Thursday, October 23, 2008

Social networking and students
We talked a lot during Bill's visit about how we manage our online identities. I was saying that I have a Facebook page under my other identity and that several of our students and past students have asked me to be their Facebook friends. I usually say yes, but as a result am very careful how I use my Facebook profile - it has no reference to this blog, for example. The extremes of such staff-student engagement in social networking were made clear in this story which Bill emailed me. The discussion about it on Digg is interesting- most people seem clear that the issue here is about how we maintain professional boundaries rather than the technology itself. So often people seem to muddle the act of engaging in social networking/Web 2.0 type activity with what we do with it, which is surely what really matters..

Find me now.. how does this feel?
Yesterday Bill Thompson came to the Bearpit and gave a really interesting talk on staying human in this digital age. He mentioned that now have a new thing called Radar- this can tell you your location (okay, I know, you're thinking 'but I'd know that..' ) then tell you the five nearest hotels.. and soon, nearest restaurants etc.. this got us thinking about how we would feel about that but of course I had to go and have a play. it is pretty accurate- in London more so but even here it got me to the right city.. though its choice of the 5 hotels was a tad unexpected. See what you think..

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Today is Blog Action Day for Poverty so I am making the effort to post.. this is very timely as on Monday we launched our Centre for Education for Social Justice with no less a person than Tony Benn as speaker, which was not only very exciting but just plain dead good- as SimplyClare would say, well to the jay bad. He spoke for just around 20 minutes so he could take questions for a good half hour, which he did really well, and we had loads of people from all kinds of backgrounds and political persuasions there who we hope will now engage with us and the Centre. One thing he said which is particularly relevant if we are to actually do anything about poverty was that one definition he had heard of apathy was to vote all your life in every local and national election but to do nothing else to make a difference..

The Centre is an attempt to engage theory with practice and thus to improve life and life chances for people in Lincolnshire, where poverty is a key factor - low wages, low skills and terrible road infrastructure making it hard to move for education or better jobs, tensions around community cohesion and the migrant workforce who often are not in good working environments themselves and are not always paid a living wage. You get the picture.. so I'm happy to post as part of this huge worldwide action day..

Driving home tonight from a talk for the local British Federation of Women Graduates, many of whom graduated at least as long ago as I did if not longer, I overheard a quote on the radio - something to the effect that 'chance favours the well prepared'. Those of us who have had the luck to get a decent education have in that sense been well prepared and are maybe more able as a result to spot a life chance and take it.. if our Centre helps even one more person in Lincolnshire feel well prepared for the chances of life that would feel pretty good.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Guy has posted about evidence and it reminded me that I have been fascinated by the French approach to evidence as we have been buying our house. We have of course had to provide endless certificates- birth, marriage, income tax- and bank statements etc for the mortgage, but I'm thinking more about the actual purchase and also the bank's approach to the mortgage documentation. For both we have had to 'prove' we have read all the documents by each initialing every page (recto and verso) of every document and then have both had to write 'lu et approuve' many times with our signature (that last e of approuve should have an acute accent, no idea how to do that here!). On occasion we have also had to write great chunks of English (once) or more commonly French in our own handwriting- and again we have each had to do this- and sign. That this is in some way ritualistic was confirmed when I queried the meaning of one bit of the insurance policy for the mortage. No-one in the bank could explain it (and I mean explain not translate) but still we signed to say it was read and approved. If one set of initials is missing from the mortgage papers, we have to go back to square one and sign all over again with another enforced cooling-off period. The acceptance has to be postmarked by the French post office to prove we have had the cooling-off period (not that easy when we were in England at the time).

Alongside this emphasis on written witness is a formal reliance on oral ritual. At the beginning of the time with the notaire to sign the compromis de vente, he read out aloud our names and addresses and so forth and we had to confirm this was us to make it all valid. The whole occasion was exactly that- an occasion. The buyers and sellers are there, plus the estate agent and notary, and there is a real sense of this act of witness being evidence that proves the transaction has taken place.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


We have been having a bit of an adventure. With a bit of luck in about seven weeks we will own a house in this road in France.. to celebrate I have been playing on Picasa and have found I can blog this collage that I've made.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Internet viruses..

A while back Simply Clare posted a very eloquent tale about her struggles to get a GP appointment for her nasty chest infection etc.. (and I really hope you are better now Clare).. I read the post and responded and now I am off sick too with a nasty virus.. too ill even to enjoy daytime television as a guilty pleasure, A Place in the Sun feels like reading Foucault, etc.. could this be a case of an internet virus?? ( I have to say that I was much luckier than Clare though. Our GP is actually accessible- I got an appointment the first day we asked (day 5 of being ill, now it is day 7). We couldn't actually phone for one as they have changed their phone number and I couldn't find the new number, but the Motorcyclist went round and as usual they were v helpful. This is no doubt the NHS Postcode lottery we hear so much about. The GP I saw though was less forthcoming than Simply Clare's but he did give me some antibiotics which normally I would resist but this time seemed a good idea.)

When I get my head back I want to post about a brilliant conference I went to recently and of course about our house in France watch this space..

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Later than I meant..

I meant to post a picture of this new bag of mine in Fair Trade Fortnight as it is a Fair Trade Doy bag. It is made of woven strips from used drinks cartons. Follow the link and you can see far more of the designs and patterns. I chose this one because I really liked the colour combinations of the woven strips- and this shape is really useful for shopping and stuff- as you can see the handles are long enough to go over your shoulder, there is a strap to close it with and it is pretty waterproof too. It's nice to be able to feel virtuous about buying a new bag!

Sadly not all my recent purchases are as virtuous. Today I bought a very expensive teeshirt by Paul Smith- which they describe as a 'Black & White jersey t shirt with trompe l'oeil waistcoat print'. It even has a little strap on the back like a real waistcoat.. I cannot pretend that this is in any way good for society and it was way too much for a teeshirt but it is very cute.. see?

Clearly I do not look quite like this in it and I do not have a chandelier to pose by but it is still something I am looking forward to wearing as soon as I get the right moment!

That right moment may well come next week when we are sneaking a long weekend with our friends in Lezignan-Corbieres, assuming Ryanair do their thing.. this is part of a campaign to begin looking for a house out there, cunningly timed to begin as the pound collapses against the Euro. Maybe we can get a shed or something anyway. We went to see our friends in their house there last summer and then borrowed it for Christmas. It is a very relaxing place to be and right now the idea of even two days to relax feels amazingly important! I posted a picture of the Motorcyclist relaxing there a few posts ago but here's another pic from the same trip to remind us all that there is sometimes good weather to enjoy.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Events and Excitements
As I said in the post below, I'm trying to do some research work today. In theory the whole day is blocked out in the diary but of course because I'm at work various people are popping in.. This week in theory should have been one with lots of time for reflection and scholarship but in practice it has been very busy with other stuff. I have helped with table plans for a big function we have next week, and with the processional order (sorting out civic precedence is challenging but probably not why I thought I was doing the PhD etc..) I've written to a local resident about parking problems, discussed plastic chairs with a local head and signed someone's passport photo. So what's my point ( apart from a quick bit of self-pity that I haven't been able to focus more on the impending conference paper)?

One thing is that the intellectual demands of a job do not link in a neat and tidy way to its seniority.. being in charge of the Bearpit is easily the most senior job I've had but I think that teaching sociolinguistics to some very demanding teachers on a diploma in year 1 of my HE teaching career was a lot more stretching intellectually. This job is demanding but it is more about making connections and facilitation of others, about being rather than doing at times.. I do enjoy it (most of the time) but also find myself pondering this paradox more and more often as the years go by.

The other thing that all this makes me reflect on is how far the advice of time management experts can ever help. I've been reading and enjoying this blog about Zen approaches to life for a while now and it has lots of good calming stuff about putting the big things first and not doing too many things at once. I have been trying to follow some of the advice but of course real life doesn't work that way. Helping our events team decide on tablecloth colours is hardly one of my big goals in life but if I don't prioritise it they can't get on.. and although I may have more 'important' things to do than check out the latest interesting French property site the Motorcyclist has found, if I don't go and look I am valuing my time over his in a way I can't be comfortable with.. much of the advice re Zen seems to me to take a self-focused, almost selfish approach to the rest of the world and whilst I am sure I too often allow myself to be distracted by the needs of others, I can't help thinking that is not entirely a bad thing.. what do you think?

More about the French project later. With pictures. Sorry the last few posts have not been illustrated!

First Monday again
I can't believe it is now April. Feels like only a week or so ago I was writing the last post. Today I'm catching up with First Monday again as I prepare for a paper I have to give soon. I have only skimmed this article but it seems to me to make some really good points about the so-called Web2.0 phenomenon. I have been trying to square the recent assumptions that we didn't do interactive social stuff on the web until Web2.0 came along with my own experience and having trouble.. I had begun to think my memory was playing tricks. Don't get me wrong- life is much easier with Blogger and its ilk than in the days when we had to use Dreamweaver and had our own websites, and of course the comment facilities make a difference, but it is more a progression than a revolution, which seems to be one point that Scholz is making. What he says about commerce is also interesting- we can use these technologies for all kinds of reasons, from flashmobs with a point like the one at Heathrow, or like the surreal and entertaining things DrJoolz finds on YouTube, to buying and selling on E-Bay. We are doing stuff we have always done, whether we are into social change, entertainment or rank capitalism- it's just a bit easier now to share it with others and to reach a global audience very quickly. Or am I missing something?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?