Monday, December 28, 2015

The games of others.

It was quite an achievement for me.

I managed to get into jail free, skinned as Santa Claus.

There was a bed and a view of the trees.

It was perfect respite from trying to navigate.

I was officially declared 'rubbish' at Minecraft.

I got stuck in a very large hole that I dug for myself.

"How do you jump?"

"I only seem to able to dig."

I built a carbunkle in glass with no roof and had conversations with a couple of sheep.

They said, "Baa."

Meanwhile, as I was digging aimlessly, my son had built a parquet floored, glass-windowed, fully-furnished bungalow with brick roof and automatic doors, and a multi-level, torch-lit, super-jail with scary molten lava tunnel and skull features.

He added the lava after I was safely locked up in the cell.

He had been inspired by his friends.

He has participatory experience in this world that I don't have.

If only I could spend a few hours, days, weeks, years, developing joystick literacy.

If only I could spend a few hours, days, weeks, years, developing a new friend network.

I fear that it is too late.

Here I am, an immigrant, gazing wide-eyed at sky-scrapers and baroque cathedrals.

My son showed me the creations of others.

He knows where to look on YouTube for help in his town-planning.

I might as well dream of taking up stone-masonry and building York Minister.

It is too late.

I don't have the skill-set.

The architectural schemes in my daughter's bedroom seemed culturally more accessible:

Her world seemed more familiar to me.

It won't last.

I am slow reading (but yet to open) "Participatory Culture in a Networked Era" of Jenkins, Boyd, and Ito.

I am slow to participate in the collaborative reading proposed by my friends.

I am falling behind.

I keep getting side-tracked by the games of others...

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

What is it good for?

There are heated rooms containing paper relics.

There are shelves stacked high.

Noone goes there.

Perhaps they could save on the heating now?

I read through twenty pages of an academic's bibliography.

I couldn't concentrate.

I opened another tab.

News: KKK - Kim Kardashian Kimoji.

It broke the App Store.

1.99 $ you get a butt emoji.

That was worth knowing, I thought.

I opened another tab.

"When it comes down to it, what are unversities really for?"  screamed the article.

I thought that was a good question.

"Universities shouldn't be glorified providers of workplace training" it started.

I part.

It made work sound rather vulgar.

Isn't a university a work place? I thought to myself.

"The reality is that work experience - and only that - will teach work skills. Universities needn't bother."

One of the skills that the author suggested as important to learn at university was exam technique.

I wasn't sure that I could agree with that.

I left the classroom.

I met the students on the car-park, talking about their studies.

"We have spent two years just memorising theoretical stuff for exams." they said.

"We haven't actually been able to put any of what we have learnt into practice."

I asked them if they had ever had a dialogue with teachers about what they were learning.

"What good would it do?" they asked.

They coached kids on Saturdays.

I opened another tab:

"My students have paid £9,000 and now they think they own me."   

I wondered what the students paying £9,000 considered that they were buying.

I wasn't too sure what the answer would be.

I opened another tab:

"In a fake online class with students paid to cheat, could professors catch the culprits?"


The professors were unable to detect the cheats who passed with an A grade.

I thought of the archives and the floppy disks on the shelves.

Somewhere else, Kim Kardashian broke the App store.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Party management

I have to note this down immediately.

It is an important leap for me.

I am fascinated by story.

I was toying with complexity thanks to an improbable connection made as the result of remarking a Facebook conversation.

I wrote a post asking about the compatibility of story to complexity.

I had never heard of the term: 'Homo Narrans'.

I concluded my post a few hours ago with 'we are story.'

Homo Narrans...indeed.

I reflected on the patterns which emerged from my post.

I went and Googled complexity and narrative.

I fell upon a couple of videos by Dave Snowden (a person unknown to me).

I watched a first one. I watched it a second time. I shared it with friends of my network.

Terry Elliott immediately set up a Vialogue with the first video.

I will return once again to annotate.

There was a metaphor which immediately resonated.

Dave Snowden talks of different approaches to party management - for party management think classroom management, think education.

A complex systems approach to education therefore entails determining boundaries to what is acceptable and making sure that these boundaries are flexible and open to negotiation with the learners.

'Catalytic probes' are introduced, in the kids' party example -  'a video', 'a barbecue', 'a computer game', in the hope that a pattern of play (learning) will form.

If the kids group around the 'video game' it is what might be called 'an attractor' and if this 'attractor' is beneficial to the 'party' (think education,think language learning) we amplify it and if it is a 'negative attractor we dampen it.'

'We manage the emergence of beneficial coherence within attractors, within boundaries.

As an educator we manage what can be managed (not learning), we manage 'for emergence' (of learning).

This all suddenly rang bells with discussions around rhizomatic learning.

This all suddenly rang bells with discussions that I had been having with my colleague this week.

Over a number of years, we have been defining potential attractors, people, communities, activities inside or outside of the classroom, online or offline, negotiating boundaries with learners and colleagues, amplifying the beneficial activities, dampening the 'negative ones'.

We are constantly working in the present to adapt what we are doing.

'Managing the evolutionary present'.
Dave Snowden

We are in constant beta.

I never had this technical language before.

Along the way, we have been benefiting from the stories emerging from the participants.

We are constantly trying to rewrite our own narratives faced with complexity.

Dave Snowden's next points about research methodology - distributed ethnography will require weeks of study.

I then watched a second video of his entitled 'How not to manage complexity.'

Such an important conference!

I have much reading and listening to do.

I made a link with conversations that I had had with Bruno Winck about knowledge managment.

On reading around, I fell upon the Cynefin Framework, a diagram that I had seen before, noted, but never searched the source.

It was a framework that Viplav Baxi had talked about in a conversation that I had noted partially a few hours before...

I have a fair amount of learning to do...

Toying with complexity

"What difference do you think you can make - one single man in all this madness?" 

Terence Malick. 
The Thin Red Line.

The forces laid out on the floor were aligned in battle order.

The infantrymen were placed in front of the artillery with the cavalry waiting in the wings.

With one glorious charge the cavalry shattered the enemy lines, men fell like ninepins.

Victory was sweet.

I had it all planned out in my mind.

"I will join the marines. I want to be a commando."

The storyline changed over the years.

I was watching a conference of Dave Cormier.

At first I thought nothing of it.
I watched it again.
I thought nothing of it.

Then I read a comment stream.

I don't know why.

Boredom perhaps.

There was a conversation going on between Viplav Baxi and Dave Cormier.

Viplav Baxi Awesome Dave Cormier! I loved your talk and you made a really clear and cogent argument for change. Kudos! Will probably follow up with some thoughts on the Cynefin framework - I really don't believe that anything is really that "simple".
LikeReply8 hrs
Dave Cormier will be buy that sometimes refying to simple is a useful expedient?
LikeReply7 hrs
Viplav Baxi Just worried that simplifying what is not simple may reify current practices
LikeReply7 hrs
Viplav Baxi So by saying 'what is the capital of France' is 'simple' to google and answer maybe reifying the mindlessness of rote
LikeReply7 hrs
Viplav Baxi And justifying traditional practices of assessment for those 'kinds' of questions or knowledge
LikeReply7 hrs
Dave Cormier Think about all the things we reify in learning to drive a car. If you tried to understand each of the steps you'd be overwhelmed.
LikeReply7 hrs
Dave Cormier So we say 'pressing the gas pedal makes the car go faster'
LikeReply7 hrs
Viplav Baxi You are right of you are focused on the outcome. But is that education?
LikeReply7 hrs
Dave Cormier Viplav i'm never in favour of justfiying assessment smile emoticon
LikeReply7 hrs
Dave Cormier Viplav sometimes. Education is just social shaping. We can shape it a bunch of different ways
LikeReply7 hrs
Dave Cormier I'm in favour of shaping the main instrument of education towards complexity
LikeReply7 hrs
Dave Cormier But sometimes i just want to 'learn' how to use my coffee roaster. Tell me what to do. I"ll do it.
LikeReply7 hrs
Viplav Baxi Reading Dewey right now. So introspecting. He writes that etymologically education means just a process of leading or bringing up. When we have the outcome in mind-that is when we talk in terms of shaping into the standard form of social activity
LikeReply7 hrs
Viplav Baxi If we stick to the former definition then we lead to instead of design to
LikeReply7 hrs
Dave Cormier all we can do, i think, is try to broaden the definition of education in inclusive ways. i think 'changing the definition' is probably more tgan we'll be able to accomplish
LikeReply6 hrs
Viplav Baxi Broaden the definition?
LikeReply1 hr

There was one comment of Dave Cormier which sparked my thinking:

"I'm in favour of shaping the main instrument of education towards complexity."

"How can education not be an illustration of complexity?" I thought to myself.

Then I read:

"But sometimes I just want to 'learn' how to use my coffee roaster. Tell me what to do. I'll do it."

I thought of ritual, of habitual, of process, of story.

I remembered a comment of my grandmother, aged 80.

"When I look at myself in the mirror, I just don't recognise myself."

I remembered a comment of my mother, aged 75.

"When I look at myself in the mirror, I just don't recognise myself."

They were unhappy with a plot-line which had escaped them.

I remembered a slogan on a t-shirt.

This is not the life we ordered...

I thought of climate change.

I thought of the people gathered together in some hangar, just North of Paris, hugging each other at their part played in some historic agreement.


"What difference do you think you can make - one single man in all this madness?" 

Terence Malick. The Thin Red Line.

I was watching a trailer for a documentary entitled 'The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson.'

In the documentary, a man faces up to his imminent demise:

"The idea that death is imminent makes you realise what a wonderful thing it is to be alive."
Wilko Johnson.

He becomes hyperaware of the joy of his existence.

"Everything lifted off of me. The present, future, past, it was all concentrated down into the moment...I'm alive."
Wilko Johnson.

"How does one 'shape education' towards complexity?" I thought to myself.

What is life if not complex?

What is education if not story?

Is complexity compatible with story?

"Everything lifted off of me. The present, future, past, it was all concentrated down into the moment...I'm alive."
Wilko Johnson.

What are these stories?

I thought of Terence Malick.

I don't know why.

"What difference do you think you can make - one single man in all this madness?" 

Terence Malick. The Thin Red Line.

Friday, December 11, 2015


There is only one way to build an Airbus, there is no poetic licence allowed.

Engineers all over Europe use a 'simplified English' specially conceived for the aeronautic industry which removes every possible ambiguity from their minds and hands.

Forget a rivet and the results are potentially catastrophic. There is no space for interpretation, no leeway for inference.

One word means one thing.

I was reminded of this while reflecting on a post of Kevin Hodgson entitled: "A single word can change a story. (perhaps)."  In it, he talks of a writing experiment based on the #25wordstory format.

The story is here:

His stated aim was:

"to infer another story, behind the ornament being put away, and also, to shorten each sentence to make the story more and more compact by the end."

It wasn't the story in itself which caught my eye at first. It was the folllowing sentence:

"And what, I wondered, would happen to that story — still so very short — if I changed that last word to something else."

Kevin goes on to experiment with the addition of the word: 'Laughed' or the alternative 'Cried.'

Short Fiction Ornament String

Words play off against each other like notes of music, I remark later.

It was not this that I really read.

I was already elsewhere.

I was impatient.

I had seen the climbing frame, dropped all bags and rushed off to explore.

That story had become a playground.


How many interpretations were possible from Kevin's story I wondered?

How might our reading of the same words produce different meanings?

What were the constraints in his text as written and how were they engineered?

I tapped on Audiocopy and did a series of recordings.

The first recording seems to reveal the intimacy of Kevin's writing. There is an apparent melancholy, and age to the person, or at least a depth of nostalgia. She is apparently alone, there is ritual in her actions, there is a precious fragility in the ornament.

The story recalls to me my mother, at Christmas, alone, tucking away little brass angels from a candle blown angel wheel.

The story, short that it is, opens up possibilities for me of identification, for imagination.

Three minutes later, the tone has changed.

The reader is apparently unsympathetic to the woman and her ritual.

There is mockery in that voice. The story suddenly seems less intimate, more critical. Perhaps we can imagine that it is part of a larger comic collection of incidents.  What was once preciously hidden is open to ridicule. I am beginning to add ornament to the recording in the way of a photo.

The photo has become a black box.  If the mockery has disappeared, the voice appears as neutral narrator. I no longer feel that the box is open. The story is a series of words, there is no depth.

Suddenly the ornament, 'that ornament' has become disassociated from the memory.

She has 'tucked that ornament away' in a drawer? What now is 'the memory'? Why is not in the same place as the ornament? The change of stress on the words has changed the story, I feel less drawn to the question of why the woman might laugh.

What on earth is 'the memory'? How might one put a 'memory' in a box? What is she trying to forget?

Poetic licence - I ignore the punctuation, which in no way suggests that there are two people speaking, to invent another person in the scene. The woman is no longer alone with a narrator, she is being bossed around by a Monty Pythonesque civil servant: 'Put the memory in a box out of view.'

She is rescued by a more neutral, even sympathetic narrator.

Suddenly I feel empathy for the woman, how on earth did she get into a relationship with that prat? sounds like we're hearing the Wind in the Willows or some Jeeves story. Now I am getting irritated by that narrator imposing a reading onto a text which it didn't deserve. On top of that, what on earth has the image uploaded to Soundcloud got to do with the story or the tone of the story?

Laziness, I mutter to myself.

Here we are back to breath, back to melancholy, back to sadness.

All is as it was...until a last, sinister, laugh.

What has she done? What was that ornament? Who has she murdered?

We have gone from melacholy to macabre with a laugh.

Memory box.

I am finding it hard to remember these different emotions, different characters, so I stitch the readings together in iMovie, find the only video footage that I have which I feel is indistinct enough give space enough to these different voices and publish on Youtube.

Music box.

I then wonder how might music affect the atmosphere, the tone, the meaning of a single reading.  I drop a sound file into Garageband. I go and run my fingers over Thumbjam, choose what I feel is appropriate instrument and assemble voice with music.

Cello perhaps? Bassoon? I am not sure, but the music appears to open up the text to a new theatrical dimension. What has the writing become now? I feel that I want to know the other movements to which this piece is part.  There is darkness in this assemblage....

A string ensemble... a change of atmosphere, a change of decor, of epoque perhaps, baroque maybe? Suddenly, the woman and her box appear as a period piece, crinolines, candle light, and consumption...

Goodness, where on earth are we now? Electro, echo, reverb, what has the writing become now? Are the words backgrounded? Are the words just beats in a strange dance? There is an underlying rythym to those words...

Rhythm (from Greek ῥυθμός, rhythmos, "any regular recurring motion, symmetry" (Liddell and Scott 1996)) generally means a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions" (Anon. 1971, 2537).

Ritual becomes mechanistic, I only care for motion, any person appears lost to machine.

I almost want to erase the words so that they become sampled beats.

I suddenly remember Stromae.

There is nothing precious in that box, however you look at it.

It is that emptiness which moves us.

Alors on dance.

Box sets..

I find a box.

I find a collage box in Accapella.

Am I enriching the story?

Am I changing the story?

Has the story become something else? I am not altogether sure.

I insert it here for reflection.

I save the video from Accapella to my camera roll and see how I can change it again with PicPlayPost. The story become secondary perhaps to collage. Are we less concerned now by the meaning and more concerned by the graphic effect? What has become of the words? I don't know. I insert it here for reflection.

It feels like that I have finished with the ornament. I have put it in a box, to move on...

We need words as boxes for resonance.

Writing is closer to music than I imagined.

That sounds right.

I make it a mental note.

What of laughed?

A final thought occurs to me.

What of that word that Kevin added?

What of 'laughed'?

I laugh.

There is nothing in the box.

Faced with emptiness we might as well laugh.

Whose ornament are we?

Who is laughing now?