. Somehow, I resisted the yoghurt.]

It can be vacuous to describe a book review as ‘thoughtful’, but I especially appreciated the penultimate paragraph from this review, which at least raised some question marks others might bring to this book. I’ll probably look to read this book when it comes out. Curious that it’s already a ‘best seller’ (below): the speed of digital capitalism is immense – and/or of its sale pitches.


from http://twitter.com/Digeded

Note to self: don’t sign out of ‘community cultures’ (quite yet)

Laughing to myself, in a still slightly confused way. I *thought* the ‘Community Cultures’ block finished with week 6. Now, at the start of week 7, I’m noticing it has another week to run!

It makes for an extra week in which I will probably go back on my MOOC. I’d merrily wrapped up on that, at the end of last week, and deposited my mini-ethnography. It might well be useful and interesting to return to it for a different ‘take’, or at least another one.

It makes for an extra week’s pause before ‘Algorithmic Cultures’. I’d been very much shifting in my seat ahead of that move, and it’s curious now to have some time on my hands, and not rush on to it.

Just that sensation in response to the *extra* week is an interesting one. I’ll try and self-consciously see what a week of unexpected space creates.

And, please, please, someone tell me if I’m wrong, and ‘Algorithmic Cultures’ is already merrily under way.

Lifestream summary, week six

This has been a packed and stimulating week. I’ve appreciated the ways in which some posts have continued to track back into ‘Cybercultures’, but more have begun to reach towards ‘Algorithmic Cultures’.

A trending theme through the week has been alternative, shadow or even deviant sides of ‘community’. This was sparked, I think, be my misadventures on my MOOC, which I’ve communicated in the mini-ethnography posting. I was ‘flamed’ on Friday of last week, and only reported it to the moderators on Monday, who didn’t take any action until Thursday, so its shadow hanging over the week has – productively, I think – informed some of my trajectories.

It’s helped prevent ‘community’ being too warm and cosy a term. Instead, over my postings, it’s been the realm for hackers, cyber-warriors (human and bot alike), pursuers of truth (and false news, and all points in between), for those exploiting, and exploited by, platform capitalism and the gig economy.

‘Community’ has been vibrant, uncertain, unsteady and somewhat claustrophobic – you can’t disconnect (easily), even if you want to – not while it has impinged on all areas of life, smudging away any neat boundaries between online and offline living. In a number of posts, it’s sucked in the law, refracting legal issues in new ways – and, also, politics, culture, society, economics and even the everyday practices of the home and family life.

Clearly education is implicated in all this, both as catalyst and as reaction. Even on the relatively narrow rim on which my digital life is lived out, digital irruptions have been a daily and interweaving reality. Here, education matters – a lot. Having started the ‘Community Cultures’ block thinking “oh, that’s probably FaceBook”, and so not really me, I’d now instead say, more inclusively, “that’s life”.

My mini-ethnography about a MOOC

I’ve never used Thinglink before, so here’s my first ever attempt, trying to use a visual format for my MOOC report:


I’ve structured it around an airport image, and specifically an airport security image. Like an airport, the MOOC struck me as a temporary site, a transit zone within an ongoing journey of learning.

It also struck me as a policed zone. I encountered this when signing up, via the usual kind of terms and conditions, now experienced as a researcher. I also encountered it via a friendly and constructive email from the moderators, when some learners had queried the nature of my involvement in the MOOC. Having adjusted my involvement according to their suggestions, I also encountered this when confronted (and I choose the verb deliberately) with an aggressive response from one fellow learner. After some deliberation and reflection, I reported it to the moderators as a personal attack. A few days later, the comment was removed by them, and marked as such, which felt like some kind of addressing of this situation (but with no email response from them).

Ethnographically, this encounter had knocked the wind out of my MOOC-learning sails, but also provided the insight I needed for this mini-ethnography.

On the Thinglink, my matched ‘A’ comments seek to contrast the nature of ‘open-ness’ within a MOOC, and some of the tensions within it. My matched ‘B’ comments do likewise regarding entering the MOOC space: the learner’s sense of empowerment and disempowerment, and especially when played through the lens of a rookie on-line ethnographer (albeit one with significant offline experience).

The trio of ‘C’ comments offer the core of my observation. As with any online community, it’s not formed from a tabula rasa. And learners’ expectations come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I’ve sought to contrast two which I encountered, and I’m pleased with the mirrored wording and mirrored architectural graphics I’ve managed to include. At the heart of my findings, I think the mini-ethnography problematised and extended Kozinets’ typologies for me. I’d found the typologies helpful and illuminating, and still do, but the ethnography has revised my working hypotheses regarding them. I’m more persuaded, after the ethnography, about the importance of course design, scaffolding for learning, and learning facilitations and interventions.

The trio of ‘D’ comments try to capture this, both as a lived experience in the MOOC and as a working hypothesis for further consideration. I’ve tried to use some ordinary-but-unsettling images from the airport scenario to capture something of this. And then, with the ‘E’ comments, I’ve tried to illustrate them with more conventional myths of the airport as site of consumption and mobility, but not completely without the sense of policing and threat. That, for me, attempts to encapsulate the tensions I’m left with from my brief but very stimulating MOOC experience.