Friday, September 19, 2014

The Spaceman Episode.

Where was I now?

I go to the costume shop, and as if by magic, the shop-keeper arrives. Good Morning [afternoon] [evening][night] (choose appropriate) Sir, how can I help you today?

Each day I go into the changing room, I take off my bowler hat, and then all at once I am attired in a new costume.

At the back of the changing room, I open a door and suddenly find myself in a new country/[planet]/[town]/[village]/[landscape] (choose appropriate) and embark on a new adventure in which I will meet the inhabitants and learn to adapt myself to their/my/our? world.

These scenes come from my favourite TV program (or at least my favourite TV program when I was 6) Mr Benn.

Costume changes
Clearly Mr Benn had a big impact on my imagination because, I only had one ambition as a child and that was to be Mr Benn.

I wanted to have adventures, change costumes and live many lives.

I shall attempt to synthesise:

I have been unemployed, a factory worker, a waiter, a salesman (on phone and door to door), a probation officer, a counsellor, an agricultural worker, a labourer, a taxi-driver, a van-driver, a production assistant in the media, a journalist, an actor, a public relations executive, a translator, an interpreter, a writer...(now, I come to think of it, I could say that now, I had never assumed that costume before)

I have been a teacher: of farmers, factory executives, secretaries, technicians, scientists, teachers, unemployed, computer analysts, sports-people, world-record holders, builders, painters, sculptors, soldiers...

I have been a researcher as long as I can remember.
Now they say I am a researcher. (what took them so long to recognise me?)

I have been almost completely British, I am now perhaps half French.

Oh you get the message.

I have indeed succeeded in my ambition, I even referred to Mr Benn in a conference I did in Plymouth in 2011 entitled "In Search of Nomad's Land".

An absolute obsessional identification, I would say. I am Mr Benn's stand-in.

Space changing
In recent months, it has become apparent to me that Mr Benn's world is becoming outdated as a metaphor for my life. It started with my working with the UK for the CLAVIER project, and then it accelerated.

Today as a teacher I am working with the UK, Poland, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Japan, the USA, Brazil, Cameroun.

5 years ago, I was only concerned with a room of twenty five students at one moment, today I am concerned with perhaps something over a 1000 or more students and teachers who are all over the place.

Things are going haywire
As another term starts, after only one week, things are going haywire. First day in class, we had students chatting with a friend of mine working on a Ski Resort in Australia, during the week we had students reading my blog, seeing their snow hat from last winter being commented on by people all around the world and retweeted by Rihanna (a robot - I kept that quiet not to spoil the effect) on Twitter.

Happy Birthday
Then it was Maha's Birthday, why don't we sing 'Happy Birthday' I thought, - well why not?

In thirty seconds, their singing was on the internet winging its way to Egypt, and the USA, and Brazil, and Australia...well wherever.

Pretty quickly, Kevin had remixed their song, Terry had Zeega'ed the birthday meme in Arabic, Maha had blogged on it and sent back a sung response to my students (they are unaware of that for the moment unless the one Tweep has done his job for the masses and sent it viral in Clermont Ferrand STAPS).

Out on the town with mates
Yesterday, I started the day with a blog post entitled 'In the Tribble Valley' inspired by a series of tweets between people who I had never met (I did see @heloukee from afar in Plymouth in 2011, I seem to remember, I detected a familiar accent and demeanor). These people are living in completely different contexts, in completely different time zones, from completely different cultures.

My only way of assimilating what was going on was to imagine a fictional environment in which these characters met, interacted, and played. I am pretty sure that this environment would be completely different for each person involved in my Tribble Valley Saga.

This is clearly not Second Life or the World of Warcraft but a space much more liminal, much more fluid, much more powerful.

It is a shape-shifting space.
Yesterday, I continued the day with a picnic, a #clavpicnic at for me lunch-time. When I arrived at the picnic spot (a hangout) nobody had turned up.

No matter, I was preparing myself for a presentation with my friend and colleague Marcin Kleban in Krakow.

I was in the room with him from my learning space in Clermont Ferrand. I could hear the bad acoustics of the room in which he was/we were?. We were sharing the slides on the screen in Krakow inside the slide share of our hangout on air. which was simultaneously being broadcast to the world. After the first three slides, I chatted noisily (you can hear it on Youtube) to Keith in Florida who had turned up in the picnic.

He told me he would go and get a coffee. He had had a hard night.

(I shall make a mental note for next time not to forget to mute the headset - metaphor to remember - it's just like the translator's cabin that I used to work in for the Short Film Festival in Clermont Ferrand REMEMBER to MUTE)

We had never done that before, we only tried it out the day before.

There will be a few tweaks to be made after a debriefing, but the immediacy of being in a room in Krakow, from a room in Clermont Ferrand was absolute, to the extent that I was able to butt in to respond to questions from the people attending our Poland.

Connection embodied
Marcin and I's relationship has no doubt been enriched by visiting each other's homes and countries this year, a dream for many people who have extended online personal networks and the ties which bind us I feel are profound - perhaps because of the distance.  There is a part of Poland in me now.

Picnic in space
Meanwhile back at the picnic spot, Terry and Keith had turned up. It was six and seven o'clock in the morning for them and they had dropped everything to spend a little time at a picnic to chat with friends.  The picnic was clearly not in the Tribble Valley as the cockerels, (roosters  as Terry says) were calling in dawn, Keith was sun-tanned in Florida, Terry was all backlit Dutch painting.  I was in a learning space in Clermont Ferrand after having finished my spot in Krakow. I am not at all sure where we can say we are? I have the impression that it is like being 3 spacemen in spaceships on journeys through the universe who are desperate for connection to others who have meaning for them.

Space communication
A light lit up on the Spaceship's dashboard. It was Susan. Could she connect too? I have no means of picturing Susan's space at the moment she asked that. I scrolled through Susans desperately seeking Susan. No time to find Susan amongst the world of Susans. I get back to Terry and Kevin. There was one of my best friends Blaise, in Cameroun who spent last Christmas with us. Could I connect him up? I frantically flicked a few switches on the dashboard. No means of connection, frustration felt and noted.  I shut down the picnic transmission. I noted other Spacemen, Arthur, Ronald perhaps who had been listening in to our conversations, unknown to us while we were travelling through space connected by some virtual, umbilical tube.

Down to earth?
I come back to earth, I look back at Connected Courses home page and look at the blog/twitter feed. I note a talk between Mimi Ito and others I don't know. I start watching that, a bit distracted by my thoughts.  I click around, I see Gordon's Comment grabber. Cool work Gordon! I had seen his fantastic work on Rhizomatic Learning with Dave Cormier. I come back to 'Connected Courses' I click on units 1-6. I suddenly discover that this is really a course. That comes as a bit of shock. There are suggested readings, links, that comes as a bit of a shock. This is a course, I had forgotten what a course was. I make a mental note. Please try harder to remember that this is a Course.

Favourite TV programs
I start thinking about Mimi, and then wonder what ever happened to one of my favourite programs. A pretty recent program with three guys: Click, Link, Embed. Whatever happened to the three guys. I am already missing their program. I followed up their program with investigation of their blogs. I like their blogs. I like their comments. I like Spaceman Howard's hat.

I suppose I have to look up in the schedule to see when they are on.

Crap detection?
I identified immediately with their show. I reckon that this must be like Mr Benn. We need characters who somehow capture our imagination. We need to feel embedded in a culture. We need security of signal in a world of complexity, in a world of noise and nonsense. (Crap detection?)

There is danger here.

Who do children identify with? Superman? Spiderman? Ironman? Barbie? Gandhi?

I start thinking about how I navigate the blogs, how I navigate Twitter, how I smile when I click on recognisable avatars.

I am beginning to extend my circles of empathy, I am beginning to see that I am part of a much wider world.

This feeling fills me with hope for my children.

I am reminded of quotes of Einstein, the ultimate Spaceman:

Wow, how did that happen? 

I don't remember Albert Einstein appearing in the Spaceman episode of Mr Benn. 


Note to self: Children may need a new Mr Benn.


  1. Or not a course. I figure, why label it with any label? I'd rather see it as another connector node in my journey, taking place alongside Rhizo14, Ds106, CLMOOC and more. In fact, the set-up in the frame of a course turns me off. But I dig in anyway.

    1. Kevin, of course we agree :-) Looking forward to new adventures, poems, laughs, songs, soul (soul quoi - I like this French way of saying i.e.)

  2. Oh Simon, I love your posts. Sorry to have missed my first journey invite. Alas and alack. I picture your Self winging through the universe/earth/dimensions all day yesterday and that makes me happy. Is #ccourses a course? :-) I have to look into this Mr. Benn....hold on....OK, I love that spinning wheel at the beginning that shows all of his personas/costumes. How apropos for you.

    This: "I am beginning to extend my circles of empathy, I am beginning to see that I am part of a much wider world. This feeling fills me with hope for my children."
    I share your feelings on this and it also gives me hope for me. The connections we are all making have changed how I look at my own profession - and this is no small thing.
    I wsh I spoke French - I would quote something very beautifully French here.
    Instead I will quote one of the tattoo on my back (Michelangelo): Ancora Imparo.

    1. I don't speak French either, doesn't stop me from blathering. ;)

    2. U like Talking Heads Stop Making Sense? Psycho Killer Qu'est ce que c'est?
      U understand French Terry.

    3. Careful what u wish for...
      French tattoos are chic :-)

  3. Note to self: "Ceci n'est pas une pipe."

    Note to self: The Academie will not save us.

  4. Love this post, Simon. Love it on so many levels. Love getting to know you better and how you're seeing yourself... (missing the clavier picnics, so sorry, maybe one day I'll be able to make it, but it's difficult - woulda loved to meet Susan especially).
    I also love the Einstein quotes - never knew Einstein talked about empathy (one of my favorite things).
    RE: ccourses being a "course" (kinda hard to escape with that title, but I, too, keep forgetting it's a "course"). To be honest, I keep wanting courses to not require me to read anything... though the readings are mostly valuable, I tend to find myself feeling embarrassed for not having read them, for blogging off the top of my head without reading first (as I said in a recent post). BUT I also refuse to make the course-i-ness of it interfere with my engagement, and I'm trying not to get apologetic about it, and just enjoy the connecting part.
    But yeah, I'm finding the website two course-y for my liking (system B, I think Terry called it? too structured?) but enjoying the social media aspects of it regardless

    1. I see "course" as a lure, bait for big fish.

      Remember the emperor's clothes? :-)

  5. I really enjoyed your post too, Simon, thanks.

    To follow on from Maha's comments above, I quite like the 'course-y-ness' of #ccourses as I am finding I need some structure to help me cope with the seemingly chaotic and random nature of all the "connecting" going on. I love chaos but can get overwelmed by it. Then again, perhaps it is not such much the 'course-y-ness' that helps me, but rather the act of writing and reflection that makes things tangible and meaningful.

    1. Hi Karen I get the impression we need quiet streams like libraries, structures which reassure, to enable people to find what they need want. Will blog on quiet, silence, think pb is idea of having just one gp, one community, one, site to pull in tags, one calendar etc.

      At the same time it's important to have mix. Hard questions :-) thanks for your thoughtfulness :-)

    2. I have developed stillness in frenesy, I realise that I am perhaps apart in that.