[roots of reading]

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Man Booker 2009 shortlist

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2009 shortlist was announced on Tuesday 8 September 2009.  Interviews with each of the authors can be found in the Perspective section along with audio extracts of each of their titles at the main Man Booker Prize website.
The winner will be announced on Tuesday 6 October 2009.
For the second consecutive year, a teaser section of each of the titles is available to download to your mobile phone in both audio and text versions.

The Children’s Book

A S Byatt
The Children’s Book
Chatto & Windus
Olive Wellwood is a famous writer, interviewed with her children gathered at her knee. For each of them she writes...
read more »

SummertimeJ M Coetzee
Harvill Secker
A young English biographer is working on a book about the late writer, John Coetzee. He plans to focus on...
read more »

The Quickening MazeAdam Foulds
The Quickening Maze
Jonathan Cape
The Quickening Maze is based on real events and is set in and around the High Beach Asylum in 1840....
read more »

Wolf HallHilary Mantel
Wolf Hall
Fourth Estate
Set in England in the 1520s, Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his...
read more »

Simon Mawer
The Glass Room
The Glass RoomLittle, Brown
High on a Czechoslovak hill, the Landauer House shines as a marvel of steel, glass and onyx. Built specially for...
read more »

The Little Stranger 

Sarah Waters
The Little Stranger
When Dr Faraday is urgently called to Hundreds Hall, he is both curious and nostalgic.  Nearly thirty years before, he had...
read more »

Read more at the Man Booker Prize site: http://www.themanbookerprize.com/prize/thisyear/shortlist.

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[journal issue: IT and politics]

The Journal of Information Technology & Politics Volume 6, Issue 3 & 4
Special Issue: “Politics: Web 2.0” Visit: http://shrinkify.com/144k

Guest Editor's Introduction
“The Internet and Politics in Flux”
Andrew Chadwick

Research Papers
“Realizing the Social Internet? Online Social Networking Meets Offline Civic
- Josh Pasek;  eian more; Daniel Romer

“Typing Together? Clustering of Ideological Types in Online Social Networks”
- Brian J. Gaines; Jeffery J. Mondak

“Building an Architecture of Participation? Political Parties and Web 2.0 in
- Nigel A. Jackson; Darren G. Lilleker

“Norwegian Parties and Web 2.0”
- Øyvind Kalnes

“The Labors of Internet-Assisted Activism: Overcommunication,
Miscommunication, and Communicative Overload”
- Rasmus Kleis Nielsen

“Developing the “Good Citizen”: Digital Artifacts, Peer Networks, and Formal
Organization During the 2003–2004 Howard Dean Campaign”
- Daniel Kreiss

“Lost in Technology? Political Parties and the Online Campaigns of
Constituency Candidates in Germany's Mixed Member Electoral System”
- Thomas Zittel

“Internet Election 2.0? Culture, Institutions, and Technology in the Korean
Presidential Elections of 2002 and 2007”
- Yeon-Ok Lee

“The Internet and Mobile Technologies in Election Campaigns: The GABRIELA
Women's Party During the 2007 Philippine Elections”
- Kavita Karan;  Jacques D. M. Gimeno; Edson Tandoc Jr.

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[getting students to read]

Here is a great video I think I'll be showing all my first year undergrads. Author Jim Trelease (author of The Read-Aloud Handbook) compares reading to the process of cutting down a tree; both need to be done slowly and carefully.

Take a look:

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I found this super article via Gerry McKiernan at Reference Notes. Have a read:

New York Times / August 19, 2009, 1:08 pm / Updated: 1:29 pm / Steve Lohr

A recent 93-page report on online education, conducted by SRI International for the Department of Education, has a starchy academic title, but a most intriguing conclusion:

“On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”

The report examined the comparative research on online versus traditional classroom teaching from 1996 to 2008. Some of it was in K-12 settings, but most of the comparative studies were done in colleges and adult continuing-education programs of various kinds, from medical training to the military.

Over the 12-year span, the report found 99 studies in which there were quantitative comparisons of online and classroom performance for the same courses. The analysis for the Department of Education found that, on average, students doing some or all of the course online would rank in the 59th percentile in tested performance, compared with the average classroom student scoring in the 50th percentile.

That is a modest but statistically meaningful difference.

“The study’s major significance lies in demonstrating that online learning today is not just better than nothing — it actually tends to be better than conventional instruction,” said Barbara Means, the study’s lead author and an educational psychologist at SRI International.

This hardly means that we’ll be saying good-bye to classrooms. But the report does suggest that online education could be set to expand sharply over the next few years, as evidence mounts of its value.

Until fairly recently, online education amounted to little more than electronic versions of the old-line correspondence courses. That has really changed with arrival of Web-based video, instant messaging and collaboration tools. The real promise of online education, experts say, is providing learning experiences that are more tailored to individual students than is possible in classrooms. That enables more “learning by doing,” which many students find more engaging and useful.


“We are at an inflection point in online education,” said Philip R. Regier, the dean
of Arizona State University’s Online and Extended Campus program. Mr. Regier sees things evolving fairly rapidly, accelerated by the increasing use of social networking technology. More and more, students will help and teach each other, he said. [snip]

“The technology will be used to create learning communities among students in new ways,” Mr. Regier said. “People are correct when they say online education will take things out the classroom. But they are wrong, I think, when they assume it will make learning an independent, personal activity. Learning has to occur in a community.”



Full Text Available At


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[towards information literacy]

This Unesco report (from 2008) has a succinct definition of information literacy that has to do with people's capacity rather than specific rules:

"Recognise their information needs;
Locate and evaluate the quality of information;
Store and retrieve information;
Make effective and ethical use of information, and
Apply information to create and communicate knowledge."

Information literacy (as noted here and in the digital cultures master's module) doesn't just apply to one context, when using a computer for example, it's applicable throughout contexts and I think that's what defines capacity as literacy - readers/users can move through a variety of contexts (much like transliteracy). "IL skills are necessary for people to be effective lifelong learners and to contribute in knowledge societies."

These elements of information literacy say it all - they cross contexts:

"a. Recognise information needs
b. Locate and evaluate the quality of information
c. Store and Retrieve information
d. Make effective and ethical use of information, and
e. Apply information to create and communicate knowledge."

Citation info:
via ICTlogy.

Read more of the report here.

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[newspapers, new media & monetization]

Thanks to a link from @jayrosen_nyu I've seen this interesting article on how to obtain value from (or rather, monetize) online content. Zachary M. Seward notes that the meeting of industry execs held on Thursday was aptly titled "Models to Lawfully Monetize Content."

The report itself outlines five key changes (or "doctrines" according to Rick Edmonds).

  • True Value. Establish that news content online has value by charging for it. Begin "massive experimentation with several of the most promising options."
  • Fair Use. Maintain the value of professionally produced and edited content by "aggressively enforcing copyright, fair use and the right to profit from original work."
  • Fair Share. Negotiate a higher price for content produced by the news industry that is aggregated and redistributed by others.
  • Digital Deliverance. "Invest in technologies, platforms and systems that provide content-based e-commerce, data-sharing and other revenue generating solutions."
  • Consumer Centric. Refocus on consumers and users. Shift revenue strategies from those focused on advertisers.

Why the interest in monetizing online content...to protect the print newspapers.

Paid content wall would protect print subscriptions
The report also suggests a paid content wall would help retain print subscribers, citing a recent USC Annenberg survey finding that 22 percent of online news readers said that they had dropped print subscriptions because they could most of the same content free online.

But is charging for online content the best way to generate revenue? Hard-hitting sales tactics doesn't seem synonymous with loyal readership. In James Warren's words: "
collecting enhanced online newspaper user data across newspaper properties and mining that data to aggressively sell target content to specific audience segments across the network (e.g. golf enthusiasts)."

Newspapers need to get creative. Leverage some of the amazing web 2.0 too
ls to generate interest. Perhaps online versions might offer something for the long tail too which won't be present in the print versions (I know some newspapers are already doing this).

Note: The Huffington Post, having "reinvented the American newspaper," seems to do quite well (without a print version) though only 6% of it's news stories are original content.

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[storytelling 2.0]

It's children's stories which are pushing the boundaries of *traditional* publishing and going multimodal and mobile. Read the article on a few recent projects here (there's a snippet below) which are interesting but...I don't agree with gaming elements as synonymous with "boy friendly" (paragraph 6)! ARG! There are girl gamers out there and look at how Inanimate Alice weaves gaming alongside story development...and I know girls read that story too.

"In late January Lev Grossman, writing about the future of the book in Time, said the novel is on the verge of evolving “into something cheaper, wilder, trashier, more democratic and more deliriously fertile than ever.” Although Grossman wasn't speaking to what is happening in children's publishing per se, there seems to be something in his description that taps into this brave new world.

It's clear that children's publishing is embracing the spirit of the book while finding more and more ways to tell a story outside the book. The challenge, as almost all who commented for this story said, will be figuring out how to create these non-book books cheaper, faster and better. As Katz put it,“This isn't landing in the new world, this is on the road to the new world.

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[literate cities]

Six key elements are analysed in this study to dechipher which city is the most literate (American cities only) in 2008. These include: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment and Internet resources and are then compared to the population rate (but only in cities greater than 250,000).

Somewhat oddly, the study does NOT include "
reading test scores or how often people read, but what kinds of literary resources are available and used."

Cities that ranked higher for having more bookstores also have a higher proportion of people buying books online, the analysis found, and cities with newspapers that have high per-capita circulation rates also have more people reading newspapers online. Likewise, cities that ranked higher for having well-used libraries also have more booksellers."

The author of the study, Dr. John Miller, makes a very interesting observation:

"While it is too early in this study to draw conclusions, it is nevertheless striking that newspaper readership rates in the US’s global economic competitors are significantly higher than in the US. Since literacy is generally regarded as a barometer of a nation’s social, cultural, and economic health, perhaps these findings are cause for national concern."

According to the USA Today report, "Preliminary results of a related study examining international literacy paint a less optimistic outlook for the USA. It notes that in per-capita paid newspaper circulation, the USA ranks only 31st in the world, far behind other countries, including Aruba, Liechtenstein and Japan."

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[reading flabuert's a simple heart]

A little while ago I mentioned that Andy had let me raid his office library (such fun!) and one of the many books that I nabbed was Flaubert's Three Tales.

"A Simple Heart" focuses on Félicité, a "maidservant" who "did all the cooking and the housework, the sewing, the washing, and the ironing. She could bridle a horse, fatten poultry, and churn butter, and she remained faithful toher mistress, who was by no means an easy person to get on with." I am immediately sad for
Félicité. On the third page we learn that her father dies when she was young and then her mother died leaving her sisters to look after her. When they followed their own paths (suggesting none of them were concerned or even really aware of Félicité), they left a farmer to take Félicité in. This new life meant perpetual cold - physical and emotional. After this awful experience, Félicité finds a job at a different farm where her new employers are kind to her even if the other help aren't. At this time she meets a man, falls in love, and then has her heart broken. Needing a change, Félicité finds a position with Madame Aubain where she gets "installed" like furniture in the house and also finds herself taking care of Paul and Virginie. When those around her leave or die, Félicité turns to religion (or rather, her interpretation of religion) as a panacea for her pain. The narrative begins by suggesting an unfolding future: "for half a century the women of Pont-l'Évêque envided Mme Aubain her maidservant Félicité." This is interesting because the way that Félicité is described, she is not "becoming," she is a woman already "installed" and "fixed." So dedicated and loyal, she seems complete in the same way that she ensures all her tasks are. Throughout the story there seem to be opportunities where we might begin to see a blossoming Félicité. She would "keep on kissing" the two children (present continuous) until Madame told her to stop. Emotion also seems to be a barrier to becoming, Félicité is "eaten up inside" and that prevents her from taking up hobbies or work that might otherwise involve her thoughts. Emotion is also detrimental to Virginie who originally becomes quite ill because of a fright. Later on she must refrain from playing the pain because "the slightest emotion upset her." At the end of the narrative, Félicité, who we have come to know as a loyal, selfless and hard working but "wooden" and who on her death bed remains finicky about tidiness, nonetheless experiences a deeply multimodal passing. Dying of pneumonia, Félicité smells the "mystical" scent of incense. We see her closer her eyes, we hear her slowing heart, we feel the fountain drying. Finally in death she can be loyal to herself and immerse herself in sensory perception.

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[visual literacy periodic table]

Interesting visualisation tool over at visual-literacy.org. I can imagine employing this tool as an educator, as a way of modeling to students how they might go about addressing problems or working through essay development etc... A good exercise might involve asking students to pick two "elements" of the visual literacy periodic table and apply them to the same problem to see which tool works best for the problem and their learning style.

Usefully, when clicking on each element an image appears with an example of the visualisation element. For example, clicking on the RI (Rich Picture) Element brings up:

Similarly, clicking on Tr or Mi elements brings up:


Try it yourself at http://www.visual-literacy.org.

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[creative writing & new media masters campus week seminars]

Following yesterday's slog, the students get a bit of a break today when they can sit back and listen to a few presentations including one by me on reading multimodal narratives, a panel on african digital literature and Peter Howard on digital poetry.

From the programme:

10.00-11.00 Meet your Reader Dr Jess Laccetti presents a reader�s eye view of new media writing.

11.00-11.30 Break

11.30-12.30 African Writing and New Media
Chair: Professor Sue Thomas
IOCT PhD student and novelist Anietie Isong introduces his research into African Writers and the Internet, and Nur Yaryare of the Somali Afro European Media Project presents his plan for a new media African heritage project in Leicester.

12.30-13.30 Lunch break

13.30-15.00 Writing and Publishing New Media
Chair: Kate Pullinger
Sara Lloyd and Michael Bhaskar, digital editors at Pan Macmillan, discuss Sara�s Book Publisher�s Manifesto for the 21st century, and Chris Meade, former CWNM student and Director of if:book London, presents Digital Livings, a report commissioned by CWNM to assess the potential of new media as a career path for writers.
Preparatory Reading for this session:
Book Publisher’s Manifesto for the 21st century by Sara Lloyd
Digital Livings by Chris Meade

15.00-15.30 Break

15.30-16.30 E-Poetry
This year CWNM offers an E-Poetry workshop for the first time. Tutor Peter Howard presents an introduction to E-Poetry including a selection of his own work.

Read more at the ioct blog.

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[guest lecture: MEDS 1100 - Media Texts and Representations]

I'm presenting a guest lecture for the Media Texts and Representations module today (Monday, 20 October 2008)!

Welcome to all the students who will be participating.

If you're happy to engage in public, please feel free to address the following questions here on my blog, otherwise we (DMU students) can meet in Blackboard.

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[new media writing and publishing, 22 Oct 2008, ioct]

Every autumn, First Year CWNM students spend a week on campus at DMU. This year Campus Week includes a day of discussion open to DMU students, staff, and the general public. It takes place on Wednesday 22 October 2008 at the Institute of Creative Technologies, De Montfort University, Leicester. Admission is free and booking not required, but space is limited so arrive early to secure a seat.

10.00-11.00 Meet your Reader Dr Jess Laccetti presents a reader’s eye view of new media writing.

11.00-11.30 Break

11.30-12.30 African Writing and New Media
Chair: Professor Sue Thomas
IOCT PhD student and novelist Anietie Isong introduces his research into African Writers and the Internet, and Nur Yaryare of the Somali Afro European Media Project presents his plan for a new media African heritage project in Leicester.

12.30-13.30 Lunch break

13.30-15.00 Writing and Publishing New Media
Chair: Kate Pullinger
Sara Lloyd and Michael Bhaskar, digital editors at Pan Macmillan, discuss Sara’s Book Publisher’s Manifesto for the 21st century, and Chris Meade, former CWNM student and Director of if:book London, presents Digital Livings, a report commissioned by CWNM to assess the potential of new media as a career path for writers.
Preparatory Reading for this session:
Book Publisher's Manifesto for the 21st century by Sara Lloyd
Digital Livings by Chris Meade

15.00-15.30 Break

15.30-16.30 E-Poetry
This year CWNM offers an E-Poetry workshop for the first time. Tutor Peter Howard presents an introduction to E-Poetry including a selection of his own work.

16.30-17.00 Plenary

17.00 End

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[mirror neurons and literacy]

Proof that humans are "wired" to connect with others:

image of brain with mirror neurons highlighted "Scientists have recently been decoding how "mirror neurons" in our brains work. They've realized humans are wired to connect with others, to live vicariously through others' experiences, in much stronger ways than we once thought. The brain doesn't differentiate much between watching someone do something, and doing it yourself - which is why there are so many obsessed sports fans in the world. Most important for teachers, these mirror neurons are also a key to how we learn. Just watching someone read a book teaches us more than we ever realized about the reading process. And we use our emotions to readily connect those experiences to other related tasks (either physically or emotionally). I will never be a gymnast (beyond the contortions I go through to get through airport security screening). But I can connect to the feelings of almost, not quite reaching a goal again and again, and finally succeeding. What teacher hasn't experienced weeks or months of helping a struggling student almost, but
not quite, grasp a concept? It makes those breakthrough moments all the more sweet.

Mirror neurons are also the reason modeling in classrooms is so essential. When students see the strategies teachers use to tackle difficult texts, no matter the genre, their brains don't differentiate between their experiences and ours. The teacher's strategies become part of the mix that fires up whenever a student approaches a new text. Likewise, all those whole-class activities to build community around reading and writing early in the year become ingredients in the chemical soup in our students' brains as they read and write on their own. The consequences of broken mirror neurons can also be dire, as any teacher who has worked with an autistic child knows.

What about mirror neurons in staff settings? Simply put, our moms were right - we shouldn't hang out with the wrong crowd, and we need to choose our role models carefully. Mirror neurons imitate and absorb what they see around us whether we like what we're seeing or not. If you're surrounded by negative, unhappy people, it's human nature that you're going to absorb that outlook over time. Sometimes toxic environments or people can't be avoided, but it's important to note when it comes to "emotional contagions," negative environments have more powerful effects than positive ones. If you have a colleague or two who are always resentful or angry, you owe it to yourself and your students to limit your time with them. If you have to spend time with them, even decreasing eye contact or verbal interactions can help limit what your brain's mirror neurons pick up."

Read more here.

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[chris joseph and NRG]

a cyclist enjoying the unfolding of the digital narrativeToday Chris Joseph, digital writer in residence at the IOCT presented his latest project, NRG. A culmination of his two years at the IOCT resulted in an impressive hybrid piece of electronic art that highlights issues pertaining to digital literacy, digital art, art reception, performance, narrative, multimodality, interaction, performance and the environment. Chris is well known for his work on multimodal digital fiction Inanimate Alice (with Kate Pullinger) and his work has frequently been nominated for a variety of prizes. Some examples:


  • Finalist (Interactive productions category), Learning on Screen Awards 2008, British Universities Film & Video Council, UK

  • 2007:
  • Selected Finalist, 2008 CULTURAS Intercultural Dialogue Awards, Madrid, Spain [Alicia Inanimada, Episodio 1: China]

  • Selected Finalist, 8th Seoul International Film Festival, Seoul, Korea [The Surveys]

  • IBM New Media Prize, 20th Stuttgarter Filmwinter, Stuttgart, Germany [Inanimate Alice, Episode 1: China]

  • Selected Works, 20th Stuttgarter Filmwinter, Stuttgart, Germany [Inanimate Alice, Episode 1: China and Inanimate Alice, Episode 2: Italy]

  • Today Chris presented NRG at the IOCT. This work is a combination of bicycle, human power, narrative, multimodality and a laptop. Chris notes that he was initially very interested in raising the question of sustainability in electronic art, a question seemingly often overlooked. Spurred on by the success of The Magnificent Revolutionary Cycling Cinema, Chris attempted his own pedal-powered system. Players or readers or interactors must cycle to generate the story which appears on a laptop hooked up to the bike. As Chris says:
    It's 2010 and you have been appointed to lead the new World Energy Directorate, with the powProfessor Sue Thomas introducing Chris Josepher to control international spending and research on energy sources and production. Your decisions will influence the life of billions of humans, countless species and the Earth as a whole. How will your choices change all our lives during the planet's next forty years of industrial development?

    Part environmental game, part multimedia artwork, NRG (short for En-er-gy) is self-sustaining, people-powered installation. No previous knowledge about energy issues is assumed or required, but NRG is intended to stimulate thought and discussion about energy consumption, its links to global warming and the need for the development of lifestyle alternatives.


    Over the past fifty years electronic art has grown to become an established genre, yet energy – specifically the power required to view a work, as well as create it - is rarely acknowledged. But a electronic writers, artists and musicians must confront the fact that natural resources (converted to electricity) are continually required in order for the work to be experienced by both physical and virtual audiences. So in responding to the IOCT - an institution at the forefront of electronic creation - it seemed natural that my residency work should consider energy, both as a narrative theme and in the practical realisation of the piece.

    NRG resides on a laptop that is not connected to the mains, but instead requires power to be periodically supplied by its ‘players’ through a bicycle generator. To play, simply select which energy sources the world should invest in, choosing as few or as many as you wish. Just as in the real world, the choices made will have significant impacts upon energy supply and use, population, carbon dioxide levels and other planet-wide measurements over the next five decades.

    Perhaps the reading/kind of performance required to understand this work is a good example of transliteracy and of transdisciplinarity - various modes and disciplines coming together.

    Congratulations Chris and best of luck!

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    [how to write fiction]

    This morning's Guardian has arrived. After briefly skimming the front page and a lengthy read of the Money section (100 questions about the current *financial* climate answered!) I happily found Kate Pullinger's tutorial on "How to Write Fiction." Working with Sue Thomas, Kate runs DMU's Online Masters in Creative Writing and New Media (and is author of Inanimate Alice with Chris Joseph) and thus is the perfect person to write this user-friendly guide. I'm definitely going to memorise these tips including the suggestion to "turn off your word count."

    This guide book doesn't tell you where to buy your ideas: "Asda for chick-lite, perhaps, Waitrose for literary fiction," but it certainly includes loads of opportunities for laughter (not something I would expect from any guide). Kate tells us that writing is about "graft" rather than just a great ideas and that the act of writing is the important thing:

    "But really, the best way to start writing is to start writing. Get the words down onto the page. For many writers the most productive technique is to push on, regardless of what crap they are spewing. Bad writing can be imprved upon, can be polished and cut and shaped and revices. A blank page is just that, and the only thing it is good for is driving you crazy."

    Besides the instructions concerning genre, character, setting etc and the wide reference to other writers, there is a checklist:

    1. Is the beginning too slow?
    2. Have I "killed my darlings"?
    3. Have I checked my grammar and punctuation?
    4. Have I laid out my dialogue properly?
    5. After my compelling beginning, amd I keeping my reader interested?
    6. Is it finished?

    If you don't have the Guardian hardcopy, each of the eight steps included in the guide are available as separate articles on the Guardian site.

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    [transdisciplinarity and communication]

    A little while ago I tweeted that I was working on a transdisciplinarity check list (things to read, watch and listen to) as a way of mapping the field and setting the scene for a conference I'm going to run and a journal I'm going to start (no prob!). Christy Dena, transmodiologist extraordinaire, saw my tweet for help, tweeted back and wrote a blog entry with loads of links and information on transdisciplinarity. Interestingly:

    "there are (at least) two very different implementations of transdisciplinarity in the methodological realm: one that argues it should be about collaboration between academia & non-academia to address world-scale problems, and another that argues it is a conceptual approach that can be applied to anything, by an individual or group."

    I prefer the idea that connections can be made between any kind of group rather than making an initial separation between "academic" and "non-academic." I'll be following the Nicolescu and Dena school of thought.

    Have a look at Christy's post

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    [ioct homework]

    As Research Fellow at the IOCT not only do I get awesome office supplies to *borrow* (wii, eee pc, aibo), but Andrew Hugill let me pilfer his newly ordered library (alphabetic and by genre thank you very much) in search of some classic print books to read for homework. I'm especially loving the lined and well-read copy of Sentimental Education. I'm also secretly hoping to find some funny doodles...check out the one Whitney found in her professor's book.

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    [long live the experimental novel]

    Long live the experimental novel with what Suzi Feay declares in her report in Sunday's Independent. Strangely that's also when a rather one-sided view on digital literature appeared. Feay's report on "Who'll be the bestsellers of tomorrow?" makes some interesting predictions including more books on the subject of our failing environment and, wait for it...digital narratives. One example Feay turns to is Chris Meade's In Search of Lost Tim, a magical musical graphical digital fiction "which uses fictitious blogs (hosted at www.insearchoflosttim.net) and YouTube videos to tell the story of a blogger who is contacted by a boy who claims he lives in the 1960s and is communicating via his "Futurizer"). Young Tim is trying to contact his future self, the political activist and secret agent Lord Tim. It's a jeux d'esprit, but also, just possibly, the future of fiction."

    nb: note the allusion to Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu or...In Search of Lost Time

    A Synopsis: "On holiday Jennifer begins writing a personal blog to help her through a recent bereavement. Then she receives mysterious messages from a boy who claims to be communicating through time via his 'Futurizer'. Young Tim has lost contact with his future self, with whom he has been fighting crime across the centuries.

    In their 21st Century comic book world, Lord Tim and his glamorous Sidekick are under attack from the evil Mister B.
    Should Young Tim save his elder self by tackling Bailey the school bully, or his suspicious neighbour, Barry?
    What are 'Futurolusions'? Why is Jennifer caught up in all this? And is Young Tim in peril as he emerges into the dangerous, grown up world?

    Starring a glove puppet, cartoon characters and a blogger, featuring words, ukuleles, video, photos and drawings, this is a multimedia novella about what the future means to a group of people living in the past, the present and the pretend."

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    [new media and not so intelligent reporting]

    The Independent on Sunday did a piece which included "quotes" from Professor Sue Thomas on reading and writing in digital climates. Besides misquoting Thomas (and OMG he says she's a lecturer!! Hello...I think he'll find it's Professor) and making fundamental generalisations the reporter (or observer as this write-up is imbued with numerous personal surmising) the article sees digital literacy as a highly straight-forward, black and white issue. Print books are good and "e-books" are bad. I'm slightly simplifying the argument, well nah, that's pretty much the gist of it. For the article writer, e-books and seemingly anything available online is there for entertainment and readers become "power browsers." While print fiction is "intelligent" and a collection of "classics" including "Don Quixote, Bleak House, Moby Dick, In Search of Lost Time." Umm... Most perplexing to me, is the comment that gone are the years when teenagers (yes! teenagers) "confidently approached" these books (specifically Quixote et al.). Speaking from a small and necessarily parametered experience, I've never know a teenager to approach these books with confidence...in fact, I wonder whether anyone does. These are books that instill questions rather than answers so I'm not sure really whether confidence is synonomous with the kind of literacy this reporter is striving for. In fact, why is it not "A la recherche du temps perdu" because serious readers would surely only read the book or, erm, text in its original language (the same for Don Quixote de la Mancha and my, isn't this a good example of self-conscious/self-reflexive language-play?).

    Digital literacy and programmes devoted to instilling and encouraging this (still) nascent skill emerge alongside other forms (and teaching) of literacy, including print, visual and sonic. Thomas's
    course, just one example, focuses on narratives crafted in an online or digital environment. It's not about replacing Moby Dick or handing someone an e-reader and replacing the whole publishing business, but it is about learning more and reading more and, as Thomas says, connecting more.

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    [ELO - collection 2: call for work]

    The Electronic Literature Organization seeks submissions for the Electronic Literature Collection, volume 2. We invite the submission of literary works that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the computer. Works will be accepted from June 1 to September 30, 2008. Up to three works per author will be considered; previously published works will be considered. The Electronic Literature Collection is a biannual publication of current and older electronic literature in a form suitable for individual, public library, and classroom use. Volume 1, presently available both online (http://collection.eliterature.org) and as a packaged, cross-platform CD-ROM, has been used in dozens of courses at universities in the United States and internationally, and has been widely reviewed in the United States and Europe. It is also available as a CD-ROM insert with N. Katherine Hayles' full-length study, Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary (University of Notre Dame Press, 2008). Volume 2, comprising approximately 50 works, will likewise be available online, and as a cross-platform DVD in a case appropriate for library processing, marking, and distribution. The contents of the Collection are offered under a Creative Commons license so that libraries and educational institutions will be allowed to duplicate and install works and individuals will be free to share the disc with others. The editorial collective for the second volume of the Electronic Literature Collection, to be published in 2009, is Laura Borràs Castanyer, Talan Memmott, Rita Raley and Brian Kim Stefans. This collective will review the submitted work and select pieces for the Collection. Literary quality will be the chief criterion for selection of works. Other aspects considered will include innovative use of electronic techniques, quality and navigability of interface, and adequate representation of the diverse forms of electronic literature in the collection as a whole. For volume 2, we are considering works of electronic literature in video. Works submitted should function on both Macintosh OS X (10.5) and Windows Vista. Works should function without requiring users to purchase or install additional software. Submissions may require software that is typically pre-installed on contemporary computers, such as a web browser, and are allowed to use the current versions of the most common plugins. To have a work considered, all the authors of the work must agree that if their work is published in the Collection, they will license it under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-
    NoDerivs 3.0 License, which will permit others to copy and freely redistribute the work, provided the work is attributed to its authors, that it is redistributed non-commercially, and that it is not used in the creation of derivative works. No other limitation is made regarding the author's use of any work submitted or accepted. To submit a work, prepare a plain text file with the following information: * The title of the work. * The names and email addresses of all authors and contributors of the work. * The URL where you are going to make your .zip file available for us to download. The editorial collective will not publish the address of this file. * A short description of the work — less than 200 words in length. * Any instructions required to operate the work. * The date the work was first distributed or published, or "unpublished" if it has not yet been made available to the public. Prepare a .zip archive including the work in its entirety. Include the text file at the top level of this archive, and name it "submisson.txt". Upload the .zip file to a web server so that it is available at the specified location. Place all of the text in the "submisson.txt" file in the body of an email and send it to elc2.elo@gmail.com with the name of the piece being submitted included in the subject line. The Electronic Literature Collection is supported by institutional partners including: Brown University, Literary Arts Program; Center for Program in Contemporary Writing at the University of Pennsylvania; Duke University, Program in Literature; Hermeneia at the Open University of Catalonia; Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies; nt2; Pomona College, Media Studies Program;UCSB, Department of English; University of Bergen, Department of Literary, Linguistic, and Aesthetic Studies, Program in Digital Culture; University of Dundee, School of Humanities. Institutional sponsorship opportunities are still available. If your organization or academic department is interested in more information, please contact Helen DeVinney, Managing Director of the ELO, at hdevinney@gmail.com.

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    [digital literacy: what is it and do we really need it?]

    I'm reading "Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?" and while I'm scrolling through the article I'm googling some of the researchers mentioned (Rand J. Spiro, Elizabeth Birr Moje and Linda A. Jackson) and looking up some of the reports and studies. I'm also skimming through Research in Research Quarterly and Journal of Research in Reading (and complaining to myself loudly because of the 12 month embargo) and examining brain scan images. Obviously I'm reading and obviously I'm doing it in a manner different from print. But is it better? Better than what exactly? I think this is where my difficulty lies. It seems, as with the NYT article, that this is a vs matter. Print vs digital. Reading vs surfing. Literacy vs adequacy. But it isn't a simple vs issue is it? The video included in the NYT article shows a white affluent family. Each family member enjoys reading but the mum says reading for her is *quiet* and requires a comfy chair: "I can't curl up with my computer." But is this part of a quantitative assessment of online reading? Is it a feature of literacy per se? I wouldn't disagree with anyone that reading online and reading in print are different. But can we generalise and say that all reading online is different from all reading in print? Can we compare Manga online to its offline sibling? I think we could even find suitable comparisons between some early more text-based hypertext stories and print novels. Maybe instead of citing the differences we should be looking at the similarities as that might form part of the base of new literacies education and assessment. Ken Pugh says that reading in print encourages a more reflective stance, allowing time for rumination. Well, would that not only hold if students/readers are encouraged to do so. I know I've skipped to the good bits in books before {of course this is firmly in my past :)}. Do we reflect on what we read *only* when we read in print? Reading online is not always just about the "short bits" that Pugh refers to. Take a look at the project "Evaluating The Development of Scientific Knowledge and New Forms of Reading Comprehension During Online Learning" run by Dr. Donald J. Leu and Dr. Douglas Hartman. Their main research questions addressed the effects that "varying levels of intensity of Internet integration into seventh grade classroom science instruction." Their general findings suggest that:

    "Internet integration generates greater online reading comprehension ability. Our results suggest it is better to have no integration or high-intensity integration of the Internet for developing concept knowledge, but not low or moderate intensity integration. Our study also provides preliminary data that suggests online and traditional reading achievement tests are not correlated."

    • internet integration in a seventh grade science classroom resulted in higher achievement levels in online reading comprehension. This was true for both the ORCA-IM and ORCA-Blog; two assessment instruments with good psychometric properties. Each assessment required students to locate, evaluate, synthesize and communicate information on the Internet.
    • Conceptual knowledge development in science was greater among students in the high-intensity Internet integration group and the control group.
    • Consistent with new literacy predictions, we found no association between either of the measures of traditional reading comprehension (January and June DRP)and the measure of online reading comprehension (ORCA-Blog). No evidence of gains on a test of traditional reading comprehension following treatment.

    Of course there are different kinds of reading too. Sometimes we read for information (and then maybe on the 'net we have quicker access to more resources) and sometimes maybe we're reading for the whole tactile and sensory experience and then we want our comfy chairs and crisp pages. But as educators, parents and leaders we need not only to address the different reasons our students/children etc... might read but also how. As Gay Ivey, a professor at James Madison University says “I think they need it all.”

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    [transliteracy, m-learning & africa]

    The title is quite a mouthful but still doesn't really get at the enormous potential that Alex Smith's manifesto for African Mobile Literacy suggests. Alex has had the brilliant idea to translate stories into African languages and make them available in formats available for dissemination via mobile (seems to tie in well to the PART group's research into transliteracy). The idea has come about due to the lack of access African young people have to read/hear stories in their home languages. An appalling idea if I imagine not having stories available in English or Italian. So, Alex has created a manifesto and is asking for help. Are there designers translators (perhaps Anietie Isong) and educators (I'm def. going to help out as best I can and draw on my Inanimate Alice Education Pack experience) out there who would like to be involved. If so, comment on Alex's blog post.

    Thanks to
    Karina for the head's up.

    More on mobile learning here from
    Leonard Low.

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    [ TIR-W Volume 9 no. 2 Instruments and Playable Text ]

    From the guest editor Stuart Moulthrop:

    "Our work is animated by the desire to evoke from simple rules a plausibly infinite set of expressions. We come at this problem from various perspectives, techniques, and points of the aesthetic compass, and we arrive at happily different results, but a certain resemblance remains.

    For Judy Malloy, who was a master composer when I was still learning canon and fugue, the key to invention lies in the artful crossing of pattern and chance, of musical and cybernetic form, in her "Concerto for Narrative Data."

    John Cayley, who would be our Che or Tristan Tzara if this were an actual movement, gives us a newly re-engineered version of "riverIsland," an exploration of poetry-as-simulation that continues to define the possibilities of its form.

    Next come some younger though no less accomplished talents, beginning with Shawn Rider, a writer, digital designer, and meta-gamer who is represented here with two pieces, "PiTp," a work laid open deliberately to digital intervention, and "So Random," a story that tells itself each time, specially, just for you.

    Elizabeth Knipe, another relatively new player, offers "activeReader," an interactive media piece that brings its own interpretation of reader engagement and emergent, open form.

    Nick Montfort, equally at ease with aesthetic programming and the long-form palindrome, offers what we might call a minimum instrument, "The Purpling," a maze of recirculating expression built from humble Web pages.

    Last in train is my own "Under Language," a sort of talkative poem with consequences, far less credible in its claim to infinity than most of its companions, but still a kind of game, for those who will play."

    Read the new issue here.

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    [mentoring = key to digital literacy]

    In his talk James Paul Gee tells us about the 4th grade slump: kids who were reading well up until 4th grade (or even earlier today as Gee notes) suddenly become less than proficient. Gee explains that this is due largely to the shift in English language (we're talking about American schools here I think). As kids enter the educational system, English is accessible but at 4th grade academic English (complex and specialist) becomes the norm. Sure kids need to learn academic English as that is the English used in secondary school and definitely at university however maybe there needs to be a longer kind of bridging process where students are guided from a more colloquial language to the academic one?

    Just look at Gee's examples of accessible English and academic and envison how 4th graders would approach them:

    Interestingly Gee explains that students who cope with the language change and don't suffer any ill effects to their level of literacy are kids who have grown up in surroundings (parents etc...) where academic language features.

    However this literacy gap does not just involve language, it also concerns digital technologies/platforms etc... It's not just about access to mp3 players, the 'net, nintendo etc...it's about access to "good mentors" and "good learning systems."

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    [colouring significance/mapping meanings]

    Gerry McKiernan has an interesting idea (sounds a bit like what Alan Liu suggested vis-a-vis wikipedia authority when he gave a talk at the IOCT last July). This kind of chromatographic writing happens in some southern Nigerian groups like the "Benin and Edo people." (See Cornell's online library for more info.) McKiernan's suggestion has some serious implications for tracking the publication of scholarly materials. Is there a kind of googlereader out there that reads for colour?

    "I Propose That All Give Serious Consideration To Writing-In-Color(s) , With Each Color Representing A Respective Level of Significance Within A Text.

    The Visible Spectrum Would Be The Basis For The Relative Levels Of Significance Of Given Text WHERE

    Text of Least Importance Would Be Highlighted In RED;
    Text of Intermediate Importance Highlighted In GREEN;
    Text of Greatest Importance Highlighted in VIOLET, and
    Text of In-Between Importance Highlighted in Appropriate Colors: ORANGE, BLUE, INDIGO
    Initially, TEXT would be COLORED at the PARAGRAPH LEVEL By The Author(s).

    Adjoining OR Disjunct Sections of Text Could Have The SAME COLOR.

    Upon Publication, The Reader Would Have The Ability To ReCOLOR The TEXT ToReflect His/Her View On The Relative Significant Of Text In His/Her Opinion And/Or Relative To A Particular Purpose.

    I also envision a feature by which The Reader would be able to colorlight individual terms and/or phrases.

    Readers would also have the ability to assess the value of The Overall TEXT by LABELING THE TEXT with One Color (Color Digg).

    The Higher The Color, The More Significant The Text."

    NB - what if a reader is colour blind?

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    [DMU leading 3D gaming and gaze software]

    In the technology section of the most recent online New Scientist I see that De Montfort University's Stephen Vickers, is leading the research on gaze technology - a type of assistive technology.

    "Users typically guide a cursor with their eyes, staring at objects for a time to emulate a mouse click. But that is too laborious to let users to match the speed and accuracy of real-time 3D games, says lead researcher on the project, Stephen Vickers, of De Montfort University, Leicester, UK.

    His team is developing the software as part of the EU-funded project Communication by Gaze Interaction (COGAIN).
    Gaze gaming

    "Even though a user in, say, Second Life might look as if they are able-bodied, if they can't operate and communicate as fast as everyone else, they could be perceived as having a disability," he told New Scientist, adding that there is a privacy issue for players who may prefer not to reveal their disability in the virtual world.

    In virtual worlds, gamers need to perform a whole suite of commands including moving their character or avatar, altering their viewpoint on the scene, manipulating objects and communicating with other players.

    Eye-gaze systems bounce infrared light from LEDs at the bottom of a computer monitor and track a person's eye movements using stereo infrared cameras. This setup can calculate where on a screen the user is looking with an accuracy of about 5 mm.

    Vickers' software includes the traditional point and click interface, but includes extra functions to speed up certain commands."

    Read Vickers' paper here.

    Watch a video:

    I wonder how this kind of literacy - using one's eyes in a *very* different way - plays into the concept of transliteracy...something to think about.

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