Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas=Charity=Food Politics

This short video about school food for Africa by Joe Blanks (presenter/producer) and Greg McKinney (editor) won the BBC Newsnight's 'Oh My Newsnight' competition. Nice one!


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What’s up Doc?

I have received the official letter from the University of Bedfordshire telling me I have been awarded my PhD. I guess I ought to be in an ecstatic, celebratory mood. However, far from dancing in the aisles as Dr Feelgood I find myself somewhat closer to Dr Strangelove. If I am absolutely honest, it has all gone a bit armageddon in my head at present.

This is not to say that I did not enjoy some of the experience. There were certainly some high moments. Papers that went well, chance meetings with like-minded poets and artists, the unlooked for gifts of help and advice from friends and colleagues, and the opportunity to be involved in my small way in the great digital revolution (I think of myself as being like one of that flock of sheep who looked on as the small lambs were taken off to see the baby Jesus). However, it has taken a toll; on me and on the many people who have helped me get to this place in time.

Five years is a long time to be doing anything (I wrote my first preliminary notes for my first project a few days before 9/11). It is definitely too long to be doing a PhD. Worst still, it feels like I have been riding a merry-go-round for most of that time (a fun experience to start with and then an unwarranted blur). This was partly due to the fact that I picked a remarkably exciting time to studying computer-mediated textual art. Each week brought a new book to read; a new work to engage with; a new technology; a new subject area. However, it was also because of a number of unplanned changes in my institution, department and supervision team. These changes had the positive effect of introducing me to many new perspectives, introducing a lot of serendipity into my thinking. The final team of Dr Adrian Page (from London Met), Prof Garry Whannel and Prof Alexis Weedon proved to be a winning formula. However, these constant shiftings also required me to adjust my thinking mid-thought, to hold my creative urges dammed-up for years at a time, to find funds and employment in all sorts of strange and exciting places and to justify, justify, justify myself (to myself more than to anyone else) …and that dear reader can be very wearing. It required me to work more analytically and more methodically than I thought possible.

I guess, in the end, doing a PhD proved to be the ultimate experience of betwixt and between. I really am neither here nor there at present. I am hoping that some time in the future that I will arrive at a sense of feeling pleased (proud/bearably pompous) to hold such an esteemed qualification. However, just at the moment I am glad that it has finally stopped.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lists on Library Thing

Last week, I became aware of a need for a simple online tool for cataloging and referencing the books I am using in my research project at the University of Bedfordshire. In one post on my 'Writing(s): not for WIMPS' blog, for example, I wanted to make a couple of links to books I had been reading. It would have been nice just to have knocked up a list page on my website but to be honest I don't have the time. However instead, I found myself re-directing readers to the relevant page. This was expedient because it provides anyone who interested with lots of information. However, I am worried about using a large commercial organization as a library and index. I am particularly worried about using Amazon as a one-stop reference and shop because this hands a huge amount of power on a plate to a commercial giant. My position might seem paradoxical considering the somewhat positive tone of my last post about the long tail and print-on-demand. However, it is the very power of print-on-demand in tandem with the potential monopoly of the amazon database (and their position in private hands) that suggests that alternatives should be found whenever one is available. I have looked at other services in the past, delicious monster , for example, allows users to catalogue resources. I have to say that I never really got on with this service. However, another option has recently come to my attention which looks like it could be bent to do the job that I require.

Library Thing, is a web application a bit like the social bookmarking site which allows you to record and share details of your book collection. On the site, it claims that it works by searching Amazon, the Library of Congress and 60 other world libraries to find your book which minimizes the data that you have to enter by hand. It also has the usual 'social' software features such as tagging, recommendations, importing and exporting, limited access to the API etc. It also works on a now-familiar business model. You can enter 200 books for free, as many as you like for $10 (year) or $25 (life) which is rather like the 'free' basic and 'paid' professional model used by flickr.

I have added the books I referenced in my post over on the
'Writing(s): not for WIMPS' blog and they can now be seen in all their glory at Digital Art by Christiane Paul and Digital Currents by Margot Lovejoy. I am also keen to make a list of the other books I have been reading this year. This will make a nice complement to the URL lists (about things such as RFIDs and surveillance) that I am building up on but accessing via a URL from the links on the right hand side of Writing(s): not for WIMPS' blog. Now all I have to do is understand how to get the information out of the API in the order I want it and I will be laughing...