Dec 11 2010

Sharon Boyd

Final Summary Reflection

Filed under Weekly Reflection

I’m not sure what this final post should ideally be, but part of me doesn’t want to write it. Is it that I do not want this to come to an end or that I do not want to let it go or set it free?

So I took the easier route and spent today being creative – another artefact to close the course. The Flipbook tool choice was my husband’s suggestion – I had planned a ZooBurst pop-up book but was hitting a problem when it came to representing everyone. He said that it would be better if I had a flip-page image of me transforming into “cyborg Sharon” – tying the end up with the beginning – and so it has become. (Apologies still to everyone – I could only manage smileys and flowers – so you became smiles and rainbows, which is how I think of you – etheric cyborgs one and all :) )

What I hope my lifestream shows is how much creative inspiration I have taken from this course. How the tasks, readings, tweets and Tumblings, music and musings have woven themselves together to create a tapestry of my learning process. I have to remind myself that it doesn’t end here – I have taken so much from this that I wished I had time to spend with, and now I have been given that wish.

Every living thing has a life of its own – and my lifestream is most certainly alive. Looking back on the elements of the lifestream, reading through my offline journal – now updated and digitised – I’m aware of how important this journalling process has been.

Comments I made, notes to myself at the beginning, are far enough from me now in time that I can look and be inspired anew, or reminded of things I thought I would do and have forgotten – or haven’t started yet. This isn’t the past, it’s a guide for the future, for me anyway.

It is not simply that my “digital life” has been recorded here, but more that my thoughts, reflections and collections have taken on their own life – drawing energy from the web when I click the Publish switch. Once that happens, they cease to be “mine” and are shared with everyone, become part of their thoughts, their comments adding to my posts, their observations adding to my work in the same way that I hope my comments add to theirs.

My last Tumbr post for the lifestream talks about the inspiration of the hazel tree. Like hazel, I have delved my roots deeply into my lifestream – others have been like the salmon sharing their knowledge with me, and I hope I have shared a few kernels of knowledge along the way :) Like this reflection, my Flipbook artefact is cyclical (by tool design rather than my ability, but all things are connected!). One key thing our work together showed is that, with culture, nothing is “new”, simply blended with, adding to and building on those that have gone before us.

What we post this year has come from the inspiration of our lives and those students who came before us, and I like to think that maybe this may inspire those who come after us too.

Thank you Jen, Sian and everyone on the course – and see you all in Second Life on Monday!

The picture below is my lifestream given “face and form” – and I think I’m ready to let her go.

Lifestream Elemental

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Dec 11 2010

Sharon Boyd

Summary Flipbook :)

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Dec 05 2010

Sharon Boyd

Week 11 Reflection

Filed under Weekly Reflection

The last weekly reflection – this time next week, it’ll be the final overall reflection. I wish I could have made this course run longer – it feels like we’ve only just started. I know that’s the point, that we’re now supposed to leap in and learn from our personal experiences from this point on (thinking about Marie’s posthuman pedagogy task!), but still I’m going to miss the camaraderie of the course space.

This week, thanks in no small part to Alastair McIntosh, I got my essay title in place, and a rough idea of how I am going to approach it. But that is very much only the start – I’m glad I’ve got another week for discussing and clarifying and fine-tuning.

I shared a link at the beginning of the week to an essay entitled Franken-Rat. This exploration of what it means to become posthuman from the physiologic influencing the spiritual/psychologic state I found really interesting, quite a deep reflection – plus I like the symborg (human-virus symbiotic cyborg) reflection fascinating. Not sure how I can “use” it visibly, but it’s brewing away in my head.

I also posted some other delicious links – including one to the Experience Project, which I spotted as a comment in an article on winter. I thought it sounded wonderful, but I’ve spent some time investigating it since. Many of the “communities” or groups only have a small membership – though I have joined some for nature that may be of use in my essay (nevermind my life). It’s interesting, perhaps not as wonderful as I thought earlier in the week, but then, it may prove me wrong! I did briefly consider it might be an interesting format for my essay – particularly if I went down the mini-auto-ethnography route. Still pending that one, as it would be interesting to see if I had any input – members joining my group and commenting on my life stories.

Discussions with Jeremy on his shamanistic posthuman pedagogy task have been great – that shamanistic aspect of learning has touched something for me – that blending of ontology and epistemology perhaps that is echoed in my own essay topic choice. The feedback from others on my posthuman pedagogy task was so profound. I love that – I love how other people’s comments help you to see and understand your own work so much better.

Tweets sharing good resources and commenting on Michael and James’ superb essay idea and poll to #ededc, but also “personal” tweets (i.e. not to #ededc) with two examples of the use of social networking to reach larger groups. The first – a “rethink” of journalism using social media and crowdsourcing. We’re already using this to some extent, but it was good to see it in one article. The second, a man who was deeply affected by stories of the rape and resulting trauma undergone by women in the Congo. He didn’t just think “oh that’s dreadful” and then leave it at that – he ran, he tweeted and posted and raised awareness. He visited, he took action – and he hasn’t given up. So many of us think and reflect but don’t “do” or let a feeling of helplessness overcome us – “what can I do, what difference will it make?”.

On a lighter note, more tweets on the weather – and the joy of the snow compounded by impacts on work (working from home, loss of electricity and internet connection) and home (oh my poor plants!).  I thought the picture below summed our week up nicely… :)

 pooh and piglet thinking in the snow

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Dec 01 2010

Sharon Boyd

Essay Topic

Filed under Essay

Soil, Soul and Society: the Responsibility of Being Posthuman

Our readings from weeks 8-10 raised the same issues of what it means to be “posthuman”, and we noticed that responsibility (to other humans, other creatures, other “things”, our planet, ourselves) and awareness of that responsibility are key factors in the debate.

Throughout this course, I have been swirling around the dualism shown in my original artefact – the greenwoman/machine hybrid – and each week added a new layer to that until it’s now positively geologic! I was concerned for a while that I wasn’t moving beyond this, but now I wonder if I was, in fact, coming full circle – at least as much as I could manage anyway :)

The problem lay in trying to decide *what* to do, nevermind how to do it. How to take a subject so huge, with so many tantilising sideroads I could travel down so easily? I was finding it hard to tie myself down to one clear route. Angus et al.’s (2001) paper from last week (A Manifesto for Cyborg Pedagogy) made me smile, as I could see I was having the same problems as Geoff with his cup of coffee.


Image copyright by Martin Liebermann/zeitspuren

I’m dipping in and out of Davis’ Techgnosis at the moment, but also reading Alastair McIntosh’s Rekindling Community: Connecting People, Environment and Spirituality. It was from this that I got my title, as I love the triune of terms – very Celtic :)


Further inspiration and confirmation arrived on Sunday with an interview with Margaret Atwood – her blending of science and literature echoes the work we have been reading and the thoughts I have been having. Likewise, she blends a dystopian vision (reminiscent of James Lovelock’s Gaia theories) with a determiniation not to let that prevent her from becoming involved in “good causes” – supporting the connections in her life.

In my essay, I will discuss this connection of being, knowing and doing in connection with each other and the land, in part as a reflection of what it means to be a “responsible posthuman”, and in part as an examination of ways in which we can become more active and how the web supports, facilitates and perhaps also acts as a barrier to this action. That sounds very clear and confident when I read it back, but I’m not really. Like everything on the MSc though, I find that when I throw myself into it, the “doing” teaches as I go.

I was intending to follow James’ example and use Issuu, but I’ve changed my mind and decided to use Blogger – mainly because that means that, whatever happens to this blog in the future, the essay will “stay with me”, if that makes sense? I’m also pondering a build in Second Life, and again creating the essay in Blogger will allow me to pull links from the blog into the build and vice versa – suitably weaving as appropriate.

I still have to figure out my criteria – that’s always the hardest part for me!

Any ideas, suggestions, tweaks and questions are very welcome :)

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Nov 28 2010

Sharon Boyd

Week 10 Reflection

I started this week commenting on the hydra-connections in our reading on Tumblr. I love the warm fuzzy you get when the ideas you have, the images you see, are shared by others – that feeling of confirmation – that your “aha!” moment was spot on. A community of understanding, like-mindedness, shared thoughts perhaps?

The JISC newsletter brought great inspiration on Tuesday – good ideas, opportunities, items that connected with earlier and current discussions or thoughts in my head. It was great to share them with the group.

I posted my posthuman pedagogy task on Tuesday, mindful of the fact that there was only a week, and I needed to get something “up there” early on. Biesta’s article, though requiring a double-read, helped a lot with my topic – as did looking at the tasks we had been given before and “borrowing” (ahem!) the structure.

By Tuesday also, evidence of my change in essay ideas come to the fore, with links to e.g. Earth as Art. The last three weeks had taken my original idea for an essay and turned it on its head. I’m still pondering, with an “almost there!” feeling that the final idea has nearly arrived. I had earlier been thinking about environmental activism online – it had been part of my original idea for my ethnography which, likewise, had to undergo a topic change. The last three weeks, our work on the cyborg, the soul/spirit of the machine reflections, have got themselves all tangled up like spaghetti wires. Strongest comes that sense of posthuman responsibility – which again appeared in our reading this week.

And so, the latter part of this week was spent lost in thought.  Like the image below, I can see the edges, the surface, but haven’t seen the whole. It is an incomplete vision, but like my lifestream, coming into view :)

invisible woman

Separate from the course, we ran face-to-face exams this week for candidates who we only knew online before this. The candidates travelled from around the UK, bringing their own stories, plans for the weekend, traveller’s tales and it was that wonderful mixing of the person you have come to know online, with the chance to get to know each other all over again… and have real instead of virtual biscuits for a change! Invigilating exams and coordinating rooms, exam scripts, examiners and candidates is immediate and time consuming, but does have the benefit of leaving some parts of your mind whirring away and processing essay thoughts “behind the scenes”.

Like the invisible woman, I was here, but not here!

Plans for the coming week: while there are no specific course readings, I really need time to catch up with the reading I have downloaded around the topics we have been covering, to gel the final essay plan and to spend time looking at other people’s pedagogy tasks – and being inspired and awe-struck as usual, I have no doubt!

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Nov 24 2010

Sharon Boyd

Posthuman Pedagogy Task

Filed under Artefact, Posthumanism

horse instal image Your challenge this week is to explore the concept of horses and biotechnology. Reflect on the meeting ground between horses and biotech – what does this mean to you? What ideas or concerns does this raise?

This is a very open task, so you can approach it from any direction you like. Likewise, your reflection can be in the form of images, words, slides, movie clips, a poster… whatever works best for you. At the end of the week, we will be sharing all the reflections and discussing this topic together.

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Nov 21 2010

Sharon Boyd

Week 9 Reflection

Filed under Weekly Reflection

What a week!

There is quite a bit of music this week, as I was working on developing interactive stats examples for one of the courses I work on (the statisticians did the stats – no idea what it meant, but it looks good :) ). I find it easier to work on something like that with music input too. The adaptations for the lifestream saw me sifting out tunes to leave the remaining songs reflective of my thinking this week on animals/plants/humans/machines – most of which are in my previous post (Technopagans and Cybershamans).

I also had my first XtraNormal experience, leading to my first YouTube movie – wowee!! I took an original poem, The Mystery, which I renamed “Amergin’s Poem”, which connected themes and resonated with this week, and I added a few lines to direct it a little more. It was important to me as it brought my Irish cultural heritage into this lifestream, something which, considering our reading on “hidden” race online (e.g. Nakamura 2008), I felt was very important (see also the inclusion of Clannad).

Not much on delicious – just a couple of links of the many I visited re: shamanism online – fascinating! Plus a link to the website where I found the image I shared on the Wallwisher – it took me this long to figure out what I was going to put there! I love that Haraway-associated image – that medicine-woman image, and, even if the term is outdated (a little like me!), cybershaman.

I have booked time with the scanner this coming week, so my scribbles can be updated and I am a little lost about this coming week’s activity. But as with the rest of the course, you just dive in and learn from the experience – woohoo!!

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Nov 21 2010

Sharon Boyd

Cybershamans and Technopagans

Filed under Cyborg, Posthumanism, Reading

In the course handbook, Block 3 outlined the idea of the cyborg and how “human subjectivity is altered through our relationship to, or ‘fusion’ with, technology”. This post is a bit of a wander through thoughts, please feel free to feed in and help me clarify my musings :)

What struck me from the readings over the past two weeks is that we have not yet resolved the “human-animal” relationship, nevermind the “human-plant” relationship or the “man-machine” conundrum. Even adding technology into the mix, we are effectively just “[recycling] the old ideas of human spirit and body upon which early academic humanism was founded” (Muri, 2003).

It seems we return through time to reflections on what it means “to be human” with reference to everything else in our lives. What interests me is the focus on “being human” – we understand that with reference to other species, other “ways of being” in comparison to ourselves, and the same may hold true for machines. It is interesting that Donna Haraway moved on to study companion animals, as in my classes on companion animal behaviour, it is the comparison of a specific behaviour pattern with the student’s own personal experiences that leads to better understanding, while at the same time avoiding the trap of assuming exact behaviour “matches” between species. Haraway shows the same process of reflection in her writing, and each of the other texts we read adds or expands on a point she raised (a remarkable piece, even if it took me two weeks to try and grasp it!).

Coyle’s (2006) article was superb – it focused on this divide, this “giant chasm” – the “imagined human-animal divide”. It made me smile to see Sian’s image choice for these weeks – the devil – the human-animal hybrid “antithesis to human morality”. How often also do we see human/animal hybrids as gods or guides in various world religions or spiritual beliefs. Shamanistic practice (as with the Buddhist in Coyle’s article) sees the “interconnectedness” of all life – I see us as “becoming” (or perhaps just me – others may already be there!) – Thacker (2002) quoted in Coyle “a transgressional state of between-ness”. If I haven’t crossed the chasm yet, I’m pottering across the bridge.

The concept of the cyborg seems to be, like the hydra, a creature of many heads:

  • merging of man/machine (coupled with the ethical and species purity/spiritual(?) concerns of the animal/plant/human hybrid (e.g. Haraway, Coyle)
  • human “robot” – the automating of bodily processes (Muri 2003) – and would this include computer/machine prostheses grafted onto human/animal body?
  • disembodiment (“transcendance”) through computer networking (Muri 2003)
  • the human mind extracted and inserted into a machine form (and what of the soul?)
  • the creation of new life in machine form

(For the last two, Sterling’s Schismatrix as mentioned in Muri – Mechanists and Shapers). Or a weaving of all these – as Derrida (in Badminton 2003), echoed in RL in Gajjala and Mamidipuni (2002). Each aspect brings with it a range of fears and challenges to us as we reflect on what we would be prepared to accept (considering the thoughts of the New Zealander’s in Coyle’s article on biotechnologies).

Being posthuman carries responsibilities. In Coyle and Haraway – the importance of humans as “guardians” of the animal/plant world, in Nakamura (2008) the impact on Asian workers – the supporters/ground workers behind the “empowering possibilities of the Internet”. As Muir states (p80), the “disregard for the desires of the lower-order working bodies by the privileged, literate intellectual” (refl on the work of McLuhan).

I’ve been dipping in and out of Davis (2004) Techgnosis throughout this course, and he speaks of the connection between the concept of the cyborg and the drive for interstellar travel – man “escaping” the planet. This is seen in Muri with the idea of an over-populated world where we can “escape” the crowding and pollution by being “digitised” – transcendance to pure thought (cyborg ether form – “I want to walk in the snow and leave no footprints” Gies, 2008). But what of those who are “left behind”? What do the “transcendant spirits” leave for them?

It’s the “apocalyptic” viewpoint, looking at ways of escaping the mess (of the planet, of ourselves; cyberbody adaptations as fashion – giving both Hayles and I the heebie-geebies) versus the optimistic utopian view that we will find a way to co-exist – plant/animal/human/machine weaved, merged, supported and whole (holistic?).

Wherefrom the post title? Reading Davis, I found that, should I wish to be pigeon-holed, I might be considered a technopagan – recognition of the “magic of technology” – and the scientific, performaning, creative, literate, artistic, communicating, healing merge of the cybershaman (with apologies to Nakamura for using a dated term). The readings this week led me out into the “web” of sites for shamans and pagans – to groups on SL and thoughts about World of Warcraft – people communicating, finding “spirit”, divine in creativity – posthuman culture that incorporates as much of the past (immediate and distant) and creating to fill the gaps in forgotten knowing. A trippy experience.

The old ideas don’t fade away – they adapt, develop, absorb new times and technologies – posthuman evolution doesn’t stop here.

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Nov 19 2010

Sharon Boyd

A Double First for Me!

Filed under Artefact, Cyborg, Reading

First, thank you Hugh for introducing me to XtraNormal – this was the first time I used it and it was superb. Second, this is my first video to post to YouTube, so I’m pretty thrilled. Third, this is a reflection on cyber-existence based on a mash-up of a poem I know well and my own thoughts and words, a blending of human, animal and machine, together with a new experiment on my digital presence, and it worked much better for me than I had anticipated. And finally, as is often the way, while this was supposed to be a deep and meaningful reflection, the sight of the wee bear being so pensive, nevermind the pause at the sound of the crow, has had me falling off my chair laughing. The wonderful thing about XtraNormal is that, while I know I put in the camera angles and the looks to camera, the animation and the words, wee Amergin Bear truly has a life of his own :)

YouTube Preview Image

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Nov 13 2010

Sharon Boyd

Week 8 Reflection

Filed under Weekly Reflection

Thank heavens for the bliss of good old Tumblr! Spent ages trying to get Wordpress to take a Google presentation, no joy – stick it in Tumblr and in it goes, easy as pie.

This week, I’ve spent time sharing and discussing links with my brother – my guest for the week (and hopefully next week too :) ). He shared a really interesting link on developing robots that think “ethically” – slightly worrying mind you – a little too “big brother” with the medication support – made me think of I, Robot – “you shall take your medication” – eek! He’s been looking at some of the ethnographies too, and I look forward to sharing his thoughts.

I tweeted a really neat internet infographic – simultaneously superb and every so slightly disturbing (how many emails?!)

Two visual artefacts this week to sum up my thoughts on the reading – one a presentation of images that I pulled together as a result of reading Haraway, Hayles and Shields, and which had been bubbling away in my mind all week. The second is an image of me as a hydra – with each head representing one part of the online mosaic that is me (and the zoologist couldn’t help but tweak the Latin name :) ). Helpfully enough, the picture had seven heads and I repeatedly use the same image in multiple locations – result!

What was most important about this was both the need for every online representation of me to be part of the larger whole – multiple “heads” for in truth I do act differently in each virtual location, yet all are “me” – and also for there to be the mythical quality that rears its head (appropriately) in so much of our reading. I had a chance to include the horse as one of the heads, the icon I use for my main work FB and Twitter account, and something that is not included in this lifestream, but where most of my tweeting (well, retweeting!), takes place. It was tempting to create a whole different creature for my SL “selves”, as one avatar appearance is not enough.

Here be Dragons

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