What does the word "literate" mean to you? What about "illiterate?" Wikipedia says literacy is the ability to read and write and illiteracy is the opposite. Notice how literacy applies to reading and writing. Granted, the definition does not specify words, but in general culture it is assume that literate people can read and write their names...in some kind of word-based language. So what happens when we talk about being literate in computing? Fine, it might be conceived of as a language, but is it still reading and writing, and is "computing language" recognisable to all in the same way people recognise reading and writing in Italian, in Polish, in binary? At today's seminar on The Future of Writing Professor Sue Thomas brought up the idea of transliteracy. This came in response to a question about hypertext being dead and done with (grrr arg!). I think she's correct in thinking that it is no longer a question of being literate in any singular sense. New media, internet communications, digital design, social software, (however we think of it) calls for writers who are readers and readers who are writers and they all need to be transliterate; i.e. digital media users (well, at least those who would like to attempt to use this kind of media to it's fullest potential!) must be able to read across various platforms. If we think of a web browser (in the sense of someone happy to get lost amid the plethora of loosely linked information), she must be able to, not only, navigate a fluid and eternally morphing landscape but also be able to piece it together on the fly. While some may consider this a character trait of the seven-year old game players who can talk to mum and dad while killing a dragon while shouting into the 'phone, and spying the last chocolate biscuit in the jar in the kitchen, Mark Hancock reminded us that we have been doing this for a while. He brought up the example of watching silent/foreign films and taking in the sub titles while watching the action on the screen...multi-tasking in an earlier form (I'm sure there are other examples). I agree, and I also agree that with that kind of reading, it was an advantage to be able to go away and think about the text or the action and re-member the narrative in order to piece it more fully together. But what about webfiction where often that pleasure is impossible. Finding a screen in a hyperfiction might be impossible to do (due to webpages not working, the author changing the link, the reader not following the same path, the path simply unavailable). So transliteracy must also take into account our memory...how do our memories work when reading online? I think the new or evolved/evolving reader absorbs the screen as a whole (images, text, video, sound) and then focuses on something of interest and so the story begins. But how will we set standards of transliteracy? If being able to read and write text is no longer adequate, what is?


[the times VS the daily mail]

The Times Online logoThe Daily Mail online logo

I've been teaching my media seminar students to be critical readers. *EVEN* if it is the news. They must think about the reporter, the language employed, the amount and type of images used, the type of font...all kinds of things. At the end of each seminar we remind each other that nothing we read, hear, or see on tv. is scientific and objective. After comparing two articles documenting the same story (Iraq photos publicised), one from the Daily Mail and one from The Times, we realised how much audience matters in the writing of a *story*. The Daily Mail's aim (judging from the way the story was written!) seems to be entertainment rather than education. The Times' article included background information, (more)reliable sources, examples, and did not (obviously) purport to be on one side or another. Now that the students and I are all aware of this I just assumed, somehow, everyone else would be. Not the case. I decided to conduct my own fact-finding mission and have interviewed the local neighbours (fine, the average age is 65) and their paper of choice is the Daily Mail and, "of course dear, what's in the paper is true," is the average response. One neighbour (a man, I wonder if that makes a difference) admitted that he used to buy another paper (which he wants to remain namelss) while he was working, but now that he's retired he buys the Mail...hrm... What happens now if I decide to compare the websites of The Daily Mail and The Times. Well, The Times' top stories (there seem to be three) concern the 50 million pound robbery in Tonbridge, a curfew curbing crime in Iraq, and the London Mayor suspended for four weeks because of his Nazi remark. The Daily Mail is another story all together. It cites a story about Kiera Knightly falling for a "cad" as the top story. If the reader actually wants something news worthy, we have to click for another screen. Their news story is also about Mayor Ken Livinston and being suspended but their article includes a very unflattering photo of the Mayor. Hrm... Even the ads on each site are telling. The Daily Mail advertising showbiz videos and a tesco diets trial. The Times, instead, advertises its wine club, its business directory, and British Airways travel. All aimed as verrrry different audiences wouldn't you say.


[downham market, norfolk]

steve on the left and keith on the right with Downham Market Clock Tower in the backgroundWhile in Norfolk we managed to squeeze in a visit with our good friend Keith. He lives in Norwich and was able to meet us in Downham Market for a lovely pub lunch. I can recommend The Stables pub, great food, great service, AWESOME surroundings.

Interesting and authentic-looking pub license
image of the stables pub


[southery, norfolk]

Today we went to a wee place in Norfolk called Southery. As we drove into it we admired all the stone houses and laughed at the tractors cluttering up some people's front lawns. Approaching our friend's house we marvelled at the size of the drive and the leaded windows (a novelty for an Italian Canadian I guess). Once inside we loved the house, it was spacious, had wooden floors, French doors, and was painted in light and bright colours. The best thing though, was the lack of neighbours! We had a brief (because of the distinct chill in the air!) stint in the garden and noticed NO nosey OAPs able to look down into your garden from their first floor semi. I grew up taking that kind of privacy for granted. I've never had a house where the neighbour could look into our back garden. I wonder if this might be reassuring for people who have grown up with it? Would the OAP next door miss her nosey neighbour if she were to move? We wouldn't! And so we were reminded, yet again, how important one's surroundings are. Even if I had the most magnificent house, if the area makes me uncomfortable, (thick memories of Hounslow!), then "home" will not be a pleasant experience. I think home is where we all feel comfortable, somewhere to which we want to return, not somewhere that we attempt to escape. That isn't home then, that is just a house or where one lives. Home need not necessarily be tied to one physcial or geographical spot either. For me, home is where I'm happy and comfortable. I don't think of Italy and *know* that is home (although when I land at Pescara airport and smell the sun I know I'm *home*) or imagine leafy Hampshire and *know* that was home (although loving the backgarden and hearing the familiar chatter of the birds and glimpse the lush manicured roundabouts I know I'm home)...I wonder if it is a cultural thing to equate home with a geographical landscape. Nomads have homes, just ones in constant movement.


[inanimate alice]

Inanimate Alice, Episode 2: Italy (for some reason I always want to say "intimate alice") is L I V E for your viewing/reading/interacting pleasure. This is the second in a series of ten stories and an excellent example of strong fiction existing online. Episode two presents an instance where the authors do not get swept away from narrative in search of new media techniques. The authors, Kate Pullinger and babel, not only trace the story of Alice, a young Canadian grappling with growing up, but they also question issues of representation, ideology, and (our reaction to) technology, and the (fine line between) fiction and reality. As readers, we have the opportunity to read Alice's multimdedia story, interact with games Alice creates (in order to progress the reader *must* play), listen to original music, and keep up to date with Alice's personal blog. Although Inanimate Alice was originally devised to advertise Sensory Perspective's electrosmog detector, it has become a story in its own right.

[blog theory?]

If narratives are structured around linearity, as Aristotle says:
  • A story needs a plot which is constituted as a beginning, followed by a middle and closed off with an ending. These points of entry, middle and exit should be clearly defined, and should not be meddled with.
  • The highest level of tension in the narrative should coincide with the actual middle of the narrative
then how are blogs, which are stories, linear? If blogs are writings about life, then the idea of linearity cannot be adequate. Life evolves without necessary attention to deterministic structures. It seems resolutely ironic then, that literary ideologies like Realism, which claim to represent life "as it is" are based on plot, a deterministic causality. (n.b. however, certain "Realists" valued psychological realism over plot) Plot, then, gets in the way of life and, ergo, blogging.

As Torril Mortensen envisages it, blogs are closely connected to the rhythm of daily lives. The postings are structured not by importance, topic or sensationalism, but by time. This way we get a journal which - while it's submitting to the strict linearity of time, it also submits to the non-linearity of how things happen. Lives are not structured by narrative models or dramatic curves, life is structured by the randomness of social networks, associations, nature, imagination, same as by the repetitiveness of certain needs: food, sleep, warmth, safety.

Is blogging, then, Realism cubed?


[we've come a long way...baby]

So. Feminism has brought women a long way, right? I'm thinking of women, like Madame de Lafayette who, in 1678, dared to write and champion the education of women. I'm also thinking of Susan B. Anthony and Emmeline Pankhurst, one of the founders of the suffragette movement who attempted to reveal the institutional sexism in British society. In terms of women's rights, I have in mind issues like voting (in 1893, New Zealand became the first nation to grant women full voting rights but Swedish women with property could vote in city elections in 1862), owning property, driving, and rape (during the 12th and 13th centuries, the common law made rape a crime and provided for punishment of the rapist -but not of the victim. Rape was defined as sexual penetration of a woman forcibly and against her will. However, because the common law treated wives as the property of their husbands, a woman’s husband could not be found guilty of raping her, regardless of whether he used force against her to obtain sex. As a result of the wedding contract, wives could not legally refuse to have sex. Therefore, the law considered marital rape an impossibility).

So, things have changed right? Have they really if Mali, Sudan and Yemen are among countries with laws still mandating “wife obedience” in marital relations. Sudan’s 1991 Muslim Personal Law Act provides that a husband’s rights include being “taken care of and amicably obeyed” by his wife. Yemen’s 1992 Personal Status Act even enumerates the elements of wife obedience, including requirements that a wife “must relationpermit him [her husband] to have licit intercourse with her,” that she “must obey his orders,” and that “she must not leave the conjugal home without his permission.” Have things really changed if there are laws like the denial of women’s right to vote in Kuwait to the prohibition against women driving in Saudi Arabia.

Inheritance and property laws are also key areas where discrimination exists. Lesotho’s laws provide that “no immovable property shall be registered in the name of a woman married in community of property.” Chile’s Civil Code mandates that “the marital partnership is to be headed by the husband, who shall administer the spouses’ joint property as well as the property owned by his wife.”

But, sexism doesn't have to be so obvious. Countries like the U.K. and North America seem to be practising their own version of a more covert sexism. Guess what, feminism has come so far (not!) that it's ok for women to go back to being sugar and spice and all things nice. Tied up with this sweetened image seems to be a newfound desire for all things pink. It is no longer the sign of a stereotypical woman, but in fact, strong, career-minded women are back in the pink. Just take a look at our consumer-driven society, what messages are we sending women?

So, is this commercialism at it's best, or is it strong, professional, property-owning, voting, women reclaiming "pre-feminism" styles?


[ode to my kitty]

‘Ha perduto qualque cosa, Signora?’
‘There was a cat,’ said the American girl.
‘A cat?’
‘Si, il gatto.’
‘A cat?’ the maid laughed. ‘A cat in the rain?’
‘Yes, –’ she said, ‘under the table.’ Then, ‘Oh, I
wanted it so much. I wanted a kitty.’

(Ernest Hemingway, Cat in the Rain)


[change through education]

If the postgrad. courses I have to take are good for anything, I can certainly say they're a great way to meet other ph.d students. If I hadn't have taken the day-long course meant to teach students how to manage interruptions (what malarkey!) I would never have met some truly fabulous people. Kojo is one of them. We decided to catch up over a cappuccino (something I've been having waaaay too much of lately!) and I had the most wonderful time in ages. Kojo is a molecular biologist working on his ph.d. I'm a humanist studying how computer technology has changed the way we talk about narrative and reading and writing. Very different backgrounds and disciplines but we managed to while away two hours. In those two hours we talked about everything from hobbies to travel to music to parenting (your ears burning ma!) to research. Kojo's enthusiasm for life is infectious and I had to ask how on earth he manages to remain so optimistic and positive and happy, especially on these grey Leicester days we seem to be experiencing too often for my liking. Well, he told me a lovely story. From age five Kojo's mum taught him to pray for two things: wisdom and knowledge. What point is it having knowledge if you don't know how to implement it or use it? Wise words I think. Additionally, Kojo's mum explained to him from an early age that we are all people, we all have the same blood, so we should not be afraid of approaching someone and asking for her or his help. For instance, ph.d students shouldn't worry about looking silly in front of their supervisors, they're there to learn and asking questions is one way to accomplish that. So Kojo grew up with this belief ingrained in him. Couple this desire for education with Kojo's belief that God put us all on this earth to be winners. With this belief, or "faith" as Kojo says, we can only improve ourselves and the community in which we live. I asked him about not believing in God - or any spiritual force - and Kojo was undettered. It doesn't matter whether we believe or not, being in this world means we can all make a difference. We talked about the strife some of us experience and we agreed that going through those situations means we can speak from experience and teach others how to avoid or cope with those situations. We can only ever *truly* talk from real life. I thought this was quite an uplifting idea. A ray of hope perhaps, for people living in townships, for people living through abuse, for people suffering? Living through an arduous reality means they have the experience to teach others and through teaching change the environment, people's perceptions etc...I left that coffee shop certain that whatever happens to me, whatever I experience (positive or negative) can help me help others. Now if that isn't positive and optimistic I don't know what is?!!


[bradgate park]

In an attempt to clear our heads and get our thoughts flowing again we decided to have a few hours in Bradgate Park. This was my first visit since moving to Leicester and I was pleasantly surprised. Loads of families strolled around and dogs were running madly chasing sticks, balls, and seagulls. Although the air was damp and the sky grey, the chill in the air woke us up and the 3 hour hike reminded me that I do have limbs (which I forget when just sitting at a computer!).

If you're ever in the area, this park is worth a stroll.


[all i see]

With the lights off there is no reflection on the wooden-framed study window. Aided only by the silvery glow of my computer I gaze out into the thick darkness. In the distance I can spy the glowing orbs of street lights. The lonely black leaves sway as the bitter wind curls its way through the night. Even the stars are hibernating, no longer twinkling distractions. From this incomplete place between realities I gaze out.


[what kind of seducer are you?]

more fun quizzes to while away the time between checking e-mails and doing work!

Your Seduction Style: Sweet Talker
Your seduction technique can be summed up with "charm." You know that if you have the chance to talk to someone...Well, you won't be talking for long! ;-)
You're great at telling potential lovers what they want to hear. Partially, because you're a great reflective listener and good at complementing. The other part of your formula? Focusing your conversation completely on the other person.
Your "sweet talking" ways have taken you far in romance - and in life. You can finess your way through any difficult situation, with a smile on your face. Speeding tickets, job interviews... bring it on!

Now, if only that were true.....

[snippet of a story]

Mark posted this bit of fiction (I hope) which surprisingly (because of the length) really pulled me in. Have a read:

I flew through the room, dry throat emptying what words I had left, into the air before me. She was gone and had taken any reminder I might have had of her. Her only presence now was the clear white shadow in the fuzzy grey dust that had settled in the corners of the room. I came to a stop and held myself against the old settee, gripping it tightly and feeling the comfort of the old broken wire that protruded out. It dug itself into my index finger and felt good. The rusty old innards a focus on the world about me.
Now that I had come to a rest, I took slow stock of the room. I could cope with the missing pieces of furniture, they were just things, after all. And TV could wait a month without me watching soap operas and reality shows. The dust I could clean up, but maybe not tonight. The cat would have to be fed as soon as I went out to get some food for it. The body that had fallen through my old glass coffee table, that would take some further thought and maybe had to be dealt with immediately.


[politics time]

Whether you're looking for something to keep you busy (albeit for a short time) or you're hoping to obtain deep personal insight - try this quiz. Apparently, I'm a "centrist" even though I see myself as liberal. How do you score?

CENTRISTS espouse a "middle ground" regarding government
control of the economy and personal behavior. Depending on
the issue, they sometimes favor government intervention
and sometimes support individual freedom of choice.
Centrists pride themselves on keeping an open mind,
tend to oppose "political extremes," and emphasize what
they describe as "practical" solutions to problems.