Sunday, September 30, 2012


About 2 weeks ago I picked up a book on al-Ghazali by one of my professors, and in his (my professor's) acknowledgements, he refers to one of his good friends as a "comrade". This is not so odd in the grand scheme of things, but for an esteemed scholar and such a prolific literary enthusiast, it struck me as odd that he would be so casual.

But since then, the word has stuck. And it is as if I am re-learning the word. I have found myself dropping it in different correspondences and writings.

Officially, the Oxford mini dictionary (7th ed) tells me "comrade" means "a fellow member or soldier". When I use it, I seem to think of the unity the word expresses a lot more than the person who embodies it. That is, "comrade" reminds me of a sense of belonging and a sense of duty a member of a large group inherently carries.

And since it is a name bestowed onto someone, they don't really have a choice in how it is applied. It is applied because of the perception the caller has of the called.

Maybe I will write on this more later. But for now, this will suffice to enter it into memory.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The future of comments

The UJK library held its first "Round Table of Critical Thought" discussion yesterday and Omar and I discussed many things relating to language in the media. One interesting question that came up was "What will the future of commenting look like?" This is particularly important to the digital social media and blogging spaces, since we can imagine a future where everyone has a voice online.

But does everyone saying something at one go (say, in response to a particularly popular blogpost) help to decipher the overall sentiment? If they are all displayed in a chronological string, not really. But if they are grouped together somehow - given keyword categorization or user voting as two examples - it would probably make the message much more friendly to understand. (Thanks OA!)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Open book experiment

I met an interesting man from Manila on the news today. One day he decided to give away his books in honor of promoting the act of reading. After leaving his less-than-100-book collection outside his house, he found that people not only borrowed books, but brought more books back. He's now running an open library that spreads across and inside his house where, in his own words, "there are no rules".

Meet Nanie Guanlao here on BBC's website.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mediated audio production

" would seem that today’s worldwide web of musical interaction might be best interpreted and expressed through the very tools and technologies that artists and audiences are using to create and engage their music..."

- Wayne Marshall on Musically Expressed Ideas About Music

(Thanks SS and TZHH!)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Designing multiple instruction modes

There is a lot of deliberation at the moment on the language of instruction in Tanzanian schools. Public schools teach in Swahili, with a small minority of public secondary schools teaching in English. The popular perception among people is that English = quality global education. Yet, some argue that Swahili helps to maintain a cultural identity.

What if we designed a system of instruction that combined both, local language and international languages? The core curriculum would be taught in the local language of Swahili - as is the practice in most countries - but if students and teachers wanted to talk or listen in English there would be ways to do so; either through extra overtime classes, or through a dedicated course on the English language, or through the use of subtitled text on screens (and other translation technologies).

In order to even entertain the idea of this kind of system, resources would need to be invested. Teachers in particular would need to be prepared (and willing) to have an instructional command in both languages and institutions in general would need to be prepared (and willing) to invest in extra time and technology spent on exploring both.

At the end of the day however, when it comes to learning, people should have the capability to learn in whatever language they are most suited at using. Otherwise, the process of education becomes trancedental; it is brought from an unknown place and imposed on a population. If people speak, listen, interact in a medium of instruction that they are brought up with, they are better able to understand and react to concepts, even when they are translated into local vernacular.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Meu Caro Amigo

"My dear friend, please forgive me, if I can’t pay you a visit, but since I found someone to carry a message, I’m sending you news on this tape. Here we play football, there’s lots of samba, lots of choro and rock’n'roll. Some days it rains, some days it’s sunny but I want to tell you that things here are pretty dark. Here, we’re wheeling and dealing for survival, and we’re only surviving because we’re stubborn. And everyone’s drinking because without cacha├ža, nobody survives this squeeze."

From a song, Meu Caro Amigo, by Chico Buarque. Lyrics found when reading about Augusto Boal and Theatre of the Oppressed.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dala dala innovation

Anson Stewart is doing some really cool work with urban transportation systems. I recently came across this map he made of dala dala routes in Dar-es-Salaam. A few years ago I had talked to my friend about how we needed a map like this so that public transport systems in Tanzanian cities could innovate further.

Maps provide locational data that is important for many reasons. A few of them are: Being able to also map out specific stops (and other travel-related spots) along routes; timing route/journey durations; providing distance/time information to travellers; and eventually even providing such information to city planners who can then dedicate specific space on roads just for public transport.

Exciting stuff! Thanks Anson.