Zen symbol

Zen and the Art of Digital Literacies

Doug Belshaw
Not going to give bio as woven into presentation.
Quick explanation of title - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
Wasn't going to keep the following slide in until I got lost in Dublin yesterday...
The main skill is to keep from getting lost. Since the roads are used only by local people who know them by sight nobody complains if the junctions aren't posted. And often they aren't. When they are it's usually a small sign hiding unobtrusively in the weeds and that's all. County-road-sign makers seldom tell you twice. If you miss that sign in the weeds that's your  problem, not theirs.
Read quotations
Want to see what kind of audience I've got...

Cassetteboy vs. BBC News

What I would like to do is use the time that is coming now to talk about some things that have come to mind. We're in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it's all gone. Now that we do have some time, and know it, I would like to use the time to talk in some depth about things that seem important.
Read quotation

Things I'm *not* going to be discussing today:

...but all are worth exploring. Later.

Important to say what I'm *not* going to be covering this morning - managing expectations
You should totally go and check all of these out, though!
A quick note on pioneers
Everyone in this room is some kind of pioneer.
You wouldn't be here otherwise.
Everyone's ploughing a furrow - big or small.
One thing about pioneers that you don't hear mentioned is that they are invariably, by their nature, mess-makers. They go forging ahead, seeing only their noble, distant goal, and never notice any of the crud and debris they leave behind them. Someone else gets to clean that up and it's not a very glamorous or interesting job.
Read quotation.
Hopefully some of things I mention today mean there'll be less mess to clean up!
It's not about doing things alone.

Things I *am* going to be discussing today:

So basically I'm going to confuse you a bit, point to some concrete stuff from JISC and Mozilla, and then throw out some strokey-beard kind of questions and musings at the end.

My Stuff

(or, 'some thoughts I've had over the past five years')

Warning: intellectual excitement ahead!
Quick warning - there's going to be some philosophical stuff in here, but I'll try not to make it too heavy.
It's important to set the scene.
Doug Belshaw, teaching 2007
5 years ago - teaching History and ICT in Doncaster.
Transferred from the M.Ed. to the Ed.D. programme at Durham University.
Still lots of rhetoric about 'digital natives'.
Digital Native Not
Children in front of me didn't seem to be digital natives.
Fine with some technologies in particular contexts
Like us, no idea if not used before.
Not scared to fail.
Question mark What does it mean to be 'educated'?
Initial research question
Knew from my MA in History what 19th century thinkers like Matthew Arnold thought.
But what about 21st century?
William James "...blooming buzzing confusion..."
The Pragmatist philosopher William James talked about the 'blooming buzzing confusion' that babies have to make sense of when they enter the world.
I felt a bit like that.
Paul Gilster (from 1997)
Decided to focus on digital literacies after reading Paul Gilster's book and Lankshear & Knobel's work.
Lots and lots of definitions of 'digital literacy'.
30+ by Gilster alone!
Word cloud
Not just different, but *competing* definitions.
Media literacy, Information literacy, Computer literacy, etc.
Each supposedly a subset of another.
Hulk literacy?
So I got a bit disillusioned.
Seemed you could just append 'literacy' to pretty much *anything* to make it seem more important.
But this was an issue of *complexity*, not of chaos.
It was solvable - in multiple ways.
But you have to be careful...
There is a knife moving here. A very deadly one; an intellectual scalpel so swift and so sharp that you sometimes don't see it moving. You get the illusion that all those parts are just there and are being named as they exist. But they can be named quite differently and organized quite differently depending on how the knife moves.
Read quotation
The problem is that of ambiguity - and I didn't know how to resolve it.
William Empson and Seven Types of Ambiguity
I needed the correct lens, and found it in the most unexpected place!
In remaindered book store: 1930s literary criticism by guy living and working in China.
Different ways in which things can be ambiguous.
(neck beard)
Denotative and Connotative aspects
Found some other writers on the subject (Robinson, 1941 and Abbott, 1997) and came up with this Venn diagram.
It's pretty straightforward - everything has a connotative and denotative aspect (e.g. Dublin)
Continuum of ambiguity
The Venn diagram --> Continuum of Ambiguity
Generative ambiguity - idea makes sense to you
Creative ambiguity - shared experiences
Productive ambiguity - those outside discipline
Be careful of 'dead metaphors (cliches) - Richard Rorty
Bokeh Importance of
So maybe, hopefully, you can see from this that it's important to *co-construct* definitions of pretty much anything - including digital literacies
But we need a starting point, a reference, don't we?
The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies
Looked at work carried out by august and eminent researchers
Boiled everything down to the 'essential elements'.
Cognitive, Constructive, Communicative, Civic, Critical, Creative, Confident, Cultural.
The Centrality of Remix
There was a reason I showed you that remix of the BBC News earlier.
I think remixing stuff is central to digital literacies.


Doug Belshaw's neverendingthesis

Find out more about what I've just been talking about in my thesis.
I'm also writing an ebook which may help!


Currently work for JISC infoNet - want to discuss some work that JISC has done around digital literacies recently.
JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme
JISC - quick overview (infrastructure/innovation.
Digilit work over last 5 years.
I'm involved in the programme.
JISC Developing Digital Literacies projects
12 projects involved.
Different stakeholder groups.
Martin Oliver & Lesley Gourlay from IoE keynoting this afternoon.
All in south! (I'm in Newcastle)
JISC Developing Digital Literacies projects blogs
Still early days - started October 2011.
Keep up with the project blogs - Netvibes.
JISC e-Learning programmes blog
JISC e-Learning programmes blog - A&F, Course Data and digilit.
Most stuff at the moment about digilit - I'm blogging.
Anatomy of a digitally literate graduate
Much of JISC's work on digilit carried out by expert consultant Helen Beetham.
Diagram - start with ICT skills, but branch out different areas.
JISC Digital Literacies pyramid
Adapted Helen's diagram - didn't fit nicely on a slide.
I can, I do, I am (digital identity)
Recommendations from the SLiDA case studies
Lots of work around LliDA and SLiDA - note the importance of people and context.
Digital Literacies on the JISC Design Studio
Most of the emerging resources and outputs going on JISC Design Studio.
Originally for JISC Curriculum Design programme - need to search for digital literacies.

and web

I'm involved in some stuff that Mozilla are doing around webmaking and web literacies.
Want to discuss that - other side of the coin to JISC's institutional approach.
Mozilla Firefox logo
Many will know Mozilla from their Firefox web browser.
Reason why they created it - Internet Explorer and web standards.

Mozilla's Webmaker mission

Some of the Mozilla Webmaker projects:

Mozilla Summer Code Party
Mozilla want to build a 'generation of webmakers' - here's some of the work they're doing.
Could do a whole other keynote on Open Badges (exciting!) - revolutionise assessment.
Mozilla London Learning Jam
Last week - Mozilla London Learning Jam (Thursday-Saturday).
Ravensbourne College, Greenwich
Mozilla London Learning Jam - Thimble
New 'Thimble' tool - HTML code on left, preview on right.
The USP is in the learning missions - comments in the code.
This example - save the bunny (CSS - move masher, etc.)
Mozilla London Learning Jam - coding
But can do what you want - this kid changed it to 'Kill him' instead of 'Save him' and mashed the bunny.
Mozilla London Learning Jam - kids coding
Kids aged 6-14 there, but for all ages really.
Thimble been picked up by Lifehacker, BoingBoing, and others (still in testing mode).
Mozilla Webmaker - find an event
Summer of Code - you can get involved.
Kitchen table events - webmaker.org.
So that's the coding side, but also web literacies are important...
Michelle Levesque's venn diagram
Michelle Levesque - looking at what constitutes 'web literacy'.
Venn diagram - authoring and connecting.
Michelle Levesque's web skills diagram
This is v0.1 (alpha) of some of the skills that Michelle has come up with for 'web literacy'.
Did this after talking to lots of different people and synthesising their views.
Michelle Levesque's web skills path diagram
Interestingly, Michelle's also looked at different paths people take through these skills.
It's a work in progress - show the process.


(or, 'some thoughts I've had over the past few weeks')

Bend in road No conclusions!
So I haven't got a conclusion for you today.
In my experiences, what seems like the end of any given road, usually turns into a sharp bend in the road when you get closer.
So here's some thoughts I've had recently - may be tangential.
Going back to Zen and the Art of Digital Literacies - really interesting whereby concept of 'zero' can be used as a metaphor for digital literacies.
Zero, originally a Hindu number, was introduced to the West by the Arabs during the Middle Ages and was unknown to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. How was that?... Had nature so subtely hidden zero that all the Greeks and all the Romans - millions of them - couldn't find it? One would normally think that zero is right out there in the open for everyone to see.
Read quotation

is a

Zero is a convenient hypocrisy - it doesn't 'exist' as such as it's a lack of something.
Looked at that way, it's a different way of seeing the world.
Some things you miss because they're so tiny you overlook them. But some things you don't see because they're so huge. We were both looking at the same thing, seeing the same thing, talking about the same thing, thinking about the same thing, except he was looking, seeing, talking and thinking, from a completely different dimension.
Read quotation.
In institutions, in families, in friendships, people do see the world differently - we need to respect that.

'Digital Literacies'
is also a
convenient hypocrisy

Digital literacies = convenient hypocrisy.
Not 'out there' in the world.
They only exist as far as we agree upon them - socially negotiated.
People come to the table with different mindsets, different versions of reality.
What you've got here, really, are two  realities, one of immediate artistic appearance and one of underlying scientific explanation, and they don't match and they don't fit and they don't really have much of anything to do with one another. That's quite a situation. You might say there's a little problem here.
Read quotation
What has become an urgent necessity is a way of looking at the world that does violence to neither of these two kinds of understanding and unites them into one. Such an understanding will not reject sand-sorting or contemplation of unsorted sand for its own sake. Such an understanding will instead seek to direct attention to the endless landscape from which the sand is taken.
Read quotation.
So instead of chastising people for being overly technical, or castigating people for liking shiny things, we should meet in the middle.
New iPad advert iPad as convergence device?
Slightly concerned about the 'elegant consumption' that the iPad, for example, promotes.
But it does unite form and function nicely. It allows previously technophobic people to get involved.


Horseless carriage

Something that's usually seen as a bad thing, and which Apple tend to do a lot, is employ skeuomorphism.
The use of something to make it look/feel/seem like something else.
Not new - here it's making a car feel more like a horse-drawn carriage.
Rivet on jeans Another skeuomorph
Skeuomorphs are everywhere - e.g. rivet on your jeans doesn't need to look like that.
Ornamental, nod to times past - makes look stronger and more industrial.
Apple iBooks Apple iBooks
As I said, Apple do this a lot - makes people feel more comfortable.
e.g. iBooks and a bookshelf - no reason for it to look like this.
Nothing particularly wrong with it - they know their audience (psychology)
Apple's 'Find my friends' app
What *is* slightly concerning - skeuomorphism to hide potentially scary stuff.
'Find my friends' essentially a way to stalk people...
Apple's 'Find my friends' app
...but OK because it's got faux-leather stitching.
Finally, a word about technology and loneliness.
'Social networking' has 'social' in its name, but only a *part* of sociality. It rewards acting a particular way which is different from offline.
Not *necessarily* good or bad.
Technology is blamed for a lot of this loneliness, since the loneliness is certainly associated with the newer technological devices - TV, jets, freeways and so on...
[T]he real evil isn't the objects of technology but the tendency of technology to isolate people into lonely attitudes of objectivity. It's the objectivity, the dualistic way of looking at things underlying technology, that produces the evil.
Read quotation.
As I'm increasingly coming to appreciate, subjectivities are extremely important.
Not dogmatic beliefs, but considered opinions.
Sometimes online interactions don't respect that.
The Bermuda triangle of productivity
So spending time being social via social networks to the exclusion of embodied interaction can be lonely because of this attempted objectivity.
I'll leave that thought hanging. Need to finish.
Woman leaning over vegetable

There will *always* be things that we don't understand.

That's because of the importance of context.

Context is really important - without it things become very difficult to understand.

Things to take away from the last 40 minutes:

Go through bullets, invite questions.

Image credits (1)

Image credits (2)

Spare slides

Floppy disks Redundant metaphors
We need to think about the metaphors we use - back to 'Continuum of ambiguity' earlier.
For example - not helpful to use floppy disk icon for 'Save', and so on.
(also rotary phone)