30.9.06

[click-print, traceable like footprints and fingerprints!}

Krishna Dagli writes of an article at the Guardian site about an increasing interest in the possibility of identifying users by their 'clickprint', or online access habits. The article discusses a new paper on online identification written by two American professors. The piece posits that not only is nailing down individual users by their habits useful for advertisers looking to sell products, it may be possible to use this information to flag stolen identities. From the article: "'Our main finding is that even trivial features in an internet session can distinguish users,' Padmanabhan told the Wharton Review. 'People do seem to have individual browsing behaviors.' The duo found that anywhere from three to 16 sessions are needed to identify an individual's clickprint ... In one example, they found that from just seven aggregated sessions they could distinguish between two different surfers with a confidence of 86.7%. Given 51 sessions, the confidence level rose to 99.4%."


Excerpt from Slashdot.

28.9.06

[madame bovary and the failure of language]

Today I enjoyed a treat; I was whisked off to the Grayshott pottery for some wonderful coffee and a chat. It's a working pottery and all the cups and plates used in the cafe are all made there. It felt "authentic." When my companion left to order our drinks, I surreptitiously plucked out my now battered copy of Madame Bovary. It was purely fate that I read a particular passage while mulling over the cafe surroundings - fountain, flowers, seat cushions, table cloths, assorted pottery cups, mugs, teapots etc..., and two windows providing lengthy views of work tables, handiwork, and ovens - seemingly faithful to my concept of a working pottery. Emma is reading a letter from her father: "She stood a few minutes with the rough paper in her hands, following the kindly thoughts which went cackling through the tangle of spelling mistakes like a hen half-hidden in a thorn hedge" (184). On the one hand, Emma is reflecting on the thoughts of her half-illiterate father. One the other hand, Emma is implying the inadequacy of language to represent. Seemingly at odds with the "realism" of the time, Emma is hinting (with despair?) at the inability of language to properly or accurately communicate. Here, Emma is sharing with us, in what can be termed a modernist approach, the fact that language shapes our world(s). That language is analagous to a cackling hen not only reduces language to a primal/animalistic trait, but accentuates the always already guiding subjectivity of any language use: the hen is half-ridden after all. Perhaps there is an element of hope then, being only half-ridden, that humans might still "strum out tunes to make a bear dance, when we would move the stars to pity" (203). However, dancing bears instead of twinkling stars reduces not only the experience of the event but suggests, again, that language cannot be faithful or authentic to "real" life.

26.9.06

[how to fit in in Toronto: travel etiquette]

In preparation for our trip to Canada, the fiance has bought about ten guides to Toronto and Canada. Apparently he wants to do some sightseeing... The best travel guide has got to be the Insight City Guide to Toronto in partnership with the Discovery Channel (2006). Besides incorporating a range of colourful photos and detailed information (some, I admit, I didn't even know! - bad Canadian!), there is a handy summary of "practical information." One of the practicalities concerns "etiquette" (a word seemingly unknown among the London tube-using crowd).

"Toronto is an informal but courteous city. To really fit in: hold doors open for people following you through; don't jump ahead in a queue; let people get off public transport before you get on; offer your seat to older passengers or pregnant women, offer assistance to other travellers struggling with luggage; on escalators, stand on the right, walk past on the left; say 'excuse me" if you accidentally nudge someone or need to walk in fron tof them. If you are a smoker, as the people around you if its OK to light up."

After reading this I was in fits of giggles...ah, those silly and polite Canadians. Upon further reflection though, I thought Londoners could do with a similar guide. Yesterday, on my way to my ph.d annual review (which went very well thank you very much!) no one held doors for me, people smoked in blatant view of the no smoking signs, there was much swearing (how rude) by what I can only term drunken older yobs (in their 40s and it was only 10 am!), a teenager (eeew) tripped an older gentleman by extending his lengthy (watch-it!) umbrella!! The old man embarrassed, fell over various people, apologised and looked at the teenager quizzicaly who responded by jumping out of his seat and saying "you wanna start som-in-g (funny london accent) old man," and I helped two women with babies carry heavily laden prams up and down stairs (good exercise). There was one very happy surprise in terms of etiquette and that happened at the cute leafy rail station in Haslemere (NOT London). I saw my train at the platform, doors closed, whistle blown, and I dashed as I have never dashed before (the next train was in 30 min!). I huffed down the steps at the platform and the very nice conductor stopped the train and opened a door for me. How lovely was that? He must have his own guide to etiquette.

24.9.06

[sophie: a new way to read and write on the screen]

The Institute for the Future of the Book will soon be releasing Sophie: "a project that will transform the way we go about reading and writing in screen-based environments." Sophie is meant to bridge the gap that exists between either pdf-based or html-based applications. As the creators say,
"both [pdfs and html] betray a paucity of imagination." Enter Sophie. Since books are not just about text, it creates a "reading environment" where all the usual "hypertext" attributes like adding notes, citations, using images, text, sound etc...will all be present. "Sophie aims to level the disparities between text and other media along with the disparities between the individual voice and the corporate. With Sophie, authors won’t need specialized training to assemble complex multimedia books. With Sophie, an average user should be able to make something like this document – or something more exciting." To me, this sounds promising in a democratising sort of way.

21.9.06

[opening of the IoCT: Howard Rheingold]

Smart mobs consist of people who are able to act in concert even if they don’t know each other. The people who make up smart mobs cooperate in way never before possible because they carry devices that possess both communications and computing capabilities.
(Rheingold, 2002: xii)


Yesterday marked the official launch of the IoCT. Once we passed through the black ropes and the bouncers (!!!) we were invited to have coffee or tea before being ushered to the second floor of DMU's Campus Centre. It was all quite posh and lended an air of authenticity/materiality to our studies on virtuality. After an introduction by Professor Sue Thomas, we listened to Rheingold recount his theory of modern cooperation. Since his presentation had to appeal to a broad range (transdisciplinary) of people he kept it suitably general. For a more in depth discussion of Rheingold's "technologies of cooperation" chapter two of his Smart Mobs is excellent and easy to read. He is obviously a very practised speaker and had a very individual kind of powerpoint presentation which featured himself in assorted poses, my favourite was his face on the American $100 bill. I wonder if this sense of humor was carried over in his obvious trade-marking of various slides in his presentation. While advocating the merits of open-source thinking and future, as yet unthinkable, possibilities for cooperation, I couldn't help noting his trademark branding certain slides. Was it tongue-in-cheek, hoping someone in the audience would ask him about it, or was it just something people must do to protect their ideas, cooperating or not?




For an eloquent description of Rheingold's accoutrements and a view of the IoCT see the article here.

20.9.06

[on the cutting edge of creativity: Howard Rheingold speaks at IoCT launch]

Although the IoCT (Institute of Creative Technologies) at De Montfort in Leicester has been running for a few months now it still has that new building smell. Lots of cutting edge technological equipment has been set up including various aibos, playstations, top-notch computers, an access grid (how cool is that?!), acoustic installations, and the world's first 3d laptop computers. Admittedly it takes a while for one's eyes to acclimatise to the new visual dimensions available on the screen, but once relaxed it is worth it. It really does feel like the user can penetrate the screen, and no need for those spiffy 3d glasses every fashionista is desperate to wear. On top of all the shiny new technologies and research projects, (director Professor Andrew Hugill says: "The IOCT will host and support a wide range of exciting collaborative projects, putting the University at the forefront of research and ideas within the creative industries sector which is possibly one of the biggest growth sectors for the UK economy."), today marks the official launch of the IoCT. The celebrations will begin with a timely talk by visiting professor Howard Rheingold, who calls "for a new landscape of inter-disciplinary cooperation to facilitate innovation."

19.9.06

[new university office]

Today was such a great day at uni. Besides doing "work" (most important of all...hi Sue....hi mum...) I got the beautiful shiny freshly cut key to my shared new office. Yay! There are four of us in there but there is plenty of space and a bright blue wall for us to marvel at. When our interest in the nouveau art representation of Microsoft's hateful signal of a major system crash (blue screen!!) subsides, we can content ourselves with watching the busy road. As I stared out the window today (practising, you know how it is) I found the rush of the cars past the old buildings strangely invigorating, I felt compelled to write. Hrm. Very different from the relaxing Dartington countryside in Devon but similarly stimulating. But, let me get to the best bit of the day: I met Chris Jospeh (babel). How amazing is that. He's going to wish I don't share an office with him as I'm sure I'll bug the heck out of him with my million questions...better ask him before that chilled Canadian spirit he developed might begin to quell....

18.9.06

[field assistant: day two and three and four]

East Yorkshire. Ick. Well, ok. Let me be fair here. The actual landscape of the towns I visited (and of course my personal experience is limited) wasn't too bad. The towns had narrow picturesque streets but the myriad boarded up shops, dilapidated games arcades, and signs advertising caravans for let, somehow lent an aura of eerieness to the areas. The countryside was flat and empty. The sea was angry and the high tides came in very quickly. The beach at Speeton Sands was the scariest as, in certain places, there was only about 1 metre of beach and when the tides came in, they swooshed in silently so when we'd check on the status of the tide after an hour of digging into cliff sections, the water was almost upon us. Not exactly a seaside holiday, but all that running to miss the tides was good exercise. The most beautiful and pebble-strewn beaches had to be in a beautiful place called Fraisthorp. I kept thinking it would be full of strawberries (fraise in French)... or very cool (frais in French) there were no strawberries and we had excellent weather. I highly recommend a trip to that corner if ever up in East Yorkshire. Kingston upon Hull is definitely worth the visit and a walk across is cheaper than the 2 pound 70 toll. At least I can now very satisfacorily say that I have ventured to "the north" that is always advertised on motorway signs; another thing to cross off my list.

16.9.06

[field assistant: day one]

I've been christened field assistant for the next few days. This means helping Steve scavange for sands suitable for luminescence dating. This also means trawling grey beaches in wet wet wet weather in search of pebbly laminations and evidence of 100 000 year old beach. Of course when I say beach I don't mean the beautiful stretches of pebbles and gloriously blue water of the south...no. East Yorkshire beaches (even those that have "won" best beach of the east awards!) are littered with broken beer and wine bottles, children's plastic spades and buckets, dog toys, and, strangely, styrofoam. Some of the towns here feel very strange. Walking up and down the empty streets is as if we are the last humans on earth. The roads are deserted, shops are boarded up, the only noise is the incessant squawking of the gulls. Lastnight we went out to the "town centre" in search of food. We found three places all serving fish and chips and then we found a fish and chip take-away. Choices, choices, choices. We went for the take away and ate in the comfort of our b&b room.

13.9.06

[wikipedia]

Good news for all those lecturers out there marking undergrad. work riddled with Wikipedia references, Wikipedia can actually become reliable! Tom Cross explains: "it would be better to provide Wikipedia users with a visual cue that enables them to see what assertions in an article have, in fact, survived the scrutiny of a large number of people, and what assertions are relatively fresh, and may not be as reliable. This would enable Wikipedia users to take more advantage of the power of the collaborative editing process taking place without forcing that process to change."



See the full paper by Tom Cross at First Monday.

11.9.06

[summer in the south east]

Yesterday brought beautiful sunny (gasp!) weather and friends for lunch. After giving Della and Julian the grand tour of Poppy Cottage, we chatted and basked in the sun nursing our fruit-filled glasses of Pimms. Our tummies growled, telling us it was time for lunch. I had promised a meal with an Italian flavour so we sat down to antipasti of salame, olives (dressed in olive oil - of course - pink peppercorns, and dried fennel), mortadella (I did relay the story, after we had eaten, of the dead horse etymology) and lots of crusty bread to dip in olive oil and balsamic. Yummers. Della was rightly proud when declaring she knew exactly what to do with the bread: "One must dip it in the oil and then the vinegar." Quite correct, then your bread does not absorb too much vinegar. We then enjoyed lasagne with a huge green salad (lettuce and fennel). For desert I had made individual pots of tiramisu with plenty of liquer. Three hours later we finished with proper coffee (espresso!). We certainly needed the walk which followed. We recently discovered a footpath just two houses down from us. It was very easy (too easy!) to be swept down the hill and happily arrive at the bottom of Hindhead Common. The views were beautiful. We came across horses and even a deer. An hour and a half later came the hike back up the hill which did not impress us. With memories of tiramisu on our lips we sluggishly pulled ourselves up the path. Once at the top we all commented on how that wasn't too bad a climb actually...in between huffs and gasps for air. We sprawled out in the garden as the last vestiges of light diminished and vociferously agreed that this is what England is about: sun, walking, food, and friends. I couldn't agree more.

8.9.06

[nintendo ds = laughs!]

This is Ron, Sue, and Simon finding time at the DRHA conference to create some installation art of their own:

7.9.06

[DRHA Conference]

I'm back home not even an entire day, and am mourning the loss of the Dartington scenery. Every morning I woke up early (hard to believe, I know) and stretched my legs with ambles across the extremely beautiful and lush countryside. I'd come back ready for a nice breakfast with shoes damp from the dew and colour in my cheeks. What a refreshing way to commence the day.

Throughout each day we were able to choose between attending panel sessions (like the one Simon and I presented at), posters, installations, and dramatisations of all sorts. On the evening of the first day we were treated to two distinctive concerts and on the morning of the final day we were treated to very gory pictures of Stelarc's latest project.

At break times we savoured additional walks, chatted to each other (about research naturally) used the Nintendo DS's picto chat, or trained our brains on the DS. Although the DRHA conference was about work and learning and connecting, I feel like it was a bit of a holiday. The amazing scenery and chilled nature of the delegates and organisers made this a conference I won't forget.

Ron Herrema's photo of mad cows!!


These are the mad cows Ron came across on one of his many amblings. Thank goodness I didn't!

5.9.06

[drha - digital resources in the humanities and art conference]



I've been in beautiful devon four days already and am only finally getting 'round to blogging about it. That is mainly because I'm been tweaking my presentation which has now been done. YIPPY! It was a really good panel actually. It was entitled "Fresh Perspectives on Texts" and began with Kate Pullinger talking about her collaboration with babel, Inanimate Alice. The best point Kate made, important to both writers AND readers, is that CONTENT COMES FIRST! Exactly. We all like a good story and I think we (as in the people who are theorising and critiquing and engaging with digital literatures) have had enough of it being all about the technology. We need to see some content emerging, content other than that of the technology. I'm fascinated with the different kinds of narratives online technology will be bringing us. Will Web 2.0 and user generated content help different ideas of narrative evolve? Anyway, after Kate's talk, Simon and I present my theory of multi-mimesis. I talked a bit about the theory and then applied it to Caitlin Fisher's These Waves of Girls which Simon then applied my theory to his own artistic creation, Let Us Turn. The final speaker on the panel was Jerome Fletcher. He presented us with his narrative endeavour which picks up on the idea of pentimento. Instead of painting over, we were able to uncover and recover parts of words and images within his screen. Slowly we would build up a picture, image, and narrative. This kind of narrative unfolds and emerges very slowly and only through sustained readerly interaction and memory of previous words and images. Jerome asked us if we thought it was a tool or a performace, or was it overlay or erasure, or was it reading or writing? I think we need to take away the "either/or" binary and see it as all of these ideas working together and highly dependent on the reader and how she or he comes to the piece.





This is (from left) Professor Sue Thomas, Kate Pullinger, and moi, hard at work enjoying the creative side of the Nintendo DS Lite's pictochat. It's all for research of course...

1.9.06

[panic attack!]

Ok, I thought (wrongly...oh so wrongly!) that creating a time-line for my thesis would be a very good and organised idea. NOT! It's a sure fire way to give me the heebie jeebies.

Complete By Thu Nov 03, 2005: Understanding Expectations
Complete By Sat Nov 19, 2005: Identifying your research questions
Complete By Wed Dec 21, 2005: Developing a methodology or methodological framework
Complete By Sun Jan 22, 2006: Surveying literature to position your research in your field
Complete By Mon Jan 30, 2006: Establishing a dissertation committee
Complete By Mon Mar 27, 2006: Writing a dissertation proposal
Complete By Thu Apr 13, 2006: Creating a work plan
Complete By Sat Apr 29, 2006: Creating a dissertation support network
Complete By Thu Nov 23, 2006: Conducting research
Complete By Tue Jan 02, 2007: Conducting a comprehensive literature review
Complete By Tue Jun 12, 2007: Outlining and drafting chapters
Complete By Sun Jul 22, 2007: Taking care of visual details (illustrations, tables, figures, graphics, etc.)
Complete By Fri Aug 31, 2007: Reviewing, revising, and submitting your text for comment and initial approval
Complete By Wed Oct 10, 2007: Creating defense draft and defending dissertation
Complete By Fri Oct 26, 2007: Writing the abstract
Complete By Tue Nov 27, 2007: Finalizing revisions
Complete By Thu Dec 13, 2007: Submitting dissertation
Complete By Sun Dec 30, 2007: Getting closure


If you feel like today is a good day to die (or at least FREAK out substantially) check out the dissertation calculator and have a go.


If my supervisor is reading this by any chance....I'm on track...really....(nervous giggling ensues).