A space to reflect on my readings and musings, scattered and rescattered


Fitting In

I wasn't cool the first time around (in high school, that is), but today as I first began trying to use my newly created avatar on Habbo Hotel I realized that I hadn't remembered something key: you have to fit in. Today as AlterT (I know the name isn't clever), I visited the rooms of some hip kids and looked out of place. They were talking about me out loud, publicly humiliating! And it hurt, really felt icky.

Now I didn't have tons of choices about how my avatar would look like I would on Second Life. One can only choose hair, facial shape, clothing and shoes as well as the colors of each. I chose a red mohawk, a roundish ordinary face with pale skin similar in tone to my own, a purple tank top, black loose pants, and black flip flops. And my avatar clearly has the "girl" body. Why I chose the red mohawk I'm not quite sure. It was fun to try on something I'd never try in real life and, well, I must confess I thought it was cool. She looked very much like I can imagine my alter-ego would look, hence the name. And I like my/her look. But the other kids made fun of me. One asked the question, "Is she a boy?!" I hadn't really intended to cause a fuss or represent in a transgendered way. I was only reacting to the hairstyles available that looked most like they could be my own that ended up making me look like a cherub. The chubby faces with the spunky blondish styles felt very juvenile, and I, of course, like the time I researched Sconex and, had again had to lie about my age to participate. What strikes me though is that these "kids" as I call them are not kids at all. The avatars look almost like they're in elementary school. It's very juvenile and I'm surprisingly uncomfortable with the limited choices I was given in my own representation. I wonder if I would have felt differently when I was a teen. Something tells me I would not have chosen a red mohawk. Hmmmm.... I'm wondering if I am not embodying this avatar enough, if it was a poor choice to make her too unlike me. I am not naturally conflating her/me in the way I read of folks doing on Second Life. Is it because of the limited affordances, the cherubic babydoll style avatars, or is it that I know I was not born in 1989 and am struggling to participate in a world I feel I don't belong in? Is it that I have not been online as her long enough? I give.


Walkin' On, Walkin' On, Digital Grass...

I'm trying to figure out, just what does it mean to walk on digital turf? I regularly read Angela Thomas' posts on her time on Second Life, and I'd like to know more about youth literacy practices online, particularly those practices that involve a virtual reality, moreover embodied sense of multimodality. So, tonight, I joined both Second Life and Habbo Hotel. On Second Life, I'll be myself. On Habbo I'll be myself, talking with others, etc. but on a site designed for 13-18 year olds. It's been a while since I met the age requirements there.


Spelling with Flickr Photos--wish they were mine!

OMG you have to check out this new Flickr spelling with photos thing. It is...


One Letter / O 05-11-05_1714.jpg El \"L\" Cronulla beach warning

Check it out here.


A Passive Academic

Today as I quietly and somewhat casually was reading Kozol at a café in my neighborhood, a friend joined me for a quick cup of coffee. My friend was agonizing over a psychology class she was to lead in a couple of hours and worrying, as she sipped her cup of joe, that she might not have mastered the theories as well as she should have. I empathized, affirmed, the usual stuff, told her it would be fine. And then she said, “You’re such a passive academic! Really, you love learning but you’re just sitting here quietly reading.” And then she comically mocked the casual sunny afternoon drawl with which I’d mused, “Oh, I’m just reading Kozol”. I had no pen in my hand, was not trying to master a theory. I was doing just what I had said, just reading Kozol, just reading in the same way I might read a novel, absorbing it, enjoying it (despite all the yucky realities his reflections and assessments always remind us of). In my friend’s animated way she said, “it’s like I try to learn this stuff by dousing myself in it with a big spray can. You, you just wade around.” And then I argued, perhaps to her maniacally, that I thought it was a far better, far more meaningful way to learn. Wading, I think, isn’t really passive at all.

Lalitha suggests that perhaps a good metaphor for reading is wine tasting. If you like her more sophisticated metaphor, the complexity of it, that’s fine, but I’d like to keep wading in a river where the water is cool, the current washes over my legs, and occasionally, some murky, slimy stuff I step languidly into makes me want to walk upstream a little faster where the water is cleaner.


Sit Beside Me

About four days before my second field observation was due in a course I'm taking on youth literacies and technologies, I solicited the support of one of my peers in building a website. I wanted to push myself to try out a new form of/space for representation. He said, kindly, “Oh, no, you don’t have time to make a website. You seem to have a proficiency with PowerPoint, perhaps you should just create a really nice one.” We continued to talk and I whined a little bit about my lack of technology proficiency, and then I went home and set out to do it on my own. I’m stubborn. I didn’t need support; I thought surely I could make it work all by myself. I’m a big girl, right. I’d just use my .Mac account; there were templates; it would be simple, straightforward.

So…I immediately began doing what I always do when learning a new tech skill. I started pushing buttons, trying stuff, manipulating the tools without realizing that I might be creating something that could not be undone, or at the very least, might be difficult to undo. I ended up creating pages of junk, letting .Mac autolink those pages, and I quite simply deleted them. That should solve it, I thought. Yeah, not so much. I’d created what was for me a train wreck. I tried undoing it, tried getting rid of the autolinks, made new pages, thought I’d gotten it fixed, found out it looked different on my computer than computers elsewhere. .Mac is designed to be so easy a “novice” can use it, but I was failing. And I think I'm going to do an Ed.D. in Communication and Education in a Technology Dept! Impossible. I lost a couple of days on the project uselessly pushing more buttons, reading online manuals about the program that kept reminding me it was “easy to use,” “great for beginners.” Frustration. Losing hope, I created a wiki—I had just learned to use one of those recently—but couldn’t get it to represent my project in the way that I wanted. Ah, another idea, I have lots of photos; what about Flickr?; I don’t know how to use it but it can’t be that tough. But it wasn’t what I wanted.

I wanted to prove I could build a website, even if an elementary version. And I succeeded. But mostly for one simple reason: a friend, someone familiar with the .Mac web publishing system helped me, showed me a couple of things. It took a total of 3 minutes. And I felt better, not just because my site had been “fixed” but because someone had sat down beside me, listened, and offered whatever support he could. Mostly, he just sat beside me.

And then I thought back about the topic of my website, the youth I’ve been hanging out with at the local library, many of them engaged in tasks of online representation. They want to sit beside one another while working on their PCs, collaborate and share ideas and skills, but they aren’t allowed. Sometimes the personal computer is much more than an individual point of access. Social use of communication technology goes far beyond the teaching/support aspect in my story; it is more multi-layered. We want someone sitting beside us or talking to us in meat or virtual space.

And if you're curious, here's that elementary version web site that took me way too long: Digital Literacies Found: In the Library



A site just for my own stuff, named in honor of the women who helped me understand the importance of how we talk about our lives, how much the stories and the ways in which we tell those stories matters. Scattered was the title of a collection of poetry and stories created by a group of exceptional women I once knew who were recovering from life's disappointments.