Suicide Machine

Blogs must be like buses – wait for ages then two come at once. A BBC report publicises the Suicide Machine – a service to help people disconnect from social networks. Founder Gordan Savicic says he’s had 90,000 requests and rising from individuals keen to opt out of the Internet and experience the real world instead. It had to happen. Our digital lifestyles have taken on a life of their own. Self-deletion is no longer an option. Who you gonna call? DataBusters! I’m not entirely comfortable with the suicide analogy, and a visit to the website doesn’t make it seem anymore appropriate. But maybe even the human experience of bereavement is reduced through digitisation. Like Kindle takes away the human element of book reading while still offering the same end result.  The report includes a link to Daniel Sieberg’s Declaration of Disconnection in the Huffington Post  where he refers to himself as a recovering social network addict. Suicide AND Addiction?  Scratching on the surface of the reality of the dark side of the Internet. When did you last experience digital disconnection and how was it for you?


For me, blogging is about reflection. This relationship becomes strained when time is in short supply. The act of blogging then becomes a measure of the time available for thought. You know when blogging gets neglected, the processes of reflection are slipping too.

Without reflection we function automatically. Reflection is the means by which we make sense of the present and move meaningfully into the future. But sometimes events are too much. That’s when avoiding reflective practice becomes a way of coping. Workload exceeding its allocated time is an example. How to prioritise? What to cut? Where to say no?

Then it gets more complex. What is my role? Like the words on the bridge over the Brayford – where have I come from and where am I going?

Blogging is an opportunity to take time out for reflection – we should value that. However we choose to engage, we need reflection. Somehow we must find a way to make it happen.

So what do I say no to in order to have time to think?

blood on the stones…

September always feels more like  a ‘new year’ than January does. There’s a sense of anticipated difference – in the levels of noise, people, activity, queues and above all start of semester work-loads. Only this year I haven’t  actually stopped working. I don’t know where the summer’s gone, only that I havent gone anywhere with the exception of last week when I visited the University of Kent; home of the Creative Campus Initiative. Creativity appeals; imagination, dance, poetry, music and above all reflective writing – I knew I’d feel at home there 🙂

Brayford is an attractive campus but it misses the landscaped gardens of the ‘Cottingham Road – Hull’ campus. Kent campus is built on a hill surrounded by trees and bushes full of rabbits and squirrels; a highspot is the Canterbury Labyrinth – more about this at – looking even better for real than it does in the pictures.

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The labyrinth overlooks Canterbury Cathedral;  creating appropriate parallels between a workshop on reflective journeying and Chaucer’s pilgrims travelling to the shrine of Thomas A Beckett, murdered in the cathedral in 1170. The cathedral itself is permanent memorial to the craft of the medieval stonemasons but there’s less on the death of Thomas himself and the candle marking the long gone shrine is nowhere near the alleged place of the murder. For years I believed there were bloodstains on the stone; more likely a natural colour change but a powerful memory and I wanted to investigate. The pillar itself is no longer there; instead there are headstones in the floor and one has a circular plaque which a guide told me is where the pillar was. Coincidence or design? Either way it sounded speculative and most people, myself included, will have walked over that spot without even realising it’s there. The rest of the cathedral is well worth a visit but there is no blood on the stones.

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Putting the C in IT

Who put the C in ICT? When did the word Communication(s) slip in? According to Dyer Witherford in Cyber Marx, communication(s) could well stand for capitalism. Following in the tradition of Negri  and Autonomist Marxism, DW claims technology has become the major site of class struggle and conflict in 21st century. Techno-science is portrayed as an ‘instrument of capitalist domination’ with control of communication channels in the hands of multi-national organisations. Flows of information and digital data are less easily managed which is creating space for ‘invention’ power to re-appropriate and subvert and use information for alternative purposes. It’s the tension between these contesting interests which provides society with the nucleus for revolution.

Information theorists  suggest our current ‘information society’ represents a ‘third age’, one that follows the ‘agrarian’ and ‘industrial’ ones. They argue industry has been succeeded by information and techno-scientific knowledge has become the main wealth-producing resource (but wouldn’t rain forests and natural treasures like gold have valid claims?) Evidence of a knowledge economy is all around and critical to the dissemination and management of these new ways of working have been the developments in Information Technology (IT). We now generally use the acronym ICT but when did the additional letter slip in? Pondering like you do (long car journey – monotonous roads) the parallels between the Autonomist’s view of the I and the C as representing conflict between citizen and state makes a potential duality of meaning an appropriate one.

Plastic is for life…

The Plastiki, a plastic bottle catamaran, revisits the issue of plastic waste in the oceans; in particular the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or Gyre where the currents have created a concentration of plastic pollution. The plastic breaks down but doesn’t decompose. Plastiki also raises awareness of the shortage of fish, comparing their journey to that of Thor Heyerdahl on the Kon-Tiki in 1947 where the fish were so abundant crew were throwing them back into the sea. Despite having their lines in the water every day, Plastiki crew have caught only a couple of tuna in three month, reinforcing reports that 80% of the world’s fish stocks have done. The remaining fish are damaged by plastic pollution.

“These particles [of plastic] are ingested by marine life and pass into our food chain. We all do it: we throw this stuff, this packaging….into the bin, and we think it has gone. But it comes back to us one way or another. Some of it ends up on our dinner plates.”

plastic pollution
Examples of sea water containing fragments of plastic; it breaks down but doesn't decompose


Videos on You Tube. World biggest garbage dump – plastic in the Ocean

Charles Moore: Sailing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch- a TED Talk

…the consistency of latex paint…

image showing oil reaching the Loiusiana coast image showing oil reaching the Loiusiana coast 

“Local reports described heavy sheets of oil the consistency of latex paint clogging the marshes in the Mississippi delta that provide a haven for migratory birds, and buffer the shore from Gulf hurricanes. ”

This is what everyone wanted to avoid, because the wetlands are the nursery for everything that swims or crawls in the Gulf of Mexico,” said John Hocevar, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace. “Once the oil gets stuck in there we are pretty much stuck with it.”

Not one leak but two?

oil on the shore in Louisiana

It’s been three weeks and six days and oil continues to gush out of the broken pipe. Only it’s not one but two broken pipes. While BP stick with their 5000 barrels a day estimate, a professor of mechanical engineering has studied the latest video and reported that the two wellhead leaks combined are gushing 95,000 barrels a day, with 70,000 barrels from the largest leak and 25,000 from the smaller. This is the first reference to two leaks. Previous video footage only appeared to show one. It shows how we have no idea of the truth of the situation.

The story is old now. You have to search to find coverage. But it’s still happening and the oil has reached the shoreline. The damage is unknowable. One of the dispersents being used is Corexit, a chemical banned in the UK because of its effects on limpets and other sea life. The word helplessness comes to mind. Helpless to stop it, helpless in the face of the potential environmental damage. Argument and debate in the US is focused on passing the blame, on the politics of deep water drilling and on attempts to limit political damage on the November mid-term elections. In the mean time the oil continues to leak unstoppably into the Gulf of Mexico.

Lest we forget…

seabird covered in oil

Estimates now range from 5,000 to 70,000 barrels a day, following analysis of video footage of the broken pipe. Now in week 4, it still gushes.  Tony Hayward, BP CEO, claims the oil spill is “relatively tiny” compared with the “very big ocean. Coverage of the press conference  gives no answers only that BP are “learning as we go along”. For the waters and shorelines of the Gulf of Mexico the lesson may be too late.

tyres, golf balls and things like that…

In the 17 days since Deepwater Horizon exploded 1,135,600 litres of oil a day (19,305,200 litres or 1,748,824 gallons) has gushed into the Gulf of Mexico and continues to do so every minute of the day. BP have an environmental disaster on their hands. The BP PR campaign has gone into overdrive. It needs to do. So far they’ve tried fire, containment booms, underwater robots and a deep water containment cover all without success. The latest idea is a ‘junk shot’. Under high pressure, ‘tyres, golf balls and things like that’ are going to be fired at into the leaking pipe. I read that twice too. If you can’t sink a containment device because of the ice crystals then how much different is a high pressure debris firing gun going to make? The only hope is, for the sake of the environment, that it works – but it’ll be a long shot in every sense of the word.