13:51 11/06/2004 Mathemagenic: Mathemagenic
...giving birth to learning...


  Monday, April 24, 2006

  Hardly blogging

I'm in a middle of one million things, so my almost-back-to-normal blogging is broken again and I don't expect to blog much coming few weeks...

Things you might want to know:

  • I'm getting married on 30 April in Moscow
  • I don't think I'll blog much here till the end of May
  • I don't think I'll do much online-related things (including email and Skype) in May
  • If you are curious - more personal news are at my wedding blog and Flickr
More on: life 

  Friday, April 14, 2006

  I'd love to do a workshop in this house...

So, we take off for a long weekend away. It's 4 hours drive and then we see the house. I fall in love immediately. It's huge. It's beautiful. It's old and modern at the same time. It's open - spaces connect and flow into each other, big windows connect inside and outside...

And, as we walk around to choose a room to stay, we discover that it's also designed as a workspace (wifi and beamer anyone?). And my inside screams immediately - I'd love to do a workshop here. 25-30 people, a few days, mix of creative conversations, nerding, hiking, cooking, sitting by the fire...


More on: travel 

  Thursday, April 13, 2006

  Weblog research: artefacts and practices - and contexts that influence them

Jack Vinson writes a follow-up on my yesterday's artefacts and practices, with differentiation between work and working: 

Work is the output of some activity: the end result that I can then give to someone else.  Working is everything that goes on to create that output: mental and physical activity.  It's a useful distinction in the discussion of knowledge work because we so frequently focus on the work product or the result of working, rather than the skill and knowledge that make the result possible.  And in thinking about making knowledge work more productive, it is the working that we need to improve, not necessarily the end products.

Also something very synchronous to what I has been writing and drawing over last few days:

artifactsIn thinking about this, I wonder if a deeper structure might be in play -- a deeper connection to context in which bloggers (or knowledge workers) operate.  Something like this drawing, where the visible is at the top of the pyramid and stuff below the waterline is the blogging culture and even deeper is the larger culture and context of the people doing blogging.  (Please draw something better - or point us to a better-looking drawing.  I need to spend more time, if I were to draw something pretty.)

My pictures are not perfect as well. First, I decided to make yesterday's squares into a triangle, so this is still on weblog artefacts and practices :) Then, I went a bit further in describing those "the larger culture and context of the people doing blogging" from three perspectives. There could be more perspectives/contexts, but in my case (studying knowledge worker blogging practices) I consider those as most important:

  • Personal – e.g. personal needs, values, habits, practices, etc. of a knowledge worker that influence blogging
  • Community – e.g. norms and practices in the communities of practice (informal, often multiple) where knowledge worker belongs
  • Organisational – e.g. norms and practices in organisation(s) that pay knowledge worker for his/her work

Of course, if I would have time I should draw the triangle as a pyramid founded in those contexts, but I'll leave it to another time.

Also: Nancy on invisible online practices

  Wednesday, April 12, 2006

  Weblog research: artefacts and practices

My last post made me thinking on (actually drawing :) the distinctions between artefacts and practices in a context of weblog research (not theorethical at all):

  • Blogging artefacts are "things" that could be seen: weblog posts, links, comments, blogrolls, RSS subscriptions, etc. Some of them are hidden (e.g. draft posts), but most could be easily observed online. That make studying weblogs fun (if you don't bump into teasing data). 
  • Blogging practices is about what bloggers do with their blogs, as well as why and how of it. Blogging practices are often invisible and (sub)culture-specific. Artefacts represent practices and play all other roles (e.g. they could be products or tools).

 So, what would be a way to study blogging practices? I have a few pictures. The first two represent what I call archeology and ethnography (the person with "flower" is actually a researcher with "looking glass" :).

'Archeology' is about studying artefacts in order to say something about artefacts or practices. In the first case, I don't have any problem: study artefacts -> say something about them.

The second case could be more complicated. Artefacts only represent practices, so if you want to study artefacts and then say something about practices you need to understand how those two connected. One way to do so is by having a good theory (existing knowledge of connections between artefacts and practices): if you have it then claims about practices based on artefacts could be pretty much true.

The point is that in most cases we do not have good existing knowledge about blogging practices, so I tend to be quite critical on blog research that concludes something about blogging practices by studying only artefacts. For example.

Ethnography would be an alternative: studying practices by living the "life of the tribe". In this case you are more likely to provide a better picture of specific practices, but those would be limited to subcultures you studied. However, it's also pretty time-consuming.

I also learnt from Andrea that ethnographers do not necessarily have interest in artefacts or skills to study them the way "archeologists" would do. Which would be a pity in a case of weblogs, since blogging artefacts can say a lot, especially if "triangulated" based on knowledge about practices.

It also doesn't mean that you really have to be "inside" to learn about practices. Another way would be to ask people to tell stories about practices (e.g. in interviews or, in a very shortened form, in surveys).  However, blogs provide an additional way: one can study meta-blogging (blog posts reflecting on all kinds of issues around blogging).

Meta-blogging posts would provide at least some idea on blogging practices without directly asking bloggers. Of course, they are likely to bias the results in the direction of bloggers who tend to reflect more or do not censor these posts based on whatever reason.


Hmm... not that scientific, but at least something. In case you wonder where are my own preferences: they are about triangulating :) 

  Jan Schmidt on blogging practices

If you are in weblog research make sure you email Jan Schmidt for the draft paper on blogging practices (hmm, if everyone would ask Jan he will be left without qualified blind reviewers for the journal publication he is thinking about):

Abstract. The diffusion of weblogs over the last years has led to a differentiation of blogging practices. This paper proposes a general analytical model to analyse and compare different uses of the weblog format. Its main argument is that individual usage episodes are framed by three structural dimensions of rules, relations and code, which in turn are constantly (re)produced in social action. As a result, “communities of blogging practices” emerge, that is groups of people who share certain routines and expectations about the use of Weblogs as a software tool for information-, identity- and relationship management. To illustrate these conceptual ideas, findings from a large-scale survey (N=5.246) of the german-speaking blogosphere are presented, focussing on sociodemographic characteristics and motivations of active bloggers as well as on strategies of presenting oneself, dealing with social relationships and using the blogosphere as a source of information. These are found to be partly dependent on bloggers’ age, partly on the experience with the Weblog format. In general, the majority of bloggers uses them to journal episodes and events of their private life, while keeping contact with other readers and authors through comments and (to a lesser extent) a blogroll.

I really like the paper, but I'd say that it's really two-in-one: the first is probably the best theorising work on weblogs I've seen so far, the second has a very interesting results complementing other blog studies.

The main reason I see it as two papers: I don't see how the survey illustrates the model. I find the strength of Jan't model in articulating dynamic relations between different aspects of blogging practices, as well as connections between micro-level "specific blogging episodes" and forming of macro-level rules and relations - I do not see how those things are illustrated by the survey (Jan, may be I miss what is there - then it should be more articulate).

Interesting finding (see also highlights by Philipp Young): choices of what to blog about differ by age (teenage and older bloggers), while use of comments, blogrolls and RSS differ by the time spent blogging (less than 6 months/more than 6 months). The second one suggests the change of blogging practices over time (corresponds to similar finding in my BlogTalk paper (.pdf), other studies and subjective feelings).

I'm not sure how far one-to-one generalisations of specific blogging practices (e.g. contents or weblog posts) into broader categories (information, identity and relationship management) would hold. For example, if we talk about identity management: (IMHO) in the blogosphere your identity is formed as much by linking to others as by the contents of your weblog. This comes back to the whole discussion on artefacts and practices (e.g. archaeology and ethnography in weblog research, but I should write about it properly).

  Tuesday, April 11, 2006

  Feed your blog to tOKo and see what comes out

Anjo is moving further in developing a blog-friendly version of tOKo (related to all our earlier work on weblog communities, conversations and topics):

A little bit of progress on the open source version of tOKo (and the like), and in particular making it suitable for bloggers.

The first problem is turning a (your?) blog into a corpus. tOKo is pretty flexible as to what a corpus looks like, but the process must be automated. Jack Vinson and Ton Zijlstra provided great help by converting their blogs to a Movable Type export file and making the result available. Therefore, tOKo now contains a "Create corpus from Movable Type" function. The nice thing is that several blogging platforms provide Movable Type (MT) export. For example, in TypePad (which I use) a MT file can be generated from the web interface. Moreover, an MT file contains all information, including comments and trackbacks.

I'm getting into research fun anticipation - getting hold of comments next to post text would be such a great thing for the analysis :)

And, if want to help to develop the tool you can contribute your blog archives in Movable Type format (WPexport could be handy for WordPress users). This especially makes sense if you feel belonging to KM bloggers community (paper) - or, as Anjo puts it:

If you have linked to Jack, Ton, Lilia or myself in the past, this would be particularly interesting (also if you can only export to Movable Type). The only disadvantage of making your weblog available is that I might ask you to alpha-test tOKo :-).

My email address is: anjo science uva nl (one at, two dots).

You get a bit more insight about this work from Ton's impressions on the work in progress and Anjo's visualisations (1, 2, 3, 4).

  Monday, April 10, 2006

  Worldmapper, immigration exam and cultural awareness

Land AreaVia Dina Mehta: Worldmapper, "a collection of world maps, where territories are re-sized on each map according to the subject of interest".

Those maps (index) provide a great way to understand how different other parts of the world from where we are.

Refugee OriginInternational EmigrantsTourist OriginsFor example, those three maps (refugee origins, international emigration and tourist origins) show how different are the ways people of the world learn about other countries: those who are relocating abroad are not likely to have chances to visit their destination country before it.

It also adds a point to my recently frequent discussions with friends about controversial immigration exam in the Netherlands. Although I pretty much agree with those who say that it's selectiveness, format and costs are raising unfair entry barriers for many, I can't admit that it also raises cultural awareness of people who are about to move to another culture.

It's only now I'm realising how unprepared I has been personally to live in a country with different culture, even given my interest in other cultures, travels abroad and almost a year in the Netherlands as a student. Given those experiences and all my readings on moving between cultures I'm starting to believe that deeper knowledge about other cultures (especially those there you are likely to spend the rest of your life) is essential if you plan a move. I can imagine how "immigration exam" in some form could be an important point in this process.

And, once I'm at it: a point from another side. Sometimes I'm suprised to find out that well-travelled Dutch friends and colleagues actually never travelled outside the "Western civilisation" (Europe and North America) and that they do they know much about dramatically different cultures (I mean: knowing about culture beyond food and goods). I guess in the global world everyone should take some kind of "immigration exam", even those who stay in their own country...

More on: cross-cultural 

  Friday, April 07, 2006

  ALT Spring: Research workshop on lifelong learning

Interesting things from today:

  • video diaries on student learning habits
  • blogs as portfolios - time, tools and common format for digesting
  • "presumption of competence"
  • formative vs. summative - not only assessment of competencies, but also assessment of research
  • taking responsibility for choosing learning options vs. can you judge learning options about things you don't know
  • role of intermediaries (people and tools) to help navigating learning landscape

Those pages are likely to move, but I keep links here for a while:

Relevant pieces from earlier blog posts:

  Thursday, April 06, 2006

  Teaching how to long...

Spotted at Chris Corrigan:

If you want to build a ship,
don’t drum up people together to collect wood
and don’t assign them tasks and work,
but rather teach them to long for
the endless immensity of the sea.

– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

More on: leadership metaphors 

  ALT Spring Conference

I'm in Leiden at ALT Spring Conference - it's a very nice mix of people talking about learning technologies and (a bit suprisingly) the interesting issues (e.g. games, communities, social software, informal learning) are well covered. Below are some (patchy) notes...

Prof Robert-Jan Simons, "Are our students changing and what does that mean for ICT in education?"

  • Carl Rohde, 2004 (trend-watcher; company of himself, a laptop and 200 people around the world, looking at children between 6 and 12 and 12 and 18; not published, for big corporate customers)
    • Game generation - interactivity!
    • Search generation
    • Extended home (=your home is where your friends are)
    • Lived experience - searching for authentic experiences
    • Respect my authority
  • ICT changing?
    • Mobile computing: Connectivity and sharing, mobile learning
    • Digital information mining: Visual, textual and human information + judgement of quality
    • Digital empowerment: Tools expand intelligence + testing; students become more independent
    • Multi-media rendering: Authencity +outside world
    • World-wide communication: Weblog, podcast, vidcast, wiki, etc.
    • ICT as commodity: Everybody involved; expectations of students; beating the system
  • Virtual action learning system (find example!)
  • Learners vs. staff (D.Oblinger)
    • Multitasking | One thing at a time
    • Audio-visual | Textual
    • Random access | Linear, logical, sequential
    • Interactive and networks | Independent and individual
    • Commitment | Discipline
    • Spontaneousely | Deliberately
  • Need more research...

Scott Wilson 'Web 2.0 and the personal learning experience of the net generation' (presentation and podcast). Also - The PLE Blog.

Good talk with an overview of relevant trends (do not agree 100% ;) and an overview on personal learning experience/environment. Bits and pieces:

  • "participation overload"
  • when students describe what do they want from e-portfolio it looks like an online dating system
  • PLE:
    • Multiple-context learning
    • Formal and informal networks
    • Role-switching
    • Asymmetric spaces
    • Self-organisation
    • Integrated identity
  • Theory - Scott promised to add references in his blog
  • Personal vs. personalised technology
  • How do we construct a set of tools as an individual?

Prof Angela McFarlane,  "Playing to learn - learning to play"

  • Fun production sites (forthcoming book chapter)
    • Poetry - emotional experiences comparable too books
    • Drawing - tutoring and learning from each other
    • Novels - reader feedback and encouragement (+ Robison, 2004 on constructive criticism and collaboration between writers and audience at cardcaptor.com)
  • It's rather hidden cultural practices if you are not an insider. Since there are no physical artifacts… Now visible creative activities.
    • Temptation to generalise (everyone is doing it)
    • E.g. parents and teahers are unaware of those activities
    • Those activities are not acknowledged in formal learning life.
  • "I'd kill to have my students reading each others work as in fun production sites" and "I've never got some many comments on something I've written. Not in my face.". Why it doesn't work:
    • How far institutional pressures are there? Formal organisational structures that "distort the magnetic field"
    • Lack of authenticity?
    • Assessment - experience of collaboration as cheating. Not only education systems, but an understanding of knowledge is……we do not sufficiently privilege the act of production is part of learning, once we do it it's too late… to produce something personal... How to modify the modes of assessment to fit???
    • Granularity of assessment - lots of material, not enough time to cover it - always summative evaluation of half-baked products
More on: e-learning future 

  Tuesday, April 04, 2006

  Wedding invitations

This wedding of us is a challenge. It's not only cross-cultural logistics of it, but also my so-much-distributed network of imaginary friends. I tried to figure out whom to send the invitations to, but weighting together the strengths of the relationship, personal/professional nature of it, likelihood of travelling that far and one million other things doesn't make it easy. So, I decided to do something similar to what we did with BlogWalk invitations:

We are going to get married.
The wedding is invitation-only, but if you feel like being invited - let me know. 

To make it a bit easier - I probably would love to see you at our wedding if (some of those): 

  • we have a personal connection next to all the work stuff
  • you know who is the guy
  • you can see the invitation
  • you know more than one way to contact me

And please don't link to the wedding blog (we are trying to hide it ;)

More on: life 

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This weblog is my learning diary. Sometimes I write about things related to my work, but the views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

Last update: 4/24/2006; 11:34:30 PM.