Who are you looking at

A wander around our local park earlier to use my new fancy camera


A lot of the birds seemed to be staring and asking who the heck we were to be in their space.







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Funny Fallacies

I know clever and funny people. Today’s Daily Create asked us to illustrate our favourite fallacy.  I chose this – note my use of Wikipedia as a source:

And got the following two responses:

Which Karen elaborated on:

Both very funny responses to my original fallacy and use of Wikipedia 🙂

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The Lion and the Unicorn

lion and unicorn staircaseIt’s a funny old day … in a not funny at all sort of way. A weak and wobbly bigot is teaming up with some truly awful abominations, and all we can do is sit and watch. It looks as if a second referendum is off the table, at least for now, and I’ve had a nursery rhyme knocking around in my head all day:

The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn
All around the town.
Some gave them white bread,
And some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum cake
and drummed them out of town.*

So at lunchtime I wandered over to the main building and took some pics of my old friends there.



Watch out, England. This unicorn is not giving up yet.

* The Lion and the Unicorn are  the heraldic symbols of England and Scorland

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Solidarity, comrades

After I wrote my post yesterday I read a comment on #digciz by Stephen Downes, and this bit struck me:

We need to base society on voluntary cooperation, rather than involuntary collaboration.

Exactly. That’s what’s wrong, imo, with talking about digital citizens. I know not everybody shares my bleak view of the state and what it is to be a citizen (though some do), and I had a long chat with folk about it on Twitter, which Sheri mentions here in a very thoughtful post.

So how should we refer ourselves when we interact online? Terry provided me with food for thought in a Vialogues comment, saying:

I am thinking more lately that citizenship is just a form of solidarity and mutual aid.

So, I disagree. I still think being a citizen is about being surveilled, and taxed, and that nation states are things that we didn’t invent and we now don’t know how to get rid of because:

A picture held us captive. And we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably. Wittgenstein, PI, $115

But I agree, in some way, with Terry’s idea that how we interact online should include mutual (where wanted) aid – in the sense that we have each others’ backs. So, on the eve of what could be a very bleak day for UK politics, I offer you solidarity, as a comrade. If you want it, that is. As one member of the human race to another. Not as a citizen – digital or otherwise.

friendship” flickr photo by CONNIE….  shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license


Posted in Online learning, Peer interaction, Politics, Wittgenstein | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

I am not a digital citizen

comic strip

I’m keeping half an eye on the #digciz hashtag at the moment and watching folk have a conversation about digital citizenship. I don’t understand why they are using the term “citizen” at all – it’s really not clear to me that my relationship with the various places online that I visit or inhabit is that of a citizen at all. Typically citizenship comes along with a bunch of rights and responsibilities that are given to me in virtue of being a citizen of a particular state. So which state is it that accords me my digital citizenship? Can I leave it if I want? What sort of contract do I have with this state? A social one? Explicit? Tacit? Hypothetical? All these questions are problematic enough in the context of nation states, and I don’t see how we’d even begin to answer them in the context of the digital realm (for want of a better word). Maybe looking at Estonian Digital Citizenship would help? (Thanks Niall for the pointer – it doesn’t help, haha.)

And what is this digital thing that I am meant to be a citizen of? Is this really meant to be referring to my online behaviour, or is it referring to everything digital that I do? Is there some set of rules that I don’t know about that apply when I sit here, in the privacy of my study, and look at my digital pics of my cats?

I’m genuinely perplexed by this, so if you understand why folk are wanting all the conceptual baggage that comes with the term citizenship, or at least willing to put up with it because of other benefits it carries along with it, please, please let me know. Until then I’ll keep on being a person, online and offline.

Comic remixed from one by @dogtrax

Posted in Online learning, Philosophy, Politics | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Deleuze is hard

bee and bramble flowerI remember a couple of years ago, maybe during rhizo14, some people getting annoyed about Deleuze and complaining that it was hard. Well, it is – no doubt about that. I’ve spend years practicing philosophy and I still don’t find it easy.  Like any other discipline, there’s conventions that need to be understood before a lot of it makes sense.

So I was delighted to find this the other day in an article about Deleuze, which I am going to quote at length as it’s just so much what I want to say:

Scholars add to human knowledge and help us to see and understand the world in new ways. To do so, they often invent and use concepts that are not part of ordinary language. This specialised scholarly language is known as jargon, and it can elicit scorn, especially outside the academy. But to criticise jargon as such is tantamount to saying that scholars should not go beyond common sense, which is a betrayal of their vocation. Though scholars might abuse jargon, they often need it to push the borders of thought.

The problem is that although some philosophers make up new words in order to explain new things (or invent new concepts, as Deleuze would say), this seems to have been abused by what I will call the bad pomo brigade, as satirised by Sokal. Sokal famously submitted an article full of nonsense to an academic peer reviewed journal and had it published. On the day of its publication Sokal revealed in another publication that his article was a hoax. But, as the article on Deleuze says, this is not a rebuttal of any use of jargon in philosophy.

The wrong lesson of the Sokal controversy, however, is that people in the humanities or social sciences must always use familiar language. In Deleuze and Guattari’s work, technical terms and neologisms almost always have precise etymologies and convey clear images. At its best, their philosophical language helps us to perceive the elusive factors of reality that affect what we can more easily see and measure.

So, while not being as optimistic about the clarity and lucidity of D&G as the author of this article, I do agree that it is sometimes necessary to invent new words, and that – like other sciences – philosophy needs its jargon.

As a general rule, scholars should speak as clearly and as simply as they can, without compromising the integrity of their ideas and enquiries. Few people complain when scientists or mathematicians use a technical vocabulary, and that courtesy should be extended to scholars in the humanities and the social sciences. Many common-sense terms today – such as paradigm shifts and electoral realignments – started off as jargon, and we could anticipate and welcome other scholarly terms making that transition. Rhizomes.

But here’s where I disagree with the author. For, though rhizome is a technical term in D&G, it is a term that they themselves appropriated from botany. And this, I think, is why many people misunderstand the full power of the concept. A rhizome in D&G is not a metaphor and talking about gardening does not help. Rhizomes in D&G are heterogeneous – they are multiplicities. Deleuze is a philosopher, not a bad botanist. And he’s have been better off making up new words to explain his concepts rather than borrowing some from other disciplines.

Posted in #rhizo14, #rhizo15, #Rhizo16, D&G, Philosophy | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The professional is always personal

me, taking my pic in a mirrorO wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion! To a louse

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity recently – who I am online and offline; how I see myself and how others might see me; what various philosophers say about the question of personal identity … that sort of thing.

I realise, of course, that how I am seen is shaped by the various platforms I use – not just because of the constraints of word limits on Twitter, for example, but in other less obvious ways. Or, at least, less obvious to me.

When I started to use social media professionally I made a conscious decision to use my existing (“personal”) accounts for everything and not to set up new ones. As well as not wanting the bother of having different accounts, I anticipated that it was not going to be easy to sharply delineate my personal and professional lives – that lines would blur and that this would not be a bad thing. I still think that I made the right decision, but this decision has led to some minor constraints on what I can and can’t do with my profiles.

For example, a colleague and I use Facebook groups to support what we call VPAL (virtual peer assisted learning) for undergrads in science and engineering. The facilitation we do in these groups is very light touch, as students usually help each other out, but we do post from time to time. And this means that I need to think about what I use as my profile picture. Not to censor myself, necessarily, but to think about how the images I use affect how folk might react to me.

I hadn’t thought about that much before, but the images I choose to use on social media define who I am to the friends and followers I have there. Not (so much) the folk I know “IRL”, but the ones who have never come across me face to face.

So, when we set up the FB groups, to start with I used “safe” images as my profile pic- a pic that a friend drew for me, pics of my cat, that sort of thing. But as time went on I realised that I was not going to be politically neutral in my choices of images. I used the logo for our campaign against zero hours

ZH badge

because I WANTED the students to become aware of how others were being exploited. I added a “YES” Twibbon to my profile because I cared about Independence, I made a mash up of a Saltire and an EU flag during the Brexit fiasco referendum because I do not want out of the EU, goddammit. (grrrr!)

Saltire and EU mashup flag

And that’s changed how I teach as well. I used to try to be politically neutral, to let my students come to their own philosophical opinions. And I used to fail, dismally. Reading Deleuze, Nietzsche and other philosophical reprobates has helped me to articulate (to myself, at least) the impossibility of any objective stance, and of separating out (in any real sense) the personal, the political and the professional.

So I might not be “really” free, but I can at least to some extent pick and choose who I appear to be.

(I’ve taken advice from an LSE blog post and not taken too long writing this.)


Posted in Facebook, Learning, Online learning, Philosophy, Politics, Rhizomes, Social Media, University | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments



Help! I have to put together a website as part of my role of Good Practice Adviser. I’ve decided to begin by using the six categories that we are using for our CPD programme this year, and choose an image to represent each of them – so the top level of my site will be six pictures each with one word on:

  • Assessment and Feedback (actually I am going to want separate images for this as well),
  • Course Design
  • Internationalisation
  • Scholarship
  • Student Engagement
  • Teaching Practice

So … if you were going to have an image that represented any of these, what images would you use?

“HELP” flickr photo by cogdogblog  shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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Two Invitations

postcardsTwo beautiful cards today from two talented friends. An invitation from Sheri to share her walk, and an invitation from Kristen to help decorate her yard. This one is a real challenge. Thanks, friends 🙂

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Lentil and Tomato Soup

lentil soupA cloudy holiday Monday makes a perfect opportunity to play around a bit more with Lumen 5 – and today’s Daily Create is ideal. I love Rose Elliot’s recipes – I’ve been using them since my granny gave me a copy of her Complete Vegetarian Cookbook a long, long time ago, and over the years I’ve adapted quite a few of her recipes to suit my taste.

Coincidentally, as I was drinking my morning cup of tea today, I read an article in the Guardian saying that recipes should be guidelines, not rules (I paraphrase). Yup. Likewise with teaching (this for a future post). This recipe has had a few changes from the original. Niall and I hate celery, and I wouldn’t bother buying it just for this soup, so I miss it out from my version. Rose Elliot adds the tomatoes at the same time as the stock, I add mine once the lentils are cooked. Rose blitzes her version, I leave mine chunky and add a little parsley at the end. Is it my recipe or hers? Metaphysical questions about authorship and ownership are hovering at the edge of everything I do at the moment.

I found a version of Rose’s recipe and used that as the starting point of my video, dropping it into Lumen 5 and changing the images to ones I preferred. As I was doing this I was getting hungry, and I knew I had to make this soup for today’s lunch, so I didn’t take too long over this. I chose some music to go with it, hit “publish”, and went to prepare lunch as it rendered (it was nearly 12pm by now). As the soup was cooking I took a couple of photos, like the thumbnail for this video, and the image at the top of this post.

After lunch I downloaded the video from Lumen 5 and uploaded it to YouTube, then grabbed the embed code to add it here. Easy. As ever, once it’s done I can think of ways I’d improve it, but I love the simplicity of this tool – it makes this process easy, if not perfect.

Posted in DailyCreate, DS106, Editing, Photos | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment