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Social Software in Higher Education (Carrick Institute)

Social Interaction in Shared Virtual Environments

We're now in the second of today's presentations by Ralph Schroeder from the Oxford Internet Institute, hosted by the Centre for Creative Industries and Innovation (they're certainly getting their money's worth!). This one shifts our focus considerably, to virtual environments.

Perhaps the obvious question here is how people interact in such environments. Ralph suggests that from current environments, it's already possible to forecast what shape future environments will take; he has created a model called the Connected Presence Cube to describe such environments.

Building Technological Frameworks for e-Research

This morning I'm spending time in a seminar by Ralph Schroeder from the Oxford Internet Institute, organised by the Centre for Creative Industries and Innovation. There's another seminar this afternoon, but this morning Ralph's talking about e-Research and the development of tools for distributed knowledge production.

He begins by noting the significant interest and investment in e-research - the shared use of digital distributed tools, data, and resources for research; these change the research landscape by globalising knowledge, reconfiguring disciplines, and (perhaps) ultimately advancing science. Knowledge, however, is traditionally understood as being always local, and tends to be siloed in specific disciplines - e-research breaks with such assumptions, and allows scientists to conduct interdisciplinary work which shifts boundaries. Science, at any rate, is drifting gradually towards more team-based research approaches, and the amount of scientific data and information is increasing rapidly.

Social Interaction in Mobile Media and Board Games

The second session on this last day of PerthDAC starts with a paper by Larissa Hjorth, who examines camera phone practices in Seoul and Melbourne (the paper is presented by Christy Dena, though). Mobile media is positioned here as a prosumer machine through which we experience media and art in everyday life; mobile phones have become an integral part of everyday life- no longer a symbol of business or a class status symbol, they are now part of almost all social practices, and their uses have grown well beyond voice telephony and SMSing. Mobile phones remain connected to locality in a process of mobility and mobilism; they inform and locate co-present communication. Forms of mobile media are ongoing personal ethnographies, and are frequently banal and implicated in the politics of banality, which requires further analysis.

Public/Private Literacies, Interactive Granular Art, and Multi-Subject Experiences

The last day of PerthDAC has started now. Jill Walker Rettberg compares the developments around the Web with phenomena around the introduction of the printing press. We're now heading out of the parenthesis of the print age, and this requires the development of new network literacies (enabling users to create, share, and navigate social media) beyond the read and write literacies of the print age. Print and its literacies had introduced a private/public divide where the private self is distinct and separate from what takes place in the mediated public sphere; in the network age, private and public collapse into one another as the self is connected to the network. With the rise of print literacy, reading created a solitary and private relationship between the reader and their book, as Roger Chartier has put it; this is a privatisation of reading, and the library becomes a place from which the world can be seen but where the reader remains invisible. This is a unidirectional relationship, though - as Plato put it, if you ask a written text a question, it will not respond; and similarly, writing is a solipsistic engagement, as Walter Ong has said. But what about blogging, then - is it social or solitary? William Gibson described blogging as boiling water without a lid - a less focussed, dissipating activity -, but is this also true for those who are natives of the blogosphere?

Tools for New Media Literacies

The last MiT5 plenary session for today is on Learning through Remixing, and Henry Jenkins introduces it through examples of remixing as pedagogical practice in earlier times. This can perhaps be described as a process of taking culture apart and putting it together again, in order to better understand how it works.

The first speaker on the panel is Erik Blankinship, of Media Modifications, who build tools for exposing and enhancing the structure of media in order to make them more understandable to all (and he demonstrates this now by using a few redacted clips from Star Trek: TNG). Some of these which will also be online soon at, and another example for this is showing clips from The Fellowship of the Ring (the movie) next to the text of The Fellowship of the Ring (the book), and even a comparison of the Zeffirelli and Luhrman versions of Romeo & Juliet with the original Shakespeare text (which allows the viewer to compare how differently the two directors interpreted the text, and even to created hybrid versions with the 1996 Juliet and the 1968 Romeo interacting with one another). Fascinating stuff!

Defining Web2.0

The next session I'm attending has nothing less than the task of defining what exactly we mean by 'Web2.0'. Fred Benenson and Peter B. Kaufman are making a start with their Five Theses about Creative Production in the Digital Age, and Fred also notes the importance of free software as an enabler of the Web2.0 development. He sees YouTube as the key mediator of Web2.0 styles and ideas at present, and as a site which opens up further questions of copyright, creators' rights, and other related issues.

Defining Creative Labour

From the packed plenary theatre we have now moved on to the first of the smaller sessions (which is similarly full) - one of nine or ten parallel sessions (so please don't take these blog entries as entirely representative of MiT5 proper...). This session is on creative labour in a produsage environment, and Mirko Tobias Schäfer begins by "Revisiting the Case of Interactive Audiences and the User as Producer". He notes that in 1983 TIME nominated the (personal) computer as 'machine of the year' - an interesting precursor of the recent nomination of 'you' as person of the year 2006, which has perhaps redressed the balance again from technology to users.

Changing Models of Scholarly Discourse

Towards the end of March, I'll be attending the ICE 3 conference (Ideas, Cyberspace, Education) at Ross Priory on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland (hopefully the conference acronym won't reflect the weather there). My own paper deals with issues around teaching produsage, but in the lead-up to this small but apparently high-powered conference (Gunther Kress is a keynote speaker), one of the presenter teams has set up a blog to discuss the challenges of social software and other online publishing models for the traditional academic publishing environment. Reading one of the position statements, by Bruce Ingraham, led me to post a somewhat un-bloggy, lengthy response, which I'm also reposting here:

Social Software in Higher Education

I was lucky enough to be a team member in two education research projects proposed to the Carrick Institute in the last application round. One, with my friend and colleague Donna Lee Brien and a host of other colleagues, will work on developing a network of creative writing postgraduates, and I'll post more about it here soon as the project develops. The other, led by Robert Fitzgerald from the University of Canberra, has now been officially announced - here is our press release:

Social Software in Higher Education

Canberra - 24 August 2006

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