Saturday, February 25, 2006


Following on from yeterday's post I have just read an interesting paper by Jan Blommaert, James Collins and Stef Slembrouck. (It came from here but is no longer available as has been published in Language and Communication.) It looks at

Spaces of Multilingualism.

One of the sentences that popped out at me, was where they say:

' in itself demands closer investigation if we intend to analyze the way in which multilingualism operates in and across societies nowadays. Every communicative event develops in a particular space, and this space may influence the event in non-arbitrary ways'.

Although this paper is about different languages being used in different ways in a world where travel and cultural exchange is more frequent, the way they talk about language as 'an ideologoical object' is relevant to me in looking at ways in which language is used in online spaces. It is about the idea of language being invested with social and cultural interests, not just a vehice for denotational, neutral meaning. I want to look at the way in which language is used in specific ways in online spaces, so that in a particular online space, meaning becomes imbued with specific cultural and social messages in that space. In this way the words beging to work differently in the space and help to define that space - so that words are both constitutive and agentive.

Spaces of multilingualism: Blommaert, J., Collins, J., Slembrouck, S. (2005)Language & Communication 25: 197-216

But if you think this is all a bit OTT this may be more up your street - about reading shop windows.

This is a nice illustration I found:

It is good to try, but

Friday, February 24, 2006

When visitors come

When I was a kid my Mum and Dad used to sometimes have 'visitors' for tea on a Sunday. Sundays were actually VERY boring when I was a kid - there was nothing to do, EVER.

This was OF COURSE pre everything. No tv on in the day (that started in about 1981 in the UK I think); no Internet of course; we did not even have a tape recorder till I was twelve (and then it ran on batteries that my Mum and Dad could not afford to replace).

My sister Jane had a record player which we played 45s on - Blackberry Way by The Move was Jane's first single. Mine was Crackling Rosie by Neil Diamond (don't know how I can admit that.)

Anyway it was the olden days OK? So when we had visitors my Mum would cook cakes from Good Housekeepings Cookery book - maybe cheese straws, maybe butterfly cakes; maybe date and walnut cake.

good housekeeper

butterfly cake page

( I now have my own copy of Good Housekeepings - bought off e-bay. It's fab.)

cookery books

And we always had to Look Nice. So after Sunday dinner, ( a proper roast - I always hid the meat in my serviette and then chucked it in the coal bunker immediately afterwards), we had to go upstairs and get changed with clean clothes on.

Weird, huh? Seems so OLD.

Then the visitors would arrive and we had to go downstairs for a while to be polite. But it was always boring so we would usually go back upstairs, play, and then come down for tea - sandwiches and cake. Sometimes we sat in a line on the settee and someone (usually if Stan came, with his 'proper' camera), would take our photograph. This would appear in a frame later if we were really unlucky.

But anyway they always did this boring kind of talk as if they were on a special conversation display. And it was called 'being polite' I think. You had to act like a proper family which was weird as we already were a proper family. What reminded me of this was when I read about Vygotsky who had observed two little girls who were sisters and they said to each other 'Let's play sisters'.


I knew what those little girls meant. And I felt like when the visitors came, my whole family played families. And it was as if we were in a pretend house with special visitor food. And we had to wear itchy clothes.

There is something in here about the relationships between space, language and identity. And about how there is a push-pull relationship amongst them all; they all influence each other so that you change in the space, or the space can change, and you change your language to change the space, but the space changes your language. And you end up being like a visitor in your own house.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Cool game

You will all love this one ... but remember not to do this in real life girls.

Yesterday I met a boy you would not want to throw a rock at. I kid you not his job is so cool - he is in charge of this castle.

Wow!! What a job. He runs the castle, does promotions and markets the place and thinks about historical matters I guess. Yesterday he got kids to get dressed up as medieval people. And told them about working in the tourist industry.

This was at a work related learning event which had been organised by pupils from Danum School in Doncaster. They had organised the event as part of their own Travel and Tourism BTec course. And had invited lots of speakers and presenters to talk about their work in the leisure and tourist industry, with kids who were doing GCSE Leisure and Tourism. It was amazing how they did such a briliant job, getting things together and organised. They were great people, less than 18 years old and so confident. I had to hand it to them, they had done well.

I found it all really intersting; but I had a few reservations which were similar to those I feel when I watch programmes like Super Nanny or Little Angels. Both these programmes assume agreement that there is a right way to live in a family and are totally uncritical about what they assume to be 'norms'. Anyone who does not fit, is just doing it wrong. They set out a middle class way as being the only and right way. No valuing of diversity.
The reason why I felt yesterday's event contained similar elements was that I felt there was a cultural gulf in the lives of these children and the lives of those they would serve in the tourism industry. I felt that a lot of the time they were totally bemused by what they were seeing, not understanding the cultural significance of all these routines and procedures. It was so weird. here is an extract from my field notes:

Making a Hotel Bed

I watched this demo where the bed was made by the demonstrator and as she moved, doing the task very quickly, she gave a clear commentary about how to do it. Then she unmade the bed and asked the kids to volunteer to do it. None did so she picked two to do it together. They did so while others looked on. She asked if there were any questions, and there were none. The kids stood politely in a silent semi circle around the bed. They were mesmerised; one boy was open mouthed. But I asked the kids if they had ever been and stayed in a hotel. None had. They all used duvets they told me and did not do sheets and stuff at home.

(I am thinking how very hard it is to teach these kids anything
beyond the skills in hand if they cannot understand anything about the context. There is a huge cultural gap really in the work that is going on here. If we are to do this properly we cannot just show them the skills there has to be some kind of critical thinking going on. Even if it is just an understanding of why beds are so important in hotels – when at home they typically remain unmade in their houses. If we don’t have this kind of teaching around it all, then we are doing them no more favours than the old sec mods or technical schools.)

The routines and procedures these kids saw were beyond their cultural experience I think; certainly I feel that the people enacting them were also probably uncritical and unaware of their meanings. Other activities included:

  1. Laying a table in a restaurant
  2. Making a bed
  3. Check in – (at the airport)
  4. Air Cabin Crew (doing the safety talk before take off)

I felt that there was a trick being missed here. Vocational education needs to be more than just watch and copy. There needs to be a why and the people teaching need to help the kids ask the questions and be ready to help them with explanations.
Maybe I was in a bad mood but I felt a bit uncomfortable with it all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Can I have your attention please?

Early one evening ...

This is Sarah of sheffield and I. It is very early in the evening of June 24th 2004. I sought out the photo as Sarah reminded me of the event the other day and how later that night I lost one of my vintage shoes, in the comments here, Sarah of Sheffield explains ...

The photograph is an artefact of identity, but of course it could be a fake identity. I think the picture is quite weird as Sarah is looking into the camera and I am not - but I thought I was. Very weird. It makes me look a bit disingenuine.

(But now this post is not about that. Although of course I do recommend Sarahof sheffield's blog - and you will see she mentions two folk singers here who were on a tv programme DrKate mentioned here and which I watched and liked. Synchronicity, man.)

I have started to read this excellent book. Only the introduction so far but am really finding it provocative and absorbing. It talks about the MATERIALITY of IMAGES and at first I thought I would want to challenge all it said in terms of it not applying to online photographs... drawing on Barthes, the editors (Edwards and Hart) remind us of the photograph as object, as an item to hold which accrues history .

This kind of thing. Or this.

Edwards and Hart say that a photograph is three dimensional, not two. It can be turned and held. And yet today we can say that many images - perhap the most commonly seen images (?) are digitised - on tv or cinema or pc or camera phone or playstation etc etc. Therefore they are not held in that same way.

But then if you think about the notion of SPACE as a more abstract thing, as a metaphor and of materiality as metaphor - then maybe we can STILL talk about the materiality of the image. We can think about the materiality of images and the role they play in people's lives. The editors in their introduction say, ' 'Materiality translates the abstract and representational 'photography' as objects that exist in time and space.' (page 2)

Anyway I want to pursue this idea, puzzling about whether digitised images can be considered as material artefcats. I am going to looking at a lot of work around images and stuff including this book and this by Annette Kuhn.

I'll keep you posted ... as Digigran would say.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006



on a plate

I saw some on a table in Sheffield College today and so immediately went and bought some.

strawberry and cream

I deserve it.

(And you could do with the break too. )

Monday, February 20, 2006

transduction - creativity- culture...

When Dana Cammack mentioned that one of her research subjects requested on her blog that her readers should write in their comments an invented memory of something that they had both been involved in, I was TRANSFIXED by this idea. She was tallking about it at the NRC in Miami.

I was transfixed because of what it meant in terms of identity practices - (to invent a memory requires some knowledge of the other person) . It brought a whole new dimension about identity performances, narrative and blogging to my mind. (I laughed when Dana said to us ' as you can imagine I was all over it when I read that invent a memory of me post', because I would have been too. )

I decided to look into what Dana had been talking about and just typed into Google 'invented memory' . I had remotely hoped I would find the blog she was looking at. However I found LOADS of references to an 'invented memory' as in fact it turned out to be a MEME. I had not realised this when I listened to Dana - I was probably so busy writing notes, you know how it is. I thought it was just her one girl who had written about this.

Anyhow it is a totally great Meme examples of which you will see here and here.

I am fascinated by this whole thing and heard Sue Blackmore and Mary Midgeley rowing on Radio 4's Today programme last week about whether Memes exist or not. I love the way Blackmore says we are 'meme machines' and also answered in the affirmative when the interviewer asked 'We all have genes. Do we all have memes?' I must say I do not go along with this as there has to be a cultural dimension to this - and interested and willing social carriers. I cannot go along with Blackmore's notion that the memes will do their thing irrep[ective of their carriers.

I also think that things do not happen unless they have some kind of social or cultural use - and this will help the process of transformation. In turn this will help the meme become resilient. This is because I think they work in the same way as language does; a semiotic system needs to MEAN something to the hosts who carry it. And it is the hosts that give it meaning... in fact host is a bad word. (Can't think what the right one is at the moment. ) But I am convinced that memes as well as often being encoded in language, also behave like it too, in the sense of how it travels, means, is part of a culture, is capable of evolving and MEANS something.

There is a nice little article here too. Gabora writes:

"While some ideas or concepts instantly fade into obscurity, others spread through a society, getting progressively refined and embellished, forging connections to established conceptual frameworks along the way. Thus the mental representations that underlie the content and expression of ideas, like the strands of DNA that encode instructions for building and maintaining living organisms, seem to evolve. Accordingly there has been a slow but steady effort to map the concept of evolution onto the dynamics of culture. "

But I can't go along with the notion that it is the same as DNA; just that we have a predisposition to sharing and passing ideas on in a similar way.

So let's look at what I mean in comparing it to language. I want to emphasise the cultural dynamic happens to language (and to other semiotic systems ...) which tend to be the vehicle anyway for memes. (For memes can be visual, aural and/or written and/or spoken etc etc. (For an example of a very resilient meme, see 'all your base are belong to us' here and here) Kress writes about new semiotic landscapes here. (In Linguistics and Education). He writes about semiotic systems with reference to changes in classrooms but the relevance is beyond that:

"In a social semiotic account, sign-systems are the result of the work of cultures over long periods, and are constantly remade. Different cultures may have made different choices not only about how to use a particular mode say, speech but also about which modes are to be used and which are to be central in particular domains. ......
The maker of a sign, who remakes the sign in her or his interest out of existing cultural stuff and in the light of a ``reading'' of the communicational environment in which the sign is made, changes not only the representational resources of the group, but also changes his or her own, internalized set of resources.
Remaking a sign in communication is to change the set of resources of the maker. Cognitively and affectively, she or he is not the same as she/he was prior to that remaking. In other words, the theory with which I am operating sees the sign-maker as constantly transformative of the set of resources of the group and of her/himself. It is a theory of the constant transformation of both resources and of subjectivity."
I feel quite excited about seeing these connections between memes and the landscapes that Kress is working with; helping me to see the way narratives can work across and within cultures via a range of modes. His work explains how semiotic systems change over time, moving with a culture ( and there will be a push/pull factor going on here - reflecting change and influencing change - ); he also talks about how this is communicated in a range of modes ( vis, or verbal, etc.) This applies not just to classroom discourses but any discourses which come together; so it can apply to the coming together of teachers and pupils who have different world views or funds of knowledge; or it can happen in cyberspace, across blogs. It helps me to see how the process of learning in classrooms and on the Internet are the coming together of a range of disicourses that can be articulated in a range of modes. Then Kress talks about 'remaking the sign'. This reminds me of third space theory....

And I was so excited when I read this by Kamberelis (2001):

"In classrooms, hybrid discourse practice involves
teachers and children juxtaposing forms of talk, social interaction, and material practices from many different social and cultural worlds to constitute interactional spaces that are
intertextually complex, interactionally dynamic, locally situated
accomplishments. In this article, I argue that hybrid discourse
practice in classrooms can produce heteroglossic classroom (micro)cultures, and that these (micro)cultures constitute ``free spaces'' (Fine, Weiss, Centrie, & Roberts, 2000) for students (and teachers) to construct hybrid social identities
and knowledges."

For me, these are very exciting ideas to bring together and ones which allow me to think about five different research projects all at once. Which is a good thing as I am trying to make all my bits of research converge into one thought. Then I can have a rest. You may all have already seen how these fit but I had not and am at last fired up ...

(Now I can take more silly pictures).

George Kamberelis. (2001) Producing Heteroglossic Classroom (Micro)cultures Through Hybrid Discourse Practice. Linguistics and Education. (12:1)

Gunther Kress. (2001)``You've Just Got to LearnHow to See'':Curriculum Subjects, YoungPeople and Schooled Engagement with the World.
Linguistics and Education 11(4): 401- 415.

The best explanation I have seen about what memes are is from Michele and Colin.

(I know some people will think this is really boring but I have to write it so I remember it.)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

In the meantime though,

Anya and Michele have been uploading exciting stuff relevant to their research.

So Anya has uploaded video and Michele has been pod-casting with Colin.

Wonderful stuff; our blogs will all be so whizzy soon as we all start to join in these games too. No more lists Digigran!! We will be too busy tangled in wires to be able to write our lists.

I just have

an obsession with Barbie.

Nothing wrong in that is there?

Identity Barbie

Junk food Barbie

Head in my drawer

anti-vampire Barbie

Nouveau Cuisine Barbie

chewy brain

Which one do you like best ... and why??

Friday, February 17, 2006


Originally uploaded by Dr Joolz.
The mango smoothie.
Cheers to DrRob!!

The Inbetweenies

I like this picture because it is about people using their little bits of inbetweeny times in an inbetweeny space:


That is to say, they are using this space, which is a kind of borderland, to grab time for themselves. They seem wrapped up, consumed.

I like the way some people have been there before them, and made their marks on the walls and affected the space. Their presence is there; but they are gone.

I like the way that man is coming down the steps - also in transitition.

The photo got slagged off a bit here for not having a proper focus; this is perhaps something interesting about the way we look at not just photographs, but everything. We are always required to have a focus or 'main subject'.

The perfect sentence is suposed, according to my infant school teacher, to conatin a complete idea.
Which is interesting.
And confusing.

Anyway, I like the way these people have chosen to just suddenly stop. To stop moving and just do what they want to do. To take a moment in their lives, irrespective of the busy road above them and the canal (unseen) in front. They are mid transition; between the boundaries; liminal. But in a way I see them as subversive as they are turning the space into a new space and saying that it is NOT just scrap land, they will not ignore it, they will transform it.

I see them as quite powerful and resilient.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

getting all horticultural

These are the babychicks:


These are the radishes:


These are the brocolli sprouts:
Baby brocolli seed sprouts


Because they are high protein, high fibre and Darling Daughter is trying a RAW FOOD DIET. Maybe she is right that healing enzymes are killed when we cook stuff.
But whatever the fact of it, I think that if you have been ill for a long time like she has, it is damnably marvellously fab that to still be finding the energy to try new ideas and FIGHT BACK.

We have an UNCOOK BOOK.

And we have bought a multilayered bean sprouter.

I spend all my time trying to think of what to give her to eat. These are some ideas:

Salads of every kind
stuff wrapped in vine leaves
Hummous made with chick pea sprouts and tahini
cereals soaked in water - such as buckwheat
Lots if different salad dressings
A million types of bean sprouts used in different ways
Fresh fruits
Dried fruits

Anymore ideas? (Must be food.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


our lives and blending learning. DrKate and I finished writing a chapter on this last week; we were pleased with the title:

Blending Voices, Blending learning: Lessons in pedagogy from a post-16 classroom

and it focused on some of the inspirational work we have seen at The Sheffield College. We were really excited about it when we worked with some of the tutors there last year who have developed a course which draws on young people's issues, interests and experiences in a course which manages to blend the lives of the students with the voices of poets and others. The project features work from Eminem and William Blake in a manner that allows the students to see connections between their own lives and the words of literature in a range of eras. (Hey and did you check it out? Both poets now have their own websites.)

Aaaanyway I was there again today, involved in a different piece of research and talking to some VERY interesting people. One of these just commented in a kind of casual way,

' I am sure these days we all blend our activities. We blend our lives in all sorts of ways.'

I found this a very interesting observation; she was talking about how she mixes media all the time, looking in bookshops, thinking about Amazon; disregarding printed train timetables and resolving to look up times on the Internet.

We communicate with each other using so many different types of technology without thinking about it.
I know that what she said was obvious; but at the same time I found it startling.

It is the whole thing about dependency on technology and using it on the move, just embedding it into our everyday activities. We are so networked.
And later, when I went and talked to the people (the tutors from the wonderful course) I love so much in their stafffroom, I took photos of scenes that I have seen so many times through the windows there.

tram climb

The world going by through the window, old and new ways of travelling side by side. When you are in that part of the college you feel so much a part of Sheffield, the emblems of the culture whizzing past so often and the whole panorama laid out before you. It is no wonder that the tutors never forget who it is they are teaching, who it is they are writing for and working with. In that room I feel I have a foot inside and a foot outside the college all the time.

Tracks above and below

And in the corridor, the technology that keeps us going in the liquid modern world, is shown in the presence of the suddenly trendy fashion of exposed wires and pipes running across the ceiling. We want to be confronted with what we have made, proudly showing the mechanisms of technology, instead of hiding it (as we used to do) under plaster. It is as if we want the technology in our faces. This is interior design that says we are not ashamed to show how things work; that we are modern beings; that we depend on technology.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentines?

Last year did not go well...
I'll let you know what happens later.

For my Valentine

Monday, February 13, 2006

Learning from DrKate:- Photographs as artefacts of identity

self portrait: convoy
Originally uploaded by Lt. TL.

This is Lt TL's self portrait on Flickr. Really interested in this presentation of self, very fragile looking in this close up, despite the uniform.
She looks a lot tougher here and here .

I am very moved by such photos as these where we see the person inside the soldier.
It is an interesting artefact of identity as DrKate would say.

Another presentation of self is shown again here where my son (far right) and his friends are all dressed up to celebrate their last days of compulsory schooling at age fifteen.

lock up your daughters

I was amazed that the school arranged a formal do and that the students all hired these suits. Although most of the lads got shoes, my son could not go quite that far and wore white trainers. The satirical poses make me think they are not so comfortable in these clothes - but are still proud and having their photo taken. This is their last time as a group together ... and maybe the fact that they don't wear school uniform adds to their enjoyment of the novelty of bonding through ceremonial dress.

I love the view of the northern city behind them and the shot is taken at the top of our road ... all terraces and yorkshire stone. The boys look strongly tied to all that - a very working class suggestion is given here. But one which belies most of their backgrounds, because although they all live in this neighbourhood, the homes are no longer within the reach of most working class pockets.

And here is the glorious DrKate herself, doing fashion icon at my office doorway ... she loves those shoes ... and look at that hat!!

Look at my new shoes

This is DrKate, academic, nomad, mother, blogger and fashion guru.

An all round funtime inetllectual woman.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Guantanamo Bay

prisoners only have this much space.

Guantanemo Bay comes to Sheffield

  • Some have been in that space for four years.
  • Some have been tortured.
  • Most have had no trial.

It is four years since the first prisoners were taken to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba by the US Military.

The British government has refused to make representations on the behalf of UK prisoners.

Photo taken at a demonstration in Sheffield city centre today by the Guantanamo Bay Sheffield Campaign.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Self help

It is everywhere.
From 10 years younger and What Not to Wear to You are What You Eat, Life Laundry and Extreme Makeover - it is all about humiliating people because they have been living their lives wrongly.

They have had cake; they have not been shopping; they have not moisturised (or cleaned their teeth); they have allowed the natural ageing process to progress, well, naturally.

The programmes conduct themselves around the pattern of the perfect fairytale narrative - if you are good; have an advisory fairytale godmother; go into battle and fight dragons (see the dentist/ have liposuction/ go shopping / get haircut) - then in the end you get the booty.

But actually you don't get a prince - you get to love yourself more.

I love these shows because you know where you are with them; you can watch the magic happen before your eyes and feel satsified that good work has been done. At the start of the show you can feel confident that all will be well at the end. (And you can express disgust at how much they eat; how little they exercise; how crap their house is; how messy they are. (Nice bit of schadenfreude tv in fact.)
Transformations are visible - from outcast to star; from nobody to celebrity; great stuff. The perfect fantasy.

This may be a good thing, but I for one am finally feeling a bit sick of feeling that I am not up to scratch if I just meander along. Whilst the programmes always show this happy ending, their message is, that unless you are following certain life patterns, holding certain values, fitting with certain norms, you are closer to the nobody at the start of the programme, than the somebody at the end.

We all seem to have to have a plan, a mission a way of improving ourselves.

Obviously there are all the books too.

I just wondered how all this happened... and I find it a bit depressing all this focus on the individual and this notion if there's something wrong, then it must be because you need to fix yourself.

There is something in here which fits with arguments about the social model of disability I think.

Monday, February 06, 2006


1st day of study leave today ...

childhood sweetness

I am looking forward to more productive days ahead as today was a sort of 'settling in' day.

And I want to have piles of sweet ideas.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

White Flower in the Cascade Mountains

Just gorgeous huh?

Balloons are magic

Then suddenly it all went magic

Snapped up in London.
Mixed up in Sheffield.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Cappuccino Community and the Quoran

So. Ethnographers are always being laughed at.

And tonight it was a shame that on tv they laughed at the ESRC for funding a project to the tune of £150 K to execute an ethnography of cafe life.

I thought it seemed like a cool project when I looked it up later.

(Cappuccino picture from Jkim)

We could do with a bit more of this kind of reflection rather than jumping to conclusions and making assumptions all the time.

(Why not listen here to Stewart Lee talking on the Radio 4 Programme about how and why satire works only when the writers of the satire understand the culture they are satirising.)

That is why DrKate's exciting research into narratives of migration is so important.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

something to say

something to say
Originally uploaded by janchan.
Beautifiul portrait here of a woman from Bangladesh.

I got interested in looking at this cluster after looking at a photoessay on the deconstruction of ships in Bangladesh here.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Obviously I was appalled by


appalling misuse  of

mis-use of the definite article on a wall in Nice.

About Me

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