Space & Place

Anonymity & the carnival of the fakesters


Many of my readers have a fairly ‘meh’ approach to old media – they’ll read the Metro if they find it on their bus/tube seat, they may enjoy the weekend deforestation editions as an excuse to lounge at the weekends – they’re mostly too connected to actually just chew over their toast & stare into the distance – and fill up their recycling boxes. They’ll happily hijack the odd Daily Mail readers poll. They’ll follow their favorite tech writers & journalists in Twitter. Mainly they get their news from their network – which means in practice a mix of online newspapers & services, across a range of sites where people may be paid to research, reflect & write, but mostly aren’t.

Who do I know that reads the Telegraph? Off the top of my head, no one, although there must be a couple of you who have. New Telegraph tech bloggers Paul Carr & Andrew Keen have been link/troll baiting this week with a couple of posts about the undesirability of online anonymity – Carr’s takes massive chunk of Schopenhauer out of  historical, cultural and technological contexts, And Keen’s verges on Brass Eye territory so much (110%, in fact) that all that’s missing is the poll made up of foxes heads on sticks. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that effectively removing internet anonymity, even if that level of authentication was remotely possible, might cause a few more problems for everyone than it solves for a couple of disgruntled tech journalists.

One of (the many) objections to the Ministry of Anonymous but Authenticated Names approach is that one of the best things about the internet has always been the opportunities it provides for play. Mediation through avatar, text, and all the other internet props can obviously be misused, but it also enables a creative exploration of identity, representation, engagement. When I first started hanging out online in the 90s, in the days before meeting up and eventually marrying people you met online was the norm, I just assumed that everyone I met was probably a mustachioed Texan cop or a retired librarian, pretending to be a hot and overly intelligent seventeen year old boy.

Then blogging took off, and the internet as playground began it’s transformation into the internet as factory. The early insistence on transparency has been adopted by nearly everyone who has a professional stake in their online presence, and what has been variously named the link or reputation economy is critically an economy of trust – trusted connections defined within a dominant aesthetic of a particular kind of authenticity.

While I’m not arguing against the numerous benefits of accountability and responsibility, I do also miss the old internet, and I look for trusted connections with people who haven’t let the factory rob them of their sense of wonder, and even mischievousness.

It’s in this vein I’ve been on a mini-crusade to support the fakesters in my neighborhood, which at the moment is primarily Twitter. ‘Fakester’ is a broad term, covering any account pretending to be someone they aren’t. They could be pretending to be another living or dead actual person, or a fictional or personally created character, or the incarnation of a place, thing, time, organisation etc. So it includes historical, religious and cultural figures, as well as alternative persona, marketing scams and campaigns, God (well, a bunch of them) and the Mars Phoenix, NASA’s celebratory robotic lander.

Following complaints and a proposed lawsuit Twitter recently began to introduce verified accounts for the Twitterati & the popularly impersonated celeb member, “people who deal with impersonation or identity confusion on a regular basis“. However, their Terms of Service only disallow users to impersonate other Twitter users. This doesn’t help Kanye West out much, but it does encourage him to sign up to twitter & I bet it gets the Twitter staff a fair few celeb lunches too.

Personally, I’m not that interested in following celebs via Twitter, although I can understand that there’s a lot of (potential) money and (actual) publicity at stake. I’ll also be clear that I am obviously not in favor of illegal or malicious impersonation, a topic which I’ve engaged with quite substantially in terms of my work for the UK government on cyberbullying. I’m keener on those more imaginative misuses of twitter, many of which have educational potential and application, but regardless of that, make life more interesting 🙂

danah boyd wrote a defence of fakesters way back in 2003 – about a hundred years ago in internet terms. Her early work tracked the presence of fakesters on Friendster, drawing attention to the blurring between the authentic-inauthentic-constructed lines fakester accounts throw non-fakester accounts into, the way that fakester accounts challenged social (network service) norms, and the fact that the fakesters were often the most interesting accounts to connect to.

So who’s faking it on Twitter?

One of the most beloved of the Twitter fakesters has to be @darthvader, self appointed Evil Orphan Annie and geek magnet. Recent #imperialedicts have included “Open more Starbucks” and “Continually raise the price of stamps without warning”.

@MarsPheonix, NASAs account for a mission to land a robotic craft at the North Pole of Mars was so popular that Wired ran an epitaph contest for the lander.

Many fakester accounts basically just publish the text or quotes of the persona they assume. The ultimate fit-for-purpose example of this has got to be @JennyHolzer, the American conceptual artist who is most celebrated for her public displays of aphorism, perfectly suited to her anonomus Twitter account, where HABITUAL CONTEMPT DOESN’T REFLECT A FINER SENSIBILITY and MONOMANIA IS A PREREQUISITE OF SUCCESS.

Jenny Holzer isn’t on Twitter, although if she were I’d like to think she was @fakejennyholzer – shouting SUFFERING IS CAUSED BY ATTACHMENT AND NAIL GUNS and THE CAPS LOCK KEY IS REALLY STUCK ISN’T IT at us. 

One of my favorite fakesters has got to be @palmer_eldritch, a title character from the Philip K. Dick novel. as well as Phil Dick related comment & content, Palmer has recently transformed into a veritable mecanical turk of an auto-bot, selectively re-tweeting related content from around the twitterverse, including “@tanuki0: I’ve read too much Philip K Dick, I’m starting to doubt the nature of reality.” and “@FatherRoderick: Getting ready for Mass. Still very sleepy. Shouldn’t have watched that Blade Runner documentary late last night.”

Sir Bonar Neville-Kingdom, Data Sharing Czar, aka @sirbonar and his Whitehall musings on the surveillance society pretty much leads the field in fakester political satire. “It seems some
hobbyist suffering from Aspergers has done a stunt for the news media
in which he appears to clone a British ID Card” and “
If only we could
achieve total fusion of all possible data, I think we could at last
feel secure. I wonder how much data that is?” are amongst his recent musings. You can also catch a video of him addressing Open Tech 09 on Data Sharing here.

I’m a big theory fan, so I follow a bunch of would be swafty-philosopher fakesters, including @zizekspeaks, who purports to be Hegelian philosopher and Lacanian psychoanalisist Slavoj Zizek. “Interested in Deleuze & Twitter? If so, you’re probably misreading Deleuze.” Is he real or not? Perfectly, for a Lacan follower, it doesn’t really matter


Personal – Professional – Organisational: three basic online identities

There are three main ways we can characterise most peoples online internet and mobile activity and presence. Let me state up front that these distinctions are purposely blunt, but do act as effective and critical distinctions, especially when talking to people about how and why they can manage their online identities. They're also very indiscreet, leaky categories, although it is of course possible to find examples of people who's online identity is confined to or dominated by a single category. Why are these differences important? Because they provide us with the building blocks to talk about and actively reflect on our online activity. How we represent ourselves, and how we are viewed online, is increasingly a part of daily social and economic life. Critically, for people working within social media or supporting digital literacy, they provide a robust framework within which to talk about key issues: privacy, data ownership/mobility, representation and voice.

The three main categories I use then are personal, professional, and organisational.

Personal use might include using dating sites, having a social network account to connect to friends and family, uploading your family photos to a photo-sharing site. Personal use is most likely to be the category where attention to social network service permissions – who is able to see what – is particularly important to users.

use could include the use of a professional networking site, or the use of a social network, a blog or other website to showcase and record work, develop connections and contribute to national and international professional networks. It includes a public facing CVs, publicly accessible parts of a personal learning environment, or an e-portfolios, conversations across mailing lists or social network services. Typically, these activities are public facing, so the most pertinent issues are typically about voice, representation, reputation and trust,

use would involve the employee using tools or platforms on behalf of their employer or in the line of their work duties. For example, an employee may run a blog as part of their role, maintain a social networking profile in order to make information accessible to students and parents, deliver assignments using a Virtual Learning Platform or set up a group account for learners on a video sharing site. Organisational use may be public, promotional and conversational, or operate within walled garden environments, or, indeed, a mixture of the two.

Edublog Awards 2008


Its the Edublog Awards 2008! Dust off your party outfits and get ready to join us on Saturday night for the spectacular 5th awards show, celebrating the vibrancy of blog and social media practice to support learning

Voting is still open across this years 16 categories, and every vote still counts since most of the category nominees are within spitting distance of each other. James is holding the vote doors open like a veritable Atlas until the last minute possible this year. Needless to say, the live online awards show will be well worth attending. The Edublog Awards team – me, Dave Cormier, Jeff Lebow, James Farmer, Jo Kay, warmly invite you all over to the multisite party.


This years event is scheduled for:

  • GMT/UTC: 11pm, Saturday 20 Dec 2008
  • AEST: 10am, Sunday 21 Dec 2008
  • SLT: 3pm, Saturday 20 Dec 2008

Get your local time details here!


The fabulous team at EdTechTalk will be providing a web-based audio stream of the event. The landing page for web based listening and text based chat will be Head over there if you'd like to listen in live (low bitrate audio-only stream for those with with slower connections), and catch the ustream of SL activities, and chat amongst the attendees.

There's also a Facebook page for those of you over there, and there will be live updating over at Twitter.

For the second year running we will also be meeting over at Second Life, thanks to the wonderful Jo Kay. The meeting point on the beautiful Islands of jokaydia will be the jokaydia Landing point (SLurl) for newbie support and pre-event hot chocolate. The ceremony will be held in our new auditorium (SLurl).

There are limits on the number of visitors to a Second Life Island (& this isn't entirely to do with how big my dress will be this year, so do get your seat early! There will also be an overflow area with chat bridge and audio streaming at the jokaydia Meeting Hall (SLurl) for those who don't get a seat but would still like to hang out inworld.

We are all very excited abut this years chat bridge – connecting Second Life attendees to  our web-based
participants. You’ll be able to access the chat room here just prior to the event!

The fabulous residents of jokaydia have also lined up a post event
beach party and celebration of yet another year of great blogging. The party will start right after the awards ceremony: Meet at jokaydia Beach! (SLurl)

2008 Edublog Awards Nominees Display!

Dont forget to visit the 2008 Edublog awards Nominees Display which
celebrate all 210 nominees and their achievements this year. The
display is a permanent structure on the Islands of jokaydia and serves
as a great resource for educators. You can visit the Edublog Awards Display at jokaydia (SLurl).

Those nominations in full:

1. Best individual blog

Mobile Technology in TAFE
Education Investigation
Learn Online
Teaching Learners with Multiple Special Needs
Bionic Teaching
SCC English
Nadstar’s Blog
Teachers at risk
John Connell
Doug – off the record
Mathemetics Learning
The Scholastic Scribe
Newly Ancient
Chrisina’s Classroom Early Childhood blog
Theology in the Vineyard
Computer Science Teacher – thoughts and information from Alfred Thompson
Darcy’s blog
The Edublogger
Teaching and Learning Design
The Bamboo Project
All teachers are learners – All learners are teachers
Sarah’s Musings
Using Blogs in science Education
Learning with ‘e’s
What It’s Like on The Inside
Generation YES Blog
Betty’s Blog
Creating Lifelong Learners
Always Learning
The English Blog
David Truss: Pair-a-dimes for your Thoughts

2. Best group blog

Salford University Occupational Therapy Education blog
SCC English
The Stratford Sentinel
Mortarboard Blog
Brandon Hall Research Workplace Learning Today
Scholastic News Blog
Digital Learning Environments
Tomorrow’s Trust
The Chancellor’s New Clothes
ECO group
Leader Talk
Youth Voices

3. Best new blog

Fled: Flexible Learning Education Design
Yuichi’s Games
Angela Maiers
Dkzody’s Weblog
2JE Shining Stars
Chrisina’s Classroom Early Childhood blog
Journeys on the road
Teaching in Second Life
Fiona’s Journey
Christy Bowman
Technology in The Classroom
Thumann Resources

4. Best resource sharing blog

Free Technology for Teachers
Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day/
Mobile Technology in TAFE
Videoconferencing Out on a Lim
Woodchurch Science
Teach J: For Teachers of Journalism and Media
Edina Publich Schools NUA Program
What’s New
Teaching College Math
Around the Corner – MGuhlin
Stephen’s Web
Discovering Biology in a Digital World
Thumann Resources
Creative Teaching
Welcome to NCS-Tech
Jane’s E-learning Pick of the Day
Learning technology teacher development blog

5. Most influential blog post

Becoming a more reflective Individual Practitioner
Why Can’t Inner City Kids Learn/a>
The Glass Bees
Planning to share versus just sharing
The Time is Now
Be an elearning action hero
President-elect Barack Obama
The truth is Out There
The New Digital Divide?
Order for Closure
Getting our Knickers in a twist?
The Macgyver Project: Genomic Dna Extraction And Gel Electrophoresis Experiments Using Everyday Materials
Monkey Business
Ten Tips for Growing Your Learning Network

6. Best teacher blog

Teaching in the 408
Mrs Cassidy’s Classroom Blog
Science Of The Invisible
The Cool Cat Teacher
Practical Theory
Kevin’s Meandering Mind
Creating Lifelong Learners
Teaching College Maths
Bald Worm’s Blog
Betty’s Blog
Songhai Concept
Science Teacher
Sliced Bread
The Journey
Reflections on Teaching
Cliff’s Notes
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Box of Tricks
Mysterious Teaching
The Why of it all
Always Learning
On an e-journey with Generation Y
ICT in my Classroom
Educating Alice
Kenneth’s ESL Blog

7. Best librarian / library blog

Lorcan Dempsey’s weblog
UoL Library Blog
Paul Walk’s weblog
Hey Jude
School Library Journal
Blue Skunk Blog

8. Best educational tech support blog

The Edublogger
The Clever Sheep
The Wired Campus
UK Web Focus
Tech Tutors
Teacher in a Strange Land
Off on a Tangent
Teachers love Smartboards
Around the

9. Best elearning / corporate education blog

Britannica Blog
eLearning Technology
Presentation Zen
Windows to Open Source
Making Change
Tech Tools
Laurel Papworth
Andy’s black hole
Janet Clarey

10. Best educational use of audio

Wicked Decent Learning
Project Xiphos
Twenty Minutes for Tech
Teachers Teaching Teachers
Parents as Partners
Bildum im Dialog
Integrating ICT
Bit By Bit
Secondary Worlds
Ed Tech Talk

11. Best educational use of video / visual

Digital Ethnography
Tamaki Intermediate School
Geography at the Movies
Flick School
Video 2 Zero
Steve Spangler blog
Moving at the Speed of Creativity
Murdoch University Island in Second Life
TEFL Clips
The Common Craft Show

12. Best educational wiki

The 2008 Comment Challenge
Educational Origami
S.D.Public School, Pitampura
Learning in Maine
Digitally Speaking
Clif’s Wiki
Miss Baker’s Biology Class
Salks Periodic Table
Flat Classroom Project 2008
School AUP 2.0
Classroom Displays
Digital Media Across Asia

13. Best educational use of a social networking service

EFL Classroom 2.0
Fireside Learning
Classroom 2.0
Maine Holocaust Education Network
Youth Voices
Principles of Biology
Ed Links
Teen Second Classroom
My Learning Space

14. Best educational use of a virtual world

Discovery Education Second Life
Drexel Island
Oh! Virtual Learning!
Literary Worlds

15. Best class blog

A really different place
Risley Roarer’s Blog
Learning Area 20
Al Upton
Extreme Biology
English Advertising Class
Mr. Kootman’s Class
Remote Access

16. Lifetime achievement award

Stephen Downes
Scott Leslie
Will Richardson
Nancy White
David Warlick
Chris Lehmann
Graham Wegner
Michele Martin
Jay Cross

ALT-C 2008: Radio, edubloggers, edupunks & digital divides

So this is my round up of some of the highlights of my ALT-C2008, and links to some of the stuff we made & documented. Thanks to ALT for an excellent conference, and to everyone who I was lucky enough to get to hang out with this year. As Steve Wheeler’s already noted, it was a excellent one.

A bunch of us delivered F-ALT this year – the first ALT-C fringe, designed to give delegates new spaces and new ways of collaborating and taking forward ideas and topics. The idea was to support activity that fell outside the typical conference format and structure, and allowed for a more creative and inclusive approach. It was a reckless and experimental approach to take, and by and large it worked out really well – it attracted a lot of delegates and demonstrated and started to explore ways in which participants could organise conference space for themselves. There were a variety of sessions – the Learning Objects session failed to attract enough interest to take off while others were very popular – I really enjoyed the EduPunk session, and the Microblogging session which took place during this years Edublogger meetup. I’ve added a bunch of stuff over at the wiki, I’m pretty much done for now. If you have F-ALT related goodness to share or link to, please do help make the site better. Also, you can check out some of the distributed action over at Twemes (welcome back Twemes! We really missed you!)

The 4th ALT-C Edublogger meetup went down a storm, we had a great time and managed to take over a substantial section of the pub. I’ve posted the list of attendees and blog links over at the F-ALT site – again, please do edit your entry/add yourself in if you were there.

I co-hosted a live radio show with Graham Attwell at the conference for Emerge – one of the series of Emerging Sounds of the Bazaar shows. It was probably the most fun it’s possible to have at a conference (for me anyway, Scott Wilson didn’t seem to enjoy his surprise interview quite so much). Cristina Costa did a fantastic job facilitating the live chat room for our international audience and Joe Rosa an equally amazing job with the production. If you missed it, you can recapture the craziness over at Graham’s blog.

I also helped run an official conference workshop session, Learning About the Digital Divide, along with Frances Bell, Helen Keegan and Cristina Costa. Our session built the experience of our first slam workshop the year
before, which encouraged participants to create and perform what we are
calling slams (after the style of Poetry Slams,
that time around their experience of engaging with web 2.0. Our slam
are really shorthand for a rapid, creative approach to creating a
performance and/or object which engages with, and encourages others to
engage with, an aspect or description of a topic. In this way we’re
seeking to do a few things. The approach is designed to support
innovative, conversational and light weight content creation, acting as
a counterpoint and compliment to traditional academic processes and

You can go view the amazing contributions people created and delivered during the session over at the wiki, and also (until tomorrow night) vote on which is your favorite. My slam – I <3 Public Libraries is included in the vote list, but please don’t vote for it! It’s only there because I was really rubbish at getting it up in time and into it’s proper place in the sample slam lists. The text I’ve included with the slides includes my workshop methodology, so do go and browse if you are interested in exploring this kind of format yourself.

Finally, I’m still really happy about winning the Learning Technologist of the Year award. I brought a hard copy of the announcement back for my mum, and she’s very pleased too 🙂 If you’d like a flavor of the gala dinner and a peek at the presentation check out James Clay’s excellent (& very) short film of the evening. I eat chocolate in it.

Looking forward to next year already. You can see my pictures here and Sam (who always takes the best ones!)’s pictures here.

Digital Communities & Digital Identities


Most of my week was taken up presenting, hosting, and having a huge deal of fun at the Emerge project three day online conference, Digital Communities and Digital Identities. I lead on the programming for the event,& recruited many of the speakers, so it wasn’t altogether surprising that I really enjoyed myself. The quality of the session content, speakers, and participant contributions exceeded even my high expectation though. I’m going to blitz through some of the sessions here, linking to resources on an ongoing basis (not everything is up yet) and inviting additional linkfo where people want to contribute them. Also, a quick reminder that following the ol Emerge tag convention, we went with jiscemerge0408. We used three primary environments: Elluminate (java based online conferencing software) for synchronous activities, Moodle (open source virtual learning environment) for asynchronous activity and conference co-ordination, and Second Life (multi-user virtual environment), for the conference social. We also used a host of other tools for specific tasks – twitter, wikis, media players, and the Emerge main site (a social networking platform), primarily for blogging.

You can see a visual record of the conference here. I tried to record as I went along, using screen shots of the presenters on cam. A very simple solution to creating a visual record of the online conference, but I can’t say I’ve really seen it used at other online events.

What were my conference highlights? One of the big things that hit home for me at this conference was the definite sense of community belonging. Certainly, community members have a very diverse experience of and understanding of Emerge, and it’s primarily (as Graham Attwell noted) a community of interest. Although the Emerge ‘border policy’ has been a
semi-permeable and pragmatic one
, our majority of our members are primarily associated with two funding rounds, designed to support innovation and user engagement in the UK post-compulsory education sector.   

However, the more important understanding that really hit home for many of us at this particular conference is the appreciation of Emerge as a community of cultural and social practice. Graham Attwell and Stephen Warburton will doubtless add to this far more graciously shortly. For me, the conference really highlighted the business of serious fun and how conductive and essential providing an relaxed, comfortable environment where people were able to express themselves, take risks and reach out. Knowing that you are part of a community which is interested in your work, sympathetic and alert too the problems and contexts you operate in, and basically on your side, can operate as a critical safety net, fostering creative risk taking and collaboration.  I’m not talking about blandly sycophantic  agreement here either. Meaningful friendship involves critical engagement – people who care enough and are interested enough to say things that might be challenging. It’s difficult to have and engage openly in critical conversation – but ignoring it and hoping it will go away is a childish, disrespectful strategy which will eventually bite you in the ass.

A fun illustration of this was the revival of Frances Bell’s community beard meme, originally coming from a funny critical post on the the prevalence of beards in the community  commenting on the gender imbalance of the visible community. Frances is an consummate expert in being a critical friend, and partly what I’d like to see actively cultivated in the community is  an environment that allows constructive criticism to be given and received non-threateningly.

George Siemens delivered a great keynote on Technology and Community as Identity, and raised a lot of themes which continued to resonate throughout the three days. So hats off George – you’re a great keynote speaker!

Brian Kelly’s session on Developing a sustainable approach to the use of web 2.0 was a masterclass in service design and management, summing up where we currently are in terms of institutional, legal and ethical terms regarding using third party services to support learners in formal education.

The Emerge Bizarre launch (mp3 file)- that went out as a live radio show – was a triumph of content and production values, and includes some interviews with a couple of our projects. Great use of CC licensed music and a big kick to us to used multimedia more effectively in future.

The ARGOSI and HABITAT projects community slot – presented by D.H. Lawrence and two ladyz also wearing rather fetching beards – The User experience of Virtual Worlds was very interesting and exciting. I’m particularly in love with the ARGOSI project which seems to be inspired by 80’s TV programme The Adventure Show (which I loved! Please send me a link someone!). I’ll add more detail and links to this shout out shorty.

What Not to Rez – our fashion show social on Second Life was something that I really enjoyed too – you can check out the Flickr show link at the top of the post for pictures of me in my monster-truck proportioned frock.