Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Ruth Rikowski's 40th News Update

Well, the weather in London recently has certainly been lovely – reminded us of when we went to Rhodes 2 years ago! I wonder how long it will last; still enjoy it while we can. Our youngest, Gregory Rikowski, has just celebrated his 21st Birthday. Goodness – so, now they are all ‘fully-fledged adults’, as they say. So, anyway, in the throws of mid-summer, here is the latest from me below.

1. ARCHIVING OF OUR ‘FLOW OF IDEAS’ WEBSITE (www.flowideas.co.uk) WITH THE BRITISH LIBRARY (www.webarchive.org.uk)
We received a lovely email ‘out of the blue’ from the British Library (BL), saying that they would like to archive our ‘Flow of Ideas’ website. As you can imagine, we were very delighted about this, as it means that hopefully, our website will be preserved over time, and will not be disappearing through changes in companies, technologies, decision-making and policies (which was what happened to our AOL blogs).

The British Library web archiving programme selects and archive sites to represent aspects of UK documentary heritage. These websites will then remain available to researchers in the future. It works closely with leading UK institutions to collect and permanently preserve the UK web. The BL archive can be seen at www.webarchive.org.uk.

As the British Library say this means that selected website owners have an historical record of their websites, and it aims “...to develop preservation mechanisms to keep your publication permanently accessible as hardware and software change over time.”

Various quality insurance checks are currently taking place on our website, but soon all-being-well our website (along with my blog) will be added to the archive and made available to the public through the British Library archive website. I will keep you informed of progress.

Tony Ward, one of the contributors to my forthcoming, edited book Perspectives on Digitisation, came and visited us a couple of weeks ago, which was lovely. It was the first time that Tony had been to the UK for many years! Tony was born here in the UK, then went to work as an academic in the USA (at the University of California, Berkeley); and then on to New Zealand (at the Auckland University). He has had a very interesting and eventful life, and it was good talking to him and finding out lots more about it all.

Tony’s background is in architecture, but he moved into the area of critical pedagogy some years ago, and of course, that is where we overlap and have some common interests.
At Auckland University Tony directed the Commuity Design Studio for 20 years, working with marginalised communities, on areas connected with social equity across cultural boundaries. Much of his work in New Zealand has been with the Maori community. Tony has recently completed a year, working as a Wiepking Distinguished Visiting Professor at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, USA.

Tony has a website (www.TonyWardEdu.com), which is a free educational resource with downloadable essays, articles and projects. He is also currently writing a book on The Ward Method of creative consensus-building and social transformation. In addition, he circulates a newsletter.

We informed Tony about some other academics/friends of ours that are involved with critical pedagogy in the UK, and we look forward to continued fruitful discussions and communication with Tony and others in the future, on these and other related important matters.

There are 5 new items up on my Serendipitous Moments blog; two events and three book reviews. The events were: the Folk Festival at Leigh-on-Sea, and Janet Daniels Open Garden. The book reviews and reflections were on Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, The Age of Reason by Jean-Paul Sartre and Past Secrets by Cathy Kelly.

Janet Daniels lives near to us, and her garden is truly amazing – never seen anything like it before. And the Folk Festival at Leigh-on-Sea was wonderful – singing and dancing all day. At the two events I took some photos and these are also on my blog. In regard to the books, Past Secrets was another best-seller, but Nausea and The Age of Reason saw me going back into classical-reading mode. The Age of Reason, a very important book, addresses the issue of trying to marry up Existentialism with Marxism (a difficult, if not impossible task), and Nausea addresses the issue of how important it is to have direction in life; to avoid going round in circles, and indeed, feel sickened by ourselves. I think it is wonderful that Sartre could see the value of writing both fiction and non-fiction in this way; presumably he must have decided that certain philosophical issues can be addressed better and more effectively through fiction than non-fiction.

Another contributor to my digitisation book, Dr Jia Liu (who likes to be known as ‘Jessica’) sent me 2 items for inclusion in my newsletter; one of the items is in regard to her professional work and the other is about Verena, her lovely little baby girl.

Jessica’s two news items are below.

Online Presentation for the Zhongsan University
Recently I was invited to release an online presentation to the graduate students of the Department of Information Management, Zhongsan University, China. The topic was my research supported by the Alexander von Humboldt (AvH) Foundation, the world famous institution aiming at promoting the international academic communications and cooperation between German and foreign scientists. The Foundation maintains a network of more than 24,000 Humboldtians from all disciplines in over 130 countries worldwide - including 43 Nobel Prize winners and so far only one of them is majored in library. The presentation was given on the platform supported with Elluminate Live! (http://www.elluminate.com/), a virtual environment optimized for learning. This was actually the first time for me to use such networked learning suite and the experience was really fresh to me. Later my former colleague of the Peking University told me that the Peking University has already supplied such software to the instructors of the university and some of them have taken advantage of it for teaching. Doubtlessly the online education is becoming one of the main types of instruction all over the world.

Baby Meeting
Our family and two families of Su (my husband)’s colleagues had another meeting (in German, Babytreffen). The common thing of we three families is that each of us has a baby and all the babies (Alina, Mark and Verena) were born around September 2008. The director of the Physics Institute, Goettingen University, Professor Samwer, even took the birth of these three babies as the top news of the institute of 2008. It’s well known that nowadays few German families would like to give birth to a baby. That’s why the German population has declined for years. The first baby meeting happened not long before Christmas of 2008. I just brought my baby Verena from Toronto to Germany to settle down with her dad. During that meeting, all three babies were held by their mothers and fed twice with the breast milk. Occasionally one baby burst out of tears possibly because he or she just wanted to have some attention and soon another babies followed. This time the babies have been 21 or 22 months old and they had been busy in playing on the ground by themselves. It was interesting that Alina and Mark seemed to have no interest playing with other babies and they only needed their parents’ attention every now and then. Only Verena went to the other babies and tried to communicate with them but got no reply. My poor baby! Hopefully in the next meeting the babies could react well with each other. On the morning next to the latest meeting Kasten, Alina’s dad, put a photo of the three little ones on the poster wall in the Institute and proudly wrote some words about their growth there. Prof. Samwer might also, perhaps, smile if he could see the three lovely standing babies.”

And here is a picture of Jessica’s lovely little baby girl, Verena.

Some Biographical information about Jessica
Jessica has been an Associate Professor at the Department of Information Management, Peking University, Beijing, China. From 2004 until 2006, she had been a Research Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (AvH Foundation), Germany. During that period, hosting in the Lower-saxony State and Goettingen University Library, she implemented a project on the subject of metadata and its applications in the digital library. Later, with two resumed fellowships from the AvH Foundation, she conducted two other projects on digital reference service in Germany. After that, as a Visiting Scholar, she visited the Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto, Canada. Her main research interests are metadata, digital library and digital reference services. Jessica is the author of Metadata and Its Applications in the Digital Library, Libraries Unlimited, USA, 2007 and Evaluation of the World-Wide Reference Service in the Libraries, Chandos Publishing: Oxford, 2007.

John Pateman and John Vincent have a new book coming out in the autumn with Ashgate Publishing, entitled ‘Public Libraries and Social Justice’.
978-0-7546-7714-7 (hdbk); c. £40.00 It will also be available as an eBook
ISBN 978-0-7546-9432-8, see: www.ashgate.com

This is what it says in the information that is being circulated:

“The need for public libraries to tackle social exclusion and engage in social justice becomes ever more urgent as the gap between rich and poor continues to widen, and the very survival of public libraries in the heart of the community is open to debate.

If public libraries are to develop and grow in the future and become relevant to the majority of their local communities, then they need to abandon outmoded concepts of ‘excellence’ and fully grasp the ‘equity’ agenda. This book examines the historical background to social exclusion and the strategic context in terms of government and professional policy. The authors propose a compelling manifesto for change and outline practical ways in which public libraries can be
transformed into needs-based services.”

The book includes an historical view of social exclusion, how to tackle social exclusion, developing a needs-based library service and where to go next.

Alistair Black, Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA has this to say about the book:

“Created a century and a half ago by the middle classes partly for their own use, the public library has nonetheless from the start professed itself to be the servant of the social whole. However, although over successive generations it has catered
well for a traditional auto-didactic working-class clientele, the public library has been less successful in addressing the needs of those at the margins of both society and social opinion. In light of this historical legacy as well as the ongoing diversification of society, Pateman and Vincent’s call to prioritise the social-justice purpose of the public library is not only appropriate but also timely’.”

I wish John Pateman and John Vincent all the very best with their forthcoming book.

MERD XIII on the theme of ‘Latin America and Education’ will take place on July 24th 2010, from 10.30 – 4.30, at the Institute of Education, University of London, 20 Bedford Way, WC1, in the Drama Studio.

The following papers have been confirmed:

‘Education for the Creation of a New Venezuela’
Dr Francisco Dominguez (Head of the Centre for Brazilian and Latin American Studies, and secretary of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign)

‘The Bolivarian Revolution, Twenty-first Century Socialism and Counter-hegemonic Education in Venezuela’
Prof. Mike Cole (Centre for Education for Social Justice, Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln)

‘Nicaragua’s “Participative Education Revolution”: Development and the ALBA Education Space’
Dr Thomas Muhr, (Centre for Globalisation, Education and Societies, University of Bristol)

The seminar is free but places are limited. To reserve a place email: amaisuria@ioe.ac.uk

Convenors: Tony Green and Alpesh Maisuria

Glenn Rikowski is on the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Illich Studies.
The journal is an open access interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal “dedicated to engaging the thought and writing of Ivan Illich and his circle.” It welcomes contributions that “intersects with the wide range of Illich’s ideas, or that represent a version of the social critique for which he became famous on matters such as modern developmentalism, industrialized ‘progress’, institutional bureacratization, the heuristic role played by historical consciousness, the moral life, and/or the privatization/publicization of the lay commons.”

Illich’s book on ‘Deschooling’, in particular
had a powerful effect on me when I read it as an undergraduate. I remember thinking that it was a bit extreme, but never-the-less that it made many good points.

Of course, the anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death has now been and gone. I tried not to think about it too much; I got just so upset last year! I have noticed though, that several people recently have been looking at my Michael Jackson article, which is on our website – http://www.flowideas.co.uk/print.php?page=362&slink=yes
Let’s just hope that it will make a few people think!

Some while ago, ‘Jackopedia’ (http://www.jackopedia.com/wiki/Main_Page) said that I had written a ‘great Michael Jackson article’. So, that was nice. ‘Jackopedia’ (a wikki) is the only online encyclopedia and community dedicated to Michael Jackson.

I also recently watched the Michael Jackson film ‘This Is It’ on DVD, which of course, consists of clippings from the rehearsals for his planned 50 ‘This Is It’ London concerts. I was quite loathe to do this for some while, as I thought it was somehow yet another way of exploiting him. Instead, society should have been looking further into how he died (which was basically the result of so many wanting a ‘piece of him’). But no – instead once again, money was made out of him. The cruelness of capitalism in its raw extremities (also without a truly loving and caring family) knows no bounds, it seems.

Anyway, in the end, I decided to watch ‘This Is It’; me not watching it wasn’t going to change anything. It was amazing; sensational; one could never have seen from that, that he was about to die. The concerts would certainly have been spectacular. I guess Michael Jackson was probably just too full of drugs which had become necessary to keep him going throughout it all, did not have enough sleep and did not eat enough. He should never have had to endure such a rigorous regime.

Still, what it said on the blurb on the back of the DVD was nice:

“In raw and candid detail, MICHAEL JACKSON’S THIS IS IT captures the singer, dancer, filmmaker, architect, creative genius and great artist at work as he creates and perfects his planned final London shows.”

What happened to Michael Jackson got me thinking a bit more about child prodigies. Well, that and talking specifically to my eldest son Alexander, about the philosopher J. S. Mill. Mill is a philosopher that I have liked and admired, since my undergraduate days. I particularly really enjoyed reading his book, Utilitarianism. As well as conveying many important and worthwhile messages, the book also in itself gave me a good and happy feeling; which was what his utilitarian philosophy was about anyway – ‘the greatest happiness for the greatest number’. It was also very well-written of course. So, strange that it had this immediate effect on me, on such a personal basis and at such a young age. I felt that whilst Marxism was so right on such a deep level; his work was very complex and difficult, and also that the world that needed to be created leading on from his work could not come about over night. In contrast, Mill’s work gave one a certain feeling of happiness and contentment in a more immediate and direct way. On reflection, I now think that perhaps I took Mill’s work a bit too much for granted for this reason; it seemed very simple and straightforward. Someone who does something well can make it look easy, and many others have just no idea about the amount of work and effort that has gone into producing that simple, wonderful and very effective result. I am sure that some of you must have examples of this on a personal basis.

Anyway, it was only more recently that I found out a little more about J. S. Mill, the man. I found out, for example, that his wife Harriet Taylor, wrote some of his material with him; even some of it for him. From then on I understood a little more about his work, and I thought that this probably partly explained why some of his writing had that slightly softer approach. Mill was a feminist before people hardly knew what feminism was. And it has to be remembered that quite a few philosophers in the past held dreadful views about women, seeming to think that they were almost incapable of thinking for themselves; take the philosophers Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, for example. So, Mill was brave, standing out from the crowd, in this way.

Then, more recently still, I found out some more about Mill’s rigorous upbringing; and how like Michael Jackson and myself, he was not able to have a proper childhood. But at least, Michael Jackson and J.S.Mill’s parents pushed them because they wanted them to be big in their own fields; whereas mine was really more clearly a case of child exploitation. Having said that, I was brought up to believe that I was bright; indeed, that was necessary, in order that I could and would look after my confused mother, apart from anything else. Once I became an adult I sought to use that to my advantage, and indeed, have sought in various ways to do that ever since then.

Anyway, I think the seeming simplicity of Mill’s work on one level is probably also a result of his upbringing and in this way, I also think that his work can be under-estimated. Because he could explain his views and ideas so clearly they seemed simple and easy; but that is an illusion. It must have taken him a long time to work it all out; to clear his mind. Indeed, he had a mental breakdown when he was just 20 years old (after having been pushed so hard from such a young age), and he then had to rethink things somewhat. So, in all probability being pushed from so young an age forced him to have to think simply and clearly to avoid him having any more such breakdowns. This is in contrast to a book such as ‘Nausea’, which I read recently (see item 3 above). Jean-Paul Sartre wrote this book before he had properly ‘sorted his own mind/head out’, I think. Not that one can ever completely sort this out, but hopefully, you get my drift. So, although ‘Nausea’ does have some important messages to convey, and for this reason it is a valuable book, it would have been a better book if Sartre had taken his time over it more, I think, and sought to engage the reader more effectively and just basically made it a more enjoyable read.

Strangely enough, I am also battling myself with some similar issues at the current time. Whereas someone without such complex backgrounds can, in all probability on one level, more easily write simple and engaging fiction plots (but not saying or indeed, attempting to say, anything very deep and profound). Take a pleasant book that I am reading by Katie Fforde at the moment, for example. This is what it says about the author on the cover of the book: “Katie Fforde lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and some of her three children. Her hobbies are ironing and housework but, unfortunately, she has almost no time for them as she feels it is her duty to keep a close eye on the afternoon chat show.” I say no more.

In regard to Mill’s childhood, he was educated by his father, with the advice and assistance of Jeremy Bentham and Francis Place. He learnt Greek at 3 years old, Latin at 12 years old, and by 16 years of age he was a competent logician and a good economist. His father and Bentham were both utilitarians and wanted J.S. Mill to continue and further the work. But after his mental breakdown, J.S. Mill had to rethink things somewhat, and he added some humanism and idealism to the basic utilitarian philosophy.

J.S. Mill, like Michael Jackson aimed to live life at the high level, with high pleasures, I think; and that is also what I am about. This way of thinking and behaving is perhaps partly a result of not having a proper childhood, and being denied some simple, childlike pleasures.

We have now received in the post our own copy of my second cousin, Neil Whitehead’s book, Whisky Breath Confessional. The photographs are very colourful, powerful, reflective, convey certain moods and are all on fine quality paper. They include photographs of the sea, trees, the sun, buildings, hedges, roads and of Neil himself. The self-published book was compiled using the Blurb software (Blurb creative publishing service, for self-publishing books) which seems to be quite something. This is a trend that we might well see increasing in the future. I wish Neil all the very best with his book, and hope that he sells lots of copies.

And in the final item, here are some photos of Victor Rikowski’s band, ‘Cold Hands & Quarter Moon’ - see

Best wishes


N.B. Many thanks to Jia Liu (Jessica) for providing information for item 4

6th July 2010

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