Being a translator for the TED Open Translation Project I was given the great opportunity to watch the live web stream of the whole TED Global conference that took place a week ago in Edinburgh. I really appreciate that we were granted access to the post-conference online archive of the full conference because during the time when TED Global was taking place I was getting lost in the narrow street of Fez and getting overwhelmed by the night life of Marrakech.
Let’s take back the Internet!
After catching up with my inbox and getting various duties off my desk I finally found the time to sit down and plug in this Sunday. Suddenly, it feels very overwhelming. It is a lot of talks, lots of ideas, personalities – where to start? I have seen two full sessions (or to be honest I have sometimes skimmed through – the (dis)advantage of the video archive). There is a still a lot to go and some of the talks are slowly becoming available on the TED website, e.g. Rebecca MacKinnon’s great talk on internet censorship, which I like a lot.
Voices like hers need to be heard more and more. Technology is not inherently good nor evil, technology is a tool in people’s hands and its uses, roles in our everyday lives, and simply said, the understanding of technology should be shaped via public debate. At the end of the day neither of those is a static process aiming for a final stop, these are endless, continuous processes of changing, evolving understanding of what technologies are and how they are and can be used – for good as well as bad purposes, needs and reasons.
As Rebecca MacKinnon puts it in her talk:
“So the important question, I think,is not this debate over whether the Internetis going to help the good guys more than the bad guys.Of course, it’s going to empowerwhoever is most skilled at using the technologyand best understands the Internetin comparison with whoever their adversary is.The most urgent question we need to be asking todayis how do we make surethat the Internet evolves in a citizen-centric manners.”
The Infinity Burial Project
However, the talk that really impressed me so far is Jae Rhim Lee’s The Infinity Burial Project. Unfortunately, I do not think this talk has been made publicly available yet, but for now you can check her website. This talk is more than anything truly thought provoking. Jae Rhim Lee’s project is interesting for two different reasons – as a project on it is own, reminding us that we – humans – and our bodies are part of the world, and the environment and that it doesn’t finish with our death because, as the saying goes, from ash you came and to ash you will turn. Any toxins we gather in our bodies during our lives are polluting the environment after our death.
As the website of the project goes:
“The Infinity Burial Project proposes alternatives for the postmortem body that promote and facilitate an individual engagement with the process of decomposition. The Project features the development of a unique strain of mushroom that decomposes and remediates toxins in human tissue, the development of a decomposition ‘kit’, burial suits embedded with decomposition activators, and a membership society devoted to the promotion of death awareness and acceptance and the practice of decompiculture (the cultivation of decomposing organisms).”
It is inspiring to listen to somebody who somehow breaks the taboo of death and around the dead and looks at this stage of human life with no emotions or religious prejudices, but as an inevitable fact that we should face in its fullness, not only as a result of events but also as an event itself with very physical consequences.
Interestingly, there was a loads of laughter in the audience during this talk, loads of us still feel rather uncomfortable stripping death of its courtesies talk and looking at it as a event that will eventually happen, that we all somehow have to face without actually facing it. I love this talk, exactly for its openness. Why is the human body such a sacred thing that the idea that it is eaten/decomposed by a mushroom is somehow scaring us? Is it the fear that we are losing control? We have lost it anyway, they will put what they think sounds nice on your grave stone, you don’t have a say at that anymore.
But that’s just one part of the reason why I find this talk so inspiring, the other is that the artist and researcher Jae Rhim Lee greatly demonstrates just how closely these two disciplines – art and science - are connected.
The talk about technology sometimes leads us to forget that both art and science are very creative processes, both requiring lots of research and original ideas. This connection is not due to, or thanks to technologies, but thanks to human creativity, as the drawings and notebooks of the crazy genius Leonardo da Vinci have already shown.
Keep an eye on this talk and I am going to watch the rest – there still is a lot of hours of screen time ahead of me.
What is this English thing about tea. I am living here for over three years already and I am watching my English partner religiously brew teabags for exactly eight years, but man, I am still not getting it. There are days when I have a suspicion that people truly believe tea will solve their life problems.
People, it won’t. One cup of tea a day, fine, I do that as well. Let’s go crazy, even two cups. Three cups a day is already a little bit extravagant but anything over that, that’s insane. Isn’t it even harmful to your bodies?
And above all of that, why do you call dinner ‘tea’? My head is spinning, not to mention that some people just call me ‘T’…
So far January has not even finished and quite a few bad things have already happened, or rather I have learnt some bad news about people close to me. Despite all the bad news still coming in (long term relationships splitting up, deaths, terminal illnesses) I feel oddly optimistic and positive. Whatever it is, this year, it will happen.
I do not have any New Year resolutions but I have a list of feelings driven by this funnily crazy energy, keep with me:
- I won’t leave things till the last moment, I will do everything within the week I learn about them (cinemas, exhibitions, meeting friends, calls for papers, applications for whatever).
- I will keep up this blog that should be rather about things than ‘me’ orientated (that’s to say, I will try to stay away from personal posts like this one)
- I will be bothered to do stuff, I will make an effort, I will try
- I will try to move on with my academic research, it’s about time, I might not finish it this year, but I’d like to move it onto the next stage.
Especially, my academic career, my research is what I feel guilty about. I have just submitted a chapter for a book at the end of the year. The writing forced me not only to dust off my notes and research but also my brain, and it felt good. This bloody scruffy muscle got to be used again and after two weeks of suffering and struggling I started to feel the energy, all the new questions that need to be answered and all the new angles I can look at the thing from. So now just to keep up to the expectations.
I started this tumblr notebook at the beginning of winter, but so far my activity was rather non-existent. I was ‘too busy’ and I had no enthusiasm or willingness to show and share the things that were going through my head.
This kind of changed, pretty much overnight and I just turned into somebody who is optimistic, positive and enthusiastic. I will try to keep this feeling. This is going to be THE YEAR (of my 30th birthday, eeeks) so rather than turning back and recapitulating lets look ahead and lets speed it up, this is not the end, this is the beginning.
Hope to see you here more often