Summary tumblog: Distance No Object

These past three months have seen a lively mashup, with the WordPress micro-blog one of the main (but not exclusive) platforms for curating reflection, discussion, annotation and building on theoretical perspectives.

Posts can be classed around the intimate interaction of authored and appropriated digital texts, images and sounds, illustrating my experience and understanding of digital culture.

One of my diagrams on my blog [i], based on Gillian Rose’s chapter on analysing visual culture[ii], can be used as a framework for this evaluation, stretching my tumblog from an ‘authored’ text (narrative) to a ‘visual and audio’ assemblage (composition).


There have been many online interactions[iii] and particular highlights for me were the Pinterest board [iv] on the MOOC and the ethnographic study [v] on Rothko and YouTube. Both illustrated the interaction of technical affordances with community building, via the creation of narratives, appropriating digital images and evaluating online presence in the landscape of social media. I also enjoyed Thinglink [vi] and Vuvox [vii] which displayed my first attempts at visualising a rhizome in an online environment.


Thinking about the ‘material qualities of an image or visual object and their strategies’ (Rose, 2007, p 13) my postings of text and images are in response to the literature whereby a number of personally selected themes emerged: sound, metaphors, mobility, community, space, flatness, aesthetics, alloy, authorship, metaphor, geography, boundary, speed, network, aggregation, assemblage, visuality, dialogue, topology, rhizome. In particular the YouTube ethnography gave me the idea of mapped activity, borrowing ideas from geography and chemistry.

Sterne’s article renewed my interest in a previous course I did on the use of sound in cinematography and will be considered in the next assignment.


The most challenging readings covered aspects of posthumanities and how we see ourselves situated within online spaces, extended into our physical realms. For me, the utopian/dystopian understandings were consolidated in Shield’s article updating Harraway’s position on cyborgs. Another milestone reading occurred with Gough’s paper and Deleuze & Guattari’s chapter on rhizomatic behaviour.

What’s next?

One objective for taking this final module was to prepare for the MSc dissertation, with the need to distil a focus (hence the themes) regarding online aesthetic spaces. Gough’s paper crystallised the methodology embedded in the rhizomatic flow between aesthetic experience derived from the temporal observation of digitised artworks and how we experience the topology of these constructed pervasive spaces. This notion of spatiality, speed and mobility and how these are (metaphorically) alloyed are illustrated by my ‘lovesick’ story[viii].  This experiment emerged spontaneously out of an everyday aesthetic observation – graffiti on an Edinburgh wall – subsequently aligned with the philosophical readings.  Other literature, in particular the Edwards paper, seems to have an elliptic argument requiring my further unravelling.

Overall a return to the concept of ‘deconstructed visuality’ in the widest context (i.e. through text/sound/image) will be the basis for surveying online landscapes, a major task ahead.

One of the most important outcomes of the blog and associated readings is that it allowed me to cement my understanding of the concept of the rhizome, with readings in the past (especially on the smooth/striated) put into a wider perspective and this will play a major role in my future theoretical underpinning.


[ii] Rose, Gillian (2007) Researching visual materials: towards a critical visual methodology, chapter 1 of Visual methodologies: an introduction to the interpretation of visual materials. London: Sage. pp.1-27.

[iii] I note interactions via WordPress, Twitter, YouTube, Coursera, Pinterest, a Google blog, Flickr, Synchtube, Skype, Vuvox, Soundcloud, Thinglink, as well as further explorations of Timetoast, Glogster, Prezi and Issuu.







Referenced literature

Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F.  (1987)  A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi.  Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press.

Edwards, R. (2010). The end of lifelong learning: A post-human condition? Studies in the Education of Adults, vol 42, no 1, 5-17.

Gough, N. (2004). RhizomANTically becoming-cyborg: performing posthuman pedagogiesEducational Philosophy and Theory, vol 36, no 3, 253-265

Haraway, D. (2000). A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late 20th Century. in D Bell and A Kennedy, The Cybercultures Reader. Routledge.

Rose, G. (2007) Researching visual materials: towards a critical visual methodology, chapter 1 of Visual methodologies: an introduction to the interpretation of visual materials. London: Sage. pp.1-27.

Shields, R. (2006). Flânerie for CyborgsTheory Culture Society, 23/7-8.

Sterne, J (2006) The historiography of cyberculture, chapter 1 of Critical cyberculture studies. New York University Press. pp.17-28.


Updated Mast head Image source for the tumblog

 The image is a digital artwork by the artist Ian Reddie, entitled ‘Craigleith and the Bass’ (2006).

The grasses, dominating the front of the work are an illustration of rhizomatic growth, a becoming, which affects our impression of the rest of the artwork.


words: 529, excluding footnotes and references




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week 12 – summary

This final week has been an extremely busy week, collating ideas, reflecting and absorbing some dense readings and planning the tasks ahead.

Revisiting Harraway, Edwards and Shields brought the focus back to posthumanism and cyborgs. This stood in contrast with the online research I carried out on the topic of ‘rhizome’. At long last, a visit to the library (*) brought the opportunity to page through Deleuze and Guattari’s book ‘ A 1000 Plateaus’.  Reading its first chapter, I was completely blown over by the fact that ‘Rhizomes’, at just under 30 pages,  can have such a tremendous impact on my understandings of internet behaviour.

I decided on my topic for the assignment. I will follow up the ethnographic study in You Tube. Rather than visual arts, I will look at music and how bands and fans connect, not just in YouTube but extended into other social media presence.  This will potentially give me a chance to research how sound is positioned in the literature.

I revisited some of the previous readings I carried out on Derrida and deconstruction. This material will no doubt feature whilst analysing some of the social media observations.

I checked previous MSc coursework and literature, accessing WebCT and my ‘old’ holyrood blog.  It took a little while finding the old links within an institutional maintained environment.This illustrated how my own archiving can be fragile and  risky, with a decision from now on to use Zotero as my main referencing tool.

I looked into my plans  for using an online platform to present my assignment. As I already have a number of blogs in Google, I will probably continue with this tool, although I expect I will make use of other resources such as Pinterest and Thinglink.

(*) this library has the graffiti ‘love sick’ on the wall. Strange that the the book and the image were just 20 meters apart, the book on the inside, the graffiti on the outside….

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week 11 – summary

This week has seen me crawling around the internet similar to these animated ants.

I felt a need for further readings on Deleuze – spurned by the Gough and Edwards paper, but also remembering Sian Bayne’s paper entitled ‘Smoothness and Striation in Digital Learning Spaces’ (in E-Learning, Volume 1, Number 2, 2004) which influenced my IDEL10 essay.

In parallel,  I have been considering Derrida (deconstruction), multimodality and social media.

For the assignment I am planning to look at the extent music bands and their fans use social media and the effect this has on the creation of glocal communities and narratives. [early draft, to be refined]

I accessed a number of e-Journals listed on the  hub in order to get an idea of recent literature (especially fanbase, Deleuze and social media). To keep track of all the references I re-familiarised myself with Zotero.

Some discipline will be required to maintain the focus of my assignment manageable. Next week I will be looking at the various platforms for the web essay, as well as the additional criteria.


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week 10 – summary

At the beginning of the week I felt I experienced a Moses and the Red Sea moment when reading Gough’s paper in which rhizomatic drift seemed to offer a theoretical platform for the journey ahead. The paper is inspirational: its meta approach, its creative drive, its conceptual depth.

Then, during the course of  the week, my mind turned towards angels and cyborgs, a very strange mix. Further readings confirmed that the idea of cyborg has now firmly moved on from the holywood style concept.

The skype session, combined with the planning ahead of the assignment brought me to a crossing and a stumble of various issues – YouTube, Love Sick, Cyborgs –  which so far I have not been able to settle due to lack of time (work and home pressures).

There followed confusion (and some despair) when reading Edwards’ outline of post-human inspired lifelong learning. Badminton offered further blurrings. A potential link with Heidegger and Dewey may bring relief in these theoretical landscapes.

My plans for next week is to re-read the earlier core reading papers (and accompanying blog)  to bring some clarity and an overview of the threads that have been running through the past 10 weeks.

A playful experiment with electric ants and my cat gave a first glimpse of how animals and computers interact, a further proof curiosity is not just a characteristic of one species.


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week 9 – summary

This week has seen a move away from blog activity to readings: Haraway, Hayles, Pickering, Pedersen and Sheller & Urry, looking at cyborgs, posthuman activity and mobility.

I reflected offline what posthuman activity means to me and made an attempt at continuing with the lovesick story which I see as an online narrative, directed by the temporal and digital spaciality, but linked to an offline mood and momentary status.

My story has now reached a point where it enters another platform (Vuvox) with a forced linearity in Twitter and this blog, looping the sequence. It is a story that is ‘becoming’, a performance (meaning unfixed).

The readings and further investigations on Haraway (in her 2003 lecture) brought an ethical perspective.  An experiment with my own cat, saw it interacting with an immaterial world. This playful activity is in contrast with the technological invasion of species and natural resources brought on by the cognisphere.

Finally, in my attempt at narrowing down a focus for my dissertation on aesthetic spaces I see a mobility paradigm as a useful start for considering online aesthetic spaces. The notion of boundaries which Haraway and Hayles discussed will need to be further investigated.


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week 8 – summary

This week directed my focus on a new (google) blog I developed for the micro ethnography, incorporating a study on YouTube. My choice of a BBC documentary (Schama on Mark Rothko) is relating to my forthcoming dissertation topic on aesthetic spaces.

My activity on the Google blog turned my attention away from the WordPress course blog, extending the ensuing narrative and course interactions into different directions –  it gave me the ‘rizhomatic’ insight which I then used to illustrate the blog.

The choice of online platforms to illustrate the ethnography was overwhelming in view of the time constraints. I looked at Timetoast, Glogster, Prezi and Issuu, but in the end settled for Thinglink. Here I opted for an image that could visually map or draw together my blog posts and ideas.

I am interested in how technology affects online academic discussion and attempted at using my blog along an X and Y axe as a 2-D timeline,  with X representing the linear timeline and Y some of the emerging concepts.  This resulted in writings on  ‘rhizome’ and ‘alloy’, with future suggestions (‘affordance’) to be developed.

In the meantime I also continued with the online serial of ‘love sick’, and illustrated the ethnographic blog with a soundscape (another YouTube upload, a cover of an old favourite).

The diverse ethnographies of my fellow students have offered me a better perspective on how to create visuality within the various online platforms.

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week 7 – summary

I have spent all week checking through the YouTube upload of the BBC’s Simon Schama’s Power of Art – part 1 to 7

YouTube Preview Image

This was a tasks that took longer than originally anticipated. The observations will be offering an interesting perspective of the YouTube platform, with a sample of postings recorded over a 4 year period.

I decided to use a Google blog and am now investigating which artifact to draw the ethnography into that may be best suited. In view of the limited time available I may have to rely on existing expertise, although I would prefer using a new platform.

The coming week will be spent revisiting the readings of the block, with additional commentary.

In the meantime my ‘other’  blog is public – check my blogroll for for more info.
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week 6 – summary

This week was a shift in direction from previous weeks, with preparing for the task of deciding on a topic for a virtual ethnography. I looked at a number of examples and also finally managed (being inspired) to refresh the look of my blog.

I cast the net far and wide (excuse the pun) and researched all sorts of potential ideas: a graffiti blog, an American Indian blog, an art website,  a 1980s band… but in the end I settled for the idea I have had for quite some time: looking at You Tube.

As a case study the artist Mark Rothko has been a fascinating subject for me. I would like to look at how Rothko, or rather, his paintings have been represented online. [The underlying question for me is to what extent do we experience art online? Can online art  spaces (and how we interact with these) contribute to an aesthetic experience? The representation of space in YouTube is mostly a recording of real life space. Can online discussions about viewing a TV documentary extend into an online art space?]

There are many websites that offer information on Rothko: some have a commercial interest (selling posters or prints), others are run by museums and galleries (the Tate is a fine example). Not long ago Rothko was in the news when one of his painting in the Tate Modern was de-faced. This act sparked a lot of of internet topical news activity. I even came across an extreme right wing internet forum, illustrating that internet opinion can be diverse and shocking.

For most of the week I used search engines to build up a picture of where Rothko can be found. (I even wondered how Google in a nitty-gritty sense actually works?) There are many social media platforms such as Flick’r, Vimeo, Twitter, Pinterest, even Google Maps and indeed of course YouTube which all offer a dynamic ‘Rothko’ view: pages are retrieved and aggregated, unlike the static articles that are published on various websites, including newspapers, galleries and in an academic  context.

I started a new Pinterest board to keep track of some of these websites.

The readings of Hine, Clari and Kozinets gave a better idea of the context of what I will be doing in the next 2 weeks.

I checked the ethical considerations and looked at Timetoast as a timeline (but I don’t expect to use the latter one)

On the eve of the anniversary of Rothko’s death (25/2/1970) I feel I am ready to find out how the BBC programme by Simon Schama, opinion on Rothko and YouTube contextualisation will mix.


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week 5 – summary

This week’s activity has seen a marked  increased interconnectivity of postings, comments and a theoretical framework (Deleuze & Guattari)  for the interaction on Pinterest.

I decided, rather than offering a detailed narrative, to produce a diagram, to illustrate the nodes of activity.

A number of visual metaphors emerged: Pinterest as a ‘digital loom’, the discussion forum similar to ‘grass hopping’.

in addition, Love Sick, a story developing entirely as a result of an internet flaneur is still in production.

An attempt at making a comic strip was discontinued due to the time consuming aspect of the application.

A final pin was posted on the MOOC board, drawing the activity to a close.

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week 4 – summary

This Sunday morning I have spent a couple of hours looking at the many comments made on my Pinterest board that keep floating in: my mailbox is being  filled with e-mails about re-pinning, liking, new followers and adding comments. This has been overwhelming, a fantastic spin-off for my MOOC activity this week. I now feel some responsibility towards this activity, offering some comments to comments made… no doubt adding further expansion to discussion and connectivity.

The week so far of ‘May the MOOC be with you‘…..

I decided to follow a single topic of postings in the Coursera discussion forum which was a reflection on ‘Education of the very best sort – reflecting the nature of the MOOC’

I used Pinterest as I had already started a board for this module and it seemed to make sense to develop a portfolio of activities. But rather than just pinning, I decided to turn it into a diary for the week, building up the pins as the discussion progresses and offering a reflection of the many opinions aired on the topic of MOOCs.

I deliberately amended my technique for using Pinterest in that I pinned the source image (still keeping a reference to the url, for copyright purposes) and images were selected on the basis of their visual power to illustrate the MOOC comments.  This, I guess, is outwith the Pinterest Board’s purpose, but I thought I would try this as an experiment.

Although the Pinboard is highly visual, getting an overview of the various comments made for a whole week is not straightforward. It is clear that checking this activity may be time consuming, and although some of the comments made are positive in using this platform in such an idiosyncratic way, if indeed comments from hundreds of MOOCers float in, it would make the board utterly unmanageable.

Another side-effect of this activity is the aggregation of my online actions: having the Pinboard linked to my google mail account, I receive constant updating. Having this fed into my mobile phone, means that even when I am walking around during the day, away from the desktop, I am interacting, engaging with this platform, illustrating the pervasiveness of such activity.

What is clear is that this activity is highly participatory, which may offer an insight into opinions (bearing in mind the highly pre-selected stance though).  For instance, not all pins received a comment. Indeed, one pin which is close to my (Flemish) heart is relating to the use of the English language:

Comment made on Thursday: ‘I can share information with other teachers who are not bilingual, and still learn about what is going on. I also share with the ones who are fluent in english and they benefit with all the new tools that I have found so far’ (from the post by Irma Guzman Calderón); the power of the MOOC is passing on knowledge to those who may not have access, in a language other than English.’ This pin so far has not received any comments, although it did get 3 likes, and 3 re-pins

And a pin made on Wednesday so far has been totally ignored:

Wednesday: Use MOOCs to teach calculus might greatly improve pass rate (from Michael Colucci post)

Could it be that the MOOC students for this course or less science focused?

Overall, the pinterest board discussions illustrate the multimodality and the various directions one can take, purposefully responding to comments, but also as part of a flaneur e-drift. The liking, re-pinning may give the impression of a casual activity. However,  research into the underlying facts and figures would be required to support any further observations.

My own observation in the context of discourse regarding MOOCs is on the subject of authorship. Where does the intellectual property reside when new ideas are emerging? How can one offer references to materials discussed, to the original concepts, the scholarly aspect of this activity. If we are to develop new online platforms for such academic activity, how to we deal with these diffuse spaces?

Finally… I was quite impressed by all of us on the course going for different platforms and this has extended my understanding of the visuality one can develop in presenting a discourse on the topic of the module. I have decided to experiment with all the platforms to prepare for further coursework.



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week 3 – summary

For this week, partly in response to the Kress article and ‘the landscape of communication’,  I decided on extending my  experiment which takes the features of internet communication and connectivenss as a starting point. How can an image turn into a story, and let the open sourcing and tagging appropriate an artefact (i.e. graffiti on an art college wall) and turn it  into a digital object which is digitally absorbed, let loose into a visual internet culture?

Similar to my thinking, the visual and textual are inter-looped, with the occasional rupture of communication setting off stray activity.

It was reassuring to read Gillian Rose’s chapter again of visual analysis (still to tackle the word with capital S: Semiotics) and the article on transliteracy, which is a very obvious concept for an activity we all seem to engage with:

Transliteracy is the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks. –

I had a first look at the MOOC, a somehow daunting prospect for next week’s task. It made me realise that the perceived close knit group on this module, is now extended to thousands of potential discussants.


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week 2 – summary

In this week I started to look at the concept of digitally mediated ‘space’ in the context of sound and aesthetic experiences. I had a stimulating blog exchange with one of my fellow students regarding the challenge of representing works of art online, reflecting on the pushing of boundaries, outside the artists’ intentions.  The idea of ‘metaphors’ appeared (Johnstone paper, 2009) Can an aesthetic experience be linked with the way in which we understand spacial metaphors? ’Flatness’ (from week 1) is another concept worth further research.

Other blog explorations were occupied with the use of sound (Sterne article, check his blog), and especially how to separate sound from their subordinate role of illustrating visual content. In a New Media context, can we develop a new framework for researching the use of sound? How does sound contribute to ‘deterritorialising’ (in a Deleuze sense? need to check this out…) visual internet space?

As part of the film week cyborg/android discussions were held via twitter. There seems to be an opposed view of Androids being superhuman, and at the same time being inferior, disposable thus offering ethical dimensions.

This blog is requiring further attention, potentially tweaking the design, with especially tags and the use of Pages under review. This part of the module is an interesting meta activity: the dialectics of visuality and technical formalisations of the WordPress platform affecting my intentions and may be even discourse.

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week 1 – summary

My main challenge for the week was getting to grips with the WordPress platform. Looking at a blank digital canvas is always a creative delight to me, intuitively exploring the features and graphics of the environment.This piecing together is like digital tapestry, a patchwork of choices which are constantly evaluated and evolving.

Martin Hand (2008) gives a detailed outline of digital culture at the broadest level, including the socio-economic and political dimensions. For this I explorerd issues around commodification and consumerism. David Bell (2001) highlights various classifications surrounding story telling and how this relates to definitions of cyberspace. Utopian and dystopian views were illustrated by the film week clips and discussions on Synchtube and Twitter,with additional nominations for the film festival.Clips on language and cyberculture were also selected.

Mark Poster’s article offered my tweet on ‘Spam’ an ethical perspective. This blog (and everyone else’s) seems relentlessly hit by spam. Interestingly spam illustrates the inherent contradiction of mock digital persona vs the sales-driven activity of companies targeting potential customers.

I enjoyed looking back at my own computer interaction history and realised that I could start off illustrating my musical interests (rooted into 80s electronic music) as an accompanying sound board for my blog. The fusion of sound and images is to me the ultimate realisation of deepening an online experience, be it for educational or other purposes. I had a first read of Jonathan Sterne’s article, which will give me scope for exploring soundscapes. The concept of ‘boundaries’ and ‘flatness’ will also be kept in mind.

I continued with the expansion of my Pinterest pinboard for this module’s topic. I also revisted as I thought it would be a useful way to mindmap the interconnected strands of information discussed.

My plan for a visual sound board proves more complex involving online aesthetics and looking at how we engage with online art spaces.

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