Sunday, 29 November 2015

Week 12: Collage: An Art-Inspired Methodology for Studying Laughter in World Politics

 This blog post is a word collage of thoughts I had while reading Saara Sarma’s article!

World events cross the Internet at astonishing speed, through Social Media and blog posts and collaging is a way of collating and making sense of it all.


·      Makes international participation possible for all or most of us
·      Is playful
·      Visual
·      Thematic
·      Theoretical
·      Pop Art
·      Enables creativity
·      Allows for a humourous and light-hearted approach to research material
·      De-hierarchises (is this really a word, or did she make it up?)
·      Is thinking beyond language
·      Changes the relationship of writer and reader by involving the reader than merely informing him/her

We sometimes see politics or political events on the internet first as a parody, then with some searching or news feeds, the reality is explained. Laughter makes the seriousness of the situation(s) more palatable and more easily tolerated. On the other hand, laughter can be both inclusive and exclusive because it necessitates laughing with and laughing at.

“Collaging as a methodology creatively engages with the internet as a specific modality of knowledge production.” (p. 115)

More key points that I took from this reading:

-       the visual technique of collage-making emphasizes the intuitive parts of sense-making processes
-       collages can maintain a sense of playfulness to sense making and scholarly work
-       collaging produces laughter – an under-examination of the facts
-       collaging is aesthetic and conceptual
-       collaging emphasizes certain aspects of the research while indicating new ideas
-       collaging promotes thinking beyond language
-       collages produce pop culture artefacts while studying them
-       collages can serve as a vehicle for further thinking

This is one of Saara Sarma's Dissertations Collages, entitled: Gluttonous Kim. The irreverence and humour is evident and makes me want to learn more about what is actually behind the images and the caustic comments.
On a personal level, this article resonated with me because I quite often employ the collage as a means of collating and sharing information with others. My mind works in a thematic way when I create collages – I force connections through the selection of the images. They are my connections and to be honest, it never occurred to me that others might not choose the same images, given the same destination. I wondered as I read the last part of the article if Sarma gets permission to use her Google search images, particularly in light of this article by Alice Keeler:

In closing, collaging is an accessible method of research and meaning-making because it doesn’t require artistic skills (in the traditional sense) and it is visual, thematic, can be theoretical and is informative

Saara Särmä. “Collage: An Art-inspired Methodology for Studying Laughter in World Politics.” Caso and Hamilton, Eds. pp. 110-119. 

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Open Letter to the Bully

Dear Bully:

Yes, it’s been years, actually - decades, since you had the power to humiliate me and make me feel inferior. I’m not sure why you felt the need ….well, now I think I know, but back then, I didn’t. All I knew then was that no matter what I did to try to ‘please’ you, I would end up feeling horrible. I would cry. I would think up ways to not be your target. I gave you my best snacks/lunch – both when you demanded them and even when you didn’t, because it would look like a favour I was able to bestow, which gave ME that good feeling you get when you do something nice for someone. In reality, I was trying to buy your good graces. I did whatever you wanted me to do, in order to not be insulted and made fun of, even if it went against my values, because I felt that was the only way to survive. It rarely worked. I was selling my soul to the devil – I couldn’t have termed it that way then, but I had that understanding. Most of this happened in elementary school. When we went to high school, you tried to do it there too, but – there was a much bigger population and I found my niche and it didn’t include you, so I was able to dodge your bullets. But ohhh- you tried – over and over again. And since, we’ve grown up and made lives for ourselves. And – you are an employee of my school board now – not as a teacher, but in another capacity. And I’ve run into you a few times in the past 20-some-odd years, most recently yesterday at our PA day. And I really wonder if you remember what you did. I really wonder if you feel the same way now about yourself? About me? I have forgiven you, but I have not forgotten -  and for me, you will always carry that aura of a not-so-nice-person.

I write this as something of a catharsis and as a thought-provoker for anyone reading – how do YOU want to be remembered? Is there an apology you need to speak? It is never too late to say sorry, I messed up. On the other side – does someone need to know s/he hurt you so that s/he can apologize? Life, as we all know, is short!

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Week 10: Mirrors

            De Castelle’s (2012) chapter in the course text comes off as a soapbox rant. She covers a brief history of gamer-designed avatars and user interactions (as avatars) in virtual worlds. Her chapter discusses “troubling issues of agency and accountability in the design and use of these environments”. I think she is suggestion that as people redesign and reconfigure themselves as players or participants in virtual environment that have no policing or laws, they are in danger of losing or adversely altering their sense of global citizenship. And that this will translate to their “real” lives – the abandonment of civility and global empathy. She states: “the virtual transforms the real, materially, politically, not just semantically.” (p. 213)

            I would counter that these virtual worlds allow people to escape their reality for a time. Similar to costume parties, Halloween and dressing up play from Kindergarten days. People have often found the escapism of being someone else, attractive for the respite it gives from every day worries.

            De Castelle points out that being proficient in a game gives one credibility in discussing gamer research – which makes sense. Being a king or super-warrior in a game and then devising a country’s defense strategy because of that experience and designation, well THAT would be a problem!

            The author poses the following question: “Where are the ethics of social and indeed educational technologies?” (p. 218). She claims that there is extensive silent complicity in online and virtual world technologies. And this, then, is why we have the need for explicit and specific teaching of digital citizenship. So that we can counter the impact of unaccounted-for and unaccountable design in these virtual worlds that threaten to overtake one’s good sense and judgement.

            It seems to me that the affordances of the vastness of the virtual worlds have highlighted for us the dark corners of the real world and therefore, somewhat conversely, can be used to sweep them clean.

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Sunday, 1 November 2015

Week 8: Social Justice and DIY Citizenship

             I found the readings this week to be very interesting and engaging. The topics were relevant and touched on thought-provoking concepts. The article by Fields, Magnifico, Lammers and Curwood (2014) also highlighted some excellent web resources that I want to share with colleagues and students.

            In Rose’s chapter, she effectively outlines how ‘documentary’ is or can be a form of DIY Citizenship. “The idea of the documentary subjects becoming agents in the making process is such a phenomenon.” (p. 201). The phenomenon to which she refers here is personal testimonies and witness accounts by the key subjects in the documentary. I was immediately reminded of Humans of New York ( where regular guy, turned social anthropologist, Brandon Stanton shares snapshots – both pictorially and through words – of people in the world. His work/hobby has allowed for extensive exposure of peoples’ plights and accomplishment with the results of heightened awareness and even of aid and assistance from decent citizens everywhere. This Fall, Stanton released his second hard cover book of some of his most poignant stories.

            Rose goes on to outline the history of televised documentary and the evolution of it towards a participatory, collaborative concept. This framework of collaboration has birthed the phrase of “Do-It-With-Others”. Collaboration is a key concept we are trying to instill, explicitly, in our TLLP project classes. I can envision using the documentary form in order to promote social justice and citizenship among the students in the grades 10 and 12 English classes and the grade 9 Geography class.

            I read DIY Media Creation (Fields et al., 2014) with increasing interest and explored the two collaborative sites highlighted in the article. is a very intriguing repository of youth writing. I’m sharing it with my colleague and it makes me wish we offered the Writer’s Craft course at our school.

            The Scratch site looks pretty amazing also – especially if one is involved in coding projects. I like how it allows users to be part of a bigger community – where all are passionate about the same thing. There’s a lot of opportunity for feedback on this site. This would be embraced by some of my students who are somewhat marginalized by their intense coding/programming interests. What I mean by this, is that they are so into coding, that they have a hard time relating to others who are not. I would need some coders to check out this site for me because I’m wondering if students could use it to create presentations?

            Of the four digital tools recommended at the end of the article, I am familiar with only one – Padlet – which I have used with classes in the past two weeks. I intend to check out the other three in the near future.


Fields, D. A., Magnifico, A. M., Lammers, J. C., & Curwood, J. S. (2014). DIY Media Creation. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 58(1), 19-24.
Rose, M. (2014). Making publics: Documentary as do-it-with-others-citizenship. In Ratto, M., Boler, M., & Deibert, R. (Ed.) DIY citizenship: Critical making and social media. (pp. 201- 212). MIT Press.