Silence and Free Speech

There’s a false argument that’s been floating around the concept of free speech for some time. Over the last couple of months I’ve taken an interest in it to attempt to understand what it is that’s really going on.

The argument itself pits Free Speech on one side and Offence or Decency on the other. The media rolls this thing out constantly tapping into the publics seemingly endless ability to take offence at anything you can possibly say. Whether it’s a bad joke, a good joke, an utterance that’s lip read or a misguided or youthfully naive tweet. If you want to read just one piece that utterly destroy the dichotomy of free speech and offence I would turn to the wisdom of the clown. Comedian Doug Stanhope have written the most fluent and coherent counter to this debate .

The problem is that these comparisons and equivalencies are false. They are not the two sides of the same argument and indeed the comparison hinders any real debate about the essential idea of freedom. My reasoning for this stance is simple:

Free Speech is about the act of Expression.

Offence and Decency are not a counterpoint to free speech, they are a reaction to it. They are themselves – expressions.

The opposite of Expression is Silence.

The dichotomy between free speech and offence or decency is false and it’s why the current debate is nonsense. The underlying premise is wrong and what you end up doing is essentially arguing against the same side of the debate. To actually have an argument you would have Free Speech I one side but you then need to put an actual equivalent on the other side – and that’s Silence. Silence is the absence of expression. You can attach motive and meaning to silence just like you can with speech. These may not be self-evident but embedded and contained within.

Silence is extremely powerful counter point to free speech. Steven Skala explores it in-depth in his lecture The Power of Silence. He prompts us to reflect on the silences as a guide to genuine understanding.

Silences and omissions, covert and overt, occur around us and cause us, positively or negatively, to shape our own experience, and most significantly, our understanding of the nature of things that are often most important to us.

When you start to reflect on the silences around us things really do start to get interesting. On one side you have the ability to expresses and on the other we have the inability to express. Now we can really start getting into a real debate!

When you discuss the right to say things vs the silence it creates we’re getting into a proper debate. We start to head beyond the trivial of offence and start to uncover what is truly structural, pervasive and damaging. When you start to notice is not the words being said but the silence that’s left behind you start to ask questions.

When someone uses free speech to preach hate, who’s voices are getting lost? When debate is framed by the extreme opposites of the argument, who doesn’t get a say? When we begin to really reflect on silence we have to question the mechanisms we hold up as tools of free speech. The free press for instance. Always the darling of free speech but what about the silence it creates, fosters and amplifies?

Who’s voices are missing in corporate media?

What ideas are missing when there’s a vested interest in the status quo?

What hope is there when ultimately someone else decides what the narrative is, who gets the bull horn and for what purposes?

How “free” is the press anyway?

Does a commercial, or even a publicly funded press, actually enforce silence at the expense of promoting free speech?

Comedian Frankie Boyle discusses the consequences of when free speech is equated with offence . Interestingly what he alludes to, without being explicit, is that it actually re-enforces the silence. It creates new ones, enforces old ones to deeply affect our ability to actually discuss and understand. In many ways silence is the preference to free speech when dealing with complex issues:

It’s always easier to dismiss other people than to go through the awkward and time-consuming process of understanding them.

I understand that offence and decency may be big issues for some people – but I’m with Frankie on this one

We have given taking offence a social status it doesn’t deserve: it’s not much more than a way of avoiding difficult conversations.

By avoiding those difficult conversations we create Silence. As I’ve written before – the cost of free speech shouldn’t be silence. If we’re discussing free speech without paying any attention to silence we’re missing the point.

The Current State: Mobile Learning

I’ve written a couple of opinion pieces over the years about the Current State. There’s this one on the The Education System, this one on Society Transitioning, and Educational Technology and my personal state. They’ve been a nice way of articulating a specific view of space and time relating to a theme. They’re interesting as markers in the sand, for wayfaring and digging around the past. They’re also a way to think more deeply about what we’re doing. So in that tradition, here’s the current state of Mobile Learning.

I’ve been working around mobile in higher education since 2010. I’ve written a few papers, done presentations, developed mobile content, systems and apps – so feel I’ve got a good handle on it as a topic. While it’s true that mobile is now part of the conversation, I still wonder if Mobile Learning is even a thing yet.

Here’s some observations:

  • Single app adoption is widespread, but that seems to be the extent of “mobile learning”. A single app for a single use in a single subject with a single purpose. That’s nice and all but is that what we would call mobile learning?
  • Students and staff are ill prepared to use their devices for learning. They lack the knowledge, practice and skill to integrate the technology into their learning and teaching. Those fresh faces out of high school have just emerged from an environment where mobiles have been contraband, so have little concept of how or why to their mobile in a learning environment. Staff and mature age students have barely got beyond mastery of text messaging (see parents that text) let a lone anything more complex. It’s an interesting dilemma as far as technology goes because for maybe the first time the issue isn’t access or event equity. The issue is cultural and what we are willing to invest in.
  • Content is still rarely mobile friendly. There’s limited use of “eBook”s – ones that go beyond text on a page and cater for on screen reading experiences and interaction with content (highlighting, notes etc). There’s also the systemic reliance on PDF which means that content is locked away in an A4 page and nothing is “mobile friendly”.
  • The administration systems we tend to use are still only designed for the desktop. They still only ever support a full and rich experience from a desktop browser. Mobile is a poor cousin and the experience shows.
  • Institutional web teams are often too small to affect the kinds of redesigns at the kind of scale that’s required. Instead the result tends to be a set of piecemeal components that shatter any hope of a coherent user experience.
  • The only system or practice that seems to have a consistent increase in use and reach is…. email. Yep, it now infects every device we own with pings and vibrations that we attempt to ignore. Email – the most un-mobile of technologies. It fundamentally fails to provide a good experience – for reading or writing – or utilise any of the amazing affordances of todays mobile devices that open up the opportunity for improvements to communication.

Yay us!

The reality is that institutions (and the entire edtech industry) have under estimated the paradigm shift required to embrace mobile. It’s still treated as just a feature, or a nice to have rather than the future of computing.

In fact it’s the failure to actually treat mobile as a legitimate computing device that is perhaps the biggest problem.

Mobile is still treated like a toy rather than a serious device.

This is despite the fact that mobile is more contextual, more powerful and packed with more affordances than any PC. Somehow if it doesn’t have a keyboard or mouse it doesn’t seem to count. Mobile just doesn’t seem to justify investment in the eyes of most IT departments. This is despite the fact that the mobile device we have in out pockets is in most cases newer and more powerful than the junky PC we, and our students, are working on. Compare working with video on your phone vs your PC. Which one struggles? Which one drops frames? Which one renders longers?

The underlying fact is that mobile represents a significant change – in the type of technology, the kinds of affordances it makes available and more importantly, in the way we interact with it.

I published this table in 2013 to illustrate the kind of shift that mobile represents. It sticks out to me because I don’t think that much of the change or transition has actally occured. I think we’re still too PC in our mindset and have yet to actually embrace the reality that mobile represents. The current state of Mobile is that we’re not there yet – we’re stuck in the PC Age. Thinking PC thoughts. Doing things the PC way.

I developed this table at the end of 2013 as a way to express the diffferences I could see between the PC and Mobile mindsets and the way the thinking defined the two Ages. The idea was to encapsulate the change in affordances that each technology bought with it.

PC Age Mobile Age
affordances
tethered location mobile
static environment dynamic
slow speed of change rapid
separate technology embedded
formal structure organic
low level of convenience high
abstracted authenticity situated
centralised resources distributed

Since I published that earlier table I’ve worked on developing a more expansive list.

- Version 2 Additions -
passive interaction active
broadcast communication dialogue
institutional data sovereignty personal
linear timelines polysynchronous
curated content contributed
physical storage digital
possession content communal
concealed practice shared
isolated learning connected
generic interaction personal
consumtion information creation

The Current State?

So what’s the current state of mobile learning?

We’re haven’t even started.

Critique & Creation

I started this post about 6 months ago and after observing the to-and-fro between Audrey Watters and Stephen Downes I went looking for it. I found it laying in a drafts folder, something started but not finished. Over the last couple of days other posts have come out, Debbie Chachra & Mike Caulfield, and it’s highlighted for me again the importance and role of critique. So I decided to push it out as the sentiments can perhaps add to the conversation but also explain my deep admiration for the work that people who don’t “make”, but instead think, care, connect and give.


I’ve written a few critical blogs and tweets in my time. What’s interesting is that they’ve been read, shared and replied to more than any of my positive, happy and (perhaps) thoughtful pieces. I think I am often at my sharpest when being critical, but being critical is not necessarily being negative. I am not an overly negative or pessimistic person – in fact I feel I’m the complete opposite. I’m a happy, optimistic, positive and passionate person. It’s this passion drives me to do better, to transform, reform, rebuild and create – not for their own sake but to be better than before. I’m an optimist that’s based in reality. I need to understand what is wrong in order to make it better. I think I have a talent for rooting out causality and seeing past the obvious, and perhaps that’s why those particular posts resonate more strongly with people.

It’s for these reasons I am such a fan of Audrey’s work. She has a way of clear communicating her insight to a broad audience and of explaining the nuance of quite complex themes and ideas. Her work is well researched and often provides the missing historical perspective from many of the deep conversations we’re having around EdTech. She has a talent for clearly communicating complexity, unveiling the hidden and asking questions that have been left unasked and unanswered. Her critique is sorely needed in educational technology where hype and hyperbole are the mainstays of communication. I often think that maybe the problem some people have with her work is not the criticism, but the fact that it’s all been done before (usually by more talented and progressive people a decade or more ago).

My education in art and design which baked in the critique as part of the creative process. I’ve learnt to appreciate it deeply because when it’s done well but someone who knows what they’re talking about it can change your life. It’s opened up my eyes to a different way of working and creating that is less self indulgent and more rigorous and defined. You see critiquing isn’t a review where you let fly with your opinion, no the purpose of the critique is to make the work stronger, better, and more fitting.

To be effective doesn’t just entail listing all the mistakes. Instead it requires a deep level of empathy and understanding. There must be understanding of the subject but also an empathy of the person and context to make it a critique and not an attack. One cannot simply critique the work, you must understand where it comes from, what is it’s context, and what is its purpose so that you can offer something back to the work. For this to occur critique requires work, and it’s damn hard work! It requires rigour not just an opinion. In the critique your not entitled to your own opinion, you have to actually earn it.

Critique is so important that it’s what good creatives leverage to do & be better. It’s how you grow, learn and change. It’s how you get better and actually improve. For that purpose alone a good critique is more important than the act of creating itself. Doing something wrong (repeatedly) or making something is not good or better because it’s “creative” – it’s stupid. Both the work and the critique have equal importance. They are symbiotic and by themselves ultimately futile.

The creative work might exist, but the critique is a plan for where it can go and how it can evolve. That might mean starting again from scratch, tweaking or taking an idea in a new direction, but it is not a dismissal of the contribution or the effort of making it.

The art of a good critique is a fine line but it can be guided by one sentiment – what are you offering back to the work?

  • If it is nothing but criticism, it is not a critique.
  • If it nothing but your opinion of what you would have done without any mention of the works context ,it is not a critique.
  • If it is criticism aimed at the person, it is not a critique.

Critique is important for any practice because it is a tool that improves that practice. Despite the old saying, practice does not make perfect – it simply makes it permanent. Critique is one of the most effective way of learning and improving.

From reading Audrey’s work for some time I find her critique of Educational Technology valuable and important because they demand we pay attention. They demand those that do make, to make are better things. They demand that we ask questions about ourselves and what we do to, for and with others. This critique asks us to do better and provides insight into where we go wrong and where we can do better.

We should want Educational Technology that addresses real problems, not manufacture new ones or answer a need we never, ever had. We should want EdTech that’s more authentic, more caring, more open and more free. Technology that humanises.

Technology can humanize

A great deal of energy and attention has been focused on using technology to automatically grade quizzes, to “capture” lectures, to make the most massive MOOC . . . to McDonaldize education. There is another path. Technology can humanize. It can augment, extend, and empower. There is real transformative power for students and instructors when they interact and build with these tools. The ability to make useful products, to unite the abstract and concrete, to compress action/feedback cycles, to allow for fluid and interactive presentation of data towards new and deeper understandings – this is where technology starts to matter.

— Tom Woodward, Aspirational vs Operational EdTech

A beautifully composed statement! This is what drives many in EdTech not to give up or surrender to corporate colonisation of the space. It’s the belief that people are what really matters.

The FedWiki Happening

Over the last month or so I’ve been participating in the #fedwikihappening that the amazing Mike Caulfield has been running. I’ll admit I crashed the party a little, asking for an invite having seen a Twitter conversation I wasn’t part of, but I’ve been following Mike’s work for a while and was really keen to have a go at Smallest Federated Wiki. The main reason I wanted to get on board was because there was a structured reason behind it. This was a happening not just a free for all. This structure meant a lot as it provided motivation as well as tasks and purpose to participate. It’s definitely something I want to adopt if I’m doing anything similar as the structure allowed those involved to not only explore the potentiality but also put the technology through it’s paces.

I’ve outlined my experience below into a couple of thematic areas which might help

The Technology

So lets start with the technology. It’s still in development and if you go in with that attitude you’re going to be OK. There are some idiosyncrasies to learn, some slightly odd concepts and practices but if you’ve ever driven a French car it’s nothing you can’t take in your stride. Things aren’t quite where you expect them or work how you might have intended but with a bit of practice you can quickly get the hang of things. I did encounter the Orange Halo Of Death but finally diagnosed that it was to do with the online security at work – so not browser or user related! FWIW – I used Chrome rather than Firefox throughout and never encountered any issues.

The Happening Process

The bulk of the happening happened over the Christmas break – which made my attendance a little difficult. There were a few days of travel in there and a strong desire to spend plenty of time with the family rather than the computer. I wasn’t prolific but did make a good attempt at trying to find my way and post some “forkable” pages.

I managed to tweak my background and flag image with a shot from my recent trip to New Zealand and a pre-job interview selfie to provide a bit of a personal look to the interface. I then set about getting my head around what is FedWiki, how does it work, how can it work better and how can I actually use this?

  1. You Write – That’s how you use it in the beginning, developing up a little portfolio of ideas and expressions. They’re primarily for you but they’re written with an audience in mind.
  2. Then you Fork – Forking is an interesting concept and the fundamental feature of the fedwiki system. Forking entails copying someone else work back to your site along with the pages history and connection to other authors. Pages are yours to do with as you wish but they are embedded with a relationship. Previous authors can see your changes and they can in turn fork them back to their copy.
  3. You Fork Everything – One of those interesting and idiosyncratic things with Fedwiki is that Forking is synonymous with saving, merging, fixing, connecting & reconnecting. It’s your one stop shop for all things Fedwiki. This has its advantages but it’s intellectual baggage if you come from git or other fork/merge systems. To me this was the least intuitive thing to learn. Upside is I guess, I want to fork everything now!
  4. You Learn – The great thing about the Happening and the forking feature is that you contribute to something bigger – others can see, edit and extend your work. You start of selfish but quite quickly your activity tends to be social. You begin to create with the intention of others seeing and forking. And even when you don’t, others see potential and do. This was a fantastic learning experience for me. I’d write to the extent of my knowledge – then someone would pick up where I’d left off. I could track that, read it, use it and then fork it to make it my own. I’ve never used something that allows you to do that so intuitively! Simplifying learning is as a process is one area I can see Fedwiki having a huge potential. Jon Udell had some great ideas about using it for learning basic composition

FedWiki Thoughts

I’m kind of shocked at the flexility of Fedwiki as a tool. It’s really only limited by your imagination and I’m only just starting to get a sense of how it can be used. I’ve got to sit down and map some of this out a bit but as a personal tool alone I can see how it can change the way I take notes, record and map ideas. Scale that out to group work and theres some amazing potential for an incredibly tool to dramatically improve efficiency, productivity and creativity. The only drawback I can see at the moment is in publishing – but that’s really only if you’re thinking in terms of an artefact with a temporal constraint. As something living and breathing – Fedwiki would be perfect.

Happening Deconstruction

I’m really enjoying the blog posts on the deconstruction of the Happening as much as the participation but I’ve also tried to capture some of my reflections using fedwiki rather than the blog… because I kind of want to fork everything now! You can have a read over here and if you’ve got a FedWiki to play with have a go at forking it!

I posted this over on Frances Bell’s blog in the comments. The post and the comments provide a great insight into other participants perspective the whole thing and are worth a read.

One of the themes coming through from the shared and personal experience is this idea of Cooperation vs Collaboration. I think we’re too used to automatically assuming that group work has to be collaborative. Mike’s post bought it home to me that no – the difference here is that it’s actually cooperative.

I think a cooperative approach is a significant shift away from the norm – and perhaps mirrors the rise of auto-ethnographic research that some others have picked up on – because it actually injects the self back into the work. Despite the sell of personalisation so much of what we do, see and read is effectively depersonalised – anything that vaguely provides a clue to a personality or identity is stripped away. I think this kind of connective (rather than collective) approach provides a better way for us to learn. In many ways it’s more a kin to our existing social experiences of dealing with individuals rather than the hive mind that collective processes tend to foster.

Yes there are technical issues – but that cultural curiosity and the embedded potential have made this a really worthwhile experience.

We are on the way

We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed.

— Martin Luther

Thinking this has plenty of resonance going into 2015.

Coming Soon – A Contribution not a Prediction for 2015

2015 has arrived and there’s a plethora of posts offering predictions, Top 10s, Year of _____, biggest trends etc etc etc. I’ve decided to do something different and talk about my contribution to the future rather than spruiking what it could be.

This year brings an opportunity for me to actively drive some innovation within our institution (in my new role as Online Learning Technology Leader), rather than simply react and respond to what’s happening outside. So I thought I’d seize on that and use this year to develop some new skills and explore some new ideas. So here’s a few things I’m hoping to work on.

Distributed systems

The anniversary of the web and the Snowden leaks that revealed the level and scale of surveillance has really put into perspective the need to re-discover distributed systems. The growing centralisation of the web has made surveillance easier but also made us too dependant or what are massive fail points. Concepts like Domain of Ones Own appeals to me in the sense that it empowers users rather than traps them. Data and information remains yours and in your control, not something that’s matter-of-fact-ly subsumed by a corporate interest. The start-up data trail is a particularly interesting thing to note – when a product fails commercially the one asset they can sell is user data. This kind of behaviour is something we should be paying attention to and beginning to actively avoid. The other big interest I have is to more fully explore the potential of the Federated Wiki. Having participated in the Happening I can see the massive potential this system has for authoring and creating (I’m still not sold on it being the best ‘publishing’ interface – but maybe that’s simply something to explore further).

Customising WordPress

I’ve been a user of WordPress for sometime now and as a blogging tool it’s been great. What I’ve really noticed over the last few years though is it’s slow evolution to highly adaptive and customisable CMS. It’s gone so far down that road that I’m personally thinking of swapping my blog over to Jekyll or something more light weight. But that CMS functionality could be deployed and utilised as an effective backend for a variety of systems. So I want to get in there and begin to use its plugin and theme structures as a development tool. To that end I’m keen to really explore custom posts and interfaces and how they can be utilised to create new content systems. One of the great things is that WordPress is one of the easiest technologies to rollout that fits a distributed model. Using a Domain of Ones Own or a Multisite installation you can really go to town on developing smaller distributed systems. I have some concerns of a lack of a proper API but an open and hackable system is an OK option.

Design Patterns

Mike Caulfield’s posts on design patterns got me thinking a lot and I believe there’s something significant in the concept. In my new role I specifically interested in the potential of patterns to be used to scale up and scale out good practice and innovation. One of the hidden themes at Ascilite 2014 was the power of good teaching. In fact I’d go as far as saying that effective innovation requires good teachers that capable of adapting good practice. The area I was thinking about was digitally mediated interaction as it’s something where I sense there’s a significant gap. It’s also an area that’s ill-defined and often ill-conceived so I think there’s something scholarly in there (maybe).

Netpro

At the Ascilite Conference I co-facilitated a workshop with Kim Tairi and Joyce Seitzinger on the Networked Professional. I got a lot out of the day where we were as much participants as facilitators. I’d like to keep up that work over the year. Maybe running the workshop again – or maybe developing up some ongoing ‘events’ – TweetUps, Hangouts… something to keep that momentum and shared practice going.

I’m not sure if that aligns with anyones list or trends for 2015, but they’re areas where I CAN do something and make something happen.

Cheers!

So that’s 2014

2014 has been a pretty good year for me personally. You can probably read this post as a brag list, but for me it’s a chance to take stock and record what’s been achieved. Achieved is an important word – because this year I got to see effort yield results. The last couple of years have been a pretty hard slog in terms of work, being a new dad and attempting to maintain some semblance of sanity as well as a sense of vitality and purpose. Life is one of those beautiful yet destructive things – so it’s great to be able to pause and look at the balance sheet and realise I’ve come out on top this time.

Vice Chancellors Award

I managed to win my first major award since school by picking up the individual award for Leadership Excellence. It was actually quite unexpected – I was glad to be nominated but never gave winning a second thought. There was a ceremony, an intro video, a handshake and photos allow with quite a large mounted certificate. Getting rewarded was nice, but getting your good work exposed to a broader cross section of the institution is a great side effect. I think sometimes you tend to feel a little isolated working on smallish pilots and project so this was nice to have that effort recognised.

Graduate Certificate + Deans List

I signed up and managed to complete my first proper study since graduation. It was a professional development opportunity to complete a Grad Cert in University Leadership and Management and I got a lot out of the programs reflexive approach. I was able to channel a lot of what I was working on into the assessments which had the added benefit of giving time for some critical review.

Ascilite Workshop

This year I co-facilitated a great workshop with two amazing people at this years Ascilite Conference – and we organised it all online! I was looking for an opportunity to work collaboratively with people outside the university and I happened to stumble into a Twitter conversation with Kim and Joyce and the workshop was born. I’d never done a workshop like this before but we managed to put together a really interesting proposal which got accepted. I put together this website which I’m going to expand on in the new year. I want to thank Kim and Joyce as it was an absolute pleasure to work with two such amazing and talented women!

Trip to Vanuatu

The in-laws gave us a special treat in a trip to Vanuatu. It was an extremely welcome trip after a fairly long, wet and cold winter. I loved exploring Port Vila and the surrounding island full of magic little places and friendly people. It was a great test for Alise and how well she would cope with the flights etc – and she passed with flying colours! I’m hoping we can go back sometime soon.

At Home

Home life has been amazing this year. I’m still enraptured by my wife as she amazes me with her grace under fire, patience and empathy. She keeps us as a family together and functioning.

Although I think what’s made my year is the distinct transition of my daughter from baby to little girl. She has hair now – plus a penchant for pigtails and dresses. Her speech is astounding for her age and she continues to surprise us with the depth of language and understanding she displays. She’s also grown into her own person – independent, strong and sweet – no longer the cute generic mush that babies tend to be. Every now and then she’s bought me to tears – but tears of joy at her kindness, affection and love that she shares with us.

On to 2015

I’m really looking forward to the year ahead. One of the main reasons is that I’m taking up a new role at the university. For the next two years I’ll be working as an Online Learning Technology Leader in the uImagine innovation hub. I’ve been working on setting up the initiative during 2014 but in the new year I’m going full time. It’s going to be a great opportunity to explore and experiment with a variety of new technologies and to reimagine how and why we use the ones we have. I’m particularly interested in looking at distributed systems and tools for education and using them in ways that empower students. I’m keen to start digging into WordPress a little more and start using it’s CMS capabilities to build some experimental and proof of concept applications. I’m also keen to look into developing some API capabilities within the university to help improve our capacity to innovate more quickly. There’s also the opportunity to develop a new physical space that could provide some exciting potential and improve our capacity to collaborate.

There is a bit of a milestone also coming up this year – 15 years together with Clare. It’s quite an achievement to have such a long term and close relationship with someone and it’s one that’s greatly improved me as a person and my life as a whole. We’re hoping to celebrate by making our way to the US sometime in the year for a family road trip. At the moment looking at the Pacific Northwest as a destination – and maybe some beach time in Hawaii.

I’m going into 2015r openly. Open to change and challenges, trials and tribulations, joys and sadnesses that are bound to come in the days and weeks ahead.

Digital Mediation – Living in the Digital Age

For some time I’ve been thinking about the current dichotomy that frames modern technology. The attempt to split and compartmentalise “real life” as distinct from the “virtual” – Analogue vs Digital. The reason why I’ve struggled with this concept is because for me that divide has collapsed to the point that it no longer exists. Real life exists across the analogue and digital realms, rather than being the domain of one or the other. Friendships exist, some are proximal and analogue others are mediated across vast distances through digital technology – neither is more real than the other – they simply exist. My work is experienced and expressed in the same way with colleagues spread across a vast swathe of the continent.

More and more of my life is mediated through digital media because I am what they describe as an early adopter. But it’s not as simple as that, the truth is I am an early adopter because these technologies offer real and tangible rewards. I can destroy the tyranny of distance that living and working in regional Australia bring with it. So to the sense of isolation. Fuck the big city, the world is at my finger tips. Wagga Wagga becomes the centre of the world!

The benefits for me aren’t about efficiency or efficacy, they are merely side effects of being more connected, more engaged and more in touch with the world. Digital technology empowered the user so we are no longer the passive consumers of culture by proxy, which is the experience of the Broadcast age of TV and Radio, but active participation. Culture is something I can be part of.

However, digital is still new. It’s still embryonic in the way that it’s still essentially unformed. It lacks definition, formal structure, coded patterns and behaviours, pathways and even roadmaps. Interaction through digital technology is still a proto-culture that still needs to be developed, shaped and formed.

It took centuries to become fluent in translating our oral culture into a written one. It will be the same process to become digitally fluent. We still lack ways and means of embedding and encoding the nuance and subtleties of communication and interaction.

How can you express emotion in a meaningful way? An emoji?

How do you embed the history and individual experience of lived life? A thumbnail avatar?

Yet our digital selves and the lives we lead through the technology are no less real than those of our physical selves. In fact are they actually something more than human? They are ourselves completely untethered from physical constraints – our geography, our bodies, our deformities and handicaps. The potential is there for us to move beyond our grounded and bound bodies. Our digital selves are capable of being transcendent and hyper real as pure expressions of our self and who we wish to be unhindered and untethered.

Yet we lack the ability to translate that which makes us human into our digital selves. Empathy, emotion, intelligence, love – they still require our bodies and brains to codify, understand and respond.