Friday, May 6, 2016

Rubbish and link-rot


I dont like litter (thus a picture of a spring tree instead without any litter in sight for a change) and broken links are a kind of litter of the internet. 
A student kindly pointed out a link I'd created was now giving it the big '404'. This was to the Virtual Training Suite tutorial on finding online images. I have referred students to this for many years.
But, sadly, it seems that VTS ceased a while ago. I read that the resources were being parked somewhere but who really wants to use something that's growing mold before your eyes. So I headed off to find an alternative in JISC Digital Media's excellent site. Ah. Except that their funding's been pulled too it seems. Grim. Well. I thought, I cant believe at all this rich information is so useless to everyone in this age of trying to promote 'the digital' - it must be that JISC are just having a re-org. I'll head off there. is a very different animal though. Much more aimed at researchers, with a sideline in L&T - just my perception anyway. Over at I'm offered to go to 'JISC Digital Media'... er  no. Nice for now, but not for something I want to create a link to.
So I search the guides. I scan through the 'Refine' topic options on the left. Who came up with these..? The closest I would get to what I'm after is in 'Content' or 'Blended Learning' but that judgement is reliant on my obscure knowledge of what might lie behind these terms. 'Creating blended learning content' apparently only takes 5 mintues to read so I dont think I'll bother....oh, go on then. At least it was updated 16th March. According to our experts, Alistair McNaught, Lynnette Lall and Scott Hibberson, I can make my content engaging by 'reading our guides on finding the best content that the web has to offer'. Snag is, this points to #ironynoted So, now my options are... build it myself, check whether Nottingham have been kind enough to put some effort in this direction. Nope. Pay more tax? Too long term and fraught. Perhaps another country has a nice resource... likely candidates: Canada, Australia. However, both of these operate on different legal footings to the UK... Anyway, perhaps JISC will have to link to them soon too so, after a quick search, best options seem to be Laura Gibbs resource at: and Sarah Christensen at Thanks both!
Oooff! Just found another reference in something I wrote to JISC Digital Media... this time it's their very nice tutorial about Making and using Clinical Healthcare Recordings at JISC Digital Media. I wonder if that will get ported and/or maintained. 
So there are two take-homes for me here (both raised in Chris Jones' 2015 book on Networked Learning).
  1. Who pays for this kind of thing - a 'guide to finding and using digital images'? The government, the institution or the keen kind skillful individual scholar? I think this relates to a debate about digital scholarship that I was reading in Robin Goodfellow's 2013 chapter, 'The literacies of Digital Scholarship' where he compares the free-and-easy Edtechie Martin Weller's book with Christine Borgman's more 'traditional' scholarship. The latter is concerned with curation and knowledge building. As Goodfellow says, 'Borgman is trying to make digital scholarship more scholarly, Weller is trying to make it more digital'. Out of interest I was pleased to read a bit of Borgman's book and found she was homing in on this key question of information being a public good, borrowing an economics term for items like street-lighting, refuse collection, litter picking. 
  2. Posthumanism. Bear with me. In the same edited collection as Goodfellow's chapter, Sian Bayne and Jen Ross set out, 'Posthumanism in heteroscopic space: a pedagogical proposal'. I'm too dull to get the real point of it but... Anyway, some of the chapter is given to describing students' responses to assessment in Edinburgh's MSc in E-Learning. Jeremy Knox produced what looked like a traditional essay but each of the 2000 words had been carefully hyperlinked. This was a text "'full of 'holes', of material routes out of the formal academic essay and into the vast network which functions here as materially co-authoring the final piece of work. It is an apparently simple, but in fact deeply critical piece of work which challenges academic literacy norms by using the conventional essay form as merely a facade, a permeable front and interface to the digital network which is both its theme and its object of critique. The essay gathers, assembles, links, connects, and pushes well beyond the tight association of the stable authoring subject with the stable print text; it equally discusses and enacts a posthuman moment" p109. Except that, I couldnt help wondering how many of those 'holes' were not at all networked any more, given the speed of link-rot. Unless Jeremy had used DOI links or something like that... Try as I might, I also couldnt find this essay anywhere. Anyway, the moment has passed and in order to do digital scholarship we really do need the infrastructure, very broadly defined, even including a resource on 'how to find images', even to facilitate the kind of 'less scholarly' digital scholarship as advocated by Prof Weller and certainly to accomplish the kind of scholarship that enables knowledge building, the architecture of productive learning networks must be insulated from linkrot so as to endure longer than 'posthuman moment' and let us all get on with our jobs instead of wasting time hunting down (worse building) alternative, likely inferior, resources and then taking the trouble to actually moan about it on a blog. At least I gave the world a nice picture without litter or (at least for a bit) linkrot.
Bayne, Sian, and Jen Ross. ‘Posthuman Literacy in Heterotopic Space’. In Literacy in the Digital University: Critical Perspectives on Learning, Scholarship, and Technology, edited by Robin Goodfellow and Mary R. Lea, 95–110. Abingdon: Routledge, 2013..
Goodfellow, Robin. ‘The Literacies of “Digital Scholarship” - Truth and Use Values’. In Literacy in the Digital University: Critical Perspectives on Learning, Scholarship, and Technology, edited by Robin Goodfellow and Mary R. Lea, 67–78. Abingdon: Routledge, 2013.
Weller, Martin. The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Changing Academic Practice. Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2011. 

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