Home is where the hut is


Radio National’s Bush Telegraph had a great item yesterday (23 June) on Huts in the Wild.

Greg Muller interviewed Dianne Johnson about her new book on Huts.

Dianne has been interviewed by Radio National’s By Design program too.

In her Bush Telegraph interview, Dianne made some fascinating observations that helped me think further about my changing sense of space and place. She found a great ally in Greg in the interview. He too was passionate about huts.


Amongst the points Dianne made in her interview were:

  • Being “struck dumb” by the beauty of the Waldheim Chalet on Cradle Mountain
  • Huts as liminal spaces  that mediate between the built landscape and nature
  • Huts are spare and sparse: they are not designed as stores (unlike sheds)
  • Huts offer enchantment and are imagined, mindful and slow spaces
  • Huts are creative spaces within which to think and reflect and on some occasions take on demons
  • You must not stay for a long time in huts and avoid Martin Heidegger’s experience of overstaying
  • You are the honoured guest in a hut. It is a place of respect and hospitality.
  • Huts are egalitarian, they are inclusive. Each has its own distinctive portal.
  • Each of us has a sense of our wild spaces and our hard country. These are places of wonderment that energise the spirit.
  • Huts tend to be built in magnificent places.
  • Huts are temporary and  raise issues about preservation. Part of the experience of a hut is its ephemerality … ‘hutness’ is about coming from from the earth and returning to earth.

At the end of the interview Greg asked Dianne if she had a favourite hut. She mentioned Dixons Kingdom Hut.

Place and Space

I have been thinking a lot about space and place. My recent journey started whilst contemplating Everywhen. Developments around Commons spaces at the University of Canberra have accelerated my reflections.

Dianne and Greg have helped me travel further in my thinking. Given the essential characteristics of ‘hutness’ I wonder if I ought to stop thinking about research centres and units and work to develop huts for ideas and practice. It would be wonderful to develop a way of being that stimulated the imagination, enhanced sociability and celebrated liminality.

Such huts would not be places of permanent residence. They would be way stations that had varying configurations of people and ideas that were nourished by the place.

Photo Credits

Wallaces Hut

Davies Run (Tasmanian Huts Preservation Society)

Dixons Kingdom Hut (Tasmanian Huts Preservation Society)

Coaches' Corners

My interest in place and space has been accelerated by the emergence of open commons spaces at the University of Canberra. This interest has been focused in part by my fascination with the spaces coaches create to discuss and share ideas.

Whenever I think about coaches’ spaces I think about the Boot Room established at Anfield. I noticed that Kenny Dalgleish is keen to reinstate the Boot Room. Stephen Kelly (1999) discussed the Boot Room in detail in The Boot Room Boys. He represents this material in his 2009 PhD. Stephen Kelly says of the Boot Room:

This was the venue, the workplace and the office for certain members of the coaching staff of the club. In essence it was simply a room where the players’ boots were stored but over a period of time it also became the room where the coaching staff would gather to relax and where meetings would be held. With time it took on a mystical aura as much of the club’s success was attributed to its personnel and operations.

Stephen Kelly notes of Bill Shankley that:

it was to be Shankly’s work with the boot room staff that was to be his principal legacy. Each member of the staff had a particular role to play; Shankly was the leader and motivator, Bob Paisley was the tactical expert, Ronnie Moran was the disciplinarian while Joe Fagan acted as the link with the players. Subsequently, as one manager retired, each member of the boot room stepped up the promotional ladder with a new person usually being added to the staff at the lowest rung. This familiar style was to suit Liverpool well up until 1985 when they broke with tradition by appointing a manager outside of the boot room.

The Boot Room was demolished in 1996 to make way for a Press Room for the European Championships.

I returned to thoughts of the Boot Room this week when I heard a remarkable interview with Iggy Pop in a completely different context. Radio National broadcast the program Iggy Pop – The Real Wild Child:

Following on from Iggy Pop‘s recent Australian tour, Robert de Young traces the life and work of this rock icon, widely regarded as the godfather of punk. He traces Iggy’s historic performances when he and his band were performing wild and aggressive stage shows in Ann Arbor and Detroit Michigan in the late 1960s, and then in New York, years before the “punk” movement began in Britain in the late 1970s. When rock journalist Lillian Roxon saw Iggy and the Stooges perform at her local hangout Max’s Kansas City in New York in 1970 she declared that Iggy Pop was aggressive and pugnacious and that rock and roll was not dead but beginning to happen in a new way. This program features Iggy Pop together with interviews with Alice Cooper and Lee Black Childers, and includes live and studio recordings along with rare archival material.

The Radio National program gave a fascinating insight into Max’s Kansas City as a meeting place and a performance space.  It was a club that had spaces within spaces. The backroom was for an invited group of artists, poets and writers. Andy Warhol observed that:

Max’s Kansas City was the exact spot where Pop Art and Pop Life came together in the 60s –teenyboppers and sculptors, rock stars and poets from St. Mark’s Place, Hollywood actors checking out what the underground actors were all about, boutique owner and models, modern dancers and go- go dancers — everybody went to Max’s and everything got homogenized there.

For the last decade I have been working to develop Coaches’ Corners … places to meet and discuss coaching. I did have the Anfield Boot Room in mind during this time. Now I need to synthesise this concept with the atmosphere at Max’s and the opportunities created by Commons’ spaces.

Sharing insights from Coaches’ Corners can take many forms including oral stories and the INSEP lettre électronique de l’INSEP aux entraîneurs. This post is an attempt to share these ideas too.

Photo Credits

The Changing Room

Max’s Kansas City

Working Together

Last year I wrote a large number of posts about personal learning. Towards the end of the year I started to think about how spaces provide opportunities to connect personal learning. This year I am hoping to develop these ideas about Commons spaces. I hope too to explore how we talk about and write about these spaces.

My first post for 2011 is about collective intelligence. Back in September, 2010, Science published a paper by Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris, Alex Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone titled Evidence for a collective intelligence factor in the performance of human groups. The authors noted that:

In two studies with 699 people, working in groups of two to five, we find converging evidence of a general collective intelligence factor that explains a group’s performance on a wide variety of tasks. This “c factor” is not strongly correlated with the average or maximum individual intelligence of group members but is correlated with the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and the proportion of females in the group.

The ACA Wiki observes of this study that:

c was correlated with the average social sensitivity of the group and in the equality of term turn-taking as measured through socio-metric badges in the group. It was also correlated with the proportion of females in the group although OLS regressions implied that this was because females were more likely to take turns an to be more socially sensitive.

I was intrigued by the mention of socio-metric badges in this report and discovered from a paper by Benjamin Waber and Sandy Pentland that these badges are capable of:

  • Recognizing common daily human activities (such as sitting, standing, walking, and running) in real time using a 3-axis accelerometer.
  • Extracting speech features in real time to capture non-linguistic social signals such as interest and excitement, the amount of influence each person has on another in a social interaction, and unconscious back-and-forth interjections, while ignoring the words themselves in order to assuage privacy concerns.
  • Performing indoor user localization by measuring received signal strength and using triangulation algorithms that can achieve position estimation errors as low as 1.5 meters, which also allows for detection of people in close physical proximity.
  • Communicating with Bluetooth enabled cell phones, PDAs, and other devices to study user behavior and detect people in close proximity.
  • Capturing face-to-face interaction time using an IR sensor that can detect when two people wearing badges are facing each other within a 30°-cone and one meter distance.

Larry Irons has an interesting discussion of this work in his post Gossip, Collaboration and Performance in Distributed Teams.

There are some very important privacy issues in using these badges. Benjamin and Sandy discuss them in detail in Reality Mining. I would be very happy to wear such a badge as art of my daily working environment. I am keen to discover how working together in real spaces might add to working together in virtual spaces.

There will be some interesting opportunities for me to explore collective intelligence in 2011. At the University of Canberra I will be able to work in a number of shared spaces and explore the emergence of pedagogy and practice. In cyberspace I hope to participate in a number of massive open online courses (MOOC) including Learning Analytics and Knowledge, and Connectivism and Connective Knowledge 2011,

Some colleagues from an earlier MOOC (CCK08) have provided some fascinating insights into MOOC behaviour. Recently Lisa Lane discussed a spectrum of MOOC design. Jenny Mackness has been exploring connectivism and lurking. Carmen Tschofen has been helping me understand situated learning and ‘legitimate peripheral participation’ (and led me to this infed blog post about communities of practice).

My participation in Commons spaces will be guided as it has been for the last three years by Stephen Downes and George Siemens. They act as wonderful compasses for me. Dave Cormier has some advice too in his YouTube MOOC video:

What an exciting year ahead!