LEARNING SPACES / DIGITAL EDUCATION / MULTIMODALITY / SOUND
The project New Geographies of Learning: distance education and being 'at' The University of Edinburgh set out to investigate how students participating in a fully online distance learning programme - the MSc in Digital Education - experienced and understood their university. Beginning in 2011, we spent a year gathering narrative and visual data, primarily through:
Our over-arching research question was: What does it mean to be a student at Edinburgh but not in Edinburgh, and what insight does this give us into learning design for high quality distance programmes? We addressed this question in two published journal articles:
More recently Sian Bayne, Michael Gallagher and I revisited the 21 digital multimodal postcards with an interest in exploring what they might tell us about the way that distance students construct and negotiate space for learning. Our approach and findings are described in a chapter 'The Sounded Spaces of Online Learners' within this recently published collection by Lucila Carvalho, Peter Goodyear, Maarten de Laat (2016):
To briefly touch on the way we approached the analysis of the postcards, we took a broadly multimodal approach which recognised that meaning emerged from the particular ways that the different semiotic resources came together in concert. This was augmented by looking towards Fluegge’s work around personal sound spaces (2011) from which we adopted and adapted the notions of territorialism, sonic trespass and spatial-acoustic self-determination. Within the visual realm meanwhile we looked to Rose’s 'site of audiencing' (2012). Our approach was also informed by Monaco’s ideas around coherence (2009) and similarly Van Leeuwen’s work in social semiotics around information linking (2004).
As we had hoped, by paying equal attention to the visual and aural (and the meaning that emerged from their juxtaposition), we gained fascinating insights into the ways that this particular group of students looked to construct and negotiate space. At times this challenged the conventional conceptualisation of distance learners, often depicted through a high level of mobility and digital sophistication. Instead we saw and heard the trappings of the domestic: family and soft furnishings; kitchen table and kettle boiling. We also became aware of how this group of students differently attempted to orchestrate or adapt to the material character of their surroundings. Without suggesting that our findings could be applied to online education across the board, we nevertheless believe that our methodology encourages teachers and course designers involved with online education to consider what is happening on the other side of the screen.
Whenever I'm on campus I'm struck by the amount of attention that has gone into reconfiguring the different buildings into spaces that are conducive to learning. In comparison, there has been very little critical attention to the learning environments of online students. Through the findings and methodology described within our recently published chapter, we hope that we will encourage other researchers, teachers and programme designers to have a good look - and listen - to the learning spaces of online, distance students.
A digital postcard of Daisy's learning space in Xalapa, Mexico.
Away from the university
Listening to the street
Look! Listen! Learn!
I was recently invited to make a video to accompany the Manifesto for Teaching Online (2016). The Manifesto comes from the team behind the MSc in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh and comprises a series of short statements which articulate what it means to teach within digital learning environments. Whereas our work to put together the Manifesto was collaborative, the video should be seen as my own personal interpretation and response each of its 22 statements. Here's the newly completed video:
Rather than trying to explain how I attempted to represent the different statements in the Manifesto, I'm instead going to describe how some of the key ideas around online education influenced my approach as I put the video together.
To begin, reflecting the growing interest in the multimodal character of digital scholarship, I spent time thinking about how the particular configuration of images and sounds could work together in juxtaposition, or what Carey Jewitt (2009) has described as the way that meaning emerges from the particular relationship between different modes. This became quite an iterative process where I would start with a rough idea in response to a Manifesto statement, which would in turn prompt the gathering of field recordings, which then sparked a visual idea and subsequently led to the creation or collection of further sounds. Maybe the best example of this from the video is the ‘Digital Natives’ statement where I started off thinking about Bronislaw Malinowksi’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922) and ended up burying a Nokia 5510 (1998) in a sandbox.
Whereas the critical interest in multimodality is often concerned with focusing its gaze on the semiotic resources at work within a document, an artefact or a communicational event, sociomateriality asks us to pay attention to the ways that the wider milieu shapes our meaning-making practices. Therefore where some of the images/sounds in the video seem haphazard or untidy it should be seen/heard in light of what Fenwick et al. (2011) describe as:
I also wanted the video to itself provoke questions about digital authorship, ownership and plagiarism. For instance, what responsibility do we have to the author of a piece of work that we record and then remix beyond its original form or meaning? What are the ethical implications of adding reverb to someone's voice or recolouring their textile work? And how do the conventions of referencing and plagiarism that were conceived around words-on-the-page, take account of video and other digital formats? These are questions similar to those raised by Kathleen Fitzpatrick (2011) in her work around digital authorship and it seemed fitting that she should 'appear' in the video.
Finally, as I prepared the video I also wanted to challenge the visual conceptualisations of online teaching which neglect the physical places where the corporeal bodies of teachers go about their scholarly business. Behind the virtual worlds, learning management systems and social media spaces that are often used as icons of online, there exists the campus, the cafe and the couch. These ‘teaching spaces’ are represented through sight and sound: an office on the 4th floor of St John’s Land in the School of Education; the space at home where I write and read and where I worked on the video itself.
I hope you enjoy the video.
Fenwick, T., Edwards, R. & Sawchuk, P. 2011. Emerging Approaches to Educational Research: Tracing the Sociomaterial. (Oxon, Routledge). pp. 1-18.
Jewitt, C. 2009. An introduction to multimodality. In The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis. Jewit, C. (Ed) (London, Routledge): pp. 14-27.
'Kathleen Fitzpatrick: "The Future of Authorship: Writing in the Digital Age"'(2011) YouTube video, added by FranklinCenterAtDuke [Online]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4qq01Qskv0 (Accessed 12 June 2016)
Malinowski, B. [1922}. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Prospect Heights, 10 IL: Waveland Press, Inc. Pp. 1-25 (Introduction).
My colleagues Jen Ross and Judy Robertson from the Centre for Research in Digital Education have invited me to contribute to a training session they are leading on the subject of Social media, your research and you. Ahead of tomorrow's session (19 May) it has been interesting to spend some time thinking about what I’m trying to achieve when I share content in this blog and through Twitter, which are the main ways that I use social media around my research. It is relatively straightforward to talk about how I use social media, although more complicated when it comes to articulating a) what I hope to achieve, and b) how I set out to do this. I've attempted to answer these questions through the following diagram that I will talk around tomorrow:
The approach and rationale outlined above should not be seen as ‘best practice’: rather, it simply reflects what I set out to do and why. My use of social media is heavily shaped by the subject of my research. My critical interest in digital education makes it important that I seek to explore and exploit ways of conveying my work across networked spaces. At the same time, the central concern of my research with ways of constructing and communicating knowledge multimodally, influences the representational form of my social media presence (and this blog in particular) as I set out to convey ideas through a combination of words, images, sounds and other semiotic resources.
As I prepare content for this blog I am constantly asking 'What is the best way of conveying these ideas?' and 'How will it be received by its intended audiences?' In this way I am exploiting the opportunities that digital technologies bring to rethink the representational form of academic content we wish to share (see amongst others Landow (2006)). At the same time I am enacting Gunther Kress's (2005) work in multimodality around 'aptness of mode' and 'aptness of audience' as I configure the form of my work in a way that (I hope) is simultaneously equipped to convey my ideas whilst meeting what I believe to be the interests or needs of my audience. Which isn't to suggest that these broad ideas are the preserve of those with a critical interest in digital scholarship. One of the points I will make in my presentation tomorrow is that to ignore the use of social media in supporting my research would be akin to attending a conference but sidestepping conversations over coffee, in the corridor and other informal - social - occasions where I might promote my work, test out ideas and connect with other researchers with shared interests. And of course, social media in itself has a role to play during conferences...
KRESS, G. 2005. Gains and losses: new forms of texts, knowledge and learning. Computers and Composition. 22(1): pp. 5-22.
LANDOW, G. P. 2006. Reconfiguring Literary Education. (John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore).
Multimodality and the presentation assignment
Conversations about content and form
Some pictures from the last few weeks, captured using the camera on my laptop. On each occasion I was reading, writing or discussing my research with a colleague. In each instance I was situated in a location beyond the physical boundary of university campus.
The gallery doesn’t capture every instance or location where I was studying beyond the physical boundaries of the university. It wasn’t always convenient or appropriate to capture my surroundings while on other occasions I didn’t have my laptop. I also decided that nobody needed to see those private moments where I was working intimately with the literature in my bed at night. This gathering of images is intended as a critical response to the following email I received from the University:
I am interested in this idea of being ‘away from the university’ as it picks up on ideas that emerged from research I undertook a few years ago with Sian Bayne and Michael Sean Gallagher where we investigated notions of space and place amongst online distance students, including how they understood and related to their institution (Bayne et al. 2013). Our research was carried out against a backdrop of the growing strategic and pedagogic interest in the learning that takes place beyond the physical campus, whether through taught Masters programmes, Massive Open Online Courses or other modes of delivery.
One of our key arguments was that in a networked world, where learning increasingly takes place in digital environments, we need to move beyond conceptualisations of the university ‘as a bounded, stable place – a static ‘container’ within which education takes place.’ Drawing on data generated through multimodal postcards submitted by online distance students, and influenced by the work of Sheller and Urry around new mobilities (2006) we instead proposed that the university is enacted in multiple and complex ways. We also looked to the work of Edwards et al. around mobilities and moorings to argue that when teaching and learning takes place within digital online environments, the university becomes characterised by ‘flux and flows rather than simple bounded space’ (2011, p.153). While our research focused on ‘distance’ learners, the distinction between students who attend classes within the university's physical buildings and those who do not, is becoming increasingly blurred.
In this context, the notion of being ‘away from the university’, is more complex than being physically located beyond the perimeter of the campus. Looking at the different images in my gallery, I am simultaneously situated outside the university’s real estate whilst intensely enacting ‘being at university’. In this way perhaps we can see the university less as a container of lecture theatres and laboratories and instead as a performance that is played out across cafes, in hospital waiting rooms, in airport departure lounges, in transit and in the home (as well as in university’s own buildings).
A second point I would make, again developing an idea that emerged from my research with Sian and Michael, is that the phrase ‘away from the university’ unintentionally deprivileges the learning that takes place beyond the campus. Without proposing that it was the suggested meaning of the email I received, or reflective of the University’s position more generally, the notion of being away suggests that the learning which takes place off campus is somehow ‘other’ to what happens in the library, studios, tutorial rooms and other teaching spaces. We argued that the ‘distance education' label could be seen to have the same effect in the way it proposed that learning undertaken away from the campus is defined through its difference to the conventional, established scholarly pursuits that are followed within the university’s boundaries.
In gathering together these images and ideas I have sought to make the point that within a networked educational landscape where we are increasingly looking to the possibilities of blended learning, fully online taught programmes and distance PhD provision, we need to think newly and creatively about what it means to be ‘on a course’ and ‘at the university’ (or indeed, away from the university).
Michael Sean Gallagher, Sian Bayne and I have written about the Sounded Spaces of Online Learners, which will appear as a chapter in Place-Based Spaces for Networked Learning (Routledge) due to be published this August.
Edwards, R., Tracy, F. & Jordan, K. (2011). Mobilities, moorings and boundary marking in developing semantic technologies in educational practices. Research in Learning Technology, 19(3), 219‐232
Bayne, S, Gallagher, MS & Lamb, J 2013, 'Being ‘at’ university: the social topologies of distance students' Higher Education., 10.1007/s10734-013-9662-4
Sheller, M. & Urry, J. (2006). The new mobilities paradigm. Environment and Planning A, 38, 207‐226.
Since sharing this blog post earlier today (Monday 9 May) I've had a couple of responses on Twitter from fellow PhD students. I'm not alone.
Last Thursday evening (26th November) I joined colleagues and friends from Edinburgh University as we celebrated ten years of the MSc in Digital Education, whilst at the same time launching our new Centre for Research in Digital Education. Our party took place at the Edinburgh Storytelling Centre, just a short walk from the Moray House School of Education where both the MSc and the Research Centre were born.
The party was the culmination of a good deal of thinking and planning between Jeremy Knox, Siân Bayne and myself, supported at different times by other members of the Digital Education team. From the outset, we were keen that our celebratory event should reflect the personality of our teaching and research, as well as the distinct character of online education more generally. We wanted the party to be creative, experimental and thought-provoking (and fun).
At different times during the planning stages our conversation touched on the potentially playful nature of digital scholarship (see for instance Land 2011, McKenna and McAvinia 2011) and how this might be captured in the party. We also considered how we might bring together different visual and aural elements into a single event in a way that would strike a chord with our invited guests, whilst at the same time acting as a representation of the potentialities of the digital form (thereby borrowing and adapting ideas put forward by Gunther Kress (2005) surrounding 'aptness of mode' and 'aptness of audience'). On other occasions we wondered whether the party could in itself pose questions about the way that the digital turn has disrupted conventional ideas surrounding time, place and body (evoking Siân's own work on uncanny digital pedagogies (2010)).
Photographs by Allan Shedlock
The images in the slideshow tell the story of the party in a much more colourful way than I could do in words, however in brief summary, the combination of digitally-enabled figurines, evolving data displays and a live digitally-themed soundtrack with accompanying music video in Second Life, seemed to be well received.
I think we can look at the party as an interesting way of representing and responding to some of the ideas that shape how we teach and learn within digital environments. Our main aim however was for people to enjoy themselves, and I think that happened too.
With thanks to Stephen Bezzina (DJ and graduate of the MSc in Digital Education), Angela Hunter, Marshall Dozier, Andrew Manches and other members of the Digital Education team.
Bayne, S. (2010) Academetron, automaton, phantom: uncanny digital pedagogies. London Review of Education. 8(1): pp. 5-13.
Kress, G. (2005) Gains and losses: new forms of texts, knowledge and learning. Computers and Composition. 22(1): pp. 5-22.
Land, R. (2011). Speed and the unsettling of knowledge in the digital university. In Digital Difference: Perspectives on Online Learning. Land, R. and Bayne, S. (Eds.) (Rotterdam, Sense Publishers): 61-70.
McKenna, C. and McAvinia, C. (2011) Difference and discontinuity – making meaning through hypertexts. In Digital Difference: Perspectives on Online Learning. R, Land. and Bayne, S. (Eds.) (Rotterdam, Sense Publishers): pp. 45-60.
The Manifesto for Teaching Online was conceived in 2011 by my colleagues within the Digital Education group at the University of Edinburgh. It set out to articulate a position - and provoke discussion - surrounding online education. My contribution to the original Manifesto was the preparation of a short home-made video that offered a visual representation of the twenty statements. I revisited and revised the video in 2013 with a closer attention to how the images could align with the messages that I felt the Manifesto was trying to convey.
Four years down the line I've been very glad to participate in the reconsideration and reconfiguration of a 2015 version of the Manifesto for Teaching Online. The notion of the remix features prominently - loudly! - in this new Manifesto.
Remixing digital content redefines authorship
One of the things that I like about the Manifesto is its intention to prompt discussion rather than dictate a set of hard-and-fast rules: we are encouraged to approach and interpret the statements in our own way. My own take on the 'Remixing' statement is as follows. The increasingly vast and varied amount of digitally-mediated content enables us to construct knowledge in new and exciting ways. At the same time we have access to a growing array of devices and other technologies that allow us to convey or re-shape what we draw from the growing body of digital content. This in turn pushes us to rethink what we understand by 'authorship' and 'composition' of scholarly work. To illustrate my point in a very basic way I've created this (very basic) animation:
Returning to my interpretation of the 'Remix' Manifesto statement, the digital content that I drew on within the animation features audio taken from two web-hosted video clips. This includes a seminar discussion on the subject of the 'digital city' featuring Mathias Fuchs from Leuphana University. I also introduced the voice of Kathleen Fitzpatrick, taken from a lecture she delivered on the subject of digital authorship, at Duke University. The music track is 'Scratched' by Etienne De Crecy (no explanation required). Listen carefully and you'll also hear the sound of needle static, previously downloaded from a sound effects archive and unearthed from my iTunes folder. The digital devices and technologies that I used to put the animation together meanwhile included my computer, an iPhone for the lazy recording of sound from the video clips, and then software in the form of PowerPoint, Photoshop and SoundStudio.
Perhaps more interesting than the animation itself is the questions that it asks about the way that the scholarly remix problematises conventional understandings of composition and authorship. For instance, how much of the animation is really my work? If there's any merit in the animation, how much of it is attributable to the technology? Is it ethical for me to have taken Mathias Fuchs' voice out of context? How would Kathleen Fitzpatrick feel about my manipulation of her voice with extra reverb? And, as Fitzpatrick points out herself (2011), how does this type of 'mash up' sit within existing guidelines surrounding plagiarism?
In keeping with the ethos of the Manifesto, with an eye to encouraging reflection I won't try to answer the questions that I've drawn attention to here. I'll include some references though, just to be on the safe side.
De Crecy, E. (2000) Scratched. Tempovision [CD]. Paris. Disques Solid.
Fitzpatrick, K. (2011). The digital future of authorship: rethinking originality. www.culturemachine.net. 12: pp.1-26.
'Kathleen Fitzpatrick: "The Future of Authorship: Writing in the Digital Age"'(2011) YouTube video, added by FranklinCenterAtDuke [Online]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4qq01Qskv0 (Accessed 24 October 2015)
'Mathias Fuchs - Remixing Digital Cities' [video] (2013) Transmedia.de. Available at at http://www.transmediale.de/content/presentation-mathias-fuchs-remixing-digital-cities (Accessed 24 October 2015)
In the last couple of weeks Michael Sean Gallagher and I have been adding the final touches to a book chapter which explores The Sonic Spaces of Online Distance Students. Working with our mentor Professor Siân Bayne from the University of Edinburgh, we have proposed a methodology which uses aural and visual data as a way of understanding how online distance students construct space for studying. The chapter will feature in a wider text concerned with place-based learning that will be published later this year, however this is a subject that Michael and I have been researching and thinking about since 2010.
Our chapter revisits data that Michael and I collected as part of the New Geographies of Learning project that we worked on together in 2011. Along with our colleagues from the MSc in Digital Education at Edinburgh University, we prepared two published papers from this work (references below). We also generated a series of 'digital postcards', where we invited online distance students to 'capture' a space from where they typically engaged with their programme of study. The postcards were digital in the sense that they each combined a photograph, short text description and an audio field recording of the same space. It was this audio and visual data that Michael, Siân and I returned to look at in more detail within our book chapter.
Although the ink is still drying on the print and photographs that make up our chapter, earlier this week Dr Louise Connelly from the Institute of Education at The University of Edinburgh gave us the opportunity to talk about our work as part of her online tutoring course for staff. You can look at my slides from the session, however what you'll learn from a series of images that depict soft furnishings, I'm not sure.
The central thrust of our webinar was a discussion of the methodology we devised. Key to our thinking was to avoid the tendency amongst Internet scholars to privilege image over sound (Sterne 2006), and to instead think about the interdependency, cohesion and conflict between different semiotic material. In the absence of an existing approach to transcription or analysis that suited our needs, we developed our own approach by drawing on a range of methodologies concerned with aural and visual data, and the relationship between different semiotic modes. In brief summary we:
To demonstrate our methodology during Monday's webinar, we invited participants to look at examples of data gathered within the New Georgraphies of Learning project. This included thinking about the digital postcard submitted by Aggie, an online distance student based in Mexico, but completing a programme at Edinburgh University. We invited participants in the webinar to reflect on whether there was anything interesting, surprising or seemingly significant about the study space captured in this postcard image:
Using the Chat function in Collaborate we then asked the group to share their ideas about the study space in the photograph. There were more thought-provoking observations than I have room to include here, however it was interesting to note that a number of themes that Michael and I found to be present in the wider data set (i.e. across many of the 15 submitted postcards) arose during the webinar discussion. This included:
In the second part of the exercise, we invited the group to look at the image once again, but this time whilst listening to the audio clip that Aggie submitted to accompany her image:
As we listened to the orchestration of birdsong, distant brass music, children-at-play and the chopping-of-vegetables that feature in Aggie's field recording, fascinating strands of conversation developed within the Chat box. This included differing positions on what represents 'noise', and whether music can be used to usefully construct spaces that are conducive to studying. Both of these themes are discussed within our forthcoming chapter. What was also interesting was the way that conversation moved onto discuss whether the insights gained from our methodology might practically inform course design and teaching of online distance courses. I have reproduced some of the comments below in order to give a feel for the nature of the discussion.
Within our chapter, Michael, Siân and I have been clear to avoid suggesting that the themes to emerge from our transcription and analysis of the digital postcards necessarily sets hard-and-fast rules about the ways that online students use sound and physical material to construct spaces for studying. What we did propose though was that this type of data - and our methodology - offers new ways of thinking about the nature of these spaces. I think that the conversation reproduced above helps to support this.
If we were to deliver this session again - and I really hope we get the chance to do so as it was great fun and opened up new lines of investigation - I would leave more time for participants to reflect on whether and how the introduction of the aural data altered original impressions of the study space captured in the image. It's clear that listening to Aggie's sound clip enabled the group to see beyond the edges of the photograph, however I think we missed an opportunity to really discuss how the interplay between the aural and the visual data potentially generated meaning over and above the impressions we might have taken from these individual modes. As I mentioned in my introduction, Michael and I have been discussing the nature of online study spaces for close to 5 years: I think this week's webinar suggests there's value in continuing the conversation.
In this post I describe and a recent exercise where I used photographs and interviews in order to gain insights into the digital lives of teenagers. To offer some background, in the first four months of 2015 I have been developing a digital strategy to support my work in widening access. I have been exploring how digital environments, pedagogies and technologies might enable my colleagues and I to extend and enhance our support of teenagers as they consider and then apply to higher education.
One of the approaches I have been taking is to speak directly with school students. If this seems an obvious point, in It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens (2014), Danah Boyd bemoans the tendency for adults – educators, politicians, journalists – to discuss the digital interests and needs of young people without stopping to listen to the same people to whom they are variously attaching labels and planning courses of action. More locally, at the recent Jisc Digital Student Consultation in Edinburgh, there was a clear message that students want to be asked, in a meaningful way, what they need from technology. Focus groups had pointed towards a feeling amongst some students that institutions wanted to be seen to be listening, without actually listening.
To open some dialogue with the particular pre-higher education audience that I work to support, yesterday evening I took advantage of a conference for S5 school students being staged by my colleagues on Edinburgh University's campus. With a fairly small window in which to speak to attendees, combined with my wish to avoid intruding on the Conference itself, I took the following approaches to data collection:
I approached students directly before the Conference opened, as they enjoyed light (non-alcoholic) refreshments in the Student Union. This noisy and informal setting lent itself well to encouraging them to talk about their use of social media, attitudes towards email, access to the Internet, and other questions drawn from the literature and my own research. This approach also had the desired effect of enabling me to collect a lot of data in a short period of time. In less than an hour I spoke to 25 students as well as photographing the digital devices they had brought to the event.
Without having taken time to really consider the data in depth, a cursory glance and listen to the different responses and conversations suggests the following:
Naturally the data merits much deeper consideration than the immediate observations I've outlined above. But I'm also interested in thinking more generally about whether there is anything I can take away from the exercise from a methodological perspective. For instance, I'm wondering whether photographing visual devices can be an effective way of addressing the potential for some students to overstate the digital resources they can call on (as a number of colleagues had described, during an earlier stage of my research). Admittedly, a student who owned a hand-me-down Nokia 8210 might simply have not presented it to be photographed, but he or she wouldn’t have been able to conjure up an iPhone 6 in its place, in the same way that it is possible to make over-inflated claims within a conventional focus group or questionnaire.
[All data reproduced with the written consent of participating students]
Last Friday (28 November) I graduated with an MSc in Digital Education from The University of Edinburgh. I completed the programme part-time over the course of several years, and surrounded by some tremendous people. For me, one of the finest qualities of the MSc in Digital Education was the encouragement and validation to experiment with new ways of representing ideas and knowledge. Closely tuned to the evolving nature of academic literacy, we were prompted - provoked, even - to consider how to take a digital approach to the construction of knowledge, but in a way that would be simultaneously scholarly and aligned to the changing nature of the resources to hand.
With this in mind, at some point in the days leading up to graduation I decided to try and capture, rather than simply experience, the ceremony. This felt like an appropriate way of drawing to a close my student involvement in the Digital Education programme. Using my Fujfilm XF1 and the Voice Memos function on my iPhone (and with assistance from my sister seated in the audience), I gathered audio and images to represent my transition from student to alumnus.
As the video shows, I captured and selected images that depicted sources of light, in an appropriate if not particularly imaginative way of representing the enlightenment that comes through education. This can be seen in the various street lamps, fairy lights and glowing ceiling fittings that are captured in the video.
With the benefit of hindsight, it would have been interesting to also have attempted to represent the notion of light through recorded audio. For instance, I might have captured the increase in conversational volume in the graduation hall as the spotlights came to life ahead of the imminent commencement of proceedings.
Nevertheless, I'm happy that the assembled audio and images manage to capture a sense of what graduation felt like. It's a decent memento, of a nice occasion, at the end of a brilliant, digital, adventure.
I've been wondering what it would be like to wander through a city - London, most likely - listening to a playlist that's linked to the places you encounter. I think it might offer an interesting way of telling stories about the city, in the same way that you might read a book or watch a film or documentary. I suppose the difference here is that you would be closer, geographically at least, to the places where different events took place.
And I wonder whether this might be achieved through a mobile app that provides some form of musically augmented reality? Although augmented reality is normally used to describe the technological manipulation of a visual plane, I'm tuning into the idea that it is concerned with any of the senses and am focusing on sound - or music, more specifically - to enhance and change our perception of what is around us.
Here's how it might work.
Within a dedicated urban space, individual songs would be attached to specific places and spaces: a street, a park, a pub, and so on. These songs would then be geofenced on a sound map, which would be accessed by the mobile app. This would be activated when the user enters that (real life) location. There would probably be satellites, code and other things like that involved. Here's what might happen in practice.
You put on your trainers.
You plug in your earphones, maybe setting the volume so that you can still hear a trace your surroundings.
You activate the Location function within the settings on your mobile.
You open the app.
You take a left into Kelly Street in Kentish Town and the app automatically begins to play a song.
You look down at your mobile and the app tells you that it's Mario's Cafe by Saint Etienne. A short description explains the song's relationship with the street you're walking. You ignore the details for the moment, step out of the rain and enjoy your musically-augmented reality, with a cup of tea and a bun.
In order for this to work, I think each of the songs would need to tell a story about the particular part of the city to which is it geolocated. All of these songs, for instance, paint a rich and colourful picture about different places, whether in the past or present: White City by The Pogues, Sunny Goodge Street by Donovan, Victoria Gardens (and plenty of others) by Madness, Denmark Street by The Kinks, just for starters.
I'm waiting for the call to start work on the'Saint Etienne's London' app.
I am a Lecturer in Digital Education (Education Futures), within the Centre for Research in Digital Education at The University of Edinburgh.