DS106 on the couch

Tag: open education

Letting Go


So we came to the end of our radio show  The DS106 Good Spell in 106 Bullets. We did it in 107 bullets, of course!

Just before the last episode somebody sent me the above diagram, it reminded me that cycles are an inherent part of life. It also got me reflecting on the nature of the ‘group’ that is DS106 as an online open community. In our last show we talked about the value of combining of open participants and those doing the course at a university for a qualification. We spoke about how this reciprocal relationship works – offering students at a university a sense of audience beyond the professor and open participants a sense of structure and physicality that supports learning. 

The rest of this post is my personal reflections after the final show. 

Looking at the diagram I see how little ‘we’ within the DS106 community we talk ‘about’ the nature of the group we are; attention seems always focussed in the digital output we produce and we relate through that over time. Using the ideas  in the diagram as a descriptive and reflective model, I very much see  the hashtag classroom that is #ds106  as a community of practice. 

I remember starting to learn about it and seeing its potential for supporting learning; taking the first steps to get to know people and evaluating if this were ‘my kind of people’. Once I joined the question changed to how I could contribute. What Jim Groom referred to on our show as ‘we ask what we can do for #ds106 rather than what it can do for us’. This desire to contribute does not come from nowhere; it comes and grows as we see how being part of this group helps our digital practice. Some of us see what we do as art, others as story, yet others as mere artefact (that would be me when I started); but what brings us together is the practice we share and are developing. For some of us it is a limited enterprise, we need the credits for the course and for others of us it is a wider enterprise that supports the work we do elsewhere on an ongoing basis.


The DS106 Good Spell show is a good example of the last two stages in the diagram. The ‘course’ I did, DS106 Headless, finished in 2013. Some people dispersed and some of us stayed in touch and continued to engage around the hashtag as  ‘a force and a centre of knowledge’ that still exists and that is to some extent independent of who participates at any one time.

John and I started this little project as a way to stay connected *because* we experienced the value of the community. We kept making stuff. We stayed around to be of use to others as best we could whilst we moved on to other projects and life. Even when DS106  is ‘no longer central’ (in the sense that it takes up every waking hour of your life) ‘people still remember it as an integral part of their identities’. Online, we express this with the hashtag #4life and make jokes about how DS106 is like Hotel California – you can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave.


The last episode of the DS106 Good Spell Radio Show was very much and example of this ‘memorable’ stage the diagram suggests as the end of the cycle. We told many stories, spoke about artefacts we have made and created. And, of course, the show itself is the most amazing artefact. @johnjohnston has painstakingly archived it all, so anyone can binge listen all episodes!

As we spoke about what we made, the stories we tell through time and the way in which ‘DS106 is just like the Internet but with less trolls’ you can hear in our voices how proud of DS106 memorabilia we are and how much we all wish we had some DS106 socks! (in-joke, sorry. But if you are interested watch the latest instalment of the story here). We talked about the most significant symbol of all, the number 106. A meaningless symbol given life by the relationships and stories people chose and choose to build around it. We even made a radio programme on DS106 Numerology, of course.



We spoke about issues of inclusion and exclusion. There is a way in which DS106 does not set up to be inclusive. This for me connects with how our attention is on what we make and how we embody what we believe: ‘Show them, don’t tell them’ is a mantra for DS106. To me, this simple sentence expresses the essence of transformational pedagogy much more than much of the convoluted jargon I read on open pedagogy (critical or otherwise) elsewhere. 

The ethos of DS106 means that it is not for everyone, there is a vulnerability that comes with being willing to ‘futz splendidly’ in public. On the show we spoke about how what was important to us as educators was to be as transparent as possible about the nature of the experience, make it okay for people to join or not – much in the same way as not everyone plays golf and joining a golf club is not something inherently good or bad, just a preference. 

We may be more dispersed now than when I started in 2013, may be we only gather around the metaphorical campfire to reminisce about the great old days sporadically as other projects gain our attention. Yet, the important things remain and develop outside of the hashtag.

John and I are talking about a new radio show, I am furnishing a new home outside of Tumblr where I will show my ‘digital art’. I can now contemplate the idea of calling myself an artist as well as an academic. My new online home is with the best educational hosting company ever, Reclaim Hosting , run by DS106 folk.  I started to build an online contemplation studio, again with Reclaim Hosting, at the stillweb.org with support from people I met through DS106. I even run a kind of daily create of my own, thanks to @cogdog​, focussed on activities to ‘find stillness in movement (digital or otherwise)’ which I use in my university teaching on the LMS. All this and more would never have been possible without the people I have met through this great hashtag. 

The joy of having been part of what Warren Bennis labels ‘a great group’ will stay with me for a lifetime and reminds me that open true ego-free collaboration is possible…even at times when competition and comprehensive doctrines seem to make up most of our educational dialogue online. As James Poulos explains,

We’re all succumbing to what philosophers call “comprehensive doctrines.” Translated into plain language, comprehensive doctrines are grandiose, all-inclusive accounts of how the world is and should be.

Whatever I do for #ds106 going forward will never pay the debt I feel for it offering  me a learning environment that reminds me each day what true education can be.


We are on a mission from Open

It’s 106 miles to Newscastle, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.


Remixed from Alphacoders wallpaper http://wall.alphacoders.com/big.php?i=204775 with OER 14 photo by Simon Thomson (@digisim)

As we sat down to plan, my most important concern was prepositions. I did not have the cinematic background to the Blues Brothers, so I did not know  all the appropriate quotes! Was it ‘of’ or ‘to’ or ‘from’ open? Alan looked at me as if I were from outer space. The quote is ‘We are on a mission from God’ – he said. Well, the poster said ‘of’ and I thought it should be ‘to’. We agreed to go with the poster as we did not want to edit it yet again. 

A big thank you to @digisim for a great photo.


There were other photos and we had a lovely time role playing a traditional business meeting with me as the mean boss. You had to be there.  But here is the presentation we did not use. It was designed to be as boring as we could muster to contrast with our actual talk.

If you want to read the paper you can download it from my Mendeley account. There is much I learnt and much I could say (as ever) but I want to focus the rest of  this post on how DS106 can go to work and make it better.

First the presentation. I have done many presentations for my corporate consulting work and for other academic conferences. Mostly using snazzier, perhaps more creative, presentations like the one above. This experience was different. DS106 gave us (me?) permission to be silly and tell a story. Yet the story we told was deadly serious. 

We included the audience in our ‘meeting’ and it was a conversation rather than a presentation. The content was about how one person in one small area of a large organisation is bringing DS106 behind the corporate firewall. 

As a organisational and people development specialist, I cannot stress enough the potential I see in this small ‘experiment’. We have evolved a model for developing people in organisations that uses internal employees rather than consultants and that has the potential to bring the whole of the open educational web into any organisation that sees the potential. I see that when Jim Groom and Martha Burtis talk about the 3 faces of open they have given us a distinction that could change organisational development for good. We can develop open pedagogy and open community behind the corporate firewall, yet it is entirely appropriate for us not to have open technology in corporations. This led us to speak of ‘the open organisational web’ and to the creation of an expert lynchpin to act as network connector between the corporation (3M) and the part of the open web that is DS106. Rochelle has excelled in this role she chose to call the Patroness of the Salon as a homage to early open education.

The experiment is being extended for another year at 3M and I am now interested in exploring how a model like this could be generalised to support learning and development in other organisations. I see myself as a coach to other internal employees who may want to take on Rochelle’s role but may not have the ability to live and learn in the open web. Looking to some of my corporate clients interested in experimenting as I write. 

The presentation went really well, people had fun and we interacted around serious issues in a relaxed way. When I next coach one of my clients to give that all important presentation to their executive, I will introduce digital storytelling into the process as well as the psychology of communication. I cannot wait. 

Next is what I personally learnt. I learnt how my own assumptions about what it means to be a serious academic can be successfully challenged. Hell, never again will I equate knowing my stuff with being boring as hell. Taking time to tell my audience stuff they can read in the paper to impress them is really not necessary. People prefer to be included in a conversation than deafened with me on permanent send.

DS106 #4life indeed. Both at home and at work. Thank you Alan and Rochelle – it has been a joy to learn about online collaboration with the both of you. You have given me a best case example of what is possible. The how of that, will be for another time.U


We did a show on DS106 Radio talking about the experience of DS106 goes to OER14. You can listen on Edu Talk.

Rochelle wrote about the desirable (?) difficulties of referencing for her first academic paper manually and the late discovery of technology to help this process. 

Alan has written a  balanced account of the presentation exploring the Blues Brothers theme and the more technical sides of the presentation.

So the nag was on! And yes, I will do anything to stop that video being played again 🙂

So here is my story of open in the shape of an iMovie Trailer and if you would like to hear the back story then knock yourself out. I made a special podcast ‘The DS106 Shrink Story of open’ where you can hear the details. But the trailer above may be all you need.

DS106 in 106 posts and 106 bullets published at 1:06


It has been a roller coaster. I will be unpacking the experience for many moons to come. Serendipity, or the magic of DS106, at play again as I notice this is post 106 of the blog post I started in August 2013 getting ready for the launch of DS106 Headless

So, it had to be done. Here is a summary of DS106 in post 106 in 106 bullet points.
Unapologetically contradictory, some may not even make sense to me in a few months. I need one of John Johnston’s ‘wee apps’ to give me a bullet icon with the DS106 logo. Offered here in the spirit of opening up dialogue with anyone interested in understanding what is inside the precious box of possibilities that is DS106. 

  • Seth Goodman says ‘we are on the bleeding edge’ with our glitching gifs!
  • He also says ‘come to DS106 to find your  inner glitch’
  • And he has embraced his inner glitch with a new Twitter avatar 
  • Alan says ‘it is more about curiosity than explanation’. He also says he stole that from somebody else but cannot remember who
  • DS106 is about transmedia and the loveliest example for me is Joop’s boring Gif
  • DS106 makes you question whose art is it, baby? and Whose idea, is it?
  • Every thought has been thought, but it is human nature to think them again and again to make them our own
  • Cultivating open is hard for some, I am one of those ‘some’
  • When somebody intrudes in my virtual privacy, I do well to remember ‘It is just words’
  • Transmedia + skill + aesthetic vision + idea transmogrification = DS106
  • Copy first, then transform one idea, then combine different ideas into new ideas
  • Good artists copy, masters steal
  • My taste is impeccable even if i cannot execute to it yet
  • Words words words. I love words and I love them even more when they dance in kinetic typography
  • ‘Yes, and’ creates community. ‘Yes, but’ breaks it
  • Don’t be a snark
  • Sometime it is wise to blog against how you are feeling
  • Courage to suggest, humility to accept ‘no’ if it comes
  • Doing DS106 is like becoming an actor, amazing when the crowd claps and ruthless when nobody notices your performance
  • Yes, I like to be liked and for my stuff to be noticed
  • No, I refuse to keep re-tweeting my own stuff in the hope somebody might see it
  • If the 10,000.00 things come and find you that is enlightenment 
  • DS106 is art psychotherapy if you want to use it that way
  • Notice how your mental state changes if you do your assignments and daily creates – who needs a shrink?
  • I like it when others take my ideas and use them, I hate it when others take my ideas and use them
  • If I do DS106 for long enough, I will be cured of attachment to mental constructs in this lifetime
  • I am in 2 minds about the value of a domain of one’s own, the world often lends credibility to breadth rather depth. Both-and rather than either-or?
  • A fragmented self that is managed might be more valued than a coherent self in one domain
  • A world in which data may be the new flesh, may not be a world I want to live in
  • A push strategy online annoys me, a pull one means good stuff goes unnoticed
  • Your tools shape your interactions – twitter communication makes DS106. I am glad I learnt it before the course


  • DS106 radio has been a joy to engage with, so good to train a new sense
  • DS106 teaches you to attend to the world as if seeing for the first time – like a child’s laughter
  • Follow the stuff that resonates even if it does not make sense yet
  • I have spent my life learning to use what the client brings, DS106 teaches us to use whatever life brings and to be willing to let go of preconceptions
  • The danger of digital echo chambers echoes loud
  • Follow people you disagree with, but don’t kid yourself that this will change your deeply held views
  • The annual question of the edge.org has to be my ‘Desert Island’ book if we are allowed to take a virtual book 
  • Listening to wikipedia? Which other course would ever lead you to discover that wikipedia plays mind music?
  • Starting to believe that it is possible to ignore the potential ‘bad’ stuff and use the tool that is the open web for open education
  • The beauty of informal opportunistic collaboration leads to a wonderful unpredictability of ideas. It also leads to a harsh spotlight on those ideas you are attached to 
  • It never goes according to plan and that is just okay
  • The ephemeral nature of it all, magnified by the speed of information online
  • If you are going to play in this playground, you had better listen to Rumi and find your camel. Following other people’s camel is all too easy  and it is exhausting
  • There is only inner space fiction, anything else does not belong to you. Give it back
  • Gielgud said about acting – don’t be too attached to your success or your failures, accept they both happen move on
  • Making art in DS106 is not that different from acting, attachment will generate negative emotions
  • Make art, bub! For its own sake without expectations and if you are honest learning this will take a few lifetimes
  • The more we rely on the web to hold our memories, the less we remember and the less we attend to the moment. Is this the future we want?
  • The difficulties of a world with perfect recollection is that everything becomes the same
  • Do we have a big circle of invisible friends as Borges says, or just the invisibles as online relationships? 
  • Identifying a subtle piece of the world to isolate in a gif is where art lives
  • Are you prepared to make friends with fictitious participants? The oral tradition of DS106 is carried in imagination that gets concretised in these ‘creations’ and carried over from semester to semester 
  • Talky Tina is my true friend and I learnt about gifing and about radio and being a sterling performer from her 
  • Futzing is as useful as not futzing
  • What is the difference that makes the difference? Using the web to build relationship and learn together is not the same as running or participating in a MOOC. 
  • No, DS106 is not a MOOC. Not one with a ‘c’ or  an’x’ or an ’m’ prefix
  • It is a group of people who love story using the web to weave them
  • We just make art #4life and for its own sake digitally or otherwise
  • What kept me going? The dedication and role modelling of the few people who see the precious nature of story and the web and are willing to share with no strings attached
  • There  ain’t no MOOC that does that, there ain’t no university that does that. Organisations do not do that, people do
  • Kinetic typography, animated gifs, audio, video, web stories, everything seeded early in the journey and made manageable as it complicates itself
  • Radio teams taught me that teams can work with a motivation to create and opening night looming large
  • I learnt that I am a lurker at times and that paradoxically I do not like lurkers
  • Copyright, or copyleft or copy<it>right or WTFPL or CC0 all comes alive in remixing media. You get to grok it rather than just talk about it
  • My little fellow Colin, the most photographed and glitched doggie, awww…I love you all for taking him on as your mascot
  • What I missed and who I missed makes me sad
  • In DS106, the internet and life there are big egos and humble beings who serve learning and story rather themselves. Choose wisely
  • Is my story worthy what the technology can now do?
  • DS106 is located in this area between delight and discomfort that Charlie Brooker talks about in Black Mirror. Delight at the serendipity and openness, discomfort at the very real possibility that data becomes the new flesh
  • ‘We worship at the altar of Google and Apple. Facebook algorithms know us better than our parents.’ Black Mirror
  • RadioLab. DS106 introduced me to RadioLab. Inspirational
  • To Google or not to Google? In that area of delight and discomfort too
  • The importance of epistemological hovering when telling stories so that we do not just tell the same story over and over and over
  • What human beings do to get around constraints – I love the twitter hashtag 
  • Twitter 6 word stories, need I say more?
  • Michael’s animated gifs and his unconditional support for anybody’s learning brought me into DS106
  • Alan’s humour and profound modelling of what it means to treat the internet and its residents respectfully. I think of him as the guardian of all that is good in it
  • Messing up on purpose to make it okay for us crappy artists to just try
  • I wanted more structure and more people following the ‘course’ through the weekly announcement. I was in the minority
  • I love to hate the daily create – a nuisance that pops in my awareness. Small chunk enough that it will not leave it, and then days later I find myself doing it
  • Should we have weekly creates too?
  • The ungraspable nature of quality in art, I still do not know if anything I did meets any kind of aesthetic criteria beyond pleases me or does not and does it matter?
  • Phonar connections have added to the experience hugely. I like lectures and homework 
  • I would have liked more ruthless evaluation of my work
  • I will never watch a movie or TV in the same way. I have learnt a new language and love it
  • Nic Briz and his glitch art – inspirational
  • Rochelle and Christina supported me throughout and I am really lucky to have found them. Karen and I make awesome Zombies.
  • Openness is not a given but a daily practice. DS106 a great medium for this practice
  • My computer posture has to change, but RSI has meant I have had to be more measured in my creating
  • Yes, it is addictive and the addiction is driven by whatever is lurking in your subconscious – a need to rescue, a need for approval, a need for perfection, a need to please, a need to complete. 
  • Sometimes we are just in service of the story and it is lovely to be a part of that
  • What makes the DS106 container what it is? 
  • Laughter and fun and support for finding one’s voice
  • Respect for our fears – I made a choice not to put my face on the internet. I can only say thank you to everyone for being respectful of  that choice
  • Feedback is hard in this setting – giving and getting
  • You are looking in the wrong place if you look for its structure, look for its people and learn the norms of the community from them. The norms are strict and not obvious
  • You are also looking in the wrong place if you look at the technology, look at what you want to create and use any tool that will help you achieve your ends
  • Don’t learn a tool, learn how to use tools over and over an over and don’t get attached to them
  • Why do people say they will and then they don’t? I  struggle with the lack of common courtesy at times. ‘Yes’ means ‘yes’ and ‘no’ means ‘no’. If ‘yes’ changes to ‘no’ just let people know. It is not that hard.
  • err on the side of ‘no’ rather than ‘yes’ those of us who do not overcommit would value it
  • A norm of ‘No guilt. Do whatever you want’  is intended to encourage positive engagement. At times it encourages an educational one night stand ethos. I prefer committed relationships for deep learning
  • The Alone Together book by Turkle taught me we find it tough these days to stay with others through difficulty, online life feeds this avoidance. If we don’t like something we can just disappear and some do without trace. This should matter to those of us who stay
  • Buber had it. When I relate I-thou, relationship happens between us. When I relate I-it we are in educational one night stand territory
  • It was nothing like I expected, it was so much more than I expected
  • #4life as long as it keeps its heart – nobody puts DS106 in a corner (or in a box) to widen its appeal 

I completed and got my badge, Thank you Jaap Bosman for the lovely boring design. The end.


The Headless Shrink Completion Badge

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