Selecting a tripod

It’s been a week or so since I purchased the new camera. Last weekend I had to buy Aperture 2 for my Mac so I could easily pull the raw photos off the camera. Have been fairly happy with that purchase and the photos have flowed.

The Beautiful Wife

I’ve only put 10 to 20 of them onto my Flickr photostream, a lot more sitting on the hard drive and I’ve yet to take on any assignments. I need to do this to start really learning something about photography, rather than simply some trial and error.

Of the photos I’ve placed on Flickr so far, the shot of the missus is the most visited. Though that probably has something to do with the title and/or the subject, rather than the quality of the photography.

Was going to try and pick a favourite, but couldn’t decide. I don’t mind this one of Zeke.

Reflective Rider

The next accessory

Now it is time to think about the next additional expense/accessory for the camera, a tripod.

The missus and I are off to Paris in a week or so. Paris in December means lights. Night-time displays of decorative, Xmas lights along the Champs-Elysees and department stores. A tripod is likely to be required.

I’m somewhat reluctant to go the whole hog and get a “real” tripod. The size, weight and apparent clumsiness of them suggest I don’t want to be walking around Paris with one. Which is why I was interested to see a gorillapod in a local store. It seemed small enough to fit into a bag.

There seem to have been some fairly positive reviews – one and two, and one a little more restrained, but still positive.

The last review makes the point that this is not a replacement for a real tripod. Mmm, do I want/need one for what I want to do?

Indications of limitations – blog based discussions

I’m trying to run an experiment in blog-based discussions. Trying to understand, from experience, the realities of using individual blogs for a multi-person discussion. It’s not going well.

The first problem was that WordPress’ pingbacks not always working – as briefly mentioned in this post. The next problem is that links from an external blog (in particular one from Blogger), aren’t currently working in a way that is particularly useful for tracking a conversation.

Tony has attempted to join in the conversation from his blogger hosted blog via this <a href=”post. He’s included a link to my original post in his post. Apparently blogger doesn’t support trackbacks.

His link has not showed up on the post. However, on the admin interface for my blog there is a section that tracks all links point to my blog posts. Tony’s link has shown up there. Which isn’t all that useful for folk trying to following the conversation.

The question will be whether or not there is a configuration setting or a plugin I can enable on my blog to get around this problem. That’s a next task.

More on blogs and discussion

In some previous posts (the original post and the followup post) I’ve been playing around using blogs for multiple discussion forums. As yet, no-one else has joined in :(. Which is not surprising, to some extent, given at least one of the bits of my experiment in the followup post did not work.

This post attempts to explain what didn’t work and in the process introduce some basics of blogs and discussions as per the

Introducing pingbacks

In the followup post I included a link back to the the original post. What was supposed to happen can be seen on this unrelated post. There are a number of responses to the post, including a number that were made using the method I attempted.

Wordpress call this method a pingback. The concept of a pingback expands upon, and at least for some, improves on the idea of a trackback.

It looks like pingbacks don’t work all the time.

Some resources for around blogs and discussion forums

Empty party room

In a previous blog post I tried/am trying to kick off an experiment in using a blog for a multi-person discussion as an attempt to answer a question we will have to address as part of the PLEs@CQUni project.

I’m hoping this is a party to which a few others will come.

This post is an attempt to illustrate one answer to the “mechanics” question, i.e. how might you do this and also to provide some pointers to existing information on this topic.

The mechanics

I’m posting this on my own blog, hosted on If I include a link to the previous post (as I did in the first sentence of this post) WordPress automatically tells the other blog, which then adds a link to the new blog post. The author of the original blog post gets an email from WordPress saying that someone has linked to the post. The linkage shows up in the management interface of WordPress.

If you visit the previous blog post you should now see a link back to this post towards the bottom.

In theory, this allows each of the participants know when someone comments on their posts. It provides a set of connections between the different blogs, a way of generating a view of the discussion.

Some resources

This is not a new exercise, some existing information includes

An experiment in blog-based discussions

One of the major tools used (and mis-used) in most university-based e-learning is the discussion forum, or mailing list, or some other form of software for managing/creating multi-person dialogue. The PLEs@CQUni project is attempting to figure out and experiment with social media tools as a way to improve existing practice. An obvious need is to identify if, how and with what limitations these tools can be used to manage/create multi-person dialogues of the sort most academic staff associate with discussion forums.

The perceived need for this type of identification is mostly pragmatic. It is based on the observation that the decisions and actions people take are mostly based on patterns formed by previous experience. This is why most e-learning continues to be of the “horseless carriage” type. Being able to show academic staff that a new technology can re-create aspects of previous practice is an important step in getting them to move. This is the first step in the journey. We have to help get them out the door.

The question and assumptions

Chances are that blogs are going to be a major component of a PLE. Some of the more interesting work in this area certainly suggests this. So the modified question for this post and the activity I hope will arise from it is

What are the mechanics, benefits and limitations of using individual blogs to manage a multi-person discussion?

The idea is not to have a single blog on which everyone posts. The idea is to encourage the PLE type assumption where each participant in the discussion has their own blog and uses their blog to make their contribution.

The assumption should be that, if possible, each participant in the conversation can have their own blog on a different provider. i.e. everyone shouldn’t have to get a blog on to engage in the discussion.


This should be a type of action research. We’re not going to talk about it. We’re actually going to try and do it, and learn from the doing. This blog post will serve as the first part of an artifact that will arise out of this process. Those who participate will attempt to use this post as the first part of a conversation, by using their own blog.

Your task is to use whatever blog-based means you like to continue this conversation. The aim of the conversation is to discuss and come to some conclusion about the question listed above.

I will kick the ball rolling by sharing some resources arising from a quick google. A link to it should appear below ASAP.

Information Systems Epistemology: An Historical Perspective

Information Systems Epistemology: An Historical Perspective

This is a summary, review, attempt to understand, and pick tidbits from the following book chapter

Hirschheim, R. A. (1992). Information Systems Epistemology: An Historical Perspective. In R. Galliers (Ed.), Information Systems Research: Issues, Methods and Practical Guidelines (pp. 28-60). London: Blackweel Scientific Publications.

It’s an attempt to start moving on Chapter 3 of my thesis.

Basic summary

Provides a basic overview/introduction to the history of epistemology

The bits I found particularly interesting, given my current state of understanding and work, include

  • quotes about the role of science being the search for understanding
  • Suggestions that better to view science as problem solving – Poper quot that understanding is the same as problem solving. Particularly appropriate for what I understand as design research.
  • Very nice quote about researchers needing to be tool builders
  • Quotes from early anti-positivists of a need to complement positivism, not replace it.
  • Quote from Schutz about the main function of social science being understanding, subject meaning and action. Does this imply design research type work?


The paper aims to take a look at the history of epistemology within the IS discipline and consequently expose hidden assumptions beneath the conception of valid research and research methods.


It is my contention that information systems epistemology draws heavily from the social sciences because information systems are, fundamentally, social rather than technical systems.

The suggestion is that the natural sciences scientific paradigm is only appropriate as much as it is appropriate for the social sciences.

Fundamental aspects of epistemology

epistemology – our theory of knowledge, how we acquire knowledge.

What is knowledge – the author considers it to roughly synonymous with understanding.

Raises two questions

  1. What is knowledge – a simple problem
  2. How do we obtain valid knowledge – more problematic

What is knowledge?

Mentions the Greeks and their two types of knowledge

  1. doxa – knowledge believed to be true
  2. episteme – knowledge known to be true

This leads into the Sophists. How do we know something is true?

Author suggests it’s a straightforward problem. Since we cannot transcend our language/cultural system there is no chance of obtaining any absolute viewpoint. Hence knowledge must be “asserted”, knowledge claims are conceived in a probalistic sense. Knowledge is not infalible but conditional, a social convention, relative to both time and place, of societal or group acceptance.

How do we obtain knowledge

“This is the role of science”. But science itself is related to societal norms and expectations. So it can be argued about. “In its most conceptual scence, it is nothing more than the search for understanding” (p30)

This implies that, given any particular cultural/societal view, just about any “scholarly” attempt to acquiring knowledge can be labeled “science”. Distinguishing between science and non-science is blurred. If you take a “multi-cultural” approach. Any particular culture may well have fairly well defined boundary.

“The conventions we agree to are those that have proved successful in the past. If, however, the conventions – and therefore our scientific process – cease to be successful then it would be time to reconsider” (p30-31)

It could be suggested that this is the origins of design research. A pushing of conventions because of perceived limitations.

Many of us are concerned that the present accepted research methods are no longer appropriate for the subject – indeed, they may never have been. What is needed is a fresh look at the field; in particular what is the most appropriate epistemological stance.

Science and method

Begins by laying the groundwork about the limitations/lack of success of the natural science approach. e.g. “yielded many knowledge claims but most do not have widespread community acceptance” (p31). Relates it to similar literature in the social sciences.

Some have suggested that science is better described in terms of problem or puzzle solving. If this is done, then many problems disappear because the emphasis has shifted away from correlations, statistical significance to simply looking for an appropriate way to solve a problem.

This is very much similar to some of the underpinnings of the design research work.

Author goes onto quote Poper (1972) “The activity of understanding is, essentially, the same as that of problem solving.”. Science, in this view, becomes more about practical solutions to problems.

The following paragraph has some interesting implications for design research.

Some chose to view the process of problem solving as a craft (Pettigrew, 1985). Within this context the researcher should be viewed as a craftsman or a tool builder – one who builds tools, as separate from and in addition to, the researcher as tool users. Unfortunately, it is apparent that the common conception of researchers/scientists is different. They are people who use a particular tool (or a set of tools). This, to my mind, is undesirable because if scientists are viewed in terms of tool users rather than tool builders then we run the risk of distorted knowledge acquisition techniques. As an old proverb states: ‘For he who has but one tool, the hammer, the whole world looks like a nail’. We certainly need to guard against such a view, yet the way we practice ‘science’ leads us directly to that view.

Eventually gets to to the point about positivism being the predominant conception of science. Defines it as “an epistemology which posits beliefs (emerging from the search for regularity and causal relationships) and scrutinizes them through empirical testing”.

Positivist science

Seeks to define/understand positivist science, uses 5 points

  1. Unity of the scientific method
    The scientific method – the accepted approach for knowledge acquisition – is universally applicable regardless of the domain of study.
  2. The search for human causal relationships
    There is a desire for regularity and causal relationships amongst the elements of the study. Elements of the whole which are reduced down into constituent parts – reductionism.
  3. The belief in empiricism
    The only valid data is those which are experienced through the senses. Subjective perception, extrasensory experience etc are not acceptable.
  4. The value-free nature of science (and its process)
    There are no connections between the practice of the scientific method and the political, ideological or moral beliefs.
  5. The logical and mathematical foundation of science
    They provide the formal basis for the quantitative analysis in the search for causal relationships.

Ontology of positivism

Ontology – the nature of the world around us and the part of it which the scientist examines

Positivism has a realist ontology. i.e. the universe consists of objectively given, immutable objects and structures that exist as empirical entities and are independent of the observer’s appreciation of them.

Which contrasts with relativism or instrumentalism which holds that reality is a subjective construction of the mind. The names and descriptions of reality that are communicated impact on how reality is perceived and structured….more on this

Positivism has had success in natural sciences, somewhat more checkered in social sciences.

Author provides some summaries of the historical development of epistemology and in particular draws on one provided by Ivanov (1984) which is shown in the following image.

Relevant schools of thought for information science (Ivanov, 1984)

History of IS epistemology

Divides up and introduces a history of IS epistemology into 4 stages

  1. The arrival of positivism
    • starts with the dark ages of the church and study of god as only intellectual pursuits, emergence of science through to 17th century
    • Descartes major source of positivism. Mathematics as sole based for study. All properties could be reduced to mathematical form. separation of mind and matter/mind and body.
    • positivism and empiricism came out of the late renaissance period. Backon and the inductive-experimental method. Gailileo – nature is consistent, not random. Newton stressing need for experimental confirmation. HObbes – humans could be studied using the same methods as physical phenomena.
    • and more into the 1900s.
  2. The entering of anti-positivism
    • Arriving in the latter part of the 19th century concerned the positivism was missing the fundamental experience of life.
    • A number talked about the need for something apart from positivism not something to replace it, something to complement it, hence the name: anti-positivism
    • Traces it back to a number of authors and gives summaries of their position. I found the description of Kant, interesting.
      Kant believed you achieve knowledge through a synthesis (which he called ‘transcendental’) of concept (understanding) and experience. The philosophy that arises is called ‘transcendental idealism’ in which there is a difference between theoretical (dealing with knowledge of appearances – the realm of nature) and practical reason (oral reasoning – issues).

      Okay, so less interesting towards the end. Is this perhaps the limitation of the short description in the paper. What does wikipedia say? Ahh, this quote pricks my interest

      Kant argues, however, that using reason without applying it to experience will only lead to illusions, while experience will be purely subjective without first being subsumed under pure reason.

      I can see this being applied to a range of issues and problems I’m currently thinking of including: Kaplan’s law of instrument, teleological design etc.

      Similarly interesting is the discussion of Dilthey and a couple of comments on his belief. First, the suggestion that life cannot be “understood as a mchine, as Hobbes suggested”. This might be useful for Sandy and her work.

      Secondly, is that life cannot be understood using the explanatory model and its attempt to classify events according to lawas of nature. Connetions with Shirley’s theory of theories stuff.

      The wikipedia page on Dilthey has this to say

      Dilthey strongly rejected using a model formed exclusively from the natural sciences (Naturwissenschaften), and instead proposed developing a separate model for the human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften). His argument centered around the idea that in the natural sciences we seek to explain phenomena in terms of cause and effect, or the general and the particular; in contrast, in the human sciences, we seek to understand in terms of the relations of the part and the whole. In the social sciences we may also combine the two approaches, a point stressed by German sociologist Max Weber.

      And lastly, a nice quote for the Ps Framework

      Because individuals do not exist in isolation, they cannote be studied as isolated units; they have to be understood in the ocntext of their connections to cultural and social life.

      which apparently is a quote from Polkinghorne (1983).

  3. The re-entering of positivism (through logical positivism)
    Logical positivism suggested to be dominanat epistemology of contemporary sciecnce. But still rooted in positivism.

  4. The arrival of the contemporary critics
    Everyone’s a critic, so logical positivism didn’t last long. Some of the criticisms

    • Does not separate observable from theory
      What you observe is influenced by the theories. “In fact, it is unlikely that obervation can be theory free”.
    • Lack of success in using deductive reasoning to overcome the problem of induction
    • the idea of value-free science
      In the guise of neutrality, the researcher is in fact tacitly supporting the status quo.

    Goes on about a range of others. Interestingly, Schutz influenced by Weber and Husserl got into phenomenology. “Schutz contended that Weber’s concept that the main function of the social scientist was to interpret, did not go far enough. He believed the main characteristics of social science must be ‘understanding’, ‘subjective’ meaning and ‘action'”. This has some interesting implications for the work of Hevner et al that separate out natural/social sciences from design – perhaps.

  5. Post-positivism – being a fifth stage which the author suggests is currently emerging
    Arising out of growing band of researchers unhappy with postivism. Picks up the line of thought that knowledge is not apodeictic (i.e. a logical certainity, self-evident). Instead knowledge is accepted by some community which accepts it as an imporvement of previous understanding.

    Suggested that it is more a belief about knowledge than a school of thought with agreed tenets. The wikipedia page seems to suggest a little differently

    The main tenets of postpositivism (and where it differs from positivism) are that the knower and known cannot be separated, and the absence of a shared, single reality.

    A part of this is a methodological pluralism i.e. that there is no correct method, simply many that may be contigent on the problem being studied or the ‘kind’ of knowledge desired’.

First photo

Memory card (SanDisk eXtreme 3 8Gb) and bag (Tamrac expedition 5x) have been successfully purchased and returned home. The camera is finally together and the first shot has been taken.

First shot with the new camera

And yes, the image files are significantly larger than those produced by the C-770. Seems there will be some reading to do. Both for simple camera operation but also, potentially more importantly, about photography in general.

What to “read”?

Being a “net” sort of guy, one would assume that I should be looking at the net for resources and communities in which to participate. Rather than follow my first instinct to refer to the couple of books we bought for Anna last Xmas.

Given I’m a user of flickr, perhaps that’s a good place to start. Searching the groups part of Flickr reveals tht there are 1282 groups about “learning” and “photography”. Sorting by group size reveals that the group search ain’t all that effective.

A quick look at the Flickr groups and nothing stikes me as interesting. I did get taken to digital photography school which looks interesting.

A google search reveals the number one hit being onto which is like coming home. Philip Greenspun is almost an “old friend” given his work in web-based systems development in the 1990s. Don’t think I’ll be reading too much, at least initially, online.