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How I Forget Things ?

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I've been fascinated in Ebbinghaus ever since the OU introduced me to his work. I've come to believe that this is a generalisation. Like all populations there are outliers: in this case, those who are better able to hold onto information and those who are not. I am on the 'do not' end of the scale. A lecture or class followed by review and homework and testing, then further prompts and exams worked for me. Anything less and I lose it. I don't concentrate enough in the class or lecture anyway, even note taking becomes mechanical.

This work offers explanations and methods.

REad the short paper by 'The Forgetting Curve' by Dr John Whitman 

 

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Knowledge and understanding needs to be earned, not spoon feed

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 7 Aug 2017, 08:08

Medal Index Card for Private Percy Jones 9th East Lancashire Regiment

British World War I Medal Index Card identifying the man, his regiment and the medals he was due. (C) Ancestry, via Fold3

Some people can learn by rote with ease: they are exceptional. We all know someone who has a 'photographic memory'; though of these, some of these you will simply be playing coy over the hours they put in. The 'photographic memory' is exceptional.

For most of us learning doesn't simply require us to feel we have put in an effort - this effort is part of the very process that facilitates knowledge acquisition. 

Moving on from a period of essay writing based on a few lectures and crawling through a reading list I now find myself engrossed in the digitised part of The National Archive. I find I am, of necessity, doing the digital equivalent of thumbing through boxes of index cards. Every so often I make a match with information that the system doesn't have that I need in order to 'triangulate' the record with a specific person. What I am after are relatively rare First World War Service Records of specific men, from specific battalions, who enlisted in the first week of September 1914. When I get a result, and of some 2000 records I've so far identified 262, the information embeds itself in my head like metal-burning Alien vomit on my skull.

I've earned it; and feel confident that I will be able to work with it. The insight is mine.

I find I am able to do no more than sniff at information from prescribed texts and lectures. I make catch a whiff of something that makes sense, but usually I lose it. I have to be told what it was, and why it matters. I end up writing in a prescribed way. This can produce results, but not very good ones. 

Engagement with others, in discussions (online and face to face) and having the kinds of projects we used to get at school when we were still a year or more off an exam, did more for me.

What about you?

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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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Memory is an amazing thing ...

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From E-Learning VI

Fig.1. The gate across the fields from Beadnell Beach to the Village

Age six or seven I passed through these gates and someone told me it was a 'kissing gate' and we had to kiss. She was 18 maybe a little older. I would have been with other children, a brother or a friend the same age. These have been, ever since, a 'kissing gate'. I've never taken this path in over forty years, but it came to me as I approached. 

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Without tagging this is your blog

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 29 Oct 2014, 14:53
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. The contents of your learning journal, or e-portfolio or blog could look like this

As I'm prompted to do so, or is this just a MAC thing? I now tag documents downloaded to my desktop. They can be found wherever I or the operating system has buried them.

I tag religiously here (except, since a month ago, when writing from my iPad as it crashes the page and the iPad ?!).

I tag for a number of reasons:

I jot down ideas and thoughts, facts, even grab, cut and paste stuff that may be of use later so tag it so that I can tickle it out later as the mood or need fancies.

By tagging by module, and by activity you can then regularly go back and add a further tag as you plan a TMA (tutor marked assignment) or EMA (end of module assignment). For example, L120 is my current module. I will (or should) add L120A1 perhaps or L120S1 to identify an activity or session (NOT necessarily shared at all if I am giving away answers potentially or breaching copyright too blatantly by privately 'curating' content). Potentially L120TMA1 obviously helps me pull out content pertinent to this. That's the idea anyhow. The OU used to have an e-portfolio called MyStuff, a bit clunky, but it did this and then allowed you to re-shuffled the deck as it were, to give order to the things you picked. In theory you then have a running order for an assignment.

Tag clouds, number of tags or simply the weight and size of the font, indicates the strength and frequency of certain themes and ideas. When playing with the idea of an 'A-to-Z of e-learning' it was easier for me to see, under each letter, what I ought to select ... and then immediately have a load of examples, some academic, some anecdotal, all personal to me, at hand.

I come here to find things I've lost! Amongst 20,000 saved images I know I have a set from early training as a Games Volunteer for the London Olympics. I searched here, clicked on the image and thus found the album in Picasa Web (now Google Pics). Why can't I do that in my picture/photo pages? Because I never tagged the stuff. There is no reliable search based on a visual - yet.

No one can or should do this for you.

My blog and e-portfolio is fundamentally and absolutely of greatest value to me alone. So why allow or encourage others to rummage in the cupboards of my brain? Because it tickles and stimulates me to share views, find common or opposing views and to believe that others are getting something from it.

 

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Better out than in

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 18 Sep 2014, 07:26

No gadget or software or App will do your learning for you; you have to get the right content into you brain where it can be applied and added to. Garbage in, is garbage out and information you abandon will fester - not die, but transmogrify or lay dormant.

There are both techniques and Apps that that help you to get 'stuff' into your brain.

Take good notes from lectures and books, including TED lectures and Internet based 'linear' content, as well as eBooks and multimedia.

Use your notes for essays

Use your essays and notes from which to revise

The ONLY App I have come across that has been tested with a randomized controlled trial and had a dozen or more papers published on it is a platform developed at Harvard Medical School, now called QStream, though developed and tested as 'Spaced-Ed'.

I'm writing this after a THREE HOUR stint from the early hours extricating and sorting 'digital' information from the computer into a format that my head can deal with: sheets of paper, cards, lists ... 

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What impact does alcohol have on the brain?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 14 Sep 2014, 08:36

Fig.1 Does alcohol have a permanent effect on the brain?

The answer is 'yes', though of course it is dependant on many variables: binge drinking is bad, like a blow to the head. This comprehensive heavy-weight article I Googled, 'Alcohol's Damaging Effects on the Brain' satisfies my initial curiosity, then the above shocking image catches my eye.

Dare I ask if we know any child who clearly showed such facial traits?

Far too late to do anything about it though.

After this paper like post from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism I eventually start looking to chase up a few references (the very best way to satisfy you curiosity and layer detail onto the ideas you are gathering) when I read that 'memory formation and retrieval are highly influenced by factors such as attention and motivation'.

From E-Learning V

This quote from Kensinger E A et al in the Journal of Neuroscience 2003. Title: What neural correlates underlie successful encoding and retrieval? Not Found in the OU Library so I cut and paste into Google Scholar and there it is to download as a PDF.

It is not surprising that scientific research shows (not speculation) that distraction diminishes attention and therefore retention, nor surprising that a low level distraction has less impact than a high one.

Does a teenager (or any of us) supposedly doing homework while

a) interacting on Facebook

b) answering text messages

c) streaming a movie and/or

d) playing a video game

... complete a task half as well than when focused?

Exam conditions aren't just best for exams:

turn off the radio and phone, shut the door, put up a 'Do Not Disturb' sign, give yourself a set period of time in which to concentrate ... and reward yourself at the end of it (not with alcohol though).

Why we all need a 'room of our own'? (Even if you have to wait until someone else vacates it).

Better an hour studying when motivated and focused, then three hours while streaming a movie, or answering email?

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Dreams

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 3 Oct 2014, 09:15
From 2BlogI

I rarely write about these, though feel obliged when they are so telling. I had another double bill of movie like dreams. I won't bore you with the detail but I challenge any of these new 'memory' apps to account for them. What is my head up to? It's very probably because I am, after six or seven years of not having done so, thinking about storytelling: character, plot and narrative arcs. Where's that in a mini series such as 'The Borgias'. Some of these series, however often there is a murder or sex act after a while become as interesting as standing at a bus stop and starting to recognise the same faces every day. 

Nabakov said something about 'loving a memory to make it real'.

Can an App love something as abstract as a memory? It strikes me that memories can never be digitised, that as the construct, at that moment, of a chemical process, that they will be forever analogue. Can you digitise a chemical process?

Memory is not a photograph, or recording, not even something you have written down, rather a memory is what your brain at that moment chooses to construct for you drawing upon sources in various, and differing corners and recesses of your brain. It takes very little to alter this mix. Nothing you recall can ever be the way you remember it before, far from being frozen in time, as a digital form would do, it erupts like gas from a swamp.

In my early teens I had one of those 'Five Year Diaries' that offer four or five lines per day. After five years you have what you did on that day for five years. It took a long while for me to move on from these. What I did was try to write something about that day that would provide recall of some kind. I don't need the video of the day. Or an assortment of photographs. All it takes is a phrase, a place, person or event. Something you ate or saw on TV. Oh dear. I just saw that I thought my new girlfriend's breath was bad. She read this by chance a few years later. Together for five years we finally left each other in tatters a decade later. I can see where we were standing. Her Dad had come to pick her up. Neither of us could drive. She was 16, I was nearly 18. Do I need a gadget to replace my mind's eye?

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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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memory

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014, 04:11

My starting point if I am to think threw what I understand, misunderstand and don't know about memory is to flick through this blog. What I get therefore are triggers into previous ideas, notes, articles and thoughts. These are of far greater worth than simply doing a Google search or using wikipedia as there is already some association here. By going back to these pages a multitude of catalysts and sparked into action in my brain. All I then have to do is synthesise my ideas and form a new, or refined view. 

Memory 55 tags
Life logging 3 tags
Forgetting 5 tags
Forgetting curve 1 tag
Sensecam 2 tags
Memory making 1 tag
Neuroscience 36 tags
OII (Oxford Internet Institute) 36 tags
Journal 36 tags
Ebbinghaus 7 posts
Qstream 7 posts
Kerfoot 7 posts
Dementia 1 post
Parkinsons 1 post

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Digital Memory - false prophets, commercialisation based on limited knowledge, an inevitable shift ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 8 Sep 2014, 10:43
From E-Learning V 

 

"It's as radical as looking at the difference between the roots of a tree and the petals of a flower".

 

Thanks for the Memory, In Business.

Peter Day Thursday 4th and Sunday 7th September

BBC Radio 4 

The power of serendipity.

At 21:33 last night my wife called from a rural train station. Apologising for being 'like my late Mum', she said there was something on the radio that might interest me. And so, 12 hours later I am about to listen to this for the FOURTH time. This isn’t because of its academic value per se, rather for its irritation factor. Going by the online monnica of ‘MindBursts’ for the best part of a decade hints at where my latent, longterm interests lie. What a mess and joy ‘natural’ memory can be; I’m yet to see an algorithm deliver credible serendipity. When did my mother last call me in this way? She died exactly two years ago. It would have to be about three to two and a half years ago and most likely would have been Samuel Pepys dramatised for radio, or the hints then of the content that is now flooding the airwaves on the First World War.  Letting that memory fizzle, reform and sink back into my brain. Does this programme trivialise or simply ignore the complexity of the brain? No neuroscientist was interviewed. Shame. 

Very often the BBC and Peter Day et al get it right, but here the researchers and writers have got horribly lost, like a kid on their first visit to a fairground they have run about picking up hifhafultiing fag ends, being impressed by trivia, while occasionally calling in an academic or business big hitter. My concentration lapses on each time of listening after 15, then 20, then 25 minutes. The FIFTH and SIXTH listening my start in the middle. What these programme need, regardless of accessibility needs, is a transcript. I could have got this in a couple of sittings by listening to Peter Day while reading the transcript.

There is value in imperfection. There is value in being irritated by a programme. Had this been a lecture I would have had a list of questions at the end, I may even have heckled or muttered my annoyance along the way.

What a hotchpotch.

There are problems of audience, intent, journalist sensationalism, taking such a random and ranging set of examples and setting them as if they warrant or deserve to share the same platform. 

It begins with something that would have a live audience listening to a stand-up comic nodding in agreement: our no longer having phone numbers in our head. Why would we try to recall the complex and the trivia, an area code as a name with and three digit number, say Wideopen 3119 (my home phone when I was a kid) is easy; not so easy, especially after repeated additions and alterations are the lengthy and multiple contacts we have today. And what was wrong with the pocket address book in its day? It wasn't a case of remembering a phone number, so much as remembering where we'd put our address book.

Technology is there to manage our memories. Luciano Floridi

"It's as radical as looking at the difference between the roots of a tree and the petals of a flower".

This is the man who should have carried the programme; instead we get a soundbite at the start and another at the end. As bookends his profound thoughts barely tether this piece. Perhaps it just tries far too hard to cover everything in a myriad of ways and ends up trying to catch smoke rings in its fingers?

We hear from:

Evernote: set up six years ago, a series of digital tools to help people remember everything. Research. Communicate. To visually communicate what you mean. Phil Libbin,

Timehop set up by Jonathan Wegener. The idea is to milk what people put into Facebook. He has big financial backers. Timehop replays a day at a time a year ago, ten years ago, drawing from Facebook. He suggests that ‘old is awesome’. Aimed at getting users, not revenue. Will make money ‘when the time is ripe’. I find it dubious and ethically immoral, even inept naive views of how people want the serendipity of forming and reforming their own memories. His game plan can only be to sell to Facebook. I quit Facebook recently and doubt I will ever return. Far, far, far to invasive and exploitative, and for me, distracting and addictive.

d3i, set up by Oliver Waters. He used to keep a ‘journal’ from ten up to university. So what. Millions do and many for far longer, and in a directed way, say keeping minutes of business meetings led to Linkedin. The key, he thinks, is not keeping the diary yourself. WRONG. D3i is dependent on the nonsense and ephemera that people put into Facebook. a) this Facebook dependence is dangerous and limiting b) a fraction of people are digitally literate or even care, or care to use social media very much c) students, by way of example, are shown to distinguish between their social, digital and student academic lives. My tip is to perhaps keep a dialy log, or diary. Perhaps restrict to a learning journal if you are studying. Or write a travel log for a trip. I have great fun looking at a diary I kept just for a French Exchange I did in my teens. Another for a gap year job in the alps for a season. 

Memoir. Lee Hoffmann. He suggests there is value in the trivia of social media. Such as sitting with a grandchild and they ask how you met and you show them rather than tell them. This is horrid. Far better to learn to tell stories and learn to listen to the story teller. Snapping away at the trivia of the day. Gross failing to understanding the nature, quality and accruing and sifting quality of storytelling. A few memories as a child of sitting on my grandfather's knees while he talked about the First World War would be reduced to ... her son, watch the video while I go and do something more useful with my time. Poppycock. If you take the human out of memory then it is counterproductive.

Rather

Improve what we have. All text with voice, all voice with transcripts, all video with text and audio grabs …. I’m unconvinced that the commercial operators have much understanding of how memory works. The company they failed to spot is QStream, which in a far more tailored, and valuable way, works with our propensity to forget to aid memory creation in the brain - which is where you need the information if you are to do anything original with it. 

The Problem

The need to filter and forget, far better to enhance or support memories that have value, rather than those that do not. So much is missed in this programme. The fundamental background understanding of memory and how and why we forget. 

We hear from:

Peter Baron, Google. He's asked to talk about European Court of Justice ‘take down’ law and the legal and social need to forget things like spent court convictions. 

European Data Protection Law

Then there's a thing called 'Chronicle of Life'

Facebook and Flickr, so long as they are profitable.

And someone called Milan Chetti, of Chief of Research at HP, Boston Maschatucets.

If I can spell these names correctly I'll find them online, see what the have to say and re-invent this piece for my own understanding of the situation. I ought also to revisit anything I've tagged: life logging, memory, forgetting and so on in here.

All this will take time that I'm prepared to put in to write an article, if not a paper. 

One of the profound impacts is that the memorisation process of the human brain has been altered already … constant reliance on mobile devices has hurt our short term memory as mankind, while digitisation of events over time can help recall and improve out long term memory. So short term memory being carried by devices, while long term memory is enhanced. So we forget directions and phone numbers as our devices do this for us, storing contact details and getting us from A to Z and home, while deeper.

Ki Commenenti - Chronicle of Life. To store data forever.

Spelling anyone?

What about life logging, what about problem solving, such as dementia, even assisting at school and in the workplace. The answer is smarter, personalised and mobile and AI.

If it can be done, it will be done.

Luciano Floridi (misspelled on the BBC website) again ... 

Innovation, Legislation … but understanding lagging behind

Reshape huge chunks of our lives in ways we haven’t understood.

From E-Learning V

 

Floridi uses the metaphor of sediments and layers, a better analogy, as it starts to create in the minds eye a complex environment, though as connected information, digital content changes as associations, reviews, use and comments accrue. I made the connection to Hjulstrom's Curve as I was helping my son get his head around this for A' Level geography last night. I dug out my own Geography text books but found nothing on Hjulstrom. This came from a considered search and selection online. I started to teach my 16 year old son how to do a more academic search online. His approach lacks so much finesse it is shocking. A few minutes of my TLC and we find a brilliant short video from an Irish Geography teacher that put it all so very well.

The programme annoys me because from Peter Day and the BBC you expect a far higher degree of scientific even academic certainty rather than something that is part the One Show for radio. Luciano Floridi of all those we hear from is the one to track down as he does what the very best academics do; they take the  complex and try to explain it based on sound research and a depth of experience that few of the others have.

A memory isn’t static, now is it tangible, it is a chemical construct of the moment that the human brain reinvents every time we recall a memory. All that we have experience since that event formed a memory impacts on how we recall it. To preserve an aspect of such an event digitally can never be a ‘memory’ : a photograph of your child’s third birthday doesn’t include the smell of candles and chocolate cake that reminds you of your own eighth birthday, or in my case that my father never attended a single birthday, not my birth, not my 21st … he turned up to say he was leaving. No figuring that. And immediately indicating how a memory is a shifting entity and if you think about it for long enough it is probably very personal.

Just because you can, does not mean it has value. For centuries people have kept diaries, but how many are a Samuel Pepys or an Anne Frank? It is the record of events so much as the interpretation and voice of the author sharing memories and consequences of these events. 

My rant not over. This is a subject that fascinates me. 'Mind Bursts' as a thought has been my external blog for seven years and with hints of something on the horizon I bought the dot com last year. 

The problem now, compared to ten years ago, is finding amongst millions people to talk to about this. Finding like-minds used to be so, so much easier before the Internet got out of hand and now deluges us with stuff, with too much commercialised and gamified content that gets in the way. 

If you listen to the end then perhaps 2020 will be the end - there won't be enough electricity generated in the world to store this digital content anymore. Hopefully it'll all implode, there'll be a massive clear out, and no doubt there'll be a healthy re-invention or return to books and photo albums.

Meanwhile, my memory-support system called this e-learning journal, blog, portfolio thingey offers up the following. The value of these tagged posts is that they are my interpretation of ideas from months or years ago that will trigger an aggregation or assimilation of fresh ideas and thoughts, something that can never occur simply by grabbing new, unknown stuff produced by others on the Interent. It matters that saved content connects with your soul, that intangible part of the brain that nothing digital can ever reach or approach at mimicking.

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On the value of reading and re-reading the same quality book

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 24 Aug 2014, 06:52
From E-Learning IV

 Fig 1. Essential reading on British Forces on the Ypres Salient in 1917

I take back what I said a couple of days ago about a module (not OU) that comprises a reading list and set of essay questions. Sometimes I feel the OU modules I have done are too prescriptive, that all of us are passengers on a learning train that will not permit anyone to leave the service. You work from and are assessed on the content given - excellent, succinct and contained. This does not suit everyone; never does the scary freedom to read from a reading list. In many cases the variety seen in both approaches, with overlap, is how and when one comes to understand something.

Back to formal reading

It matters that you are directed to the right book. This is the right book on Passchendaele to understand from a general strategic, to operational, to tactical level what took place.

I read 'Passchendaele: the untold story' first in May for a presentation in June.

The purpose was to lay out the chronology of events and compare two battles within the Passchendaele or 'Third Ypres' conflict relating to command. I took notes: highlighted in the eBook which I then typed up in a Google Doc before creating a presentation. Over two months later I read the book again as if I had never seen the book before; on the one hand I worry about my sieve like brain, on the other I am intrigued to understand what is going on.

From E-Learning IV

Fig.2 Notes taken in Google Docs from the highlight sections in the eBook

On second reading, with the tracks and sleepers of the general chronology becoming established and retained knowledge, and with an essay title ringing in my head, the highlights I make in the eBook are, with a few exceptions, totally different. I am reading the same book, but taking something very different from it. I have a highly selective, easily distracted brain - nothing sticks if it doesn't have to. I know a few people with a photographic memory: they appear to read something once then have the entire contents at their fingertips to apply to a problem. My memory is the opposite - nothing at all that I don't deem of importance to the task at hand will be retained. I have, side by side, the notes I took in May and the notes I am currently taking - they could be from different publications; I struggle to find any common ground. 

There will be a third reading

This third reading will have different purpose as in due course I write a comparative history between Third Ypres: Passchendaele and the First Gulf War to fulfil a desire to respond to something my late grandfather said in 1992 'That's nothing compared to Passchendaele' he said as he watched the First Gulf War unfold on TV. He saw the differences between foot soldiers as unrecognisably different, whereas I saw the prospect of having a leg blown off or being gassed as more than faintly similar. Had the generals used the tactics of 1992 in 1917 they would have gained more ground and lost fewer men; something had been learnt in 75 years of war then.

Fig.3. The mud of the First Gulf War

Visualising the above I imagine a desert; the state of my brain before I read, that over time acquires an invasion of cacti, followed by ground cover plants, until eventually there are established trees and a rich ecosystem.

Hardly surprising, but on second reading you pick out more detail; you see things that you missed, or couldn't take in the first time round. I'm the kind of person who would apply this to entire modules: that the student who wants to should be allowed to, for a considerable discount, to re-sit a module they have already done. Why not even a third time if your goal is to master a subject? A' Level students with poor grades will 'cram' for a year to improve on these. Through-out life things we want to do are achieved as a result of tackling the problem repeatedly until we crack it. 

Finally, I conclude, that given how complex we are, so learning needs to offer a similar level of variety; there can be no perfect system, or learning design pattern. We learn in different ways, and educators teach in different ways. E-learning isn't a panacea, it is simply another approach the complements ones we have always adopted, not least learning directly from experts themselves through talking things through.

More of us should be able to or should have been able to retake classes we flunked - with a different teacher, if not in a different institution. It shocks me to see how a student at school can be put off a subject they enjoy as they don't relate to or get on with the teacher - so change the teacher. 

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New blog post

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 14 Aug 2014, 08:38

Fig. 1 Amongst the many official tributes a personal commemoration of three brothers killed in the First World War

Lewes memorial remembers some 360 names; they've been pinned to specific addresses within walking distance of the memorial. In Southover Ward for the 75th anniversary a book was published detailing the lives of each person - their school record, photo and home and other information, such as playing cricket for the local team or where they worked.

 

Fig.2. Lewes Town Hall War Memorial

Will anyone remember us a hundred years after we have died?

Just as it is important for us to forget as a learning process and challenge, should society forget, filter or edit? Does commemoration in glorify war with its nationalistic, militaristic and religious connotations?

 

 

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Trying to jog my memory - is 'e-learning' the 'ready meal' of learning?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 7 Jun 2014, 05:42

Fig. 1. Somewhere along Dyke Road yesterday morning I had this thought ...

I had a thought on 'the evil of e-learning' as I drove my daughter to her final A' level exam. She was flicking through some revision notes on cards and intermittently going to her phone to listen to clips of John Donne she was hoping to remember. A bit of e-learning there. I meant to write down the thought but was driving. Six hours later it comes to me again, I write 'e-learning is evil' as the title of one of these posts (I use my student blog as a learning journal and portfolio) and my wife bursts in with some exciting news that I am eager to here and not wanting to be rude I'm sure the thought will wait ... but no, it had gone.

I'm reflecting on this now in the hope that it'll come back to me ... I may have to drive out to my daughter's school simply to see if that jogs my memory. I'd like to think the idea I had was profound, but I've lost it for the moment. I need to get those parts of my brain that were active at the time re-aligned ... 

Four years and seven OU modules and a passing thought about the nature, possibilities and weaknesses of e-learning comes and goes. 

It'll come to me. 

Everything will need to be as it was yesterday. I'm unlikely to have my daughter in the car if I drive out there ... she's done with school smile I guess during the exam she got a text from Glyndebourne to ask if she'd do an afternoon shift which is where her Mum took her in the afternoon - so much for celebrating!

There was something about the moment, reflecting on the end of her secondary education and what she's gained or achieved, the relevance of her circumstances and who she is ... using her iPhone to scroll through podcasts of readings of John Donne ... with sets of handwritten cards. The radio was off; I knew it would have been a distraction. I didn't speak. All the more reason to having given my head the chance to think, where there is a chance there is more activity internally and less competition from external inputs.

Was that it?

E-learning externalising the knowledge and spoon feeding someone else's interpretation of the answer? E-learning as the 'ready meal' of education? That learning the product of a collection of images and impressions? That a tricky quotation my daughter was trying to get to stick, like a PostIt note to the back of her head would forever be associated with the myriad of ways in which she was introduced to the passage, wrote it down, re-wrote it selectively from her A' Level English folder, and was now, in her way, listening to it and reading her handwritten revision card ... and that yes, on quizzing her in the evening over supper she'd referred to the quote as well and was quite chuffed with the whole experience.

This is it.

That e-learning risks stripping out a mass of personalised contexts that make the learning memorable and personal, and even worthwhile. Looking back on my seven modules (so far) with the Open University everything done online (and I have thousands of posts and thousands of screen-grabs and notes on it) on reflection, risks having been very clinical. Not all of it. Not always. But the idea of learning online 'by joining the dots' scares me. What's the use of that?

I'm going to have to go and sit in the car.

If I'm still stuck then when I drive my daughter to work later this morning I may see if any of it comes back to me. There is method to this; I know from years of clawing back dreams, those most wispy of experiences, that the closer you recreate the very moment of thought, the more likely enough parts of your brain will fire up to bring it back ... or, in the neurological sense, to recreate an approximation of the thought. 

We did speak. Something about exams. The stress, value and differentiation in grading of them. She spoke about Lear, I spoke about Hamlet. In the back of my mind I was reflecting on the benefit or otherwise of our children having their parents both together and at home. We've not been sticklers for revision, rather enablers, helping them see the value and need to get on top of their subject, and to help them or allow them to vary the pace by still seeing friends, getting out, some footie or the gym ... I wonder though if streaming TV series and movies back to back will be my son's undoing; yet I recall I would often have had the radio on as my companion to revision. We'll see. I know that what works is the ability to focus; if you want it to the brain will tune out the distractions.

E-learning is massive and complex. It's neither a panacea, nor an absolute. Can it be too clinical though? The context in which we learn, engaging all the senses, has a profound impact on how and if we form a memory and can then keep it.

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Learning tools and ASDA

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 23 Sep 2013, 14:43

 

Fig.1. Index Card Holder

An odd one this, but with my shift away from trying and expecting to do everything on an Internet connected device - nothing printed out, nothing written down, I have swung round to complimenting this 'screen work' with pads of paper, note books, a whiteboard and even index cards.

I'm currently sifting through all the possible causes of the First World War

I am collating notes from various books and having reduced these to eight themes in Google Docs I am now picking through these and putting them on index cards ... which in turn I want to develop as a series of carefully composed multiple-choice questions to put onto an online delivery platform such as Qstream and a mind-map.

I came across these in ASDA.

On special offer for £2, down from £4.50 I think. I may go and get some more as I like the idea of having a topic per Filofax-like binder. You might not have 60 key events/ideas or issues, but once in this wee binder they are, at low cost, portable and accessible - for me as I think through and prioritise a set of arguments, but for anyone with an exam, something to flick through repeatedly until the information sticks.

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Mind Change

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 Aug 2013, 08:46

My belligerent stance on the impact of computers to the brain - not much in my view, we're too complex, our brains too massive (94 billion neurons) has been tipped on its head courtesy of a short interview on good old BBC's Woman's Hour last Thursday. The interviewee was Susan Greenfield (Professor & Baroness). She invited listeners to get in touch if they wanted the facts on 'mind change' - as big as 'climate change' in her view, that as the brain is affected by everything that hours spent infront of a 2 dimensional world (sound and vision) our minds, especially younger, plastic brains, will form connections that make these people different.

I particularly liked the thought that all the time a child spends infront of a screen is time NOT spent 'climbing trees, interacting face to face and having hugs'. I may be adrift at the moment but have a reading list for the summer.

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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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H817 Visualizing Open Learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 23 Oct 2014, 07:17
From E-Learning V

Fig.1. This IMHO is what learning has become in the 21st century - and how it got there

There's more going on here than you may realise!

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. Traditional top down learning

Two triangles, one above the other and linked with a downward arrow suggests traditional top down learning ... or simply knowledge transfer from someone who knows something to someone who does not.

From E-Learning V

Fig. 3 By someone's side

Two triangles, one facing the other, may represent a shift towards collaborative or horizontal learning in a formal setting, though for me it represents the learning you do away from the institution - with friends, with family 'on the same level' as it were.

From E-Learning V

Fig. 4. Participatory and situated, networked learning on the periphery

From E-Learning V

Fig.5 The thinking starts with Vigotsky and his research into behaviourist learning

It then progressed to the study and analysis of learning in communities

From E-Learning V

Fig. 6. Activity Theory as conceived of and developed by Yrjo Engeström. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.7 The interplay between two entities or communities coming together to solve a problem and thus producing something unique to them both (object 3) - a fresh idea.

From E-Learning V

Fig.8. Activity Theory re-connected - breaking out

Though developed over some thirty years the structure of 'Activity Theory' as a model is breaking down because of the quality, speed and way in which we now connect overrides barriers and invades silos making communication more direct and immediate.

From E-Learning V

 Fig. 9 Activity Theory in a connected world

Everyone and everything is just a click away.

From E-Learning V

Fig.10 Visualizing the maelström of original ideas generated by people sharing their thoughts and ideas as they form

The maelström of new ideas where people and groups collide and interact. Historically this had been in grounded 'communities of practice', whether a London coffee shop or the senior common room of a prestigious university, the lab, the studio, the rehearsal room ... today some gatherings online are frequent, enabled by the Internet and no less vibrant as like-minds and joiners contribute to the generation of new ideas. 

This, drawing on Engestrom via Vygotsky, might be a more academic expression of Open Learning. Here a host of systems, expressed in model form, interpose their drive to achieve certain objectives into the common whole. That mess in the middle is the creation of the collective powers and inputs of individuals, groups, departments or institutions. The Open bit are the connections between any node in one system, and any other node from any othe one of the systems ... which blows apart the actions within a single system, making them more open, though not random. 

From E-Learning V

Fig. 11 It's going on inside your head.

fMRI scans reveal the complex way in which ideas form and memories are recalled and mixed-up, challenged and re-imagined. We are our very own 'community of practice' of conflicting and shared viewpoints. 

From E-Learning V

Fig.11. Perceiving brain activity as the interplay between distinct, interacting zones

From E-Learning V

Fig. 12 Ideas enter your system, your brain and are given a fresh spin

From E-Learning V

Fig.13 Ideas coalesce until you reach a point of understanding. The penny doesn't so much as 'drop' as to form.

Where would we be without one of these. 98 billion neurons. A uniquely connected mass of opportunity and potential. This is where, of course, memories are formed and thoughts had. Increasingly we are able to share ideas and thoughts as we have them, typically through the tips of our fingers by sharing our thinking online, especially where it comes to the attention of like-minds, and troubled-minds - anyone in fact or strongly agrees or strongly disagrees enough to contribute by adding their thinking and revealing their presence.

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Mind, body and soul

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 7 Mar 2013, 08:55

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Fig. 1. Looks a like a good read

I'm starting to read papers on neuroscience that result on my starting to use my hands and fingers as I read, even reading and re-reading phrases and sentences. What is going on here?

If I understand it correctly there is, because of the complexity of connections between neurones, a relationship with many parts of the brain simultaneously, some common to us all, some, amongst the millions of links, unique to us. Each neuron is connected to 10,000 others. To form a memory some 15 parts of the brain are involved. It is situated, much of it we are not aware of. Come to think of it, while I was concentrating I got cramp in my bum and right thigh perched as I am on a hard kitchen chair, and the lingering after taste of the cup of coffee I drank 45 minutes ago. I can hear the kitchen clock ticking - though most of the time it is silent (to my mind), and the dog just sighed.

Does it matter that my fingers are tapping away at a keyboard?

Though second-nature, touch-typing it still occupies my arms and hands and fingers which may otherwise be animated were I talking. I am talking, in my head. The stream of consciousness is almost audible.

What would happen where I to use a voice recorder and speak my thoughts instead?

By engaging my limbs and voice would my thinking process improve and would the creation of something to remember be all the stronger.

I'm getting pins and needles/cramp in my right leg. Aaaaaaaaaaagh! Party over.

The question posed is often 'what's going on in there?' refering to the brain. Should the question simpley be 'what's going on?'

Learning & Memory

My eyesight is shifting. In the space of six months of moved to reading glasses. Now my normal glasses are no good either for reading or distance. Contacts are no use either. As a consequence I'm getting new glasses for middle distance and driving. The solution with the contact lenses is more intriguing.

To correct for astigmatism and near or short sightedness I am going to have a one lens in one eye to deal with the astigmatism and a different lens to deal with the short sightedness in the other. My mind will take the information from both and ... eventually, create something that is sharp close up and at a distance. This has me thinking about what it is that we see, NOT a movie or video playing out on our retina, but rather an assemblage of meaning and associations formed in the brain.

I will try these lenses and hang around, wander the shops, then return. I am advised that I may feel and appear drunk. I can understand why. I could well describe being drunk as trying to navigate down a path with a microscope in one hand and a telescope in the other while looking through both. I feel nauseous just thinking about it.

So 'stuff' is going on in the brain. These days the activity resulting in the brain finguring something out can, in some instance and to some degree, be seen. Might I have an fMRI scan before the appointment with the optician? Might I then have a series of further scans to follow this 're-wiring' process.

I need to be careful here, the wrong metaphor, however much it helps with understanding may also lead to misunderstanding. Our brain is organic, there are electro-chemical processes going on, but if I am correct there is no 're-wiring' as such, the connections have largely existed since birth and are simply activated and reinforced?

Any neuroscientists out there willing to engage with a lay person?

What would observing this process of unconscious learning tells us about the process of learning? And is it that unconscious if am I am aware of the sensations that have to be overcome to set me right?

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Smarty Pants will rule!

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 12 Feb 2013, 14:04

I  have been repeatedly pulled in by various plausible and intelligent thinkers.

  • Marshall McLuhan
  • Nicholas Carr
  • Malcolm Gladwell

even

  • Marc Prensky

They may motivate people to take a closer interest but are without exception populist, picking references that support their thesis to convince the gullible of the new world order. Marc Prensky is garbage from beginnign to end so I cannot understand how the OU has been suckered into pedaling his ill-informed perspective - unless to prevoke debate.

Marshall McLuhan sounded plausible in 1960 but can be shown to have got it wrong - an irrelevance then and of no value to consider today. Nicholas Carr is no better - his goal is to sell books only.

14 years ago my first blog post was 'What's new about new media? Not much'.

As a historian/geographer I simply could not see it this way, in space or time, it wasn't the case that what we were experiencing was very much different to shifts driven by technology that have occurred over the millennia.

But this thesis, 'business as usual' doesn't get you noticed, or heard, or recognised, or making a living selling books or standing up in conferences. There must be an aspect of being human that favours the new against all else. Which explains a good deal. Geographers think in millions of years, Historians in thousands.

Most of us can barely reflect on the tiny period of our own existence ... which is why weather phenomena, technology and war seem of the times.

Smarty Pants will rule!

Clearly a popularist title for the book I am yet to write - on the coming of wearable technology. Starting in our underwear - are we fit? are we agile? what's are heart rate doing? how does this relate to the context of our lives? If the data might save or improve our lives why not?

And a button-sized camera at this level would give an interesting take on the world.

Who remembers the 'Wicked Willy' cartoons?

Though seeing a world through his lens might be a dangerous though intriguing place to go.

I've thought it, someone in California has probably been doing it for the last three years sad

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly - all you need in the learning mix

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 1 Feb 2013, 09:03

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I love the beauty of  Jenga. Like Google, it's simple and it works.

Simplicity has a purity about it. Don't knock it. Behind its functionality and its look and feel there will be some hard thinking.

'Keep it simple, stupid'. (K.I.S.S) may be a training cliche but there is considerable truth in it.

I've now had three years here at the OU and here on this Student Blog platform (short of five days, first post 6th Feb 2010).

I've been working on my ideas regarding learning and e-learning design in particular Courtesy of THE OU hosted OLDs MOOC 2013 (Online Learning Design - Massive Open Online Course)

I'm experiencing what feels like undertaking an 8 week written examination - the contents of my brain are being pushed through the cookie cutter.

And out comes this:

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

(Of course I had shut down for the gadgets for the day and was brushing my teeth when this came to me).

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The Good

Learning events or activities, moments that make the participant smile, think, reflect, nod in agreement, understand, be informed and generally feel good about the world and this particular learning experience. Hit them with some of this, as the say so succinctly across the Atlantic - at the 'get go'.

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The Bad

The effort required and built into the learning. OK, we want them to love this too, and you can if you're 'in the flow', have done your work, have wrestled with what you didn't understand, asked for help, listen to fellow students, gone out of your way to do extra reading and research until you have it, one way or another.

There needs to be assessment.

An assignment is a soft assessment to me - though like everyone I have terrible days when the thing just slips through my fingers like a snowball on the beach. A dissertation or end of module assignment is tougher, but tough and 'bad' in a certain way - like commitment to a triathlon. And a good analogy as working on and developing three issues at 2,000 words a pop is about right. And you won't get far if you leave training to the week before. It's a slow burn.

The 'bad' has to be the written examination.

They have to be hated and feared, and like learning lines for that school play, you have to get it right on the night (or day). And what do you do if you act? You have good lines to learn, you learn and rehearse your lines and you practice, and do a test run or two. The curtains going up is the equivalent of your turning the examination paper over. I feel the fear from a year ago - April 2012. I hadn't sat a written exam in 30 years. All my undergraduate and school-boy fears came back. I used rusty techniques that had last seen service during my first degree.

Bad is good. You want to do everything not to feel like you are naked on stage - a dream we all have when faced with such an 'exposing' test?

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The Ugly

Shock 'em. Not scare the witless. Have up your sleeve some smart stuff. Whether an idea or the technology offer a creepy and certainly memorable surprise.

Boring a student into making a fact or issue stick is like throwing mud at a brick wall - it'll stick, it'll coagulate and build up, but is easily washed away in a shower and destroyed in a storm.

Use storytelling techniques perhaps, better still, follow the pattern of a ghost story.

Scare them? I'm back on fear I guess.

We humans are fearful of many things and will go out of our way to avoid, run away or confront our fears. As I said, the idea here isn't to lose your students, but to empathise with them, understand the ugly side of their learning experience then help them confront their worst fears. It is ugly having to tackle the parts of a subject that stink, but inevitably these are the blocks at the base of JENGA.

So can I apply it? And can I go back to bed now?

Which leads me to another theme - we no longer simply bring work home with us, we take it to bed and sleep with it. If this pisses you off then let me introduce you to 'working with dreams'. If you are prepared to get up for an hour in the dead of night, or can flick on a light without invoking divorce then scribble stuff down to catalyse the thought in the morning. Can work wonders, can produce nonsense, can just be some things you need to put on the supermarket shopping list ... or another dream of being naked on the stage, not knowing your lines and needing the lo but all the exits are locked and the orchestra has stopped and you have to say something.

Which, courtesy of the wonders of the mind, has me in the front row of a performance of The Tempest at the University Theatre, Newcastle when I was 13 or 14. Caliban was naked, covered in mud and wearing a prosthetic erect penis.

HORROR!

P.S. And give me 20 minutes searching the Internet and I will be able to name the actor, date the show and possibly even find a picture. Perhaps you'd like to have a go. But before you do so, be very fearful of what the search terms you use might throw up.

P.P.S. It may have been David Suchet, with Juliet Stevenson or some such as Aerial. The performance was in 1974, possibly a precursor to the RSC doing a Newcastle Tour every March at the Theatre Royal and Gulbenkien. It may have been Jim Carter. Or none of these!


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The idea of gathering a substantial part of one’s life experience fascinates me, as it has often inspired others

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 19 Nov 2013, 09:42

Fig. 1. Hands by Escher.

The danger is for it to become one’s modus operandi, that the act of gathering is what you become. I recall many decades ago, possibly when I started to keep a diary when I was 13, a documentary - that can no doubt now be found on the Internet - on a number of diarists. There were not the well-known authors or celebrity politicians, but the obscure keeper of the heart beat, those who would toil for two hours a day writing about what they had done, which was to edit what they’d written about the day before … if this starts to look like a drawing by Escher then perhaps this illustrates how life-logging could get out of hand, that it turns you inside out, that it causes implosion rather than explosion. It may harm, as well as do good. We are too complex for this to be a panacea or a solution for everybody. A myriad of book, TV and Film expressions of memory, its total recall, false recall, falsehoods and precisions abound. I think of the Leeloo in The Fifth Element learning about Human Kind flicking through TV Channels.

Fig. 2. Leeloo learns from TV what the human race is doing to itself

Always the shortcut for an alien to get into our collective heads and history. Daryl Hannah does it in Splash too. Digitisation of our existence, in part or total, implies that such a record can be stored (it can) and retrieved in an objective and viable way (doubtful). Bell (2009) offers his own recollections, sci-fi shorts and novels, films too that of course push the extremes of outcomes for the purposes of storytelling rather than seeking more mundane truth about what digitization of our life story may do for us.

Fig. 3. Swim Longer, Faster

There are valid and valuable alternatives - we do it anyway when we make a gallery of family photos - that is the selective archiving of digital memory, the choices over what to store, where to put it, how to share then exploit this data. I’m not personally interested in the vital signs of Gordon Bell’s heart-attack prone body, but were I a young athlete, a competitive swimmer, such a record during training and out of the pool is of value both to me and my coach. I am interested in Gordon Bell’s ideas - the value added, not a pictoral record of the 12-20 events that can be marked during a typical waking day, images grabbed as a digital camera hung around his neck snaps ever 20-30 seconds, or more so, if it senses ‘change’ - gets up, moves to another room, talks to someone, browses the web … and I assume defecates, eats a meal and lets his eyes linger on … whatever takes his human fancy.

How do we record what the mind’s eye sees?

How do we capture ideas and thoughts? How do we even edit from a digital grab in front of our eyes and pick out what the mind is concentrating on? A simple click of a digital camera doesn’t do this, indeed it does the opposite - it obscure the moment through failing to pick out what matters. Add sound and you add noise that the mind, sensibly filters out. So a digital record isn’t even what is being remembered. I hesitate as I write - I here two clocks. No, the kitchen clock and the clicking of the transformer powering the laptop. And the wind. And the distant rumble of the fridge. This is why I get up at 4.00am. Fewer distractions. I’ve been a sound engineer and directed short films. I understand how and why we have to filter out extraneous noises to control what we understand the mind of the protagonist is registering. If the life-logger is in a trance, hypnotized, day dreaming or simply distracted the record from the device they are wearing is worse than an irrelevance, it is actually a false cue, a false record.

Fig. 4. Part of the brain and the tiniest essence of what is needed to form a memory

Mind is the product of actions within a biological entity. To capture a memory you’d have to capture an electro-chemical instance

across hundreds of millions of synapses.

Fig. 5. Diving of Beadnell Harbour, 1949. My later mother in her teens.

An automatically harvested digital record must often camouflage what might have made the moment a memory. I smell old fish heads and I see the harbour at Beadnell where as a child fisherman brought in a handful of boats every early morning. What if I smell old fish as I take rubbish to recycle? Or by a bin down the road from a fish and chip shop. What do my eyes see, and what does my mind see?

I love the messiness of the human brain - did evolution see this coming?

In ‘Delete’ Mayer-Schönberger (2009. p. 1) suggests that forgetting, until recently was the norm, whereas today, courtesy of our digital existences, forgetting has become the exception. I think we still forget - we don’t try to remember phone numbers and addresses as we think we have them in our phone - until we wipe or lose the thing. In the past we’d write them down, even make the effort to remember the things. It is this need to ‘make an effort’ to construct a memory that I fear could be discombobulated. I’m disappointed though that Mayer-Schönberger stumbles for the false-conception ‘digital natives’ - this is the mistaken impression that there exists a generation that is more predisposed and able than any other when it comes to all things digital. Kids aren’t the only ones with times on their hands, or a passion for the new, or even the budget and will to be online. The empirical evidence shows that the concept of a digital native is unsound - there aren’t any. (Jones et al, 2010., Kennedy et al, 2009., Bennet and Maton, 2010., Ituma, 2011) The internet and digital possibilities have not created the perfect memory. (Mayer-Schönberger 2009. p. 3)

To start with how do we define ‘memory’ ?

A digital record is an artefact, it isn’t what is remembered at all. Indeed, the very nature of memory is that it is different every time you recall a fact or an event. It becomes nuanced, and coloured. It cannot help itself.

Fig. 6. Ink drops as ideas in a digital ocean

A memory like drops of ink in a pond touches different molecules every time you drip, drip, drip. When I hear a family story of what I did as a child, then see the film footage I create a false memory - I think I remember that I see, but the perspective might be from my adult father holding a camera, or my mother retelling the story through ‘rose tinted glasses’.

Fig. 7. Not the first attempt at a diary, that was when I was 11 ½ .

I kept a diary from March 1973 to 1992 or so. I learnt to write enough, a few bullet points in a five year diary in the first years - enough to recall other elements of that day. I don’t need the whole day. I could keep a record of what I read as I read so little - just text books and the odd novel. How might my mind treat my revisting any of these texts? How well and quickly would it be recalled? Can this be measured? Do I want it cluttering the front of my brain?

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The extraordinary power of images

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 29 Dec 2012, 17:53

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Fig. 1. End of Year 2012 Ante-smoking TV commercial and campaign

If you find the current anti-smoking ads powerful, in which a cigarette grows a life-like tumour as it is smoked, then imagine what the word 'disembowel' conjures up?

I do not suggest that you Google the word as I did wanting to correct my spelling 'disembowl' - which, if correctly defined might mean nothing more challenging that taking a bowl out of a cupboard, or away from a child who is playing with their breakfast.

I deliberately offer neither a link, nor an image.

It shocked me that even I could so naively stumble upon a gallery of such horrific proportions that includes CCTV footage of road accidents and the aftermath of murders, killings and war zone collateral damage. I am now forever damaged. My mind will run amok with these images forever - to scrub them would require cognitive behaviour therapy and hypnosis.

If I ever need to put my teenage children off the idea of riding on a motorbike, or getting a motorbike of their own I know what Google search will will put them off, potentially keep them off a pedal bike too. I've now seen what happens when a truck hits a stationary motorbike that is waiting to take, in this instance, a left turn off the main road.

I believe in the power of images - for advertising and for learning purposes.

I believe that the more genuine the image, however contrived and constructed, in its appropriate context - the more memorable the facts, events and circumstances are as a force to inform or educate. I believe also that where this image is animated, live or as live video, with both visual and auditory clues, the more powerful it becomes.

The police don't show reconstructions of traffic accidents to drunk or reckless drivers - they show them the real thing.

 

 

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Filling up your mindscape

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'The power of images is very great and it can be harnessed as many interpreters of fairy tales in pictures and on film have understood'. Marina Warner

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Fig.1. David Hockney - Etchings for Grimms Fairy Tales

'What's the use of a book without illustrations?' Ask Marina Warner reading from Alice in Wonderland.

A question she goes on to answer. To mark the bicentenary of the first edition of the Grimm brothers' Children's and Household Tales in 1812 Marina Warner explores the many compelling and often controversial aspects of the tales in this BBC Radio 4 Series. Marina%2520Warner%25201.JPG

Fig.2. Marina Warner

These evocative stories have always stirred vivid images in the minds of artists, from the angular drawings of an early David Hockney to Dickens' Victorian illustrator George Cruikshank. Through these artists' impressions, we paint a new picture of the tales' vital contribution to the long tradition of visual storytelling.

  • What do the artists add to our understanding of these stories?
  • What is the value of illustration and art direction in narrative, from books to film?
  • How do we impact on a person's memory of the story?
  • What role therefore do impactful images have on a learning experience?
  • What remembered images do the conjure up?
  • Why do artists chose and crystallize certain moments?

"Filling up your mindscape"

David%2520Hockney%2520Grimms%2520Tales%2520Illustration%25204.JPG

Fig.3. David Hockney - Etchings for Grimms Fairy Tales

'The pot is winking ... brimming with poisonous menace, the banal hold terrible'.

You should attract then hold the attention of your audience - these may be readers, listeners or students, but you have to be sensitive to the craft skills of storytelling. It requires a good deal to keep the mind alert.

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Do we use more than 20% of our brains?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 9 Dec 2012, 15:02

Asked this by my 14 year old son. He was a captive audience as I drove him 45 minutes to a footie march - I hope he didn't regret asking. I questioned any statistic that ended in zero and wondered if out of 100 billion neurons we ever used more than 2% of our brains - I doubted that we'd use all our brain if we lived a thousand years, in any case what we remember and how we remember it always changes. Earlier I'd told him how we'd 'wing it' in terms of finding the location for his match saying I'd remember how to get there once we got close - which is exactly how it played out.

I mentioned the App 'One Second a Day' and Microsoft Research into digitising everything. He's now warming up; I am left to reflect.

Recall in 3d is easier that a map or the written word - how would I have given someone else directions through the minor roads of West Sussex? Had I used a Google Self-Drive car last week - or been a passenger, my memory would have been different too. Is this the mistake 'we' are making in e-learning? Believing that a self-drive learning journey is better? Can something be too easy? I've done mandatory health and safety training as a part of compliance, clicking through video, animations and mutlichoice on a laptop 'til I passed. A manager could tick a box, and they would be covered for insurance but how in reality might I perform as a consequence of this 'learning' - surely that depends on how my perceptions and understanding of the learning translates into a real situation. Can you prepare customers for the evacuation of a sinking ship by getting them to do some e-learning - however immersive?

My son has seen a film called 'Limitless' in which the protagonist takes a pill and can then access 100% of their mind - he uses this in a bit of detective work by all accounts. My son said that someone who could or did remember everything committed suicide.

It's about time I revisted 'The Contents if My Brain' - a 90 minute screenplay effort on the subject, but like 'limitless' give it the one word catchy title and Hollywood treatment. US President stores the contents of his brain in case of all eventualities - assasinated this version of him continues to govern ... whith consequences etc: Title 'Back Up' or some such.

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