A place where stories, thoughts and ideas come together

Monday, December 19, 2005

On knowledge and knowing

Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I had the chance to listen to Handel's Messiah in a live performance. The Limerick Choral Union and Orchestra performed at the University Concert Hall (which became a sort of home to me lately - it's 100 m from my office - so to speak, in our yard!)
And as always, the live experience was very different from I knew from the several Messiah interpretations I've been listening to through the years. There were times when I used to play the CD several times a day, as a background for my work, and I never got bored of it.

In the morning, I did some preparatory reading and found out with astonishment that Messiah was first performed in Ireland - "in 1742, at a charity concert on Fishamble Street in Dublin's Temple Bar district"(Wikipedia). I might have read this before, but probably didn't pay attention, Dublin was just another city with no significance to me.

And this is the explanation:

Messiah was composed at Handel's usual quick speed, but was premiered a year later in Dublin without Jennens's involvement. Handel appears to have been reluctant to present such a sacred subject matter in a London theatre, which seems wise considering the Bishop of London's outrage in 1732 when cathedral choristers had sung in Esther. The theatre, and Handel's music, were still perceived by many ecclesiastics as profane and subversive. Even Dean Jonathan Swift, a cranky old man with Gulliver's Travels long behind him, almost prevented the Dublin performance by threatening to forbid singers from St. Patrick's Cathedral to take part. Swift relented, but the contention Messiah aroused was still considerable enough to persuade Handel that the London premiere, a year later, should be advertised under the title "A Sacred Oratorio", thus avoiding any charge of blasphemy. (Source:
The performance last night was memorable. No, it didn't go perfectly - there were a few hiccups. But the communion of the people in the concert hall made it memorable. I was surrounded by a big group who all knew each other (family or perhaps neighbours). Many of the people in the audience were there because they knew someone in the choir or in the orchestra.

Wikipedia also told me that:
In many parts of the world, it is the accepted practice for the audience to stand for this section during a performance. Tradition has it that on first hearing the chorus, King George II rose to his feet, which required everyone attending the concert to stand as well, and it became the custom ever since. To display due respect, the custom of the time called for people to stand whenever royalty or other authorities stood, including their entry and exit. Therefore, as the Hallelujah Chorus proclaims Jesus' entry into the physical world, King George II was inspired to stand to recognize the presence of Royalty.
and I was wondering if this will happen here. There was a 10 seconds hesitation, but after that everyone stand up. The feeling was overwhelming, some of the people in the audience were singing along. I can't tell how much of it was based on religious beliefs and how much on a long lived Christmas habit, but it impressed me deeply.

Again, the interplay between knowledge and knowing became very obvious to me (I am probably more than obsessed with John Seely Brown's Bridging Epistemologies!).

Without the previous knowledge I had about Handel's Messiah, probably I wouldn't have been there on Saturday night. The new knowledge I acquired that morning helped me, but only as a prelude to the live experience. And then being there, witnessing the performance, revived both my musical memories and everything I knew about the work. It also added some local flavor; the mayor of Limerick prefaced the event with a short speech on the contribution of the Limerick Choral Union & Orchestra to the artistic life through the years (and didn't forget to mention that his mother was a member of the choir!).

Nothing compares to the "knowing" process - making sense of all the accumulated knowledge, valuing what you know, and acquiring new knowledge. And yes, listening to a record at home can be a good experience - sometimes. But the act of "knowing" in interaction with others is without any doubt better!
|| Gabriela 12:44:00 AM
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Friday, December 02, 2005

What's going on

The CONVIVIO Workshop - Understanding public spaces: exploring methods was held this week in Killaloe, at the Lakeside Hotel. My colleague Parag Deshpande, an Indian architect working on his PhD in the IDC, was in charge with the organisation.

I was asked if I could host one of the participants, and this is how I got the chance to meet Mirjam Struppek, a German freelancer who's running Interactionfield and who was one of the organisers of the Urban Screens conference in Amsterdam this autumn. Not only that Mirjam studied and worked in Kaiserslautern for a number of years, but we discovered we shared a lot of interests like digital graffitti, Wikipedia, social networks and so on.

One hour after her arrival, we both switched on our computers on the kitchen table and spent a few hours exchanging links and tracking concepts.
This is how I discovered Fibreculture , the activity of Geert Lovink, with whom Mirjam collaborates, and his Principle of Notworking.

I couldn't attend the workshop on Thursday, but went there on Friday, for the second day.
Amazing weather, it was a sort of Indian Summer (in December!) and the surroundings were breathtaking beautiful.

Briggite Bundesen from Copenhagen spoke about using literature and music for analysing the rythm of suburban areas.
My colleague Marylin Lennon presented a project realised by the iMedia students for the Colbert train station in Limerick in 2003- BIN-IT (moving and talking litter bins!) - not only the idea and the illustrations presented were very appealing, but also the methods used for developing this project.

The most interesting part of the day was the discussion that followed. Just a few of the topics:
  • How can researchers from different backgrounds negotiate meanings? (some speak in words, some other in images, and others use sounds)
  • What do we mean by public spaces? A supermarket or a cinema are not public spaces, they are privately owned. What's the opposite of public?
  • People are the ones who give meaning to spaces - the boundaries are redefined dynamically;
  • What is the role of IT in public spaces? (few of my bullet points here: geotagging, plazes, geotagged photos, music, bookmarks, blogs, forums, tribes, meetups, craigslists)
  • Why physical public domains are so important? What if we'd move them on the Internet?
I wish I'd had more time to detail these ideas. But...
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Thursday, December 01, 2005


I'm reading an "oral history"- actually a 2003 interview with Irene Greif, the one who back in 1984 coined the CSCW term, together with Cashman.

And I can see myself discovering Lotus 1-2-3 back in 1990, after the arrival of the first PCs in Romania, printing help screens in order to learn how to use the commands, and teaching them to my colleagues a few months after. I remember my enthusiasm when I first discovered the spreadsheets- and how a lot of applications came into my mind instantaneously - my enthusiasm was overwhelming, I succeeded to contaminate our accountants who gave up their old accounting software which was anyhow outdated.

And then my spying around Lotus Notes - I read about it, and I tried to gain access to Cooper &Lybrand in Bucharest - the only company who I knew it was using it... couldn't make it...

I had to wait till my arrival at Henri Tudor in Luxembourg to make this experience...

And all the collaboration issues Irene is mentioning- I know them so well, I've been there so often...

A few ideas from the interview:
When it comes to "How to do technology transfer?", she says there's no verified way that works, and gives a few examples of what did work in the past for her:
- telling people outside the company - and getting it told back by industry analists;
- building a case - this is what they did to convince the company about the need for synchronuous communication- and she mentions the SameTime Manifesto

And when she's questionned about how she found her life balance:
"the main thing I kind of figured out over the years is that you can't...I can't necessarily have balance at every given moment in my life.
You have to stop every once in a while and reassess and maybe shift the balance."

Reassess...shift... we all need it once in a while!
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Another long blogging break...

I keep on lecturing people that blogs are like Tamagotchi, you have to write regularly in order to keep them alive, and I am the first not to follow what I am preaching!

I guess I have to overcome two major mental obstacles:
- that even if it's fun and I like doing it, blogging is not a distraction, it is part of my work and I don't have to experience any guilt when I feel like blogging;
- I don't have to persevere in postponing to blog about one topic until I fulfill my self-imposed duty of finishing an older draft - this strategy won't take me anywhere!

After I left my parents' home to go to the university in the capital city, expecting to get liberated from all the strict rules they were imposing on me, I discovered with astonishment that I was re-inforcing those rules on myself more severely than my parents used to do it.

Old habits die hard - and it looks like I can't prevent the history from repeating itself. My current position gives me all the freedom I could have ever dreamed of, and - probably because no one else is imposing me anything - here I am making new stupid rules for myself!

Well, lots of things happened since my last post. I missed the Social Computing seminar at Oxford, but then I also missed the TechCamp in Dublin because of a bad flu.

I was invited to give a lecture on Social Software at Trinity College in Dublin at the end of October - oh, my, oh my! what a Cinderella feeling I had entering the main gate at Trinity! I used to dream that place night and day back in 2000, when my paper got accepted at the IS/IT Evaluation Conference but unfortunately I couldn't find the funding to attend!
Teaching at Trinity - nice experience, bright students, impressive atmosphere! When I asked if they ever tried to contribute to the Wikipedia, the students pointed me to this article;-)

Then I decided to skip the Fringe at KCC Europe - too much work to do, nobody was able to tell me who else was going there, the knowledgenetworker wiki page was last updated in July. It sounded to me like a silence conspiration - or maybe I was looking for excuses?! I'm sorry I missed it now, I feel kind of disconnected from the KM community. And I still wonder why so few people blogged about!

I started a new blog at elgg - this is why - trying to support a bunch of young people who really deserve it. Time is never enough, my involvment in that project is not the one I'd wanted it to be, but I still hope it will make a difference...

Then I had to travel to Romania, for the last meeting in the Pellea project, the one who provided me with the chance to organise that online blogging course in Romanian last year. The time was short, the weather changing from Indian summer to snow and frost, and there was no way to meet everyone and to do all the work I planned.

On the way back, a short break in Amsterdam - beautiful city, lots of hidden treasures, magic places like this one, I'll be always happy to go back there. A few misadventures in restaurants ( I was served a "vegetable soup" that proved to contain a big piece of meat, 2 1/2 h spent waiting for one pancake), but the biggest surprise was reserved for the Dublin airport at my return.

The immigration officer told me I am not allowed to enter Ireland, because I lack a visa. A 24kg suitcase, a sore throat and 10 days of travel behind, this was the last thing I needed. I tried to explain no one asked for a visa when I came back from Frankfurt, I showed him my residence card, and I was pretty sure I was right. In the end, I proved to be wrong, the documents I have by now only allow me to stay in Ireland, but not to travel back and forth.

So this is the end of travel for this year - no more 's-Hertogenbosch for the final meeting of the PACE project. A pity - I would have loved to participate in the conference organised on this occasion and say good-bye to the partners I worked with in the last 2 1/2 years! can't have them all, isn't it?!
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