From With images

Blog posts with images I created or modified.

Icons for algorithms

What icon symbolises an algorithm? Unlike cyborgs, algorithms are difficult to illustrate or visualise because they are defined not by what they are, but what they do, and by how they do those while away from the public view.

The poster below is an attempt to find a visual equivalent and a mnemonic aid for these hidden influences as enumerated by Gillespie (2014).


Data scraping morning


This image is an initial text visualization of the posts in the MOOC I am studying. I have just spent the morning data scraping, copying text from the posts and pasting them into a spreadsheet. There are still a handful more of posts I have not yet copied, and it’s a tedious process, but it did give me a feel for the discussions in the specific forum area.

Generated with, the visualisation shows words that appear frequently together. They are grouped by color. I would like to explore the changing communication patterns so I will probably compare a few visualisations based on date. The web site also has two other options for displaying the visualisation, so I will need to go back to the readings to figure out an analytical frame for the data.

Below is a tentative cover page for the artefact.


The superphone

Thanks to Jeremy’s comment on my artefact, I looked for journal articles that make links between posthumanism and education. One of the readings came across mentions a view that assigns agency not just to humans, but also to things, hence “thing power”, or “the material and symbolic power of the non-human” (Quinn, J., 2013, p749)

I found this interesting because it draws attention to the materiality of the computers we rely on when we pursue online learning. This leads to a view of education that accounts for how non-human agents influence the learning process, and that acknowledges how those objects are crucial to human learning.

The irony is that the link to posthumanism is made through the transhumanist Superman logo.

Quinn, J. (2013) Theorising learning and nature: post-human possibilities and problems, Gender and Education, 25:6, 738-753, DOI: 10.1080/09540253.2013.831811

Image sources:
iPhone 4 vector:
Superman logo:×1080.htm

Artefact: Danbo’s day out

A crossover tale. In a world of familiar and strange illusions, a robot dreams some of his own.

The defining feature of virtual reality is not the sophistication of its underlying technology but the quality of presence it creates. This broader meaning is the take off point for this video, a nudge towards a more imaginative design of online courses, which in themselves are virtual environments. Far too many online courses, I think, are as desolate as the sprawling server farms which host them. They are hollow places of learning.

What is real and what is virtual? Rooted in neither, the robot straddles both, mimicking the blurring of boundaries that Haraway celebrates in the Cyborg Manifesto. This sense of dislocation is positive, offering possibility and opportunity, rekindling imagination to plant seeds of wonder and delight in learning online.

Learning transfer

Learning transfer, the application of knowledge and skills learned in a training course into the workplace, is a recurring and unresolved issue in corporate training. And the end of week 1 of the course, I am beginning to see how the idea of transfer appears in different and often troubling variations. The term transfer nows seem dangerously misleading.

transferSetting aside the idea of transfer as learning application, there is the idea of transfer as disembodied knowledge. Hence, knowledge can be transferred from trainer to trainee, and that to to improve work performance, it is enough that trainees attend a course. Designing courses that that are based on memorization of facts and repetition (both useful in some contexts but not all) assume that knowledge can be decontextualized, or that knowledge decontextualized has value.

Bayne (2014) points out more subtle variations in her critique of technology-enhanced learning, citing the unquestioned use of productivity tools to improve teaching and learning. I believe that these are related to learning transfer because they both lead to a tendency to ignore the contexts and purposes of learning.

I think that transfer, in the sense of decontextualised knowledge, is synonymous with copy-pasting files. Hence, there is the more crude idea but equally troubling idea that face-to-face training courses can be transferred online — all it requires is uploading learning materials to a server, and making them available anytime, anywhere.

Transfer, in the sense of implantable memories, is one of the themes of the short film, Memory 2.0. In the film, the protagonist frequents a local shop in order to relive memories of a previous relationship. (Incidentally, purchasing for memories–and by extension, knowledge and learning–reminds me of off-the shelf e-learning courses.) Learning transfer is also more explicitly mentioned in the Matrix movies, especially the scenes where Neo learns martial arts and helipcoter driving as fast as the operator can flip a switch.

Hayles (1999) traces these ideas in the history of cybernetics. Viewing the physical world as built on some kind of informational code allowed the separation of the material world from the information that underlies it. Information then becomes disembodied, separate from the flesh that contains it. Returning to pop culture references, this is the basis of teleportation as popularised in Star Trek movies.

Screen captures
I know Kung Fu
I need to get back
Beam me up Scotty

Bayne, S. (2014) What’s the matter with ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’? Learning, Media and Technology, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2014.915851.

Hayles, N. Katherine (1999) Towards embodied virtuality from Hayles, N. Katherine, How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics pp.1-25, 293-297, Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.

Human – technology relations

posted on Flickr via IFTT

These icons are a more sober update to a set I had previously posted. It is prompted by Sian’s question about how I might visually represent how technology limits (instead of extends) human abilities. In the original, the colors distracted from the comparisons I tried to make, and the text put interpretation in a straightjacket. I think removing the original colors and text allows nuances of meaning to emerge, or at least gave them space. This approach better suits the complicated relationship between bodies and technology as discussed by Miller (2011).

Tools R Us
To begin with, Miller views technology as part of being human. Borne of the desire and ability to overcome the limits imposed by the body and the environment, technology is inseparable from humans. Humans without tools is an abstraction because humans evolved along with technology, “from flint tools and fire through steam engines and the Internet” (Stiegler, 1998, pp 113 cited in Zylinksa 2013).

The use of tools is what distinguishes us from other species. Hence, Homo faber: tool-making man. “For to make use of his hands, no longer to have paws, is to manipulate–and what hands manipulate are tools and instruments.” (Stiegler, 1998, pp 113 cited in Zylinksa 2013).

Miller also talks about how we relate to technology. For sure technology extends human senses, but to view technology solely in this way ignores how they affect us and our culture. Citing mobile phones as an example, Miller says technology alters the way we perceive and act. The mobile phone allows us to talk across distances but simultaneously changes how we behave in our immediate surrounding, blurring the boundaries of what we consider as near and far.

Miller, V. (2011) Chapter 9: The Body and Information Technology, in Understanding Digital Culture. London: Sage.

Hayles, N. Katherine (1999) Towards embodied virtuality from Hayles, N. Katherine, How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics pp.1-25, 293-297, Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.

Zylinksa, J. (2013). Translator’s Introduction. In Summa Technologiae. (Lem, S., Translation) Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. (Originally published in Polish in 1964)