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Archive for February, 2013

I am extremely pleased to say that our wedding invitations are now ready to send! Hurrah! Well, there are a few that I still have to locate addresses for, but I’m heading off to the post office this morning with the intention of posting at least 70% of them!

And it’s been a jolly journey. Never in a million years would I have expected this to be such a complex step in the whole “organising a wedding” shabang.

First, and on-going, there is the politics of “who’s going?” – ranging from shall we invite children (no), to what about all those aunts and uncles that we never see, to what about the friends of friends who are always there at other weddings.

Space and money restricts us here, but it’s not particularly comfortable building those spreadsheets and re-categorising everyone.

Then there is the issue that the invitation is the first experience of the wedding that your guest will have (!) and so it sets the scene, sets the theme, so you have to THINK about it this far in advance (arrrgggh).

Then you have to put the whole thing together, and there’s a lot of information to find out and decisions to be made – accommodation, taxis, entertainment, dress code.

Once all those decisions have been made, then it’s the fun part – Blue Peter in my front room. The hole punching, the sticking glitter stars, the guillotining, the rubber stamping, the silver pen wielding, the tying of tiny multi-coloured bows…

But now, finally, I can sit back and admire my handiwork (I’m going to ignore the tiny typo on the third ticket…) and take the weighty white envelopes down to my local post office and see them off on their way as they zip around the country to our nearest and dearest bringing news of our nuptials. It may be six months away, but with these little invites, the bull is out of the gate… let the party commence!

Stamping holes Pig stamp Invite LineupBowsEnvelopes

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And so, I’ve made it to the final week in the MOOC. Week 5 is time to submit our final assessment. Yes, even in this new “digital world” we still have to submit assessments. BUT this time it’s not the usual ten thousand words on something or other, hurrah, this time we get to make a “digital artefact”.

I find this quite exciting. The word artefact reminds me of primary school and the Mary Rose.

So, what is the artefact? We’ve been given this brief (from the edcMOOC class notes):

“(the digital artefact)… expresses, for you, something important about one or more of the themes we have covered during the course. This artefact should be published somewhere on the web which is publicly accessible…”

And

“something that is designed to be experienced digitally, on the web. It will have the following characteristics:

  • it will contain a mixture of two or more of: text, image, sound, video, links.
  • it will be easy to access and view online.
  • it will be stable enough to be assessed for at least two weeks.”

And, as to why…

“Text is the dominant mode of expressing academic knowledge, but digital environments are multimodal by nature – they contain a mixture of text, images, sound, hyperlinks and so on. To express ourselves well on the web, we need to be able to communicate in ways that are “born digital” – that work with, not against, the possibilities of the medium. ……….In EDCMOOC, we have an opportunity to explore and experiment in a supportive and relatively low-stakes context. That’s why we want you to make an assignment that makes the most of the web – a digital artefact.”

This is pretty exciting as I get to play with all the ideas that have been kicked up in my brain over the last 4 weeks and put them down in a new digital space. It’s given me an excuse to experiment with some new fun tools and I’ve discovered that the digital space and the tools available there are a lot more “right brained” than writing on paper. And as I’ve discovered, I have blocks when trying to write on paper!

There were a lot of really interesting themes that emerged from the course, things that caused me to wander off into murky corners of the internet and read/watch lectures on YouTube rather than watching TV in the evenings. I even ordered books that I would never normally take a second glance at! So it’s definately opened my mind in many ways.

But the biggest relevation for me from this course was my immediate struggle to accept that perhaps this wasn’t a natural process for me – learning in a digital space. I work with digital publishing, but I have never actually learnt in a digital way. I’ve completed a course through a VLE before, but that’s not the same. And after my initial excitement I quickly hit the quicksand and started to flounder. As I read back through my blogs over the last few weeks, I seemed to experience a full on Kubler Ross curve of emotions as I grappled with this change in my world.

But, I feel that through a little perserverence and the help of some random strangers’ words, I rode the rollercoaster dip up and out into the shiny new world. And it IS pretty and exciting on the other side.

So that is what I am trying to convey in my digital artefact. The journey. Because, to me, THAT was the critical leap for me. Relearning to learn.

So, here it is, it’s a little “blue peter”, but I’m new on this scene (digital newborn), and I’m quite proud of what I’ve put together – hope you like it!

digital artefact

View my artefact.

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This week, in the MOOC the topic is “Redefining the Human”. After last week’s readings and viewings around “Reasserting the Human” things start to get a little bit futuristic as we contemplate what the Posthuman will look like. And on the way to that, the TransHuman (even spookier).
And it’s pretty cool.

Again, there are some videos to watch, some are disturbing, some sad, some funny. And plenty of reading, all of which is, as ever, thought provoking. One particular article by Nicholas Carr (2008), Is Google Making Us Stupid? sparked an observation of my own behaviour…

“You are right,” Nietzsche replied, “our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.” Under the sway of the machine, writes the German media scholar Friedrich A. Kittler , Nietzsche’s prose “changed from arguments to aphorisms, from thoughts to puns, from rhetoric to telegram style.”

This quote was in response to an observation from a friend of Nietzsche’s that his writing, once delivered through a typewriter (as Nietzsche’s sight was failing so he had to resort to the machine) had changed dramatically. In this case, it seems, for the worse, I however have the reverse experience…

I am a BIG fan of The Artist’s Way, although not having ever fully completed it, I have attempted several times and every time got something profound out of the experience. There is a fundamental component of the course, which is known as “morning pages”; a morning journal in which you write your thoughts and general stream of consciousness on waking. You’re supposed to write 3 sides of A4 and even if you run out of things to write, you should just keep going. Eventually you’ll uncover inner burblings and wisdom that reveal all manner of insights into your inner and outer life and generally help you to overcome artistic (or in my case just life) blocks.

Writing with a penI struggled with this for months, first of all I couldn’t commit to a notepad, then after writing for a few minutes my hand became crippled in a claw as I was unable to properly drive a pen. My handwriting has grown messy from years of underuse and I’d find the scrawl off-putting and ugly. BUT my main stumbling block was simply that my mind just wouldn’t work properly when holding the pen to paper. My thoughts would falter and tripping over themselves when trying to flow down my arm through my pen and onto paper.

One day, I stumbled across a post on some random website (aren’t they always random?). The writer admitted that that he also had a problem with the flow of his morning pages, until he tried typing on the PC. And then the magic happened.

Ok, so the pretty notepad goes out of the window, where’s the artistic connection as the energy flows along your arm and into this beautiful carved pen onto the page? Isn’t that part of the experience?

Hell no. I just need to express myself and do it NOW! I have a tonne of inner ramblings and musings all pressing against the door to get out. I’m starting to suffocate in a sea of those thoughts – let them out and I don’t care how!!

text on screenSo I did the same. I powered up the PC every morning, as the birds started singing, with my first cup of tea of the day, before I talked to anyone, and I wrote. And wrote and wrote. I found my voice.

All of a sudden ideas, expression, fears, hopes, dreams, and entire streams of consciousness poured forth and I couldn’t hold it back. I had literally unlocked my authentic voice.

And it was so good to finally hear it (only thirty something years into my life!).

It turns out how I write – typing on a device keyboard – is a fundamental part of my thinking process – part of an internal system that I use to access my thought stream. I simply can’t do it the ‘free hand’ way anymore. Or at least not in the same way. I should have known this to be the case, I find it easy to rattle off long emails full of expression to friends and family, and I love to blog – and always write straight into the “Add New Post” section, never constructing offline on paper first. This is HOW I write.

Should I be worried? Have I lost the ability to write by hand? Have my neural networks for that purpose been lost forever and completely rewired for devices? Does this make me one step less human and more robot?

It doesn’t frighten me. It excites me that I’m able to access my voice. It’s voice that I wasn’t able to “hear” (at least in the same way) before. I also feel like in some small way I’ve adapted to the technology age. I find it fascinating that by simply having my fingers dance across a keypad enables me to fully express myself, whereas grasping a pen and trying the same doesn’t. I can’t quite explain but it feels better too. I probably have stronger “typing” muscles in my fingers.

So whether or not I’m already on my journey to adapting and moving towards being a posthuman, perhaps not. I’ll have to have whizzbots implanted in my brain so I can think-type instead. Lord only knows what inner madness THAT will unleash. Stay tuned, it may make it onto this blog:)

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Heart hole punchI got an exciting new gadget this weekend. A heart shaped hole punch. Little did I ever imagine how much joy and distraction it could bring.

It’s wedding invite construction season and this process has taken a little longer that I’d hoped. I used to think it utterly ridiculous that brides-to-be could spend so much effort and time, quite frankly, on something so trivial as the invites.

Turns out I’m. ridiculous after all.

invitesAnyway, I had my invites printed a few weeks ago – I found a nifty little online store called Zazzle which gave me some sweet inspiration. But I want to personalise it a little more, so have used Gimp to create some further info bits to add to the back of the invite. And now I’m constructing the entire thing together, which includes punching heart-shaped holes.

The punch is tiny and only punches one heart at a time, which is fine for the invites, but my second activity with the punch is to create table confetti. This is really fun. I’m punching hearts out of my travel brochures – all those delicious islands in the warm watered oceans that glimmer on the pages with their turquoisiness and golden sand-appeal. I’m punching hearts right across exotic beaches and blood orange sunsets, across the himalayas, taking in the prayer flags and snow-capped mountains of the mighty Everest. I’m punching out hearts through lush jungles and fields of tea plantations in Sri Lanka, I’m capturing ancient temples and the faces of buddhas right inside my paper hearts.

heart holesThen I’m dropping them all into a Sharwoods Green Curry jam jar to save up and they’ll be liberally sprinkled over the tables at my reception, bringing a little piece of world adventure and wonder to all who take a moment to glance down and perhaps they’ll spot an Atol from the Maldives, or a small piece of the Great Barrier reef staring up at them from the table!

You may think it’s a crazy lot of effort for something that ultimately may not even be noticed, but I’m enjoying seeing these little heart windows walking all over my magazines before I toss them in the recycling. The punching itself is pretty therapeutic, and I love the idea that I’m sending small subliminal messages to my nearest and dearest, when they gather to celebrate our wedding day, to travel the world, even if only from that table, with a little heart-shaped scrap of paper and their wildest imagination.

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Week 3 of our MOOC moves us to the topic of “Being Human”. Phew, this is the bit that I think will help to ground me a little more (or perhaps spin me out…). And I’m excited as there’s a competition in the MOOC to experiment with visual ways of representing our understanding of the course so far. The guidelines suggest that we create an image that represents one of the themes that are being discussed in the course, and for me the overarching theme that’s emerged for me is the grapple to get to grips with this new way of learning.

Essentially I am learning to learn again. In a foreign land.

The first two weeks have been mind-boggling, and fascinating, and thought-provoking, terrifying, exciting, I could go on (and have in the last three posts on the topic). BUT I really feel like I’m breaking through and emerging the other side and it’s actually a beautiful and profound place.

I feel like my brain is waking up after a long long winter in hibernation. Everything is different to before, but I’m starting to get it. Slowly.

And so onto my masterpiece (!). I knocked this up this evening. Using my new best-image-manipulation-friend “Gimp” (as it’s way more responsive tham Photoshop), and an idea that popped into my head without too much effort, so I went with the flow (as I’m learning to do now).

MOOC wordleIt’s a close up photo of my eyeball (using my phone). I then coloured it in a bit. I then created a Wordle using all the words that I’ve written from my last 3 blog posts about the MOOC. I then put them into the eye white bit.

It’s supposed to represent my little wrestle with the digital door and now I’m in and taking a look around. No fear, just curiosity and calm…

I’m actually really pleased with it. It feels a little Warhol. All the competition entries are being loaded to Flickr, and then there’s a FlickrRiver which shows the ones voted “Most interesting” – there are some REALLY cool pictures up there.. wish me luck!

Shimmyshimmybb in the edcMOOC 2013

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Today was going to be an unremarkable day. It’s Tuesday, cold out, grey skies, lots on at work. My team were out in the morning and they came back in around lunch, each carrying a little green book that they’d been given as part of the course they’d all attended this morning. There was an energy about them that made me curious and excited as I powered down my computer and wrapped up warm to head out to attend the same course, but this being the afternoon session, the one for managers.

How to Change Absolutely EverythingThis “course” was actually named the “Change Cafe” and it was all about Leading Change within our organisation. Run by Damian Hughes, who is Professor of Human Resource Management and Organisational Behaviour at Manchester Met, we spend just under 3 hours being entertained, challenged, and reflecting on our approaches and attitudes to change.

This was one of the best courses I’ve been on in a while, and I’ve been on quite a few recently. In fact I feel that I’m starting to get course-fatigue (in the same way that you get temple-fatigue when travelling in SE Asia…), but this one was different. Damian spent a lot of time “presenting” but it was in a really informal way, almost like you were watching a one man show. But we did participate, being allowed to scribble with felt tipped pens and permanent markers all over a paper table cloth, contemplating ideas, working in pairs, responding to questions, but never having the pressure of “sharing” with the group.

Just a few minutes into Damien’s presentation, the topic of Left Brain, Right Brain came to the fore (and stayed there throughout the whole session).

This is the second time in as many weeks that I’ve been enchanted by the topic of Left Brain Right Brain. I’ve read about it several times in the past, but I think right now, at this point in my life (and work), it’s really resonating.

Around this time last week, a link found its way to me on email (and I do believe that things find their way) to an incredible lady, Jill Bolte Taylor, presenting yet another fabulous TED talk. This made me nearly cry at work. Her talk provides an extremely personal, moving and special account of her stroke and a unique insight and explanation of the functions of the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

I was completely bowled over my Jill’s talk and felt like giving her my own standing ovation from my desk in my office, I was SO moved. What an incredible speaker, story-teller, inspiration and human being. In addition to the sheer awe I felt on listening to her I started to recognise my own right brain (and left brain, but that’s easy!) behaviours. I have experienced complete euphoria and love of life before, in fact many times. For no real reason. I’ve always thought of it as almost anti-depression. It’s so strange but amazing, and I know I’m extremely lucky to be able to tap into this. It’s my right brain knocking.

I also know that I actively balance my life with dancing and drumming and hula hooping and dressing up. Childish things, perhaps, but actually they’re right-brained activities and they bring harmony and happiness into my world.

It’s all starting to make sense.

A pink lotus flower and lily pads with saturated colorSo back to the course, as time progressed, our table cloth was getting full of doodles, we were energetically chatting to our table-mates about what our Perfect Day looked like at work, what successes our teams would be having. Thinking about the good things, asking the right questions. I could literally feel my mind opening up like a lotus flower on a lilly pad. My left brain was quieting and my right brain was yawning, stretching and waking up.

And it felt fantastic.

I think there’s a small window when you’re taking part in activities like these, you have this space when you are engaged, inspired, and want to take action. In fact Damien himself said that only 20% of us would act on the things we learnt on our course today. As the course came to and end, I packed my post it notes into my little green book, put it in my handbag and walked out of the college where the event was held.

Turn left to go back to work, turn right to walk into town.

I turned right. I wasn’t ready to go back to the meetings, overflowing inbox, left-brained world. I needed some time to “compost” those thoughts. More than that I wanted to sit in my feelings for a while. I was high on the possibilities for me, my team, for others in my life.

post it notesDamien warned us of three things that will try to stop us taking action – being too busy – being too comfortable – procrastinating. He asked that we just do one small thing, if nothing else, when leaving at the end of today.

I intend to read his book (it will be on my bedside table with the other 4 books I’m reading at the moment). I intend to focus on the items I subconsciously scrawled on my post-it notes, presuming that they must be important for me to write them down on the post-it, to keep, rather than the table cloth, to leave. But most importantly I will exercise my right brain. I will continue to feed it with creative pursuits, I will try and listen to it in challenging situations of change, for it could well offer all the answers, experience and hope that I ever need.

Turns out Tuesday was pretty remarkable after all…

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Last week was a rollercoaster of emotions and self-discovery as I embarked on my journey within my first MOOC. Little did I know the challenges that lay in wait as I stepped into the digital classroom. Confusion, bewilderment, self-doubt, frustration, procrastination.. but then a few wise souls with more experience in this strange new world offered a guiding hand, a few gentle words of advice, and I found my way back to the path…

Now it’s week 2 (phew!) and I’m returning with a new energy, back to the class, back to the forums. This time I’m approaching Twitter with a gentle glance, I’m having a stroll through the forums, but not feeling I have to scrutinise every post, and if a blog catches my eye, I’ll give it a whirl. One thing I’m really excited about is discovering some fascinating new bloggers to follow – hurrah!

It's going to be the future soon

Image by krupp. Creative Commons license CC:BY

So, away from the incidental lessons and back to the content. Week 2 is all about Looking to the Future, thinking about how technology will shape our lives in the future and whether it’s going to be a good or a bad thing (broadly speaking). And the future is a fascinating place, especially when you allow yourself (and others) to speculate about how it’s going to be..

Each week starts with a bunch of films to watch, and this week there were a host of different films from different perspectives of the future. Corning and Microsoft deliver their visions of the future. Both very sci-fi and sterile, everything being point and swipe technology. It all feels a little too futuristic and relies on everyone in the world having access to slimline funky gadgets that they can point and swipe, swipe, swipe at each other. Everyone in the videos are beaming colgate-white smiles, and there seems to be no crime or grime to speak of. People don’t really need to talk to each other any more. They just smile at each other, oh, and SWIPE (damn Apple, I’m going to stop saying swipe now…)

Frankly, this scares me. It’s all a bit “Stepford”. Everything is run by programmable machines and devices, yes, “intelligence” by definition, but what about the emotional and creative intelligences that we are all discovering are more important than ever?

I did like the idea of seeing dinosaurs in the park though (Corning video), that IS cool…

Then we moved onto “Sight”, this is AMAZING. It’s also hillarious, ridiculous, and terrifying at the same time. You have to watch it:

Sight from Sight Systems on Vimeo.

This is such a clever video, as well as being super cool. It raises all manner of questions about controlling people with technology, changing personalitites, and blurring the lines between real and virtual worlds.

The content in this course is all really thought provoking – when watching the videos I still feel like it’s very much sci-fi and fantastical, not really likely to happen, although I bet the technology already exists in labs around our planet. Again and again I come to these ideas with the overarching feeling that everything we see here – even the visions that Microsoft and Corning have (which are clearly meant to be “ideal”)- is a dystopia – I don’t want to live in a world like that – who would? Being permanently wired into the mainframe, having everything super-productive and easy to achieve? Being fed information 24-7, without room for spontaneity or serendipity.

Personally, as I get older, I feel I am learning more and becomming wiser to the gifts that are available when “offline” – appreciating nature and being outdoors more. Finding value in direct face to face interactions with people. Discovering and re-discovering depth in relationships. Experimenting with spirituality. Finding magic in chance moments and random interactions. Not planning things, getting lost, being late, missing the train, forgetting my umbrella when it rains. I like to think that all of these “mistakes” and unplanned happenings lead you on your unique journey through life, and in these “futures” that are being grown for us in labs, everything becomes homogenized, efficient, pre-determined, planned. The magic and mystery disappears, the emotion and creativity seeps out, and where’s the fun in that?

I can’t help but think I have grown up with implanted attitudes from my dad “you don’t need to be staring at a computer all day, go outside and breathe some fresh air, smell the flowers, walk the dog.” And although he will never know about eye implants that project ‘The Scream’ onto a living room wall (watch The Sight to understand this comment), I think I’d rather go out and smell the flowers. The real ones.

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