Blog Flux LinkLog: Outgoing Link Logging and Click Tracking for Em duas línguas

Monday, July 31, 2006

Time out

I organised everything so that I wouldn't log on to the computer this weekend. These two/ three days were going to be the first time in years that I spent more than 24 hours away from my keyboard.

I didn't manage it, but ... the time was very important. The psychological business of being disconnected was important. Preparing to be disconnected was also important. Disconnected, that is, with all my tasks and feelings of accountability to online work partners, friends and truly special people.

First, I mostly slept. I slept at least 24 in 48 hours. Then, I spent time just doing the things I like to do on the computer. A bit like basic gardening. Weeding, getting rid of the bicho (bugs), enjoying the sun on your back as you do it, planting some seeds, watering .... and doing absolutely nothing ... even if it was doing nothing on the computer!

I managed, somehow, to let go of all the things that still need to be done. It was helped with a dinner party on Friday night where no-one knew of what I see as my professional identity. I felt free. Of course this is no big news for anyone who works 5 days a week or 9 to 5! It's just one of those things that some of us retards have to learn!

And then, quite unexpectedly, a wonderful thing happened to me this evening, at the end of my two/three day break. It happened before I could stop myself. A crucial chapter of my doctorate just popped out. I rushed to get pen and paper as it happened while I was eating dinner. It poured out onto the piece of paper without any effort on my part ... words that just made sense. They were words that gave me the the context for writing. Who knows, I may even discard them - but they they feel very important for what comes next.

So, maybe I still have to have my time away from the computer. But also I know that I need that time at the computer when I'm not totally overwhelmed with things I have to do. I need time when I can just wander about in the same way as I might wander about the Avenida and the baixa, gazing into shop windows, stopping for a coffee or to chat with someone at leisure. 

I need a time for not thinking of that list of things on my flip chart and when my problem of bilingual continuous partial attention disorder doesn't get in the way. Some of it might have to be away from the computer but I also need to build in relaxation and play time on the computer.

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

The 1% rule

I just read the 1% rule in the Guardian Unlimited which are figures which run parallel to observations about the types of participation in online communities of practice.

It's an emerging rule of thumb that suggests that if you get a group of 100 people online then one will create content, 10 will "interact" with it (commenting or offering improvements) and the other 89 will just view it.

Similarly, in a healthy online community you can expect 10% of people to be active and discussing. However, an initial reaction by people who post in online communities is frustration and disappointment that there is so little participation, where they equate participation with posting.

In my own research one of the findings that has surprised me the most is the number of people who posted little or nothing in an online event (e.g. a course of a workshop) but who report that they felt transformed by that event. And how much they felt part of the group even though they weren't posting.

That ties in with what Wenger says in his 98 book. Participation in an online community isn't about specific activities related to specific people, it's an accountability to a community and the meanings that are given through their participation in it (p.57) Participation is a constituent part of a person's identity, it's not an act of posting.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tech obsessed?

The Age newspaper talks of ten signs to see if you are tech obsessed. Read the article for a funny discussion of each point.

1. You forget basic bodily functions
2. You collect ridiculous accessories
3. You check your email on Sunday... at 3 am
4. You know your mates by their online handles rather than their real names
5. Your favorite song goes "beep"
6. Instead of laughing, you say "LOL"
7. You answer your mobile phone when you're on a date
8. You change their outfits depending on their mood
9. You own a BlackBerry
10. You speak in a secret language.

I identify with many of them, but there's also sign I have which isn't there. When I can't find my car keys or my mobile phone, my finger and brain start twitching for the tag.  For some brief moments I'm reassured that as long as they are tagged I'll find them.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

A blog about Setúbal

Now I feel happy!

I've been invited to contribte to a blog about Setúbal. My ninho.

I still have to sort out the problem I have with iPhotos ... but as soon as it's working, I'll be posting.

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Designing for learning Web2.0 technologies and tools

At the KM4Dev workshop in Brighton I did a breakout session with Nancy about my reflections/feedback on the workshop about Communities of Practice and Web2.0 technologies that I presented earlier this year. I am currently in the process of writing a report about the workshop, so the idea of this session was that it might help me reflect and articulate some ideas.

To my suprise I discovered that how few people involved in learning and knowledge management are familiar with social software and Web2.0 stuff. That was an important insight for me because I tend to overestimate how much sense these tools and technologies make to other people.

Some of the questions that arose for me after the session and individual conversations (especially with Nancy White) in designing a workshop for learning new (Web2.0) technologies were:

* Imagination: how do you trigger the imagination needed to make the tools meangful? Using them requires a leap of imagination and a transformation in thinking, it's not just a technical competence. How do you design for triggering imagination?

* Making it meaningful: What are the other triggers for making the technology meaningful for each person? It is not just perceived need. What's more, the need or the gap can’t be seen beforehand (i.e. there is no point is asking people: what is it that you need?)

* Risk-taking: you need to be able to take risks and to get it wrong. You need to be able to talk about not knowing. How do you help people get over a lifetime of being taught to do the right thing and being taught to show what you know rather than what you don't know?

* Different entry points: there is no one way of getting into Web2.0 tools, it depends on an individual's needs, objectives, skills, imagination etc. How do you design for different entry points for different people?

* Minimum elegant structure: What is the minimum elegant structure in order to create a space where participants can create their identity and environment?

* Recipes v. complexity: How do you find the balance between people's need for recipes and formulas for "how to do it" with the complexities, overlaps and contingencies of new technologies?

* Web2.0 Gestalt: understanding Web2.0 is more than the sum of knowing how to use individual tools. How can you zoom in and out of individual tools and the bigger picture without making it feel overwhelming?

* Accounting for time: you need uninterrupted time to be able to use the technologies and then you need ongoing maintenance. But people's busy lives don't allow for that. How do you account for time?

* Solitary v. joint enterprise: The act of sitting at the computer is a solitary one. How do you transform that act into a social one where you feel part of a shared enterprise of doing, getting it wrong, talking and learning?

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Healing as part of learning

Last week I participated in a workshop organised by the Institute of Development Studies in Brighton: "Knowledge, Learning and Change in International Development".

It was one of those events where I really felt like I learned a lot. Learning as in engaging with people and language in ways that will change my practice.

A number of my conversations were around the practicalities and politics of running workshops where community, process and trust are the drivers for learning, rather than expertise and transmission of knowledge. These workshops have messy methods where the overlaps between disciplines, researchers, practioners, consultants and organisational workers are a ubiquitous part of the whole event. Cycles of process and product, reification and participation, are how it works.

Not everyone feels comfortable with that. Where is the piece of knowledge I have come here to get? Where is the slickly presented final product? How embarrassing to see people make themselves vulnerable and get it wrong! Bring on the people who know the right answer.

During the workshop there was one word that leaped out at me and turned on the lights. It was brought up by Camilo Vila, from Columbia and doing his PhD in the Netherlands. The word was "Healing". Yes, healing is a crucial part of learning. I feel it. Among other things learning can be threatening and painful and it can squeeze and wrench at your, and a community's, identity. Does it ring bells with anyone else. I would like to think of some examples of healing. Where have I seen it integrated in the processes of learning? And I'd like to ponder more on how to integrate it into designs for learning.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Flexible learning ...

It's that time of year ...
Context: third year degree students at the Business School where I work. It goes something like this (in Portuguese):
Dear Teacher
You don't know me as I have never attended any of your classes, nor have I made any contact with you. This is because I have been very busy because I have a sick aunt/I am a working student/I can't speak English ...
Neither have I attempted either of the two Evaluation Systems we have had to pass your discipline (Avaliação Continua ou Exame). However, I will now attempt the final chance I have to pass the discipline.
Please understand that this is the only disciplina I have em atráso. If I don't pass your discipline, then I will not pass the year and I will not go to the fourth year. Please also understand that eu tenho muitos dificuldades em inglês; it is very difficult for me to do a discipline in English.
Send me all the materials that I need to study for the exam and tell me what the exam will be like. I will pass by your office on Monday evening before the exam to tirar duvidas (remove doubts).
Thank you for your understanding.
Without further ado,
your Student.


Portugal Positivo

The biggest problem Portugal has - she said grandly - is that people don't know how to tell a good story about themselves. Not unless it's about football, food or male virility.

Then when I was looking for Drupal sites, or evidence of a Drupal community in Portugal, I discovered "Portugal Positivo". Great idea!

This site is doing just that - looking and telling the positive stories about Portugal. Sign me up, Scottie!

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Thinking of Drupal

Before going down to a workshop in Brighton last week I spent the weekend in London to catch up on family and also to have an informal meeting about Drupal (Open Source Content Management System). Yes, I'm thinking of converting to Drupal.

I was with Nancy White and we met up with David Wilcox and Dan, and Andy Roberts and Robert Castelo, a developer for Drupal. I appreciated the different kinds of sounds and smells as we talked in the sunshine outside the Barbican Centre in London, walked round the market for our picnic together and shared our food goodies. A different experience all together than doing things with them from my sofa!

One of the things that most appeals to me about Drupal is that if I design a space, then it can be easily copied by any groups that I'm working with, which is what I think they do in Civic Space. My recent courses/workshops have been just that ... setting it all up, so that people can then replicate (and adapt) it in their own contexts. I would like to use Drupal, which incorporates Web2.0 stuff, as either a home or a springboard for a learning event.

However, the confusing thing about Drupal is that it can do so much. So my plan is to join with friends, learn and do it together and pay for coaching from an expert once a week. An important factor about Drupal is that it has a strong community around it for getting suggestions and help.

Roll on summer!

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Participating in virtual communities

That's cool. Our paper "Participating in international virtual communities" that I presented at the Webist conference was selected as one of the best papers to be published in a book by Springer publications.

I'm interested that our social perspective has made inroads into a hard-core information systems and technology conference. It's a sign of the times - well, in some places anyway!

I have put the paper in eSnips which reminds me that I have to organise all my papers in the same place and arrange the tags. I must also update my webpage ... and tidy up my blog. It's driving my crazy that my blogroll is not my blogroll! The blogroll on my blog comes from bloglines which I don't use. Instead I use NetNewsWire, which is one of the best things to have come from Mac (now taken over by NewsGator). But, in the meantime, I haven't had time to work out OPML which is what I think I need to put my bloglines into my blog.

Now that's the kind of thing that I look forward to doing in my summer holidays! How weird is that?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I've got it! I've got the answer.

I've found the answer to my blog. I must write it down before it slips away.

"Em duas línguas ...some thoughts while living two languages, and all that those languages represent". That's what the title of this blog says. And in my blog video I say that it represents my thoughts while navigating through different worlds.

In this messy world I live in, my identity slips crazily in and out of focus as I cross academic, disicplinary, national, linguistic, and personal boundaries. Through my blog I've been working my way through that, helped by messy methods.

In writing this "literature review" we have just finished for the Community Informatics Research Network Conference in Prato in October I discover that those (often) confusing personal feelings I have are merely a condition of the late modern age in which we live. I even read Anthony Giddens, leading sociology writer of our time, talking about my feelings of being dislocated from my body. I thought I was "having a turn" but his chapter talks about it as "Ontological Security and Existential Anxiety" in his book Modernity and Self-Identity (pgs. 56-63)

So what does that mean, now I've found the answer? I think it might be a sign that I have to move to Wordpress. It feels like a new phase and part two of my blogging journey is soon to begin. Perhaps it means one more thing to do over summer.

In the meantime, if anyone would like to read and comment on our paper, which is only just in the review process, that would be wonderful. It also gives me a chance to try out the sSnips widgit (see below). Oh yes ... and we've got a page on our wikispaces for comments on the paper.

Hosted by eSnips

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Jumping into tenure with students

I thought there wasn't anything about sex left to shock me, but this confession really takes the biscuit!

Unless it's a joke I understand that some young, male lecturers in the US feel that they have to sleep with students in order to get into the quadro (tenure)!

Now that's a cultural oddity, if I ever did see one.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Bilingual Continous Partial Attention

I notice how much I procrastinate when I have to write something in Portuguese. And when I say procrastinate I mean really procrastinate. That's the same whether it's a short email or a report. I hum and hah and often end up just not doing it, regardless of how important it is. It's worse when I'm deeply involved in a workshop or piece of writing in English. At those times it becomes harder to write in Portuguese, maybe because of the shift in attention I need to make.

I suspect that operating with Continuous Partial Attention is harder to do in two languages because you need yet another piece of partial attention to be able to change gear between languages.

But it's not just about the language otherwise I could write what I wanted to say in English and then translate it (or even pay a translator). I can't write in English to people I have a relationship with in Portuguese. Not unless that is how our relationship developed. Saying that makes me realise how relational writing is for me, even for writing that on the surface looks quite functional.

As I write this I realise that what I'm saying is not entirely true. There are some people I can write to in Portuguese without a split second hesitation. I wonder why that should be? There are two people in particular I'm thinking of, one of whom is my orientadora (supervisor) with whom I have never had a conversation in English, who I write e-mails to in Portuguese, and who reads all my stuff in English. I have a similar linguistic relationship with the other person. If I think about it, what they both have in common is that they take it for granted that we speak Portuguese and that the sense-making is a joint enterprise between the two of us. I think they are good listeners and sense-makers.

But there must be more to it than that and now I'm curious. What is it that makes some people easier to talk or write to in Portuguese than others? And what is going on as we pay Continuous Partial Attention to things in more than one language? What do we need to be able to do in order to do it better?

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Intellectual hygiene v messy methods

Harry just suggested that I keep a different blog for personal, non-technical stuff. That reminded me of why I don't like Blogger. In Wordpress or Typepad, for example, you just categorise your different posts; you don't need different blogs for different parts of your life.

But then, that reminded me. My problem is the act of categorising, especially in the traditional, hierarchical way. How do I know what's personal and not personal? How do I distinguish between technical and non-technical? They cross over, change and are often both at the same time. It's those kinds of dilemmas that have got me interested in autoethnography (and also what fascinates me about tagging).

Lilia, making her doctorate reflections on Mathemagenic, writes a post about "Defining expertise and messy methods". She points to a great article by John Law, Lancastar University, called "Making a mess with method". I follow up John Law and see that he's written the next book I have to buy: After Method.

Most current methods look for clarity and precision. It is usually said that only poor research produces messy findings, and the idea that things in the world might be fluid, elusive, or multiple is unthinkable. Law's startling argument is that this is wrong and it is time for a new approach. Many realities, he says, are vague and ephemeral. If methods want to know and to help to shape the world, then they need to reinvent themselves and their politics to deal with mess. That is the challenge. Nothing less will do.

I also see Shawn on Anecdote talking about "wicked problems" that you have to be sufficiently intelligent and well-informed to remain undecided about. Wicked problems aren't easily categorised. Wicked problems need a mindset for working with patterns and meanings, where you have to be comfortable not knowing, yet still have a desire to know. With this mindset you find ways to explore patterns and meaning through your story and through narrative approaches.

Wicked problems and method are foremost in my mind as we work at finishing our paper for the Prato Conference. I'm very excited by what we've done. Messy method makes most sense to me, although it's still a bit on the fringe in academia. I must say that I am happy and impressed that my doctorate orientadora in Portugal (Universidade de Aveiro) is encouraging about me using it.

The very long title of our paper (a literature review) is now:
"A conference paper about narrative, community memory and technologies - or from piles of books around a sofa to an ongoing collaborative literature review in a wiki".

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Multitasking Attention Dexterity - I want some

View from the sofa
Nancy said I would love this post from from Jeffrey Treem about Fifty Ways to Take Notes and she's right. I love it! It's like opening the toy box - familiar and new toys, just waiting for me to play with them.

But here's a confession. I must be the only person in the world who keeps a flipchart with my to-do list in her sitting room. Yes, yes, I use Netvibes, ... and .... I also have post-it notes all over my sofa and on my screen. But the one tool I can depend on to keep order in my life is .... a flipchart.

I thought of my flipchart as I read an interesting article by John C. Tang called "Ubiquitous computing: Individual productivity at the expense of social good". He worries about designing tools that consider the social context around us as we use them and research about designing for the invisible vs. 'in-your-face'. Well, you can't get much more in-your-face than a flipchart opposite your sofa, but he doesn't mention that!

I know I have a serious case "Continuous Partial Attention" (Linda Stone) but Tang also refers to the "Multitasking Attention Deficit" (Hillman Curtis) of overcommitters and of Parker Torrence's counter notion of "Multitasking Attention Dexterity".

That brings me back to Nancy who must be the Queen of Mulltitasking Attention Dexterity. I'm still struggling through a serious case of multitasking attention deficit.

(Post-edit: Atribution of Continuous Partial Attention changed)

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Is there a football match going on?

Feeling irritable with all the big and small things I have to do this weekend I thought I'd take a break and go to the gym. Not until I got onto the streets, where there's not a sound or a person, did I remember that Portugal is playing England today in the quarter-final of the World Cup.

As I got closer to the gym there was a roar of ... something ... inside. I deduced that everyone is watching the football and decided not to go in. If Portugal is winning, I don't want to have to explain that I don't mind at all - as that sounds like sour grapes. If England is winning, I also don't want to have to explain that I don't feel anything - as no-one will believe me.

I did wonder about buying a t-shirt or underwear with the Portuguese flag or football emblem on it - to see if wearing it close to my body would influence my allegiance to the Portuguese team. Apart from the fact that they don't sell t-shirts or underwear in Jumbo with the British flag, I wouldn't do the experiment with something that had the Union Jack on it as I associate those kind of things with the National Front.

So, just for the record and in case you see me in the next few days. I hope that Portugal wins because that affects my local environment. But I hope that England wins so that I don't have to keep saying ... "I really don't mind who wins the football".