#UCSIA15 as a Journey


We are coming to the end of a four-week, online excursion in sport informatics and analytics in #UCSIA15.

Wikipedia suggests an excursion is “a trip by a group of people, usually made for leisure, education, or physical purposes”.  I like the idea that it “is often an adjunct to a longer journey …”.

During the four weeks, 133 people chose to place a pin on our community map hosted by ZeeMaps.


The map reminds me of my early attempts to learn about countries, their capital cities and their flags. My interest in the sociology of knowledge has led me to think about the learning environments of those who placed pins on the maps … and those who did not.

This is where the journey metaphor comes in for me.

I think we have been able to share some substantive knowledge in the four-weeks but I hope too we have started to explore the journey each of us will make in connected communities of practice.

Darrell Cobner, in his thoughtful and thought-provoking reflection on week 4 of the course, quotes Patrick Willer (2015) on social collaboration:

technology can help us build global connections, combine ideas of many different individuals and give those ideas proper time to incubate. This incubation time is necessary for the idea to develop into a concept that one day hope to call a stroke of genius.

I am fascinated by what our community can produce together. One of the highlights for me in the course has been Mladen Jovanovic‘s sharing of his R analysis of shared AFL data:

The possibility that we might work together and support the flourishing of sport informatics and analytics is for me a great example of what Chris Messina described today as a journey in negative space. This space “is the impossible cellophane layer that drapes the known world and is invisible to all but to the most perceptive minds”.

#UCSIA15 is a self-consciously modest excursion in sport informatics and analytics. The content is eclectic and mindful (reverential) of the remarkable expertise that is growing in this interdisciplinary endeavour not represented (but hinted at) in the course.

It is the start of a journey that I believe has enormous potential.

Photo Credit

Wielrenners beklimmen bewaakte overweg (Nationaal Archief, no known copyright restrictions)

Twitter and Visual Narratives

I have been trying to be part of the Twitter momentum so evident at present. My attendance at the Innovative Ideas Forum 2009 at the National Library of Australia accelerated my interest in Twitter. I was fascinated by the backchannel potential of Twitter at the Forum (#iif09) but realised my own limitations in tracking conversations, listening to some remarkable presentations and blogging live. I realised too that it took a great deal of imagination and energy to be part of the Twitterverse.

I have been away from Twitter for a few days and a recent car journey gave me the opportunity to listen to a talk by Shaun Tan on The Book Show on Radio National. Shaun’s talk was on Visual Narratives and was the 2009 Colin Simpson Lecture for the Australian Society of Authors in Sydney. The talk is available as a podcast and as a pdf document.

Just as I am intrigued by the 140 characters available to me in Twitter, I am fascinated by Shaun’s discussion of visual narratives. In his talk he observed that:

Like writers, illustrators are not really attracted to their chosen language for its descriptive clarity or objectivity, but more for its slipperiness, mystery, ambiguity and accidental poetry. The best illustrated stories make the most of this, often prompting us to think about familiar concepts in an unexpected way, offering up a new and interesting perspective.

Shaun’s subsequent suggestion that “I realise that I share with many other illustrators a fundamental interest in ideas of silence and voicelessness” brought into sharp focus for me why I have been intuitively attracted to Twitter (and perhaps why I have failed so miserably at Plurk).

Shaun developed his theme with a discussion of the Lost Thing.

The Lost Thing, for instance, is an awkward, mute creature without any particular purpose or ability, and for this reason it remains largely ignored by a world that lacks the imagination needed to deal with it. Even the narrator of the story, a boy who is concerned enough to befriend this hapless creature, talks about it in an evasive way, without any description, and much less insight. Every illustrated scene frames a question for the reader: how might we deal with things that are outside of language, or lack any clear meaning?


He discusses the potential of photo albums as perfect examples:

of how illustrated narrative works most effectively, their power is not so much in documenting particulars, but triggering memory and imagination, urging us to fill the empty space around frozen snapshots, to build on fragments and constantly revisit our own storyline, a kind of visual literacy we all understand intuitively.

Shaun concludes with the observation that “our everyday … is a place of things one-half observed and one-half imagined, simultaneously familiar and mysterious”.

I believe the appeal of Twitter is this relationship between observation and imagination. Collectively and personally we have the possibility of engaging with the familiar and mysterious.

Two recent tweets caught my eye in this regard:

Biz Stone:

just helped a blind lady navigate from the subway to her destination — she knew where she was going but I’m still a little lost

Chris Messina

Homeless man walking down 6th, casting with a fly rod. Apparently someone taught him to fish. Now he just needs a body of water.