Updates from October, 2016 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Mark 6:05 pm on October 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply

    Upcoming @BalanceNetwork events 

    An update on forthcoming events from this fascinating interdisciplinary research network:


    Anglia Ruskin University’s Marina Velez, Davide Natalini, and Debby Lauder are leading a trio of experimental interventions, designed to open up discursive spaces for interactive and experiential research as to how digital technology increasingly serves to shape our perception, determine our communication, frame our identity, inform our self-awareness and underpin our social interactions. The three events will be  “Embracing Technology” (23 Nov, 4-6pm, Espresso Library, Cambridge), “Refusal of Technology” (23 Nov, CB2 Cafe, 6-8pm, Cambridge) and “Discussion and Co-production”  (28 Nov, 6-8pm, Thirsty, Cambridge). For more information contact Marina.

    ICT SKILLS AND ONLINE PLATFORMS FOR SOCIAL INCLUSION, workshop and evidence-based paper, workshop: 28 November afternoon, Coventry

    Dr Sally-Anne Barnes and Professor Anne Green of University of Warwick and Professor Leela Damodaran of Loughborough University are drafting an evidence-based paper focusing on the skills and attributes needed to successfully gain and sustain work via online platforms. A workshop with experts and local/national policy makers will be held as part of this project. For more information, and if you are interested in contributing, contact Sally-Anne.

    THE ROLE OF MICRO BOUNDARIES FOR WORK-LIFE BALANCE, individual diary studies & intervention workshops, workshops: 1, 3 & 5 December, London,

    Marta E. Cecchinato, PhD student, and Dr Anna L. Cox of UCL have received funding to gain insight into the use of “microboundaries” by knowledge workers who are experiencing work-life balance challenges. Microboundaries limit the negative effects of work-life cross-overs, such as the interrupting effect of notifications at inopportune moments.  The diary studies will be organized in November with the Intervention workshops in December.  There are websites set up to learn more about both the diary studies and workshops. For more information, contact Marta.

    WORK-LIFE BALANCE WITHIN THE IT PROFESSION, half-day seminar with the British Computer Society, 7 December afternoon, Portsmouth

    Dr Penny Hart, Dr Penny Ross and Dr Carl Adams of the School of Computing at University of Portsmouth received funding to attend the World IT project committee meeting in August.  They will be running a Balance Network seminar co-hosted by the British Computer Society (BCS) on 7 December. The team will be analysing the World IT project’s extensive survey of IT professionals, which captured cultural and contextual differences across the technology workforce, from a work-life balance perspective.  For more information, visit their registration page or contact Penny H.


    Dr Luigina Ciolfi and Dr Eleanor Lockley of The Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute at Sheffield Hallam University will design and lead research and networking activities regarding various strategies of technology appropriation that individuals implement to handle work and life demands. These activities will include a series of interviews followed by a design workshop on 13 December in Sheffield, featuring a keynote presentation by Professor Susanne Bødker (Aarhus University, Denmark). At the workshop participants will help create technology concepts to support work and home lives. Following the event, an interest group on work-life technology design will be established. For more information, visit the website or contact Luigina.

    DIGITAL SCHOLARS IN A MOBILE WORLD, one-day research symposium exploring work-life balance in academic lifeworlds, 14 December, Kingston-upon-Hull

    This symposium in early December, led by Josef Ploner & Anastasia Gouseti of the University of Hull, will gather UK-based early career academics from across the disciplines, working in the areas of higher education research, academic mobility and new/digital technologies within professional contexts. Speakers will include: Dr. Aparecido Fabiano Pinatti de Carvalho of Universität Siegen, Dr Jude Fransman of Open University, Dr Emily F. Henderson of University of Warwick and Prof Gail Kinman (University of Bedfordshire). At the event, participants will share current and ongoing research into work-life balance within academic contexts and begin to build a collaborative network in view of future research activities. For more information, contact Josef.

    CONVERSATION PIECES, series of two-hour design workshops, 12, 13 or 14 December, 10 am to midday, London

    A poster for this activity can be dowloaded below. Paulina Yurman, a PhD Student in Goldsmiths Design Department, will be hosting a series of two hour workshops in early December.  At each event, novel design proposals will be presented to participants, as semi-working artefacts or as images. The proposals will revolve around the tensions and ambivalences brought by digital devices in families with young children, as they blur the boundaries between work and play. For more information, contact Paulina.


    Dr Lisa Wood of Lancaster Medical School at Lancaster University, will lead a one-day workshop in collaboration with Tracy Hauver, a student at University of Liverpool. The workshop will explore opportunities and barriers in socio-digital support for military spouses and families. The hypermobility of this group provides a valuable site for exploration of new patterns of working and family life, the impacts of hyper mobility and the everyday use of digital technologies in family life.  During the workshop, participants will discussion possible digital futures and help generate priorities for future research.  After the New Year, Lisa and Tracy will continue the project with on-line focus groups. Spaces are extremely limited, but for more information, contact Lisa.

    CO-DESIGNING SMART OBJECTS FOR HEALTHIER OFFICE WORK BEHAVIOURS, half-day workshop on 19 October in Nottingham

    A poster for this activity can be dowloaded below. Yitong Huang, a PhD student from the Horizon CDT, hosted a half-day workshop on October 19 to engage stakeholders of work health in co-designing novel behaviour change interventions, delivered with smart office objects that are digitally augmented with sensing and computing capabilities and connected to each. She introduced accessible tools for intervention development and rough prototyping techniques (e.g. ideation card, sketches, plug-and-play sensors) to facilitate collaborative thinking and exchange of multidisciplinary perspectives to this issue. For more information, contact Yitong.

  • Mark 11:33 am on October 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    The Place That Sends You Mad 

    Thanks to James Duggan for introducing me to this:

  • Mark 10:46 am on October 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    How the Pentagon imagines the future of cities 

    This is absolutely fascinating:


  • Mark 8:50 am on October 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Digitalisation and the elimination of latency  

    From Work’s Intimacy, by Melissa Gregg, loc 3594-3609:

    Describing the impact of the BlackBerry in 2006 –just before the iPhone changed mobile computing for keeps –Research in Motion’s John Balsillie explained his bestselling devices as “latency eliminators.” According to this logic, Balsillie argued, “successful companies have hearts … and intrinsic force that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. BlackBerries … allow those hearts to beat faster” (in Connors 2006). At a time when the most profitable companies were preparing to hand out multi-million dollar handshakes to CEOs who left a trail of retrenched workers in their wake, one could be forgiven for being skeptical about Balsillie’s choice of imagery.

    The language of love may help to explain the market triumph of his product, but this book enables us to identify some of the real-life “latencies” that smartphones help to eliminate. These include time spent with children, grocery shopping, leaving the house, even sleep. The hearts of employees may be beating faster in the wake of mobile technologies, but it is questionable whether this is with care, affection, or friendship. In many cases, it is in anticipation of the next work-related demand and the next productivity innovation imposed by management.

  • Mark 3:37 pm on October 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    Social Media and Open Research: What Does ‘Open’ Mean? 

    Notes for a talk at this event on Saturday. 

    In the not too distant past, the use of social media in higher education was seen as a curiosity at best. Perhaps something to be explained or inquired into but certainly not something deemed relevant to scholarship. Yet it’s now increasingly hard to move without encountering the idea that social media is something of value for academics. The reasons offered are probably quite familiar by now. It helps ensure your research is visible, both inside and outside the academy, helping build an audience for your publications and an impact for their findings. It expands your professional networks. It makes research more open and researchers more accountable to the people who ultimately fund their work.

    If not quite at the level of ‘common sense’ yet, I suspect these points soon will be regarded as such, at least by young scholars. On the surface, we seem to have witnessed a fairly significant change, but is it a positive one?

    In many ways I think it’s not because so much of this discussion is preoccupied by individuals and how social media can help their careers. It becomes one more facet in the ideal package of academic skills which are seen to be necessary to thrive in the contemporary academy. Bring in your grants. Publish highly cited papers in high impact journals. Get good teaching reports. Build an audience on social media. The unspoken corollary of social media helping build careers is how being unwilling or unable to engage in it might harm your career. Through their social media use, academics signal their orientation towards accumulating visibility for their institution and generating impact through their research.

    At least this is how I think research mangers are beginning to see social media: as a signal for impact willingness and a proxy for impact capacity. A demonstrable capacity to build an audience with social media becomes just another characteristics of what Liz Morrish recently described as the upwardly mobile young ‘Trump academic’ liable to thrive under contemporary conditions.

    This way of thinking about social media for academics positions it as ‘just one more thing to do’. You do your research and then you spend time ‘networking’, developing your ‘brand’, building an audience and disseminating your research. It’s seen as an additional demand, above and beyond the many other responsibilities people are already subject to. You do it as a means to an end, in order to help meet demands placed upon you at work.

    On this level, it’s a clear example of what the anthropologist Melissa Gregg describes as ‘function creep’: the tendency of new technology to increase the demands placed upon people at work without any comparable increase in reimbursement or recognition. Bit by bit, the job gets more demanding, often in subtle ways which escape our notice on a day-to-day level. We have more to do. We feel tired more frequently. The bottom of our to-do list seems further each on each successive day. But the job market is unwelcoming and self-branding of this sort can feel ‘career protection in uncertain times’ as one particularly off-putting social media guru put it a few years ago.

    This instrumental approach to social media is one which universities are beginning to encourage through the training they offer, their expectations of staff and the implicit messages which permeate institutions. It’s one which the rise of alt-metrics risks intensifying, as the responsibility increasingly falls to individual researchers to demonstrate that they’re able to win attention for their publications online (and empowers those journals who are able to help ensure this is the case, supplementing the existing hierarchy of ‘impact factor’ with a new hierarchy of ‘alt metric factor’, rather than breaking down these boundaries).

    The problem is that winning attention for your work doesn’t take place in a vacuum. As Melissa Gregg puts it, “even uniqueness starts to sound the same when everyone is trying to perform”. If everyone is seeking to build an audience and stand out from the crowd then the challenge of achieving these aims spirals ever upwards, excluding ever more people from the process in gendered and classed ways while this subordination is masked by the powerful rhetoric of openness.

    To give one example of trend, George Veletsianos found in a study of educational tweeters that “the top 1 percent of scholars have an average follower base nearly 700 times that of scholars in the bottom 50 percent and nearly 100 times that of scholars in the other 99 percent” (loc 1162-1708). Rather than undermining old hierarchies, social media supplements new ones, with complex emergent effects: sometimes allowing the already celebrated to quickly amass a social media following or to allow those with a big social media following to translate this into academic capital.

    The problem is that the encouragement to conflate value with popularity, as demonstrated through the metrics built into the platforms themselves, isn’t something new. It’s an extension of the endless metrics to which academics at UK are subject to in every other aspect of their working lives. This is ‘open’ in the sense of rendering individual workers transparent to their employers. Open in the sense of measuring all aspects of their performance in order to calibrate the precise balance of carrots and sticks they will be subjected to in their workplace. Open in the sense of holding them accountable if any of their actions reflect badly on the university or somehow run contrary to this month’s strategy for the corporate brand.

    It’s not a desirable form of openness and we should be critical of it. We should be critical of an account of social media for academics which encourages behaviour that fits with it: using social media to signal your value to your institution, demonstrate your understanding of your employer’s priorities and to accumulate as much prestige for yourself as quickly as you can (obviously to be measured in terms of citation counts, alt metrics scores and follower counts).

    But there’s another form of ‘openness’ we can see in how academics use social media. A relational, collaborative and solidaristic mode of engaging across boundaries. This is a mode of engaging which doesn’t see social media as ‘just another thing to do’ but rather as a way to do what we do anyway in a newly open and shared way. While the horizontal regulation of peer review, informal and otherwise, is increasingly being surmounted by the vertical regulation of metrics, there’s a possibility for new forms of shared engagement through social media that should’t be dismissed. They may not change higher education but they can provide a bulwark against some of the more deleterious tendencies we see within it, at least if we resist the pressure to individualise and instrumentalise our use of it.

    In a recent book called The Academic Diary, Les Back writes that Twitter sometimes facilitates our “inhabiting the attentiveness of another writer” by providing “signposts pointing to things going on in the world: a great article, an important book, a breaking story”. Through the things that others share, we sometimes enter into their world and participate in an economy of “hunches and tips” which is the “lifeblood of scholarship”. At risk of ruining a nice metaphor, a truly open approach to social media can help lifeblood of scholarship circulate much more widely and freely than it would otherwise. At a time of ever-increasing managerialism, intensifying demands and ever more granular monitoring this feels like something we need to try and protect.

  • Mark 7:47 am on October 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    What would the European Union look like in an American context? 

    This is a great analogy offered by Yanis Varoufakis in So The Weak Suffer What They Must? on loc 1016:

    The equivalent in the United States would have been a Washington bureaucracy, operating without a Senate or a House of Representatives to keep the bureaucrats in check, able to overrule state governments on almost anything and bent on fixing prices at levels higher than the market would have selected.

    Eventually, such a bureaucracy might accept the necessity for greater democracy, but what would its implementation look like when this was its starting point?

  • Mark 7:46 am on October 25, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    The Consolations of Gaming in Digital Capitalism 

    From How The World Changed Social Media, by Danny Miller et al, loc 1203

    The stand-out figure here is from industrial China. This is probably the site where people’s working day involves the most unremitting labour in factories. It is therefore not all that surprising to note that they use gaming as a means to relax and to separate themselves from work. In fact this reflects a wider emphasis upon the use of smartphones for entertainment more generally, a feature that clearly emerges in this additional survey conducted by Wang7 on smartphone usage among 200 handset-owning respondents in her field site. These workers usually do not have the spare time, money or energy for extra social life after long hours of heavy labour. At the same time, in addition to the relaxation that such games provide, gaming is also viewed as a major way of hanging out with friends online, especially among the young men.

    Online gaming is also a very important aspect of social media (especially Facebook) in southeast Turkey. The most common games were Candy Crush Saga, Ok and Taula. Gaming is a way to socialise with new and old friends. People play these online games not only with known friends but also with strangers. There are possibilities that these strangers might also become new friends through gaming. Online gaming is also used to flirt discreetly with people of the opposite sex. For the very young (i.e. children in primary school, aged 8–11 years) gaming is probably one of the main reasons for using social media.

    What can we learn about a social order from the forms of leisure that thrive within it? The rhythms of Candy Crush, reward punctuated by denial, look extremely interesting from this point of view.

    The authors go on to suggest on loc 1296 that games can also provide status consolations, at least as evidenced in their Chinese field site: “This may be especially appealing among factory workers since even the status of having achieved a higher level in games can become important when one’s status is so low in the offline world.”

  • Mark 8:22 am on October 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply
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    things I’ve been reading recently #28 


    1. Purity by Jonathan Franzen
    2. Trump and Me by Mark Singer
    3. OccupyMedia! by Christian Fuchs
    4. Strangers In Their Own Land by Arlie Hochschild
    5. And The Weak Suffer What They Must? by Yanis Varoufakis

    Graphic Novels:

    1. Injection vol 1 by Warren Ellis
    2. Injection vol 2 by Warren Ellis
    3. Moon Knight: From The Dead by Warren Ellis
    4. Kick Ass by Mark Millar
    5. Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    6. The Amazing Spider Man: Renew Your Vows by Dan Slott
    7. The Violent: Blood Like Tar by Ed Brisson
    8. Roche Limit: Monadic by Michael Moreci
    9. TreesTwo Forests by Warren Ellis
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