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Story shapes that offer a way forward

From Writing

Kurt Vonnegut’s wanted to write an MA thesis on the common shapes of stories: he was told it was too simple. He can be found in various interviews and presentations waxing lyrical about the shape stories take.

His are: 1) Cinderella: needs no elaboration. Applies to incremental steps of progress, radical failure then absolute glory.

2) Boy Meets Girl similar: we know it. Applies to any story of desire for something, its loss, then recovery. Also rom-com territory.

3) Man in a Whole: things go bad, then you get out of your whole. Shawshank Redemption. Martian. Haruki Murakami wrote a novel in which the protagonist was really down a well much of the time. I feel I’m most inclined to relate to and to write this one.

4) New Testament: like Cinderella–gifted things, which are then taken away before being returned with interest.

5) Old Testament: gifted things that are taken away forever.

6) Creation Stories: God made Earth in seven days …

7) From Bad to Worse: And it never gets better. Says it all. Fallen.

8) Which Way Is Up: That ambiguity in life where we don’t know what is good or bad from actions and events. Probably the hardest to sustain. Hamlet.

What you get if you use a plot generator smile

Have a go with Plot Generator

Of far better use is TV Tropes, which is a cross-media analysis of story types, with examples and links to the authors.

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Web Networks – from the micro to the macro

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We are each unique – our brains make us so. At the microlevel the network in our heads is then tickled out into the the Web in, at first. the simplest of ways. Our first post, our first comment is that first baby-step. Unlike our firsf steps though, online everything we do is saved, is monitored, is shared. It takes on a life of its own. Multiplied billions of times now many millions of us have learnt to crawl, then walk, then run online. As we are virtual we can split into many versions or parts of ourselves too – the professional and private the immediate split, but then into hobby groups and as here, a study group. The network of networks is a living thing that mathematics can help to weight and categorize, even to visualise, but crucially – the point made here, humanising the maths requires the insight of someone asking questions, seeking to interpret what it taking place. I see currents in a digital ocean that transpires into a cloud that then precipitates digital artefacts in a myriad of other places. Others, like Yrjo Engegstrom, see the growing tendrils of a funghi. Either way it is fascinating to condense, simplify and sharing the thinking.

Reading ‘Red Nile: a biography of the world’s greatest river’ – a gem

At times you laugh out loud, always informative, great stories, full of well-known facts with a twist, as well as a myriad of gems. The kind of book I would have bought and sent to people for the pleasure of it … not sure how that works with an eBook. If Michael Palin had got stuck in Egypt for six years, without the film crew, he might have made a stab at it. I described Robert Twigger to my wife as Michael Palin’s mischievous younger brother. (I know Robert, though I’ve not seen him for twenty years). He’s exceedingly bright but very modest, even humble. A boffin you might find going through second-hand books in a pile at a charity shop.

There’s an intimacy, cleverness and a flash of British funniness throughout. Encyclopedic whilst as readable as an unputdownable novel.

For me this is the very best travel writing. I’ve bounced into it via a need to take an interest in ethnography in H809 Practice-based research in e-learning. I found myself watching ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ then reading the book by Heinrich Harer. ‘The Red Nile’ is written in a similar vein, though Robert’s relationship is with the river and not the Dalai Lama. The book touches on a good deal of anthropological study of the peoples of the Niles (blue and white). It’s value is how easy it is to read after all the academic papers, and how quotable and informed it is too.

‘It seems peculiar to me that specialisation should involve developing a point of view that obscures the very subject you wish to study’.

This is I will take as a warning as I venture towards doctoral study. My interest is in learning, and e-learning in particular. Learning can apply to many, many fields. We all do it whether we want to or not.

13 Learning Theories for e-learning

What’s going on in there? This apparently!

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New Scientist 9 February 2013 Mind Maths by Colin Barras

Teenagers and technology

Fig.1. Letters from Iwa Jima. Clint Eastwood directed Movie.

In one of those bizarre, magic ways the brain works, last nigmt I watched the Clint Eastwood film ‘Letters from Iwo Jima’ then stayed up reading in bed (quest for a very specific paper/set of papers on teenagers/young adults, health, presription medication) while waiting for my own teenagers to come in from a concert in Brighton.

Fig.2. Last minute reading for H809 TMA01

I stumbled upon ‘Teenagers and Technology’ by Chris Davies and Rebecca Eynon.

After a chapter of this I did a One Click on Amazon and kept on reading through the next couple of chapters.

I kept reading once they got home.

My mind constructed a dream in which instead of bagging letters home from soldiers, I found myself, Japanese of course, constructing, editing and reassembling some kind of scroll or poster. I could ‘re-enter’ this dream but frankly don’t see the point – it seems self-evident. I’ll be cutting and pasting my final thoughts, possibly literally on a 6ft length of backing wall paper (I like to get away from a keyboard and screen from time to time). Reinforced by a Business School module, B822 Creativity Innovation and Change I found that ‘working with dreams’ and ‘keeping a dream diary’ are some of the tools that can be used.

If I wish to I could re-enter this dream over the next few months as a short cut to my subconscious.

We’ll see.

I’m not sure how you’d come up with a Harvard Reference for a dream.

Fig.3. fMRI scan – not mine, though they did me a few years ago

Perhaps in 20 years time when we can where an fMRI scanner like a pair of headphones a set of colourised images of the activity across different parts of the brain could be offered.

Dream on 🙂

Research

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I’ll be through this in 24 hours. 48 if I keep pausing to add notes to the highlights, longer if I download and read any references … and longer still if I apply it directly to the first tutor marked asignment of H809.

To teach is to nurture and the best metaphor for the mind is to see it as a garden

Fig. 1. My own vision of education as nurturing – like growing plants in a garden

‘Her metaphor for the brain is that of a garden, that’s full of the most interesting,  different things that have to be constantly cultivated and constantly checked‘.  This was Kirsty Young  introducing her guest, Professor Uta Frith. (01:24 into the transmission, BBC Radio 4 2013)

Professor Uta Frith of University College London was on Desert Island Discs for the second time this week  – this time round I paid close attention. I then went to the BBC website and took notes.

Having recently completed the Open University postgraduate module H810 Accessible Online Learning and of course interested in education, this offers insights on what studying autism and dyslexia tells us about the human mind.

There’s more in another BBC broadcast – Uta Frith interviewed for the BBC’s Life Scientific – Broadcast 6 Dec 2011 accessed 1st March 2013 – and available, by the way,  until January 2099 should you not be able to find time and want your dyslexic grandchildren to listen.

The difference between someone who is autistic and the rest of us is how we each of us see the world.

‘We learn by taking different perspectives – something about ourselves which we otherwise would have never known’. Uta Frith (2013)

‘Take what’s given to you and make the best of it, but of course the cultivation is key to all of these things, so culture in our lives, learning from other people … these are the really, really important things’. Uta Frith (2013)

We may all have some of this in us.

Genetic factors matter.

‘How we are raised is a myth. It is not right. It has been so very harmful. It is a illusion to think that doing the right things, for example that you get from books, that you can change things.’ Uta Frith (2013)

Then from BBC’s Life Scientific

‘A passionate advocate of neuroscience and how its findings can be used in the classroom to improve learning. She hopes that eventually neuroscience will inform education in the same way that anatomy informs medicine’. (01:35 in, BBC 2013)

Uta Firth wants knowledge of the brain to inform education the way knowledge of the body informs medicine.

Professor Uta Frith is best known for her research on autism spectrum disorders. Her book, Autism, Explaining the Enigma (1989) has been translated into many languages. She was one of the initiators of the study of Asperger’s Syndrome in the UK and her work on reading development, spelling and dyslexia has been highly influential.

Throughout her career she has been developing a neuro-cognitive approach to developmental disorders.

In particular, she has investigated specific cognitive processes and their failure in autism and dyslexia. Her aim is to discover the underlying cognitive causes of these disorders and to link them to behavioural symptoms as well as to brain systems. She aims to make this research relevant to the education of people with development disorders and to contribute to a better quality of their everyday life.

The above profile form the UCL pages

Further Reading/Viewing

Uta Frith on YouTube on early years, then on dyslexia

Frith, U (1989/2003) Autism – explaining the enigma (second edition)

Frith, U (2008) Autism – a very short introduction

REFERENCE

Uta Frith, Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4, Transmission accessed 1st March 2013

Uta Frith, The Life Scientific, BBC Radio 4, from BBC website as a podcast (accessed 1st March 2013

University College London, Staff. Website (accessed 1st March 2013)

 

Could blogging be seen as a scholarly activity?

This are me thoughts from reading:

An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging for digital scholarship
Heap & Minocha (2012),


Fig.1. Digital Scholarship with a nod to Martin Weller‘s book of the same name. (Created in 2011)

By stripping back the paper what do I learn from this paper:

  • about blogging and digital scholarship
  • about devising the research question(s) and method of research.

This quote from Axcel Bruns is wrong in relation to blogging.

‘Were originally more popular amongst journalism and business context’ Bruns (2007)

In fact, from my experience from 1999 onwards, journalists were highly dismissive and didn’t cotton on to blogging as a valid way to share their opinions for several years. The exception being financial journalism where breaking views on markets were fed, blog like, to subscribers,

Fig.2. An excerpt from my own early blog.

I was reading blogs in 1998, did some Dreamweaver training and if I’d got my head around FTP uploads I may have been up an away in 98 rather than 99 when I heard of Diaryland and joined the platform soon after it started.

Fig.3. An excerpt from a blog created by Claire Z Warnes in 1998

Over the next 4 to 5 years I saw a massive growth and influx of what by modern terms would have been described as journals, creative writing, fantasy, role play and social networking.

Fig.4. How I saw blogging in 1999/2000

I question why bloggers are defined by the institution they are at – the blog is more personal, like the noticeboard at someone’s desk in the bedroom or study, or a diary or journal they carry about with them, whether electronic or paper.

Fig. 5. We should stop seeing blogging in isolation – forms of ‘keeping a journa’, for whatever purposes, is as old a writing itself.

Little is ever mention of a history of keeping diaries, a writer’s journal or other kind of daily record for reflection or in scholarly circles to record the iterative process of a learning journey or a piece of research. John Evelyn was a diarist. Was he scholarly? What about Pepy’s he was keeping an historic record? For whom did Lady Anne Clifford keep a diary if not for an historic, even a legal record, of her rights to her father’s estates? (Lady Anne Clifford kept at a diary late 1500s into the 17th century).

Was Virginia Woolf using herself as the subject of an internal discussion?

What did Anais Nin learn and share about her writing as well as her personal journey, a journey that was shared with Henry Miller and that a couple of decades was taken by the filmmaker Francois Truffaut. As someone who had kept a diary since he was thirteen and had been typing it up and putting on disc for nearly a decade, the move to the web was a natural one.

  • for personal reflection (e.g. Xie, Fengfeng, and Sharma 2008)
  • collaborative working (e.g. McLoughlin and Lee 2008)
  • developing writing skills (e.g. Warschauer 2010)
  • flexible usage of blogs to suit the individual blogger’s needs, such as
  • a space for reflection, to seek peer support, or both (e.g. Kerawalla et al. 2008).

I read blogs and corresponded with writers who were using the format to try out chapters of fantasy novels, to share poetry, to test webdesigns even to meet and indulge in intimate chat, role play and even cybersex. (Early blogs were the forerunners of a lot to come).

Whilst some of this activity isn’t within the parameters of ‘scholarly’ practice, certainly from a creative writing point of view self-publishing was.

From personal experience there were those exploring their personality, who were lonely, depressed or bi-polar.  Most studies in English speaking countries … yet it was presumably going on elsewhere. And where does someone who is using writing in English in a blog to learn English stand in terms of being a student and a scholar?

Defining scholarship in the digital age

Boyer (1990) developed a conceptual framework which defines ‘‘scholarship’’ as a combination of teaching and research activities. In particular, he suggests four dimensions to define scholarship: discovery, integration, application and teaching.

Fig.6. Another excerpt from a blog for young writers created by Claire Z Warnes in 1998 when she was 17 herself.  (I think she went off to study Computer Sciences)

The earliest bloggers played a teaching role, for example Claire Z Warnes set up a series of web pages to encourage and support young writers in 1998. She was teaching, they were exploring through reading, writing and sharing just as if they were meeting face to face in a classroom.

Boyer’s dimensions constitute an appropriate starting point for researching digital scholarship (Weller 2011).

Pearce et al. (2010) elaborated on Boyer’s (1990) model to theorise a form of digital/open scholarship, arguing that it is:

  • more than just using information and communication technologies to research,
  • teach and collaborate,
  • embracing the open values, ideology and potential of technologies born of peer-to-peer networking wiki ways of working in order to benefit both the academy and society.

Which is exactly what Claire Z Warnes (1998) was doing, indeed, as some remaining posts that can be viewed show, it was as if she were becoming the Dean of one of the first online creative writing classes.

In relation to the research here’s the problem that needs to be addressed:

There is a lack of empirical evidence on how the openness and sharing manifested in blogging can influence academia, research and scholarship. (Minocha, p. 178. 2012)

Discussion

‘We have found that blogs seem to occupy an intermediate space among established writing forms such as peer-reviewed academic papers, newspaper articles, diaries, blurring the private public and formal informal divide ‘. (Heap and Minocha 2011).

There is a growing awareness of blogging as a writing or communicative genre in academia and research and as a new form of scholarship (e.g. Halavais 2007).

  • to ensure validity of work through established forms of publishing,
  • to integrate blogs so that research findings reach more readers
  • to enable sharing information without time lags involved in formal publications.

The next steps in our research (according to the authors of this paper) are to validate the effectiveness of the framework (they developed) as a thinking tool about digital scholarship, and for guiding the practice of blogging in academia and research.

REFERENCE

Heap, Tania and Minocha, Shailey (2012). An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging for digital scholarship. Research in Learning Technology, 20(Supp.), pp. 176–188. (Accessed 28th February 2013 http://www.researchinlearningtechnology.net/index.php/rlt/article/view/19195 )

Weller, M (2011) The Digital Scholar

 

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