Monday, April 25, 2011

Twitter, podcasts and all things Stephen Fry !

One of the technical advances that I do have trouble understanding is that of twitter. I have tried - believe you me. I have truly! But I just don’t get it. If you were Oscar Wilde - yes I can understand. In fact one of my secret joys is looking up witty, one line quotes from Oscar. Many years ago my wife bought me a present - a lovely soft leather bound edition of the complete works of Oscar Wilde. I love diving into the book, reading his one line witty sayings (but boy- he must have been a pain in the arse to have known personally - no pun intended). In fact I even used his “one liners” as captions for a series of photos I did for bookmarks. But the fact is, that, very (oh so very) few of us have the verbal wit of Oscar. So why do we think that our one line of communication is going to be witty, funny, illuminating, intelligent, thought provoking or in the least of any interest to others ? 

Getting on the phone for Twitter

Maybe it’s my age (I have already admitted elsewhere that I am not 21 !) - but I tend to need quite a few sentences, paragraphs and a word count , to be able to elucidate the main point of any argument, discussion or communicative intercourse. Where does that leave Twitter ?  I know others will argue for it -”get with it” , “it’s the communication of the 21st century” . Sorry - I still don’t get it.
What led me to even discuss this is because of a person I am a fan off - that of the entertainer, author, comedian, actor and public speaker - Stephen Fry. Why he comes up in this blog is because the quality I greater admire in him ( none of the above - although I do appreciate and admire his work) is that of a “word smith”. I think I need to explain this definition, as I had thought the title of this blog “Wood Butchers” was self explanatory. But I have discovered since - very few people understand the term.
A “word Smith” is someone who makes a real craft out of playing with, manipulating, arranging and articulating words. They can entertain you for hours with their phrasing, structure and thought processes regarding words and ideas. This is their strength. This is what I see Stephen Fry’s strength as. And the fact that he combines this ability with technology. 
Stephen has written a number of books, plays, TV sketches as well as appeared as a speaker in a wide variety of places and events. His education is that of what I would call “the humanities” - highlighting Language, History, the Arts. Nothing of any practical use in the modern world, but Language based. Personally, I am of the age where I see this style of education truly giving you the bases for later life, but that is for another time and another  discussion.
The thing that makes Stephen unique (not really unique - but interesting for this conversation)  is the combination of this form of education and his absolute love of all things technical. He has emphasised  his word smith skills with that of modern technology. This is worded the wrong way around - and I have deliberately done this to emphasise the point! He has utilised technology to emphasise his word smith skills. 
He has a web site that keeps people up to date with his doings; he has a blog that keeps us up to date with his views; he produces podcasts to keep people abreast of his spoken views and he is constantly on twitter to keep you abreast of his immediate thoughts. 
He is a self professed technology nerd. To quote him - “I’ve never met a smartphone that I haven’t bought”. He is always the first to adopt any new technology. He claims to have the 3rd MacIntosh ever sold in the UK. He is a great fan of the ipad, iphone - anything Apple. He is even asked to “test drive” new apple products. So - here is a man who is totally absorbed in new technology. But - he makes it work for him, in a relative  and productive way. 
This is the main point - that I think a lot of educators miss. Technology is fun - but we have to make it meaningful and productive. If it is just fun - then it is really only a playstation or Xbox. It has to impart meaning.  This is where I think Stephen Fry has got it right. He is using technology to get his message across - without sacrificing  quality of thought. Granted - he is dealing with a narrow field - in regards to spreading his thoughts (as opposed to his acting or TV work). But he has incorporated new technologies extremely well. His main focus is communication. Whether this be by the old fashion pen - or newer methods such as Twitter, blogs or podcasts. 

Ah - one has to admit - he has style. 

Stephen Fry's website can be found here:

His podcasts can be found on itunes or here

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