persona autosurveillance

Nearly finish impmapping* the paper for the October talk on ‘Persona Autosurveillance’ over the weekend, still some missing pieces but I’m happy with the shape that is slowly coming together

impmapping (impermanent mapping) Persona Autosurveillance

Plans for a new paper on Persona Autosurveillance

* impermanent mapping – a temporary mind map of the flow of a research project

ecologies and networks

An ecology is a study of interactions and relations among organisms and their environment (Bennett 2010). An ecology is a co-presence of objects in a shared arrangement of space and time.

A network, defined by Kadushin (p14 Loc 382), is a set of objects (nodes) and a description of relations between them. A network is an assemblage of the self-organising forces of heterogenous elements in techno-social relations (Shaviro 2014).

 

Bennett, Jane. 2010. Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press.London.

Kadushin, Charles. 2012. Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings. Oxford University Press. New York.

Shaviro, Steven. 2014. The Universe of Things: On Speculative Realism. University of Minnesota Press. London

 

 

persona studies

In preparation for the upcoming book on Persona Studies, and the M/C journal ‘persona’ edition I thought I would just share a couple of blog posts that all use the term ‘persona’ to talk about very different issues and concepts.

Persona 5 – a very popular Japanese game

Persona – the television show

Persona and Greek Theatre and Sound in Counselling

Persona in Design

Persona and Target Audience in Advertising

Persona and Dorothy Parker – a poem

Persona and Grief

Serres, time travel and the Gothic in science fiction

Three new postgraduate students to co-supervise this year. The first I’ve caught up with so far is a Creative Arts students writing a science fiction novel. The exegesis for the thesis will focus on the Gothic in science fiction and to kick the process off, we will be working on an analysis of the Gothic in the Mass Effect series. The aim is to prepare an article for a games studies or the science fiction studies journal, and to contribute to the formation of an emerging research group on technology and science fiction studies at Deakin. In doing some fresh research I came across a great article by Laura Salisbury on Michel Serres, time travel and gothic SF. It’s a cracking read and coincides with the material I’m working on using Serres concept of quasi-objects to analyse the use of screenshots in participatory gamer cultures (to adopt Joost Raessen’s term).

postcard from the deakin archipelago

‘postcard from the Deakin archipelago’, a presentation by Dr Christopher Moore

This presentation was prepared for the unit EEE710 – Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, the first unit undertaken for a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education in Trimester 2, 2012 at Deakin University. The ‘prezi’ presentation slides are available here: http://prezi.com/nqbxk2ri2oop/postcard-from-the-deakin-archipelago/

introduction
The plan is to share how I used Google’s social network and video conferencing ‘Hangout’ feature to run ‘LIVE’ tutorials for students regardless of location. I’m going to keep the technical details to a minimum, and if you are interested in the experiment I have my contact details at the end of the presentation slides and I am more than happy to chat about the finer points and problems.

I am going to draw attention, in a open and hopefully thought provoking way, to the strengths and weaknesses, or the ‘Fail’ and the ‘Win’, of my approach, and to point out that when experimenting with digital and online technologies in pedagogical contexts that sometimes ‘winning’ is actually failing, and that ‘failing’ spectacularly can always be looked at as ‘winning with style’.

LIVE the future
So the remit or the mandate for the presentation, is to critically examine an example of a recent  teaching and learning practice, but I am going to frame the discussion as a response to Deakin’s Corporate’s Agenda 2020 LIVE the Future strategic plan.

I usually  mispronounce the ‘LIVE’, preferring ‘live’ (as in going live, or live act), mostly because unless you are a Looper, you can’t really live the future, and even then it’s a short lived experience.

Deliberately mistaking live for live the whole theme takes on new dimensions, and  liveness, as in being alive or live as in electrically charged has connotation of being both powerful and dangerous. Another sense of LIVE, that I want to focus on with this presentation is to go live, to be broadcast, to be in the public’s eye, to be alive and living in the present, which in social and media media terms means the experience of networked communications, and to take another term adopted by Deakin Corporate, is the experience of the ‘cloud’.

the archipelago
I began teaching at Deakin in March 2012 and babysat a unit (Researching Media: Texts, Audiences and Industries’ for Dr. Nina Weerakkody) which was my first introduction to the deakin archipelago: this distinct arrangement of campuses across multiple Victorian regions and regionalities features a diverse student population and multiple modes of interaction: Burwood, Waurn Ponds, Warrnambool and the off-campus iterations of all of these locations. I have tried to represent these [in the presentation slides]  in a kind of semi-rhizomatic structure indicating where the horizon of the physical locations of these campuses intersects with less well defined territory of the ‘cloud’.

the mythical cloud
Whenever I hear the term ‘cloud’, I think of the quote from Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride: “ I do not think that word means what you think it means…”

The cloud as defined by Deakin in the 2020 strategic plan:

Cloud learning’ is Deakin’s term for harnessing new and emerging technologies to provide highly visual, media-rich, interactive learning experiences wherever our students are located. It signals our intention to re-imagine assessment and learning experiences — both in the cloud or on campus or industry sites— as personalised and accessible in all times zones, enabling our students to access premium learning resources and work collaboratively with teachers, mentors, peers and potential employers, generating ideas and solving real world problems in preparation for the jobs and skills of the future.

The cloud, as envisioned by the edupunk movement (circa 2004-2006), which borrowed the concept from cloud computing, is a means to liberate educational experiences from behind the closed doors of ivory tower thinking and boardroom strategising. From Keith Kirkwood (2010) on the edupunk DIY philosophy of the cloud:

Constructivist, collaborative and connectivist pedagogies have found their enablers in the tools and technologies of the read/write web. Increasingly, web-savvy instructors are abandoning institutionally-sanctioned closed-access systems for the greater flexibility and facility of Cloud-based platforms. Those who are venturing into the Cloud are finding new ways to bring students and student contributions into the academic conversation and curriculum, in a renewed focus on the power of peer- and community- based learning.

Kirkwood (2010) goes further when he argues:

This new form of distributed learning signals something much more profound: it signals a reinvention of formal education, at a time when even some professors are starting to say out loud that without such changes, universities will be irrelevant in another ten years’ time .

the big picture
Trimester one at Deakin was a real eye opener for me, not only were the students, tutors, and support staff in this isolated island arrangement, with little to no interaction between the various modes and campuses, I also had to come to terms with all the separate systems and unconnected databases involved in the administration of a unit: from tutorial organisation to student histories and the antediluvian grading system, it all made me feel like I was trying to pilot the Battlestar Galactica.

the galactica
The Battlestar Galactica – is the last surviving ship of the first Cylon War, and to protect it from a viral attack – none of its computer systems are networked – and so like all of Deakin’s various intranet, databases,DSO logins, library systems, email servers, phone systems – everything runs really well on their own, but there is no intercommunication which makes navigation, coordination and communication that much harder.

the staff online experience
Making sure all students and tutors have access to the same information at the same time, and can make use of it in the same way, is therefore an unrealistic dream…
(one that I not sure any MOOC or LMS can actually help us achieve)

PEBKAC
Is this a situation where the problem exists between keyboard and chair? Is this a feature or a bug? My take is to think on this as a feature and to think about the role of the human in the system to help the overcoming the isolation and siloing effects of compartmentalised systems, people and locations.

the dso galactica
Bruno Latour in discussing the rise of machines with artificial intelligence, alluded to the already existing role of humans as the artificial intelligence of machines, saying that with the current generation of software programming “The engineering dream is to morph the human into a rational machine.” while “The humanist counterdream is to recover an intentional, reflexive and coherent carriers of values. while the result is a rather bizarre cyborg that ressembles nor the machine nor the human, or as I like to call it the DSO (the learning management system recently introduced at Deakin, based on the Desire2Learn platform).

It’s no secret that I think LMS like Blackboard and DSO are really big cash cows that are a complete waste of time and money – its the kind of thing you paid for when you paid for internet browsers – and the result is more machine than human. The D2L platform, like Blackboard before it, is a walled garden, a legacy of the principles of management that demand centralisation and control, this goes against what the cloud is actually about,  but I do admit that the current version of the DSO does embeds html in a much more user friendly manner (allowing YouTube, Delicious, Scribd, Prezi and other platform integration).

So Galactica is a relic…
The Galactica is a relic, but its power, utility, survivability and expertise is in the crew and the crew at Deakin are endlessly supportive and innovative.

There is chatter everywhere and with back channels like Yammer and Deakin’s social network presence is slowly emerging, but the point is no matter how good or how bad your systems are, it is what we as academics bring to their iteration, what we add to them – the ‘live’ component.

That extra bit of something else is what makes the machines work and function seamlessly, and its something that only we can bring to the network and make them useful. It’s a ‘something’ that is fragmented across multiple services and structures.

That something, in the digital era, leaves a trace, a footprint, and a series of impressions, that coalesce into what we call our persona. Think of the academic’s ‘persona’ not as a concrete ‘thing’, but rather a digitally organic networked embodiment of “the art of making do”.

the art of making do
In The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau (1984, p. 30) perceives an aesthetic in the work of those whose creativity is both constrained and enlivened by  spaces, both cultural and physical, in language, in the home, at work, and at play, where the boundaries of circumstance leave no choice but to live with a sense of plurality and innovation:

“By an art of being in between, the artists draws unexpected results from his situation.”

So our systems don’t communicate – well that becomes part of our experience of the Deakin existence….so there is no WiFi COVERAGE in the Media and Communication department, we make do…

Kopyism
In the religious doctrine of The Sweedish Church of Kopysim, the pressing of the ‘control + c’ and ‘ctrl + v’ keys are sacred invocations. Each time you copy and paste you are conducting the holy sacraments and these everyday technology shortcuts suddenly become an act of worship.

With similar thinking then, every conversation with a student, every online post or news item, every work related email, every database you open, ever powerpoint presentation and word document you create, you are enacting and enlivening yourself in your role as teacher, academic, administrative agents, etc and in the acts of making do that we are forced to adopt with these technologies, there spaces, functions, limitations and affordances for your own unique impressions on the world.

The persona of the academic self, as Kim Barbour and Professor David Marshall describe, in a recent issue of First Monday, is the idea of identity as a performance.

digital persona – I wish I were more like my online persona
A digital persona is accrued over time, as our activities across our many networks and communications and media devices leave footprints, make new connections and generate data about our everyday acts of being an academic, that do translate in very small but meaningful ways as creative acts of expression.

Social media helps to render these acts visible, lending them a semi-permanence, and enables us to reveal what it is we actually  think and do in a publicly visible way

One of the features of using Skype and Google mail is the status icon so that students in my network can see when I am online and can announce my availability to students – so that my emails session can double as consultation times if I want them to – but it also helps identity times that I am not approachable, during other admin, research, writing and other times.

My Facebook, Twitter and G+ timelines are locations and records of important work related-conversations, following PhD candidate Edwin Ng on Facebook for example, comes with a good amount of required background reading in Foucault, Derrida and Secular Criticism.

Harry Persona
The academic persona, and indeed any digital persona in general is, to cite Barbor and Marshall (2012), an idea of “intentional presentation of a specific identity from the ‘composite of multiple selves’ which exist in all of us the idea of the persona is the very embodiment of the LIVEness of the Deakin plan, but how does the concept persona help address the archipelago issue, and how do we steer the Galactica?

steering the Galactica
I inherited a subject titled ‘Globalisation and the Media’ to teach in trimester 2, 2012.  I had previously experimented with a blogging assessment that is based on weekly writing and underpinned by a rigorous peer review structure, and I knew this would help bring students across the campus together as a common audience but I suspected we could do more.

I was thinking about the term the ‘deakin archipelago’, which I am sure I heard from Professor Paul Carter, and in searching for the term I came across Karen Le Rossignol’s article on what she calls Archipelago design. She writes about achieving “… a nexus between experiential and formal knowledge that can be engendered by relevant teaching/learning design, by an associational or archipelago approach”.

“Archipelago design …. conceptualises a string of associated communities of online learning, providing an interactivity and immersion by the participants, and a social community of collaborative knowledge.” (Le Rossignol, 2011)

Much of Karen’s approach aligns with the goals of the new Deakin strategic plan, where technology serves a structural role. From experience the experiential and integrated learning environments that result in productive communities of knowledge and learning  are co-generated between teacher and student, and student and peers. The beauty of this approach is to shift the focus on expertise from the context of learning to the content: acknowledging the students probably know more about the technology in use than we do is one thing, but incorporating them into the everyday running of the unit, as co-collaborators and facilitators as well as audience.

The issue then  becomes, not how to speak or transmit information to everyone at once, in a broadcast framework, but how to establish an online persona that makes the best and creative use of all the technologies and platforms availables to establish a presence and activity that is useful to all students, tutors, peers, institutions etc at all times.

This gave the idea of using the social network and the hangout feature of G+ to reach students enrolled but disinterested in tutorials, and reach those students in off campus mode who miss out on the ‘liveness’ of the tutorial interaction.

hanging out
Google’s social network might be less popular than alternatives like Facebook and Twitter, but the clutter-free interface makes G+ and the video-conferencing ‘Hangout’ feature an extremely easy to use.

The circles features gives a nuanced control over your social groups and their online iterations – making the groups of large numbers of students easy to sort and identify. At the start of each ‘live’ tutorial I broadcast an invitation to the tutorial that is only going out to students enrolled in the unit.

At the start of the tutorial I use the ‘circles’ social network feature of the G+ system to invite students enrolled in the unit to participate in the video conference ‘Hangout’ via a laptop.

Using the laptop I can face the webcam towards the whiteboard, especially when using the material on the web (does that make tutes online?) and during discussion small group work etc, I can swivel the laptop around to be another set of voices in the discussions and students can accompany me as I move to between individual, small group and class interactions.

The video feed switches automatically to the person talking, which prompts turn taking and can be automatically uploaded to YouTube to be reviewed later, although none of the tutorials this trimester were uploaded to YouTube, as we are still working out the public/private ethical and Deakin policy issues involved in this, but hopefully it will be practical to implement and embed in the DSO next year.

The trial with G+ during this trimester has been ‘successful’, frustrated only by the vagaries of the WiFi at the Burwood campus. As I have found experimenting with other platforms and practices, like Facebook, Twitter, Online Video, Podcasting, Social Bookmarking and Blogging (the list goes on), these early failures are typical and useful stepping stones towards a more reliable and informed use.

The philosophy of teaching here is one of expertise in content not context, which requires the student to become an expert themselves in the relevant digital literacies involved; calling on them to provide peer-based technical support, the active sharing of knowledge, making recommendation on use, guidelines, sharing information, combat cheating and plagiarism, and reviewing implementation that can be crucial to the use and improvement of the technology in supporting not an online or offline, but an ‘enlivened’ and connected student and teacher experience.

The trial was a ‘success’ through failure, mostly technical in nature. The big fail was the WiFi,  some days it would behave and other days it was simply absent, and most times only partly awake. The second big fail was structural, as the setting up of the G+ Hangout typically took up to 15 minutes,which is simply far too long for a 50 minutes tutorail. The real ‘win’ was with those students helping me to get the hangout service working, helped me troubleshoot and report on browser issues and audio/video connectivity- and next time I will foster this collaboration to a much higher degree.

Kirkwood, K. 2010, ‘The wisdom of the clouds Distributed learning, MOOCs, edupunks, and the challenge to formal education’, Proceedings of The Second International Workshop on Open source and Open Content WOSOC 2010, http://repository.gunadarma.ac.id/bitstream/123456789/2179/1/02-03-002-The_Wisdom%5BKeith%5D.pdf aviailable October 7, 2012.

Bruno Latour 1995 ‘Social theory and the study of computerized work sites’
in W. J. Orlinokowski, Geoff Walsham (editors) Information Technology and Changes in Organizational Work, Chapman and  Hall, London, pp.295-307
http://www.bruno-latour.fr/sites/default/files/61-COMPUTERS-GB.pdf

Le Rossignol, Karen 2011, Archipelago design : virtualopolis and the interactive virtual team scenario, in Experiential learning in virtual worlds, Inter-Disciplinary Press, Witney, England, pp.147-154.

effective assessment in higher education

The sixteen indicators of effective assessment in higher education is a useful checklist (link broken, new source needed!) that provides a timely opportunity to review the changes introduced to the unit I inherited at the start of the current trimester. I reflect here on a several, but not all the indicators and address their concerns in relation to the changes I made to the assessments for the unit.

Assessment is treated by staff and students as an integral and prominent component of the entire teaching and learning process rather than a final adjunct to it.

The content for the unit had not been revised since 2007, which for a Media and Communication subject is almost an ice age (and it proved problematic all trimester), but after babysitting a 200 level unit in the first trimester I was also less than satisfied with the general standard of writing, analysis, research and reflection demonstrated by the student’s approach to writing essays.

In the past I’d achieve fantastic results by removing traditional assessment practices like exams and essays, replacing them with a continuous blogging assessment structure with a peer review component, which then became the focus for the unit and influenced what elements of the course materials I reviewed on the fly.

The multiple roles of assessment are recognised. The powerful motivating effect of assessment requirements on students is understood and assessment tasks are designed to foster valued study habits.

Through previous experimentation I had found that a short weekly blogging task coupled with a peer review assessment, introduced students to a repertoire of digital literacy skills and help to encourage regular writing and reviewing habits to help foster better research and analysis.

Tutors cannot be expected to read all the blog posts each week, so the peer review eliminates the need for constant surveillance and encourages students to take on the responsibility of monitoring, evaluating and engaging with each others’ work through a compulsory comment requirement (each student must comment on two blogs per week) and a grading component (each student uses the same grading rubric as the tutors to to evaluate each other’s work).

As with previous years, I’ve found this approach draws on the students’ intrinsic drive for learning, and encourages the completion of their posts on time and to a high standard, as they contributed to a micro, but vibrant, public sphere in the awareness of the whole student cohort as their audience. Students often go well beyond the minimum effort required for the task.

There is a faculty/departmental policy that guides individuals‟ assessment practices. Subject assessment is integrated into an overall plan for course assessment.

The blogging assessment starts in the first week of the trimester, and students are required to read, conduct further research and compose their reflections from day one. This proved to be a challenge at Deakin, as the School/Faculty policy allows student to enrol in units quite late in the trimester.

Those students coming late into the subject had to work harder and with less feedback those those who started in week one, and of course there are always students who consider the idea of a weekly writing task daunting and find themselves catching up at the last minute in week five, week nine and week twelve when students nominate a single post to be formally assessed.

Assessment tasks assess the capacity to analyse and synthesise new information and concepts rather than simply recall information previously presented.

The students are required to review the lecture and background materials (including traditional readings as well as online video, podcasts, and other blogs), select a single concept to examine, discuss and expand their writing through the use of hypertext links and embedded media. The individual blog posts are limited to 250 words, and this is perhaps the most challenging aspect of the process for many students, as it forces them to think much more strategically about their writing choices. This constraint is countered with the final piece of the assessment which involves reworking one of their posts into an extended scholarly blog with a 1200 minimum word count

A variety of assessment methods is employed so that the limitations of particular methods are minimised. Assessment tasks are designed to assess relevant generic skills as well as subject-specific knowledge and skills.

There is a steady progression in the complexity and demands of assessment requirements in the later years of courses.

Each blog post must address the four elements of the task, which can be abbreviated here as concept, definition, discussion and exemplification. Each component of the overall assessment is essentially the same, but students are encouraged to use digital communication practices and media rich methods to approach the task differently each week: we have student’s video blogging, live podcasting, and using Pinterest, Reddit, G+ and other social networks and web sites to expand the connectivity of their blog and increase their audience via the affordances of the web. The extended scholarly blog also begins to bridge the gap between the critical, but often informal, voice that students adopt for the blogs and their writing in other units.

There is provision for student choice in assessment tasks and weighting at certain times. Student and staff workloads are considered in the scheduling and design of assessment tasks

The ideal version of assessment would allow students to submit their blogs for assessment by the tutor in their own time, but this places too great a demand on the time and availability of the tutor.

Excessive assessment is avoided. Assessment tasks are designed to sample student learning.

A delicate balance, more for the tutors than the students, and I will be reducing the number of times the blogs are assessed when I run the unit again, from three to two, in order to help alleviate the added administration and marking time caused by the fully online submission. I do like saving trees, but it can be more labour intensive for some tutors less used to providing feedback in digital form.

Grades are calculated and reported on the basis of clearly articulated learning outcomes and criteria for levels of achievement.

I spent a great deal of time at the start of the trimester aligning the activities of the blog and peer review assessment task with the explicitly and clearly stated grading rubrics matching the unit and graduate outcomes and attributes to the demands of the content but more recently I’ve began to doubt the effectiveness and perspicacity of grading. I don’t consider the need for a grade other than a pass/fail to be required for the situation and all students who fail the first two rounds of assessment are afforded the opportunity to revise and resubmit. Students are also encouraged to revise their blog posts at any stage in response to their peer and assessment feedback.

Students receive explanatory and diagnostic feedback as well as grades.

The submission of the blog fulfills multiple purposes, the student is required to copy their comment logs, grading rubrics and a single nominated pot into a word document that is uploaded to the DSO dropbox. Comments and feedback is marked up in the word document and the grading rubric. The brevity of the posts helps to ensure tutors are able to turn around feedback remarkably quickly and students can implement changes at any time.

Plagiarism is minimised through careful task design, explicit education and appropriate monitoring of academic honesty.

The blogging structure and peer evaluation makes direct plagiarism more difficult, although students do invariably find new ways to game the system. I did note a small degree of repurposed materials from other units, which I don’t discourage, and it was noted by other students who made recommendations on how to redraft these posts to better fit with the scholarly and critical blog genre.