Monday, April 30, 2007

Narrative and Multimodality Symposium

The Narrative and Multimodality Symposium has now taken place. It was a very full event, with a range of papers that spanned concerns with modes, media and narrative in both hi-tech and low-tech forms. The plenary speakers were David Herman, Michael Toolan, and Sue Thomas, all of whom delivered top class papers which got us talking about all sorts of things from the Hulk through to hypertext.

You can check out Jess's blog about more of the presentations. There were too many highlights for me to put them all here, but it was a memorable occasion that has provoked many issues to be explored further. For example, what is the common ground between researchers who are working in 'hi-tech' narrative/multimodal areas (represented by papers given by Helena Barbas, Sarah Hatton & Melissa McGurgan, Hans Rustad, Sonia Fizek, Jess Laccetti, Astrid Ensslin) and more traditional fields of stylistics and narrative analysis (represented by Alison Gibbons, Rocio Monotoro, Ulf Cronquist, Jeremy Scott, Fiona Doloughan and others). Are they next-door neighbours? What's the relationship between theory and practice in these fields? How does or can one area inform the other, and is that a one-way transfer?

The workshop on using new media narratives in teaching was my contribution to bringing these issues into focus. The wiki as it now stands will give you a feeling of some of the things that got discussed, and the bio page is a neat way of seeing in more detail some of the conference delegates. The wiki will continue to run for a while yet, both to update on the workshop strands themselves and to collate more information on pedagogic projects. I'm going to write up the whole experience of using the wiki, it's narrative and multimodal, pedagogic aspects and so on as a chapter for the edited collection that will come together from the symposium.

In the meantime, if you want to capture a flavour of the event in pictures, check out Jess's flickr page for the symposium.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ubiquitous Computing

Today I taught a class on 'language and technology' to my second year undergraduates. It was good fun and they seemed to engage with the topic enthusiastically. It made me realise just how dramatically recent changes in digital technology have altered our expectations and forms of interaction. I described to the students my experience of being an undergraduate, where if I wanted to call home, or my boyfriend or whatever (especially the whatever), I would skip my meal in the hall of residence and wait to use one of the three pay phones (shared by 300 of us!). Apart from the fact this made me feel like a dinosaur, (maybe that should be my second life avatar), it also brought home just how far our experiences of communication in this part of the western world have changed. I asked them how long they would expect to wait for a response to an email (2 days max) and for a text message (instantly, that day at least).

What was also interesting was their varying familiarity with the forms of technology and their attendant literacies. So while txtin was oh so familiar to all, altering the spelling (and even the speech) of the students, the world of blogs, wikis, even my space was definitely not familiar or comfortable territory. The wiki for the workshop at the Narrative and Multimodality symposium is now live, and I am watching it with curiousity (and terror!). I asked the students how they would have felt if I had asked them to use a wiki in the module we've just been taking together. Their instant reaction - 'I don't even know what one of those is'. I know that using the wiki for the symposium is a new venture, and I am experiencing the 'fear of the unknown'. But who knows, in 15 years time, what forms of online collaboration will be as readily familiar as email and texting are to us now?


Friday, April 20, 2007

gender, role play and gaming

A friend of mine read the last post on second life, and suggested that I might find the game Nights at the Circus recently, and the students were interrogating these ideas in relation to the literary text. I wonder what they would have made of it if they had actually role-played those concepts of inversion? Would experience or play have altered their perception of the politics?


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Second Life

For a while now my other (and better) half has been exploring second life. I've resisted creating a second life 'me' so far, but I reckon the day is not far off when I have to really get into this. Why? Because people I know keep letting me know what their second life double is called. And Gavin has taken huge delight in finding Angela Thomas there, whose work I check out from time to time. So I'm starting to feel like perhaps I really ought to find out more.

From an academic point of view, I used Second Life when I was teaching my language and gender module last semester to explore gender switching, role play, going beyond gender binaries, aka Donna Haraway's cyborg manifesto. Incidentally, that class seemed to inspire quite a few of the students who are now doing end of semester research projects looking blogging, gender, ethnicity and a whole range of interesting things. I wonder how storytelling takes place in Second Life? I wonder whether narrativity can be stretched so far that the virtual world of Second Life can be treated as a kind of narrative world. What would Ryan's work on possible worlds and interactivity have to say about it?

From a non-academic point of view, I know Second Life has a lot to answer for when I ask my four-year old where his sister and dad are and he tells me they are on the computer, having a conversation with a squirrel in a cafe. For me, that actually opens up one of the interesting aspects of Second Life - the playfulness and its relationship to real world contexts. In the meantime, the blogging analysis continues, with or without the squirrel in the cafe.