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In yesterday’s symposium we discussed narrative structure and hypertexts.

One the whole, reading is considered to be a relaxing pastime. If I sit down with a piece of creative writing or fiction, it’s pretty likely I’m seeking out a relatively passive, pleasurable experience. Generally, I want to read these types of texts when I’m after an escape, wanting to calm down or am/want to be feeling particularly lazy/blissful/at peace. Sure, sometimes I read as a distraction or when I’m procrastinating, but if I’m really needing to actively engage with a text, I’m more likely to approach it with a different mindset and with a pen (or laptop) close by.

What came up yesterday, (and as my classmate, Daniel, expresses), is that some of the ideas proposed where the more traditional ‘reader’ is instead offered to be a ‘reader-author’ – gaining agency within the fictional context – might in some cases, disrupt that peace one feels when sitting down with a more traditional narrative. When an author gives you a beginning, middle and end, you’re provided with some certainly that a conflict will resolve, or there will be some sort of logical conclusion to the drama within. Sitting down to a text with no definitive conclusion means having to be alert enough to make decisions about which path to take, and when I’m in the mood for relaxing that’d feel overwhelming.

I also have a tendency to put off making decisions until the last possible moment. For example, I received an email just two days ago asking me to ‘Please enrol in [next semester’s] courses at your earliest convenience’ as enrolment opened last November. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about what I’d like to/need to enrol in, quite the contrary. It’s more along the lines of ah, there are so many interesting subjects on offer how ever will I choose? 

In some circumstances restrictions are actually bloody helpful. Choosing subjects, working out what to wear, even choosing what book to read next. We’re living in a world with endless opportunities which don’t get me wrong, is great. I know how lucky I am to be in a position where I have so many educational and life possibilities and I am truly grateful to have such a privilege. I’m acutely aware of how many 20-something females around the world are deprived of all these chances, where the prospect of reading any kind of text, is simply (and sadly) just a dream.

But, for me sometimes being relieved of decision-making is just that – a relief.

So, I think on the whole I’ll be sticking to pre-prescribed texts, but perhaps when I’m feeling adventurous or so inclined, I will choose to be a reader-author. It seems like a pretty open invitation.

I found the most recent readings for Networked Media quite tedious. They felt unnecessarily explanatory, providing me with information, rather than providing me with a springboard for further investigation. They seemed laborious and their ‘age’ was evident by way of the innovative technologies they were praising now themselves outdated or outdated. To me, the texts felt inferior to the much richer discussions we’ve been having in class.

But, I’ve realised our discussion is richer because we’ve each done the assigned readings, and have interpreted them in different ways. We are subsequently able to reflect upon them through our own personal lens, and develop individual perspectives, both of which are inherently linked to our own experiences, prior knowledge, and interests.

Despite having felt these recent readings to be mentally taxing, the notes I’ve taken from them are far from bland.

George Landow describes blogs as sets of networked documents, ‘created either to stand alone, as it largely is, or to take part in a larger web’. Furthermore, the networked nature of a blog enables an author ‘wanting to conceive of an argument in terms of networked documents can write a concise essay and link a wide range of supportive evidence’, from which readers can choose what to investigate further, with ‘auxiliary materials becom[ing] paratexts’.

I know this really just describes a blog’s foundational characteristics and its nature, but I found Landow’s concept about a blog being of equal value on its own, ‘as it largely is’, or as a ‘part in a larger web’ oddly reassuring.

He also refers to blogging as ‘the first widely available means on the Web of allowing the active reader-author envisaged by Nelson‘ and other ‘pioneers’. Landow suggests hypertexts encourage an active reader who has the opportunity to both consume and create text, ‘assum[ing] an authorial role and either attack links or add text to the text being read’. Because of this, ‘current terminology does not suffice – hypermedia technology requires more appropriate vocabulary, beyond reader and author’.

As consumers, creators of, and participants in hypermedia, ‘the object one reads [is an] entrance into the docuverse’ of hypermedia documents. With hypermedia we are able to make our mark, or ‘intrude’ on the text itself, rather than making a superficial annotation in say, pen or pencil, that we might to a page of a printed book. The boundaries of the text are wide open, and the (hyper)text is forced ‘to exist as part of a complex dialogue’. However, it is still up to the receiver of this text to engage with the other ‘speakers’ or participants in this conversation. The world wide web has ensured that no stone goes unturned, and that if you’re seeking more information, yearning for more knowledge, or another explanation, all you have to do is follow a link, or perhaps, go back a few steps and follow an alternate route, as Nelson explores.

Most importantly, Landow says that hypertexts emphasise that ‘the marginal ha[ve] as much to offer as the central, in part because it refuses to grant centrality to anything’. It is a ‘democratic’ text, alike a society that values all points of view, ideologies and conversations. Landow says hypertexts edify Richard Rorty’s philosophy of ‘keep[ing] the conversation going rather than [finding an] objective truth’, which I feel is a key component of this course.

Learning is about exploring, taking opportunities and creating possibilities. Education shouldn’t be about shutting down doors and slamming them in people’s faces when you don’t like their point of view. Yes, I like certainty and definitive resolutions, but I value deep discussion, reflection, and considering others’ perspectives just as much.

And, this is what is so great about the internet. As Paul Graham says, the beauty of the online community is that ‘Anyone can publish an essay on the Web, and it gets judged, as any writing should, by what it says, not who wrote it’.

I’d much rather you challenge me on my ideas than my appearance, but remember, everything is constantly evolving.

Kids are so often questioned by endearing adults about what they want to be when they grow up. I’d say it’s one of the three most common questions grandparents ask their grandchildren, teachers ask their students, and family-friends ask their younger acquaintances.

There are your stereotypical answers: firefighter, sports star, pop singer. I know I had dreams of becoming a famous entertainer; traveling the world with my entourage, performing to thousands of screaming fans at the world’s biggest arenas. I knew every word to Sk8r Boi, Born To Try, and Bring It All Back. With friends and cousins, I created shows and made tired adults sit through our endless cycles of songs and dances, accompanied by summersaults, and a hairbrush held upright, just below my chin – for authenticity, of course (see below).

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I’m an avid TED fan, and spend my spare moments listening and watching TEDTalks from all over the world. TEDTalks give me insight into the possibilities and opportunities available to me, knowledge about the brain, our emotions, global institutions, personal triumphs, life challenges and revolutions of all sizes and nature, and the chance to gain an understanding and new perspectives about issues so central to our world, past, present and future.

I’ve listened and watched American model Cameron Russell’s TEDTalk time, and time again, (and if you enjoyed my post Like This, I suggest you watch it, too). I love Andrew Solomon’s soliloquy on depression, and Brené Brown on The power of vulnerability.

As the slogan says, the speakers at TED really do have ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’.

Today, I came across a recent TEDxTalk by Logan LaPlante. LaPlante shares his thoughts on this reoccurring concept of asking children what they want to be when they ‘grow up’.

LaPlante explains his philosophy that maybe what we should focus on is making a life, rather than making a living, and suggests that being happy, healthy and engaging in creative practice will help us achieve our life goals in more meaningful and rewarding ways.

Maybe you’ve come across similar ideas somewhere, someplace, sometime. Maybe you think there’s nothing so exceptional about an individual such as LaPlante having developed this point of view.

Except, Logan LaPlante is 13 years old. In Lake Tahoe, California, he lives with his parents and his younger brother, Cody. And, another thing that makes LaPlante’s philosophy so poignant is how he found these principles by which he lives. 

Logan LaPlante

Logan LaPlante

Ask LaPlante what he wants to be when he grows up? Happy. He believes innovation, exploration and experimentation are key aspects of developing a life worth living, and actively pursues his interests through his education.

LaPlante was taken out of the traditional school system at age nine. Now, he is homeschooled, and has coined the method through which he learns, as Hackschooling.

He explains, ‘hackers are people who challenge and change… systems, to make them work differently, to make them work better.’ He says hacking and hackschooling involve adopting an open ‘mindset’ where you’re not afraid to try new things, to get messy.

LaPlante stands by Sir Ken Robinson’s argument that creativity should be just as valued as literacy, and suggests hackschooling as a ‘remix’ or a ‘mash up’ of traditional education, one that  encourages students to develop their passions, take on opportunities, and think outside the square.

He now loves writing, because he was given the opportunity to write about subjects that actually interest him. His favourite ‘class’ is an internship he has one day a week with Big Truck Brand, a global lifestyle and accessories company. He is motivated, stimulated and aware.

LaPlante talks about Dr Roger Walsh’s idea of Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLCs), and has made these principles of learning how to be happy and healthy an integral part his hackschooling philosophy.

hackschooling

And, as LaPlante says, because it’s a mindset, not a system, ‘the cool part [is] hackschooling can be used by anyone, even traditional schools’.

At its heart, hackschooling is about encouraging kids to follow their passions. It’s about involving young people in the community, drawing on local resources, making learning fun, and trusting that given these opportunities, young people will find their way to make a living as a byproduct of their journey towards creating a meaningful life.

Learning should be hands on, involved, inspiring. We should focus on developing skills and fostering relationships, rather than memorising charts and tables and facts.

Logan LaPlante recognises we’re living in a world in great need of more young people with this hacker mindset, and the benefits it offers individuals, their communities, and the world at large.

If only our Education Minister and (sadly appointed) senior teaching staff such as Christopher Bantick were open to adopting the hacker mindset. I’m sure the world would have a much brighter future.

On the train home from university this afternoon, I boarded a carriage with very few spare seats. I set up shop (read: positioned myself in a corner with The Age) opposite a distinctive group of individuals, who were chatting excitedly with smiles miles wide on their faces. Usually I try to steer clear of noisy groups, whether it be business men, school kids or screaming children, because I like to read in peace and relative quietness. But for some reason, I decided to stay put and have their conversation as a background soundtrack to my travel home.

The train took off and I started to read. But I was soon taken by the conversation this group of people were having. The first thing I noticed were their accents. Each person seemed to speak our mother tongue with their personal flavouring on top. Some were sweetened and drawn out, others spoke in sharp consonant soundbites. One man I found quite difficult to understand, yet another spoke clear and precise English, as if it was a language she’d known from birth, with just a hint of something special on the side. As I studied their faces, I noticed the diverse ethnicities they represented. Of the six people, some were dark, some of Asian heritage, and another appeared to be Middle Eastern. I heard one man speak of his hometown in Saudi Arabia. He was a hardware worker. One woman thought he’d said ‘hairdresser’ rather than hardware worker, and after clarifying his profession through adjectives they both understood, they had a laugh about their mixup. They bonded over their struggle to learn English but their pursuit of it, regardless.

I came to realise that among this group, one woman seemed slightly out of place. She was an Indian woman, significantly older, spoke of navigating Melbourne’s public transport system, and with correct grammar and articulation. She asked questions of the others, and stimulated conversation through these open-ended inquiries. The other members were only too happy to answer, practicing their English and enjoying the interaction and celebrating their achievements in managing to construct appropriate and coherent responses.

They discussed what might happen if they missed their exit station the next time they took the train, alone. The older woman pointed to the map on the train wall behind them, and used her finger to guide them along the line as she explained how to navigate the map of Melbourne. They were to get off at Parliament, today, and the group carefully named the stations before and after their stop, to familiarise themselves with the suburban stations surrounding the city loop.

As the train pulled up to Parliament, what I had thought to be a group of six suddenly ballooned into a group of a much larger scale. The woman turned around and announced to the seats behind her that they were arriving at their station, and to get their Myki’s out, ready to touch off upon exiting the station. As I scanned those I’d previously ignored in the nearby seats, I began to realise what they had in common. I can only assume, but I’m fairly confident, that each of those youthful individuals were new arrivals on our shores. These people were migrants from war-torn countries, others coming from backgrounds of poverty and hardship. Some had left behind their families and friends, and all were making an enormous change in hope of a better life in a land more prosperous and filled with opportunities, than their home.

It was incredible to see how excited they were. They were so full of energy, hope and delight. They were making friends, overcoming obstacles and making the most of what life has given them. And I was able to gauge all of this from about five minutes on a train. Not even speaking with any of them directly. Just overhearing their conversation.

As they left the train and stepped onto the ground at Parliament, my eyes turned back to my newspaper. I scanned the page titled World. Bombings, corruption, hope for basic human rights and democracy, suicide. Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt. Bulgaria, Myanmar, Libya, and Syria. So much violence, and seems so far away. But it’s closer to home than many of us care to realise. We are a multicultural society, and it is so important that we continue to welcome people to our country. They may be escaping, fleeing, or simply looking for a better life. Some will stay, others may return to their homeland. But we should accept people not just for who they are, but because they are who they are. Everyone has a different story, and it is only through sharing these stories that we enrich our own lives and in turn, the lives of others.

These people appreciate what we take for granted, they persevere and fight for their human right to be treated with respect.

So in the midst the politics of 457 visas, stopping the boats, illegal immigrants and the like, maybe what we need to consider is the value of our culture as a melting pot. We should consider the risks people have taken and the choices they have made in coming to this country, and treat them as whole, and special, people. We need to stop treating people like abused animals; herding them, dictating to them,  mistreating them, and start to speak with them, as our equals.

Because that’s the right way forward for Australia. And politicians aren’t doing us, or themselves, justice, if they choose to act otherwise.

My piece Do Not Discriminate – In the Firing Line of Hate, has been tailored and published on We Matter Media, and now a similarly edited version has also appeared in RMIT’s student magazine, Catalyst. You can view it online here, but what is also exciting, is that it is my first print publication.

This is the first edition of Catalyst for the year and the new editors have totally revamped the style, facade and interiors of the magazine. It looks amazing. In addition, they’ve initiated and launched Catalyst online, which basically means you have no excuse not to read what’s on the minds’ of RMIT students no matter where you live. So bookmark it and be sure to check back regularly for updates.

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  1. Hygiene and Sanitation in Communal Bathrooms – bathrooms and toilets in particular have the potential to be inherently dirty and disgusting. But walking into a clean, air-freshened toilet cubicle makes the whole experience so much nicer. No one wants to pee when there’s dirt on the floor, blood on the bin lids and others’ remains waiting to greet you, so I’m thankful for cleaning staff and the majority of the population who respects the facilities they use and the cleanliness of those present before and after them. Leave a toilet how you’d like to find it.
  2. Navy Blue – today I wore a navy blue top with navy blue shorts. As a little kid I hated navy because I was constantly dressed in it but I’m happy to say my opinion has changed. I also wore a baby blue backpack. I’m feeling blue, with a positive connotation.
  3. Honesty – it is pretty rare, so it’s nice to know it still exists.
  4. Location – today I woke up at 7:45am to be somewhere by 10am. That’s early for a sleeper like me. But other’s had to get up at 6am to arrive at the same place at the same time. So I’m thankful I live within close proximity to many places I frequent.
  5. Diversity – today, an ABC newsreader was publicly abused on a Sydney bus. But I am in awe of how diverse our population is. Each person is unique and no one can be defined by a single determinant such as race, religion or age. I am thankful that I’ve grown up in a multicultural society and that I have the chance to meet new and interesting people so often.
  6. Graduation – or more distinctly, the phases one passes through and graduates from within their life. I was in the presence of a young man today who is about to graduate into a new phase of life. Stepping into unfamiliar territory is scary, but he has accomplished many things and is now ready to make this transition. It is important to recognise our small graduations, because they may be significant in subtle ways.
  7. Random Acts of Kindness – I opened a lovely packet of Derwent Artist’s colour pencils today. They had been used many times before but the girl next to me had taken the time to organise them according to the colour wheel. I feel less anxious when things are in order and her small action had also made my experience of scanning the pencils more aesthetically pleasing.
  8. People Singing in Their Cars – while driving today, a song came on the radio and I started humming along, as I’ve taken to doing since driving on my own because I’ve always thought people singing in their cars look pretty silly. So while I was humming and singing the words in my head, I looked in my rear vision mirror and instantly recognised the girl in the car behind me was mouthing the words to the song I was listening to. It was a strange feeling, firstly knowing we were listening to the same radio station (which I’ll admit, must happen all the time without us realising) but then I was reading her lips and hearing the words come through to me via my stereo. It made me smile. Furthermore, we were going to the same destination and entered the building one after the other. And it was a song with lyrics and a video clip I love. So keep singing in your car, it’ll make someone else giggle.
  9. Athleticism – not mine, but observing that of others. Watching someone truly run, with power, energy and determination is a great thing.
  10. Getting to the Station Just Before the Train Arrives – I walked onto the platform and the monitor told me the train would be there in two minutes. Best feeling, knowing I’ve timed everything right, from waking up to stepping outside.
  11. Today’s Weather – Melbourne was a beautiful 28 degrees today. I’m generally a Winter Girl, but today had just the right amount of sunshine, a light breeze and no insanely hot periods. Nailed it, Melbourne.
  12. Coincidence – today I met a girl who’d gone to the same school as me, a few years behind, and yet I’ve never seen let alone met her before. Someone recently noted how frustrating it is that in Melbourne (and possibly other cities/countries as well) people are very quick to ask what school you went to. While she saw it as a negative, and I can see her point of view if it leads to judgement or remains the only topic of conversation, I believe it’s an easy way to make connections with new people, find mutual friends and acts as a pathway to discussions of similar interests and knowledge.
  13. Professionals and Education – being in the presence of someone who actively steers a conversation in a meaningful way as a result of their professional training or knowledge is both a testament to their abilities, and a help to those they are guiding. The value of education is often disregarded, particularly in a society where almost everyone receives a minimum of 10 years of mandatory education and so many go on to complete further training. Amongst my peers, I feel learning in its own right is thought as compulsory rather than voluntary or engaging which means it is often seen as having many, often unwanted, strings attached. We should be able to enjoy learning without the pressure of grades or rigorous study schedules, as well as learning to gain qualifications. Hundreds of people go through all levels of education each year and settle with just passing their subjects so they can get their degree and walk. Education is an opportunity, but I feel it isn’t valued as such.
  14. Flexibility – similarly, education amongst other things, should be flexible. Amidst a group of people I was with today, many educational institutions had been flexible in allowing them to miss a day of school or study, allowing the individuals to better themselves and expand their horizons outside of their primary institution. While rules and regulations are necessary to maintain standards and behaviours of living, being about to be flexible is so important. I am still learning to be more open to flexibility myself, but accommodating unexpected situations, people and new ways of thinking is important for our personal growth.
  15. Preparedness – on the flip side, being prepared is very rewarding. I know that if I’m cold, I’ll get shitty. It happens every time and so for me, checking the weather forecast the day before, for instance, is very important. Despite the beautiful weather outside today, I was inside an air conditioned building for the majority of the day. So I’d packed a jumper. When possible, prepare yourself and life get’s easier.