Must Read

This excellent blog post is about advertising, design, and young creatives. Everything it says could and does apply to TV, radio, print, and our own university. If you want a snapshot of what your future career looks and feels like, and what you need to know and do to not be only the service company that films the clip once everyone else has decided what it is going to look and feel like, then read this. If you have questions, ask, in the blog, your blog, the unsymposium, classes. My favourite line, btw:

It’s amazing that so many agencies get away with saying they’re innovative but have nothing to show. Oh so you love being innovative so much that you never create anything internally? You’re creativity stops at client work does it? Do us a favour, stop the bullshit.

And as a teacher, my take away is that if you’re not at uni to be tested and extended and challenged, then what the fuck are you doing wasting your time here?


I’m going to wield the magical big stick super powers I have a subject coordinator and veto some class decisions that were made about participation in relation to assessment. Specifically, if you claim to do something, and haven’t, then something should happen as a consequence. I’ll explain why, but first I’m doing this not because I think the alternatives developed or other options are wrong, but in the specific context of network media and the trust based assessment model we have adopted we want the idea of trust, reputation, and the concept of a trust or reputation network to be enacted. In this model trust is understood and defined as an obligation you have to another, it is not only a relation you have with yourself. Trust, in this deep sense, is where you have expectations of others and they, in turn, of you. I trust that my friend will do what she says she will do, the people I am collaborating with will do what they say they will do and that I even need to trust other drivers on the road to, pretty closely, follow the road rules, and I will too, so that it isn’t Russian roulette every time I decide to drive a car, or ride a bike.

In this way of thinking about trust we can see that it is not something I can define for myself. It is completely dependent on the judgement of others. It is not up to me to decide that I’m trustworthy – this is up to those that need to trust me to determine. This is similar (not identical, but similar) to how reputation works online. Your reputation as a blogger for example is determined by others judgement, often realised through readership, and more significantly, links in. This is why a twelve year old can be an authoritative fashion blogger, even they when they started they had absolutely no industry reputation or position at all. I could be employed as a fancy professor at an Ivy League university, but when I take up blogging, if my blog isn’t much good, then it simply isn’t much good and its reputation (and potentially mine) will be low. However, as a professor at an Ivy League university I don’t have to do much else to have reputation and authority within the university, simply because it is a hierarchical system and I am, by definition, a long way up towards the top. Being near the top bestows authority – the role and hierarchy guarantee this – whereas when I start blogging, my prestige from my position will probably help, but if I don’t walk the walk in my blog my real world position very rapidly counts for little. This is why we can think of it as a reputation network, because the authority of your blog is determined by others, not by the institutional granting of authority (they are a professor, they must know what they are talking about, they are employed by Vogue, what they think matters more than someone not employed in the fashion industry, they write for a music magazine so must know more than that blogger over there).

The participation assessment is repeating this. It relies on trust as you self audit your participation each week, but it only becomes a trust network when others are able to judge your trustworthiness. Remember, trust is not something you can self define, it relies fundamentally on your conduct in relation to others, and they are the ones who decide. (It is hard to build, easy to break, much harder, if broken, to restore.) Therefore for the participation assessment to become a trust network there needs to be consequences of breaking that trust. What those consequences are, well that I’m less concerned about then making it clear that trust is not something you are able to define for yourself – it is not up to me to claim that I’m trustworthy. I can think I am, I can claim I am, but the proof is what others say about me, not what I say about myself. Why? Because trust relies upon an ethical obligation to an other.


Seems parts of my research time (the time when I ordinarily write essays, book chapters, conference papers) is being swallowed in the carnival that is the mediafactory networked media blogs. Sitting at home this morning editing some work, quick check of my Feedly subscriptions and 211 unread blog posts. This is good, but also raises a common problem of what we call ‘scale’ online. For example, while it is a good idea for people to be able to ask questions, in a lecture scenario of 120 students and 50 minutes the scale doesn’t work, there simply isn’t the capacity for everyone’s questions. Similarly online it might be nice to reply to people who contact you, at a certain point this becomes too large a task. This is why people who ‘get’ the network invent things like Twitter, which scales elegantly. It is one to many with some possibility of direct communication but it isn’t premised on it specifically. In our case, at the moment, I write into and around your blogs as a way of providing feedback, promoting the role of blogging as knowledge making and learning, and to ‘shape’ our understanding of things. But it doesn’t scale. 120 students writing this much means it is not a model (where a teacher reads and responds) that is sustainable. It is, though, a good model for a brief intensive time to kick start come hot house something. Be interesting to try to change this after the blogs are assessed, for instance working out a way to get you to write more specifically to each other’s posts?

Friday Night

Footy on the TV, glass of wine, spent a lot of today reading blog posts. Day started at nearly 300 unread, halved it. Some angst bout the ‘unlecture’ and so on. Let’s see, model I, defensive responses, unwilling to revisit ‘governing variables’? Familiar ring to it. When we’re challenged, made uncomfortable, our mental map, and our reptilian brain, responds with fight or flight. Fight is to not wonder why but to decide it’s broken. Flight is to run away (i.e. not come). Either is a small way to respond where while you think you’re asserting agency it is in fact the instinctual opposite.

My Double Loop Learning

Second lecture. Ask you to ask questions (in the language of the network this is called crowdsourcing). In the spirit of ‘model II’ learning and risk taking I invite those that didn’t ask a question to put up their hands. You did. I then told you why you’d been wrong to not ask a question.

That was me reverting to my mental map and not my espoused theory. My espoused theory includes things like “I will encourage and support students to contribute, to be peers in this learning, to experience trust, to take risks, that risks and errors will not automatically be criticised” and so on. My habits are that I am an academic, I have always questions, I always wonder about everything, and my golly goodness everyone else has to too since, well, isn’t that what has to happen? (You can see the mental model is just messy and full of assumptions – ‘governing variables’ – that collapse pretty quickly when made visible.)

The unlecture model is for all teachers to contribute and participate. I answered all questions and said everything. I never once stopped and asked the teaching staff, or you, what you thought. This is partly my narcissism (there’s a certain moment of self deprecation there but also some home truth), and again is my mental model. While I publicly advocate (and believe) in diversity and debate and getting a mix and variety of ideas in there to make things really rich, I default to the spectacle of me as academic expert. Mode I. It is easier for me, it is defensive, , it is trying to control things, and to ‘not lose’ rather than just hang out with the ideas.

I did the same thing in the tute too. So to change this takes an enormous effort on my behalf. Not physical or even intellectual, just to notice it, and then to let something else in. The double loop is to recognise the gap between my espoused theory and what I did this week in practice, and to then see that my ‘governing variables’ can be questioned. IN that moment I have the potential to become a better teacher, a better researcher, a better practitioner. By noticing, and having the know how of what to try and do next. Try to do next. A risk, another experiment. It might not work, again. But that is not a reason to not do it, is it?

Kangaroos On the Way to Uni

I usually ride to RMIT, it’s anything from an hour to an hour and a half (the lounger one is around about 40 kilometres) and quite a bit of it is along the river. Last week in Heidelberg there were three kangaroos, happily grazing in the paddock by the path, in the shadow of a very busy road. They would have come down the river from Templestowe, where there is a mob of 50 or 60 living around Westerfold’s Park (I often take international visitors there as I can guarantee them seeing a lot of kangaroos 30 minutes from the centre of the city, up close). To get there they’ve gone under a bridge, on a particularly narrow part of the river, or have actually crossed a very busy road. The problem is getting back again. So, you know, I was concerned for them.

This week I saw one of them again, nearly at Ivanhoe. Alone, bounding in panic along a fence line before sailing over it. Lost, alone, stressed. I don’t know if the others returned and its now alone, or if the three are still in there somewhere. There’s plenty to eat, but they’re social animals and they’re lost. I love that I see kangaroos on my daily commute. I’m surprised at how anxious I am for them.