Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Attending this workshop on Friday

Wireless Cultures and Technologies Workshop

Convened by Dr Gerard Goggin (USyd) and Dr Melissa Gregg (UQ)
The University of Sydney
Friday 1 December, 1.30-5pm

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.

Confirmed speakers

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 (gerard.goggin@arts.usyd.edu.au) and Melissa Gregg (m.gregg@uq.edu.au). 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.

Draft program

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

Jo Tacchi and Benjamin Grubb (QUT)

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

Seminar and Reading Group

Yesterday I attended a postgraduate reading group at CCR in the morning and two seminar presentations put on by the centre in the afternoon.

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

hot day at home

It's muggy and hazy today. Working from home with the still air and the dozing pets makes me feel sleepy. I worry about the bushfires in the Blue Mountains nearby and the damage they are causing to wildlife habitats. I'm also concerned about my sister and her family. She recently moved up to the mountains. I know she is not in an area that is currently in danger but the idea of her up there does make me feel anxious. It is becoming more and more commonplace to expect that each summer there will be severe bushfires in the Blue Mountains where in the past, these were much less frequent. Is it to do with global warming or more development on the urban fringe? A complex interaction of these and other factors to be sure. Each year, there is a sense of looming danger as the hot days of December approach. I spoke to my sister the other day and she has tried to empty all her gutters of leaves. Some areas she couldn't reach because her roof is too high and she would have had to climb up onto the roof. I wonder how it is expected that elderly people do this sort of fire preparation.

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

Querulent tendencies

I know I have querulent tendencies, but it's getting worse. If I didn't put the brakes on it I'd probably be a full time letter writer. It's disturbing. I guess it's a way to direct my frustration and to express my thoughts on things (and yes, maybe to procrastinate, a bit). Sometimes my letters are attempts to feel a little less powerless in the face of seemingly impenetrable bureaucratic structures and policies. Sometimes I genuinely aim for change. Over the years I have learnt that writing a positive and polite letter instead of the one you'd really like to write (the one full of expletives) is actually a lot more effective. I know this is rather obvious but to a Querulent it is very challenging to write a nice letter. Yesterday I wrote two letters. One to try and get a speeding fine waived. The other one was to try to get a denial of a request to waiver a late fee reviewed. Both are probably futile. In the case of the second letter, apparently I have now exhausted my last "appeal". What does this mean? That all future letters I write in response to their "form" letter replies are put in the trash? Maybe I am banned from writing letters or will receive a penalty notice for letter writing. Sometimes I wonder, when I write, if my letter is read by anybody. Some replies I've received to my carefully crafted letters are so irrelevant and obscure that I'm pretty sure they are computer generated. Maybe they were opened by a person. I can only hope.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Blogger upgrade, Swedish PhD students and Return to "The Thesis"

I just upgraded my blog through blogger. I haven't fully explored the new features but at this stage they seem relatively minimal. I notice there is now an easy way to add labels at the bottom of this post and the template seems to be easier to customise, although knowledge of html and css is still required for any substantial changes.

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

More on NSW Greens

Why do the NSW Greens remain completely silent on the issue of same sex civil unions and discrimination against gays and lesbians and their families in the lead up to the NSW election while the Victorian Greens have come out strongly in favour of recognition of civil unions in their state election platform (as seen below)? I've just sent another email to NSW Greens asking them to explain.

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

Glasshouse axed - not funny

I had a fabulous holiday and I'm finding it difficult to shift from tropics to thesis mode. I was also disappointed to come back to discover the ABC comedy show, The Glasshouse, has been axed. The GlassHouse is a comedy show run on the national broadcaster which regularly satirises political and other figures in power. I'm a regular viewer of the program. Many believe the axing of the program by the ABC is politically motivated. There are a number of indicators that confirm this stance:

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.
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.