Solvitur ambulando – it is solved by walking #www16

poster about labyrinths for the Wondering While Walking project

Solvitur ambulando, attributed to Diogenes (@400 BC), St Augustine (@400 AD) and advocated by Nietzsche who (depending on the translation) wrote ‘All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking‘ or ‘Only thoughts reached by walking have value’. When Chrissi Nerantzi  invited representations of Wondering While Walking I straight away thought of labyrinths. My Walking the Labyrinth blog had followed the concept as a tool for learning development, in particular reflection and stress relief before exams. Walkers reported feeling calmer after their labyrinth experience. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve tried it. Although the process will always be individual, the best way to describe it is probably as ‘time out’; something it can be hard to make time for!

There are few rules to labyrinth walking but it helps to be silent and focus attention outwards on the twisting path into the centre and out again, while keeping the inner attention quiet. Concentrate on each step, like a walking meditation or practising mindfulness.

instructions for drawing a labyrinth
image from http://whttp://www.labyrinthina.com/labyrinths-myth-history.htmlww.labyrinthina.com/labyrinths-myth-history.html

You can create a labyrinth yourself, on the beach, on grass, on paper, then walk it or trace it with your finger. Original turf labyrinths exist in England, some of which are maintained and can still be walked. Julian’s Bower at Akeborough in North Lincolnshire and Walls of Troy near Dalby in North Yorkshire are the two nearest to Hull.

Labyrinths can also be explored in books or online. Around the turn of the 21st century there was a revival in interest and there are now a number of labyrinth societies supported with research and publications. Although there are many different theories around their origin and use, the truth remains veiled in mystery.

Chalk Labyrinth in the nave of Lincoln Cathedral
Chalk Labyrinth in the nave of Lincoln Cathedral

In 2014 I was invited to write the texts for the University of Lincoln Labyrinth Festival. A large 13 ring medieval Chartres style labyrinth was chalked onto the nave of the cathedral and visitors invited to walk. Exhibition panels were mounted within the arches down the side. Each panel contained a labyrinth image and my words which aimed to provide a synthesis of what is known. An edited version is below.

solvitur ambulando from a Labyrinth Festival poster

Introduction

To walk a labyrinth can be a form of meditation, offering stillness in a busy world. The experience can be whatever you want; contemplative, healing, mindful, prayerful or simply fun. The origin of the labyrinth is unknown. Today is it a ritual where past and present come together. Labyrinths are for everyone. All you need to walk a labyrinth is yourself.

Seven things we know about labyrinths

1. we know labyrinths are mysterious

The absence of knowledge around the origin and purpose of the labyrinth encourages individual meanings. Walking a labyrinth can symbolise an act of celebration, prayer, reflection, remembrance, solace or simply time out of a busy day. Some believe they are merely patterns while others say they represent the archetypal journey from birth to death; the twisting and turning path indicative of life’s challenges. The interpretations attached to labyrinths are adjustable. They can be as shallow or as deep as anyone wants or needs them to be.

2. we know labyrinths have an ancient past

Circles carved onto rocks and spirals scratched on stone could be precursors of the labyrinth design. The three and seven ring ‘classical’ labyrinths pre-date more complex 12-circuit medieval designs. Even the origin of the word labyrinth is obscure. Some say it derives from Labrys, a double headed axe from Minoa, or the Greek laburinthos but no one knows for sure. Both function and meaning of the labyrinth are lost in time, which is part of their mystery and attraction.

3. we know labyrinths appear in history and religion

Lucca’s Duomo di San Martino in Tuscany contains a 12th century finger labyrinth on the wall by the entrance with the Latin inscription This is the labyrinth built by Daedalus of Crete; all who entered therein were lost, save Theseus, thanks to Ariadne’s thread. The story of Theseus tells how the prince entered a labyrinth to slay the Cretan Minotaur, a monster who devoured humans. Deadelus, the master architect of the labyrinth, is said to have also built a special labyrinthine floor for the princess Ariadne to dance on. Labyrinths have been found on mosaics in roman villas, on coins, manuscripts, churches. There is one in the 13th century Chartres Cathedral in northern France. Church records show others were built at this time but later destroyed. References to Easter processions by priests, and a distant law preventing congregations from dancing, suggest an association with rites long forgotten.  Today the past and present come together in Lincoln Cathedral and visitors invited to take time out to experience the labyrinth for themselves.

4. we know labyrinths are not mazes

There is widespread confusion between mazes and labyrinths. Mazes are designed to disconcert and deceive; to be puzzles and sometimes places of frustration and fear. A labyrinth is different. It has a single unicursal path.Yet dictionary and encyclopedia definitions repeatedly describe labyrinths as mazes. This is incorrect. You can’t get lost in a labyrinth. It has one single, winding path into the centre and out again. The only choice needed is to walk over the threshold and take the first step.

5. we know labyrinths imitate nature

Circles and spirals can be found in the natural world. The curve of an ammonite, the winding tendrils of climbing beans, the twist of hazel and the delicate fronds of bracken as they open to the light. A labyrinth path mimics the mathematics of circles and circumferences, of beautiful and sacred geometry.  Our lack of knowledge about their origin only reaffirms what is not known sometimes doesn’t matter. We don’t need definitive answers to experience the labyrinth journey. It is for all seasons and all people.

6. we know labyrinths can be made from stone, sand, chalk, grass

Turf labyrinths have been cut from the earth beneath our feet. There is uncertainty about their exact age or purpose. There are a number of public turf labyrinths in the UK, all well maintained with edges cut and grass trimmed each year. You can find them at Akeborough, North Lincolnshire; Dalby, North Yorkshire; Wing, Rutland; Hilton, Cambridgeshire and Saffron Walden in Essex. Their fresh grass paths carry the imprints of generations of children and adults. They link centuries of people through a shared experience of walking, running, dancing into the centre and out again.

7. we know labyrinths are enduring symbols

A resurgence of interest has resulted in labyrinths being used for workshops and conferences in health care, education, counselling, spirituality, retreats. Portable labyrinths have been painted onto canvas. Temporary ones constructed on beaches or made with sticks and stones in parks and woodlands. They can be made of leaves, bird seed, masking tape, grass paint. Wherever there is space and time a labyrinth can be constructed. Always leave them for others to find before the tide comes in, before the wind blows or the rain washes them away. Draw your own labyrinth on paper or card. Stitch or knit one.  Explore the meandering, wandering path with your finger. The circuits are rhythmic and soothing. This will never change. Labyrinths have endured for millennia and will continue to do so. They are sources of creativity for us all.

sunlight through the stained glass at the Labyrinth Festival
Sunlight through the stained glass on the floor of Lincoln Cathedral during the Labyrinth Festival

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Twilight of the Idols (various translations) Friedrich Nietzsche (1888)

Visit Wondering While Walking to contribute to the #www16 project

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Keep the digital inclusion flags flying #MRCSoMe

MRC Conference, UCLan, 22 January 2016

Thanks Amanda Taylor for this pre-conference photo, found on Twitter – after the MRC event at UCLan on 22nd January! Which was apt considering the conference topic; consequences of digital media within social work. The conference addressed some of the changes in practice bought about through programmes like Twitter and Facebook. How we risk finding ourselves online without realising it or how a careless comment or unguarded moment can be captured and uploaded for all to see. We might not think too much about the permanence of digital footprints but identity is no longer under our control. The need to take digital care within professional practice is is just one aspect of society which has undergone great changes in the past decade.

For the Keynote I suggested seven critical lens for exploring the social impact of the internet and digital equality.

  • digital identity – online profiles and issues of anonymity
  • digital boundaries – professional/personal and issues of authenticity
  • digital surveillance – how digital presence is tracked and recorded
  • digital assumptions – the MEE Model of digital engagement
  • digital exclusion – rendered silent and invisible
  • digital by default – shifts from face to face to online practice
  • digital equality – technically possible but socially denied

Opportunities to bring out the digital soapbox are always welcome.  The world of digital technology has moved  fast in a short time. As with all social change, we can be so busy keeping up and adapting we don’t always stop to ask the questions around the wider social implications. We become uncritical adopters of digital ways of working. However, as internet users we are already in positions of power and privilege. With that power comes responsibility to ensure a wider and more inclusive equality.

image of a bar of soap and an empty box representing a digital soapbox

I’ve been lucky enough to work in partnership with social work and health and social care teams with regard to promoting safe digital working as well as digitally inclusive practices. Together we’ve worked with students to raise awareness of how the social shift to digital-by-default risks excluding many sections of the population, including those already marginalised and disempowered who might arguably be in greatest need of support. Social work practitioners, and others who work closely with service users, are often in the unique position of being both sides of the digital divide. They may have all the advantages of digital inclusion at work and home but can come into contact with the realities of digital exclusion on a daily basis.

Digital Nation (Facts, Stats, Closing the Gap) Infographic (2015) Tinder Foundation Digital Nation (Facts, Stats, Closing the Gap) Infographic (2015) Tinder Foundation http://www.tinderfoundation.org/sites/default/files/digitalnation-2015-webb.pdf

In an increasingly digital society where the platforms of the public sphere are themselves becoming digitised, to be digitally excluded is to be silenced and rendered invisible. The tension is how on the one hand the internet offers a voice to those previously excluded and marginalised but without the prerequisite conditions of access and use, the same individuals can find themselves silenced.

After the Keynote I collected together a number of resources, included here for anyone wanting to explore the issues more closely. My own publications in this area include:

  • Watling, S. and Rogers, J. (2012) Social Work in a Digital Society. London: Sage.
  • Watling, S. (2012) Digital exclusion: potential implications for social work education. Social Work Education, 31 (1). pp. 125-130.
  • Watling, S. (2011) Digital exclusion: coming out from behind closed doors. Disability and Society, 26 (4). pp. 491-495.
  • Watling, S. and Crawford, K. (2011) Digital exclusion: implications for human services practitioners. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 28 (4). pp. 205-216.
  • Watling, S. and Rogers, J. (2012) Why social work students need to be careful about online identities. Guardian Social Care. 5th October, 2012 http://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2012/oct/05/social-work-students-online-inclusion 

I would recommend the following works.

Lastly, a selection of videos which demonstrate the potential of assistive technology to ensure digital equality.

Giesbert Nijhuis; quadriplegic graphic designer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x31u1seLTo0

Mike Phillips gamer and freelance technology writer born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) in One Thumb to Rule Them All https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BhHwk9qSvI

Thanks again to everyone I met at UCLan. Lets keep the digital inclusion flags flying.

 

 

The low-love-levels for VLE

Blackboard bashing is a popular pastime. An incremental one. Someone begins and horror stories escalate; each one trying to outdo the other. I have a few of my own, but hesitate to blame the VLE as if it was a sentient being rather than a consequence of code.  At BETT Tech this week I was called a Blackboard advocate and asked to feed back all the things which were wrong. But it’s not the brand of VLE, it’s their principles I advocate.

I started out with ye-olde-worlde Virtual Campus. I’ve dabbled with Moodle, served ten years on Blackboard and am now looking at a version of Sakai (called E-Bridge) with plans for an institutional shift to Canvas later this year. All VLE are much the same. It’s what you do with them that counts. VLE made by computer scientists*, used by academics, may create a  mismatch connected to low rates of adoption. It’s tempting to blame poor design, maybe initially, but it can’t be the whole story. Institutions employ people with learning technology and education development skills to bridge and reconstitute that gap. Explanations for VLE low-love-levels must go deeper than that.

Is it about behaviour change? Teaching is fundamentally a social activity. Not much has altered since Socrates and the Athens Agora or Medieval lecturers talked to groups of  students not unlike those we see today; some listening, others talking, reading, staring into space or catching up on sleep. Yet it isn’t all about contact time. Students traditionally do homework, prepare for seminars and presentations and revise on their own or in small groups.

University lecture @1350 Laurentius de Voltolina
image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_university#/media/File:Laurentius_de_Voltolina_001.jpg

Is it about status? Academics are accustomed to being the go-to person; the source of subject expertise and no one wants to be replaced by a machine. The internet hosts the largest source of knowledge, information and personal – maybe biased – opinion. Anyone with means of access can potentially find out anything. But finding is not the same as understanding so VLE technologies have the potential to ensure the role of the academic even more valuable.

School of Athens painting by Raphael
School of Athens by Raphael image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_School_of_Athens#/media/File:Sanzio_01.jpg

Is it about control? VLE adoption has been mostly imposed by institutions rather than asked for by staff. Fears of deskilling and replacement, as per digital diploma mills are as old as the technology. It hasn’t happened as predicted. One reason may be the hype of the online content revolution wasn’t realised. Retention rates for online courses can be problematic. Students find it difficult to learn online in isolation and in spite of massive change, applications for an on-campus HE experience continue. Few universities have shut shop completely and where mergers and closures have occurred it has been about far more than digital competition.

Drawing of different elements of VLE
VLE System drawing by Pete Whitton from https://ldusalford.wordpress.com/

So if it isn’t changes in behaviour, status or control, what is it really about VLE which makes them so unpopular?  They get compared unfavourably to social media, in particular in terms of appearance and functionality, yet social media has its own issues; students wanting to keep teachers out, inappropriate use, unanticipated downtime and third party data protection. Really, truly, deeply – how successful is teaching by social media compared to by VLE? While the pedagogical value of active social learning compared to passive transmission modes is accepted, is it because VLE are poor mediators of educational experiences?

I’m wondering if it’s the gap between the promise and the reality. When you’re sold a dream which turns out to be not quite as expected, and the learning curve of change is higher than anticipated, reluctance to engage becomes more understandable. Does resistance emerge out of disappointment? Is it the initial hype which is to blame? I’m revisiting Edward Bernays to see if there are any clues in his 1928 (revised 1955) little gem of a book called Propaganda. Fresh from the buzz and excitement of BETT, I’m curious to find out more about the art and science of person-suasion.

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* from someone I met at BETT – digital ‘I spoke to you’ reminder cards with photos would be really useful. Twitter profiles are not always enough to identify someone after an event.

Ed tech’s rosy glow of happiness

BETT Tech was fun – I could have played all day but it’s also business. Walking around, I had a moment of doubt. Was this the wrong place to be talking about low levels of digital engagement? I should have read the BESA introduction in the BETT handbook. ‘The importance of CPD is vital to the effective adoption of technology.’ Yes! While not a fan of the T word, I agreed with ‘…never lose sight of the importance of budgeting for training with all technology investments…or only a fraction of the investment potential will be realised…training and support continues to be a very significant barrier to the successful adoption of new technologies.’ Just wish I’d read it before not after my presentation!

Bett Learn Live Higher Education lecture theatre

But doubts were dispelled. The Learn Live Higher Education Space filled up and people stood three deep in the doorways. The microphone might have helped. To me it sounded loud enough to reach all of London so may well have attracted curiosity. Typical tech when the sound is tested and the speaker is only one who doesn’t get to hear it.

There was lots of useful conversation. This included experiences of online seminars where student expectations were passive rather than active so not dissimilar to traditional lectures. Interaction was embedded but collaborative learning not happening. It’s clear discussions about digital engagement are not only about staff who teach and support learning, they’re about student learning practices too.

Opening slide to e-teaching presentation

Digital resistance needs attention. Ed tech is presented in a rosy glow of happiness and stories of disengagement, which challenge the dominant discourse of transformation, rarely appear in the literature unless there is a happy ending. The language of Bett Tech is predominantly about success; flick through the handbook to see examples of achieve, attract, empower, enrich, be effective, inspiring and innovative. It’s good to be positive but there is a need for realism too.

BETT is like a techie Christmas with lots of children opening their pressies and getting excited all at once. That was just the adults. The coolest gadgets were in the Steam Village and BETT Futures located at opposite of ends of the Hall. My feet hurt. Wear comfy shoes and watch out for the floor height difference on the stands. Step up!  I wasn’t there long enough to make the most of it. Once I’d registered, found my space and searched unsuccessfully for the Minecraft Big Green Stand (everything looks blocky. you can’t miss it, but I did) it was time to head back to Kings Cross for my off-peak trip home and a couple of hours for reflection.

comparison of presentation titles showing the range of digital technology usage
Presentation titles show the range of digital technology usage

Whether it’s an institutional VLE, 360° VR landscapes or crafting a succinct sentence in 140 characters or less (with an collectible hashtag), I do believe technology can make a difference. Not as rhetorical transformative promise but through more gently enhancing and extending the student learning experience.

Technology has become part of the social world and to be digitally aware and competent is an essential graduate attribute. Students arriving at university with mobile devices and social media confidence is not the same as demonstrating critical management of digital ways of working. Somewhere between induction and graduation the appropriate and effective use of internet enabled communication and collaboration has to happen. Where better than embedded into the curriculum students come into higher education to experience.

If more reluctance and resistance towards digital education were surfaced, and digital development time allocated and protected, institutions might be in a better place to utilise the platforms they are investing in.

 

digital exclusion as linguistic lockout

image of a locked gate
image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/knowprose/44510297/in/photostream/

The blog post Why digital capabilities matter attracted a number of retweets. It was short and to the point. Since them my 500 word limit has been breached. I need to try harder. Blogging should be an exercise in brevity as much as pertinent points.

The post made the digital-assumption everyone had access in the first place when this is not true. Last week I wrote about the Visitors and Residents typology and suggested a third visitors and residents column for the NAYs (Not arrived Yets) This was primarily about digital resistance or reluctance in higher education- those I call the digitally shy – but I included a wider reference to digital exclusion.

While applying V&R to learning and teaching, it must be remembered how beyond the educational sector, there are an estimated 17 million people in the UK who have no internet connection or are unable to make relevant use of it. Here neither residency nor visitation is a possibility.

David White (co-author of the V&A paper) tweeted Do we need to include those that are not online in our thinking? A timely question.  My answer to the question is unequivocally yes. Digital exclusion is a social responsibility, fundamental to all, in particular for education developers with critical approaches to social change.

Yesterday, a conversation about computerised Health Centre appointments, included the notion digital exclusion would not be an issue with high-speed broadband. Was the digital content designed for users of Assistive Technology within that area? Oh yes, I’m sure someone will have tested that. I’m not so sure. Instead I suspect this is the ‘digital assumption’ in action. It’s easy to do and we are all guilty but need be more provocative and ask the questions.

Digital inclusion does not stop at internet connections or home pages. Sites can be inclusively designed but use bolt-on transaction systems which are not. I supported someone with VI doing online shopping using the market leader in screen readers. All went well until the payment where the pages lost their labels and alt-text rendering the process impossible. I rang the shop. They offered to take the order over the phone. Which missed the point. Digital exclusion prevents independent living as much as access to resources.

A local visual impairment organisation tendered for a new website. None of the design companies knew about screen reading software. We chose the one which said they would like to learn.

A computer science course taught the theory of accessible design is a year 3 module. Which seemed a little late in the course. I asked how the designs were tested. Did they have access to a screen reader or alternative navigation aids? The reply was no; students just needed to know the theory.

David White tweeted ‘there are more fundamental inclusion issues than the digital such as English as a second language.’  I would suggest to be digitally excluded is a form of linguistic lockout. If all around you people are communicating and collaborating online but you don’t have the means of equitable access, they might as well be speaking in a different language.

Digital exclusion is to be rendered invisible. If you’re shut out from the digital platforms of the public sphere you have no voice and digital capital involves negotiating complex structural barriers of cost, support and inaccessible design. Those with digital privilege should be raising awareness of what it takes to ensure a digitally inclusive society. We need to remember how digital exclusion could happen to anyone of us at anytime.

I hope this answers David White’s question Do we need to include those that are not online in our thinking?  Digital inclusion matters. It really does.

 

 

Visitors, Residents and a third option – the NAYs

When it comes to digital practices, visitors and residents describes two modes of internet usage. Residents are comfortable online. Visitors do what needs to be done, then leave. Which are you? Until taking part in a V&R activity I thought of myself as resident. It was interesting to realise these can be interchangeable and maybe there are times we need to back-step from residency to more of a visitation approach. Also, V&R is not the whole picture.

White and Le Cornu use the analogy of an untidy garden shed to distinguish between V&R practices. The visitor will have a task in mind, go to the shed and choose the most appropriate tool. Task completed, visitors return the tool and shut the shed door before, I like to think, going indoors for tea and toast. To stretch the analogy further, visitors are unlikely to sit in the shed rummaging around for no specific reason. If they found another person there’s more chance they’d raise an alarm than settle down for a random chat about topics of mutual interest. The shed might go days or weeks without being visited whereas a resident would be comfortable walking into the shed of a stranger and engaging in discussion with whoever happened to be there. Residents might leave a couple of post-it notes on the shed wall, alongside other people’s lists, photos, video links, reminders about the dentist and an invitation to dinner. The more you think about it, the more reinventing the internet as a shed has potential.

visitors and residents slide from SRHE Conference presentation
visitors and residents slide from SRHE Conference presentation

The Visitors and Residents activity invites reflection on personal and institutional use of digital technology. This is mapped across 4 quadrants divided by 2 continuum’s; V&R plus personal and institutional/professional.

example of V&R map
example of V&R map from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/evaluating-digital-services/example-visitor-and-resident-maps

Whereas Prensky suggested either/or divides between digital natives and immigrants, the V&R duality is more flexible. You can be a visitor in one area and a resident in another, depending on criteria like motivation and the digital traces you leave behind.

I expected my map to reflect residency. If you promote technology it helps to have used it. But lately I’ve been conscious of how the internet blurs lines between work and non-work time. I found changing institutions an interesting opportunity to rethink my digital practice, making conscious choices over which tools to keep and which to abandon, while in some areas like email I’ve backtracked and applied more of a visitor mode. It’s unlikely I could have reviewed and revised my digital practices in this way without a major lifestyle shift.

Residency is defined as ‘the act of establishing or maintaining a residence in a given place’ while visitation suggests a more functional approach. Both include being online. A third category needs to be included. This is the NAYs, the Not Arrived Yet’s.

extending the V&R continuum
extending the V&R continuum slide from SRHE Conference presentation

This area includes the reluctant or resistant – the digitally shy – who resist the VLE, are not present on social media and don’t have mobile internet devices. This could also be interpreted as aspirational, as in ‘I would like to – but need support and resources to make it happen’.

While applying V&R to learning and teaching, it must be remembered how beyond the educational sector, there are an estimated 17 million people in the UK who have no internet connection or are unable to make relevant use of it. Here neither residency nor visitation is a possibility.

As more people are caught up in the social impact of the internet and pressured into digital ways of working, the assumption everyone is more or less at the same starting point needs to be challenged. Whether it’s with regard to institutional learning and teaching strategies or central government policy and practice, it’s too easy to assume a higher level of visitor status than exists. On the other side, maybe we should be rethinking some of our residence practices too.

Melissa Gregg in Work’s Intimacy (2011) describes blurred lines between work and non-work as ‘presence bleed’. Always on call, answering emails and responding to social media 24/7 has become possible but is it desirable or expected? Foucault’s work on the regulation of behaviour through internalising social norms comes to mind, in particular disciplinary power and techniques of the self. Who hasn’t been caught out taking a sneaky look at their mobile under the table or in the loo? Mapping our digital ways of working onto the V&R quadrants is useful, but of even more value is how it encourages you to take a long hard look at your digital practices in the first place.

All the C’s in Digital

 

Doug Belshaw's 8 elements of digital literacies
Doug Belshaw’s 8 elements of digital literacies image from http://tinyurl.com/z6nrleo

Doug Belshaw started it with the 8 C’s of digital literacy I doubt another topic has held so much attraction for single letter. But now now there are 9. The new kid on the digital block is Curation. The only surprise is it wasn’t there to start with. As anyone who’s lost their digital data will know, storage and preservation of content is vital. The cloud is good but not infallible. Books can be burned. Memory gets lost. Devices are stolen and paper vulnerable to all these things.

I should know. The research data for my first MA disappeared and the unfortunate combination of events changed the course of my life.

In the late 1990’s I’d used a Tandy computer with a dial-up modem to collect narratives from my research participants.

tandy_1000_1s
Tandy Computer image from http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?c=1210

Following a request on a campaign website, I’d received responses from all over the world. It was my first experience of the international potential of internet connections. In terms of digital methodology I’d arrived. I felt so sharp I risked cutting myself. In more ways than one.

The narratives were on my hard drive, saved onto a five 1/4 inch floppy disk and printed out on a dot matrix printer which took all day and several reams of paper. But I was so ahead of the digital times. A bright new Intel pentium 486 chip Gateway was being delivered from America alongside my first laser printer. What could go wrong?

I submitted the first dissertation draft and my supervisor asked to see the data. Our computers were incompatible so I bundled the print-outs into a carrier bag, cycled to the uni and left them. A week later, with computers changed over, I cycled back to collect them.

floppy disks
floppy disk images from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floppy_disk#/media/File:Floppy_disk_2009_G1.jpg courtesy of George Chernilevsky

I ‘d now moved to a 3 1/2 in disk drive. A whole 1.44 MB data. So exciting! I wasn’t too worried about disk incompatibility but it turned out the file transfer data was corrupted. This happened a lot back then.  It was a pain but I remember feeling relieved because at least I had everything printed out. Or so I thought. At the uni, my supervisor explained her car had been broken into and her bag, containing all my printed data, had been stolen.

Up to then I’d been praised for innovative data collection. It returned far more than needed, highlighted new areas for research, put me in touch with a supportive international community. I’d been asked to consider a Phd because of the unique contribution to knowledge the data represented. All that came to an end.

The media loves stories of people who leave sensitive data on a train or the back seat of a taxi. I feel for them. I really do. But I doubt many of us lie awake at night worrying about digital curation. We think it won’t happen to us.  If anything, cloud storage makes it even easier to cut back on belt and braces approaches of email, data sticks, FTP etc.  One of the problems with digital capabilities is most of us use what we need to get by. Without background expertise it’s easy to make mistakes which can put you off doing something a second time. Over the years I’ve accepted how ‘digital’ contains an inevitability of errors. But it’s a hard lesson and not everyone has the inclination to go there.

Today we’re more likely to refer to the Jisc model of digital capabilities than Belshaw’s concept of digital elements. Here, digital curation could fit with ‘information data and media literacies‘ or ‘ICT proficiency‘ which links to four other areas. It could also connect with ‘digital identity and well being‘ which encompasses and underpins everything.

The digital is an evolving environment and digital capabilities themselves are fluid conceptions, dependent on context for interpretation. This is what makes working with digital capabilities so challenging but ultimately so relevant and rewarding as well.

Jisc Digital Capabilities Framework image
Jisc Digital Capabilities Framework image from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/blog/thriving-in-a-connected-age-digital-capability-and-digital-wellbeing-25-jun-2015