19 November 2008

AoIR 10.0, Milwaukee

After a great conference in Copenhagen last October, The Call for Papers for AoIR 10.0 has been released:

Call for Papers

Internet Research 10.0 - Internet: Critical

The 10th Annual International and Interdisciplinary Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR)

October 7-11, 2009
Hilton Milwaukee City Center
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

As the Internet has become an increasingly ubiquitous and mundane medium, the analytical shortcomings of the division between the online and the offline have become evident. Shifting the focus to the fundamental intermeshing of online and offline spaces, networks, economies, politics, locations, agencies, and ethics, Internet: Critical invites scholars to consider material frameworks, infrastructures, and exchanges as enabling constraints in terms of online phenomena.

Furthermore, the conference invites considerations of Internet research as a critical practice and theory, its intellectual histories, investments, and social reverberations. How do we, as Internet researchers, connect our work to social concerns or cultural developments both local and global, and what kinds of agency may we exercise in the process? What kinds of redefinitions of the political (in terms of networks, micropolitics, participation, lifestyles, resistant or critical practices) are necessary when conceptualizing Internet cultures within the current geopolitical and geotechnological climate?

To this end, we call for papers, panel proposals, and presentations from any discipline, methodology, and community, and from conjunctions of multiple disciplines, methodologies and academic communities that address the conference themes, including papers that intersect and/or interconnect the following:

* critical moments, elements, practices
* critical theories, methods, constructs
* critical voices, histories, texts
* critical networks, junctures, spaces
* critical technologies, artifacts, failures
* critical ethics, interventions, alternatives.

Sessions at the conference will be established that specifically address the conference themes, and we welcome innovative, exciting, and unexpected takes on those themes. We also welcome submissions on topics that address social, cultural, political, legal, aesthetic, economic, and/or philosophical aspects of the Internet beyond the conference themes. In all cases, we welcome disciplinary and interdisciplinary submissions as well as international collaborations from both AoIR and non-AoIR members.

We seek proposals for several different kinds of contributions. We welcome proposals for traditional academic conference PAPERS and we also welcome proposals for ROUNDTABLE SESSIONS that will focus on discussion and interaction among conference delegates, as well as organized PANEL PROPOSALS that present a coherent group of papers on a single theme.

Call for Papers Released: 17 November 2008
Submissions Due: 1 February 2009
Notification: 15 March 2009

All papers and presentations in this session will be evaluated in a standard blind peer review.

* PAPERS (individual or multi-author) - submit abstract of 600-800 words
* FULL PAPERS (OPTIONAL): For submitters requiring peer review of full papers, manuscripts of up to 8,000 words will be accepted for review. These will be reviewed and judged separately from abstract submissions
* PANEL PROPOSALS - submit a 600-800 word description of the panel theme, plus 250-500 word abstract for each paper or presentation
* ROUNDTABLE PROPOSALS - submit a statement indicating the nature of the roundtable discussion and interaction

Papers, presentations and panels will be selected from the submitted proposals on the basis of multiple blind peer review, coordinated and overseen by the Program Chair. Each individual is invited to submit a proposal for 1 paper or 1 presentation. A person may also propose a panel session, which may include a second paper that they are presenting. An individual may also submit a roundtable proposal. You may be listed as co-author on additional papers as long as you are not presenting them.

Selected papers from the conference will be published in a special issue of the journal Information, Communication & Society, edited by Caroline Haythornwaite and Lori Kendall. Authors selected for submission for this issue will be contacted prior to the conference.

All papers submitted to the conference system will be available to AoIR members after the conference.

On October 7, 2009, there will be a limited number of pre-conference workshops which will provide participants with in-depth, hands-on and/or creative opportunities. We invite proposals for these pre-conference workshops. Local presenters are encouraged to propose workshops that will invite visiting researchers into their labs or studios or locales. Proposals should be no more than 1000 words, and should clearly outline the purpose, methodology, structure, costs, equipment and minimal attendance required, as well as explaining its relevance to the conference as a whole. Proposals will be accepted if they demonstrate that the workshop will add significantly to the overall program in terms of thematic depth, hands on experience, or local opportunities for scholarly or artistic connections. These proposals and all inquiries regarding pre-conference proposals should be submitted as soon as possible to both the Conference Chair and Program Chair and no later than March 31, 2009.


* Program Chair: Susanna Paasonen, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies
* Conference Co-Chairs and Coordinators: Elizabeth Buchanan, Michael Zimmer, UW-Milwaukee School of Information Studies and Center for Information Policy Research; Steve Jones, University of Illinois-Chicago

11 November 2008

Writing in the margins

An interesting project started yesterday at the Institute for the Future of the Book: a close reading of Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook by seven women, who will conduct a conversation in the margins.

This was very intriguing for someone who spends her life writing in margins of books (but only in pencil, only as a murmured comment, which can be retracted easily should the book pass on to another reader). The comments on the Golden Notebook are in a way similar to comments on a blog post, except that they belong to the text because of their position in the same screen:

The question they are trying to answer is the following:

What do you hope to learn?
We don’t yet understand how to model a complex conversation in the web’s two-dimensional environment and we’re hoping this experiment will help us learn some of what we need to do to make this sort of collaboration as successful as possible.

They also note that

Good conversations are messy, non-linear and complicated. The comment area, a chronological scrolling field just isn’t robust enough to follow a conversation among an infinite number of participants. Seven may even be too many.

Real conversations are not very common in comments sections of blogs, and they usually include the blog post as conversation starter, and the blogger as an integral part of the conversation. Their conversations will be about the text, but without the input and guidance of the author of the text, and as such will be very interesting to watch.

Interesting too that they should choose Doris Lessing, who famously warned against the ïnanities"of the Internet in her Nobel prize acceptance speech:

we never thought to ask, How will our lives, our way of thinking, be changed by this internet, which has seduced a whole generation with its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging etc.

28 October 2008


A very interesting bibliography, commissioned by LiveJournal, is published online by Alice Marwick. Whereas a number of articles refer specifically to LiveJournal, most of them are interesting reading for blogging in general. It can of course be used in conjunction with danah boyd's bibliography of research on social network sites in order to get a a broader picture of youth online and their various practices.

13 October 2008

How many euro in a trillion???

Counting in millions, billions and trillions is not easy for one who still can't recite her time tables. Add in some translation and cultural differences, and it becomes impossible. I never knew a French trillion had nothing to do with an English or American trillion. I never had to worry about it before either, but it seems that if the Americans lose a trillion, they lose a thousand billions, but if the French were to lose a trillion, they would lose a billion billions. All I can think about is Scrooge McDuck diving into his money...

06 October 2008

Surveying the surveys

The best, most informative and relevant survey has just been posted on Language Log. It is well worth copying and pasting:

Do you believe the world has gone survey mad and that nearly all surveys done are a gigantic waste of time? __ strongly agree
__ sort of agree
__ utterly undecided
__ hardly care
__ sort of disagree
__ strongly disagree
Do you think surveys asking for people's opinions about the way things are, rather than verifiable things they have done, are an even more extreme form of stupidity, resulting in nonsense like "43% of employees believe managers may be snooping on them" being passed off as news or even social science? __ strongly agree
__ sort of agree
__ utterly undecided
__ hardly care
__ sort of disagree
__ strongly disagree

Does it sometimes occur to you to just refuse to do any more surveys until the morons who make them up show some signs of getting their act together? __ strongly agree
__ sort of agree
__ utterly undecided
__ hardly care
__ sort of disagree
__ strongly disagree
Do you sometimes suspect certain surveys of having commercial motivations that are not fully disclosed until later? __ strongly agree
__ sort of agree
__ utterly undecided
__ hardly care
__ sort of disagree
__ strongly disagree
Is your home fully carpeted throughout with high-quality fitted carpets that you would not want to replace even if one of Language Log's commercial partners was able to offer you an extremely good-value product? __ strongly agree
__ sort of agree
__ utterly undecided
__ hardly care
__ sort of disagree
__ strongly disagree
What do you believe are the reasons why the form of the question sometimes has no discernible relation to the selection of possible answers the format provides, when even the most elementary linguistic consideration would immediately highlight the incompatibility? __ strongly agree
__ sort of agree
__ utterly undecided
__ hardly care
__ sort of disagree
__ strongly disagree

22 September 2008

One Web Day

Today is One Web Day, and amongst other things, people have been invited to submit their stories here, stories of how the Internet has changed their lives.

I got connected in 1999 when we were living in Paris, and have since made many friends, met some of them , read hundreds of blogs, and embarked on a PhD in digital humanities. Researching without the help and ease of Internet search engines and online journals seems nearly impossible at this stage. I do vaguely remember researching for a Master's degrees aeons ago, and spending inordinate amounts of time in the National Library, hunched over microfilms. Now, I have my trusted and beloved blue laptop, and Internet connections whereever I want to work, and instant access to any resource I need. I also have access to many many procrastination tools, but I have leant to use them sparingly...

06 September 2008

Writing in the rain

Incredibly enough, there seems to be a number of people as obsessed with notebooks as I am. There is one site dedicated to finding the perfect black notebook, and they have some very covetable items reviewed... The Rhodia webnotebook is on my shopping list for my trip to Paris in October.

And here is a review of notebooks, and do I want that one!!!

At last, a notebook for the shower! The shower, where my best thesis ideas come to me, and I'm always afraid they will vanish when the water is turned off. The site that sells them also sells all-weather pens, for the shower or the Irish summer... Maybe I should invest...

28 August 2008

I google you, you google me...

Not only is google a verb, and probably a noun very soon in a blog near you (how many googles did you get?), now it is also a song...

The lyrics are below, taken from the Author Himself, in the comments of a blog.

I Google you
late at night when I don’t know what to do
I find photos
you’ve forgotten
you were in
put up by your friends

I Google you
when the day is done and everything is through
I read your journal
that you kept
that month in France
I’ve watched you dance

And I’m pleased your name is practically unique
it’s only you and
a would-be PhD in Chesapeake
who writes papers on
the structure of the sun
I’ve read each one

I know that I
should let you fade
but there’s that box
and there’s your name
somehow it never makes the pain
grow less or fade or disappear
I think that I should save my soul and
I should crawl back in my hole
But it’s too easy just to fold
and type your name again
I fear
I google you
Whenever I’m alone and feeling blue
And each scrap of information
That I gather
says you’ve got somebody new
And it really shouldn’t matter
ought to blow up my computer
but instead….
I google you

Neil Gaiman

19 August 2008


I have minimized the Google reader window on my personalised page, I check my email once a day, I ignore links sent to me. I code, and I write. I certainly do not burst bubbles, no matter how satisfying the sound. And Spider Solitaire? I leave it to its lonely life.

30 June 2008


Jill Walker Rettberg is a trailblazer in matters of blogging; she blogged throughout her PhD process, wrote numerous papers and now her new book, Blogging, is out. Description from the publisher' s site:

Blogging has profoundly influenced not only the nature of the internet today, but also the nature of modern communication, despite being a genre invented less than a decade ago. This book-length study of a now everyday phenomenon provides a close look at blogging while placing it in a historical, theoretical and contemporary context. Scholars, students and bloggers will find a lively survey of blogging that contextualises blogs in terms of critical theory and the history of digital media. Authored by a scholar-blogger, the book is packed with examples that show how blogging and related genres are changing media and communication. It gives definitions and explains how blogs work, shows how blogs relate to the historical development of publishing and communication and looks at the ways blogs structure social networks and at how social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook incorporate blogging in their design. Specific kinds of blogs discussed include political blogs, citizen journalism, confessional blogs and commercial blogs.

29 June 2008

Privacy, reputation and data mining

Friday morning, bright and early at the Darklight festival, I attended the symposium on privacy on the Internet, which started with a presentation by Daniel Solove. The presentation was entertaining and informative, and made legal matters sound interesting and simple, which I would say is no simple feast. As Daithi points out in his thorough report on the symposium, the presentation was drawn from the Solove's book The Future of Reputation, which can be read online free of charge (isn't that nice...) However, like Niall, I would have liked to have heard more about his new book on privacy.

On the whole, I noticed three strands of thought at the symposium, which I felt would have benefited from being treated separately. One was the concept of permanence of data and text on the Internet, linked also to new social practices, and maybe the emergence of a different conceptualisation of privacy by a new generation. A second strand was gossip, or non authorised information published by private people (bloggers/social network users) on other people or organizations; in this case, there were some suggestions as to a legal solution. The third strand, data mining, was introduced by Caroline Campbell and visibly touched a chord with the audience.

At the heart of the debate was the question raised by Solove of a change in the concept of privacy, and of the necessity for a definition of that concept, which is currently seen in binary terms, public as opposed to private, the home as opposed to the public space. Listening to Solove and some of his examples of possible loss of privacy, such as the digital picture of someone buying some item in a pharmacy, it struck me that this binary concept is very much a city concept. Life in a village implies a different expectations of privacy; you know the chemist, who knows your mother/father/neighbour. To some extent, this can be extended to life in Ireland, where the 6 levels of separation are naturally reduced. And this of course is also reflected in the metaphor of the global village and could be linked to ideas of tribal interaction suggested by Steve Boyd: "I maintain that we are returning to ways of interaction that are ancient, pre-industrial."

Moreover, this binary aspect is too simplistic, although the digital world seems to have inherited it to a certain extent. Social network sites in general only make a distinction between public and private profiles/pages/blogs. In this matter, LiveJournal has a very sophisticated approach to privacy issues, with the possibility of several privacy settings, from public to completely private, with various access to various posts possible for pre-set groupings of friends/acquaintances.

The discussion was lively and interesting, revolving mainly on the use of personal data by corporations , commercial entities, even governments, all represented by the ubiquitous "they". "They know what you are doing online"... the spectre of Big Brother was hovering, conjured by Amazon's recommendations and Google ads. While this aspect of privacy - or lack thereof - was both fascinating and slightly creepy, I would also have liked a discussion on "we are them", as suggested by a member of the audience.

To be continued, I hope.

26 June 2008

Weather clock

On my Google page, I keep track of my family, not unlike Mrs Weasley. I do not, however, measure the danger they are in - which should be minimal, what with them not being wizzards and fighting the Dark Lord and all that. I do not either own one of Microsoft's family tracker clocks. No, I track the weather in their adoptive cities. Why do I torture myself so?

25 June 2008

Aer Lingus discovers Canada?

From Strange Maps, and originally from this blog, a very very strange map, even to those not familiar with North America.

It comes from the inflight magazine on an Aer Lingus flight from the United States to Dublin. Lindsay Watt has comments on the geographical "inaccuracies", I just worry that if I fly Aer Lingus in America, I might not end up in the country I wanted... Portland seems to have moved North East of Quebec, and Rochester and Burlington have acquired a lot of empty land. A lot. Very empty. And if Aer Lingus fly to Canada, where do you end up? Greenland anyone?

12 June 2008

Ice cream, flash mobs, and the police

Followed from Ewan McIntosh's great blog, this link to a blog post about a flashmob in Belarus. I came across these flashmob events a while ago, and have seen some that were organized in Ireland and in France; the difference here is that the police seemed to be monitoring the online organization and arrested some of the people involved. For eating ice-cream?

23 May 2008

txt is gr8 4 u?

David Crystal is a prolific writer, and his Language and the Internet was my bible when I was writing my Master's dissertation. He has written a new book on texting, Txtng: The Gr8 Db8 , which will be published in July, and here is the Amazon blurb:

This book takes a long hard look at the text-messaging phenomenon and its effects on literacy, language, and society. Young people who seem to spend much of their time texting sometimes appear unable or unwilling to write much else. Media outrage has ensued. "It is bleak, bald, sad shorthand," writes a commentator in the UK Guardian. "It masks dyslexia, poor spelling, and mental laziness." Exam answers using textese and reports that examiners find them acceptable have led to headlines in the tabloids and leaders in the qualities. Do young people text as much as people think? Do adults? Does texting spell the end of literacy? Is there a panic in the media? David Crystal looks at the evidence. He investigates how texting began and who uses it, why and what for. He shows how to interpret its mix of pictograms, logograms, abbreviations, symbols, and wordplay, and how it works in different languages.He explores the ways similar devices have been used in different eras and discovers that the texting system of conveying sounds and meaning goes back a long way, all the way in fact to the origins of writing - and he concludes that far from hindering literacy, texting may turn out to help it.

There is an article on his research here, and Prof. Crystal is quoted as saying: "The panic about texting and its effects on language is totally misplaced." I'll be looking forward to reading the book, on a sunny day in July...

22 May 2008

Chocolate community

Nancy White writes a very interesting blog on community, networks, blogging, but today, she sends us to this report on a study in the UK where they are looking for participants - they want women who will agree to eat chocolate every day. All I can say is, show me the chocolate...

02 May 2008

Digital art and happiness

Yesterday, on May 1st, 76 people loved you, 20 people loved him and 14 people loved her. Some more people loved a photograph or a picture, and a few even loved their job... over 2000 took pictures of something they loved, and the first page shows an abundance of blue and yellow in those photos. It is all part of an art project, Lovelines , which is linked to a commercial venture, and funded by a company who make mints. This is part of their statement:

Through large scale blog analysis, Lovelines illuminates the topography of the emotional landscape between love and hate, as experienced by countless normal humans keeping personal online journals.

The artists have already created a similar (and much bigger) project, We Feel Fine , which started in 2005 and makes art from data mining. If you open it on the menu at the top, you can select a country, an age group, a feeling, and see a ballet of colourful little balls bouncing around your screen, each one representing a sentence from a blog, each sentence evoking a feeling. I tried happiness for Ireland, and got a lot of negatives, but on January 5th, 2007, a 29 year old woman in Malahide was happy, and blogging about it.

09 April 2008

Procrastinate? Moi?

A little geeky game from Wired. Strangely enough, it is not interactive, you actually have to write down your answers on the side of your theoretical framework draft chapter notebook, and then check the answers at the bottom of the page. Like you used to do if you ever took those really insightful personality tests in women's magazines (not that I ever would...) Anyway, pen and paper or not, it seems I need a hobby. As if a hobby would help!

06 April 2008

Sunday readings

On Sundays, while some read the Sunday Times or the Observer, or the Sunday Independent, I turn on my laptop and read the Sunday Secrets. Sometimes I pretend it is very interesting from a multimodal point of view (and it is); people making art with pen and paper, pictures and scissors, or with their computer, and sending their postcards by mail, snail mail, so that they end up on a web site. They tell their secret, some may be innermost secrets, of the kind that wake you up at night and eat you during the day, some may be invented, but most of them speak to people, anonymously. And people seem to respond, emailing the owner of the site. And hundreds turn up at the talks he gives in universities, linked to Facebook groups. Multimedia. Multimodal. But the truth - the secret - is that I read them every Sunday like I look at people in buses and train stations and airports, and imagine their life. We all become Miss Marple, peeping from behind her curtain - or our screens.

29 March 2008

The world according to newspapers

This is a very interesting map,courtesy of Nicolas Kayser-Bril.

And this is the blogosphere:

18 March 2008

A French presidential cyber-spy?

It seems that the French blogosphere is buzzing today, with the news that the French president Nicolas Sarkozy has appointed a young and supposedly brilliant 25 year old to be his cyber-eye, and keep a finger on the pulse of the French blogosphere , at least for news of the president and rumours about the president and videos of the president insulting a citizen. It also seems that it only took a few hours for bloggers to create a Facebook group on the young recruit, called "Nicolas Princen est sexy"...

14 March 2008

Memes and books

I have been looking at memes recently, in the context of my study, for they flourish in LiveJournal and in blogs in general. These are the modern, digital memes, some of them the equivalent of the old chain letters. The word itself was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, and he defines it as a "unit of cultural transmission". Susan Blackmore explains:

Memes are habits, skills, songs, stories, or any other kind of information that is copied from person to person.

Henry Jenkins
and his colleagues have been doing the 1,2,3 challenge, a sort of literary meme:
  • Look up page 123 in the nearest book

  • Look for the fifth sentence

  • Then post the three sentences that follow that fifth sentence on page 123.
In my memory, it was only one sentence, but three will give a better idea of the book you are reading (maybe the meme was thus amended by academics). On my desk, amongst others:

  • "But when the private individual and private life entered literature (in the Hellenistic era) these problems inevitably were bound to arise. A contradiction developed between the public nature of the literary form and the private nature of its content. The process of working out private genres began. (M.M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination)
This seems incredibly relevant to today's discussions on the shifting concepts of public and private on the Internet, and most particularly in personal blogs.

  • "However, such interpenetration does not necessarily mean that the two are combined. The transparency of blogging, especially when the authors are identified by name, leads to an unusual collapsing of the public and private sphere, a regression to rural life and concentric social circles. The very elements of blogging that make it most valuable - a networked audience, open conversation, low barriers to entry, and transparency - are also most threatening to established strictures of academic behavior." (Alexander Halavais, Scholarly Blogging: Moving toward the visible college, in Uses of Blogs)

There seems to be a theme here...

and then...

  • "Why can't we just hide?"
"Someone might find you."

"You have an answer for everything."

(Robert Crais, The Watchman)

13 March 2008

Bebo, AOL and what's hot

I see in The Guardian today that Bebo has been bought by AOL for $850m. The Guardian are talking of Bebo "riding the second dot com wave", and Jemima Kiss has worked out that deal works out at $38 per Beboer... It would seem my home is worth $76 to Bebo, then.

Nothing about the money, or AOL on the Bebo front page. What's hot today on Bebo is the All-for-Nots ("The band that will conquer the world wide web...unless they run out of gas.") It's all about music, and videos, and your Bebo skins , but a press release is to be found in the press section:

"Bebo is the perfect complement to AOL's personal communications network and puts us in a leading position in social media," said Randy Falco, Chairman and CEO, AOL. "What drew us to Bebo was its substantial and fast-growing worldwide user-base, its vision of a truly social web, and the monetization opportunities that leverage Platform-A across our combined global audience. This positions us to offer advertisers even greater reach and marketers significant insights into the desires and needs of consumers."

Today, surprisingly enough, the advertiser on the front page was the University of Liverpool, for their online masters course.

Back to the marketplace...

11 March 2008

How not to write a thesis . Part 71

Oooh, I shouldn't be here, I should be in chapter 3, subchapter 2, in fact I should be writing 3.2.2 but what can you do?

The Little one was sick. I got a call from the school, Madam, your Little One is not feeling well, please come and collect him. And so it goes. First of all, a pale face and downturned mouth ... "I have a sore throat and a sore head and a sore tummy and I don't feel well and I don't want anything to eat." WHAT? You don't want anything to eat? Come here, my little one, the best thermometer in the world, a kiss against a forehead, does not lie. Tis a virus, a nasty one, a sore throaty one, a fevery one, one where you get up every two hours during the night to inform your mother of your plight. So we administer Calpol (although not every two hours, having read both the leaflet and the very scary blog post on paracetamol overdoses) , hot drinks and honey, and cuddles galore.

And in the morning, you are still poorly, but well enough to force down some hot chocolate and toast with honey while you watch National Geographic's endless documentaries on tigers, pigs, dogs, crocodiles, lions... and your poor mother tries to keep her eyes open and her brain on lofty matters to cram in her thesis.

The said chapter, chapter 3, the bane of my life, now proudly owns 4000 words!!! I know, we are still far from the required 9000 before next Thursday, but hey, a few more sleepless nights and I'll be able to type drivel like noone before.

Onwards to the kitchen and a cup of coffee, and hopefully inspiration thereafter. Or a documentary on wild hogs. Whatever.

09 March 2008

Elastic time

Daithí's post today reminded me once again of the bi-annual mental block that grips me when we have to change time. Every year, twice a year, my brain freezes as I try to comprehend whether we lose or gain time as the clock goes backwards or forwards. This year, I won't even try, because time is all in your mind, or so says the New York Times:

the time we experience bears little relation to time as read on a clock. The brain creates its own time, and it is this inner time, not clock time, that guides our actions. In the space of an hour, we can accomplish a great deal — or very little.

The time related to my thesis seems to expand and shrink at a furious rate. Thursday and Friday, time had shrunk, and the output was great. Today, time is slow slow slow, and the output - nonexistent. I could calculate a word to hour ratio and correlate it with the internal clock that speeds or slows down time. If I could add or multiply, or divide, or whatever it is that has to be done for calculating ratios. Or if I had time to learn basic maths and then progress to genius level maths, and then I could also study the time expansion technique that is procrastination. Or I could go back to writing.

05 March 2008

It didn't even take 30 minutes

I am nerdier than 68% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!

And no, I am not wasting time or procrastinating. I have typed 3 pages and written another 3 in my notebooks. I am keeping an eye on the deadline, and it is looming.

03 March 2008

30 minutes

I went to the Irish blog awards on Saturday, and to the Tea Party beforehand. Both were attended by very nice people, and many new blogs will have to be read henceforth. I had already added this to my reader, for the times when I actually have time to try out new recipes. Grannymar and Grandad won the personal blog award, and they made a dashing couple on the podium.

I also got a lesson in time management from Grandad, who blogs for 30 minutes (or was it an hour and 30 minutes?) in the morning, then writes (he got a book deal, you see...) and then works at his other job. And makes time for a 2 hours nap in the afternoon. It got me to wonder if this was not the answer to my writing problem. Maybe if I start the day with a blog post, and time myself for this (30 minutes would have to do), then the words might flow on the thesis front...

He also mistook me for Kathy Foley, whose name is so similar to mine, but she has a K and no W; she also has a different take on blogs and blogging. Reading this column, once more I am startled at the different meanings for the word blog, and its constant linking to conventional media. As Haydn points out, it seems that "influential" bloggers are journalists. Other bloggers who make the transition into print media are those with the fabled "book deal". However, this book deal often sees the death of the blog in its glorious vitality, one must presume in order to keep some material for the publishers. This has not happened to Twenty Major, the recipient of the Best Blog award, whose blog is still vibrant and funny and ... a blog (I must confess that I have not read his book, and thus cannot compare it to the posts).

The conventional media tend to overlook the vast majority of blogs, which are personal blogs. However, academics and academic bloggers tend to concentrate on those, rather than on journalistic blogs, except maybe in the field of media studies. What fascinates me in blogs and blogging is the emergence of a new form of communication rather than a new form of publishing, and the blogs I prefer to read are snippets of life.

01 March 2008

Footprints on the web

While looking for books on multimodality, I kept encountering the name of Ron Scollon; because I am curious, and it is Saturday, I looked around a little more, and found his website, and a fascinating web-essay entitled Footprints.

A web-essay?

This is how he defines it:

A web-essay is a way of thinking by playing with images and making networked connections. Mostly those connections are made by the way images are placed on the screen and then glued together with some words.(...)

Writing from the top to the bottom of writing tablets fits with a linear line of argumentation. Where people don't write they don't often do that; they tell stories in a chronological storyline to achieve suspense in their listeners; or they try to persuade their listeners by getting them excited and worked up.

The whole essay deserves much more time than I could give it this morning, it is a fascinating read to which I will come back again and again.

23 February 2008

Different takes on the same talk...

When I came back from the seminar on Friday, I typed up my notes, and then decided to make them into a post. When, out of curiosity, I went looking for news reports on the seminar, this is what I found at Breaking news:

Parents warned about children's internet use
22/02/2008 - 13:48:59

Parents were warned today to monitor their children’s use of the internet and protect them from online predators.

Thankfully, the Independent had taken a different view, and concentrated on the danger caused by unscrupulous employers checking up on prospective employees on Bebo or Facebook. Which is a much more real danger, and could cause a lot of young people to regret having posted some funny pictures...

Make IT secure - panel on social network sites

In the Conrad hotel on Friday morning. Audrey Conlon, chairwoman of the Internet Advisory Board, John Carr, an international expert on social networking and advisor to the UK government , Bebo chief safety officer Dr Rachel O’Connell, Cormac Callanan, Hotline.ie director, and a 5th year student who had presented a project on Bebo at the Young Scientist exhibition were all gathered to make up a panel discussing safety issues on social network sites. Theirs was a refreshing take on social network sites and young people, far from the now all too prevalent media hype on the dangers lurking beneath their seemingly murky waters…

Rachel O’Connell started by pointing out that from an education point of view, the skills obtained by interacting on social network sites such as Bebo actually match the skills required for third level education and later for the workplace. Their studies show that the average Bebo user has 17 friends and spends 40 minutes per day on the site.

John Carr added that the upside of social network sites far outweights the downside, and that the arrival of new technology has always been met by anxiety, be it the printed book or the telephone. He stated again that young people can be incredibly creative on their SN pages, but that parents are perplexed by a medium that they do not know or understand. The young student reflected on the constantly negative output from the media, which concentrates on “bad things” that she or her friends had never encountered. The panel’s opinion was summarized by Cormac Callanan, who said that there was no question of “getting rid of social networks” as some emails to the Internet Advisory Board had requested. The panel again and again insisted on the need for educating the young people to security matters, but also for educating the parents. Unfortunately, the seminar was very poorly attended by parents, maybe because of the early hour, when parents would often be required to see younger children off to school, or maybe a lack of publicity. Representatives of parents’associations were however present, and were told that parents had to see their input as an additional item in the repertoire of parenting, while drawing on the crucial parental role: listen and help.

The media favourite, the paedophile, also warranted a quick mention: according to John Carr, the police in England have reported that IM is much more dangerous than social networks in that regard, due mainly to its one-to-one characteristics. Communication on social networks is permanent and public, and thus much less likely to attract that type of behaviour.

Cormac Callanan then raised the issue of data retaining, and incidents were recounted of employers checking the social network pages of potential employees, as well as a widely reported incident in the UK where the admission office for Cambridge University confessed to using Facebook profiles to decide between applications. The panel felt that this should be forbidden by law.

Age verification seemed to many to be the “silver bullet” that would satisfy parents and make them feel more secure. Cormac Callanan however pointed out that if it could be done, it could be hacked.

Questions were raised on unsuitable content in advertising, and on up and coming sites for much younger children with a definite commercial slant, such as Club Penguin (linked to Disney) or Cartoon Doll Emporium.

19 February 2008

Frozen Grand Central

This must have been amazing to witness... Do they do those Improv things in Ireland?

17 February 2008

The adolescent , the blog, the newspaper site and the viral phenomenon

Max is going to travel for his gap year, he’s going to India and Thailand and is going to blog his experience and adventures. Nothing unusual there, he is one of many young people who keep in touch with friends through social network sites, or if they like to write, through their blogs. But Max’s father is a travel writer, knows people, and the Travel Editor of the Guardian offers a blog space on the paper’s website. Max’s one and only post deals with his preparations and feelings about his impending travels. It is a first post, so no “voice” there as yet, just an attempt at irony (the editor will later call it “tongue in cheek”) There ensues a flurry of negative and inflammatory comments, criticizing the blog, the site, and the perceived nepotism.

It all started in the blog section of the Guardian online, as a travel blog.
475 comments later, the comments box was closed. The story was of course picked up by numerous blogs, in the UK and also here in Ireland, on Present Tense. The snowball effect also saw a Facebook group and YouTube video posts. The Travel Editor then published an online response, where commenters congregated again, joined at one stage by Max’s father who remonstrated with them. Another Guardian blogger then wrote a post, very critical of mob rule and Internet culture. At the same time, a Wikipedia entry on nepotism was amended to include Max, and finally, an article in the Guardian arrived in the news feeds, with the title “Hate mail hell of a gap-year blogger”.

Whereas several elements are intertwined in this digital incident, the heart of it seems to be a semantic problem. What is a blog? Was Max a blogger? What did the readers expect a blog to be? Susan Herring pointed out that a blog can be many things, and that this new genre includes sub-genres. Various award schemes, such as the Weblog Awards, the Bloggers' Choice Awards, or the Irish blog awards differentiate between various sub-genres, often sorting categories in terms of content (business blogs, technology blogs, food blogs, music blogs, gossip blogs, health blogs, parenting blogs etc.) or in terms of bloggers (celebrity blog, blog by a journalist), and they tend to keep one category for personal blog, or diary. In these terms, and in the eyes of other bloggers, then Max would have been a blogger, simply because he was writing a blog. Yet, to the readers of the Guardian blogs, this was not so evident. In the comments, several complained that the young man was “given” a blog, when other would have been more deserving, thus giving the same meaning to “blog” and “column”:

how come Max has managed to get his own blog to write about the same thing that thousands do each year? Did he win a competition as a Young Travel Writer?

Who commissioned this tripe?

Why does our society only grant a voice to those with nothing to say?

This reaction introduces the notion of space as well as semantics. For the commenters, “you gave him a blog” means: you gave him a job, made him a professional blogger, paid him, and gave him instant access to readership, which “ordinary” or amateur bloggers have to build themselves, through their writing, networking, linking, and commenting. Is space – or platform - so important? A newspaper site is not a neutral space. Some comments imply that it belongs to the readers.

Seriously, is this guy's holiday really worthy of a blog advertised on the main page of the website? Have you nothing better to put on your website.

this is pure and simple hideous! guardian listen to your readers, get rid of Max!

Please step down and give someone with talent a chance to tell us about something interesting. You are wasting valuable bandwidth.

I would buy the guardian but will reconsider now

I used to buy the Guardian once in a while, I won't now.

I have, until now, been a regular reader of the Guardian Online website. However, following reading this contribution I will no longer visiting Guardian online.

I will not be reading this page again, and am re-considering my Guardian subscription altogether.

The blog, and most particularly personal diary style blog, is a more private space, belonging first of all to the blogger. Whenever commenting wars happen, or trolls come trolling, most commenters interject that the blog is the blogger’s space, and that whoever does not like the tone can go and read somewhere else.

What is happening in the comments box is also very interesting because it is very far from the community building element of non-professional blogs, where readers tend to gather around the blogger, or as a community of practice linked by the content of the blog (music, art, craft…) Here is the gathering of a crowd instead, and they are united in anger against… against a lot. From their texts, they are against the blogger, although they claim it is more against what he represents:

a generation,

How is a nineteen year old, white, public school boy with a penchant for stubble going to get a head in life unless he has a weblog about his already-paid-for round-the-world trip?

Max's father would've been better served buying him a premium livejournal account so he could wax cliched to his friends and family

we don't hate you because you're young, we just mock you because you're crap. It's not your fault, of course, you're just too young to know how truly crap this particular crap is, at every level.

a social class,

Moneyed youngster goes travelling to the usual places to get drunk and meet girls?

before you take up your place at Oxbridge (or wherever), why don't you leave your family's Highgate mansion FOR GOOD, cut yourself off from your father's allowance,


who's son is max then? terrible terrible terrible, shame on you guardian

So then...Max Gogarty (son of Guardian travel writer) goes off to Thailand with his own blog. Did he earn this through a combination of natural talent and hard work? Or did Daddy fix him up? Nepotism at its worst. At least the Guardian have made public what we all know is far too widespread in Media.

They are also and mainly raging against power: the power of the social class associated with the writer, the power of the media, the power of the editor to erase comments, the power of the Guardian to hire who they want irrespective of what the readers consider as talent (or lack thereof).

13 February 2008

Quick links

As I was rushing through my RSS reader, this caught my attention:

Sue Thomas posts after the first day of the Tools for Change conference that she is attending, and this is what I picked out:

"Abram had said content isn't king in the new media world, no, context is king. No, said Rushkoff, contact is king."

I like the three Cs, content, context and contact as representing blogs.

And I found myself ordering Rushkoff's book Screenagers, the last one I tell myself, for I cannot keep reading if I want to finish Teh Thesis before the end of the year.

18 January 2008

New friends

Ignacio A. Conner, Liza J. Diggs and Esther W. Lutz all think they could help me gain more in size day by day. Let me tell you, Ignacio, Liza and Esther, that first of all, I do not need anybody’s help to gain more in size, I am quite capable of doing that myself, and simply by looking longingly at a slice of bread. Secondly, the idea is to LOSE weight, not gain it. Unless you think I might be a man, and you are not talking about my weight. Sadly, I will never know, as I have deleted all your emails without reading them, as well as those of your friends Carolyn M. Cooke, Carly M. Lujan and Olen Z. Stanton. (Olen???? Z.????) At least, Pearly Staples and Candace Colbert had names matching their wares, sounding a little like those “what is your porn star name?”quizzes where you need to match the name of your first pet to the name of the street you used to live in. Ferdinand B. Gamble had an interesting proposition: to increase my pen!s (pen’s? with a badly placed apo’strophy?) without surgery. Dear Ferdinand, I never ever use surgery on my pens. Pencil parers on my pencils, that’s all. Call me old fashioned. And yes, I was briefly tempted by Marion’s suggestion that I should say YES to my new super abilities, but I wasn’t sure if she meant ability to write a thesis… so I deleted everything, and will go back to my normal abilities, whatever they are.

So it is goodbye, Ferdinand, Ignacio, Carly and Olen. Although your names are cool and our friendship might have brought meaning and happiness to my life, I have severed the link and deleted the email account.

16 January 2008

And even more mockery

This is mockery of the highest order. I had hardly pressed the publish button on the previous post, and had gone to the Amazon mothership, not the UK one, in search of another book. This is what they tactfully suggested:

I am speechless. The signs have been sent to me. I'm off to the library, my laptop under my arm, and will only come out when the chapter is written. Or I get thin. Whichever comes first...


The Internet is mocking me. It is throwing my faithful following right back in my face, even though I have patiently explored, read, pondered various aspects of its communicative elements.

I was reading a very interesting article on fan fiction, by Angela Thomas. And decided to investigate one of the authors she cites. So off to DCU library online. Nothing. TCD maybe? Nope. So, onwards to Amazon. Dear Amazon, saviour of the reader of little-known books in Ireland, please tell me all about Technological Literacy. And what does it answer?

Your search "technological literacy luke" did not match any products.

That was disappointing, but acceptable. Then came the mockery, nay the taunting. Instead of technological literacy, this Internet fiend suggested I read these:

"Cook Yourself Thin": The Delicious Way to Drop a Dress Size Paperback by Harry Eastwood

Ha! Like I have time to cook, let alone cook thin stuff...

Or else:

A Quiet Belief in Angels [New Ed] Paperback by R.J. Ellory

Why exactly would I need to believe in angels? And why now? Something to do with the chapter that is not yet written? Or the very un-thin cooking? What exactly is Teh Internet trying to tell me????

15 January 2008

Severe lack of sanity

Because my life was boring and I had so much time on my hands, what with a thesis to write and a moutain of laundry of Everest proportions, as well as four offsprings of various ages all living (and eating) at home, this is what I chose to bring into my life before Christmas:

14 January 2008

Fear of failure - writer's block

Writing is very much on my mind this January. I did not write a list of resolutions for the new year, not even a list of wishes, as one overshadows the rest: write. Write the thesis, once and for all. Write all the bits and pieces already written here and there into coherent pieces. Write chapters from introduction to conclusion. Write, at some stage before the end of December, two little words: The End.

But writing is hard. It's hard to start writing, let alone stick at it; today I came across this interview with Markus Zusak, who wrote The Book Thief (another book I could read if I had written more, and thus had more time to devote to reading for pleasure). And this warmed my heart a little:

"some of what I feel are the best ideas in it came to me when I was working away for apparently no result. Failure has been my best friend as a writer. It tests you, to see if you have what it takes to see it through."

I hope I do.

13 January 2008

The long silence, broken

This has been a time of total writers' block. No paper, no chapter, no diary, no blog entry, nothing that involved typing. And then, slowly, after the dreadful Christmas break spent in bed, sick as a parrot or a dog or suchlike, the blood started flowing again in the fingers. Reading, typing reading notes, the beginnings of a chapter, and now, inspired by something in my RSS reader, a very short entry, heralding the new year.

Because this image is so tempting and covetable, that I had to insert it. Blog and tea, mad hatter or not, I'd love to go there!