Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sight seeing

Guy and I have had a chance to snoop around Miami a bit. Our mobile phones had problems connecting so communication is a bit dodgy; we have now got trusty phone cards which makes phoning home very cheap and a bit more reliable.

Here are some of the things I have seen:

Evidence of hurricanes and rock:

We had a blast

Evidence we are in God Bless America:


Some Bad News:

Bad News

Interesting people:

Interesting People

Conference starts tomorrow and we will be very serious.


Here I am in MIAMI and all set up for my blogging and Flickr connection:

Flickr Connexion

I ordered a quality salad after not being able to eat any of the food on the plane:

How yoummy is that?


there is a really nice orange glowy lamp in here:

Orange glow

And this flower in a vase:


Poor Guy got delayed by snow and missed his connection. He is still stuck in Boston.

Trois Tetes was delayed at Manchester for three hours and arrived late for his meeting in Brussels. (Please see stupid shot of TT here.)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Last minute preps ..

So, I am going away for only five days, but I think they will starve without me. I have made soup:


I have bought fruit:


I have bought snacks:



And filled the fridge.

fridge stuff

What can go wrong??!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Let's get textual

This could just be seen a shop; but literacy lovers might want to see this textually. They might want to check out the semiotics.


The fact that stuff is set out in a big open window is the convention used to say that these things are for sale. (Another convention is that there are price tags - but these are not always there.) The way in which the gloves are lit, set out on stands and in rows, are conventions which would be funny in a home for example, but here they are normal.

This is the learned grammar of shop display. And we know we can go in, look, maybe touch, and it is hoped by the shop keeper that we will buy. The message in the window is, 'We have a big variety of high class gloves for you to come in and buy.' You can read the text from top shelf to bottom and from right to left.

It all looks upmarket - and I think that is done through lighting and cleanliness. But also shops that sell just one type of thing give the idea that they are specialist shops. It gives the idea that there is an expert inside who knows everthing there is to know about gloves.It also give the idea of exclusivity, care over detail. These are cultural conventions. And we hardly realise we know all this.

In addition, fewer people wear this kind of glove these days; it was much more common before the 1960s for people to habitually wear leather gloves. Nowadays one is making more of a style statement with leather gloves. Leather gloves carry different meanings to woollen knitted gloves.

You can look at the shop as a single text, but set alongside other shops in that area of Venice, it helps commmunicate the notion that this is an upmarket area to shop, for wealthy people.

In an even broader context, you can think about the people who would feel awkward going in there. You can think about how the people who made thee gloves might not have enough money to feed and school their children.

There are many ways of reading texts, including this one.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Ang's Angst

Mary Plain put up a great post yesterday in the Bearpit.

Interesting, she cited an article by Tom Ang, who hosted a series I watched on tv called Digital Picture of Britain.
I really liked it; it showed Tom Ang, professional photographer, working with other professionals, persuading them to try out a range of different digital cameras. It had different people each week, using anything from a camera phone to a Canon EOS.

There was a great post-mortem critique session at the end of each show, with analysis of the shots and the cameras. I learned a lot - as I am sure was the intention of the programme.

So I was pretty surprised to see him author this article, which Mary Plain drew to my attention.

It was prety fascinating to learn that:

half of all digital camera sales (not including cameraphones) in the US and Europe are to those who already own a digital camera.
Although I am not altogether surprised; firstly marketing these days is very compelling; but I think also that people become more visually aware and excited when they use digital cameras. the ease of publishing is addictive, because it allows you to keep learning from your errors. make a mistake - take another shot at no extra cost. (Indeed the more photos you take, the more cost effective your purchase becomes. Unlike with the expensive and time consuming processing of films etc.)

However, Ang mourns the increase in people who are using digital cameras because of what it will mean to the professionals, with arguments such as these:

The restructuring of the profession is more subtle, profound and distressing: experienced photographers are finding themselves marginalised, their darkroom skills discounted with a rapidity that makes the destruction of craft traditions
by the industrial revolution appear snail-paced in comparison.

That is no reason to feel sad about the upskilling of others. Indeed I think that the excellent photographer becomes more of a celebrity, far more appreciated, the more that people see how elusive the perfect shot is. For instance, I notice far more now, how brilliant the camera work is on tv. I go to more photographic exhibitions. I want to learn from the professional, not wipe her out. Professionals who need to worry are the ones who are not up to par!

It would be weird to stop children from writing in case they put the novelist out of a job. Surely, Ang cannot beserious that we all stop it.

It is digitality that Ang also mourns;

For the professional, the honeymoon of sensual joy in reviewing pictures immediately and of not having to dash to the lab to get films processed has been replaced by a colder reality. The working day suddenly grew hours longer: with nightfall, we can't put our feet up. No, we sit at the laptop downloading images, captioning and backing up. And, if we are press photographers, we then have to edit the day's shoot before transmitting them.
Now here I DO have sympathy. many of us work longer hours as we have e mail at home; papers on tap to read from the library etc etc. We now have to send out all our own letter; copy our own papers; produce Minutes of meetings (that we chair) etc etc. I know the down side of technology to well.

The other side of this though, is that I also sit for hours working on photos for this site here. But I LOVE it as do so many others, according to my research with people on Flickr.

My overall feeling is that photographers,like everyone else have had to re-think aspects of their job becauseof the digital revolution. But I think I appreciate their skills more. The fact that more of us are involved, may mean that there are more experts around. That's OK isn't it? We can all get better together.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

Making Literacy Real

As it happens that is the title of an excellent book as well as the focus of this post.


My husband received these sweets as a free gift through the post from Sky tv ... don't know why. But the sweets are an interesting textual artifact..

From the wrapper with the brand name, the name of the company and the registered trademark sign, down to the text on the sweets, they are a very multi-layered item, conveyng a whole range of messages in different ways. Often children recognise the pattern and the colours before they decode the actual letters in brand names like this. The colours and images are as important as the letters. I imagine this is why places like McDonald's do not change their branding often. This packet has remained about the same ever since I was a kid and have a certain nostalgic feel to them.


The small print on the back details (in more than one language) the ingredients and the sell-by-date. Most people who read the ingredients will not know what they are; but maybe they will be looking for a single ingredient they, or their kid, cannot eat. (Or perhaps they just like to exclaim in horror at the e numbers ... I have often seen people read the long words aloud and then cry out with angst.)


I have had to learn to take my glasses shopping with me so that I can read labels carefully in order to avoid poisoning my son with nuts - or he will have an anaphyalctic attack. (This could ptentially cause an end to an otherwise happy day.) So the ingredients can be very important to some people.

There is also the barcode, which is only of interest to supermarket assistants who have to scan the packets with a special laser thingy. (Or maybe like me, you have a serve-yourself section in your supermarket. Then you can scan each barcode even as the customer. I LOVE doing this as it is like playing shops and I always liked that game.)
This is a very different type of text which is read by a machine and not a person. But when the laser thingy goes wrong, the assistants have to huff and puff and type in the numbers. This causes a Lo-o-o-o-ng supermarket queue. (This is known as 'literacy as an unsocial practice'.)

In this packet of sweets, as with many products, we have to learn which of the texts to read, what we need when, and how to locate what bits are important to us.

Finally I want to show you this:


In order to understand the significance of this, one needs to know the broader political picture. Otherwise it looks as if someone just wanted to draw a camera. The debate about the intrusiveness of surveillance cameras is carried on many walls like this in Bologna, sometimes with captions, (written in English), deploring the 'Big Brother' style of caretaking. This image seemed particularly pertinent in Bologna, where the amount of stencilled images on this theme, suggested to me that this was a key issue there. Maybe because the cameras are hammered into fourteenth century walls.

I love the way in which street artists make political points through images and find it clever and intriguing. Although, for the record, I am in favour of surveillance cameras and have been grateful at times that they have been there.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

My Hero

Today I went to Lancaster Literacy Research Centre where I was very lucky to have been invited, but also lucky to have met a heroic woman on the train. Despite the hurdles thrown in my way never to get to Lancaster - a broken down train on the line; two late trains; trains on the wrong platform ... more than four hours travelling a journey that should have taken much less (blah bah blah . ..insert woeful travellers' tales of your choice here ...)

I will post about the LRC tomorrow, as I have lots to think about from there, but in the meantime want to say that I would never have got there without my minder and guide :


She told me all about the young people she works with and amazingly got the idea that she could suggest to them that they take photos for the Hoody Moral Panic group on Flickr (they are rightly aghast at the moral panic!) and also thinks that at least one of them would fancy doing a blog.
We exchanged e mails so maybe she will let me know how things go on...

But basically this woman is a hero and you're lucky if you know her.

But just before I go, check out these images from the Lancaster Literacy site - some of them are a real hoot.
Oh yes and also look at Anita Wilson's photo here. (Scroll down.)

C U soon kiddoes.

Monday, November 21, 2005

my wall

my wall
Originally uploaded by Lt. TL.
So is this third space?

Anita Wilson writes in here of prison cells and pillow cases used to do literacy stuff... this is a very interesting bit of stuff from a US soldier in Iraq.
(I also liked her photo of a soldier reading Faust which I blogged earlier in the year.)


Some types of architecture mean that the domain of the public andprivate are sometimes blurred.
Here is a photograph taken in Bologna,


of a Bologna University building. People can wander in from the streets and look around, sit in the courtyard and even attend public lectures by Umberto Eco that sometimes take place outside. Upstairs the corridors are open but I am sure the classrooms are out of bounds.
(These were anachronistically equipped with data projectors and screens and had students waiting inside.)

It was strange to see all this, as there were no signs saying things were private or public; you had to work it out.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Writing on the wall

takes all kinds of guises; maybe road signs, advertising, maybe 'street art/ graffiti' or it maybe this kind of memorial:


Clearly the moral here is that Barmaids can lead you astray . On a similar morbid theme, we have this:


and Richard gets remembered even on blogs now ... and a dangerous entanglement of weed was responsible for the loss of another poor (but heroic) chap:


These were found by Trois Tetes and displayed on Flickr; I have never seen memorial tiles like this before - displayed in Postman's Park London. These give the bare bones of the story but every reader must take from this a new nuance; think about a particular aspect of the story in a different way from others maybe.

Also on Flickr is this graffiti - nicely juxtaposed against a window display for ironic (iconic?) effect:


And here am I, making a kind of visual narrative line, by placing myself to the right of this piece of street art.


Like the beginning and end of a sentence here; the art as the first part of the visual narrative; me as the end. I like this idea of using art in an interactive way, ever changing on the street.

Another way of interacting is to reply to text and/or images. One way is shown here ...


which I used on an earlier post of mine.

But there is also this site, 'The Bubble Project' which brings street art and responses to the online space. One can download images of speech bubbles which can be filled with text and used to answer back to media messages seen in the world around us. Then the idea is to take a photo and upload it to the Bubble Project site, later they will be put in a BOOK. How many textual manipulations is that??

How many literacy events? What sort of practice?

Hmmm. Find out here .... Look inside the book.

Very exciting my hearties.

With a viewfinder

I got an early birthday present .. a Macro lens for my camera ... lookie see:



Red Currants:


Do you know what this is?

dust trap

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Without a viewfinder

Isn't 'Viewfinder' an interesting word?

I think it is. It is a part of the camera that you look through and what you see through it, shows you how the image will appear when you 'take it'. But the name 'Viewfinder' reflects something about the history of photography; that we expect to take shots of 'views' and that they are out there in the real world waiting to be found.

I also think it is interesting that we talk of 'taking' photographs. It is as if we are keeping the thing that we have seen; which we are in one way. We transform what we see in to an artifact, and we take it away. (Even if it is digital and only seen on a screen, I still think it is an artifact.)

When taking a photo, it is as if we are materialising a memory. When I was in Venice I took a few photos of things I had considered buying; I decided not to buy them as I did not really want to own them. But I wanted to remember them. So I took photos. And that is a true story. (Of course we sometimes dramatically sling out photos if we want to forget a person or event.And this demonstrates the symboloic relationship between photographs and memory.)

A lovely find for me today was this. This is an online exhibition of photographs that have been found. Have a look.

Secondly, and just as good , look here. These are found letters. You will love them, I know.

there is something exotic about finding things that are personal to others; is that the fascination of blogs? The thing I mentioned earlier this week about peeping through doors is resonant here.

When we write in our blogs are we trying to materialsie experience?

(Originally today I WAS going to post about Scollon and Scollon's book 'Discourses in Place' which David Barton told me about in an e mail. But that will now have to wait till tomorrow. So don't forget to tune in for that provocative little number.)

But before I go ... wanna see something weird? Look at this:


Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Knit wits

I like the blogs which reflect other people's passions. To read their blogs is like being allowed to sift through their stuff. It is like peeping through the doorway of someone's houses when they have left it ajar. (I guess a lot of blog reading is like that.) But I suppose bloggers leave the door ajar on purpose.

Guy reminded us of Wendy's knitting blog. In one post she confides:

"Do you all go through these periods of knitting malaise? I usually don't, but the older I get, the crankier I get (if it is indeed possible for me to get crankier), and some of that crankiness rubs off on my knitting. Here I am -- mid-gusset!"
Her friendly way assumes her reader is a knitter and so I am an infiltrator - but her friendly comment to Guy after he cited her blog reassures me - I love the sense of humour in this too. (Gussett is a very funny word.)

I adore the stitch n bitch title here and Tricoteuses sans frontiers is a firm fave with me. Interesting how all that identity work is going on - the title of this one here 'And she knits too' making an interesting link back to the fact that the blogger has a PhD and other aspects to her identity - even though here the knitting is centralised. Similarly this one here Susan Knits (and crochets) has a neat combo of knitted life and non knitted life.

There is a knitting community with a speciallanguage and I guess you like similar clothes! There are all the special words you have to learn - like skein and yarn... And I don't even understand this bit:

"I was able to put together a whole afghan for Warm Up America, measuring 46" by 63" . I do believe I have a career in doing this. Add to that the 2 more lapghans I put together for the guild. Whew! "
from Susan's blog. Is this a special knitting literacy. I think so. Have you ever SEEN a knitting pattern? And you think HTML is hard!!

But look here at this blog where the teaching also goes on at a special knit in.

A lot of the knitting blogs talk about teaching others how to knit and the blogs themselves are forever performing that task.
Very interesting. It is such an old andtraditionalcraft but the people who love it clearly move with the times.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Photos / Blogs / Photoblogs

I am considering turning my blog into a photoblog. I have been using photos so much lately and am obsessed with using my camera in a way that is helping me think about the world...

Maybe `I will start a new blog in a new space and sort it out that way. (But in the meantime have to apparently wait 28 days for my camera to be returned from the camera hospital.)

I have decided my next article will look at the recording and sharing of perspectives on the banal, the boring and the everyday, as seen on Flickr. I am very excited about this and will be using deCerteau, Lefebrve, Joe Moran and others to help me. I have had a spending bonanza on Amazon. Here is what I have ordered to get me going ....

1 of: Photographs Objects Histories: On the Materiality of Images
* 1 of: How Images Think
* 1 of: Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory
* 1 of: On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection
* 1 of: Everyday Life and Cultural Theory: An Introduction
* 1 of: Writings on Cities
* 1 of: The Production of Space
* 1 of: Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and Other Real-and-imagined

Yep!! All of those. I'll let you know how I get on.

As synchronicity would have it (or maybe darned good Internet research) , I have found this new article in Media, Culture, Society By Kris Cohen. He writes:

Photobloggers like, most of all, to make photographs of what they call
‘the everyday’, the ‘banal’ or the ‘mundane’. These descriptors are a way
of emphasizing what their photographs are not about: they are not your
conventional holiday or Big Occasion snaps, not just about weddings and
birthdays. They’re not that kind of mundane. Instead, most photobloggers
say that ‘real life’ is the desired content of their photographs. They want
pictures of life as it happens, as they experience it. ‘Real life’, photo-
bloggers say, traditionally happens outside of photographs, and this is
precisely what they want in their photos.

So let's hope Kris Cohen has not said everything there is to say on this matter as I have thought about this a lot!!

Anyway, in the mean time you may like to check out the quality shots and some very interesting street photography on this site here. I think that DrKate would love the images of objects.

Finallly, Magnum does photography in a very different (journalistic) way of course and if you have five mins, I recommend this multi media essay by Jona Bendikson here. Journalists look fof the big events; the sensational. In this way they are different to the bloggers who wish to make much of the banal.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Other Side of Tourism

You've seen the glamour; now you need to check out the B side of Venice.

(You DO remember what a B side
is don't you?)

Anyway one of the bad things about touring is the waiting around that you have to do. There is plenty of it if you go to lots of places:


It is not so bad if you are clever enough to use the machines:


You have to take pitstops and eat on the hoof if you cannot lug your bags to restaurants or cafes:


Commuting and waiting of course are features of everyday living - which is why some of us have Walkmans to help us along ...

Does my necklook big in this?

(I look quite insane here and am taking the example from Simply Clare of looking stupid on my blog ...)

But in Venice there are special problems, such as how to get rid of all the rubbish from so many people ...


especially when it is only boats to take it away. What would you do with your old tv?


And it may look quaint, all those buildings, all those balconies ... but there are very few gardens, so very few washing lines ... it is expensive to import a drier and . So you dry your clothes on the street like this:


The bridges may be picturesque and easy for pedestrians (with no luggage) but it is hard if you are disabled or infirm.
And 'normal' wheelchairs may be more comfortable but are heavy and unwieldy. (Look at how the woman has her legs in stirrup things)

disability rights

Tourists are a pain. They get EVERYWHERE.


Unfortunately if you don't fit the mould you don't get to be a gondolier. I think you have to look Italian - white and maybe 'swarthy' - but no, not black, I reckon.


All over Europe I have seen African people selling fake YSL and Gucci bags. (I am pretty sure their careers advisors did not recommend this line of work. I think it is an accident of fate.) At night we saw these people get picked up in a boat ...

And Venice was the first place to have jewish quarter, they had the first ghetto - which still exists.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Art imitates Life imitates Art?

The Culture Show had a nice piece about the work of Tom Hunter who will exhibit his work in the National Gallery next month. The collection, enticingly entitled 'Living in Hell' consists of photographs taken in Hackney, depicting scenes which have been reported in the local newspaper - but with an extra twist. He has also based the photographs on 'old masters' - well established and well known paintings displayed in the National Gallery.

It is a funny old coincidence that I have been noticing a lot lately, how not only does 'Art imitate Nature' (Mimesis, as I think the Greeks would have it), but that also in life I think we imitate art. A funny sort of circular thing.

Flickr has for example an 'Impressionist pool' here. In this group people show photographs which in some way are like Impressionist paintings.

In a slightly different vein, 'The Director of Photography' pool has work which looks as if the images are film stills. The photographers sometimes confess thatthey are trying to take shots that look like film stils; so that is art imitating art that imitates nature.

But there is also that thing where we set up our world as though it is the backdrop to the events we want to occur; Changing Rooms helps people to fulfill these ambitions - creating spaces that are often (I reckon) uninhabitable, but which look like amazing backdrops. Maybe this is what Lefebvre menat by the term 'pseudo-everyday'. There is artifice to the everyday.

Ancient architects appear to have set up grand arenas where people could strut their stuff and enjoy being a spectacle against a dramatic backdrop as here in Bologna maybe:


Goffman talked about The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, of course; we are aware of ways in which we may imitate or emulate others by adopting fashions and styles, or particular coveted items with iconic significance. But more than this I think we unconsciously orient ourselves, our behaviours in ways which reflect the narratives that endlessly are mediated and enacted around us everyday.

So .. here are the photos from Venice with elements of film; which I think show aspects ofreal life that are saturated, or at least sprinkled with, influences from Art ...



Don't Look Now

... Don't Look Now...

Models of Men Reading

So Rrrrromantico to see gondoliers really do dress like this and look like this.


There was a lovely light at 8 o' clock on Friday morning to take this shot. Gondoliers reading newspapers were a common sight as they waited for custom; I wonder if in Venetian classroom they put up posters of gondoliers reading in order to show the boys who to copy. (You know the kind of thing.)

One more observation ... they seem to keep a pretty tight control over who is allowed to be a gondolier ... dark hair, dark eyes - oh yes, and male.

I very greedily took over three hundred pictures while away so here are two more:

This one has a literacy theme:


And this one does not:


About Me

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Sheffield, South Yorks, United Kingdom
I am an academic interested in New Literacies, Digital Lifestyles, Informal Online Learning.