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Review, Reflect, Repeat ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 4 Jan 2015, 09:05

Fig.1. My mash-up from the Start Writing Fiction, OU and FutureLearn MOOC. 

Many weeks after the Open University MOOC on Future Learn closed 'Start Writing Fiction' I find I am returning to the many activities across the eight weeks to refresh, reflect, and build on my knowledge. As well as doing my bit for that 'community' by doing a few reviews (all assignments are peer reviewed). I completed the course in early December.

I return to reflect, to develop ideas, to be reminded of the excellent lessons I have learnt there, and in particular on how we use fact and fiction, whether consciously or not. In pure fantasy writing I find, inevitably, that I ground events in places I know from my youth, or have since researched. I use the hook of reality and my experiences on which to build the fiction. While currently I am embedded in what started as 90/10 fiction to fact I find it is increasingly looking like 95/5 in favour of fact as my imagination is close to the truth about a particular character and his experience of the First World War. All this from a simple exercise in week one called 'Fact or Fiction?' where we are asked first of all two write something that contains three factual elements and one fiction, and then to write something that contains three fictional elements and one factual. There are thousands of these now, many very funny, original or captivating. In week one, I'm guessing that around 10,000 got through the week. How many posted? There are 967 comments. This happens. It is an open course. The same applies for most web content: 95:5 is the ratio of readers to writers. Many people prefer not to do what they feel is 'exposing themselves' online. Why should they.

Anyway, this gives me reason to argue that it is an excellent idea to keep a blog of your OU studies. All of this can remain private, but at least, as I know have in this blog, when the doors close behind a module you can, months, even years later, return to key activities and assignments and build on the lessons you learnt. More importantly, as we all forget with such ease, we can keep the memory of the lessons fresh.

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Design Museum

Best forgotten

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 9 Sep 2014, 10:55
From E-Learning V

 Fig.1. Yours truly - demo tape - age 19

The idea that something hanging around our neck will record our every moment, store, and log it sounds absurd, counterproductive and misses the point about memory formation and the value of forgetting so that you can interpret the past as you like through anecdotes and storytelling. In this BBC 4 Radio programme on memory one character suggested that a grandchild asking his grandfather how he met his grandmother could look at the real playback instead of hearing the story.

I'd gladly forget the above tape: a teen attempt at rockstardom (not). A bunch of hideous songs that I play abd sing to. Cringeworthy. Some things are best forgotten, even buried, certainly not stored.

I'd forgotten how much the topic fascinated me so will in due course dig through everything I've put down on it in the past and see what fresh angle I can come up with. I particularly like the metaphor of 'sedimentation' to describe a way forward to layer digital information stored on us, that is is buried in the virtual sense, under and in layers of other information. This tape (digitised rather foolishly) would then be stored as some kind of fossil - it would be stored, but not readily available as it were.

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A plague on my underpants!

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 10 Jun 2013, 16:28

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Playing Mercutio in 'Romeo & Juliet' 1983

Thirty years ago, possibly to the week, I performed in a university production of Romeo & Juliet as Mercutio. I've just been watching, to my horror, a digitised copy from the Betamax original.

That's me with the spindly legs in the white tights.

Not suprisingly, more so than a diary entry, this takes me to the moment. Minutes later the large nappy pin holding up my hose (the stuffed, bulbous pants) comes undone. I complete the fight to the death having pulled up my hose more than once - laughter and awareness rather spoils the moment and more liek Franky Howard than Shakespeare I die on the line 'A plague on my underpants'.

Fascinating that even in silhouette I would have recognised my teenage son in how I move.

My wife tells me I don't speak like that any more.

Cruel and revealing to me that I was so dependent on the director -  in this amateur production I minch about more like Malvolio from Twelfth Night.

My fascination in memory is pricked by this.

There is value in forgetting and not having a record of past events yet wearable technology is gradually making it possible to keep a record of everything we do - both visual and audio. Our perceptions are altered by the recalling of a memory. Though of course, this particular memory is still not my visual memory as my perspective will always be caught up in this scene.

REFERENCE

The power to remember and forget

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The power to remember and the need to forget

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 30 Jan 2013, 11:10

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Fig 1. Your life? Remembered or forgotten?

Digitally record or better to delete?

INTRODUCTION

It frustrates me to try and read two complementary books in two different formats - the first is marketed in its traditional hardback edition with a designer cover and eye-grabbing introduction from Bill Gates, while the second, an eBook I find understated - as if it is ashamed to compete. They are a pair. Twins separated at birth. They argue from opposite sides of the digital coin, one in favour of digitizing everything under the sun, the other for circumspection and deletion. Perhaps there should be a face off at the Oxford Union Debating Society. My role here is to bring them together and in doing so provide a one word conclusion: selection.

TOTAL RECALL

‘Total Recall’ (Bell and Gemmel, 2009) with its film-reference title and sensationalist headline ‘how the e-memory revolution will change everything’ risks ostracising a discerning academic readership in favour of sales reputation and coining a phrase or two. It’s hero Gordon Bell might be the protagonist in the movie. The shame is that at the heart of what is more biography than academic presentation there is the desire to be taken seriously - a second edition could fix this - there needs to be a sequel. My copy of Total Recall arrived via trans-Atlantic snail mail in hardback. It took over a week. With its zingy dust jacket - it feels like a real book. I’m no bibliophile but I wonder if the pages are uncut and this edition has been pulled from a reject pile. It was discounted Amazon and as I’m after the words contained in the book rather than the physical artifact its state ought not to be a concern. Though the fact that it is a physical book rather pegs it to a bygone era. Total recall refers to the idea of a photographic or 'eidetic memory' - this needs to be stated and ought to be a design feature of the book. It ought to be an e-book.

 

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Fig.2 DELETE

‘Delete’ (2009) Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is subtitled ‘The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age’ and sounds as if it was authored by a vampire from Transylvania. It is a foil to ‘Total Recall’ with Viktor the antagonist to ‘Flash Drive’ Gordon. Delete hasn’t been - its in its fourth printing, needless to say I got mine in seconds as a Kindle version. I only ever buy a book-book if I have to. I am too used to the affordances of the eBook to skim, search, highlight and share - and to have on a Kindle, iBook, laptop and smartphone to browse as I wish.

The copyright notice in Total Recall on ‘the scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet’ is ironic because this is what Bell does with his life - he has scanned and uploaded his life (though access is totally private). A double irony as he elects for Web 1.0 but won’t join the Semantic Web 2.0 and share. I have been an exponent of ‘exposure’ - the release of a substantial part of who you are for others to chew over. The online diary.

The way forward stands between the two, selective extreme gathering, storing and retrieval of your personal archive, while discretely deleting the irrelevant, possibly illegal (copyright, plagiarism, stalking, libel) and otherwise potentially reputationally damaging to kith or kin.

They could be landform and landfill.

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