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Making Memories

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 13 Oct 2014, 08:45

Fig.1. The muddy sides of the River Ouse, Piddinghoe. At low tide.

We are very good at forgetting: it's vital.

We see, feel, sense far too much in our daily lives (which includes when asleep). Come to think of it what on earth was I doing on a student exchange to North America last night where I am twenty years older than my hosts ... (probably sums up how I feel about the workplace).

See. Some memories are made for us, or by us whether or not we want them.

Learning though requires us to gather, create and retain stuff. Some of this stuff is forgettable; it doesn't resonate, or is poorly taught or expressed. Or we simply don't get it the way it is expressed, or the first time around.

Fig.2 Neuroscience of dummies

Make it a memory

At an OU Residential School the session on revision was packed. The tips made us laugh: sucking a choice of Polo Fruit sweets by subject theme - when you come to the exam repeat and each sweet will link you to that period of revision. Odd. But it worked often enough for me to convince me of its value.

 

Fig.4. Ebbinghaus and his 'Forgetting Curve'

The science from the likes of Hermann Ebbinghaus and his 'Forgetting Curve' simply indicates how something fades, unless you go back to it a few times over several days over which period you make it stick. It doesn't say anything about the 'stickiness' of the memory in the first place. Sometimes this stickiness is made for you. There is drama, there is an explosion. Most likely, by chance, the learning is anchored by some unrelated event like the fire alarm going off - that won't work for 50 different things though.

Fig. 5 Multiple ways of making 'it' stick: read (book and e-book), highlight, tag and take notes.

If the module, or your tutor isn't doing it for you then the next step is to dig around for a book, video or image that does it for you.

Most likely, and of far greater value, is for you to turn that lesson into a memory of your own creation. There is always value in taking notes, so never listen to the presenter who says 'no need to take notes I'll give you the slides afterwards'. Never trust the quality of the slides. What the person said will be of more value then the slides. You, and your handwriting, and your doodles are how it starts to become a memory. Then when you write up or rewrite those notes you do it again. You make it into something. 

Fig.6 The River Ouse at low tide.

I'm fixating on the horror of drowning in a shell-hole in the First World War.

Ever since I was a boy those images of cowboys and Arabian princes sinking into quicksand has horrified me. What must it have been like? Walking the dog by the River Ouse at low tide just as it turned the gurgling of water backing up and filtering into the muddy bank gave me the shivers. That sound was ominous. It made a memory of the walk and the thought. It's also what is sustaining me as I work at a short story.

Fig. 7 A family memory of a wedding in California. Will it stick?

We've talked about 'memory making' in the family.

It is the event, and the sharing of the event. My late mother-in-law was horrified that her daughter couldn't remember a road-trip they did across the US when she was 13. I concluded that she hadn't remembered much, or couldn't remember much when it was mentioned out of the blue, as the trip was never shared. Conversations are and were always about current and future events. This is why it helps to get the old photo albums out from time to time. But there's a loss. Do we make them anymore? Visiting a mislabelled album online is never the same. 

Fig. 8. My late grandfather John Arthur Wilson MM with the author Lyn Macdonald at the spot north of Poelcappelle, Belgium where he buried two of his mates - 75 years after the event. He recalled it 'like yesterday'.

Recalling the First World War

Some veterans would talk, others remained silent. Those who did not want to remember could and did forget. My late grandfather was a talker; it drove my mother mad. I came to love his recollections. Clearly, there were events that would have burned themselves into the memories of these men, but unless they talked about it, in a veteran's association or with family and friends it was not going to stick. No wonder veterans would seek each other out over the decades. Nudged by histories and movies their memories could be changed though; sometimes they came to say what was expected of them 'the rats were huge, the generals useless, the German bunkers impenetrable, the mud up to your waist, the sound of the individual shells ... '

In conclusion

Whatever activities and devices are built into your module, you are responsible and can only be responsible for making something of it. Take the hint. Engagement takes time so make the time for it. These days it is made easier through the Internet. You can keep a blog to share or as a learning journal; you can talk it over with fellow students either asynchronously in a forum (or blog), or synchronously in a webinar. You can 'mash it up' with images, grabs, doodles and annotations. You can make it your own. It'll stick if you want it to but superglue requires effort. Someone else 'sticks it' for you and it won't happen.

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What do memories look like? And if you have an image in your head then what does a digital memory look like?

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Fig. 1. Shadows below the Fredrikson-Stallard installation 'Pandora' with additional Neon EFX

Fredrikson Stallard piece for the Digital Memory Gallery sponsored by Swarovski called 'Pandora' is a collaboration between Patrik Fredrikson and Ian Stallard, two British Avant-Garde designers. This is a picture of the shadow beneath the chandellier put through a Neon EFX.

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Fig.2. Shadow of Pandora - Before EFX

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Fig.3. Pandora - in situ.

Like flames in a fire just look. Actually, a fire place touches more senses with the smell of the fire, or damp people around it - let alone a spark that might scorch the carpet or the back of your wrist. (Now there's an idea - though not one that health & safety would allow through).

In relation to memory, where I entered a gallery and did not take a picture what control does anyone have of the memory the experience created or the image I have?

If supra-human digital devices are used to store what we see and hear for later management and manipulation somewhere what kinds of permissions, copyright and privacy laws might we breach? How many people do you see and hear, and therefore place and potentially identify during the day - especially if this includes lengthy walks along the South Bank, across Tower Bridge to Tower Hill and the length of Regent's Street? Historically we shared memories through stories - creating a visual impression in the narrative and perhaps exaggerating interactions for effect. I contend that the most vivid 'virtual world' we can create is not a digital one, but what we create for ourselves in our mind's eye.

In learning terms there is a lot to be said for keeping it simple - a story well told, without illustration.

The 'bard' holding the attention of the audience alone on the stage or at the end of a classroom. A speaker who is alert to the audience and well enough informed and confident to shift the emphasis and nuance of their story to suit the audience on the night. How can such flexibility be built into distance and e-learning? Hard without some live element and  synchronous tutorials. Radio is vivid. Try some BBC Radio drama.

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Fig. 4. Southover Bonfire Society - at the bonfire sight, November 5th 2011

For a super-sensory experience marching on Bonfire Night in the East Sussex town of Lewes meets all the above criteria and more:

  • Sight
  • Sound
  • Experience
  • Touch, taste and smell
  • and the emotionally charged atmosphere in relation to family, community, pageantry and history.

(Marching was a wonderful family induction to the community when we moved here in 2000).

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How you learn?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 20 Nov 2013, 12:10

 

 

Fig.1. How you learn!

I set out with the idea of doing nothing more than making a face out of time, effort and motivation.

Then 28 months of the MAODE kicked in, as well as experience. How we learn is a rather complex affair. The influencing factors given above carry different weightings and change through time as events play out.

(This should be interactive so that you can adjust the size of each factor to suit your current circumstance, or circumstances you recall from past experience, at school say ... or that you hope for in the future. With this in mind I'll give the above a second shot in Bubbl.us)

Do we define 'success' as individual happiness or achievement through the education process and beyond?

SH1T happens.

To study learning we rock and roll between simplification and complication, in an effort to understand we create models, but the reality is always as messy as the individual, their mind and circumstances, when and where they were born and so on.

  • An uncle takes the kids to a show, and one of them take as shine to performance.
  • A child breaks an arm and goes to hospital and takes an interest in working in a hospital.
  • A teacher makes and illustrates and interesting point about landforms and calls one an isthmus and another a peninsula and the idea of naming forms and understanding how they take place takes root.
  • Then along comes World War 1, or you are hit by a bus and hospitalized or fall in love smile

And in all of this, some of us to respond to many of these external stimuli while other of us take a focus and lasting interested, whether as a hobby or career.

A work in progress!

I rather like the idea of trying to create the kinds of infographics produced by David Mcandless illustrated in 'Information is Beautiful'.

Please suggest factors and weightings!

If you are studying education or learning is there research on these factors, surveys that give weightings and importance to the different factors, or is everything a subset of something else?

H800-11B / EMA Tutor Group Forum / h800 overview framework Janet Gray Post 1. 26 August 2011, 16:01h800 overview framework (accessed 6SEPT2011) http://learn.open.ac.uk/mod/forumng/discuss.php?d=624853

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Scrambulation

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 24 Feb 2013, 07:46

I think I did the equivalent of throwing the files out of the window yesterday afternoon and no doubt the TMA grade will reflect this.

I reached a stage of total scrambulation.

Currently doing a 24 hour spring clean, pack the car, find wetsuits that no one can get into, fix the box on car roof, get keys that work for the car ... listen to Pepys dramatised on the radio (see the blog) ... while feeding teenagers and accommodating my wife whose computer died when it was purloined for World of Warcraft duties sad

(P.S. I am advised that my avatar remains wondering this world in her underwear. Meanwhile, after three weeks of doing a paper round my son has purchased a virtual motorbike for his World of Warcraft avatar - think Harley Davidson - he also has an upgrade on his pet -  an Elephant.

Both impress I am told.

Educators enter here at their own peril.

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My advice would be to so so with an experienced 13 year old to assist and you may end up like me, female, in your underwear, doing dances for your living. Seriously, this is my experimental taste of virtual worlds.

I learned that my son has several characters online, somehow, and each has a distinct personality and I suspect gender. I am 'Val Desire' her twin - is creation - is 'Not Val Desire'.)

And the dog is on heat sad

And my 15 year old daughter has decided the contents of her attic room are childish and is currently bagging it (while my wife is going through said bag convinced that everything has a value and ought to be put in our lock up garage for the next decade or two. A garage that is 11 miles away and we took possession of temporarily when we moved house ... four years ago.)

Otherwise a normal day.

Pencils and pastels I have, but I need cartridge paper and a new drawing board.

I'm disinclined to over use the digital camera as it will require immediate downloading to a laptop then editing, then uploading and all that eJazz. Do I go with the flow, indluge this? Maybe I should, passing on some basic craft skills along the way in relation to shot size, editing, action cuts and so on.

I realise too that this desire to go off and draw is akin to being behind a computer screen.

A sort of hunkering down escape into my own head. Though drawing is likely to be less distracting than being online.

Basically, what I crave, and did for decades with my Dad is a boat, to sea with all those challenges and absolutely NO contact with the outside world.

On these trips I took books, paper, guitar. I am inclined therefore to need the iPad that now is the books, the paper and all the sheet music my heart could desire.

Impossible of course because he is long dead and the boat sold.

 

 

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One day at a time, one year at a time, each decade of his life

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 18 Jan 2011, 18:49

1976 – 1983 -

I could keep going to Jan 2011. Like a returning diarist the New Year offers hope and a desire to record what goes on, though some of the tougher times would make better reading.

Reading this I could imagine a character who comes out of a coma with the New Year's Fire Works but nods off again by February 1st. There's a thought. There's a screenplay. There's another year or two of my life lost inside my head ...

January 5th

1976
Got up late, had bath, watched T.V. XXX and I were sent to our rooms, I couldn’t care because I had records, radio, typewriter, crayons etc: Watched TV. Cycled, Took down Xmas decorations and tree. Dad rang. No Tuesday. Didn’t mind. Used to him. Watched heart surgery on Horizon.

1977
Up at 8ish, breakfast with XXX and XXX, get stuff and leave dead on 9. Smash ice on pool. Wait for Mum 15 mins. Dad going to a meeting at Middlesbrough. Home, nothing changed, odd pieces of money from Aunties, chess from Uncle XXX. Still haven’t got rec: player, get record from Realm Records. No money though. Try to get rec: players in Town. Talk to XXX, bath, hair, TV, fall to sleep.

1978
Sleepy – read book. I, Claudius, Robert Graves. XXX at King’s Cross. XXX gets off to school. Phone me at 12 – stopped – continued. Very persistent, glad I answered – to meet XXX in Town. Tell her about disco – couldn’t get her Mum’s permission. Wonder town, Sit in restaurant for an hour left at 5. Danced at GRC with XXX

1979
Tell Mum were coming home on Sat. Train + XXX, Have People’s ringing P about a Top hat. Must try and get all my gear back somehow. More interesting XXX, in bed most of the day, XXX and more XXX and more comments about XXX with XXX.

1980
Felt ill in morning and up early and bath, Breakfast with XXX, late so not for XXX and Dad. Drift round Paris, stop at Cafe, then Louvre for the rest of the day. Late lunch and Eiffel Tower, slowly drive to Le Havre – pouring, Find Taverne Basque and have beautiful end of hold French meal., Mostly ski-estates on ferry, only Fiji for XXX.

1981
Strong wind – cleared snow and filled bus with Japanese (took photos of us). Clear Maison Rose, returned and sat in Cafeteria, Told off by Mme R as though I didn’t work. V. little to do so just got bored. Skied. Binding lose and broke twice. Up button lift and x4 the Telecabine (great) just starting to get legs (met XXX) – deadly, clean ski room/chocs for XXX (bleeper went) able to go early (7.10pm) really needed it as was most chattered.

1981
Hate the near depredation of the customs having to look through the boot. Expectantly. Dad missed a turning. As I did. He blew up. Rain and floods became snow at Appleby. Wanted to dash on to Newcastle to see XXX. After mean. Burst tire outside Appleby. A66 closed to Brough so drove via Brampton and straight to XXX’s. Being quite Telly ... Andrew XXX. Out for Midnight hedge, soaked but fun came in late and nicely ‘til 1.00 great to be back.

1983
Man rip to find out what I will to – to Hexham Infirmary with Mrs XXX and Granny and XXX, Plaster off and re enraged badly diagnosis by a seemingly drunk Dr XXX was to leave them alone. Work at 4.00 TV & XXX home to change before Tuxedo junction and had to get trews from Jonathan XXX, Mike XXX, Simon XXX, Rob XXX etc home to a bath end of dear but climb into bed for XXX v had the mattress from XXX’s room and on floor.

and on, and on, and on ...

Meaningless to non-participants (or should that read combatants) but most of these notes bring back the events of the day to me. Try this with a clear object in mind, studying a course with the Open University, a speculative project you want to bring about, clearly know when and what to keep private ... even write it in a book rather than online. Though I don’t think anyone has read anything I’ve locked online.

But do it. Even 50 words a day adds up over a year. And after a year it might inspire you to write 100 words a day. That's how I got going age 13 years 6 months. Exactly like Adrian Molehouse.

At family gatherings, several big ones are due in 2011, I am known as the archivist, I have the stories too, memories passed down to me of brothers and sisters growing up, but also of our long gone ‘ancient aunts’ who would all be 105+ by now. Photos of them too, old double 8mm film, me at my christening, photos of a World War 1 machine gunner, another an RFC bomber pilot.

Memories can be treasured. They should be treasured.

It doesn’t diminish the genre of keeping a diary to do so online, or to share some of the content with others, or do what the internet is great at doing – ‘Chunk’ your stuff into bite-size pieces; some of the above looks like a Twitter, keep to 250 words for a blog, but do it every day.

If words aren’t your thing load a picture a day, just one of many you may have snapped that will remind you of this day forever.

I listened to a busker sitting on Cliffe Bridge, Lewes yesterday afternoon.

Great, Passionate, Rough, Poignant. Thinking about it I wish I’d gone over and asked if I could take a snap, or video him on the phone for YouTube. I’ll do so next time I see him.

That would have nailed the day for me.

Then tag it. I have a tag fetish going. I do try to use the same word, but it looks as if I try to make up something different for the same thing, which rather spoils the purpose. Though I do rather like the ridiculous, tumbling, cascade of words and typos I have going in my tag clog, list thingey (another technical term that is a natz less technical that ‘stuff.’ all if which are eminently quantable to, of or by someone or something somewhere.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 16 Jun 2010, 07:40

Seventeen weeks into a twenty two week course H807, Innovations in E-learning, I decide that I have to get a desk - flat-pack and cheap, as I can't work effectively with a broken laptop (screen gone) perched on the end of the bed leaning on a toy 'trolley compute console' thingey with printers and files in stacks on the floor. No cupboards, no shelves. The house still has that 'just moved in' feeling ... or rather, just emptied the removal van.

We've been here for nearly 3 years.

Life, eh? I've learnt that if you don't sort a place out in the first few weeks you never do, we never have. Though there is a lovely hedge around the garden. Pity you can't grew furniture too.

So why am I still perched on the end of the bed peering at a screen between a stack of ring-binders?

Lovely desk, but my son has it. He has homework to do too.

Does it matter?

For me, I've always liked a desk, shelves and desk space ... somewhere to spread out. I've always liked a 'room of my own,' as Virginia Woolf put it and was ok until the assemblages of family pressed in and the need to relocate out of the country and into a town for schools and easier commutability to London led to a series of compacting exercises.

Excuses?

I think I'll take the dog for a walk on the South Downs.

As Nietzsche said, 'how can anyone become a thinker, if he does not spend at least a third of the day without passions, people and books?'

Or is the dog a passion?

And the South Downs?

Try High Barn to Hope Gap and the River Cuckmere with the chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head in the distance and the English Channel Horizon 15 miles or so away.

Where I think.

(I think !?)

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