Today (April 30th) we, the Dutch, celebrate the 25th anniversary of Queen Beatrix. And this is what we do: find a spot in the sun to relax, drink a beer (or more :-)) and enjoy the activities around town. And the next day?? Headache!!
Job title? No, thank you!
"This makes me wonder how soon someone will think up a far better notion for this 'visiting card' concept which has been around since at least Georgian times, and which today seems so distant from really connecting with people as the focus is purely on someone's job title rather than any meaningful information about that person. Is that how people see themselves? Just described as a job title?
I don't have a job title on my cards. Instead I have one of Hugh McLeod's cartoons on the back that expresses a tongue-in-cheek view of the world as I see it. While that might be a bit too abstract for some people, it might tell them something about me that a job title never could. Plus it's a great conversation starter." (NevOn)
I hate job titles. I had to come up with one for my article at elearningeuropa.info. I just wrote down communication researcher, but I don't think that reflects the things I'm doing right now.
Lately, a lot of people ask me what I'm doing right now (regarding work after graduation). My answer to that: well, a lot of things, where do you want me to start? A few weeks ago I started visiting my old fencing club again for the first time in eight years. People I know from back then ask what I've been doing during those years. My answer: well, a lot of things, where do you want me to start? People find it very difficult to place me. I did communication studies, but I'm not into marketing or PR. I tell people I connected communication and philosophy and right there I've lost them. People ask me what I do for a living. I tell them I try to create my own work in different kind of fields, and run experiments for free right now, and they're confused. For some months I've been thinking about a company name for myself to register officially. But what is a name that reflects all the things I am, am doing and want to do in the future? The same with printing good old business cards: what on earth should I put on the card? Every now and then I just tell people to Google on elmine, click the first hit and surf around on my weblog. Maybe that's all I need for now ;-)
Mirror Mission - Beyond Big Brother
Every once in a while I really get excited on TV programs. This time it's Mirror Mission, by BNN. It's mission: to hold up a mirror for us all on our behaviour. It's in a Big Brother format: a group of twelve people is locked up in a home full of camera's and have missions to accomplish. However, this time the group is not only passively observed by camera's, but by three scientists as well. They conduct experiments with the group, showing us how people react in certain situations. The program is inspired on the Stanford Prison Dilemma, the classic example of how things can get out of hand, even in role playing situations.
During the 18 days the people live together, a selection process takes place to divide the group in two: the red and blue team. The red team gets privileges, are allowed to do fun stuff. The blue team has to do all the chores and take orders from the red team. Questions asked: how much are we aware of our own prejudices? Where do we draw the line? When do we stop fighting and just act the way we are expected to?
Within days the group really is divided. The red team members are convinced they have earned the privileges, although it is mere luck that they got on the red team. And the blue team members accept to some level that they have to do the work around the house, although they stand up to the red team every now and then. In the beginning of the program they all stated explicitly they would respect each other, no matter what would happen. After ten days, some of the inhabitants clearly cross the line of respect, eager to comply with the (totally irrational) rules of the game.
I think BNN really succeeds in their Mirror Mission. It's very easy to condemn the people in the program for their behaviour, but the big question is: what would YOU do in a similar situation? You might be surprised!
The educational potential of weblogs
Blognomics - looking back
So while all European bloggers are writing about the BIG event in Paris, I still have a bit of writing to do regarding the blogging event in The Netherlands: Blognomics . It was an afternoon full with speakers, but somehow it had an airy feel to it (but maybe that is because the topics discussed are not new to me). I was a joyful event to meet Dutch bloggers, especially since I've been more active in the European circles than the Dutch. Again, what strikes me is the ease with which we all talk to each other and have really meaningful conversations. You're already aware of one another's ideas through tuning into the blogosphere. Even though I don't read everyone's blog, there is a very basic set of common language and values that accelerates conversations.
I really enjoyed meeting Marco Derksen. He held an excellent talk, emphasizing exactly the right things: focus on the quality instead of the quantity. I was also surprised by Paul Molenaar, director of Ilse Media (owner of web-log,nl). He showed us that he knows what's going on in the blogosphere. And then there was Peter Olsthoorn , a journalist, trying to get a conversation going by being provocative. Excellent!
Concerning the content of the conference my idea it was a bit one-sided, which in my view reflects the Dutch blogosphere. Somehow there are two models going around for blogging in NL: the marketing model and the journalist model. The marketing model focuses on the communication of a company (or a politician) with their customers (or audience). To me that model embraces the 'good old' model of sending and receiving, with the difference that there is a direct opportunity for receivers to give feedback. The journalist model focuses on the blogger as pseudo-journalist, writing publicly without the constrictions of journalist ethics. This discussion is in my view not relevant to the economics of blogging.
What wasn't included in Blognomics was the way blogs could be used to share knowledge, especially internally in organizations. I think the biggest asset for companies is not the marketing / PR blog for the company, but the sharing of ideas and interests of the employers. (see e.g. the discussion on blogging internally at Macaw). But maybe that is one step too far right now for this country.
A bit sad today
Yesterday, Ton and I had one of our cats to put to sleep. She was only five years young, but her kidneys failed her. Chablis (we like the wine :-) ) has always been my favorite. I got her from the pound in 2000 when she was a little kitten, actually too young to be away from her mother. This in a very hard period in my life. Just weeks after the big fireworks explosion in our home town, and in the middle if my depression. There was an instant click between this little kitten and me. Ever since we've been inseparable. I was her mother and as long as Ton and I were OK, she was happy. She probably felt more human than cat.
And now she's gone. I never realized how much I'd miss her. The place she always slept on the bed is empty, she doesn't join me showering in the morning anymore, no more biting Ton's beard when he didn't shave for a few days, no more nuzzling up against me telling me how she enjoined lying outside in the sun. And although she never made a lot of noise, it's quiet in our home. I consider myself lucky having had the privilege to take care of Chablis and making the five years she lived the best ones she could have had.
The future of on-line journalism
Niels Hendriks of the Design & Media Academy, Katholieke Hogeschool Limburg pointed me to the wiki of their course Content is King. It is an open source experiment and the wiki is open to the public for contributions and discussion. They have an excellent list of articles already, especially on the blogging vs. journalism debate. If you're interested in this topic, this wiki should be in your RSS aggregator!
Reflecting on Presence at a distance
A bit of reflecting on presence regarding the seminar at HUMlab I attended last week. This has been on my 'to blog' list for the whole week. So let's do it! Jonny Holmström talked about peer-to-peer file sharing networks, a topic a bit off my area of interest, but it was in the line of Joi Ito's contribution to the Creative Capital Conference in Amsterdam last month and therefore a nice follow up.
Question: what made me sit through a seminar at a distance of over 2000 KM?
One: I've been to Umea, I have a feel for the surrounding area of HUMlab (the campus, the town)
Two: I've visited the physical HUMlab, so I know where Jonny was standing in the room and what the physical lay-out of the room is.
Four: I was visible present in the room via the chat channel, feeling some sort of social connection to the people physical present. (and social pressure of 'staying there')
Five: The presentation was interesting.
Bottom line is I felt comfortable participating, even in the discussion after the presentation. Big advantage I noticed was the use of the chat channel. I could ask questions and 'talk' at the same time the speaker did and therefore didn't have to wait for the right moment to ask my questions or make my remarks. And what happened last week was that Stephanie read my remarks via chat out loud in the room, probably feeling obliged to involve me in the room and therefore I probably got more attention from the speaker (although he didn't really know he was talking to me) than would I have physically been there. Interesting!
I've marked the next seminar at HUMlab in my agenda, since Bicyclemark will be presenting, whom I've met just weeks ago during a lovely blogging dinner. So I should even feel more comfortable, since next time I will know the speaker as well :-) Oh, yeah. The topic is very hot as well: podcasting!
60 Years Liberation Camp Westerbork
I'm watching the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Camp Westerbork. It's one of the camps from which thousands of people were deported to be killed in one of the German concentration camps. It's more a memorial service, very modest and beautiful. And it moves me, realizing just how many people lost their lives in a useless war...
Jonny Holmström on peer-to-peer filesharing networks
This afternoon I've attended a seminar in the HUMlab via live stream. Jonny Holmström's talk, Creative, effective and communitarian: An exploration into peer-to-peer filesharing networks was very interesting. I simply loved 'being there'. It really helped that I've visited the physical HUMlab in November last year, made me feel comfortable. And using chat for participating in the discussion was fun. Thanks to Stephanie for drawing in the chat. I love this technology!
The load of responsibility
Sometime during a break out session at Creative Capital Conference someone made a remark that some suggested change would imply a lot of responsibility an individual would have to take. I think it was during the discussion about the educational system. To me this remark sounded so typical for the time and society we live in right now. I often rant about current consumerism. People seem only want to have, get and take, and not willing to give (without instant return). I see it everywhere around me. When attending classes in the past, fellow student would show up at the first lecture of every trimester, gathering information what they should study for the exam and after that show up for the second time at the actual exam. Whilst writing my thesis, my supervisor and me always made jokes about the female students that would sit down in the lecture-room benches, drop their car keys and mobile phone in front of them, and start chatting with their friends, not taking notes and not listening to the lecturer in front of them. Are these the people that will run the country in twenty years time? They certainly are not busy taking responsibility for their own education. They are probably there because their parents told them to. (Let me make it clear that not every student behaves like this) Do we need to 'protect' these individual for too much responsibility?
What is taking enough responsibility and what is too much? If you're talking about educational systems that aim for total responsibility of children (age 6-12 e.g.) I agree that it would be too much. I don't think that you can expect these children to take responsibility for their own learning career. Simply because there is no way they can know what knowledge there is to learn. And I strongly believe every child needs a basic set of knowledge to grasp the world and build upon in the rest of their lives. However, if you're talking of students (age 18+) I think the Dutch educational system is lacking in preparing students for taking responsibility. Government tried, by introducing a system that stimulated self-studying in secondary education. The result: students seem to be more scholastic than ever. They talk about going to school in stead of going to university or college (this always has been a big difference in the Dutch language), their behaviour is aimed at getting a diploma and not at learning.
I'm not sure whether it really is a problem of the system or the behaviour of the people that teach within the system. Maybe the teachers expect the students to be consumers and therefore accept it when they are. Maybe students know that they're expected to be consumers and therefore are consuming their education. Obviously changing the system didn't turn out to be THE solution. So maybe we should start teaching the teachers differently. But where do you start?
Dave Pollard: Convergence Bridge
Just take a look at what Dave Pollard is going to do with his blog postings. I can understand the changes in graphical representations, but I'm not convinced the linguistic changes he's going to make will "allow a higher level of intellectual discourse on these pages", as he puts it himself. Makes me curious!
[2-4-2005] Phew, April fools day!