Archive for the ‘2018 Class summaries’ Category

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Class 11: Project presentations

December 13, 2018

Locks Aichi joined the class for the presentations by each team this week. A variety of approaches was taken including YouTube videos, Google Slide show to illustrate presentations in the classroom and finally, a visit to another location in SL which did not turn out as expected. The group gave us a link to a shopping centre to open their talk with a demonstration. Unfortunately, the owner was online when all thirty of us teleported there simultaneously and she assumed it was a griefing attack! After some serious confusion and much swearing on her part we returned to DIT. An explanation was sent to the shopkeeper by IM and the incident was concluded without any further rancour. It provided an excellent learning opportunity for the final meeting of our group – always ask permission before visiting someone else’s virtual space with a group – much as you would in Real Life. To be fair to the student team it had visited the location during the week and found it deserted and quite reasonably expected the same for our visit.

All teams presented with confidence and obvious preparation. Some presentations seemed more of a team delivery while others came across as a collection of individuals’ ideas but in each case the content was considered, coherent and relevant. Following the presentation each team answered a few questions from John and Locks and explained what tools they used to facilitate their group work.

THINGS TO DO TO COMPLETE YOUR ASSIGNMENT:

  1. Write the tenth post: to your blog reflecting on your team project presentation.

Blue team: PSS12, sarahmurph, RahaJamal, mclmichelle, LukeBob75 and EvoCall.

Green team: LouHug, haithanhnguyen, EmKoz1, NadsCore18, ShaunaHarkin and RoseDuong.

Red team: bennagle, ollyrobyn, Ruifeng Wang, clionabray, PeterKeane and hughkavanagh.

Mauve team: CiaraHoward, OPrincess, zoeobyrne, J98Carey, Assesi and marevatin.

Yellow team: Muriel001, JonathanBK, Whimseyy, maeveobrienny, JeromeZZC and Cmragasa.

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Class 10: Preparing your presentation

December 6, 2018

Uploading images to Second Life

This week we looked at how you might present your projects in next week’s class. John suggested that you may do this in the classroom in SL simply through voice, with each team member delivering part of the presentation in order; or you could do it in any other location you choose in SL (but be careful to ensure voice works – it can be shut off in some locations); you could include slides to illustrate the presentation; you might create a video in YouTube or Vimeo and give us a link on which to view it next week; you might act out the presentation in SL; or decide on any other approach that you think gets your message across.

We looked at importing images into SL to use on slides. Firstly, you need to ensure you have selected the module group. This gives you permission to build in the classroom. We created slide boards. Then John gave some of you L$200 so you could import images. Don’t worry, this is worth less than US$1! It costs L$10 to import an image which can then be dragged from your inventory folder to the presentation board, as required. We tried this out a few times to make sure everyone could do it. You were asked not to litter the room with too many boards and to clean up after you are finished.

If anyone else needs some L$ to import images just let John know via the Facebook page. And, indeed, if you have any other questions about the presentation ask them on Facebook too – that way everyone will benefit from the answer.

We agreed on the following order for the presentations:

Red Group; Green Group; Blue Group; Mauve Group; Yellow Group

Each group has between five and ten minutes, so including set up time and allowing for the inevitable glitches, it would be wise to allow some extra time for class next week – we might run on until 9.30 pm.

John reminded you all that you will be required to write two more posts to your blog. One this week describing your final preparations for the presentation and the final one after the presentation, describing how it went and your final reflections on the project.

Some participants have not yet submitted a link to their blogs. If your blog is not listed here it means I have not seen it and will be unable to assess it so send me your link immediately.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Write the ninth post: to your blog describing your final preparations for the group project presentation.
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Class 9: Walking away…?

November 29, 2018

Ursula K Le Guin, author of The Ones Who Walked Away From Omelas, 1973. Photograph by Benjamin Reed in 2008 from the obituary by Margaret Atwood in the Guardian 24 January 2018.

 

Glenn Loughran, lecturer in Fine Art and Programme Chair of the BA in Visual Art on Sherkin Island joined us this week. He took us through Ursula K Le Guin’s short story The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas in a way that gradually revealed the rich ideas contained in the story. Glenn suggested that there are many questions to work through in the text but began by asking for  reflections on the first part of the story and the sense of the world presented by Le Guin. What is the atmosphere, the underlying theory presented? It was agreed that it is a happy and peaceful world; it feels like a fairytale and has an old-fashioned quality. The community lives a simple life but could have technology if it wanted to – it seems to have consciously rejected that option. Did anything in the description give a sense that it is too good to be true? What is the philosophy of the community? Glenn suggested that it could be seen as an expression of Utilitarianism described by 18th Century English philosopher Jeremy Bentham and developed in the 19th Century by John Stuart Mill.

The relationship between the narrator and the text in the story is not fixed, with the narrator seeming to slip in and out of the story. This literary technique keeps the timeframe ambiguous: it could be past, present or future while also not revealing who the narrator is. It even sets up an ambiguity about who the reader might be. Why does the narrator say that the people are happy but also sophisticated? They are not banal but complex human beings living in a highly-developed society. Some of you felt that Omelas is a fake perfect world because it is one-dimensional but it was agreed that it is a society that has determined its own way of being.

Then Glenn asked what the turning point of the story is, suggesting that the community is conditioned by something. It took a while to arrive at the conclusion that the introduction of The Child turned the utopia into a dystopia. The child is kept in a degraded way and its situation never changes. Most importantly, everyone in Omelas is aware of the child’s existence. This is the condition on which the perfect society is founded. While everyone is shocked initially they eventually come to accept the condition. Why do they accept it? The Deal.

The moral dilemma at the heart of the text is how the community resolves the condition of the child on which its comfort is based. If we review this element of the story as an analogy to the world in which we live today the child becomes, for example, the slave labour that produces the commodities we use daily. They are frequently manufactured in conditions of oppression and dejection by what Marx described as alienated labour.

Are we aware of this? Do we know? Should we know?

On another level the analogy may be read as the dominance of one country over another or one continent over another – the Western World over Africa, for instance.

In conclusion, is it wrong to walk away? Many of you felt it is wrong and suggested it is refusing to take responsibility. The story makes you ask yourself if you would stay or walk away. It is not an easy decision. Nor is is easy to consider the consequences of either action.

Returning to the opening question of the text – can we escape technology? Again, many of you felt we are too used to it and would be reluctant to give it up. But, you did go on the demonstrate an awareness the impact of digital technology and, indeed, are taking action to limit your engagement. You talked of taking deliberate breaks from your phones, closing down computers so that you can read undisturbed and free from distraction, and you spoke of being aware of the influence of technology over your emotional state.

Glenn explained that many digital devices have inattentiveness built in. They are designed for a certain kind of hyper-attention which is why they can be difficult to turn them off. He referred to Stiegler (who we met in class 4) and his proposition that technology is both a poison and a cure, describing it as a pharmakon. The point is that technology is inherently neither positive or negative: we negotiate this position on an ongoing basis through our choices on when to engage and disengage.

After thanking Glenn for leading a very stimulating discussion and complimenting you all for engaging so thoroughly John suggested that it would help inform your preparation for the project. There were some questions about how the project might be presented. It is entirely your own choice. You may have your avatars present verbally, as we do in class; or through a written text; you may take us all to any other location in SL or use the classroom; you can direct us to a slideshare webpage or even produce a YouTube video. It is also possible to bring images into SL to support your presentation. It was agreed that we will devote next week’s class to discussing your options and describing how to achieve some of the effects you might want to try out.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Read: the summary of last year’s class discussion on this story and some insightful analysis by Mook Wheeler.
  2. Work: on the presentation for your Group Project.
  3. Write the eighth post: to your blog describing your final plans and preparations.

ADDITIONAL READING:

  1. For some context on Karl Marx’s theory of alienated labour read Anatomy of an AI System, by Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler. Their essay uses the Amazon Echo to describe an anatomical map of human labour, data and planetary resources [accessed on 29/11/18].
  2. To read more on the effect on attention by digital devices see Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes by N. Catherine Hayles in 2007 [accessed on 29/11/18].
  3. Relational Ecology and the Digital Pharmakon, 2012, by Bernard Stiegler is a good introduction to the author’s ideas.
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Class 8: Content and the Produser

November 22, 2018

One of the links to the reading material for the week was broken so John gave the class some time to catch up before getting into the discussion around content creation and the concept of ‘produsage’ proposed by Prof Axel Bruns.

We spoke of the changes brought about by the migration from the print medium to digital. One of the principal outcomes is the shift from mediated content, where ‘gatekeepers’ such as newspaper editors, publishers and so on, commissioned and controlled the flow of information to the public. Digital media has eliminated this necessity – authors are now free to connect directly with their readers and viewers through blogs, YouTube and even sites like Wikipedia where the public is invited to edit contributions. As a result, consumers of news and information are required to be their own editors. We need to be more discriminating in our consumption, unable to rely on the frame of reference that was previously provided by knowing the perspective of the newspaper we read, for instance.

Bruns’ proposal is that the web has facilitated the rise of new types of collaborative communities that require a new word to describe their activities:

Produsers engage not in a traditional form of content production, but are instead involved in produsage – the collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement. –produsage.org

John suggested that your own blogs are another example of content creation. The ubiquity of the internet supports the niche interests in a way that mass media publishing never could. The extremely low cost base means that anyone with access to the web can share their interest with like-minded individuals and develop a community.

Finally, I referred to the question of value. Does all content have value? How can content developers monetise their material? How can you protect it? For more on copyright read the post from this time last year A Word about copyright.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Read: the short story The Ones who walk away from Omelas by Ursula K Le Guin, 1973 [accessed on 24/11/18].
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Class 7: Privacy

November 15, 2018

We started this week with a discussion about your blogs with some general feedback on how you are getting on. John presented the assessment criteria given in the rubric again describing each one and drawing your attention to the weighting in particular. I stressed the benefit of smart working – don’t spend time doing work that will not contribute marks in your assessment. Be clear on what the criteria are and address them in your work. In this context the the content and creativity of your blog is weighted at 40% with your voice (or writing style) and design both weighted at 20%. Remember that.

We also considered what you should be writing about. You identified the instructions given in the ‘Things to do before the next class’ section of the class summaries. Each week you are given a topic to write about and these are usefully numbered from one to six (so far). This is the minimum number of individual posts you need to write. You should also be writing about the discussion topic for each class and the progress your team is making on the group project. I complimented you on the use of illustration in your blogs. This adds variety and keeps your posts interesting. Don’t forget to caption and credit any images. While the writing style common to blogging is conversational don’t allow it to be too casual. Remember to maintain an academic rigour in your references and vary your style from descriptive to reflective and critical as necessary.

There was a request for individual feedback on your work to date and I offered to meet you in SL after class or at another time that suits you. Let me know through email or the Facebook page and we can make arrangements. The first meeting was scheduled to take place after this class.

The topic for the second part of class was that of privacy. We spoke about the enduring nature of online activity and how things that you might have forgotten can return at the most unexpected times. The individuals referenced in the reading from last week lost their jobs as a result. I was a little surprised to learn that in your social circles you don’t appear to have conventions concerning the appropriate use of social media although, a few of you said that sometimes a group might agree not to post photos of an event without permission.

Image 16-11-2018 at 12.39

Social media app that offered privacy.

I mentioned the social networking app Path which was marketed on the basis of its respect for privacy. Working along the lines of Facebook but limiting the number of friends to 50 it was a good solution for families, providing a safe and secure space for networking. Strangely, it was unable to monetise this USP sufficiently and was forced to close down last month after eight years in operation.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Lecture: watch From Prosumer to Produser: Understanding User-Led Content Creation by Prof Axel Bruns (Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland Institute of Technology) who explains his theory of user-led collaborative content creation [accessed on 16/11/18].
  2. Read: Produsage– A Working Definition by Prof Axel Bruns [accessed on 16/11/18].
  3. Write the seventh post: to your blog with an update on the progress (or lack thereof) your team is making with the group project.
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Class 6: Persona, identity, presence

November 8, 2018

This week John started by reminding the class of the importance of re-reading the assessment criteria for your blogs. You will notice that one criterion relates to ‘timelines’ and suggests that regular updates each week are required. So, those who have yet to submit a link to their blogs should do so on the Facebook page as soon as possible. Please check that your blog is listed on the Student Blogs page and let me know if it is not.

Many of you have not completed the ‘About Me’ section of your blogs. It it important to provide a short and appropriate bio to your readers so that they understand your background and perspective. In that context you should also review your blog – try to approach it from the perspective of a first time reader – to ensure it is coherent. Tidy up the layout, deleting any leftover template placeholders or widgets. You have all included photographs of your SL experiences in your blogs. Ensure they are appropriately captioned and, if you are using images from any other source, remember to credit the author/creator.

We also spoke about how the nature of your writing should be developing over the last two blog posts. For the first three posts your were asked to describe your experience of SL and the module but now you are being asked to reflect on the experience of team building. Write about how you are finding the application of the theory we discussed in the third class meeting, what you think you are learning (or not learning!).

Finally, it is important to proof read your writing before posting. This is to eliminate not only typos and errors but also to improve your communication style. The more you re-read your posts  before publishing the tighter the writing and, usually, the better the final outcome.

As we began to discuss the concept of personal branding it emerged that almost none of you had read the two short texts set from the previous class. John explained that they were essential for any meaningful discussion so class was adjourned for a short period to give you time to read them now. Then John asked you to consider your own online identities and how they are made manifest. You talked about using social media apps such as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. You are aware of the impact on your profile that posting to these apps is having. You also spoke of the need for compatibility between your Real Life (RL) and your online personas. While it was not explicitly declared there is also an implicit understanding of the need to differentiate between you personal and professional profiles. However, John spoke of the difficulty in doing this in the era of Google and Facebook: these global enterprises are very effective in eliminating boundaries. In addition to collecting as much information about you as they can they also seek to compare the data and combine it in order to build as full a picture of you as they can. They don’t respect the boundaries you might like to keep. As a result it is becoming increasingly difficult to remain anonymous. It is very important, therefore, to be aware of the nature of the online environment and to maintain a high level of digital literacy.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Read: the Guardian article Yourth crime commissioner Paris Brown steps down over Twitter row from 2013 (accessed on 08/11/18).
  2. Read: another Guardian article Justine Sacco, PR executive fired over racist tweet, ‘ashamed’ also from 2013 (accessed on 08/11/18).
  3. Write the sixth post: to your blog about how you might convert your personal presence online into an identity for  professional networking.  
  4. Read: the academic paper User Generated Content and Virtual Worlds (accessed on 11/11/08). From the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, 2008.

Beach bum in the sun!

POSTSCRIPT
John has often thought, since starting to teach this module, that the ultimate benefit of teaching online is that it affords the opportunity to teach a class from any location, with the ultimate ideal of doing so while sitting in the sun on a beach. Travelling to conferences has required me to deliver the module from places such as Nantes, Vilnius, Poznan, Florence and other locations around Europe. We have also has participants join the module from Sherkin Island off the west coast of Ireland and various countires around Europe, the US and Australia. But this class was the closest I have come to delivering from a beach: on holiday in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Unfortunately, the vagaries of international time zones resulted in my having to teach this class at midnight local time! But at least my avatar got to wear a hawaiian shirt…

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Class 5: McLuhan and Stiegler

October 24, 2018

The discussion this week began with the question of some of the things that make us, as human beings, different from other inhabitants of the planet. Starting with the suggestion of opposable thumbs we eventually landed the human facility to develop sophisticated tools as the key differentiator.

Writing in the second half of the 20th century Marshall McLuhan suggested that tools are an extension of what we can do and, ultimately, an extension of ourselves. John referred to the reading from the previous week where the example was offered that if you pick up a hammer you don’t simply have a hammer in your hand you have a ‘hammerhead’ You’ve changed both the hammer and your hand. You have created a new functionality that neither object had before. While this gives you an ability to do things you couldn’t previously it also limits your perspective: you are now predisposed to hammering nails into things! Tools change the the way we interact with the world – they change us – they change society – they have an effect on our environment.

To understand the power of our tools McLuhan asked us to consider how we perceive the world around us; how is information coming to us: through our eyes, ears, finger tips? We talked about the nature of painting versus photography; radio versus tv and live interaction versus virtual reality. For example, listening to the radio is often done in conjunction with other tasks such as cooking, tidying or driving whereas tv tends to absorb all our attention (using tv as an example required some imagination on your part as none of you actually looks at tv the way my generation does but, the analogy was clear). This is a simple demonstration of how the medium, while somewhat invisible, shapes our behaviour.

Bernard Stiegler proposes the use of the Greek word Pharmakon in relation to tools, to acknowledge they are both the cure and the illness. He is thinking particularly of media technology. While tv absorbed the viewer’s attention fully there has been a distinct shift in our consumption of contemporary digital media (particularly social media). The result is a move from deep attention and engagement to a fragmentation of attention in short bursts, across a range of platforms.

The danger, as McLuhan put it, is that we are ‘shuffling towards the 21st century in the shackles of 19th century perceptions’. He urged us to try and be aware of the impact the tools we use repeatedly is having on our perception and understanding of our reality. This becomes increasingly important once we realise that our way of living is bringing about the demise of the planet’s ability to sustain our civilisation.

These are some of the concepts you should engage with in developing your project.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Read: Digital Identity Development is a Process. [accessed 25 October 2018].
  2. Read: Syrian lesbian blogger is revealed conclusively to be a married man. [accessed 25 October 2018].
  3. Look at: the infographic Personal Branding: 10 Steps to a New Professional You. [accessed 25 October 2018].
  4. Write the fifth post: to your blog describing and reflecting on the progress of your group towards developing an approach to the project.

ADDITIONAL READING:

  1. The Medium is the Massage is Marshall McLuhan’s best known work, written in partnership with graphic designer Quentin Fiore [accessed 25 October 2018].
  2. The other well-known concept developed by McLuhan is the Global Village [accessed 25 October 2018].
  3. Extrapolating on McLuhan: How Media Environments of the Given, the Represented, and the Induced Shape and Reshape Our Sensorium provides a deeper analysis of McLuhan. [accessed 25 October 2018].
  4. Reading Bernard Stiegler is a useful introduction to Stiegler’s work by academic and blog writer Sam Kinsley.
  5. Dive right into Stiegler and read Escaping the Anthropocene if enjoyed the theme of the discussion in class [accessed 25 October 2018].
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