I was surprised to see my name pop up in Stephen Downes’ latest post which summarises some of his hopes for the year to come. Given that he also references two other people for whom I have a lot of respect, I thought perhaps I could do something similar.
Unlike Stephen, however, I am going to look back first. This has been an incredible year. We’ve rolled out vaccines, in the western world at least, in a way that might give us a way out of the pandemic. We’ve also started to address the climate crisis; it’s no longer a thing that people can deny. Now we just need to work on vaccine and climate justice.
On the work front, we’ve rebuilt the co-op this year with Laura and I being the engine room. Anne, Laura’s neice has come onboard as an intern and provided a burst of energy, and John quit his job so that he can spend more time with us. Given that this time last year I didn’t think WAO was going to exist for much longer (given the drama of late 2020) this is a huge achievement.
There more detail in my weeknote review of 2021, but one thing I will say is that I miss travelling. We’ve managed to go to a few places as a family, but it’s nothing like going to completely new places and experiencing different cultures. While I won’t be flying anywhere, I would like to get to visit somewhere other than Brexit Britain by train, boat, or car in 2022.
Team Belshaw have succeeded despite all of the odds this year. Hannah, my wife, switched careers in the middle of a pandemic and started a new job in the same week as her mother passed away. Both of our children are flourishing both academically and sportingly. Teenagers will be teenagers with our eldest, but I’d rather have battles over devices than over anything more serious…
‘Hope’ is a funny word. It’s the kind of thing you ascribe to things outside of your control, I guess. Given that I try and focus on things within my control, it’s not a word I use often.
So, instead of talking about hope, these are the things in my control this coming year which I intend to change:
- Family — moving house is a priority this year, not only for the usual reasons (size, rooms, location) but leaving our current terraced house would mean we could get a dog and a charging point for an electric vehicle. We’ll miss our neighbours, though.
- Work — I’m looking to inject more creativity and rest into my work in 2022. This last year I worked between 20 and 25 hours most weeks. This year, I’m looking to experiment with upping that to more like 30 hours, but taking April, August, and December off. I need to talk it through with others, but I feel like this will fit in with the rhythms of my kids’ major school holidays better and allow me to work in 12-week chunks.
- Health and wellbeing — I want to help our family be as healthy as possible. We’re being cautious with Covid, but we also recognise that school is the major transmission vector for us. Personally, I’m reasonably fit at the moment but I’d like to shed at least half a stone in weight, and ideally a full stone. One way to do that is to start swimming again. I probably also need to start meditating, but not sure whether using an app for that is the best approach. I’ve heard that it can be pretty brutal once you get a couple of steps down the path…
- Hobbies — I’m considering taking up piano lessons. It’s a long time (32 years!) since I did Grade 4 and, to be honest, I’m not looking to do anything other than play for fun. I’m also looking forward to spending even less time on social media and more time being creative with the various Korg synths I bought during lockdown. I’m also going to do more wild camping next year. It was really fun, especially the September series.
- Personal development — I spent a week last year taking a course on climate leadership. I’d like to do another one, not necessarily on the same subject, this year. I enjoy learning things via platforms such as Futurelearn, but there something about the experience of being with other learners as part of a cohort that I find useful.
I can’t control when the pandemic will end or any of the political decisions that may help or hinder that. By the time we get to this time next year, however, I can live in a different house, be fitter, be doing interesting work and tinkering with cool side projects / hobbies, and learning new stuff.
The above doesn’t sound like too much of a stretch but, of course, we’re living during a pandemic when everything seems mentally and physically harder than it needs to do. It’s like a ‘Covid tax’ on doing anything other than sitting in a chair consuming content. But that is no way to live a life, and I for one intend to never stay still for too long.
CC BY-NC-SA Chris KWM
You may have missed it, but there’s a privacy debate going on as we enter a new decade.* I wanted to share my thoughts, as I think there’s some confused thinking going on.
Usually, when people think of ‘privacy’ they’re actually conflating three notions:
- Privacy – not being seen by others
- Anonymity – not being identified by others
- Ownership – the ability to control things
These are different and should be considered separately.
A lot of digital ink has been spilled recently over changes made by Facebook, the world’s most popular social networking site. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, claimed privacy is ‘no longer a social norm’ which prompted some nods of agreement, but also some vehement criticism. The ever-eloquent danah boyd pretty much sums up the backlash:
There isn’t some radical shift in norms taking place. What’s changing is the opportunity to be public and the potential gain from doing so. Reality TV anyone? People are willing to put themselves out there when they can gain from it. But this doesn’t mean that everyone suddenly wants to be always in public. And it doesn’t mean that folks who live their lives in public don’t value privacy. The best way to maintain privacy as a public figure is to give folks the impression that everything about you is in public.
It’s this control over the public/private debate that is often conflated with anonymity and ownership. And it’s not just media hacks that get this wrong, it’s people with letters after their name. Dr Kieron O’Hara, for example, believes that online life distorts privacy rights for all:
As more private lives are exported online, reasonable expectations are diminishing… When our reasonable expectations diminish, as they have, by necessity our legal protection diminishes.
This effectively takes an argument reserved for celebrities (‘you live by the sword, you die by the sword’) and applies it to everyone else. Not so.
Most of what people object to in the name of ‘privacy’ online is merely technology making something that’s always been done easier or faster.
- Object to being ‘tagged’ in a photo on Facebook? Did you likewise object when people passed around printed photos of you at a gathering back-in-the-day?
- Don’t like your phone number being posted online? Is it ex-directory?
- Not a fan of Google Street View? Do you stop people walking by your house and taking pictures of the local area?
I would argue that no-one has a ‘right’ to anonymity in anything apart from legal proceedings. To attempt to do so – even in an analogue world – is unrealistic.
Recently, I received a suggestion via Skribit that I blog about how I deal with ‘having such a public web presence’ coupled with the tendency of students to ‘google their teachers’. The question seems to be about privacy: do you really want students to know everything about you?
The answer to that can be summed up in one word: control. I am my own media outlet. It doesn’t cost me anything but time to do so. Of course I have secrets, my dark side, things that I don’t want people to find out. But I can control what is said about me. Google Alerts emails me when my name is mentioned somewhere on the internet. If it’s defamatory or negative, I give my side of the story, try and work things out. It’s no different than going to the village gossip to set things straight.
I moderate comments on my YouTube videos, I keep most photos of my family away from public viewing areas on Flickr, and not all of my Delicious links are available for viewing by everyone. That’s why I like Aza Raskin’s idea of a Creative Commons for Privacy. Just as Creative Commons licenses have made it absolutely clear under what conditions you can re-use someone’s artistic work or media (see the top of this post), so a similar system for privacy would give unambiguous recourse for privacy violations. People will tend towards openness, of course they will.
But then I’m not so sure that people being open, controlling their digital identity and learning how to respect the wishes of others is such a bad thing. It’s all about being clear and unamibugous.
*Technically, the decade doesn’t start until 2011, but everyone’s acting like it’s already started. Who am I to spoil the party? 😉
An interesting post by Chris Sessums about how ICT changes the ‘locus of control’ in educational institutions: http://elgg.net/csessums/weblog/129615.html
Is the locus of control of learning different given ICTs and social software and what should educators do?
In formal educational settings there is an unresolved tension between the individual and the institution. Institutions are responsible for accrediting learners and learning. Courses and programs are designed to meet standards set forth by varying accreditation agencies which set policies and in many cases determine what is to be taught, how “mastery” is defined, and whether or not an institution is properly qualified to deliver the goods, so to speak. Assessment and not students or institutions thus signify the locus of control.”