Archive for the ‘Digital Identities’ Category

Marx, use value, exchange value and social networks

October 13th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

I have to admit I am not a great fan of lectures on line. there seems far to little human interaction and the slick production of things like the TED talks has got both ‘samey’ and somewhat tedious. But I loved this lecture by David Harvey on Karl Marx delivered in Amsterdam with no slides and no notes! As the blurb says “David Harvey is a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology & Geography at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), and the author of numerous books. He has been teaching Karl Marx’s Capital for over 40 years.”

David Harvey does not shy away from the politics of Karl Marx. But his focus is on Marx’s writings and ideas as a tool for social science and analysis. For those of you without the time, interest or patience to listen to the whole video the particular bits I found interesting include his ideas around rational consumption (about 30 minutes in), the idea of accumulation by dispossession (some 38 minutes in), the idea of management of the ommons important (after about 47 minutes) and contradictions over the role of the state (towards the end of the lecture and before the discussion).

Harvey talks a lot about contradictions – the biggest being the contradiction between use value and exchange value. As Wikipedia explains: “In Marx’s critique of political economy, any product has a labor-value and a use-value, and if it is traded as a commodity in markets, it additionally has an exchange value, most often expressed as a money-price. Marx acknowledges that commodities being traded also have a general utility, implied by the fact that people want them, but he argues that this by itself tells us nothing about the specific character of the economy in which they are produced and sold.”

Much of David Harvey;s work has been in the area of urban development and housing and he explains how this contradiction applies there and its implications. But it may also be a useful explanation of understanding what is happening with social networks. Social networks have a use value for us all in allowing us to stay in touch with friends, develop personal learning networks, learn about new ideas or just letting off steam to anyone who will listen. OK – the exchange value is not expressed as a money price. But most people now realise that social networking applications are seldom free. Instead of paying money we give our data away for them to use. And in turn they use this data to try to extract money from us through buying commodities. This is all fine as long as the use value exceeds the exchange value. But as social network providers try to monetise their products they are constantly upping the ante in terms of exchange value. In other words we are increasingly being required to sign over our data as well as our privacy in order to use their applications.

Alternatively social networks are trying to push ever more commodities at us. An article in the Gaurdian newspaper yesterday over Twitters attempts to build a business model noted: “Chief executive Dick Costolo has talked longingly about growing, and eventually making money from, the huge number of people who view tweets without signing up. This is fine on YouTube, where most of us watch the content without producing it and only sigh a little as we’re forced to watch ads when we do so. In contrast, sponsored tweets are a bit like being asked to pay for gossip from your colleague over the coffee machine.”

All this means more and more people are questioning whether the use value of Facebook and Twitter is worth the exchange value.

And such contradictions are hard to resolve!

Living, learning and working on the web: developing a new habitus

September 19th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

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Higher Education is not a provider of content but rather a source of cultural capital says Cristina Costa in this engaging 50 slide romp through digital theory and practice.

Learning literacies do not come free with the latest technology

May 21st, 2014 by Graham Attwell

I have always liked David White’s ideas about digital visitors and residents. And in the training sessions we run we find an increasing individual differentiation in people;s confidence and competence in using digital technologies. In this video David White (@daveowhite, http://twitter.com/daveowhite) of the University of Oxford explains how the Visitors and Residents model provides a framework to understand individuals’ engagement with the Web based on motivation and context. In part 1 of this series, he argues that the metaphors of ‘place’ and ‘tool’ best represent the use of technology in contemporary society and allow us to better adapt to the challenges of new forms of academic practice.

Badge of honour

January 22nd, 2014 by Graham Attwell

Some ideas flourish and then die. Others start slowly and then take off. Although all the talk is about MOOCs my feeling is that the Mozilla Open Badges project may have a more profound influence in changing education than online courses. The following text is an excerpt from the quarterly online magazine, Holyrood Connect.

Scottish education authorities have started to imagine a new way to record and recognise educational achievement. Instead of certificates and test results, learners would have an authenticated, permanent digital record of their accomplishments that could never be lost, because it would live in the cloud.When looking for a job or further learning opportunities, their achievements could bear detailed testimony of what they learned, by linking back to the skills provider online. Most of all, learners could display their badges on their own websites or on social media, alongside Facebook updates or tweets about their regular lives.That vision is behind the concept of ‘open badges’ for education, an idea that isn’t altogether new, but may be coming of age as it begins to be applied to education.

Open badges are an initiative of the Mozilla Foundation, the non-profit organisation that created the popular Firefox browser. The technology involved in making the actual badges is open source – free and open to use for anyone on the web.Badges that have been ‘won’ currently have to be collected using the Mozilla Backpack service, although that piece of software will also eventually be made open source. That allows any organisation that provides education or training of any kind to create its own badge, including a verification mechanism and the necessary information for an employer or other educational institution to assess what skills the holder has.

In April, a collection of schools, colleges and Scottish education authorities formed the Open Badges in Scottish Education Group OBSEG, dedicated to exploring the potential of badges and their application in Scottish education. That partnership approach has yielded significant support: and in October, the Scottish Qualifications Authority SQA announced that it would work with Mozilla to push for their adoption.

via Badge of honour – Holyrood Connect.

Theorizing the Web

January 14th, 2014 by Graham Attwell

What does it mean that digital technologies are increasingly a part of everyday life? We begin with such a broad question because, though the relationship between society and digital technologies is profound, we are only just beginning to make sense of their entanglement. Our understanding is limited, in part, because so much thinking about the Web is rooted in empirical analyses too disconnected from theory, from questions of power and social justice, and from public discourse. We need new priorities in our conversations about the Web.

We invite you to propose a presentation for the fourth annual Theorizing the Web, which—by popular demand—is now a two-day event. Theorizing the Web is both inter- and non-disciplinary, as we consider insights from academics, non-academics, and non-“tech theorists” alike to be equally valuable in conceptualizing the Web and its relation to the world. In this spirit, we’ve moved the event away from conventional institutional spaces and into a warehouse. We have some plans for how to use this space to help rethink conference norms (and also to have some extra fun with this year’s event).

via Theorizing the Web.

Student Voice

August 23rd, 2013 by Graham Attwell

“What do we mean by student voice” asks Catherine Cronin in the blog which accompanies this presentation.  She says “the term tends to signify a set of values and behaviours which includes Sound (the act of speaking), Participation (student presence and involvement), and Power or Agency (see Cook-Sather, 2006). Making space for student voices confronts the power dynamics within schools, classrooms, and the relationships between teachers and students. Without addressing the notion of power in these relationships, student voice initiatives may be simply window dressing. When we truly value and create spaces for student voices, students feel respected and engaged, teachers listen, and students and teachers learn from one another.”

Digital Scholarship

April 18th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

I have recently had a series of conversations with Cristina Costa on ideas around digital scholarship (we might even publish something together on this in the future!). And by luck I found this interesting presentation by Cristobal Cobo Romaní. The presnetation is based on a paper he has written. Cristobal says on his blog: “Widespread access to digital technologies has enabled digital scholars to access, create, share, and disseminate academic contents in innovative and diversified ways. Today academic teams in different places can collaborate in virtual environments by conducting scholarly work on the Internet. Two relevant dimensions that have been deeply affected by the emergence of digital scholarship are new facets of knowledge generation (wikis, e-science, online education, distributed R&D, open innovation, open science, peer-based production, online encyclopedias, user generated content) and new models of knowledge circulation and distribution (e-journals, open repositories, open licenses, academic podcasting initiatives, etc.).:

Wales history online

May 31st, 2012 by Graham Attwell

People’s memories of watching television footage of some of the most significant events in Wales from 1950 – 2000, can now be viewed on a new website funded by Jisc for researchers, teachers and the general public.

Historical events such as the Aberfan disaster in 1966, the Miners’ Strike in 1984 and the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 are some of the important events to have been documented and placed on the website, created by Aberystwyth University as part of Jisc’s investment in opening up valuable content online.

As well as interviews with contributors and film footage the website, which is called Media and Memory in Wales, also includes maps, documents and photographs.

Why Facebook IPO debacle may be good news

May 29th, 2012 by Graham Attwell

The Facebook IPO was very interesting for a number of reasons.

Facebook has managed to screw everybody. Firstly they persuaded us to sign over our data to them and then made a fortune out of selling it to others! And then they sold that model to investors a vastly over-hyped price.

At the end of the day Facebook has little market value, other than selling our data to advertisers. But in this they face three big challenges. The first is to actually get us to buy anything from Facebook ads. OK – I am pretty advert resistant. In fact I don’t actually ‘see’ most adverts. But if I do want to buy something, I certainly don’t go to Facebook. Like mots of us, I guess, I use a search engine. lately I have been using DuckDuckGo for the very reason that it doesn’t track my data, but if I use Google then very occasionally I might look at the sponsored results. More often though, I will buy a travel ticket and then find as a result of Google tracking, Guardian newspaper ads are advertising flight tickets to places I have already bought one for!

But back to Facebook. Their second challenge is getting us all to agree to open up our data. And that means relaxing privacy controls. So Facebook goes through a circle of relaxing privacy – leading to protests – and then having to produce new controls as a result.

But possibly more important in the long run is a commercial problem. Much of the protests around the IPO was that the banks behind the share release gave information to big customers which was withheld from smaller investors. And the main point of this was that Facebook are having problems selling adverts for the mobile version of the social networking site.

My guess is that it is not just Facebook. Whilst we can happily ignore advertising on a big screen, it becomes invasive and annoying on a mobile device. Quite simply users don’t like it.

Since Facebook’s financial model is built on selling targeted advertising and more and more people are using mobile devices to access the site, this is bad news for them. But what is bad news for Facebook (and Facebook investors) may be good news for the rest of us. It may force developers to move away from a model of selling our data to advertisers and look for more sustainable and – dare I say it – more people friendly and socially responsible business models.

 

Visitors and Residents

December 13th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

David White (University of Oxford) and Dr. Lynn Silipigni Connaway (OCLC) have been attracting quite a stir with their JISC-funded work on Visitors and Residents: What Motivates Engagement with the Digital Information Environment?, being undertaken as part of the Developing Digital Literacies programme webinar series.

Slides, audio and a recording of the Blackboard Collaborate session where they presented some of the findings of their work can be found at http://bit.ly/jiscdiglitvr.

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    Sounds of the Bazaar LIVE from the Online EDUCA Berlin 2014

    We will broadcast from Berlin on the 4th and the 5th of December. Both times it will start at 11.15 CET and will go on for about 30 minutes.

    Go here to listen to the radio stream: SoB Online EDUCA 2014 LIVE Radio.

    News Bites

    Online Educa Berlin

    Are you going to Online Educa Berlin 2014. As usual we will be there, with Sounds of the Bazaar, our internet radio station, broadcasting live from the Marlene bar on Thursday 4 and Friday 5 December. And as always, we are looking for people who would like to come on the programme. Tell us about your research or your project. tell us about cool new ideas and apps for learning. Or just come and blow off steam about something you feel strongly about. If you would like to pre-book a slot on the radio email graham10 [at] mac [dot] com telling us what you would like to talk about.


    Consultation

    Diana Laurillard, Chair of ALT, has invited contributions to a consultation on education technology to provide input to ETAG, the Education Technology Action Group, which was set up in England in February 2014 by three ministers: Michael Gove, Matthew Hancock and David Willetts.

    The deadline for contributions is 23 June at http://goo.gl/LwR65t.


    Social Tech Guide

    The Nominet Trust have announced their new look Social Tech Guide.

    The Social Tech Guide first launched last year, initially as a home to the 2013 Nominet Trust 100 – which they describe as a list of 100 inspiring digital projects tackling the world’s most pressing social issues.

    In  a press relase they say: “With so many social tech ventures out there supporting people and enforcing positive change on a daily basis, we wanted to create a comprehensive resource that allows us to celebrate and learn from the pioneers using digital technology to make a real difference to millions of lives.

    The Social Tech Guide now hosts a collection of 100′s of social tech projects from around the world tackling everything from health issues in Africa to corruption in Asia. You can find out about projects that have emerged out of disaster to ones that use data to build active and cohesive communities. In fact, through the new search and filter functionality on the site, you should find it quick and easy to immerse yourself in an inspiring array of social tech innovations.”


    Code Academy expands

    The New York-based Codecademy has translated its  learn-to-code platform into three new languages today and formalized partnerships in five countries.

    So if you speak French, Spanish or Portuguese, you can now access the Codecademy site and study all of its resources in your native language.

    Codecademy teamed up with Libraries Without Borders (Bibliotheques sans Frontieres) to tackle the French translation and is now working on pilot programs that should reduce unemployment and bring programming into schools. In addition, Codecademy will be weaving its platform into Ideas Box, a humanitarian project that helps people in refugee camps and disaster zones to learn new skills. Zach Sims, CEO of Codecademy, says grants from the public and private sector in France made this collaboration possible.

    The Portuguese translation was handled in partnership with The Lemann Foundation, one of the largest education foundations in Brazil. As with France, Codecademy is planning several pilots to help Brazilian speakers learn new skills. Meanwhile in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the company has been working closely with the local government on a Spanish version of its popular site.

    Codecademy is also linking up up with the Tiger Leap program in Estonia, with the aim of teaching every school student how to program.


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