A few weeks ago I was on a training course (Coding with Visual Basic - lucky me!) and a high school teacher there was telling me how dangerous blogs are. Apparently students use them for bullying. She couldn't explain exactly how this was done, but she said that many teachers at her school (coincidentally another Catholic school) felt threatened by student blogging. Huh?
Of all things, I would have thought that blogging, because of its open nature, would be the least threatening way of using the internet. Teen angst fills the files on the servers at xanga, livejournal and many other blogging/journalling sites. If you fall into a nest of teen bloggers you'll want to climb right out, as fast as you can. But I can't see the danger - or at least I can't see a danger that doesn't exist in many other places, both online and in real life. If teens are putting too much personal stuff out there and making themsleves vulnerable to predation, shouldn't they be shown how and why to be as careful and wary online as they are in real life? If the bullying has moved from the bikesheds to the internet, is it any worse? Isn't it the behaviour that teachers and parents should be monitoring, guiding and modelling, instead of getting bogged down in talking down the medium?
No, it's not about protection of vulnerable youngsters; it's about control. The children of the book (that's most of us) are trying to impose their world on the children of the screen (that's anyone under around 20). (These useful labels come from Susan Greenfield and shouldn't be taken to mean that I am dividing the human race into two parts -it's simply a way to talk about how we know and learn stuff. I myself consider that I'm between screen and book, although still mostly book - although I'm entirely comfortable in/on/with the screen, I tend to think in hierarchies, which children of the screen don't.)
This kind of reaction is a moral panic - a human reaction as old as the generation gap. It is a convenient way to demonise difference and institutionalise fear. It's not about safety, it's about limits and boundaries. And it doesn't work. Never has, never will.
Here's a preliminary shot of my new living room. It's gorgeous - but I expect you'll be finding it rather difficult to appreciate this from this little phone picture. It's taken from the hallway door, looking toward the kitchen archway (presently draped). The line on the floor was a wall this morning.
I love my little house. It's nearly perfect for me. But not quite: the living room and dinig room are both quite small. So I have had a quote to have the wall between them removed; it is within budget and the builder can squeeze it in next week - I expected it would be sometime in 2006!
Here is roughly what it looks like now (click to enlarge).
The biggest disadvantage of this layout is that anyone coming in the front door can see right down to the bathroom. There is an arch between the dining room and the kitchen, so that part is quite open, but the living area can feel quite claustrophobic. And when I'm cooking I'm cut off from whatever's happening in the living room.
So the plan is quite simple: to open it up like this:
The side windows only look out on the wall of the next house, but kitchen window looks out on the pretty back garden, and soon you'll be able to see that from the living room.
I posted this link a couple of weeks ago, and it's still gripping me. Ray moved back to New Orleans on Friday and I'm waiting anxiously for his next post.
Truly, truth is stranger than fiction. How can anyone cope with all this? I can hardly imagine feeling like this - and it must be even worse for lots of other people caught in Katrina who have lost people close to them. And of course, for people caught in the tsunami or the earthquake.
I had a real bout of homesickness reading this morning's paper. Paolo Totaro, one of my favourite journos, on what Aussies could learn from New Zealand. Read it - I promise it's worth your time. It's good to think that what I (and other expat kiwis) feel about Aussie politics can be picked up by an Aussie too.
We have this object in a corner of our office. It is a multi-functional object: It can scan, print, fax or photocopy. But it has a problem: it can't decide what function to perform. We send it a printing job and it tries to warm up its scanner. We put a sheet in to photocopy and it wants a number to fax it to.
Office equipment with an identity crisis. Give me a break!