The Joy of Finding Guerilla Knitting

Rose White has observed that Guerrilla knitting has “a couple of meanings in the knitting community – to some, it merely means knitting in public, while to others, it means creating public art by knitted means.”

Her talk at the 24th Chaos Communication Congress noted that:

Contemporary knitters feel very clever for coming up with edgy language to describe their knitting, but the truth is that for decades there have been knitters and other textile artists who are at least as punk rock as today’s needle-wielders. This talk will cover the vibrant history of contemporary knitting, with a focus on projects that will make you say, “Wow, that’s knitted?”

Today at the University of Canberra I had that wow feeling. I came across these examples of the art form.

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The anonymity of guerilla knitting is such that I have no idea who installed these pieces. They may be devotees of Knitta. Or perhaps an acolyte of Bronwen Sandland. Perhaps someone from Parramatta. Whoever it was made it an unforgettable day for me … the first time since 2002 I have seen knitting in the wild!

This delight led me to concur with Kristin at Spinhandspun Design who observes that:

By covering construction sites, road signs, and technologies in handmade materials, each piece reminds us that our symbolic environments deserve a second skin: softer, warmer, imperfect, and tattooed with subtle reminders of our humanity. Ideas spread through human interactions…

 

#IACSS09

This blog post is my keynote address to IACSS09.

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If a new technology extends one or more of our senses outside us into the social world, then new ratios among all of our senses will occur in that particular culture.

When the sense ratios alter in any culture then what had appeared lucid before may suddenly become opaque, and what had been vague or opaque will become translucent.

Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain … (Marshall McLuhan)

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This process has accelerated since these insights were first published in McLuhan’s work. The Twitter example from Infoharmoni exemplifies this I believe. (“This is a dynamic network, showing what companies the 200 most prolific tweets were talking about. Both people and companies are nodes, and the edges change over the course of the day. Everytime a person tweets about a company, an edge is added connecting that person to the company. After 30 minutes, the edge decays. The companies are labeled, and the individuals are anonymized here”.)

I did not mention McLuhan’s global village ideas I made in a post recently but I have taken the fate of equus grevyi very seriously!

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Males are highly territorial, claiming prime watering and grazing areas with piles of dung called middens. They generally live alone in their territories, except when females move through during mating season. Non-territorial males travel together in groups of two to six animals. This social system differs from that of other zebras, which typically form female harems that live in one male’s territory all year. During dry months, many Grevy’s zebras migrate to greener mountain pastures, but males on prime territories often remain there year-round.

Interestingly “each zebra has its own unique set of stripes, which are as distinctive as fingerprints”.

I would like to use the ecology of Grevy’s Zebra to discuss social networks stimulated by Dan Rubinstein’s 2007 paper and my experience of connectivism through my participation in CCK08 (and CCK09).

It is a discussion about digital ethnography too inspired by some of Michael Wesch‘s insights.

To be continued …

Minds on the Margins

The blog posts I am writing at present are being informed by the opportunities I have for listening to ABC Radio and for reflection on daily car journeys to Canberra. Last Saturday was a fireworks in the head kind of day for me.

As I was leaving Braidwood I tuned into Radio National’s All in the Mind program hosted by Natasha Mitchell. I had finished writing about personal learning a few hours earlier but was still thinking about biography and opportunity.

The program was trailed in this way:

A life on the streets or behind bars isn’t what we hope for our children. What leads them there? Mental illness? Family breakdown? Economic hardship? Two groundbreaking studies are fundamentally challenging the assumptions we make about our most marginalised, and the state of their mind.

The more I listened to the program the more I thought it helped me clarify my thinking about talented athletes. It reminded me too of the aphorism that falling is like flying … only the other way round.

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One of the contributors to the program, Eileen Baldry described her life-course work in detail. She observed that:

  • People with Mental Health Disorders and Cognitive Disabilities are over-represented in the Criminal Justice System
  • Post-release these people have high rates of homelessness, unemployment, low levels of family support and therefore more likely to return to prison quickly.
  • Interventions are hampered by lack of overall and longitudinal system impacts.

Her study was designed to integrate criminal justice and human services trajectories to explore these life-course experiences. Bill Martin (2007) has noted that “changes in how people combine education with life-course transitions will influence when and how people make their skills available to the labour market throughout their lives”.

Guy Johnson (2008) and his colleagues have explored a ‘pathways’ approach to describe the progress through homelessness. A review of Guy’s work notes that:

the pathways idea has gained increasing research interest as a way to capture the dynamic and differentiated nature of homelessness and other social phenomenon… the pathway approach distinguishes between the paths different groups of people travel into homelessness and examines what bearing different pathways into homelessness have on people’s experiences of homelessness and their routes out of homelessness.

Guy’s research identified five typical pathways into homelessness: domestic violence; housing crisis; mental health; substance use; and people who have their first experience of homelessness before turning 18 years old. (See here for more information about Guy’s work on pathways and biographies.)

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These life-courses and pathways are illustrated in a number of research reports. Jake Najman and his colleagues, for example, have conducted a range of longitudinal studies in adolescent behaviour that report birth cohort data. Some of the issues addressed include predictors of drug use, obesity, development delay and socio-economic disadvantage, early pubertal maturation and behavioural change, pre-natal exposure to alcohol and smoking, and body mass index predictors. Chris Chamberlain‘s work explores youth homelessness.

Guy Johnson and Chris Chamberlain (2009) have discussed perceptions of the homeless and mental illness. They observe that:

In Australia, it is widely believed that most homeless people have mental health issues, and that mental illness is a primary cause of homelessness. This paper uses information from a study of 4,291 homeless people in Melbourne to investigate these propositions. The research found that neither proposition was plausible. Fifteen per cent of the sample had mental health issues prior to becoming homeless, and 16 per cent developed mental health issues after becoming homeless. For those that had mental health issues prior to becoming homeless, it was the break down of family support that usually precipitated homelessness. For those who developed mental health issues after becoming homeless, it was often their experiences in the homeless population that precipitated mental illness. Regardless of whether mental illness preceded or followed homelessness, most people with mental health issues experienced long-term homelessness.

The All in the Mind podcast explores these issues in conversation with Eileen, Guy and Chris. Each of them has a clear sense of the policy initiatives and investment required to address these issues.

Just like falling is flying I think losing is like winning … only the other way round. In a society that has profound issues around homelessness and disadvantage another sector identifies and develops those with a perceived and valued different set of attributes. There are, for example, talented athlete pathways and talented pupil schemes in the United Kingdom. In Australia there is an on-line (eTID) program to “find out today if you, or someone you know, could be Australia’s next sporting champion by taking an online test”.

Reflecting on the issues addressed in the All in the Mind program and my own involvement in elite sport, I am struck by the fine line that separates and links Minds on the Margins. One of the aims of this post is to bring together two groups of ideas that are not often linked but that have enormous synergies. I realise too that I have an opportunity to bring these two groups together physically around the practicalities of social inclusion.

I believe sport is a life-changing experience that can be used to engage with different life-courses and pathways. These life-courses are connected in a caring society. Flying, falling … winning, losing reaffirm that no one is an island.

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