Monday, March 27, 2006

wow - searchlight effective

Some time ago I posted a notice in search of friends, and unbelievably (yes) i've received word from the girlfriend of Hugo ( I am so unbelievably thrilled by this. Though not so thrilled to hear that he is in Darfur. It makes sense that he is there though. I thought to note this here, to attest to the wonderfulness of the net, and for you to share in my happy moment.

speaking of the net, i am in an internet cafe in berlin. yes, a shame that i am here in the cafe rather than out exploring berlin, but well, mail has to be read, work has to be done. como siempre. okay, i'm outta here :)

Friday, March 24, 2006


I´m sure most of us have friends who send us these sweet/cute/clever mails on a frequent basis. I can think of four people in particular who send me such mails (Annemarie, Lynn, Jorge, and Alma). I seldom have time to read this kind of stuff, but I do keep them, and when in need of a light moment I read one or two. So today I was reading a work by Dominique Foray, and happened across this excerpt on memory (you will know that I have recently hinted at my own memory deficits (see and

start excerpt:
Today´s younger generations might never experience the emotions aroused on rediscovering old books or toys in the attic that still work. Future machines may never be able to bring back to life the equivalent of our elders´wooden horses and toy soldiers.
end excerpt:
source: Foray, D. 2004. The Economics of Knowledge. MIT Press

Yes, what we are confronted with is the well-known problem of preservation in the digital age, but Foray is phrasing it in the old paradigm, and thát made me stop and think. We know that technology becomes obsolete, and that what is accessible today most definitely will not be accessible in future if not subjected to digital preservation techniques of some sort (emulation, content preservation).

How does this relate to the cutsey-clever mails that my friends send? It is that I received a mail from Alma the other day (reproduced below), which made me think about how children are often not raised these days. For instance there is a reference to one´s being able to disappear all day and only return home at night. I had that kind of childhood. For sure, when looking at my nieces, the same cannot be said and that in effect they lead a rather cloistered life. Why is this? Well, in South Africa, and in what seems to me a particularly Anglosaxon neurosis, the scares around the ubiquity of child abuse has led to children no longer being given the sorts of freedoms that I had when a child.

the mail:
TO ALL THE KIDS WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1930's 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's !! First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes. Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking. As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat. We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING! We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem. We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them! We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes. We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them! Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL! And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS! You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good. and while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were. Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!
end of the mail

Thursday, March 23, 2006

CODATA -ICSU workshop follow-up

I am feeling something on the verge of elation; as if I have had some small victory, but not a victory for myself, understand.

Last September I was invited to present at the CODATA Workshop on Strategies for Permanent Access to Scientific Information in Southern Africa ( Through a confluence of circumstances I was eventually not able to attend, but did send along my presentation [titled "Mandate is not a four-letter word: taking Open Access scholarly communication forward"] so as to contribute to the workshop in spite of my physical absence. Through the deft work of Roy Page-Shipp my work was incorporated into the final session report. And reading now the final Report and Executive Summary, I note the following recommendation regarding information policy in the Exec Summary ( ) page 5:

• Scientific and technical (S&T) data and information policy
o CODATA outputs should include examples of national policies that establish the record-keeping policies of various nations such as the USA, United Kingdom and Australia. This could help inform the South African National Archives Act, which currently makes no mention of the mandatory collection and preservation of S&T data and information, but refers only to public administrative records.

And further regarding STM journals (p8):

The following kinds of actions should be taken with regard to scientific, technical and medical (STM) journals:

· Establish and implement policy interventions by research funders (including governments and institutions) that:
o Mandate that scholars make pre-prints and e-prints of their research available via an open access medium.

[My emphasis (and contribution then) in bold]

That said (& to shift focus), I recommend reading the entire Executive Summary. This document, coming from CODATA + ICSU, is an important step in the right direction for OA, especially considering its origins in the southern hemisphere.

third-world city

Interesting piece by Rana Dasgupta re THE SUDDEN STARDOM OF THE THIRD-WORLD CITY. I´m not sure if I´ve mentioned this here before: that I saw a month or more ago the documentary "megacities" by Michael Glawogger . And have also been reading a lot (okay, some...) about world cities and world city theory in the past two months. So, see the Dasgupta piece. I will comment later; just thought to note the piece here first of all.

While i´m on the topic, see also, in plain old paper:

World cities in a world-system / edited by Paul L. Knox and Peter J. Taylor
The city reader / edited by Richard T. LeGates and Frederic Stout

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Digital Library scholarship @ DISA

Scholarships for Masters, PhD and Postdoctoral Research - Hidden Years Music Archives

Applications are invited from suitably qualified persons for Masters, PhD and postdoctoral scholarships to be financed by a grant from the National Research Foundation (NRF) for research into the Hidden Years Music Archive.

The Archive, currently under the private ownership of 3rd Ear Music Company (, represents a valuable resource of indigenous knowledge comprising decades of 'alternative' South African words and music, recorded live or in studio productions. A mix of political, commercial, traditional, contemporary and community recordings, the Archive also includes photos, programmes and posters from coffee bars, concerts, shebeens, festivals, and mine hostels. Its music embraces such diverse styles as Urban Folk, Township Jazz, Country Rock and Maskanda.

The project aims to create an online resource on indigenous South African music and associated cultural heritage, so as to promote multidisciplinary research into the field of popular music and culture.

Expressions of interest are now sought in postgraduate research involving the project. Many research topics are possible: examples include a focus on describing, digitising and preserving the Archive, using digital library technologies for online web delivery; intellectual property and indigenous knowledge management; and musical and cultural analyses of the Archive's holdings. The project is expected to generate multidisciplinary research interest in the fields of Archives, Library and Information Studies, Music, English, History, Politics, Law, and Education.

Applicants should be in a position to start their studies at any institution of higher education in South Africa in 2006. Applications should include a letter of motivation explaining the applicant's research interest in the archive, a CV, and a full academic record. Preference will be given to South African citizens. Successful candidates will be expected to conduct appropriate independent and team research.

Further information can be obtained from the project website at:

or from Ms Leanne Munsami: phone (031) 260 1705, or e-mail

Completed application should be sent to the following address, to arrive no later than Monday 20 March 2006:

Ms Leanne Munsami
University of KwaZulu-Natal
220 Marriott Road

Dr D P Peters
DISA: Digital Imaging South Africa
University of KwaZulu Natal
220 Marriott Road Durban 4001 South Africa
Tel: +27-31- 260-1724 Fax: +27-31- 209-6590

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

CfP - CITTE 2006: ICT in Higher Education


Abstract submission deadline: 31 March 2006

The CITTE 2006 conference will take place from 18 to 20 September 2006, in South Africa at the St George Hotel near Pretoria . This biennial conference is the key research and networking event for researchers, strategists, academics, technologists and practitioners in ICT in Higher Education.


ICT: Enabling Collaboration and Transformation in Higher Education

The conference will fulfil the need for stimulating critical debate on and research into theories, approaches, principles and applications of ICT in Higher Education. It will provide an opportunity for professionals and practitioners to share their knowledge, experience and research in the various areas where ICT is applied.

The objectives for the conference have been defined as follows:

* To stimulate critical debate on and research into theories, approaches, principles and applications of ICT in Higher Education;
* To share local and international developments, experiences and lessons learned;
* To promote networking and business opportunity development;
* To stimulate and assist personal professional development and the development of new skills for technologists and academics;
* To provide a forum for education and knowledge transfer; and
* To facilitate dialogue, sharing and networking between diverse cultures with regard to the optimum use of emerging technologies.


* ICT: Strategy and Governance
o Examples: Writing, implementing and managing strategy; Compliance and legislation; Enterprise architecture; Implementation of governance frameworks; Aligning IT strategy with Enterprise strategy; Case studies from industry; Sourcing strategies; Privacy; Telkom deregulation; IT metrics; Intellectual property management; Emerging technologies; etc.
* ICT: Teaching, Learning and Research
o Examples: Case studies in learning management systems; Educational models; Impact / Role of Open Source software; Open access to learning content; Assessment; ROI / Business value; Digital repositories; Collaboration: E-communication; E-support for research; E-portfolios; Academic computing; Emerging technologies; etc.
* ICT: Administration, Security and Technical
o Examples: Managing outsourcing; Open source vs Proprietary software; Develop / build vs buy software; Collaboration; Managing of bandwidth; Connectivity; Information security; International standards (ISO); Change control; Grid computing; E-procurement; E-billing; Library management systems; Federating search engines; Enterprise content management systems; Emerging technologies; etc.

The conference programme will make provision for leading invited Keynote Speakers, Plenary Sessions, Paper Presentations, Poster Presentations, Panel Discussions, Technology Showcases and Product/Services Showcases.

The conference will host an exhibition area, where the latest trends and a series of vendor presentations will be demonstrated.

Abstract submission information
Submissions may be made in the following participation/presentation categories:
Full Papers, Panel Discussions and Poster Presentations.

Extended abstracts of 800 - 1000 words may be submitted for these categories at the following web site: from 22 February 2006 where full instructions will be available.

An International Review Panel will assist the Programme Coordination Subcommittee with the review and selection of abstracts. Abstracts will be double blind reviewed. Accepted papers will get credits from the Department of Education.

Important dates

* Closing date for the submission of abstracts – 31 March 2006.
* Registration opens 16 May 2006
* Early-bird registration closes – 15 July 2006
* Notification of acceptance – 15 May 2006 plus guidelines for accepted papers
* Full paper submission – 15 July 2006 (accepted full papers will be reviewed again and only those that pass the second review process will be published in full. This is to comply with the Department of Education rules)

Conference proceedings
A CD with all the presented abstracts and papers will be published.

St George Hotel, Pretoria , South Africa

Steering Committee
Dr V Coetzee (Unisa)
Vice chair:
Mr D Weiermans (Unisa)
Mr L Smit (Unisa)
Convenors of task teams
Mr J Steyn (Unisa)
Ms M Miller (Wits)
Mr A Vorster (UJ)
Mr D Weiermans (Unisa)
Mr D Kotze (CUT)
Mr D Ramasodi (VUT)
Other Members
Ms Z Lombard (Unisa)
Mr S Janse van Rensburg (UFS)
Mr M Maree (UL)
Mr J Vele (UVST)
Mr K Bokala (TUT)
Mr J Niezen (TUT)
Programme Committee
Ms May Miller (convenor)
Papers coordination subcommittee
Prof Carina de Villiers (convenor)
Prof Theo Bothma
Dr Nic de Bruyn
Ms Monica Hammes
Mr Dolf Jordaan
Dr Heila Pienaar
Dr Jakkie Pretorius

Who should attend?

CITTE 2006 is a must to attend. This event brings together some of the leading researchers and practitioners in the field of ICT in Higher Education.

The list includes:

* Higher education institutions
* training providers
* educators and researchers from all sectors
* independent research organisations
* community and voluntary organisations
* content developers
* education authorities
* hardware and software developers
* government departments
* publishers
* and all others with an interest in ICT and Higher Education.

Visit the CITTE 2006 conference website at: for more details about the conference.

If you have any further questions, please contact the Conference Secretariat at:
Tel: +27 12 429-3164, Fax: +27 12 429-3405, E-mail:

Thursday, March 09, 2006

datos policiales y videovigilencia

Today we have a four hour lecture (two lectures of two hours each) with Ricard Martínez Martínez, regarding the special case of data protection vis-a-vis police data (it´s collection, use, etc). And in this second lecture of the day we are now considering videovigilancia (video surveillance). The theme links with what I had observed in the Harun Farocki installation some weeks ago in that the installation started with a computer screen rendition of a system which tracks the movements of customers in a store. Where we are shown, when clicking on any one customer-blip on the screen, the detail of what they had bought or had placed in their trolleys to date, appears on the screen. The sort of scary thing we try not to think about when out and about. Switch to screen of a similar system which is tracking the movements of the prisoners via the ankle bracelet which they are required to wear.

Anyhow, I have since come across this video-art piece of surveillance in a mall as created by a certain chris oakley, as posted by Philipp on his blog.

I know Philipp. Judging by our blogs, it seems we have been preoccupied by the same themes, though we have not had contact about these themes. ¡Qúe raro!

architectural arrangements for exclusion

From the Mitchell book cited earlier this week (p49):

"In general, you can see what really scares a society - its collective vision of the dangerous other - by examining its architectural arrangements for exclusion and isolation."

I was thinking along these lines as I sat in the Schengen lounge of Schiphol the other day. Understand that it was the first time that I had had the seeming privilege of being there. Why "privilege"? I do recall being in the other part/wing of the airport back in September 2004. I had arrived from Cape Town (or maybe Johannesburg, it doesn´t matter) and had to wait to get my flight to Barcelona. I remember that at the time I wondered how it was that things were so rather "incómodo" to my mind. There really were no places in which to wait, except the shops (mall) or in the eating places. There were no places in which to simply wait comfortably, and not feel compelled to spend money on goods or services so as to have a seat somewhere (in a lounge, say). Thát was what I´d noticed.

So, it was quite a surprise for me find said ideational lounge in the Schengen area. Hey, it could be that the airport has been changed since I´d last been there. Maybe lounges have been added for those persons who come from outside the Schengen zone. Who knows. I don´t for sure. So, makes one think about the Mitchell quote, these rather subtle architectural arrangements for exclusion. I say "subtle" because Mitchell goes on to write about walls (e.g. walled encampments as are found in refugee camps, etc), which of course are not subtle at all.

But then all airports throughout have these kinds of arrangements, I imagine. That does not make it okay, no. My point is that it is something probably very subtle, and very ubiquitous (north and south of the equator, if I have to hint at my posting of yesterday).

This brings us to notions of citizenship, because these airport spaces invariably function to separate the citizens of the place/zone/country (of the airport), from the citizenry from "other places/countries". That is the simple separation which is manifested in the architectural arrangement.

digital traces

We frequently think of digital traces in terms of not leaving footprints (huellas) in our lives online, as some measure of privacy protection. But they manifest in another way when we move on. I am prompted to say this since I´ve received notice, as have many others who subscribe to the liblicense-l list, of the passing of Ross Atkinson. I did not know him; we never met, but he was a frequent presence in my electronic mailbox. And so, familiar.

And so I ponder the still continued presence of Ross Atkinson as manifested in my mailbox; there are still some of his mails there marked for reading later. Now they take on a different almost ethereal sheen. I felt this same way with the passing of Raja last year. They leave us with digital traces in our cyberian existence.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Please distribute widely


March 7 2006

Easing Access to EASSy

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Africa currently has to pay for some of
the most expensive bandwidth in the world. The region currently only has
one major international fibre cable (SAT3) that connects countries in
West and Southern Africa but East Africa has no fibre connection. Fibre
connections usually mean cheaper prices than satellite for volume
traffic but because of the monopoly structure of the SAT3 consortium,
its operators have kept prices high.

All this will change if the proposed East African Submarine Cable System
(EASSy) cable is built as it will connect countries on the eastern side
of the continent and if this new capacity is offered in a way that
maximises use and lowers price.

To help make this possible, APC is launching a new website
"Fibre-for-Africa" and on March 10 will hold a consultation with more
than 80 key stakeholders from all over Eastern and Southern Africa to
ensure that access to EASSy -which will serve eight coastal and eleven
land-locked countries- is 'easy', affordable and open.

Fibre-for-Africa provides background
information, analysis and news on EASSy and SAT3 and on general
bandwidth issues in Africa.

The consultation takes place on March 10, at the Indian Ocean Beach
Hotel, Mombasa, Kenya. This one-day event is convened by the Association
for Progressive Communications (APC), Balancing Act, Collaboration on
International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) and Kenya
ICT Action Network (KICTANET).


The price of international bandwidth is still a significant barrier to
the region's development. It makes it more expensive to do business. For
example, it is harder for new call centres to compete with their global
competitors. In terms of its social development, there are many areas
where cheap international access would give East African citizens,
professionals, students and decision-makers access to knowledge,
expertise and involvement in regional and global discussions.

"The cost of international bandwidth almost certainly directly affects
how Africa works; whether through the high cost of international calls
-particularly to other African countries- or through the cost and speed
of the continent's internet connection," says APC executive director
Anriette Esterhuysen.


The EASSy consortium has been set up to build a fibre route that will
connect countries on the east coast of Africa. But its governance and
the terms under which access to the new capacity will be available have
not yet been set. This project is at a crossroads: it can either follow
the monopoly practices of its predecessor SAT3 or offer an open access
regime, that will increase competition and lower prices, and give
consideration to development needs.

The aim of the Mombasa consultation and the "Fibre-for-Africa" website
is to promote transparency -the investors in the cable have been less
than open about how they are going to run it- and the notion that
internet backbone needs to be regulated as a public good and from a
public interest perspective. "Interest in the event has been incredible,
" observes Anriette Esterhuysen. "We had invited 40 people, now there
are 80 confirmed - this is such a serious issue for the region."

"If SAT3 and the EASSy cable carry on being run as a club consortium,
the cost of international bandwidth will be kept high," says APC's
Communications and Information Policy Programme Manager Willie Currie.

Currie argues that this would "continue to deprive Africa of the
advantages of being cheaply connected to the international internet -- a
platform for multiple forms of collaboration - cultural, economic and


Russell Southwood, CEO of Balancing Act, says that the high costs of the
SAT3 cable set a bad precedent for the EASSy project to follow. "Rates
on SAT3 have been as high as US$25,000 per mbps per month but are now
around US$10-15,000. The actual cost to the operator is around US$2,000.
These are very large margins. High prices mean that there are a
significant number of countries where the full capacity of the cable has
not been used. Fibre cables last for 25 years and are therefore a
wasting asset from day one unless a large part of their capacity is
used. EASSy needs to produce prices and terms of access that will ensure

Brian Longwe of the African ISP Association (AfrISPA) and KICTANET says,
"Time has come for Africa's internet community to take their futures
--and livelihoods-- into their own hands. For too long Africa has been
dependent on overseas infrastructure and facilities to provide
inter-country -and sometimes intra-country- connectivity."


Convened by KICTANET, CIPESA, Balancing Act and APC, the consultation
will provide a briefing on EASSY followed by a debate of the key issues
and the questions that still need answering.

On the morning of March 10, Vincent Waiswa Bagiire of CIPESA will make
his opening remarks, followed by a panel discussion on key EASSy issues,
chaired by Florence Etta of KICTANET.

Panellists will zero in on how the availability of international
bandwidth from the EASSy cable will help change the work they do, or
help consumers. They will also raise issues of concern like pricing,
access to capacity, transparency, governance and equity.

Later in the morning, discussion will shift to the meaning of 'open
access' for EASSy, with particularly reference to the experience of the
SAT3 consortium in West and Southern Africa. Canadian development
organisation IDRC's Edith Adera will chair.

This session will offer an update on the EASSy project; the history of
Africa's other international fibre project, SAT3; the issues raised by
monopoly access, pricing strategy, transparency and the impact on users;
and ways these issues have been tackled in Africa and elsewhere in the
'developing' world.

APC's Willie Currie will look at what fibre infrastructure is being
built for Africa, while Balancing Act CEO Russell Southwood will talk
about how fibre monopolies affect access, pricing, and open versus
closed approaches. Zolisa Masiza of ICASA, the Independent
Communications Authority of South Africa, will discuss how regulators
can respond to the challenge of ensuring a level playing-field.

There will be short presentations on key issues by EASSy consortium
members and other interested parties. The meeting closes with a plenary
session, chaired by Dr. Francis Tusubira from Makerere University, to
discuss how issues of concern might be taken forward with Government,
regulators and the EASSy consortium itself.

The event is possible thanks to support provided by the APC, the UK
Department for International Development (DFID), Infodev, Canada's
International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Open Society
Institute (OSI).


Fibre-for-Africa provides background information, analysis and news on
EASSy and SAT3 and on general bandwidth issues in Africa. Visit the site
and use the public comments forum to say your say about affordable
bandwidth for Africa.

Or contact:
Alice Munyua Gitau, KICTANET
Mobile: +254 73 373 1074

Anriette Esterhuysen, APC
Mobile: +27 83 456-3224

Inquiries regarding conference attendance to marking
'EASSy Cable Consultation' clearly in the subject line.


The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international
network of civil society organisations dedicated to empowering and
supporting groups and individuals through the strategic use of
information and communication technologies (ICTs), especially
internet-related technologies.
Our policy work in Africa:


lawn + sun; baby-Spanish; headache; privacy; Africa

I am on campus, seated outside my postgrad building, on the lawn. It is sunny here; slight breeze; not unbearably cold; not cold at all. How great it is to be able to just sit outside and enjoy the sun for a change. You cannot begin to imagine how happy this makes me, doing something so simple as to sit on the grass in the sun. And ever since the anti-tobacco law has been passed in Spain, it is a pleasure to go to the cafeteria also and to not exit reeking of smoke. So, since 1 Jan I can enter the cafeteria and sit there leisurely eating a sandwich, and not be bothered with 2nd hand smoke.


The niece of my flatmate has just successfully immigrated to Spain, and is now staying in my flat, along with her too-cute little daughter. Thing is, I don´t know baby-Spanish (another linguistic hill to climb!) so it is quite something to hear and observe. Also, just having the liveliness of a three year old around is quite something fascinating too. This reminds me of Monday when leaving Maastricht. The flat that I was staying in is located close to a primary school, and my goodness: I´ve never seen kids so happy on a Monday morning on their way to school. The word "jovial" came to mind.

[Wow, some really big ants on this lawn...]

I awoke with a headache; fortuitously dropped in at a professor´s office, who was able to provide me with a "medicamento" in the form of ibuprofen. Bless his Spanish heart. But I still have the headache. Maybe this calls for some caffeine...

I am online. Obviously, since I am blogging. But can´t access my e-mail on this wifi connection (https seems restricted, bizarrely, always). For sure, there are mails waiting for my attention. Oh, but how lovely the sun in the meantime.

The Spanish legislation re data protection and privacy is quite restrictive. So, yesterday we looked at the special case of medical information, or health information, and how the law applies in this regard. A case was cited where a girl had been injured in an accident (let´s imagine a broken hip or so) and one of her friends writes to an e-mail list to mention this fact, and that said afflicted person cannot join everyone in a planned get-together. The parents of the girl then decide to make a case against the friend, claiming that their daughter´s right to privacy had been violated, and that information regarding her health had been divulged. (Strange, but unfortunately true, this case.) So, imagine that I am sitting in the cafeteria moments ago, and I consider taking a pic with my camera (which I just happened to bring along today). Then I stopped myself, and thought, "probably if I place this pic on my web site, someone could make a legal fuss.". Ridiculous thought no? Do we want to create this kind of society? Should I have asked everyone in the proposed pic (which I didn´t snap eventually) if they wanted to appear in my impromptu photo of the Luis Vives postgrad building cafeteria?


Yesterday a friend sent me a thing from the Granta publication re how to write about Africa. And I´ve been thinking a lot about this of late. Around the stereotypes we (wittingly or unwittingly) perpetuate. For instance, I notice here on the TV, in the media generally, the images of Africa, and what I always see is hunger, starvation, tremendous suffering. And I become frustrated at times, and want to scream: Come on, Africa is about more than that. But somehow saying the latter will make me seem cruel or be very un-PC, at least. I will seem to be unfeeling, no? I want to shout, hey, wait a minute: I´m a city kid; I´ve always known cars, buses, and trains; concrete highways; electricity; running water from the tap; have never been up close and personal with any of the "big five" (animals, understand); have been reading since age four; never been to war; had TV at age three; know big airports; know big cities. Instead the stereotype is the one as presented very articulately by Binyavanga Wainaina.

Yesterday even I was confronted with the above. The lecturer made mention of access to telecomms infrastructure in Africa, and one of my classmates looks my way. I half-smile, half-frown, and think "here we go again". Actually, this reminds me of a great little piece on this very theme by McKenzie Wark in the Rem Koolhaas book I mentioned some musings ago. He writes about how normal it is for southerners to be migrating north, and how unusual the reverse is, and the consequences of the latter. I almost cried when I read the piece. Yes. Indeed. Why? Because he articulated some things which I have thought for some time i.e. that I have been north (of the equator, understand) on various occassions, and so have impressions of life "on this side", but frequently have occassion to despair at the number of people I´ve run into who have very defined opinions about life south (of the equator) but have never bothered, and will never bother, to go there.
At such times, when meeting such opinionated folk, I frequently feel inclined to say: Know what, I´ve come over to your neighbourhood. How about you go to my neighbourhood and then, afterwards, come and tell me about life in the developing world. The even sadder thing is, is that even fellow "southerners" do this kind of labeling of one another.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

back in madrid (after maastricht, after cologne)

well, for sure you never knew that i left to start with. well, i did, last wednesday. jetted off to Maastricht, and returned yesterday. friday i had the good fortune of hopping along to Cologne /Köln /Colonia, and discovered another urban space.

i like the ambience of Cologne. Though I know a fair number of Germans, I´d never been to Germany before, and the people, por lo general, were not as (uptight) as i had imagined. well, i know i can be particularly uptight myself at times (though Spain is getting me to lighten up), so that statement is relative.

i absolutely must mention that in taking the train from Aachen to Cologne, just as the train left the station I dived into my backpack to nibble the snack i´d gotten on one of the KLM flights, and felt almost guilty when chewing since it felt that i was making a lot of noise masticating, since i´d realised that the train was just so super-quiet.
my thought then: i am so obviously not on a train in Spain (because at least one voice would be audible then).

today i am physically exhausted and feeling mentally tired; doing what´s required, and yet somehow excitedly absorbed in my own world: did laundry early-morning; took forever to unpack my bag but eventually did; was glad to be back and have a long-ish lunch Madrid-style; got my head around the material for the afternoon´s classes; and thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in the book i´d bought on saturday, titled: Placing words: Symbols, Space, and the City, by William J. Mitchell while on the metro when coming over to the university. the book is peppered with insights on the intersection of digi-life and urban spaces, and a simple thrill to read.

It strikes me now that this visit was a mixture of firsts: On any one trip I always buy at least one book in the airport (I didn´t this time); whenever in the vicinity of a body of water (ocean, river) I take a pebble with me (I didn´t this time); I left my toothbrush behind in Cologne (I haven´t ever in all my life left a toothbrush on a trip); and experienced my first snow storm ever.

The first time I touched snow was in the Boland, outside Cape Town, in August 2003. The first time I experienced snowfall was Canary Wharf, London over Xmas 2005. And my first snow storm whilst walking on the old city defence wall in Maastricht, on Thursday 2 March 2006.

I will write later about the Halfautomatische Troostmachine de Maastricht (in Afr: die half-outomatiese troosmasjien; in Eng: the semi-automatic consolation machine).