Books,  monthly roundup,  Music,  post-OU

February 24 roundup

(photo shows Irwin DeVries, Audrey Watters, Brian Lamb and Rajiv Jhangiani in 2015)

As February comes to an end, I feel I am entering the wind down phase of my Open University career, with departure scheduled for June. The replacement for my role on the Open Programme is being recruited, we’re planning for my last GO-GN workshop at OER24, and I’m handing over editorship of JIME. It leaves one in a slight liminal space mentally and work wise – I’m busy doing handover, and continuing workload, but I’m not required for planning things that will take place after I leave. It’s not so much that I have less work, but rather that mentally it’s less demanding as there are so many topics I can just shrug my shoulders about now. I read this article about effectively designing inbetween spaces, particularly staircases. The author states “Done right, the staircase becomes a world unto its own – a place to linger, to get views outside…, a place to reflect, to connect and to be active.” I guess I need to find an equivalent for this career period, and avoid “soul deadening transitions”.

I would like to pay tribute to a colleague who passed away at the end of January, Irwin DeVries. I met Irwin for the first time on a seemingly interminable conference dinner outing in Bali in 2014, and we usually met up at conferences once or twice a year after that. He was a funny, humble, insightful and generous person, the sort who made everyone better for knowing him. In his leadership and humanity he was a role model for so many of us to follow. Brian Lamb has a touching tribute to him, I know I’ll miss his bumbling persona and quick wit.

An ed tech news story that lots of people commented on this month, was the use of holograms at Loughborough. To which my response was *gallic shrug*. Apparently students “absolutely love” the technology and have been begging for selfies with the gadget”. Well, duh, it’s fun and new. I expect people would love selfies next to a tank of snakes also. This kind of tech is only really interesting when it becomes ubiquitous – sure if we can have holographic meetings, then why not? But until then the thing it’s competing with – 2D easy access representations – are good enough, and the gain from this tech is not worth the cost and inconvenience. As for AI powered holographic lectures from Einstein, I’m sure that’d be fun for a week or so, then it’d be back to actually learning. It’d be interesting to revisit this story in a year’s time and see if that hologram kit is still in heavy use.

On the books front I am smashing it this year. I read 17 books this month (although a few were novellas), perhaps highlighting the decreasing work demands I mentioned above. I’ve blogged about the excellent feminist and race critiques of horror that I read, the metaphors in Entangled Life and thoughts from the apocalypse fiction ones. I read a fascinating account of the history of the music press, Totally Wired: The Rise and Fall of the Music Press. As someone who read Smash Hits avidly and then transitioned to the NME in the 80s which was a life bible, it was insightful to see those periods placed in context. However, the author’s contention is that this period of music journalism mattered because people wrote about it as if music mattered. He makes a noble attempt to bring into focus voices other than the dominant white male rock journalists, but ultimately the tale is so full of arrogant, often misogynistic and homophobic, men with drug problems that it becomes counter-productive. You begin to think that maybe it didn’t really matter at all.

Vinyl wise, I picked up a lovely edition of Gruff Rhys’s new album Sadness Sets Me Free, and also acquired new releases from Grandaddy and J Mascis. All three of these are fine examples of artists who have stuck around, doing what they do, while refining and tweaking it. Hey, just like blogging, eh?

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