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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some final thoughts….

As I mentioned in my week 12 summary post, I have been doing further re-readings on cyborg. I particularly enjoyed ‘Flanerie for Cyborgs’ (Shields), which I thought brought the full spectrum of cyborg presence into context. This new understanding allowed me to update some of my older posts.

In this context, I thought I would end my series of ‘live postings’ with a pun on a cartoon that I used at the beginning of the session:

It has been great having a presence on this blog and I would like to thank all my fellow students for their feedback and comments.
And of course I thank Jen and Sian for their ongoing valuable support.
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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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shifting meaning

Practices of knowing are specific material engagements that participate in (re)
configuring the world. Which practices we enact matter – in both senses of the word.
Making knowledge is not simply about making facts but about making worlds, or rather
it is about making specific worldly configurations – not in the sense of making them
ex nihilo, or out of language, beliefs, or ideas, but in the sense of materially engaging
as part of the world in giving it specific material form. (Barad, 2007, p. 91, emphasis
in original)

I thought this was an intriguing quote in the Edwards paper

how does this work with MOOC or indeed this course? Could ‘material’ mean the construction of websites, interacting with social media?

I am still puzzled by this paper. Every time I read it is seems to conjure new meanings, but these new meanings do not contribute to my embedded understanding, rather the ideas keep moving, drifting.

Having done some reading on Derrida, I would assimilate this paper as part of my personal process of constructing meaning, which does not end, nor is it a singular process in time and place (1) , with place meaning online and offline location.

(1) Richards, K Malcolm. 2008. Derrida Reframed: A Guide for the Arts Student. London: IB Tauris.



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Social Media and the Rhizome

‘Rhizomes are lines of articulation or segmentarity, strata and territories; but also lines of flight, movements or deterritorialisation and destratification. Comparative rates of flow on these lines produce phenomena of relative slowness and viscosity or, on the contrary, of acceleration and rupture. All this, lines and measurable speeds, constitutes an assemblage.’ (p. 3)

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

I have now read the introductory chapter of this book and will look at the metaphor of the rhizome for analysing social media. To illustrate this I will look at how music bands and their fans create interconnected platforms and spaces for listening to music and engaging in discussion.

Movement between these ‘framed’ spaces (in reference to Derrida) and how technology deconstructs and reassembles will also be considered.

This will be a challenging task more so as I would like to use the concept of the rhizome as an empirical model in my research, directing my actions and organising the web essay.

The above ideas will evolve, as my understandings of the concepts deepen and as I gather more social media examples.

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think I got myself a new topic for the assignment ;)    and giggles too…

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Looking back on my engagement with the MSc in e-learning, over these past few years various topics have emerged:

  • creating dialogue
  • building communities
  • identity
  • personal learning environments
  • digital presence
  • speed
  • time
  • space
  • narratives
  • electric portfolios
  • visuality
  • strategies
  • pedagogy
  • ethics
This spectrum highlights the pervasiveness of online activity.
In the context of aesthetic spaces, in particular for the visual arts, the experience of  ’space’ in which these digital artifacts are presented can be seen as a ‘new frontier’.
For the assignment, the ‘digital-ness’ will be maintained ‘a priori’, there is no escape: the virtual space these bytes occupy will be another digital patch in the internet topology. How the topology will be effected remains to be seen, no doubt influenced by Deleuzian workings.
Crossing these imaginary html boundaries will present an interesting challenge, mixing human consciousness with a machine-driven discipline.
I guess we are all cyborgs now, in our online and offline modes,   a surface for ‘grafting onto’ (p 217) Rob Shields.


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Discussing cyborg and identity

If definitions are developed around boundaries then it would be a challenge to exit the strict limits that are imposed on what is considered ‘oneself’, the ‘other’ and anything in-between would be unimaginable. However, if one takes from the onset a definition in motion, the subject can be reinvented. Machine/human interaction in an anthropomorphic culture is by default binary: human/non-human, utopian/dystopian, superior/inferior, organic/immaterial. If we see change, a becoming, the relation is a phenotype: human influences the machine/the machine influences human. Definitions of cyborg situated in a postmodern conceptual world. Have we already exited postmodern thinking? Will humans now rely more on machine data than natural resources to survive?

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