Thursday, March 31, 2005

Online gamer charged with killing competitor

A 41 year old man from China has stabbed and killed a another man over an incident related to an online game. One fellow lent a 'virtual weapon' to his 'friend' and then the friend sold the weapon to another gamer. First guy didn't like this and stabbed his friend over the money.

Putting aside the fact that someone is DEAD, what is interesting is that these guys were engaged in economic transactions in 'meatspace' for a 'reward' or commodity that exists in this virtual game world. Furthermore, this was such an important/significant 'object' that someone is dead over it.

There is one positive outcome here of course, I'm surprised that newspaper headlines are not proclaiming 'It's only a game!'

Read at ...


Monday, March 28, 2005

Under my skin

Wow, I've never come across this before. Sounds amasing. The Human Area Network (HAN)? Where do I get some of these devices? Swaping phone numbers through a kiss? Anyone interested in conducting an experiment?!

RedTaction explained

Under my skin - Icon -


Schools vs. Parents and the State?

The State Schools Relief Comission (Victorian Welfare Agency) has found that more and more families are seeking welfare help to provide for the basic needs of their children as they attend school. Things like uniforms and shoes.

No one would argue that this is a 'shocking' situation. Kids should have the basic things they need (and then some) so they can concentrate on their schooling and social development, rather than worry about what they are having for lunch and whether or not 'Johnny' is going to pick on them again for having an 'old' jumper.

What is a bigger shame though, is Minister Lynne Kosky's (State Education Minister AND PARENT!) positioning of schools as greedy, non-caring, and selfish, and Parents as hard-done-by, used, abused, misunderstood, and struggling against hard-nosed schools who just don't understand the pressures of being a parent. Of course, she positions herself as a parent and sympathises with the plight of other similarly effected parents, 'often giving them adivce on what is correct department policy', presumably to counter the misinformation given out by deceiving schools.

She has even gone as far as setting up a departmental 'hotline' where stressed out parents can ring and get support when not wanting to 'deal with' their child's 'difficult' school.

In a further response to the problem, Education Minister Lynne Kosky has revealed to The Age she is investigating setting up a system where parents concerned about the extra costs at a state school can seek advice and help from the Education Department.

Ms Kosky said that when parents raised the concerns with a school, "it's not necessarily met as well as if it was raised somewhere else".

"I know just as a parent I get other parents approaching me about what is correct and what is not," she said.

"I think parents often feel very reluctant to raise concerns at a school level. If they've got a third party to go to and just seek information, and sometimes have a bit of an advocate, that can be helpful.

"Schools are always operating in the best interests of all of the children, but sometimes they take decisions without fully understanding the impact on maybe only one, two or three families."

Ms Kosky said schools needed to be reminded that when extra activities were adopted, the capacity of parents to pay had to be considered.

Ooh, this makes me mad.

I'm not arguing that their are no difficult schools (really we should be talking about difficult administrators, teachers etc.) but I am concerned about the way Minister Kosky sets up schools in opposition to the Department and Parents in a seriously unproductive way.

For example, in the article there is some talk about the problem of 'voluntary fees'. This is an interesting issue, but one that has been totally simplified here as to make schools look greedy. The reality is that while legislation dictates that state (government) schools cannot charge tutition fees or enrolment fees per se, schools are 'forced' to charge most families a 'voluntary contribution' that really amounts to the same thing as tuition. Schools vary in terms of policy and pressure on parents who don't, cannot or won't pay, but schools cannot generally refuse to take students over the issue of money. They can (and many do) make it difficult for students who don't pay to enjoy paid or expensive curriculum activities, but most often schools are obliged to provide a curriculum that does not discriminate in terms of ability to pay.

My beef with Minister Kosky then is that legislation says 'you cannot charge tuition etc' but the Government also says 'we cannot give you all the money you need to run a decent (read: average) school'. Schools are then faced with a tough decision: run a dodgy school curriculum/program and be savaged by the Government's own school review process? or, charge parents a 'voluntary contribution' so that we can offer students a better program and perhaps meet the Government's school review process and not be savaged by the press when they find out we have no heating or see the holes in the walls!

It's a fairly clear decision.

In her pitting of 'uncaring' schools against 'concerned' parents and a 'caring' government, Minister Kosky misses the point of the 'debate'. Schools (who are run and staffed by parents!), parents, communities (made up of parents!) and governments (voted in by parents!) need to work together to solve issues like 'no money for uniforms and shoes'. Playing the blame game is disheartening for all and drains hope from those still willing to teach and work in state schools.

But are we surprised?

Have a read at, Parents too poor to outfit students - National -


Saturday, March 26, 2005

Gaming, edutainment and 'embeded' advertising

This is a fascinating area and will continue to boom (for how long?) Something I need to keep an eye on and have a deeper look into. It's a shame I didn't get to the Games forum at ACMI earlier in the week.

Here are some online versions of games recently mentioned.

The Sims Online

Anarchy Online

See 'The Age' article Through innocent eyes.


Pub guard dies in wild brawl

Emma received a txt this morning from a friend letting us know about a friend whose fiance died last night from a heart attack. I had met 'Scaper' (his nick name) many times. He was a lovely man - a couple of kids from another marriage - and seemed like a quiet, reserved man.

I'm not sure what else to say. Our hearts and minds are with AD and her family at this terrible time.

Pub guard dies in wild brawl


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Geeks not just game for a laugh

Computer games with a social conscience? Computer games that get you thinking? Never! An American game designer says games can be used for many purposes!

ACMI has just opened a new space called Game.Lab and have invited said game designer to speak about the social and political mobilisation of gaming. Is anyone else interested in going along to this thing?

Geeks not just game for a laugh


Monday, March 21, 2005

mobile dating?

So now you can find love through your mobile phone - at least we've moved on from phone sex.

It's always great to see big business seeing another way to cash in on a basic human need - bringing people together! I bet the people at Hutchison Telecom ('3') would offer this service for nothing if they truly thought people would benefit ...

How does this kind of 'service' belie the larger problems of an isolating and individualising postmodern technological society?


New game smacks of grim culture

A computer game where players get their characters to use drugs thus altering the gameplay itself? Interesting idea. Of course, all the usual media beat up will now ensue whether or not the game rewards the using of drugs.

But I'm not sure about this one either. This is a emblematic of larger issue though - the influence of various 'media' and screen-based technologies. How much 'power' do they have? How much power do we give them? How do we better understand the complex semiotic mediations that take place in socio-technical situations such as these?

An 'R' or adult rating for computer games does not exist in Australia, which is interesting considering adults are the main market for many games. Well this is what is being argued anyway ... Activists Urge Classification Review


Sunday, March 20, 2005

Lectrice ... on our eternal souls!

Again! again! again! Can she be stopped? Talk about the 'stories we tell', narrative inquiry indeed! Check out Lord Godwin and his treading of the boards.


Friday, March 18, 2005

Culture clash and culture gurus?

I'm often amused by the simplistic and funny things these 'gurus' of culture and 'trends' say. As if it's some kind of exact science, or that populations, groups and societies are homogeneous - 'the japanese' like cutsie gizmos, 'the australians' like more 'conservative, reliable lifestyle fitting products' ...

I had better get rid of my hello Kitty underwear and buy some dark blue socks.


Thursday, March 17, 2005

Uses of Blogs | Snurblog

This new book sounds interesting. I should follow up some of these contributors Uses of Blogs | Snurblog


early career teachers conference

Of course, the moment of truth always arrives. The conference I had been planning (with much help from many others of course) was held last Friday.

I certainly had an interesting day. An early start on the train into town - it's actually not a bad way to travel, reading, listening, observing etc. It's funny too because when I take the train into town I actually feel like I'm a business professional or something traveling to work and being all very important! Not a scummy teacher and PhD student! It almost gives me a sense of worth as an state and national economic contributor!

So after I was able to drag myself off the steet and up to the conference (high above the city floor) I was able to finalise arrangements for the morning panel session and some other stuff.

My concern has always been that in framing the conference in a different way - as an opportunity to engage in the 'big issues' for younger teachers - that people might not actually want to come! That they want handouts and tips and tricks for tough afternoon classes rather than intellectual stimulation and a chance to talk, wonder, critque and argue about their work. So the panel has always been for me a way of signalling a type of direction and saying 'this is where we are and want we think is important at least for now!' To this end, the four of us Nat, Mel, Darc, and me have been talking and writing our way to some kind of understanding about something! Over the last couple of months thinking and talking about the issue that are important to us. We hoped these would resonate with others on the day. And that is always a dangerous (or at least precarious) kind of hope.

Anyway, I muffled my way through some kind of introduction and then let the girls go for it. They of course were fantastic. Such rich ideas and experiences. So full of ideas and quality reflection. Honest and quite open about failure and success. Inspiring and humbling. The tone of the auditorium was completely changed and 'opened up'. Afterwards people were talking and laughing and all that good stuff. I hoped that, in the very least, the panel would just get people talking. I think it did this.

The workshop later in the afternoon was also interesting. Not many people turned up (about 9) but that worked out really well - better than if there had been 20 or so. It gave us a chance to really explore issues like conversation and professional learning in a more intimate setting. Once again contributions from Mel, Darc and Nat were extrememly valuable. The only downside was probably that I spoke too much. I was challenged again by the idea that participants come to a workshop expecting certain things, and so I wanted to resist these expectations but to also explain why I was doing this and then provide an alternative way of understanding the issues on the table.

Anyway, so that was the conference - or my involvement.

As an afterword though, I always feel a loss in someways. The last couple of months of working with Darc, Nat and Mel have been excellent. It is always great to be able to form these small groups and work together towards something bigger or something that challenges you to think about your work, relationships, and all those other things you can take for granted.

So (publically) I want to thank those who participated in the conference, especially those who helped to organise and conceptualise it and then to so speak so eloquently and passionately.

What's our next project?

Monday, March 07, 2005

things are beginning to settle down

Well things are starting to happen.

I now have a room in the faculty and have set up my computer to work on the both the regular and wireless networks. I am sharing the room, which is fine, but it's not that big anyway. Last week I didn't see my new 'roomie' at all but when I arrived today she had been there and has hung some posters up and looks like she's getting down to her business as well. She has hung a name tag on the door, which includes the name of her project - the Greek Diaspora Project - sounds very interesting. I'm looking forward to meeting her.

Plenty of library time today so I've plenty more leads to chase.

Marcelo arrived today and Ilana and I met with him and tried to ease the disorientation of arriving to study (a PhD) in a new country and institution. He is from Brazil and is lovely. So now I have some competition as 'young lad on faculty'! We will be working closely so I hope things workout between us. He has left his wife and five year old daughter back in Brazil (they will visit in September).

I also had lunch with Rosely. Lovely woman and very genuine.

I must say that it is great having access to the library again. The Journal databases are fantastic. No one really need use a photocopier again - just download the PDF and PRINT (the paperless office of course!)

And so we journey on ...

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

'the right' (way) and the teaching of english?

The other day a friend sent me a book proposal he has put together and asked me for a contribution. The book is an attempt to recapture some of the space around the frenzied debate now going on in Australia and many other parts of the world with regard to conservative politics, schooling, education and teachers' professionalism ('the culture wars'). In many of these 'debates' English teachers are being attacked and mauled by people who generally have little idea about what it is they are talking or writing about (although to most people they sound strangly convincing).

The most current example in Australia was sparked recently when Prof. Wayne Sawyer from the Uni of Western Sydney wrote an interesting editorial in the journal English In Australia - the journal of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English (AATE). The editorial is not online anymore, but it was 'picked up' by some journos at The Australian and then by Kevin Donnelly who recently published a book called 'Why Our Schools Are Failing' available online at the Menzies Research Centre. Donnelly is a known neo-con who is a regular teacher basher and all round nice bloke. Here is his response to the editorial that really was a comment on the role of English teachers now and into the future - well despite Donnelly's misrepresentation you can also make out what Sawyer was trying to say. Here is a fragment:

"We knew the truth about Iraq before the election — did our former students just not care? We knew before the election that 'children overboard' was a crock, but as it was yesterday's news, did they not care about that either?

"Has English failed not only to create critical generations, but also failed to create humane ones? What does it mean for us and our ability to create a questioning, critical generation that those who brought us balaclava'd security guards, alsatians and Patricks Stevedoring could declare themselves the representatives of the workers and be supported by the electorate?"

The interesting thing is that Sawyer was then trashed in FEDERAL PARLIAMENT by the Honourable Dr. Brendon Nelson, the Federal Minister for Education, who called for him to be sacked (for writing an editorial in a journal of his peers that pissed on Nelson's boss John Howard!) He said of Sawyer,

"Professor Sawyer's colleages and his employers should seriously consider his positon in any position of leadership."

His peers should "review his capacity to serve on behalf of any professional teacher organisation in Australia."

"A minority of teachers use the classroom to impose their political views,"

and, "There's no place for political cheereleading in a classroom!"

Never one to miss an opportunity for free speech Prime Minister Howard also got into the fray, and of course, there has been other responses to and fro since. Paul Sommer's is noteworthy.

Despite whatever you might think about Sawyer's comments, I have taken much away from this situation. In the very least it is that some people actually take note of what English Teachers say and do! This alone is a wonderful thing - even if you may be trashed in federal parliament. Not too bad when you think about it! Can't get much higher (and lower) than that.

But that brings me to the book proposal I mentioned above (remember?) It was heartening to read that someone is going to do something. These folks (your Donnelly's, Nelson's and Howard's) to often get away with just about anything. Bout time someone said, "Hey you silly buggers, enough!

So I'm thinking about the kind of contribution I could make ...

For my part, now that I'm not presently teaching fulltime in a school, I'm a little concerned about 'loosing touch' with some of my school-based experiences - certainly in the way that I am now trying (having) to fill my head full of other stuff. This is the challenge inherent in this whole move to the academy thing and it's proving tough to handle. I'd like to pursue the dialogic stuff that I've written about in the W=L book chapter - in relation to student conversation and authority and knowledge etc. and various other examples of attempting this kind of 'classroom' 'extratextual' work. But I'm also wondering if perhaps something about the difficulty, challenge, and then huge reward of, sustaining teacher relationships in the climate and policy that the book is critiquing - managerialism, narrow outcomes ideology, performabilty rhetoric, visible and measurable progress, traditional and simplistic notions of language and learning etc. - might also offer a valuable perspective on what is might mean to teach english in this environment? For me it's difficult to separate learning relationships with students, from collegiate relationships and work conditions (conditions that either assist, but most often constrain, the kinds of relationships that can be enacted and even conceived by teachers and students in schools and classrooms). So I'm not sure what kind of contribution I could make or that would best sit within this kind of book.

Any thoughts (you too cath)?

enrolled at last

So today I was able to enroll officially as a PhD student. I almost fell over when after about 5 minutes the admin person handed my forms back and calmly said, 'thank you'.

What she ment of course was that she had finished processing and it was all over - the enrollment was done.

So what have I been doing for the last month and a half?

But unfortunately the day didn't say 'up'.

All the university parking permits are sold out. I have been dreading this and had a feeling that it might happen. Apparently they when on sale back in December and sold out 2 weeks ago. I wanted to buy one back in early Jan but was told I'd have to come back with a valid uni ID card. So what happens to people in my situation who through no fault of their own miss out on a parking permit?

Glad you asked ...

Well we don't have to shell out $80 for a permit (probably not bad for a year's parking) and we get to park for free! Mind you the carpark is ONLY about 20 minutes walk away from the main campus precinct. So on those rainy days it's great - yeah I mean I won't have to swim on those days.

Other issues included, no room assigned to me yet and Ilana came back off leave today and so I was evicted from my palatial Professor's office and sentenced to wander the halls looking for a place to lay my boney bum. With luck it should be cleared up tomorrow. Along with my network access and staff email address.

This post is very whingy so I'll end it there and write something more positive.

I mean I feel very humbled to have this fantastic opportunity and very grateful for all the help people have given me so far.

If anyone with a 2005 Monash University Parking Permit is reading ... name your price.