Friday, 3 October 2008

Putting information support in context

Reflections from DRHA received today from James Cronin, University College Cork, who spoke in the e-learning session at DRHA:

The DRHA conference at Cambridge was a useful experience as it showed that Ireland shares many of the issues and concerns with colleagues in Britain, in Europe, and in the States (intellectual property issues, authorship concerns, cost of funding resource projects, continuing needs for training and development etc.). The discussion of themes such as 'transdisciplinarity' and 'transliteracy' certainly touch on issues and challenges we are currently exploring.
Currently, in Cork we are exploring ways of supporting undergraduate research seminars in History of Art with our library colleagues These seminars are, in a sense, a pedagogic performance of 'transliteracy' and 'transdisciplinarity' drawing as they do on information literacy skills and applying them to a disciplinary context.

It is worth considering for a moment the context in which we find ourselves regarding information support provision. Today's students are facing into a complex information world. To quote educators like David Cromier and thinkers like Deleuze & Guattari and Jean Baudrillard, we are all at the centre-point of a knowledge 'rhizome'
-- an information node where we are saturated by You Tube, Face book, text messaging, email etc., our experience of information processing is one of speed and often without the necessary time to reflect on our actions. Alan Liu's keynote paper drew attention to a need for critical reflection in learning. As he illustrated with his wiki case study, what now passes for student research largely consists of cutting and pasting from the Web involving little or no process of reflection.

To paraphrase Paul Virilio and Slavoj Zizek, we are already experiencing a 'disappearance' of technology as multi-platform tools become smaller and faster and disappear from sight, but still run the computer architecture as web daemons – like the e-mail delivery daemon notifying you that a message has been delivered, you don't see it, yet its invisible role is necessary. Both Grid and Cloud computing are already available and are becoming known to the general public. These systems allow greater access to global information with faster downloads on cheaper platforms. For example, your typical mobile phone is now a camera, an archive, MP3 player, GPS, and web browser. Already CERN, who launched the Hadron 'Collider' in September are on the cusp of launching the next generation of the Internet. The challenge we face as educators (be we academics, administrators or technicians) is how can we equip our students for this increasingly complex information society precisely at a time when negotiating information is seen as a central mark of being educated?

Increasingly, international visions of 21st Century learners include concepts such as inquiry led learners, facilitated yet self directed, collaborative in the construction of knowledge, multi-tasking, and problem solving. Our evolving concept of digital resources in disciplinary fields is that such resources should enhance both the teaching and learning experience and where possible extend that experience in a seamless way. For example, a digital panorama may give a greater experience of spatial relationships in a building or a piece of sculpture than a single slide or static photograph can and so, in this way, the digital tool helps to enhance the teaching and learning experience.

Clearly, the speed and availability of information technology means that students have greater access to information than ever before, but, to once more paraphrase Paul Virilio, is it also creating information fallout from the exploded 'information bomb'? Can educators assume that students know how to pick their way through the mass of content in a discerning, critical, and ethical manner?

Monday, 22 September 2008

Ripples in the pond

As a distraction from writing up my own notes, I'm starting to look for other people's blog entries about the conference. Found a few so far...

One from Melissa Terras at (she sounds a bit underwhelmed)

Another from those nice people at Intute at

In case you were wondering what that strange noise during the coffee breaks was...

And a little twitter from Sue Thomas at

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The End of Independant Thought

This was my quote of the day from Alan Liu (Monday's keynote) speaking in the context of collaborative teaching and learning. There's certainly evidence of a lot of independant thinking going on at DRHA, but also of interdependant thinking which of course is only natural when most people here are talking about collaborative research rather than research of the 'lone scholar' model. Alan Liu has been teaching his students using a wiki environment, which has led to questions of how to assess an individual's contribution, or final project - when so much is dependant on others how can you draw boundaries around what is 'yours'? He made the point that although technology increases the facility to, and likelihood of, collaboration amongs teachers, researchers and students, the focus of assessment in most educational establishments is still of the individual - where is the move towards new ways of assessment instead of increased policing ?

But it struck me that even if you claimed to be a lone scholar you would still be drawing on primary sources and making citations of the authors thereof - could the same citation rules not apply to teachers, classmates and anyone else that you feel has contributed to your paper, wiki or other output? The assessment of the final piece would be on how you had patchworked / melded / moulded those contributions together and come to your own conclusions or created your own artwork, for example. Could Marianne Schmidt's projections of text messages be an example of this? She depends on passers by for content - but the delivery is all of her own making (I'll post a picture later). The texts as seen on the buildling, suddenly several feet wide and available to all, take on a genuinely new meaning - but I still enjoyed pointing to the text I'd sent her and shouting out 'that's mine!!'.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Technology as the muse of transdisciplinarity?

DRHA08 has officially opened and Sally Jane Norman got us off to a strong start with her talk on 'Collaboration and the Dynamics of Trandisciplinary Framing', followed by a trip through a number of sonic art works from Katherine Norman including her own 'Islands of one'. For me, these two presentations - one a traditional talk, one almost entirely sound-based - encapsulate the diversity of DRHA. Katherine alluded to the difficulty of defining what kind of artist you are, when you're crossing boundaries between music and literature and using technology to mix the two in to something entirely new. Sally Jane too, focused on the nature boundaries and their definition - or the redefinition that is required when they are crossed / transcended / redrawn. Too often we are constrained by the disciplines, sectors or even social strata within which we work and play - can technology help to transcend these constraints, when much technology itself is heirarchical and protocol / rule based (often necessarily so)? Can it be the muse of disciplinary redefinition? Perhaps a conference like DRHA, where people from many different backgrounds, traditions, cultures and practices but drawn together through their interest in and use of technology can help us to find out.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Hotting up

Now that the conference is well and truly in sight we're getting excited about the performers and speakers who'll be contributing to our digital community in Cambridge come Sunday. As well as more traditional papers we have digital performances, speakers in Second Life, and some interactive installations requiring the use of masks - Tim Long's 'A relay of Joy' (above) - and sensor-enhanced shoes - Tine Bech's 'Mememe' - that will make us think about how technology interacts with the body and environment.

It's great to have such a mix of presentation formats as well as such diversity of topics covered. On top of that we have delegates attending from Europe, America and Australia - some of whom know DRHA of old, some who will be attending for the first time. We look forward to welcoming everyone very soon.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Conference countdown!

The countdown is begining to this year's DRHA conference. Only 12 days to go and nerves are starting to fray...being a digital conference based around the theme of community, I thought I'd start a blog and hope that many of our delegates and speakers will join me.

DRHA08 has a packed programme with something for everyone. To find out more, click on the logo in the side-bar and you'll be taken to the conference website.