Monthly Archives: June 2009

On the importance of being there

With all the beauty of the Internet and the fact that it helps us dealing with distance and phisical presence, there is something really valuable about “being there.”  The Berkman Center places tons of material online and theoretically, nothing stops me from spending hours on their website listening to the talks and reading the reports.  However, for me this rarely happens, unless I have a concrete task in hand and am looking for a specific piece of information.

Now, spending the summer at Berkman, makes me more conscious of the online materials the center is releasing.  For example, about a week ago Jonathan Zittrain (JZ) gave a really interesting talk about the history of the internet through the lens of domain name regulation.  Unfortunately, that one was not documented, but then, when I came across the video below, I did sit down to watch (most of) it.  I don’t think I would do it unless I had the opportunity to listen to JZ “live” just a couple of days before, but now I know that there is a good explanation of the basics of the Internet out there that I can use.

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Same goes for other items, such as the luncheon talks.  For example, this week, Eszter Hargittai presented her new data about disparities in Internet-related skills among college students.  Although I am following Eszter’s blog and try to read what she publishes, I doubt I would have a chance to spare an hour watching her recorder talk.  Now, after actually being there, I would encourage you to watch both, her talk from this week and another one she gave about a year ago (below).

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Of course I am not the first one to think about the importance of being there.  The idea has been around for a while, especially in the business world.  However, it is always fascinating to reach a similar conclusion based on your own observations.  It seems that the ability to attach a “face” to the content has an aura effect, beyond the immediate enhancement of communication between the people involved.  It shifts one’s attention towards other information produced in the same space, and most interestingly, it extends to the online environment.  I think that so far I was paying attention only to the reverse dynamics (when online communication enhances the following offline interaction).  It is interesting to now how it works in the opposite direction as well.  Being there focuses you on the materials produced by the people and institutions invovled, while probably taking away from your attention to informatin produced elswhere, even if that is a place where you have previously spent a lot of time at.  Some food for thought…

So, what’s cooking?

I have been away from blogging for a while and kind of got “out of shape” (I even think my blog was removed from Technorati as inactive).  I was really busy working on my A-exam papers, but now, after over 120 pages of single-spaced text, I am getting back on track.  It is a particularly good timing as I am spending this summer in a place where blogging is actually considered work :)

So, what I’ve been up to?  Here is a short update.

I am spending this summer at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society working in the Internet and Democracy project.  Berkman is a really interesting place where seemingly unlimited (primarily intellectual) resources are combined with a really comfortable environment for people to let their inner geek/nerd out.  I am an “intern” and there are about 30 of us working all over the yellow house on Everette street (and thanks to Cathrine White, we now go by Berkterns – Berkman interns).  The summer is only at the beginning, but it looks promising.  So, if you are in the Boston area, please feel free to touch base.  I will be here until early August.

Please note that I’ve started reworking this site a little bit in terms of content, structure, and infrastructure (I really need to upgrade the platform).  I am using WordPress and I am now also looking for a new theme.  The theme should be widget ready and also to have tabs.  If you have any ideas, please let me know.

As to actual cooking, please check out a new initiative Veronica and I have started.  It is called “Cooking Travels” and the basic idea is to explore various cultures through their food.  We are looking for people who would be interested to contribute to it on a casual basis.  So please let me know if you would like to take part.

In the next few days, I plan to release some of the post drafts that have been sitting there for a while.  Hope at least some of the are still relevant :)