Thursday, December 07, 2006
The RTA reply made a point that although the issues I raised were considered, the leniency for this offence was based on my previous driving history. I wonder if this point was made to quash any ideas I might harbour that my success was due to the brilliance of my querulency efforts. There is probably some unwritten policy of discouraging querulents from attempting greater feats of letter writing. Well, if they think this line is going to convince me that the art of composition is futile and irrelevant, they should think again! I am buoyed and encouraged to go to new heights of querulency and am just now considering how best to channel my craft.
"How about your thesis?" I hear some sensible person (probably with supervisory tendencies) call out. Well, yes, but "how about suing the NSW Department of Community Services for discriminating against same-sex couples in relation to parenting laws?" I retort, or "how about trying to uncover the story behind why the NSW Greens are staying silent on the issue of discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex in the lead up to the upcoming NSW election?" Oh the wonders of distraction and procrastination, wherever shall they lead...
Friday, December 01, 2006
I am not feeling quite as optimistic about my speeding fine but haven't received a reply to my request to have this waivered yet, so you never know. Now, before I go on, I must congratulate Peter Gray, for if there was a Querulent of the Year Award, this is undoubtedly the one person who should receive it. Peter Gray is a Uni student in Newcastle who took a bit of time off to take the NSW Government to the Land and Environment Court to get any greenhouse impacts assessed in the proposed development of the new Anvil Coal Mine, and won! At present, any environmental impact assessment does not need to take greenhouse impact into consideration. This decision could set an exciting precedent for all sorts of developments that have adverse environmental consequences at a global as well as at a local level. The NSW Government is taking the disappointing but completely predictable stance of suggesting they will probably appeal the decision. Go Gray, is all I can say!
I'm attending the wireless cultures workshop this afternoon. Given the lack of wireless access in Australia, even in our capital cities, I'll be intrigued to find out if any Australian wireless culture has been discovered at all. Actually, I am not being completely serious. There is wireless access in just about every airport and many homes have wireless but free wireless access in public areas is pretty thin on the ground (or should I say thin in the sky?)
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Wireless technologies and cultures could be said to encompass anything from WiFi-enabled laptops and handheld devices to wireless broadband protocols such as Bluetooth and Radiofrequency Identification (RFID) as well as a range of cultural and community movements centring on wireless networks. While these emerging technologies are of great critical and particularly business interest worldwide, there has been little cultural research and analysis accompanying their uptake in Australia. This lack of attention is notable, given the intense discussion of new wireless technologies in Europe and North America.
This ARC Cultural Research Network workshop aims to generate debate about the current and potential uses of wireless technology in Australia. It will draw together a number of speakers from academia and industry to showcase the kind of research and development taking place in relation to wireless use, with a view to understanding the Australian context in relation to international experience. Among other things, it will provide a voice for growing demands for quality wireless provision in public and private settings in this country. It does this by exploring the benefits of established cultural research methods and theories for understanding the rationales and desires behind technology design and adoption.
Genevieve Bell (Intel Corporation)
Chris Chesher (USyd)
Marcus Foth (QUT)
Gerard Goggin (USyd)
Melissa Gregg (UQ)
Katrina Jungnickel (INCITE, UK)
Speakers will offer short presentations based on their current research on wireless use in particular contexts—domestic space, neighbourhood networks and workplace environments—as well as actual mobile technologies incorporating a wireless component. These discussion papers will lead into open debate on issues involved in wireless provision, policy and practice in Australia, with a view to establishing research priorities and collaborations on wireless cultures and technologies.
We invite CRN members to register for this event by emailing both organisers, Gerard Goggin (email@example.com) and Melissa Gregg (firstname.lastname@example.org). Places are also available on a strictly limited basis for other researchers and policy, community and industry representatives. Non-CRN members are asked to email the organisers by November 13 if they wish to attend, providing details of their particular interest in wireless cultures and technologies.
1.30 pm – 2.45 pm: Panel 1 (chair: Gerard Goggin)
Genevieve Bell (Intel Corporation): ‘Life at the edges of the network: architectural, technological and social intersections of wireless in and around Australia’
Marcus Foth (QUT): ‘Using Wireless Technology and Locative Media to Digitally Augment a Society of Friendships’
Melissa Gregg (UQ): ‘Freedom to work: The impact of wireless on labour ideology’
2.45pm – 3.15pm: Afternoon tea
3.15 pm – 4.30pm: Panel 2 (chair: Melissa Gregg)
Katrina Jungnickel (Surrey, UK): ‘Hacking the home: Technological tantrums and wireless workarounds in domestic culture’
Chris Chesher (USyd): 'Joining the Mobile Milky Way: Enrolment and Translation in New Media Assemblages'
Gerard Goggin (USyd): ‘Should we imagine an Australian wireless commons!?’
4.30pm – 5.15 pm: Plenary discussion of research themes, priorities and agenda (chairs: Goggin & Gregg)
Friday, November 24, 2006
The readings included a chapter from Nick Couldry's book "Inside Culture: re-imagining the method of cultural studies" and the editorial of a volume of "Ethnicities" called "The Predicament of Difference" by Ien Ang and Brett St Louis. I got quite a lot out of the Couldry chapter but reacted negatively to his writing style. I found his writing style, or perhaps more accurately, his textual positioning, quite arrogant and defensive. On the other hand, this is the first time the concept of "cultural flows" has really made any sense to me. I felt Couldry put a lot of work into delivering his re-conceptualisation of "culture" within a historical context. He argued that the problems with certain traditional definitions of culture are just too difficult to overcome. He was primarily focusing on anthropological definitions and uses of culture in early cultural studies, particularly the idea of culture being only that which is "shared", "fixed to a place" and readable, "like a text".
So apparently we need a nice, new and shiny, flowing model instead of the old, dingy "contained" one (this reminds me of Terminator 2 and the arrival of the new, improved liquid metal "Terminator"). I appreciate that some of the issues Couldry raises about the need to look into the relationship between place and culture as not automatic and also the idea that cultures are made up as much by what we don't share as what we share, are valid and worthy research areas. What I don't see is why a new model of culture has to be installed onto the landscape of cultural studies for these questions to be pursued empirically or theoretically. Some of the other students had some similar views although some were more critical than others of Couldry's positioning in relation to cultural studies as a discipline.
The article by Ang and St Louis received a slightly less favourable response in the reading group. Again I found the writing style a bit frustrating but not as much as one of the other students. One student really disliked it. One of the points made we all found pertinent is the pervasiveness of the idea of identity politics, even when, the concept may have been done away with theoretically (at least within some circles). This reminded us all of the concept of "culture" in Couldry's reading and how it too is not something that can so easily be done away with...
The seminar presentations were great. One of the presentations was by Sandro Mezzadra, from the University of Bologna, on "Boundary Work. Shifting Configurations of Territory, Borders, Sovereignty and Citizenship in Contemporary Europe" and the other one was a presentation by Fiona Allon, Kay Anderson and Robyn Bushell entitled "Not In My Backyard!: Backpackers, Mobility and the ‘Global City’". Both presentations inspired me to pursue an area that is I'd like to explore in my thesis, that is, thinking about how notions like work/life balance pre-suppose a particular concept of place which is undermined by the contemporary experience of place, and is inadequate for explaining and articulating people's experience of work and life.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
I haven't heard back after my recent batch of letters and am taking it easy on the querulent front. I had a meeting with my supervisor late last week, and I showed her the method I'm using for filtering and extracting themes and examples from each interview. This mainly involves notetaking and grouping insights and quotes as I go. The meeting was helpful and I feel kind of reassured but still haven't resolved whether to use a qualitative research program or not. At this stage though I've decided to continue with the method I'm using since I have to listen to each interview anyway to fill in words that were missed by the transcriber. I think I might consider using NVIVO after I've completed this step, even though this means getting hold of a PC somehow.
Today, I entered the remaining observation notes from the Telco staff in Melbourne and the one session I did with a staff member at the Holiday Inn at Darling Harbour while she was working "on the road". I still have a few more observation notes to record. I've been entering the notes into the comments fields of iPhoto next to the photos I took during the observation sessions. This has the effect of creating a very film like, story-book feel to my observations. It takes ages to enter all the comments because I also recorded the sessions on a digital voice recorder so I cross reference my hand written notes with the recording while I enter the comments next to relevant stills. I still reckon my "thesis" would have made a great documentary. It might sound boring recording and photographing office workers in their daily interactions with information and communication technology but visually it is suprisingly rich and evocative.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
I've been really busy since returning from hols. CCR has a visiting student from Sweden and I've been assisting her orientation and settlement to Sydney and introducing her to CCR etc. I met her while in Sweden last year when I was on the exchange program and she was very welcoming to me during my stay. I am enjoying being able to return some of her generosity. Friday and Monday we went out to CCR together. Today she has gone out to CCR in Parramatta all on her lonesome. I hope she gets there OK! It's not exactly the most accessible Uni by public transport.
Returning to the land of "The Thesis" is challenging. I am making iddy-biddy steps towards my analysis but still seem to be wading through final collation of my material. Always in the background I'm thinking about where I'm taking this thesis. I've also got a bit stuck on whether to use a qualitative research software program or not and if I do, then which one? I've done some research and Weitzman and Miles' book "Computer Programs for Qualitative Data Analysis" is pretty helpful although woefully out of date. I can't seem to find anyone to talk to about the issues. I guess one of the biggest issues is that I have a Mac and the two main programs I've considering - Nvivo and ATLAS/ti don't have versions for the Apple Mac. I have a meeting with my supervisor this Thursday and will bring it up with her then.
Saturday, November 04, 2006
Civil Unions vow
The Greens will push for the Victorian recognition of civil unions in state parliament after the November 25 elections. Releasing the Greens' Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People (GLBTI) Policy, spokesperson Sue Pennicuik said, "This issue is not going away, because the Greens will keep it alive. We won't rest until same sex couples have equal rights." Human rights and social justice are pillars of the Greens philosophy. It is the responsibility of government to defend the dignity, humanity and rights of GLBTI people and to remove all forms of discrimination against GLBTI people, on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Find out more about the Greens GLBTI Policy.
Friday, November 03, 2006
1/ The axing corresponds to the recent introduction of anti-bias editorial policies imposed on the ABC.
2/ The axing also corresponds to recent news that the ABC will pay a new chief censor $280,000 a year to investigate and monitor instances of bias on ABC programs.
3/ The Glasshouse is one of the most popular shows on the ABC at the moment and has been rating very well.
4/The Glasshouse has received criticism from right wing commentators and government figures that it is biased.
5/ The ABC provided a non-specific reason for its axing.
6/ The Glasshouse team claimed they were not aware that the ABC had been considering its axing and the ABC provided no indication that there was a problem with the show.
7/ The ABC remained silent on the overwhelming response and outcry by the public to the news that it was being axed.
There are just too many pointers to suggest that this move by the ABC is a result of the politicisation and control of media content. To me, it is another example of a program by government to curtail and diminish whatever forums and arenas exist for criticism and scrutiny of power in this country. Or maybe they just lack a sense of humour.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Saturday, October 14, 2006
My political activism is connected to personal circumstances but is also an outcome of my awareness of the extent of discrimination that still exists against gays and lesbians (and their children) at both a State and Federal level, and my frustration with the lack of progress that has been made in this area in the last decade.
I sent a reply to the Greens and have decided to reproduce the thread in my blog. Maybe I just expect too much but I thought the response to my email reflected a cynical and politically opportunistic position by the Greens. I have removed names and made some slight modifications to protect privacy:-
Thank you for sending out the election platform document for the upcoming NSW state election. I was pleased to see such a comprehensive platform with much thought and research that has gone into it. I would like to express my disappointment, though, that I did not see any of the policy areas addressing equal rights for gays and lesbians in NSW. This is not a trifling or secondary issue and certainly one that I expected the Greens to tackle head on. There are many areas of overt discrimination at the State and, of course, the Federal level. The current NSW Labour government has a poor record on addressing entrenched discrimination against gays and lesbians. There have been numerous recommendations made to the current government to reform a raft of laws to bring equality to gay and lesbian citizens in NSW. The current Labour govt has not acted on any of these recommendations, nor made any announcement as to its position or intention for the future.
I am very disappointed that the Greens have not made equal rights for gays and lesbians in NSW a central issue for this election platform.
Hi Ms M,
Thanks for your comments. I guess at the end of the day, focusing on key issues impacting on the NSW electorate and engaging new voters is important.
I will pass on your comments to State Election Campaign. There is a Gay and Lesbian Committee/Work Group that meets regularly and feeds into the State Delegates Council, where decisions are made. Perhaps you could take this up
with them too??
All the best and look forward to connecting with you in person.
Hi Greens Officer,
Thanks for your reply and I'm happy for you to forward my email to the Gay and Lesbian Work Group. I believe that the issue of gay and lesbian equality is a key issue that impacts on the NSW electorate.
This issue is fundamentally an issue about equality for minorities and the even distribution of civil rights in the laws and policies of NSW. It is therefore generalisable as a central tenet of any democracy and one the Greens should explicitly support, particularly in the current political climate where the distribution of rights is increasingly tied to political advantage, the strength of lobby groups and access to financial backing.
Having a platform that claims to support diversity but doesn't address it directly in its policy position is not the way to win new voters or to keep existing supporters, in my view. It will merely alienate potential voters who already feel excluded from existing party platforms. I, for one, feel very unhappy about the absence of this issue in the Greens platform.
I believe there is still time to incorporate a policy position on equality for Gays and Lesbians into the Greens platform for the upcoming NSW election and request that you forward my proposal to those concerned for consideration.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Monday, October 09, 2006
The conference was very enjoyable but also a bit mixed. This probably has more to do with the disruptions to my accommodation than to the conference itself. I think there were some great papers and it was a wonderful community of researchers. I did feel that the broadness of the subject area - the "internet" - drew together such disparate approaches and topics that it felt at times that papers associated with panel themes didn't really have explicit meaningful ties. Also, I found myself wanting to have more in-depth, engaged discussions with people's work and ideas but somehow there didn't seem to be a forum for this.
The doctoral colloquium was fascinating and I really enjoyed meeting other doctoral students from around the world. I did, however, feel a bit out of place. I don't know, perhaps this is related to my subject area or my expectations. I didn't come across any one else at the conference doing related research on information technologies at work, and few from a cultural studies discipline. Being exposed to some of the social network approaches to "virtual communities" on the internet, particularly those of the U.S. students, was a real eye-opener but it's not an area or approach I have any expertise in. Overall, I found the conference immensely valuable and I hope I can go to future AOIR conferences. I commend the organisers for locating it in Australia this year as this made it possible for myself and others in this region to attend (although I recognise the location may have meant that some researchers from the northern hemisphere couldn't come this time).
Friday, October 06, 2006
As I discussed in my recent post, the current Federal government is compelled to construct an ideological struggle by accusing other people of acting ideologically. Bishop's accusations are an unconvincing attempt at trying to create an "enemy" to justify an ideologically motivated takeover of the education curriculum. To do this she draws on metaphors of war and references to the fight against communism, such as, "teachers are teaching themes which come "straight from Chairman Mao"", "ideologues have hijacked school curriculum."
It's our own special brand of McCarthyism. Must be a shortage of stories on terrorism at the moment...
Thursday, October 05, 2006
When I imagine the group of extraordinarily wealthy and powerful Australians that attended the anniversary of Quadrant on Tuesday night, all rubbing shoulders and basking in their own glory, at least a dozen little jigsaw pieces fell into place for me in terms of understanding what has happened and is continuting to happen in Australia's political and cultural landscape. As Robert Manne so eloquently pointed out, this group has been working hard and largely successfully at defining Australia in terms of an ideological struggle. But what I realized is that this idealogical struggle was to a large extent articulated long before Howard was elected around a decade ago. It dates back to the onset of the cold war in the 1950's. Writing on the history of the magazine, Cassandra Plybus notes that, "Quadrant was the brainchild of Richard Krygier, the founding secretary of the Australian branch of the Congress for Cultural Freedom which was established by the CIA in 1950 as a key element in their strategy to combat Soviet propaganda."
What is so notable to me about Howard's regime is this absolute committment to constructing an idea as well as the lived reality of Australia's nationhood in terms of a fight against an enemy, and how this stance has been fuelled. For years, the "enemy" was conceived as the Intellectual Left in Australia and in particular, any individual or group who articulated a critical view of the entrenched narratives that had become historical orthodoxy in Australia, particularly narratives of Australia's discovery, exploration and contact with Indigenous Australians. The construction of the Left as being the "enemy" of Liberals in Australia and by implication the "enemy" of liberal democratic thinking is maintained and reinforced today through a stream of finger-pointing rhetoric, cleverly "dropped" to the media, and immediately gobbled up, like so many chocolate-covered poison pellets. Howard's numerous interferences this year into Australia's education curriculum and his assertions of the curriculum being "hijacked" by political correctness and post-modern thinking is a case in point. But as Manne so succinctly summed up - ideological struggles can only maintain their momentum by convincing others of the ascendancy of an enemy. If the so called enemy is in decline, then what's the point?
I wonder if it is not too far fetched to suggest that the "discovery" of the new enemy of terrorism is a necessary move that has come about with the marginalisation of the Left in Australia and the increasing difficulting in convincing any "ordinary Australian" of its threat. The fear of terrorism fuels an entirely new (old) ideological struggle, and is the new object for Howard and his Quadrant fellows to continue to define Australia in terms of its enemies.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Without going into too much detail, a man tried to break in through my window just as I was falling off to sleep. I scared him off by yelling but the combination of the attempted break-in, giving a police statement, the motel not being able to offer me another room and finding out that the man who tried to break in was staying in the room next to me was enough for me to decide to get on out of there as quickly as possible, even though it was 2am. I rang my girlfriend while I was giving the police statement and she was able to get a booking for me at the Hilton for the rest of the night. They were kind enough to offer it to me half price. Today I spent a few hours moving to new accommodation that my girlfriend also found for me. Thank you my darling hero!
I'm now staying in an apartment in a high rise building about 7 minutes walk to the Hilton and right in the centre of town. The apartment is brand spanking new, not even the pillows had been taken out of their vacuum sealed wrapping. I'm surrounded by other high rise towers, both commerical and residential but the height off the ground (I'm on the 27th floor) is rather comforting!!
I would have like to have attended the public lecture at 6:30pm at the conference but had a driving headache and am feeling a bit sad and sorry for myself. A long bath and cup of tea and I'm starting to feel human again. It's a bit of a shame because I would have like to have caught up with some of the other attendees over a dinner but there's still the conference dinner tomorrow night.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
The trees that council planted a little while back are all doing very well. The residents express their pleasure to me when I bump into them on the street. One of the trees has died but I think it was sick when the planted it. The next street activity that I know about is a street wide garage sale that I believe is in the wings for early November. We've been talking about this off and on for about three years and finally it's to happen, perhaps. I hope everyone participates. It will be huge.
Monday, September 11, 2006
A Paper for the AOIR 7.0 Conference
I'm writing this paper using Google's recently acquired Writely, a web word processor. It hasn't crashed yet which is reassuring since Writely is still a Beta version. I'm encouraged to report bugs to the developers by clicking on the "Report a bug" link conveniently located top right of screen right next to the Writely logo. I can see the program design prioritises collaboration features. Five tabs at the top of the screen invite me to Edit, Collaborate, Publish, Blog and make Revisions in that order. To collaborate, I can email others to join me in editing this document. I can make this paper public at the click of a button. Oops I just did that. I wonder how I can reverse it. I'm not sure I'm quite ready to make this document public.
There's a buzz associated with knowing these words are a mere click away from disseminating to a host of destinations but I also feel removed from my desktop environment, and vaguely uneasy, as if the 'page' I'm working on is not really part of my work space and might disappear at any moment. I've been using MS Word since 1990 and despite its many flaws, it's become the main medium through which I write, work and to some degree, think. MS Word is so ubiquitous and pervasive that I don't think of it as a separate program on my computer. It's so much part of the desktop environment that it seems inseparable from the graphic user interface itself. I find it hard to imagine feeling comfortable replacing it with Google's Writely. On the other hand, perhaps it's just a matter of use. Given enough time and practice, I could adapt to this new way of doing things. If it is well-designed and presents enough benefits, then I could overcome my initial resistance and learning curve. At least, that is Jef Raskin's theory. According to Raskin, originator of the Macintosh, and author of The Human Interface,
"When we set about learning any interface feature that is new to us, we proceed in two phases, the first of which gradually grades into the second. In the first, or learning, phase we are actively aware of the new feature, and seek to understand and master it. If that feature is well–designed, and if we use it repeatedly, we eventually enter the desirable second, or automatic, phase, in which we have formed a habit, and use the feature habitually, without thought or conscious effort.”
This process sounds straight forward, but I'm left with a few questions. Firstly, does moving from Word on the desktop to Word on the web really only involve learning a new set of interface features? Word processors are integrally connected to the entire graphic user interface of my computer. The desktop, the organisation of files in folders and the creation of documents by word processors all work together to form a coherent working environment for the production and ordering of complex information.
In terms of the historical development of the personal computer (PC), the development of word processing and PC's is intimately linked. Word processing was one of the first software programs ever designed for the personal computer. With the release of Macwrite on the Apple Macintosh in 1983, and Microsoft Word on the IBM PC in 1984, software versions of word processing soon replaced the dedicated word processor used before PC's became widely available. One might ask how useful a personal computer would be without a word processor?
Ensuring the successful take up from Word on the desktop to Word on the Web seems to me to be more than a matter of mastering a new set of features and incorporating them into my daily routine. To my mind, there is the much broader question of how does a web service such as Writely integrate and work with my overall working environment, as well as the actual practices involved in using the software. I'd go further to say that this working environment is not limited to the computing environment but extends into the social and built spaces of everyday life. Just as sites like the office, home and school are transformed by the incorporation of new technological objects, the development paths of the desktop computer and the word processor are connected to how they fit or don’t fit into these domains.
Building on Raskin’s theory of “learning” and then “automating”, I suggest that technology transfer is more than a matter of mastering a new set of features and incorporating this into my daily routine. It involves at least two other interlocking processes or paths. A model that incorporates all three processes might look something like this:
1/ functionality and design benefits followed by mastering and habituation
2 /overall coherence into a unifying “space” or environment
3/ integration of this environment into their social and physical contexts
These paths are reinforced over time through spatial practices and can be challenged and re-negotiated at any point.
This brings me to the second question I have when considering a transition from Word for the desktop to a web based Word processor such as Writely. Is it, in fact, Google's aim to get users to replace Microsoft Word on the desktop with a web word processor? I'm not a Google insider, so I can only conjecture on recent developments. Certainly, there are a number of indicators to suggest such a trend. Some industry commentators talk about the "web office" and speculate on who's building it, pointing to a range of contenders such as Thinkfree, JotSpot, AdventNet, Silveroffice and 37 Signals. Google, in particular, attracts attention because it is considered to be large enough to gather all the necessary building blocks together to produce something that would rival the offerings of Microsoft Office (references). These commentators point to the recent acquisition of Writely, the release of Google Spreadsheet and Google Calendar and the now established Gmail as being the potential parts of this greater something, a "WebOffice suite". Other industry commentators point to the recent partnership between Google and Sun Microsystems to bring Sun's StarOffice to Google users as another indicator that Google intends to take on Microsoft Word.
There is also Google Apps for Your Domain, a package of programs (email, instant messaging and calendar) that go together with a hosted web site and domain. Microsoft has released its own parallel service OfficeLive offering a comparable array of services. Both bundle a set of communication and collaboration tools together with web and domain hosting and offer it free (at least while in Beta phase) to businesses and organisations, thereby anchoring the online identity of their customers businesses with the critical communication services required for their daily operation.
It's hard to make sense of all of these developments and harder still to make conclusions about what will happen in the future but I'd like to take a speculative position to see if there is some broader trend that can be recognised.
All these recent developments seem to intersect and condense in and around the idea of "the office" and ultimately where this space is located. The meaning of "office" is far from clear. There is no set of defined features or ideas that constitute "the office". Google seems to specifically steer away from using the term, possibly due to its powerful associations with the Microsoft brand. Microsoft first adopted the term in the early 1990's with the release of a new product that combined a number of applications that had previously been marketed and sold separately such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Office bundles, or ‘productivity suites’, as they are referred to by the industry, now also include email and publishing programs.
Although the term “office” is used in a range of ways to describe a number of different technologies, what unites them is the use of the term “office” as a combining metaphor, one that integrates and contains otherwise heterogeneous information and communication functions and activities into a coherent whole. The desktop GUI and office productivity suites together draw on the combining metaphor of “the office” to create a unified work environment. Moreover, this computing work environment “mirrors” or “echoes”, in critical ways, the social and physical context of work and is integrated into it, a folding of one environment into another.
Since the early 1990’s, the association between personal computing in a desktop environment with office productivity suites has been strengthened. In part, this tight coupling is due to the dominance of Microsoft, by far the largest supplier of office productivity suites. Their practical monopoly reinforces the association and also impacts greatly on development, ensuring that the personal desktop environment and Microsoft office both develop in a mutual direction, a classic example of path-dependence. However, in my view, the tight coupling has also to do with the creation of a coherent computing work environment through the use of the office metaphor.
While the desktop environment has proven to be a robust and lasting model, the tight coupling of office suites with the personal desktop computer is potentially destabilized with the emergence of web office suites. Web-based office suites re-situate the space of office activities from the desktop computer environment to a web-based environment, facilitating collaboration and communication in a way that the desktop environment does not. Some commentators argue that the desktop paradigm is challenged by new modes and “flows” of work where collaboration and communication tools become critical; “The Internet, intranets, and email transformed workflows. Globalization and outsourcing dispersed people to satellite offices and partner companies. Collaboration tools became critical” (RedHerring Research).
The idea of the “web office” is not fundamentally new. It references and builds on earlier instantiations and imaginations of it embodied in “the electronic office” or “virtual office”. What I see as significantly different about the current raft of web office suites is the development of web technologies, specifically interactive web applications, to support a total working environment that can perform a similar role to that of personal computers.
In terms of moving users from office suites on the desktop to using them on the web, industry commentators and human interface experts suggest that it is just a matter of getting the right combination of components and the right design. However, in my view, the issue of creating a “unified work environment” and folding this into the social and physical contexts of use is a significant factor that most commentators ignore. Web office suites are bound to personal computers because PC’s make up the environment in which web office suites will be used and are, at present, the main access point for the Web. In some industry circles, this might be described, rather disdainfully, as its legacy. But “the legacy of a new technology” is not just some set of outdated functions or features that one “gets over” in the process of adopting a new set of features or functions. Legacies shape the environment in which a technology emerges and don’t simply disappear with the emergence of something new. Waste, is one of the ways in which modernity deals with its legacy technologies. A technology that is converted to waste can “disappear” and be replaced with a new technology, a process that very much describes our current “upgrade culture”. However, the process of turning something into waste, particular if it involves 400 million Microsoft Office users, is a time-consuming business.
In my view, companies like Google and Microsoft recognise that the future of web office suites are bound to personal computers and that any technology transfer strategy involves more than an upgrade approach. Their approach is to work towards a hybridization of the desktop operating system with a web-based service model. Some indicators of this strategy include the recently released Google desktop, a desktop search application that allows a user to search their own computer as well as the web thereby integrating web and desktop searches. Another indicator of this hybridization is the distribution deal with Dell to pre-install Web and desktop search software on all Dell computers (Zdnet) and the August deal with Real Networks to bundle Google Toolbar and the latest Firefox browser to every download of RealPlayer’s multimedia player.
Microsoft is often criticized for being tardy with moving Office online, critics arguing that Microsoft has been feasting on its existing desktop monopoly (Red Herring). However, another way of viewing Microsoft’s strategy is to examine the logic behind their OfficeLive suite, which is directed towards building on existing installations of Microsoft Office, not replacing them. Microsoft promotes this on their OfficeLive website when they write, “these Web-based applications can be customized to automate your daily tasks — they even integrate with popular and familiar Microsoft products such as Microsoft Office Outlook, Excel, and Word.” (OfficeLive website).
In conclusion, current trends suggest that there is a potential destabilization of the tight coupling that has existed for over 15 years between the desktop environment and office suites. Web office suites can offer, arguably for the first time, a similar level of functionality to desktop versions with the improvements that have come about to interactive web applications. Additionally, web office suites offer many benefits over their desktop equivalents in terms of supporting collaboration and communication. However, while many industry commentators and HCI experts contend that its just a matter of getting the right blend of components and design and replacing the desktop model with web based office suites, my view is that the greater challenge is the drawing together of all the heterogeneous information and communication functions and activities into a coherent system and the integration of this system into existing social and physical contexts. The battle over the office, if we are to use such characterizations, is not a battle being played out between Microsoft representing the side of the offline desktop model and Google representing the side of the online web-based model. Both “sides” are working towards the convergence of the desktop with the web. The battle is over who shapes this hybrid operating system of the future and how it’s folded into the world.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
"In crossing a heath, suppose I pitched my foot against a stone, and were asked how the stone came to be there; I might possibly answer, that, for anything I knew to the contrary, it had lain there for ever; nor would it perhaps be very easy to show the absurdity of this answer. But suppose I had found a watch upon the ground, and it should be inquired how the watch happened to be in that place; I should hardly think of the answer which I had before given, that for anything I knew, the watch might have always been there."
A quick look at wikipedia suggests this teleological line of reasoning went back much further in a Western tradition to Greek philosophers and was reiterated in the 13th century by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae.
The Paley quote is carefully selected by Dawkins who goes on to say in the introduction of his book "The Blind Watchmaker", "Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind. It has no mind and no mind's eye. It does not plan for the future. It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker."
I'm going to try to make some headway on my paper for the AOIR conference. The title of the paper is "Why Google wants your desktop". The problem is I'm not completely sure that what I had in mind when I wrote the abstract is something that I want to write about now but I'm going to try to draft an outline of the paper prontisimo...
Friday, September 01, 2006
I'm considering doing one more class for the "Culture and Technology" program. I don't feel that I have to but if I hear the Uni hasn't found anyone by Monday I'll think about doing this Wednesday's class on Intimate Machines 2. This would mean the Uni need only cover one lecture and if the class is cancelled for the following Wednesday then the students only miss out on one class. I must admit, I was shocked to discover that the Program Director has gone overseas and forwarded the coordination on to an Acting Program Director. I didn't even know he was going overseas and then received an auto-reply to an email this morning asking if he'd had any success finding someone to take the classes.
It's a gorgeous Sydney Spring day. The jasmine is out and the wind is warm. I'm excited about doing some work on the house. We finally got our development application in just over a week ago. The work we are proposing is pretty minor compared to most renovations. I'm hoping we don't have difficulties finding a builder that's prepared to do a small job. It's certainly not the "gut and smeg" that you commonly see done on inner city terraces - but it does involve demolishing the kitchen and bathroom.
Monday, August 28, 2006
The readings for this week are Heidegger's, "The Question Concerning Technology" and Paul Virilio's "The Information Bomb". I was hoping to get on to looking at some more recent theories of technology and society like social constructivism/social shaping. I think there is too much weight on the substantive theory. However, the case study of the smart card that I introduced last week stimulated many interesting questions, not least, the notion that the smart card is not necessarily something that is pre-determined and inevitable. This leads directly to a consideration of the social constuctivist aspect of technology. Perhaps I'll start off with this in my lecture tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
I finally managed to send off my 8 page summary to the AOIR conference organisers for the Doctoral Colloquium. My understanding is that these will be distributed to the other students participating in the Colloquium. I really need to start drafting the paper for the conference.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
My initial motivation for participating in the AOIR conference probably comes down to my search for a community of academics doing likeminded research, something in the field of social research of technology and technology use. However, I'm not sure there are any networks/communities that are a perfect fit. This conference primarily attracts researchers doing projects on the Internet. My supervisor did say to me that she felt that the AOIR crowd defined this pretty loosely but I still feel that my research is a bit peripheral to this field's self-defined parameters. I'm on the AOIR mailing list and from the posts, I have not discerned any researchers who are interested in the field of technology and work. The use of catch terms like the Internet, CMC, CSCW and SST by communities of academics can be very confusing. These terms are significant key terms drawing together many of these researchers into coherent networks and are often fiercely defended and yet they don't stand up to very much scrutiny or hold the same meanings outside the ongoing circuits of academics attending conferences around the world.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
I'm really happy with the material generated so far. The 2 returned diaries are packed full of interesting snippets and details. I'm impressed with how much thought has gone into them. Yesterday I picked up a book at Gleebooks, "Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes". Not that I have any shortage of data but I feel that there are many interesting observations in and around the actual contact that I have with participants that can add to my overall data. I've been a bit ad hoc though with my method of notation and felt that a more systematic approach could really assist me. What I like about this book is that it touches on some of the theory behind writing as part of the ethnographic process but is very practical in its orientation.
Qwerty is back and getting stronger every day. She's also hungry as a wolf and gives me those starving eyes all day long. Her appetite is greatly increased by the medication she is on for her autoimmune condition. Oh woah is me, it is difficult to resist them.
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
This did put a bit of a spoke in the field work but not a major one. I had to reschedule a few interviews but I've completed six so far and have another four arranged for this week. I've had a few more recruits come through from the Council and I rearranged my trip down to Melbourne for August 10th. This is probably a better time anyway since I'll be a good way through my Council field work by then.
Friday, June 23, 2006
Since returning from Melbourne I worked on the design of the office technology diary and got good feedback from a range of people. I tested it on Sarah for a week and am only disappointed that I can't include her diary in the overall research.
Over last weekend I revisited the interview questions I drafted for my ethics application way back in August last year. I did some reworking of the structure and wording of the questions and started interviewing the staff from my Sydney based organisation this week. I've conducted three interviews so far and I feel that they are going very well. Of course the process raises all sorts of new questions and there's alot to do negotiating the field work process, alot more than I anticipated. I'm very excited to finally be in the field.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
I've received four consent forms from participants at the council who indicated their interest in being involved in the research. I need to follow up on some of the others who haven't sent their consent forms back. This part of finalising the participants and scheduling the fieldwork is really fiddly and takes much longer than you expect. I'm hoping to go down to Melbourne in the next week or two just for the day to visit the Business Development Unit of the Telco. I'm really looking forward to that.
I'm still dreaming about a delicious apple crumble that a friend made for Sal and myself on Saturday night. Mmmmm.....
Monday, May 22, 2006
Back to the paper...
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
In the meantime I've been working on the design of the interview and technology diary to be handed out to all the participants. The technology diary is proving to be quite challenging to conceptualise but I do have a template to refer to that is quite a good fit - one of my supervisor's everyday water diaries. Today I have been doing a bit of brainstorming on what it is that I hope the technology diaries will reveal about everyday use of information and communication technology in the office and then break them into themes and exercises that can act as guides for the diary users. I thought I'd try it out on a couple of friends in draft form to see how I can improve it.
Friday, April 21, 2006
There was a strong, united and articulate response from most educators dismissing Howard's claims as "out of touch" and "simplistic". His comments came across as so ignorant and uninformed they blew in and out of the daily press without gaining much traction.
Howard is lashing out at what he believes to be an easy target - the imagined leftist educators that are out to teach critical thinking. He throws around terms like "political correctness" and "post-modernism" with no understanding of the complexity or history of their meaning but simply as a trigger for conservatives and uninformed members of the public.
It is a tired and see-through tactic that he uses whenever he wants to distract attention away from criticism of the actions of his own government and towards some invented social problem.
Despite knowing this, it is hard to know exactly how to react to these inane statements. Yes, they are tactics of distraction and getting heated up about it means accepting the bait. On the other hand, simply dismissing his statements and moving on seems to somehow give validity to the increasing tendency, not just tendency but official strategy, to identify and frame certain sectors of society as "enemies of the state". It is a finger-pointing exercise and I fear that every instance adds to the environment of fear and hatred that this government relies on to remain in power and to invoke its conservative agenda. I do fear. I fear the consequences.
In the same Age article, John Frow, the head of Melbourne University's English Department, makes the point that Howard is waging a cultural war against a phantom enemy; "This is polemics. This is part of some phantom war he (Mr Howard) is waging against an imaginary enemy". But while his enemies are imaginary, it is this exact lack of definition and clarity that enables and facilitates persecution of others. The others may be vague and shadowy forms that hover under the signs of "political correctness" and "post-modernism" today but become very real figures when the hatred hardens from symbolic to physical actions directed at human lives.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Monday, April 03, 2006
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Meanwhile I've been feeling a bit under the weather. I'm not sure if it is hayfever or a cold but for about a week or two I've been feeling very tired, sore muscles, itchy nose, sore dry eyes, congestion, swollen tongue. The confusing thing is I never had hayfever as a kid but I've heard that you can develop it as an adult. The last few years I seem to get bouts of this and I'm wondering if I am now affected by some pollen that comes out at particular times of the year. I thought I might go up to the chemist and get some antihistamine.
The recruitment for my PhD research has been going pretty well I think although my supervisor was right to warn me that it would take longer than I expected. I'm feeling less worried though. It was hard not to panic when there didn't seem to be any possible subjects for my research on the horizon. I learnt alot in a very short time about how to pitch my project to get organisations interested. Recently, I had a very positive meeting with a finance company located in central Sydney that has just moved offices. I also had a very exciting discussion with a manager at a large global Telco. When I explained the kind of organisation I was interested in, they suggested that they may make a good case study. When I found out more about this particular unit I became very excited. They have been testing a new mobile phone solution in their own office for about a year now that has been designed specifically as a kind of alternative to Blackberries. The solution has email, synchronises with outlook and enables access to the office network remotely. Using what the manager called "decked phones", they use the same mobile handsets once they come into the office as the internal phones. This particular set up has not been rolled out to many other organisations yet and is still in testing phase but could represent a very good case for my "emerging office" study.
Monday, March 13, 2006
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Here is the abstract I submitted. The topic is on Internet convergence. Any comments would of course be appreciated.
Why Google wants your desktop
Internet search engine company Google recently announced Google desktop, bringing the now familiar browser search engine to users desktops. Desktop platform companies such as Microsoft and Apple have Internet strategies such as .Net, a Windows environment for developing Internet services and .Mac, an integrated Desktop/Internet hosting site offered by Apple.
This paper proposes that the Internet did not develop in isolation but in a process of dynamic and dialectical engagement with other domains of convergence such as the office and the home. Domains such as the office, the home and the Internet operate as sites of convergence that mutually shape each other.
The paper looks at some past and current examples of technological convergence focusing on how the Internet and the office have co-evolved. Drawing on some recent works in the philosophy of container technologies, this paper also develops a notion of convergence that takes into account the environmental context as a force that helps to shape and order entities they contain by bringing them into contact in particular ways.
Monday, February 20, 2006
On the recruitment front for my PhD research, I received a positive phone call from the Head of IT of a Sydney council I met the other day. He asked me if I will make a presentation to all the Council Managers in three weeks time to try to gain their support for my project and let them know what is involved. I'm very nervous about this but it's a positive development.
I attended a very inspiring seminar series last Thursday put on by CCR, the research centre where I'm studying my PhD. It was titled "Container Technologies" and involved eleven presenters giving five minute summaries of the papers that will make up an anthology of recent works on the topic. I really enjoyed the presentations and it stimulated my thinking on ways of approaching a broad topic such as human-technology relations and how an approach like this might/could inform my project on office technologies and the development of the modern office.
My querelent tendencies have been in full throttle since the beginning of the year and I've made a note to myself to go easy on the various campaigns I've got going for fear they will consume all my time. My recent letter to my local MP Carmel Tebbutt on same sex relationships and children was forwarded by Ms Tebbutt to the Minister for Community Services and the Attorney-General's office for comment. I have received replies from both Departments forwarded to me by Carmel stating that a detailed response will be provided shortly in response to the issues I have raised. I feel quite buoyed by the outcome since I didn't really expect my letter to go any further than Carmel's desk.
My campaign to replace the four lost gums on our street with similar trees has resulted in a street petition and I have received a very good response from my neighbours with almost all of them signing in support of the campaign. I'm sure I am going to be added to some Labour register of troublesome civilians/querelents/swinging voters/lesbians/activists/tree huggers.