Thursday, October 29, 2015


Fragments of life: be framed and labelled;

Our being remains to be mined, 

To be showcased, ranked and B graded.

Ante-mortem our auto-dissection CV:

See skeleton remains, but all b. essence is lost.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Learning is a mechanism. 1. Starting point

I was browsing absent-mindedly a Facebook stream. 

There was something which attracted my attention. 

It was a Slideshare presentation. 

It was a Jesse Stommel keynote from somewhere. 

If I were on my PC, I would embed it but for now I place a link to the slides:

There were two aspects which immediately attracted my interest:

1) The image of a Stormtrooper holding an over-sized Scrabble tile (I think letter B). 

The Stormtrooper's body and head position were ambiguous. 

There was a story to unravel therein. 

The image of the Stormtrooper with the title evoked questions of power, violence and yet the Scrabble tile suggested play and the way in which the trooper was holding the tile made me think he or she or it was clasping a precious object to his breastplate armour.  

Was the tile a tablet? 
Was the tile a holy tablet?
Was the tile an infant?
Was the tile a book?
Was the tile a book of spells? 
Was the tile a book of spelling? 
Was the tile a volume of an encylcopaedia for the letter B?

My curiosity was aroused.

I love imagination-riffing off curious assemblages.

2) The title: Learning is not a mechanism.

I don't know why the title resonated so much.  

It is perhaps a gut reaction against humans being harnessed to machines. 

It is perhaps a throw back to Tess of the D'Urbervilles - a scene of country folk being strapped to the philistinian terror of a steam-powered COMBINE harvester. (I note I capitalise combine - I am not sure why - on questioning my choice - I insist on keeping it thus).

It is perhaps an emotional response against a form of "education" (I deliberately italicise)  that sees drilling, procedural steps, discipline, as 'professional', efficient', ´rational', 'serious', 'accountable',  as what the tax-payer, the shareholders?, are paying for, because as we all know, 'education' is expensive and 'time is money'.

We need STANDARDS to stand for.
We need STANDARDS to brandish.
We need STANDARDS to rally the troops.

Strangely however, it was not the title itself which really has captured my imagination, it is its antithesis:

Learning is a mechanism.

It was this idea which sparked a process of hunting, rummaging, reflection, remembering, questioning, reading, studying, collecting, puzzling, noting, ordering, packing, imagining, imaging.

I started drawing out signs on a Popplet. I started connecting symbols.
I quickly came up against conceptual, typographic, emotional, flatness (I quickly refer back to Nick Sousanis - and book mark Unflattening) 

Thinking with word tiles was not enough.

I think back to an earlier post Scrabble.
I think back to an earlier post Submission.

I realise that I am researching sensory, depth, context collapse, dynamic conceptual bubbling (that is the image which comes to me) here. I shall leave the unsatisfactory grammar as written. 

I am essentially immersed in this ecology of which I i i i i i ... am a part, of which I iiiii  are universe.  

I don't stop to question this for fear that I will delete it as nonsense. 

The Iiiiis have IT.

I imagine that to explore learning as mechanism I can not:

Do this with overview.
Do this alone.
Do this as sythesis.
Do this flat. 
Do this apart. 

I must do this through multiple, apparently disconnected vignettes (I note not really understanding this word and enjoying this idea.). 

I leave this in suspense...

Thank you Jesse for the tile.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Carving out time

Jazz is fed up with driving to Dunkerque.

He's gone to seek refuge at the back of the car. 

I have my hands free.

So how do I carve out time to write?


I am constantly making notes.


I am relaxed in this space.

I am not writing to form, to format, to deadline. 

This is a space of freedom.

I can travel.

I can time travel.

I can take Barbie's dress and put it on Action Man.

I can make Hermes fly Virgin.

How do I carve out time?

I started by ordering my work so I could, so we could function, so that time wasn't stuffed with stuff.

I stopped all time consuming nonsense like photocopying and most meetings.

I have classes which are learner centred. Sometimes I write during classes - while the other learners are busy writing. 

I write before classes after taking the kids to school.

I write while doing the cooking (on phone)

I write while watching TV.

Sometimes I write in the middle of the night. I wake up and have to write (it's a bit like the urge to go to the toilet/loo/washroom/bathroom/John/lavatory/ but worse - it takes longer.

Sometimes I write in the car.

He takes a photo to prove it. 

Sometimes I don't write at all.

I never NEVER EVER think I should write.

I hate should.

I don't think too much unless I am writing thinking stuff, academic stuff, stuff which must be aimed at a particular audience.

You see.

You (blind faith) are my reader.

YOU read this nonsense. 

YOU respond.


Thank you.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Our eyes connected.

“ESTRAGON: In the meantime let us try and converse calmly, since we are incapable of keeping silent.
VLADIMIR: You're right, we're inexhaustible.
ESTRAGON: It's so we won't think.
VLADIMIR: We have that excuse.
ESTRAGON: It's so we won't hear.
VLADIMIR: We have our reasons.
ESTRAGON: All the dead voices.” 

Samuel Beckett,
Waiting for Godot

I stood as if in a trance, my gaze fixed upon that lion. 

In all my life, I had never been so close to such a beast.

I was in awe.

We were silent. 

The babbling tourists suddenly backgrounded.

It happened quite unexpectedly.

I felt a shudder go through me.

Our eyes connected.

I couldn't figure what the lion was thinking, nor what they lion might be wanting to say. 

I wasn't at all sure how to address the lion, nor whether to do more than wish it well.

Our eyes connected.

We were as one in our lot.

There was nothing more to say.

"A Domain of my own", "Fedwiki",  "Blog",  "Equity", "Research", "Inequality", "Privilege", "CSS", "Elite", "Font", "Tenure", "Retired academic," "Tinker", "Tailor," "Beggarman," "Thief," "Stanmore", "Stanford", "Colorado Springs", "Agency", "Profession of faith", "Serendipity", "Rhizo14", "DS106", "Clermont Ferrand", "Pied de porc", "Peer Review", "Flower", "Good Golly Miss Molly","Pffft." "DLRN15", "Slack?", "God Save the Queen", "Mine!" "Yours!", "Whateva".

She was following the letters with her pencil.

She vocalised the consonants: D-D-D.
She vocalised  the vowels: O-O-O.
She connected the sounds: D-O-O-G.

She said the word: dog.  

She had said the word: DOG.

There was a look of triumph in her eye.   

Our eyes connected.

We met each other with a knowing look.

She had felt the power. 

She saw the sounds everywhere. 

She vocalised the letters, the consonants, the vowels, the words, everywhere.

We write, we speak, we code, we build, we assemble, we aggregate, we search, we search...

I saw a photo of a family beneath an ancient tree. 

Its roots were stretched deep down in the ground.

They were looking up.

There was a moment of silence.

We gasp.
We laugh.
We babble. 
We weep.

There is nothing more to say.



Monday, October 19, 2015

Pretty Vacant.

I  have been fringelurking #dlrn15 twitter streams and Vconnecting sessions.

I wasn't able to access the live streams, not sure what I missed.

I listen to people introduce themselves:

I'm a learning designer/consultant.
I'm a doctoral student.
I'm a post doctoral student.
I'm a hyper post doctoral fellow. etc

I'm not a doctoral anything, I'm just curious.

I feel, at times, like a gate-crasher.

I am not marginal. I am me.

Being me, I am marginal.

I remember when I was invited by a flatmate to a Jewish society evening in Manchester.

The others kept assuming that I was Jewish.

I wasn't from Stanmore, Golders Green, I wasn't Jewish. 

Why was I there?

They were confused.

I felt sorry for them, it wasn't their fault, it was mine.

Inclusion was impossible.

I suppose that I might have converted...

There are moments when I have the distinct impression that I inhabit a different planet.

I went to my friend's thesis defence last week.

He was talking about teaching classes of 80 students in Cameroon to speak French.

He had to pay out of his own pocket for his students to have access to the computer lab so that he could do his research in order to present his thesis.

The French/Swiss jury's refined questioning was possible only as a result of their privileged contexts.

As I said to a friend sitting next to me:

"If you are starving you don't concern yourself with how you want your steak cooked." 

We stood up to hear the jury's verdict.

He had made it, he was pronounced doctor.

There were tears in his eyes.

I felt like I was in church.

I never felt comfortable in church.

I don't care about robes and hymn books.

There are moments when I have the distinct impression that I inhabit a different planet.

It is not just an impression.

Enrobed learning.

If I embarked in research, it was to help me change things.

It helped us change things.

It gave us sufficient recognition/seriousness/validation/permission to give us the space to change things.

Somebody said "education is broken".

Was education ever not broken?

Two hoots..

Many of the teachers around me do not care two hoots for change.

Many of the researchers around me do not care two hoots for change.

Many of students around me do not care two hoots for change.

They appear pretty vacant.

Pretty Vacant

There's no point in asking, you'll get no reply
Oh just remember I don't decide
I got no reason it's all too much
You'll always find us out to lunch

Oh we're so pretty
Oh so pretty
we're vacant
Oh we're so pretty
Oh so pretty
A vacant

Don't ask us to attend 'cos we're not all there
Oh don't pretend 'cos I don't care
I don't believe illusions 'cos too much is real
So stop you're cheap comment 'cos we know what we feel

Oh we're so pretty
Oh so pretty
we're vacant
Oh we're so pretty
Oh so pretty
we're vacant ah
But now and we don't care

There's no point in asking you'll get no reply
Oh just remember a don't decide
I got no reason it's all too much
You'll always find me out to lunch
We're out on lunch

Oh we're so pretty
Oh so pretty
we're vacant
Oh we're so pretty
Oh so pretty
we're vacant
Oh we're so pretty
Oh so pretty ah
But now and we don't care

We're pretty
A pretty vacant
We're pretty
A pretty vacant
We're pretty
A pretty vacant
We're pretty
A pretty vacant

And we don't care

Lyrics. Sex Pistols.

I listened to people talk about the weather, enjoying dinner, agency and stuff.

I wondered why I was listening.

I wondered if  my time wouldn't be better spent talking with kids around me...

They, at least, might benefit from my care.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Please please me.

I was reading Maha Bali's post entitled Elites of marginals.

I am beginning to question the appropriateness of the term 'elite' to talk of 'popular' 'participants' in this 'networked society'.

Maha talks of the creation of an 'elite of marginals':

"In a cMOOC we are not all created equal. We are all writing in English. We are all expressing ourselves publicly. Two things not all people in the world are able or comfortable to do. Once you cross these two hurdles, you are faced with this: although we can all speak equally (to an extent) we are not listened to equally. Some people will have their blogposts retweeted more often. Some will receive more comments. Some will be constantly thanked and referred to by course participants and facilitators. And this will never be everybody. It will only be a few. A few, possibly, with a certain personality. Those become the elites of the marginals."

Does the attention attracted in terms of retweets, comments etc result in the creation of an elite?

Personality of an individual - does that enable him to access an 'elite', to be identified as elite?

Certainly people who consider themselves, who recognise themselves to be members of an old-established elite might be upset that they no longer capture the attention of the crowd, or of those with real power...

They are becoming irrelevant.


Can't dance?

OK write any crap you like.

If you write crap make it VIOLENT!

If you write crap make it SEXY!

If you write crap make it CATCHY! 


People don't want nuanced argument.

give them EMOTION give them DREAMS give them DRAMA


If retweets, or comments constitute currency, surely the attention generated by an academic is marginal compared to Rihanna.

Is a digital academic a marginal Rihanna, a marginal terrorist?

Who cares about reading your argument when others can make millions dance...die?

I turn to Wikipedia for a definition of elite:

"In political and sociological theory, an elite is a small group of people who control a disproportionate amount of wealth or political power. In general, elite means the more powerful group of people. The selected part of a group that is superior to the rest in terms of ability or qualities or has more privilege than the rest."

What constitutes disproportionate power in a network?

Is it those who attract attention of the 'small group of people' who don't need to attract a 'disproportionate' amount of attention?

Is it those who might benefit from any activity within a network who constitute the elite?

Is the size of the 'traditional elites' ever dwindling?

Don't we kid ourselves of our vociferous importance?


Doesn't the market govern education?

Is digital literacy really of importance or the access to the first click?

Viewed from a powerful drone perspective aren't we all just fucking ants?

Oh dear they killed an academic.

Shit they blew up a ruin!

Who benefits most from Gang nam style?

Are digital academics bit part players in a wider play to get people (in Africa) to dance to the same tune?

Facebook satellite to beam internet to remote regions in Africa

Please please me. 

(Don't bother reading. Just look at the Gif.)

Give me your attention

Give me a comment. 

Give me a like.

Pathetic isn't it?

Gangnam style 2,432,684,561 views.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A field of sound.

My sound investigation continues...

I am beginning to get a better idea of how my composition is most often dependent on visualisation with the page acting as a window to imagination.

When I am writing here I leave my immediate context, I escape to other places.

Yes, that's how it feels in 'Touches of Sense..." - each new page is a door to an adventure. It is very rarely a piece of paper or a table on which I can sort through ready made ideas.

Ideas gradually emerge through my fingers.  Ideas are for me most often visual scenes.

This is what makes trying to compose with sound so destabilising and so revealing.

When I am writing orally, my immediate context is foregrounded, I escape within the place.

There appears, bizarrely to be more introspection.

I wonder if this will last?

Perhaps I am able to ignore the page in a way that I am incapable of ignoring the sound of my voice, the sound field in which I am immersed, the novelty of the sound recording interfaces?

In order to really grasp what is going on, I resort to typing out transcripts of my audio captures.

That's it - to grasp it, to touch it, to objectify my thought.

I see myself a different light.

I've been reading widely recently to map out my research.

I shall make a few notes to come back to.

I am putting together pieces to sort in a Flipboard.

I shall return to the pieces along the way...

View my Flipboard Magazine.

Aside the Field

Immediately, I am faced with a decision: shall I try to describe the foregrounded/backgrounded sound? I decide not....

Shall I italicise my spoken words? I think I shall...


So here I am, I'm writing somewhere else. I'm walking...
So I've been thinking through this business of sound recording, while walking along a bridelway aside a ploughed field, in beautiful autumn sunshine....

I had to move aside a 4x4 nearly run us over. 

So clearly the running over bit wasn't scripted.

Jazz is pulling at the lead wants us to hurry up.

I have that feeling that I should be taking photos.
I have that feeling that I want to find out where those birds are. 

I wonder if you have an impression of the geography, of the topography.

I wonder if you can hear the breeze that I can feel on my skin.

This is writing differently. 

I'm more aware of the listening.
I'm more aware of wanting to myself while I am recording.

There's that light breeze which is picking up a bit of strength.

Walking along between the ploughed field and the stream.

It's very difficult to get an over-view.

I can't see a page.

I can't see the words...

There's a bird of prey circling above the field.

Let's wait. 
Let's wait.

Will it plunge?

It's circling.

That's Jazz getting impatient.

He runs back to me.
He runs into me.
He wants to go.

I suppose we had better move on...


My writing has never been (pause as he remembers another walk described here) that often rythmed by dogs.

He's writing this too.

Post script. 

The time and the wealth of the recording are reduced to words...

A world is feebly annotated.

"senses make place and places make sense" Feld.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


"No permanence is ours; we are a wave that flows to fit whatever form it finds."
Herman Hesse

I am not sure how long to make this.

I have been skimming Keith Hamon's recent post:  
"The Viscosity of Rhizo14". 

I feel that I should excuse myself. 


Should I be deep?

"Plus ça change - Plus c'est la même chose."

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

There are words...
We are stuck on objects.


I was skimming a Mariana Funes' recent post on her DoubleMirror blog.


Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

I am fixed in an outline in a pool.

I feel that I should excuse myself. 


Should I be deep?

"Plus ça change - Plus c'est la même chose."

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

“The lake was silent for some time. Finally, it said:

"I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected.” 



“I like the stars. 
It's the illusion of permanence, I think.
 I mean, they're always flaring up and caving in and going out. 
But from here, I can pretend...I can pretend that things last. 
I can pretend that lives last longer than moments. 
Gods come, and gods go. 
Mortals flicker and flash and fade. 
Worlds don't last; and stars and galaxies are transient, fleeting things that twinkle like fireflies and vanish into cold and dust. 
But I can pretend...” 




Image Credit

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Our silenced voices.

I am only too aware of how I have silenced my voice.

How ironic that you might confuse this, my writing, with my voice!

The kids are back from school, they are watching 'Face off' on TV.

I've been gagged.

Can't you hear the mutilation in my written "voice"?

I could never interrupt the TV now.

Shh...they will never know that I am "speaking" to you.

Even the dog is unconcerned by my ham-fisted typing.

“The typewriter is holy the poem is holy the voice is holy the hearers are holy the ecstacy is holy!”

Allen Ginsberg

A little while ago, I was venturing into new alien territories.

How do I "write" with my voice?

Here, I am blogging blasé.

Give me danger!

A few moments before, I was lost in Garageband, quite by accident, trying to give voice to my voice.

It is a question that I have been asking myself for some time now.

What is this voice that speaks through my fingers?

I think it through:

  • What is this voice constrained in this dialogue box?
  • What is this silent voice which moves me? 
  • What becomes of the words of others once spoken by myself?
  • What becomes of my words once written? 
  • Do you hear my voice? 
  • Do you hear your voice?
  • Do we hear our voices?

So there I was, lost in Garageband, quite by accident, a Metronome (I capitalise without quite knowing why) took over "my" space.

Ha ha ha, "MY SPACE"!

You can listen to that Metronome if you click here.

How does giving voice to my thoughts aloud alter my thoughts?

How does giving voice to my voice alter my voice?

It is a medium with which I am yet unfamiliar.

This is ironic, really.

How silenced are those who write?

This is where Terry Elliott came along to help my reflection.

His 'voice' was there in the comment box.

And now it is here with us:

"Do you know the myth of Philomela and the shuttle? I think it applies:"

How reverential are we towards our written selves?

How disabled are we to hear our silence, our...punctuation once spoken, once given breath - our heart beats?

This is the challenge that I give you:


Don't write before you have listened to your VOICE ALOUD!

I can hear another 'voice' echoing, that of Chris Friend:

"Make some noise: Voicing our written words."


Give voice to your written words certainly... but that is not what I am proposing.

"We are great writers on the same dreadful typewriter."
Allen Ginsberg.

Make some noise, write your SPOKEN words!

Open a sound recorder, open Garageband, SPEAK!!


A sound recorder will be your blank page.

Ha ha ha!


Don't stop it. Do we stop silence? Do we stop nonsense? Do we stop hesitation?

Write what emerges if you will, if you can, if you dare...

Isn't that how it was historically?

Isn't that what we have forgotten?

We have power in our voices.

There is power in our silence.

Whose power does our silent writing maintain?

Have you ever tried speaking aloud in a library?


Whose agents are there in this noisy silence?

Speak out now.

Write what you hear.

Write what you hear now.


A metronome's going 
Tick, tick, tick.
And then it's suddenly stopped.
What on earth is going on?

When I'm writing...
Those pauses,
Those pauses,
To catch the next word...
You don't hear.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Colander & condensation.

Blurring vision, veils of pitter patter, I turn inwards, envelopped in an armchair.

I stare at myself through pages turned.

I can not quite fathom the distance.

My vision is blurred by this present.

Any past of mine is already mist.

This is not a timeline. 

I am a mesh of memory, mood and marginalia.

Give me something solid to hang onto, goddam it.

All I see is condensation.

I draw out an ephemeral name.

Ensor, Condensor, Condensation...

That's it! I am bloody mist!

Goddam it, this is hardly reassuring.

A year stretches out through pages turned.

Is this a diary?

Are dates my coordinates?

I think not.

This is not a timeline.

It is a colander for the rain.


I am a new man. that is what it was all along.

That thing, that thing in the kitchen drawer.

I shall not die colander ignorant.

Image credit

Friday, October 2, 2015


The hopper was filled to the brim with harvest.

The field is now, for all intents and purposes, empty.

It is close cropped.

I can do no more for now.

No will, no wherewithall, no whatmenot.

I am fallow.

The life of a creator is not the only life nor perhaps the most interesting which a man leads. There is a time for play and a time for work, a time for creation and a time for lying fallow. And there is a time, glorious too in its own way, when one scarcely exists, when one is a complete void. I mean when boredom seems the very stuff of life.
(Henry Miller)