Monday, August 25, 2008

The last day!

Today was quite stressful, but it was the final presentation of a months’ hard work. The entire group had to get up around 5AM, met at 5:40AM and walked over to Central Station. I woke up with a realization I had no closed-toe shoes. I resorted to flip-flops and felt vaguely guilty. Eddy biked with me on the back and my legs almost fell off. We all found each other around 6:00AM, got some food, and boarded the train. Most everyone was sleeping; Kelsey and I talked for a bit before falling into an uncomfortable nap. We got to Rotterdam in about an hour; the group of us, dreary and not yet drugged on coffee, walked through the rain to stand at the tram station for about 20min. Finally our tram came to take us to the conference. We saw the stamper with the most ridiculously long strippenkart ever for the group of us.

View from train:


Erasmus University:


We arrived at Erasmus University of Rotterdam, where the social science conference was being held. We shuffled in to get our name tags. Eddy became Edward and of course “Jenny” was omitted completely from my tag. We somehow got up a flight of stairs in search of the cafeteria but it was not yet open. Instead we all dogpiled on a long bench; some groups practiced, I slept solidly for 2 hrs until 10:40AM—20min before our presentation. My neck felt stiff and my whole body hurt. Gugg.

Anyway we got into room T3-17 (M Building) and set up our computers. Eddy’s group was first with their fantastic Google Earth whirliness. I jotted bullet points of my notes and redid parts of my slides (again). About 5 strangers showed up for our epic showdown in the M Arena!! Paul introduced us briefly as students as researchers and the students he, himself, is finding out more about: how we approached research, what e-research meant to us, etc. Then Clifford talked a bit about some of the themes of our study abroad including the concept of “radical transparency”. Everyone looked pretty pumped.

The presentations were extraordinarily well rehearsed and well-thought out. Although we’d just heard everyone on Wednesday, so much improvement had been made I was astounded. My favorite presenter was probably Lauren; my favorite presentation overall must go to Eddy’s. The squatting group should be seriously proud of how much improvement they’ve made…amazing.



After our presentations Jessica made a brief closing speech, quoted a beautiful poem, and opened the floor to questions. We got praise on how tremendous our short research was, etc. etc. but we did have a man who was disappointed with the program description since apparently our program (not equal) our program description.
Anyhow we had a good discussion with all of the participants and audience members, so we all felt good. Outside at the sign of the university we took just short of 500 group pictures (I don’t have any). Tired and on an adrenaline low we sleepily trotted back to Amsterdam. Eddy and I went home to make grilled cheese with really good chunky tomato soup, sold our bikes back for 40E a piece (not that good, not that bad), got some coconut beer, and got various last souvenirs (Eddy got a teeshirt, I got new sunglasses).

We then went to group dinner at a cute Persian place. The food was fantastic. I got mint tea to start and dolmades (little rice/meat wrapped in grape leaves) for an appetizer and this “labour-intensive” eggplant dish. The eggplant didn’t even look like eggplant, but it was so delicious with the tiziki sauce and saffron rice it was served with. Eddy & Clint got pomegranate duck, which was tasty but vaguely strange. Kelsey got this chicken which was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Later we got dessert! Kelsey and I split this yogurt, which was delightfully thick but still fluffy. Clint and Eddy got Iranian ice cream that had pistachio and herbs in it; it was really hard (like harder than regular ice cream) and icy but yummy. Just something you had to get used to.

Lauren got Mirjam a card, so we all signed that and said our goodbyes with flowers. How nice. Paul also called on Clifford’s iPhone 3G and congratulated us over speakerphone.

During the dinner the restaurant staff was setting up a large hooka outside (7E a puff!) which was rather distracting. It was really funny to see these old me preparing hooka in front of all of us. Also the bathrooms at this place were really nice.

Anyway that night our group cranked out some serious work. Kelsey busted her ass getting our video and our conclusion done. I finally wrote my analysis so it made sense, and Mimi helped me integrate and synthesize. At around 2AM we finished; I fell asleep immediately and didn’t even see Kelsey leave.

So, the last hurrah! Amsterdam has been quite a journey. I think I learned a lot about both Dutch people, the people on this program, and what this program really strove to achieve. I had a good time doing my project and exploring the strange things around the city. Kelsey and Eddy really helped me from having too many panic attacks. Paris taught me I should never return to France again as well as be careful on trains! So I leave you with this: Watch your bags and wear a lot of sunscreen.
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Tenth Hour (and forty minutes)

Wednesday, August 20th, 13730002008

Early this morning--or very late last night, depending on your lifestyle choices--around 9:30, we, the students, in it, the study abroad program, met with Jessica Burstein, Clifford Tatum, Paul Wouters, Julie Villegas, Mirjam Schieveld, and Judith Vos at the Prins Hendrikkade campus to run through our dress rehearsal for the conference on Saturday.

The presentations were all very good, and were much improved from Monday. The feedback, again, was excellent. This time around, according to Paul, our presentations are presentable enough for the conference. This feels like a substantial achievement.

The fashion group provided visual refreshments.
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After presentations, several of us biked over to Dappermarkt for a lunch of falafel and Turkish pizza. This is the same place where some of us had lunch on Monday, and the falafel really hasn't changed since then.




The afternoon was spent working for some, sleeping for others...Evening found some of us meeting again and biking across Amsterdam and through Vondelpark, to have dinner at yet another people's kitchen, MKZ! This one is in a building that's part of a complex of legalized squats. The building itself was actually a restaurant for a while. The meal was all vegan, but the zucchini soup was simultaneously so hearty, zesty, and dynamic that some of us speculated about the possible inclusion of chicken flavoring or MSG. But I think I'd rather give the cook the benefit of the doubt. Indomitable soup! The main course was composed of a mixed salad with mustard dressing, creamy cauliflower stew, crispy red potatoes, and bread with green tapenade (minus anchovies). For dessert we had bananas in chocolate sauce with beer ice, which wasn't quite cold enough and quickly melted, forming ultrachocolatebeersaucezord, and Lord Zedd was banished for all time. This meal was definitely better than the curry on Monday, which was also good, but which suffered a bit from undercooked chickpeas (in the opinion of most if not all respondents). It also had the element of novelty. I keep being impressed by how creatively these cooks work within the restrictions of veganism. These restrictions seem to inspire innovations that would otherwise be rejected out of hand, simply because easier methods are available to do something similar but less interesting. As one cook put it the other day, it's easy to make something taste good with meat or enough butter; the real art of cooking comes when you don't have these things to fall back on. I'm pretty sure that's more or less what he said.

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On the bike ride back through Vondelpark we came upon a memorial for a victim of racism. As we approached, a woman was singing Redemption Song by Bob Marley. Everyone went home then except for Cassie and I, who stayed to hear a choir, which sang beautiful songs. Whatever I say will either sound affected or be an understatement, so I'll leave it at that.

Monday, August 18, 2008

rehearsals & dinner at joe's garage

So, today was our first rehearsal day for our presentations. Unfortunately, the squatting group went last... that means that I spent most of the time beforehand trying to calm myself down and frantically reading my notes over and over. So although I didn't take too much notes on the other presentations, I can say that I was pretty impressed with everyone's work. (Props to Eddy and Jenny for making it work after a vicious laptop kidnapping). It's apparent that everyone put a lot of time and effort into this research, and I also think that everyone was composed and presented well. I personally have a lot of anxiety about presenting; every time I have one coming up, my heart starts racing, I forget about all the work I put into the project, and I start feeling lightheaded... a little dramatic, I know, but it's true.

Anyway, our group presentation came and went without anyone dying, and I felt like I did okay. I took too long, I left out some really important things and kept in some trivial things, and my voice started getting pretty shaky at one point... but I think it went fine, and I think Fiona, Isaac, Ruben, Lauren and I went over to one of the markets and got a falafel- mmmmmm. I also found a pair of amazing purple pants for 3,50!!!! I should have gotten the yellow ones too.

Later on, a bunch of us got together to go to Joe's Garage (one of the squats) for dinner at the voku (folk's kitchen) they were hosting. Most everyone took the tram, except for Dylan and I who biked. Well sort of. Somehow Dylan caught some serious bad luck and his bike chain (er.. Kelsey's bike chain) fell off twice, and then the tire went flat. Once we arrived, we all had a bowl of soup... I don't really know what kind it was, but it was tasty. For the main course, there was chickpeas and curry, rice, and green beans. I enjoyed it, but I must say, I've had better squat dinners. (Competition is pretty stiff). Joe's was having an English theme... because they had this British beer on tap, and maybe for another reason but I'm not sure. The beer tasted good but was a tad flat... still good though. There was also a trivia game planned for the evening, but we didn't end up staying because everyone wimped out and went home early! (kiddingggg :) ) It was nice to have (almost) everyone out for dinner at the squats; usually Ruben, Emily C, Mimi, Haylee, and Katherine join us and it's always a great time. It was good to have the additional members this time! Here's a couple videos from our dinner. If I were you, I'd pay close attention to Ruben's dancing in the second one.... he'll be a STAR someday!
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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Teamwork, Archives, BBQ... Happy Birthday, Fiona!

August 14, '008

Collaborative Research

Today, our class attended a lecture and tour of the archives at the VKS studio. During the lecture, Jan Kok from IISH & VKS and Stefan Dormans from VKS spoke to us about collaborative research and their experience/background in the field. Jan Kok first gave us his insight on using new tools in the humanities and how new media has influenced the humanities. Some portals that he discussed included "Digital History" and "The Center for History & News Media", and how new media is adapted to research questions, data collection, and research collaboration.

The Questions (with focus on SOCIAL RESEARCH)
How can we improve collaboration between science and the humanities?
What are the benefits of using common research tools in group projects?
How do researchers actually collaborate and how can we observe people collaborating? What kind of tools can be developed to improve collaboration between researchers? How does one approach "social research"?

The researchers were taking a look at social research in 3 ways: history of the labour movement, history of daily life (minorities who did not leave record of themselves, non-mainstream cultures), and social science history (in regards to demography, economy, anthropology, etc). His group is currently trying to develop a project to synthesize information between research collaborators under the "hub" concept, which is pretty interesting. It is a system that uses data-archiving to share collected data and further analysis with peers (data exchange) with certain open-access rules. It was mind-blowing to imagine the years of research put into the "Global Labor History" project that is studying the labor relatoins "of the world". Jan said that project will probably take 10 to 20 years to complete... the researchers are looking at living standards, labour relations, occupational groups, family relations, conflicts, and associated organizations. The question that is left in my mind after hearing about the project details is "how do the researchers combine data from such various fields?" Under the umbrella "Global Hub" project, researchers in the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, and the United Kingdom are taking a look at occupational structure, historical wages and prices, anthropometric data, and GIS. Through their work, they are trying to draw conclusions and create a single portal to social science history research. I believe that Emily presented the following question to Jan and Stefan: how is data credited to certain researchers under this model? How are copyright laws worked into this portal/database?

Random fact: Around 97% of chemistry works are co-authored while only 3 - 5% of philosophy papers are co-authored. Guess there is currently a lot more collaboration in the sciences than in humanties in general.

With more of a background in the natural sciences, I find open-access to science journals such as Pub-Med to be extremely helpful in developing new research questions for research biologists. It is sometimes frustrating to find the perfect paper but then only be able to view the research abstract. Stefan answered that is it up to the copyright of the research group, to decide whether they want to open their collected data to the group or public after a few years or share it only with their peers. The monthly rate that made it too expensive for social research groups to view humanities journals is ridiculous. Association with a public university in the states gives us access to these journals, and we should really take advantage of this research tool. What is the incentive to share one's research? In natural sciences, I have seen many researchers "steal" other researchers' work by using their data in a journal to further their own research time and time again. Personally, I think it is beneficial for researchers to feed off one another's work because in the end, it all goes to create more public knowledge in the sciences. Public scholarship that benefits the community has already risen in genetics and hereditary diseases; people can go online to public databases to look up information about the human genome. At the same time, I completely understand the frustrations of years of research gone to "waste" within a matter of months of another biologist(s) taking a different approach and publishing a paper in "Nature" magazine.

Jan talked more about the research performed on historical wages and prices, discussing the difficulties. There are many problems in data standardization (metric systems, translations, etc) and the data is incomparable as a whole. The ultimate goal is to be able to create a comparison of living standards around the globe. Under compiling data about organizational titles, the research group is very interested in seeing the change in jobs between generations. Do children follow in their parents' footsteps, taking upon the same jobs that their parents had? Or are jobs changing with the economy, practicality, education? Another ongoing project is labor relations, which seems like a tough one with many roadblocks. Researchers are collecting data on the number of slaves in countries throughout history. They are also looking to create a worldwide census on each country/region of those who are self-employed, workers, shareholders, etc. One project I find particularly challenging yet engaging is the microlevel data. The group is digitizing the lives of 18,000 people by reconstructing the change in their lives from birth to death. Along with a population register, the foci are on marriages, births, deaths, servants in household, and moves, which must be reported. The LifeRay environment for sharing data seems efficient for collaborators-- it includes both a public and private area on the site. While some of the data is public, researchers must have a username and password in order to access data, papers, presentations, and analysis. Jan did tell us that the system still needs to be simplified or researchers need to take a workshop to be trained in how to use the database. It seems like a really good medium to share work between a group, building upon each other's conclusions/data.

Next, Stefan discussed distance and engagement in ethnographic studies and his role in the project. Within his roles, he is a critical analyst and a collaborative researcher in ethnography. What does ethnography research consist of? Observation in an objective matter along with participation which can be recorded in a subjective light. Observation is what Haylee and I have been primarily doing when reading the space of the fashion displays in Red Light District. We take a step back without engaging in the experience, making notes of the aesthetics, location, surroundings, and reaction of tourists/natives/passerby to the displays. With interviews, we have been more participatory, talking more openly about our thoughts, curiosities, and asking questions to collect data. While being an observer is viewing data through a critical lens, social research is always subjective in the end. It is difficult to step back without being engaged in the situation. Perhaps being more participatory lowers the credibility of the research quality. As for our projects, I still feel like an outsider in Amsterdam, trying to understand the culture and even looking for Dutch culture manifested in fashion (fashion as communication). With limited time, we are really relying on the expertise, personal opinion, and vast knowledge of the current issue from interviewees.

Archive Videos:

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Afterwards, we took a 45 minute tour through the archives at IISH (International Institute of Social History), which was an incredible collection of the widest array of items from history one could ever imagine.

Archive items:
-Pins
-Clothes
-Rugs
-Postcards
-Documents
-Books
-Scrolls
-Letters
-Posters
-Random odds and ends
-Etc...

Of the interesting things we saw during the tour, my favorite part was getting to see (and smell!) squatter clothes from the 80's. Everything at the archives was categorized in rooms by size, category, time period... I wonder, why are there so many items from the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the archives in Amsterdam? Pretty interesting... I hope to go back one time with classmates to take a further look at the IISH archives. While in the midst of fieldwork, I have gained appreciation of the hard work and challenges researchers in the humanities and social sciences must overcome and work through to conduct research. Before I came to Amsterdam, my uncle, a biocultural anthropologist, was telling me about his experiences with fieldwork and roadblocks he experienced when he was studying minorities in China. He sent me an email a few days ago, excited to hear about my A'dam experience as well as research progress. After reading Haylee's blog and her thoughts on changing her project to a unique aspect of Amsterdam, I feel really glad that we both have an interest in studying the current issue of fashion shops moving into ex-window brothels in the Red Light District.

During out time in Amsterdam, I am often reminded of Belinda and how much she enjoyed her experience in Amsterdam (she was part of the '006 "Honors in Amsterdam" group). Yesterday, I took a second look through her pictures. It made me smile to see that we had both taken pictures at some of the same locations-- landmarks, canals, streets, restaurants, etc. Oh, I also saw pictures of the Rotterdam conference, which is coming up very, very soon.




Group Barbeque:





Photo Credit for "Group Barbeque" (X2) and "Eiffel Tower": Kelsey

In the evening, we all headed to PG to enjoy a group potluck BBQ! Lauren and Isaac, among others, were amazing cooks and made delicious burgers, chicken, and veggie kabobs; props to them, thanks guys! It was a nice start to the three-day weekend. Professor Paul Wouters and Petra joined our class; Professor Wouters spoke to us at the barbeque. He reassured us about our presentations at the Rotterdam conference, giving us of insight on his recent experience presenting at the conference this past week. I definitely felt a bit more relieved about presenting in front of an academic audience. He reminded us that the conference will be somewhat informal and not to take it personally if someone walks out during your presentation. My personal greatest fear is public speaking, and I hope I will be able to get through the conference without freezing up or blabbering too much. It was reassuring to hear that our professors and peers are our main audience and that each of our projects were limited by our short time in Amsterdam. I am looking forward to see the progress of all the projects during this upcoming week; each group is learning a great deal about an aspect of the culture of Amsterdam and experiencing the methods and roadblocks of social research. Overall, it has been a rewarding experience with seeing the progress of the project and how all the data my group has collected is coming together.

Tomorrow is the start of the three-day weekend, with some people staying in A'dam with a Sunday day-trip to the Hague and others going on short trips to Berlin or Paris.

Happy Birthday, FIONA!!! Lucky girl, celebrating her birthday in the city of love. Off we go to explore Paris, see the Eiffel lit up in the night sky, view the city from atop Montmartre, celebrate Fiona's Birthday, & much more...

Update:






Tuesday, August 12, 2008

8/12 | on data gathering

By about 10am, we were all assembled @ VKS for a lecture by Sally Wyatt on health and the internet, focused on data gathering. She talked about a project she worked on on IHTs (innovative health technologies).

This was a two-year project, which took place in Brighton (SE England). The study looked at patients prescribed HRT (hormone replacement therapy) (in women) and Viagra (for men). The objects of the study were as follows:
1) assess the ways in which patients access health info
1) assess the ways in which advantages, disadvantages, and uncertainties of these [pharmaceutical interventions are interpreted by a range of patients
3) explore implications of on/off-line for info for knowledge/power relationships and for subsequent treatment outcomes
4) analyze the above in the context of patterns of social inclusion/exclusion in relation to both healthcare and the internet

Basically, the study was looking at the role of ICTs (information communications technologies) in the distribution of health information and what role that plays in creating the "informed patient." Also considered is the role of the "digital divide" , the inequality of access, and qua.ity of health info available online.

One of the things I found most interesting was the obvious difference in health care culture and how that influences how research is approached. In the states, there are often incentives (like cash!) for participating in/completeing research studies. However, in Britain, incentives are rarely provided. The seems to stem from the fundamental fact that in their healthcare system, no money changes hand. The patients do not pay the doctors directly--that's what taxation is for. Similarly, it would seem odd to the patients to receive money from healthcare. They tend to view healthcare and thus the participation in medical research, as a citizenship issue.

Another interesting point brought up was the difference between the states and Britain in terms of drug advertising. While in the US, a person is bombarded (TV, magazines, radio, you-name-it) with ads selling various dugs, direct appeal/marketing of prescription drugs is not allowed in Britain. I bet that doesn't stop the Viagra spam mails though!

Also, researchers don't have to deal with the IRB system we do (and did!) have to deal with. The researchers approached practitioners, having them ask their patients to contact the research team if they were interested in participating. Well, the issue with this happened to be that while the general practitioners were willing to pass on letters about the study to women undergoing HRT, they refused to do so for men on Viagra. Turns out, the doctors were not following the guidelines set for the prescription of Viagra and they didn't want the researchers or anybody else for that matter, to find out!

Sally also talked about their research process:
-gaining access- ethical clearance
-developing interview schedules
-interviews
-transcription- summaries- analysis
-joint authorship

It's nice to realize that we are slowly working our way through the process.

Sally had several other wise words/tips/points I really appreciated/have noticed:
1) Research consist of good and bad luck
2) more quotes doesn't make for a stronger argument
3) most people are not reliable/don't do what they are asked, so don't depend on it

In closing, I'll admit while I realize I had a blog post to do, I forgot the video component. In the afternoon, after visiting a couple squats in our attempts to gather more data, my group and I sat down along the canal to jot down notes and gather our thoughts. The video captures the moment and illustrates a quaintly Dutch scene: bicycle, canal, and distinctive buildings.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

8/10 Kröller-Müller

We started the day by traveling to the Kröller-Müller Museum by charter bus. The ride was around 90 minutes in length and rather uneventful. Unfortunately, the ride began much too early in the morning (I slept through it) and was unable to appreciate the rustic Dutch landscape we were traveling through.

According to its website, The Kröller-Müller Museum “is located in the centre of National Park the Hoge Veluwe. The park consists of 5.500 hecare woodland, heathland, grassy plains and sand drifts, and the natural habitat of deer, mouflons and wild boars.”

The museum is “A magnificent amalgamation of art, architecture and nature. Amidst unspoilt natural surroundings, the Kröller-Müller Museums collection centres on the extensive collection of works by Vincent van Gogh and the world famous sculpture garden.”

Many of us began the museum visit by checking out the refreshment stand getting some much needed coffee and snacks!

I began my art perusal by meandering through the upper-right wing of the museum. I was surprised at the amount of newer and and nontraditional art pieces. I had read online that "The Kröller-Müller Museum is named after Helene Kröller-Müller (1869-1939). Helene Kröller-Müller collected almost 11,500 art objects with the help of her advisor, H.P. Bremmer,” so I expected to see a traditional museum layout comprising hundreds of paintings solely from the 1930s and earlier. Instead, the museum came off as a very unconventional museum focusing on contemporary artists. The exhibits included not only paintings and sculptures, but sound, video, and even some interactive elements. The museum was very open and I got the feeling that great care was spent in organizing the exhibit spaces.

Honestly, I was moderately unimpressed with the newer, more abstract art pieces in the first few rooms. I felt that they were too conceptual and not very inspired. Perhaps I have been spoiled by the art at the van Gogh and Rijksmusuem.

Next, I checked out what must have been the 'Nature as Artifice: new Dutch landscape in photography and video art' exhibit, described on the website as “Worldwide, ‘Dutch landscape’ still evokes an immediate mental picture: the picture of the idyllic agrarian landscape that is rooted in the tradition of Dutch landscape painting. However, the Netherlands, like many other countries, has changed radically in its function over the last century, and has thus also altered in its appearance. Affected by a global reordering of production and industry, the agrarian function of the landscape is making way for suburbanisation, recreation, industrial and business parks and infrastructure for transportation. Today it is precisely the planning, the artificial manner in which the Dutch manipulate their landscape and nature in a continual and far-reaching way, for which The Netherlands is internationally famed. Since the end of the 1980s a number of Dutch photographers and filmmakers have been taking exactly this artificial character of the Dutch landscape and nature as their point of departure. In the framework of the international Triennial Apeldoorn on gardens and landscape architecture, Nature as Artifice shows work by a number of them.”

I found this exhibit to be much more intriguing. The art pieces were more straightforward but also pleasant to look at.

Afterward I viewed the collection of older material. I was surprised to see pieces by both Picasso and Monet.


At 1:00 the group rode over to another area of the park and had lunch and recess (just like elementary school). The playground had some nice equipment, including a zip line. Then, each group shared the status of their projects. After the presentations, we had around 50 minutes to explore the park. I chose to ride along a bike path through the forest.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see the sculpture garden, which apparently is a world class area with over a hundred sculptures. From what I've seen online, this juxtaposition of art and nature looks pretty amazing.

At 4:30 we headed back to Prinsengracht.

The music on this video is owned by Jimi Hendrix/Bob Dylan (I would assume)
I don't know the laws about putting music in personal videos, so let me know and I'll remove the sound ASAP.

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8/9/2008: Mieke Bal and the Private Screening

Disclaimer: The following entry does not reflect the opinions of the program.

As a business administration and international studies major researching the international political economy and working for a humanitarian/development organization, I am often dubious of work the humanities. For me, poetry analysis, while certainly interesting and undeniably an exercise in critical thinking, is not particularly relevant unless the “knowledge” gained by interpreting a line in that poem can be applied to a social, political, or economic situation. And if this “knowledge” is kept within a select group of academics, its production is all the more pointless.

My tremendous respect for Mieke Bal stems from her ability to incorporate contemporary issues and an efficient, wide-reaching medium into her work in the humanities. She produces “untraditional documentaries” without narration; each film is a collection of scenes intended to “activate” the mind of the reader. The audio/visual medium serves two purposes: while academics papers are not often written with the subject but about the subject, the subjects of a documentary obviously are involved in the making and often participate in the editing of a video, meaning viewers have a much closer connection with the study. Secondly, a film reaches a different and broader audience than an academic paper (even if the video is shown in an art gallery rather than French national television). The knowledge produced is no longer confined to a close-knit academic circle and therefore necessarily involves and "activates" the outside world.

We were fortunate to watch three of Mieke’s videos—Access Denied, Lost in Space, and Mille et un Jours—in a private screening this afternoon. For those who missed the screening, synopses can be found here. Access Denied focused on cross-cultural understanding (or in some cases, a conspicuous lack of it) and the concept of collective memory, especially in the context of pre-1948 and al nakba. In terms of collective memory, I found Ihab's interview scenes with the older generation to be the most potent: their memory of British-cantoned Palestine as a paradise (one man asserts that “there were no problems”) and their insistence that the advent of Israel is responsible for the destruction of this utopia. It is interesting to think about how this feeling (that of being wronged, of being deprived of what is rightfully yours) has been transferred to a younger generation, one with no individual memory of life pre-Israel. For me, the most powerful and tear--jerking scene was the middle-aged man not old enough to have experienced life in the pre-1948 Palestine who nonetheless asserts that "It's my land. My land and I want it!" I was also made acutely aware of my own position as a social researcher while watching the "antropologist in the field..." This scene has had a lasting impression on me and the importance of "cultural competency" (to use a word from Emily S and Lauren) in interacting with human subjects. It also made me reflect once again on the outsider/insider divide.

Lost in Space was intended to showcase the disconnect between ideas of home, borders, and security. Here is Mieke's introduction to the film (split into two parts due to my lack of camera saavy) and the debriefing proccess afterwards:

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Because you have access to the summaries, I will just say that the most interesting things about the film were the background shots and sounds (firefighters failing to put out a smoking building, "punks" ignoring their dog, street noise drowning out the speakers in order to represent the way their voices are often lost in the world) and the English subtitles for even those who speak English as a first language. Apparently this was done to establish equality among the speakers.

The last film, Mille et un Jours, concerns a Tunisian man and his upcoming "arranged-consent-greencard-love" marraige. What I found most interesting about this film really had to do with the editing proccess and how Mieke made the film in the context of the tension between traditional Tunisian norms and values and assimiliation into western society. Thinking about the freshly washed lettuce ("now the French will know that Arabs are clean people"), the concern over the scene with the bag of meat, and other parts of the film making and editing proccess so affected by the social and political context made me realize the extent to which Mieke has managed to use art and the humanities to capture the intricacies of contemporary social phenomena and the priveleges and responsibilities that accompany this. While each film is certainly a work of art, it is also societally relevant and constructive in the sense that it informs and motivates the audience.

At the end of the day, I am deeply impressed by Mieke Bal's work and her way of situating art in a relevant and important social/political context. These videos have changed the way I feel about digital media-- because I have seen how one can be respectful and non-invasive while capturing the subject of study on a much more personal and deep level (especially thinking about the closeness I felt to Tarek in Mille et un Jours), I am now more open to using video and other types of media to communicate the findings of my social research.