The summer approaches – something that we are certainly very pleased about and looking forward to, as I am sure you all are. For us, it is a time to recharge, take stock, reflect and rethink, sort, plan, write, relax, garden, get some fresh air and exercise, go to concerts, swimming etc. etc. I could go on and on. Anyway, I hope you all have a lovely summer with whatever it is that you choose to do, and that the weather is good for us all, at least for some of the time.
This newsletter includes quite a wide variety of different items. To begin with there is information about another article of mine that has just been published in Managing Information about ‘Females and Social Networking’. There are also details of some new additions to our website; the Redbridge Book and Media Festival; a Gurteen Knowledge Café at the British Computer Society on the topic of ‘Imagining the Knowledge Technologies of the Future’; the Zoological Society of London library; two CILIP in London meetings and some cultural activities that I have been to.
1. ‘FEMALES AND SOCIAL NETWORKING’ by RUTH RIKOWSKI IN ‘MANAGING INFORMATION’, Vol 16, Iss 3, 2009, pp. 50-59 I am very happy to say that another article of mine is in the latest issue of Managing Information (MI). This is on the topic of ‘Females and Social Networking’. In this piece, I consider some of the social networking tools that are in existence today, such as wikkis and blogs. In particular, I ask whether social networking tools can empower and liberate women. Within this, I consider gender and I.T. issues; females, social networking and knowledge management; females and blogs and the future for females and social networking. Many females are very much engaging and using these different social networking tools today, and many see it as a way in which females can shine through, working effectively, in particular, with I.T. of course. However, I suggest that we should exercise some caution here. Females can be vulnerable on sites such as MySpace and Facebook; they can also become addicted to the desire to be continually making new ‘friends’. In addition, whilst females collaborate, co-operate and work together on these sites males can look at the situation from afar, I think, and then smartly move in when they think that ripe opportunities have arisen and then ‘take the goodies’ – as they tend to be more output-driven. These, then, are some of my real concerns.
In this frame of mind, I also reflect in the article on the fact that many females who have had great ideas and theories, have produced great works etc, have largely been forgotten in history. Dale Spender’s book ‘Women of Ideas and what men have done to them’ (1982) is very informative in this regard and I quote from this book in my article. In addition, I bravely (well, I thought it was brave anyway) refer to the fact that my own father-in-law, who died a few months ago, was very patriarchical and domineering and suppressed women, in particular, in a variety of different ways.
Having said all this, I am very grateful to two males who first made me aware of the value and importance of some of these social networking tools: namely, Graham Coult and Robeel Haq. At the end of my piece I thanked Graham Coult, the editor of Managing Information and Robeel Haq, the previous MI webmaster, who first made me aware of the value to be gained from blogs (Graham) and newsletters (Robeel). They were very much pioneers here. The MI newsletter began way back in 2001; MI had its own blog for a while and Graham now has his own blog (see item 2 below). In my view, the library and information profession should really give due credit to the MI team in this regard, and I very much hope that these newsletters of mine can help in some way, somehow, to achieve this.
On a final note, once again, Graham has included some lovely photographs in this article of mine. One of these is the frieze for the memorial to HM the Princess Elizabeth Queen Dowager and Queen Mother (as she was styled at her lying in state) which is on The Mall, London. This frieze highlights the changes that have taken place in the structure and attitudes of society towards women. The other images in the article show females within a more active, I.T. context.
2.GRAHAM COULT’S BLOG – ‘INFORMATIONAL’ http://wwwinformational.blogspot.com/ Graham Coult, the editor of Managing Information now has his own blog called ‘Informational’. This is a blog about information, writing and communication.
3.‘EVALUATING DIFFERENT TEACHING METHODS’: ACTION LEARNING GROUP (ALG) TASK FOR THE CERTIFICATE FOR LEARNING AND TEACHING IN HIGHER EDUCATION (CLTHE) UNIT 2 by RUTH RIKOWSKI http://www.flowideas.co.uk/?page=articles&sub=Evaluating Different Teaching Methods This piece by me, on ‘Evaluating Different Teaching Methods’ which I completed for the Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Certificate, has now been inserted on our website, ‘The Flow of Ideas’. The teaching methods it considers are the tutorial relationship; teaching in large groups; case studies; virtual learning environments and teaching in small groups.
4. ‘REFERENCES, NOTES & REFLECTIONS ON READINGS FOR THE CERTIFICATE IN TEACHING AND LEARNING IN HIGHER EDUCATION (CLTHE) COURSE, UNIT 1’ by RUTH RIKOWSKI http://www.flowideas.co.uk/?page=articles&sub=Readings for Teaching Course Another piece by me, which I completed for the Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Certificate, has now been inserted on our website, ‘The Flow of Ideas’. Hopefully, it will be of some interest and use to some others – particularly others that are studying on teaching courses.
I went to three of the events, all of which proved to be both interesting and enjoyable. One was for the launch of Monica Ali’s latest novel, ‘In the Kitchen’, which was held at Wanstead Library on 1st May 2009. The second was a talk given by Liz Sullivan (a local author) at Ilford Library on 21at April 2009 about her experiences as an author, and her determination to write and publish a book (firstly, her memoirs, then moving on to fiction) as well as to set up her own publishing company. Finally, the third was hearing Hema Macherla talking about her book, ‘Breeze from the River Manjeena’ at Ilford Library on 30th April 2009.
Monica Ali’s book launch for ‘In the Kitchen’ (published by Doubleday) (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kitchen-Monica-Ali/dp/0385614586/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1244787157&sr=1-3) started off with a glass of champagne, which was very nice. She read some passages from her book, and talked about the background to her book. She said that it took her one year to research the book, and two years to write it. She explained that writing was now her full-time occupation. ‘Brick Lane’ was her first book and this proved to be very successful and was made into a film. The event was very well-attended
Liz Sullivan explained that she is also called Leila Merriman. She uses one name for her publishing company (L.M. Publications), and one name for her writing. She originally came from Ireland but moved to England as a child, and lived in Upminster, Essex. She said that she always wanted to write her memoirs as she has had an interesting and unusual upbringing. Having written her memoirs she found that she had various problems and difficulties with getting them published, so she decided to self-publish. The first book of her memoirs was entitled ‘Twisted Threads’ (2004) whilst the second was entitled ‘Unravelling the Threads’ (2008) – see http://www.amazon.co.uk/Unravelling-Threads-Leila-Merriman/dp/0955901502/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1244786860&sr=1-1. She said that she wasted a lot of money in the early days, trying to get her memoirs published, but once she decided to self-publish it became easier and she could control her expenses more effectively. Liz recommended self-publishing to others in the session, if they were keen and determined to get their writing published, but were experiencing difficulties with mainstream publishing.
Hema Macherla was born in South India. Her mother wrote constantly, and actually wrote a novel, but never got it published. So, Hema thought that it was probably her mother’s influence that encouraged her to write. In the summer holidays in India Hema used to write a lot. When she first came to England she could not speak English at all. It was all very difficult for her. She decided to learn English and borrowed some books from the library. She wanted to write but realised that she needed guidance. So, she went to John Farley’s creative writing course, which she said was the best thing she ever did in her life. People helped her and gave her a lot of constructive criticism. John Farley also introduced Hema at the beginning of the session and very much helped her to get her first book published. Hema read extracts from her book ‘Breeze from the River Manjeena’, which was published by Lynn Michell in 2008 (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Breeze-River-Manjeera-Hema-Macherla/dp/0955961815/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1244787052&sr=1-1)
6. ‘IMAGINING THE KNOWLEDGE TECHNOLOGIES OF THE FUTURE’: A GURTEEN KNOWLEDGE CAFÉ HELD AT THE BRITISH COMPUTER SOCIETY I went to a very interesting and enjoyable Gurteen Knowledge Cafés on 28th April 2009. This was entitled ‘Imagining the Knowledge Technologies of the Future’ and was held at the British Computer Society (BCS), London – see http://www.gurteen.com/gurteen/gurteen.nsf/id/lkc-bcs. There were two speakers from the BCS, Conrad Taylor and Chris Yapp, who both considered the rapid changes that have taken place in computing and I.T. and the likely possible trends in the future. Alan Pollard, this year’s President of the BCS was not able to be there in person but he addressed the audience and introduced the session through a video.
There were about 60 people at the session; a very large number for a Gurteen Knowledge Café. Many of the people there were extremely knowledgeable about the new technologies. However, I was also aware that it was very male-dominated. I did manage to inform the group though about the piece that I had just written on ‘Females and Social Networking’ (see item 1 above). Some lovely refreshments were provided afterwards; the first time, in fact, that I had ever had food like this at a Gurteen Knowledge Café. It was gorgeous and very yummy! A couple of people came up and spoke to me during the refreshments, saying how interesting and important they thought it was, what I was saying about females and social networking. Chris Yapp himself was one of these people, and he also informed me about the work of Sherry Turkle - http://www.mit.edu/~sturkle/.
Some other people at the session also blogged the event; this included Gordon Harris, Matthew Rees and Richard Hare.
Jason Dark, Head of Information Services, National Rail Enquiries, discussed passenger train information service, particularly following on from the National Rail Enquiries service that was established in June 1996. He said that the railway industry had a very entrenched culture that was very difficult to change. Many of the various difficulties that passengers faced in regard to getting accurate and up-to-date train information were discussed.
Meanwhile, the National Trust has recently embarked on the largest and most comprehensive plant survey that has ever been undertaken in the UK. Franklyn Tancock, Plant Collections Curator, National Trust, considered the methods, from card indexes to the latest digital technology that the Trust has used to record its plant collection over the last 35 years. The National Trust is the biggest collection of plants in Europe in the world. There are 200 gardens and landscape parks and 400 years of garden history in the Trust. The National Trust obtained lottery funding and decided to use the money to build a database to bring all the information about the Trust together. The project has been very successful and goes from strength to strength. It later obtained 21.5 million from the Yorkshire Bank, for example, to continue its work. A lot of volunteers work on the project.
8. MEMBER OF ALISS – THE ASSOCIATION OF LIBRARIANS AND INFORMATION PROFESSIONALS AND VISIT TO THE ZOOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF LONDON LIBRARY I joined ALISS (the Association of Librarians and Information Professionals) a while ago – see http://www.alissnet.org.uk/. ALISS is a “not-for-profit unincorporated professional society. It is an independent group which was formed in April 2005 by the former committee of ASSIGN (Aslib Social Science Information Group and Network)”.
ALISS organised an interesting tour of the Zoological Society of London Library, which I went to on 3rd June 2009. We had an introductory talk about the history of the zoo and then a tour of the library. There was a display of Charles Darwin’s work, with the original copy of ‘The Origin of the Species’ also being on display in the library, celebrating Darwin 2000.
In addition, I learnt that membership of the library is free to any member of the public (for reference use) – one just needs to bring along ID etc. I thought that was very good.
9. CHANDOS PUBLISHING WEBSITE AND CATALOGUE BEEN INCORPORATED WITH WOODHEAD PUBLISHING – http://www.woodheadpublishing.com/en/ChandosHome.aspx The Chandos Publishing website and catalogue has now been incorporated with Woodhead Publishing, where the large selection of Chandos titles that are now available can be seen.
11. SIR KEN ROBINSON VIDEO: ‘DO SCHOOLS KILL CREATIVITY?’ http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4964296663335083307 This is an interesting and amusing video about the value (or otherwise) of formal education. Sir Ken Robinson considers how education can stifle creativity. Glenn Rikowski inserted the link on the Northampton Interactive Learning Environment (NILE), and his students found it interesting.
12.ART AND EXHIBITIONS I have also been enjoying some other cultural activities recently. First of all, I had two enjoyable visits to the Tate Britain Gallery, London with two of my sons – Victor and Gregory. I bought a very interesting book whilst I was there by John Carey, entitled ‘What good are the arts?’, published by Faber and Faber, 2005. Carey values all of the arts, whilst also noting the importance and value of escapism saying that escapism:
“…seems to be a human necessity [and that] …escapism is fundamental to our sense of ourselves.” (Carey, 2005, p.37-38)
Carey looks at the value of art in general, but interestingly thinks that literaturesurpasses and is superior to, all other forms of art as a mode of expression.
“…literature…unlike the other arts…can criticize itself. Pieces of music can parody other pieces, and paintings can caricature paintings. But this does not amount to a total rejection of music or painting. Literature, however, can totally reject literature, and in this way it shows itself more powerful and self-aware than any other art.” (Carey, 2005, p. 174)
Furthermore, that literature is an “idea-bank and that no other art [can]…compete with it in that respect” (Carey, 2005, p. 213). Being a great lover of literature I found all that very interesting.
Going round the Tate was all very uplifting of course, looking at the paintings of Turner, Rothko, J.W. Waterhouse, Millais etc. etc. etc. I found the work of the contemporary British artists Gilbert and George at Tate Britain fascinating (although not all necessarily to my taste!). There was a major exhibition of their work at the Tate Modern Gallery, London, from 15th February to 7th May 2007 (http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/gilbertandgeorge/). These artists put their thoughts and feelings at the centre of their art, and their pictures capture human experience. In a caption under one of their exhibits that I saw at Tate Britain, Gilbert and George say that:
“We have no interest in reflecting or showing society – we are only interested to be forming it. What are believers tomorrow is what the artists are today. Already we see the world as very different from when we started.”
I thought this was an interesting idea; that art can and is shaping our future, albeit perhaps in subtle ways, and is indeed, perhaps shaping it more than our politicians in some ways. We cannot escape the fact that politicians, policy makers, and those in other decision-making roles in society, can and do affect our way of life in profound ways, but perhaps the art comes in not taking their decisions as seriously as they would like us to! There are always other ways of achieving things, and aiming to live the sort of life that one wants to.
Meanwhile, Carey concludes his book with his personal view that:
“It is time we gave active art a chance to make us better.” (Carey, 2005, p. 167)
I also visited the Imperial War Museum, London with my second cousin Sue and looked at the exhibition ‘In Memoriam: remembering the Great War’ (http://london.iwm.org.uk/server/show/conEvent.2495), which commemorated the 90th anniversary of the Armistice. The exhibition looked at “the personal stories of those who lived, fought and died during the First World War, both overseas and on the home front.” It interested but also greatly saddened me; all that loss of life.
13. MUSICAL EVENTS: ‘PETER GRIMES’ AT THE LONDON COLISEUM; ‘DAVE SHEPHERD AND HIS DIXIELAND JAZZ BAND’ AT THE KENNETH MORE THEATRE and ‘HAIRSPRAY’ AT THE SHAFTESBURY THEATRE Here are details of some musical events that I have been to recently and enjoyed.
First of all, Glenn and I went to see Peter Grimes at the London Coliseum on the 9th May 2009. This opera, of course, is based on the poem by George Crabbe and composed by Benjamin Britten. I found it to be very musically dramatic. ‘Peter Grimes’ is regarded as being the most significant British operas for over two centuries. It is set in the Borough, a small fishing village on the East coast. Here is a quote from Crabbe’s poem ‘The Borough’ (1810):
“Yet sometimes comes a ruffling cloud to make The quiet surface of the ocean shake; As an awakened giant with a frown Might show his wrath, and then to sleep sink down.”
The second musical event was seeing David Shepherd and his Dixieland Jazz Band performing at the Kenneth More Theatre on 10th May 2009. Digby Fairweather was one of the players, and our son Gregory also saw him speak at the Redbridge Book and Media Festival and he thought he was very interesting. Digby Fairweather worked in public libraries for a number of years before becoming a full-time professional jazz player. The majority of the members of the David Shepherd and his Dixieland Jazz Band have been British Number One on their instruments. The band included Dave Shepherd (clarinet), Digby Fairweather (trumpet/jazz broadcaster), Roy Williams (trombone), Chris Walker (baritone sax/jazz broadcaster), Nick Dawson (piano/vocals), Len Skeat (bass) and Stan Bourke (drums). It was a very enjoyable evening. http://www.simoncurtis.com/kennethmoretheatre/currentdetails42.html
Thirdly, we saw the musical ‘Hairspray’ with my cousin Helen and Phil at the Shaftesbury Theatre on 30th May 2009. This was very light-hearted, colourful and cheerful on one level; whilst on another level it was making some important points; particularly in regard to the problems that overweight people can have when wanting to perform. It is set in the 1960s. See http://www.shaftesbury-theatre.com/
14. MARLENE, MY CANADIAN COUSIN MAKING CONTACT WITH ME, FOLLOWING ON FROM MY BLOG ENTRY I had a very exciting email several weeks ago, from a second cousin of mine, Marlene Campbell. This led on directly from an entry I posted on my blog (in News Update No. 27 - http://ruthrikowskiupdates1-27.blogspot.com/2009/03/ruth-rikowskis-27th-news-update.html) where I wrote about my great grandparents, Charles Palmer Vickery and Emma Sophia Vickery (née Michael). Marlene emailed me to say that they are also her great grandparents. Wow! Marlene is the grand-daughter of Mabel Susan and Arthur Marcer.Mabel Marcer (née Vickery) was one of the five children of my great grandparents, Charles and Emma Vickery. The others were: Clement Augustine (my own grandfather); Edgar Charles; Alberta and Elma.
To explain a little more; my great grandfather emigrated to Canada and then three of his children went over there, but only one remained – Mabel (who my own mother, Mabel was incidentally named after). This is how I came to have all these relations in Canada. Mabel and Arthur had six children; one of which was Sylvia (Marlene’s mother). So, I have lots of cousins and relations in Canada.
Marlene Campbell suddenly and unexpectedly emailed me, shortly after I reinvigorated my blog on eblogger, saying that she googled in our great grandparents and came across my blog and that, hey, we have the same great grandparents, we are related and that she just had to get in touch. It was all just so amazing and so moving. This also demonstrates, once again, of course, the power of blogs.
After that we exchanged lots of really long and exciting emails. We could not believe it. Marlene is very keen on genealogy and I, of course and am very keen on writing. So, between us I think we could produce some really interesting material. But that is a long-term goal. Marlene has sent me lots of lovely photos of our ancestors. She also told me that one of our relations (from Australia) wrote two small books on our family history some years ago. I am now very much looking forward to reading these and to continue to explore all this further with Marlene in the fullness of time.
N.B. Many thanks to Martin Hodges for providing information for item 11.
I live a varied life - writing and editing; teaching and lecturing; enjoying music, especially dancing and singing; coming from a library and information background; love books and reading; enjoy my immediate family (have 3 sons) and friends; love the theatre and going to concerts (e.g. the Royal Festival Hall, the Globe Theatre). I could go on and on...but better probably to just read my Updates! They tell you lots about me.