Literature Time: Reading the Story for the Global Voices Podcast

The 12th edition of Global Voices podcast is bringing you this month some international story telling.  This edition is about literature and publishing. Newsroom journalist, host of BBC Outriders, and blogger, Jamillah Knowles gathered well-read members of the Global Voices team and created the wonderful podcast of beautiful readings of original work by GV authors and the wider community. For those who are not familiar with, I do write literature sometimes, given the fact that I come from literary and musical family, literature and arts are the part of my persona. So, I read one of my short stories. More about the background on the Global Voices podcast page.

Many of you asked and tried to guess what was the inspiration for the story (You Should Date a Woman Who Writes). I won’t tell you everything as I avoid to explain myself too much, especially in arts and literature. I’ve communicated the background to some of my Facebook friends on the network, and I thought it would be fair to share a few notes on my blog. On a personal note, the inspiration for the story was the situation from the past with a person who sent me the novel of Italo Calvino - ‘If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller’. I was totally mesmerized by it. It was my type of novel, totally written in a non linear way, very geeky and peculiar, many characters intertwining into different stories. After reading it, I just sat and wrote the story.

Also, I want to share a very interesting communication dynamics from the Facebook: one of my Internet colleagues - Nathan Matias, a poet and software engineer from the MIT Media Lab, gave a beautifully written literary review and the critic of the story. With the permission I am quoting his words here:

” (..) I really like your story’s playful, imaginative diversity of viewpoints. I love how it lingers over tumbling overflowing listed items of possibility, avoiding essentialism while staying firmly grounded in the beautiful scene in the middle. And then we’re off again, situating the “I” in the shared stories of women writers and imagining the addressee among similar if narrower possibilities as the speaker. I love how writing, in this story, becomes life itself, unfinished, open to new chapters, longing to close the gap between imagination and experience.  Wonderfully appropriate in a response to being given a Calvino novel : ) Again, thanks for sharing!”

Indeed, the story is left unfinished on purpose, in order to leave the open space for the new, future, and upcoming stories, essays and tales that have a non-linear dynamic of writing. I hope you will enjoy my reading (jump to 26.36”).


TEDWomen: innovators, idea-generators, architects of change

The Asphalt Orchestra today have opened the TEDWomen, conference dedicated to women who are (re)shaping the future, sharing an amazing talks from the fields they have pioneered. Event is taking place in Washington, DC,  December 7-8, 2010, and I have been privileged to get the access, live tweet out,  right now there is a break in between the sessions.  You can find my tweets here (with #tedwomen), talks are changing very fast and the schedule is not necessarily strictly prompt. Follow the hashtag #TEDWomen for all other tweets on live talks. TedWomen started on Day One with hilarous Hans Rosling who talked about the usage of the earth energy and the environment in the Western and emerging counties using ingenious allegories, while  Hanna Rosin talked on the importance of education and gender equality, some stereoptyes in this context, and new female superheros.  Elizabeth Lindsey, ethnographer of the National Geographic Society, gave an amazing performance of chanting on stage, talking about navigation and information overload; while Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg talked on balancing business and private life.

The next day women from the sessions “Composers”, “Harmony &Discord”, and “Crescendo”, got my attention with inspiring talks on various topics. MBI (molecular breast imaging) inventor Dr Deborah Rhodes, showed how gamma method is more punctual than mammography in breast cancer detection, stressing out that the manuscript on MBI was rejected by four scientific journals because “the conflict of interest”, and it is finally to be published in Journal of Radiology. Something to think about science, humanity, ethics, and scientific publishing.

Amber Case, digital philosopher and Cyborg Anthropologist, started her talk with “All of you are Cyborgs every time you look at computer screen”, emphasising that people don’t take time for mental (self)reflection anymore, and kids today live the instant button clicking culture. Cyber anthropology is interdisciplinary area so there’s a lot to say about the above mentioned topics. Kate Orff, environmentalist architect,  introduces the new invention, hero of the ecology and urbanism ‘the oyster” that improves ecosystems. Roboticist, Cynthia Breazeal, who founded personal robot at MIT, talked about robots (applications) in the communication technologies: screen, mobile, expressive, performing collaborative tasks, and social engagement.

Surprise speaker on stage was The US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, talking about women issues world wide, introducing the new project with the deployment of technology: Mobile Justice initiative in the third world countries, e.g. Africa, where women can memo their testimonials or record the files on the mobile phones. Naomi Klein, author and activist, talked on the recent oil disaster, climate crisis and the environment, emphasising that the problem is our master narrative: “we are going to be saved”, but our secular religion is technology. Jody Williams, Nobel peace laureate, had the punch line: taking the action to reclaim the meaning of peace.” I liked her creative idea that planting the trees may be the solution to peace and for the environment perseverance.

Iranian artist in exile Shirin Neshat shared her personal story and life challenges through identity, politics, religion, and talked about her debut film: Woman without Man, based on the banned novel by Shahrnush Parsipur who spent five years in prison. Joan Halifax, Zen Priest, addressed an issue of the compassion and its challenges, in a similar pathos as Donna Karan, fashion designer, who shared her story on birth and death transformations in the critical moments in her life.

The culmination of  TEDWomen conference was touching, wonderful story of  Eve Ensler, best known for her play Vagina Monologues, founder of V-Day movement to end violence against women and girls globally. Beside The Monologues, she talked about other women stories world wide, how she perceived her body, how she felt her body when she realised that she had a cancer, and how she is perceiving it now. This brave women finished her talk with “if you are divided from your body, then you are divided from the body of the world”, giving the recipe for the survival of women with issues and challenges: attention and resources are that everybody deserves.

Those were my personal notes (in short) and tweet highlights, for other information check out the full program and the bios of the speakers. It was an interesting conference and I’m looking forward to see in the future more inspiring, strong, creative, innovative women world wide who are reshaping the world and making the difference while, as the former  US Secretary of State mentioned, supporting each other. Maybe next time I’d come up with my innovative ideas to share them with you. Now I’m asking: what you can learn from these strong women who inspire, and other powwerful women in your surrounding?

on global nomading

Wikipedia says that nomad is a Greek word νομάδες, nomádes, meaning “those who let pasture herds”, denoting communities of people who move from  one place to another, in other words a practice of continual movement with no fixed settlement. This rough definition implies to early communities of hunter-gatherers in Tibet or Siberia, but in industrial and information society it is a metaphor for aimless wandering, vagabonding from place to place. Modern nomads are high tech creators, frequent miles flyer’s, restless minds who have chosen nomadic way of life with no permanent residence, but rather moving from place to place. Either for work, education or personal reasons.

I didn’t think about this on deeper level, always took for granted when people would say: ah you’re world traveller, global nomad, as labeling in this context doesn’t mean much to me. And last night I had chat with an old colleague and friend residing in Amsterdam who recently returned from San Diego, California (one of the places I used to live) sharing the photos from the conference and time on the cliffs, as I was reminiscenting warm sunny winter Californian days from my studio in cold and foggy Oxford, when he said that we travellers, nomads never get bored. Which made me think: have I, by often travelling and changing place of living, working, studying, actually created in my subconsciousness denial not to be bored so I’d run for adventure, excitement, upgrading my knowledge and practice in work, meet new people, collaborate, search without the search, helping out where needed, being everywhere and nowhere? I assume a bit of all stated. And some more.

Which reminded me on one of my favourite novels – Baltasar and Blimunda, epic novel by Jose Saramago, where intuitive Blimunda who can see inside people, wanders for years for the search of millions of human “will” and together with soldier Baltasar in a quest of helping Bartolomeu, a renegade priest, to construct a flying machine. It all happens during inquisition time, in 18th century Portugal. We are living in 21st century where collaboration form of gathering inner “will” and building a flying machine is changed for gathering data and creating other forms of innovative endeavours where technomading is without the borders (even if it requires physical visa forms or paper) and individuum is free to move more than ever.

That provisory freedom may look for someone from aside as a great adventure, free spiritualism, carefreeness, but after years and years of global nomading, it becomes, in political, economical under threat to-become-insane-society, an urge to find a place or settle somewhere what would one call a base or a home. This apres nomading time was noticed even at our ancestors. Internet has gathered us into global tribe where many do practice global nomading online, but what about us who spend nights in hotels, waiting at the airports, celebrating important events in the air or conferences, out from family or friends?

I will return to this over and over, and maybe start writing somewhere my global travel notes (as I was suggested many times by my friends and family) and share them with you. This December and January is pretty full of travels and conferences [Englands, USA, Englands,  France?], everything is open. What is for sure is that I’m looking forward to sail the calm seas in the next period, looking for my future base. Encouraging news for the people in my country is visa-free system from December 19th, and is a reason plus for nomading around Europe, and beyond.

Attention and distractions: reasons I don’t fancy iBT TOEFL

academia,communication,culture,internet,Italy,life,random thoughts,Rome — Danica @ 1:44 am, June 23, 2009

Last weekend I spent most of the day (read: five hours) musing myself (I am a bit ironic but this is my rant and rave) through procedure I call the performance of being capable to go through iBT TOEFL test. What kind of test iBT TOEFL is? It is test of English as a foreign language for undergrad, graduate students, professionals, researchers world wide. For those who want certificate or  test their English capabilities, academic or professional purposes, for non English speakers, for native English speakers, you name it.

Once upon a time there was paper based TOEFL, human TOEFL test (no muss-no fuss) I had certificate in 2003 (for US purposes then). Now I was asked to go through iBT TOEFL (not that my English is bad or something but just as “”formality”). iBT TOEFL stands for Internet based test TOEFL. I didn’t prepare for it as I am pretty confident in holy 4′s – Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing sections, but I wanted to go to the forum community and check out what other folks say. Mostly PhD scholars and many professionals – English native speakers from United States preparing for the test weeks and months in advance. Many of them “failed” or didn’t reach the score that the institution asked from them and all frustration, sharing information can be read on TOEFL community forum.

Then the little light bulb alarmed me, and after reading testimonials I thought I should prepare myself in technical way: go through sampler I got for free when I registered and paid for test, plus a good friend of mine managed to hack into Kaplans’ version of iBT TOEFL book/interactive software with 4 test simulations. This all happened in 2 days period prior to testing day, and have to admit that I was a bit discouraged as:

1. iBT TOEFL  test is everything but objectively measuring and evaluating your English language skills (especially referring to Speaking and Writing section). First two sections (Reading and Listening) are based on questions and four answers. It is complexed as it “measures” not only grammar but comprehension, the ability to interconnect through different passages of the text, how fast you absorb data from all the interdisciplinary fields, but yours. And of course, time is so limited.

2. I appeared an hour prior the test and found a mess in testing center with lot of Italians totally confused and frenzied. Did I mention that I took the test in Rome?  In so called training center with few rooms so called computer labs? [disclaimer: you are lucky if you can skip iBT in Italy, you'll know why in the next paragraphs].

3. iBT TOEFL is highly academic content test created for graduate students and professionals in different area of human activity. There are lot of unfamiliar narrow-professional terms that you never heard because they are not your area of study. You must know how to navigate through many passages and interconnect the information, even tiny details. You have to use your memory all the time and focus, focus. Offered answers (usually two of four of them) can refer on the sentence or the word because they are so damn similar – so you have to decide either one or two. If you make here mistake, you loose the point. In other words – try to figure out what the author wanted to say. This usually works if you have optimal conditions for test-taking, but…

4. Conditions on the test day: I was so determined, cheered up, and super happy to finish with that, and what I found were computer rooms with no functioning AC’s (cooling system), some of them stopped to work on 35 Celsius degrees (hot, hot very hot). Windows were closed. We were boiling. No air, no thinking. My brain couldn’t process any information on the part Reading and Listening. I was so angry cursing paleontology eras and the changes in the Earth core, Whales and other species that are dying, and the problem how to decrease CO2 in deep blue ocean. Then, when people started to complain due to the lack of the oxygen, many of them left the room, organizers opened the windows and the noise from the street interfered with our headsets and Speaking section. During the speaking I was so revolted that I talked and talked and couldn’t wait to finish with writing. Another hideous iBT thing: you have 10 seconds to prepare what you heard and read and then to summarize all in 30 0r 45 or 60 seconds. Then you have Q and A’s from academic lectures heard/read on the topics that are not familiar to you. Bullshit! Pardon my language, but this is true. Writing was pretty easy for me as I don’t mind to write surrounded by cacophony. So that was about test (infra)structure and conditions.

5. Also, you have only 10 min break in between Reading/Listening and Speaking/Writing section – just enough to go to the toilet, drink some water, and eat tiny chocolate if you are lucky as the clock on your computer is ticking. So beside timing your reading of the academic passages from marine biology, archeology, maths, etc. you should time and practice going to the toilet, mind you. To do test properly usually takes 4- 4.5 hrs.

6. Hypothesis that iBT TOEFL is big money sucking-machine. Two important sections of the test (Speaking and Writing) are evaluated by humans. Now comes catch 22: many of them are not academics or objective. Many cases showed that they give much lower scores on these two, so the test takers could ask for rescoring (which costs additional money) and they would raise up score up to 4-6 points. A pharmacist I was talking with in the last 3 days, a woman from California is taking the test for several times as she had bad scores in Speaking section and her employer asked for specific score (e.g.30). She is very frustrated as she told me she believes that iBT TOEFL is a big money-sucking machine because there are lot of people like her that have to keep taking it on and on again until the requested score!

7. Focus/concentration/attention and distractions play a huge role with this kind of tests where you need to be super mechanically capable to multitask and give the feedback that are correct. Otherwise you lose points. Now I understand why some people spend weeks preparing it, but again I think this is the most hideous test that exists. It doesn’t represent your real knowledge of English. iBT is so vague, have holes, that when I talked to some academics many of them told me they hated it. Really.

Finally, I don’t expect high scores, I messed up first two sections that required 100% of concentration, optimum conditions for test taking that I didn’t have. I guess I will never “fit” into desirable candidate for gaining the maximum or close to it, but I know that my English is so damn better than 99% of people who came to take the test. I don’t want to prepare with manuals “how-to” test for dummies. With all respect to those people as I know they practiced for months and I know their speaking English is so poor, but I’m studying and learning (still, ongoing) my English since the age of six, use actively, work and live in English speaking environment, and if test shows the opposite I don’t care.

I just hope those who might care will read this and don’t take for granted my bad scores of iBT TOEFL. Anyways, we’ll see in two weeks.

i’ve finished with 365 flickr project

For those who are following my Flickr activities and my photostream, I’ve recently finished with 365 Flickr project. The idea was to through intimate bits and bytes and dialogues with myself and the world around me, every day in a year (2008/09) explore self-identity. It was long and not easy journey as life it is per se, but it was a great challenge – both on personal, art and professional level.  At this moment there are 13 625 active members of 365 days of Flickr, involved in this project – each with its unique story.

I am contemplating to publish a photo (log) book of my 365 mini stories somewhere. If you have ideas where it could be appropriate for this kind of content and format – let me know.


futurismo avantguardia

art,culture,general,photography,Rome,serendipity,World wide — Danica @ 9:30 pm, April 8, 2009

“Standing upright on the peak of the world we once more hurl our challenge at the stars!”

These are the closing words of the Futurist Manifesto published by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti on 20th February 1909 in the French daily “Le Figaro”. The piece violently shocked the Paris art and literary world. Modernity was exalted in all its aspects: speed, energy, revolutionary scientific discoveries. Paris was the new launching platform for young artists from all over the world: Spain, Italy, Russia, and Germany. Marinetti, whose culture was French, was often in paris in those years. In 1910 Picasso’s and Braque’s first cubist compositions hearalded a period rich in experimentation. The echo spread throughout Europe. On the wave of enthusiasm Marinetti led ‘his’ artists on an actual tour, organising shows in the main European capitals. With his great communication skills he got the manifesto published in a numerous foreign newspapers, very efficiently spreading the new message as far as Russia.

I didn’t write about the art for a long time, but this one definitely draw my attention. Last week I was visiting Scuderiedel Quirinale and the exhibition called: Futurismo Avantguardia which presents debut of futurism and the extraordinary correspondences and oppositions in the early avant-gardes up to the outbreak of the First World War.

It is interesting that this exhibition divided into 10 sections within the space as curated in collaboration with the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Tate Modern in London. It was set up first in Paris (Oct.2008-Jan.2009), then now in Rome and lastly in London (June-Sept.2009).  At one spot, in parallel you can see the stylistic and philosophic contributions made by Futurism and Cubism to the birth of Russian Cubo-Futurism, English Vorticism, and American Synchromism, underscoring th basic contribution of the Italian avant-garde with Marinetti‘s insight concerning a new synthesis of space and time.

If you are in Rome in April and May – don’t miss this exhibition. Below is one of my favourite artworks Ciclista, by Natalia Goncarova, 1913.

In Rome: i’m back!

Hello everyone! Finally I’m trying to get back to blogging as I’ve been lazy blogger in the last three weeks, with a good excuse: I am in Rome, Italy for now the fourth week running around, working, settling, apartment searching, adjusting, non-learning Italian yet, trying to keep up with emails. Thanks to all of you for congratulating me, writing me emails, asking how I am – I appreciate you being a part of my micro-community.

First about the work, as many of you asked: I work in the great surrounding, knowledge – sharing – science information – technology – open office with internationals in UN, FAO, networked with the lot of people internally in Roman high institutions as well as externally with EU organizations in a collaborative project that you’ll hear when it’s time to be heard. I’m very honored to be in charge from UN side for this project and thankful to my colleagues and especially my supervisor who gave me full trust and confidence that i can do it. This is great challenge in my career and I am so happy about the work that is developing because it has great future and even greater purpose in technology, science and semantic web, web 3.0. w00t! Every beginning is a bit odd as you try to keep up with everything what’s being done so far, to learn, study a lot, get familiar with new things – and sometimes I feel like a small ant amongst super-smart giants, but on the other side there are lot of colleagues on and off UN who are really owing me with their kindness, their efforts to help me and also learning things from me. One of the surprises from digital life was that half of them read this site/blog or any other written word on Internet. The other half is on Twitter interacting or following me. Those who are not familiar with UN structure would think it’s uptight, too formal institution and I agree – but I am so damn lucky to be in creative, innovative, cooperative part of this institution that is easy-going, relaxed, but hard-working at the same time. So, I am very grateful for being a part of it, participating and creating something new. In the upcoming posts you’ll read more about technology, life and web 2.0 and web 3.0 for sure.

Rome, and Romans: you all know that Rome is the city of architecture per se, no words here to describe how blessed I am to live in this ancient, eternal city (some of the photos). Every corner has it’s own story, many social and cultural characteristics remind me on Belgrade (well, it’s only 1.5 hrs by plane), many differences I’m trying to accept as they are: from the everyday functioning to people’s modus vivendi (referring to Roman people). Everything is assuming and there are no rules. Italians rarely speak English, or not at all. It can be difficult for everyday life – off work, but hopefully if you have some basics in old Latin or French, you can easily catch up with the conversation and understand what it is about.

Oh, I have so many stories to tell so far, but first settling and getting my base here. What I really like in my new Roman life here is that I have enough free time (oh weekends, I love you!) to do whatever I want, not to think about my PhD dissertation (for now), not to think about zillions of freelance projects I’ve been doing lately, exhausting late nights working for 14 hours and more, thinking about the existence or global economy crisis.

I’m trying to establish network of contacts and friends here, and if you happen to read this and you are in Rome, or planning to come - say hello and email me. There are many of my friends coming here and I’ve been meeting few since I’m here, please follow my Dopplr or LiveStream for more accurate information, and I’d be more than happy to meet you for aperitivo, walk, chat, hanging out in Rome.

More writings to come soon…

I am joining the UN in March!

I have been keeping this great news for about two weeks to myself and was trying not to burst it out in the online public, but now officially: from March 1st I am joining the UN (KCEW department at FAO) and moving to Rome, Italy! w00000t!!!!!

I am so ecstatic as everything happened all of the sudden (well, there were some indications around New years Eve and during my conference in US).

I’ll be working for UN as consultant on metadata standards, semantic web, web applications, new projects within the house and with other major world wide organizations,  in a word: I will be participating in creating the future of the Web! w00t!

Going to UN is a natural continuation and the new start of the good things to come. I’m so happy and excited as all the years of my studies, practice, information technology visions, projects, permanent learning, writing, talking, communication, networking with others, activism, will be placed on the right spot, a place that is super stimulative and (for me) futuristic. Remember the connecting dots from Steve Job’s Commencement speech at Stanford? Well, this is exactly happening to me. Everything I’ve been working on since the age of six (6) and upwards have oh so meaning.

And about serendipities, real life serendipities: I remember in 2002 I was in Rome at Semantic Web conference where I was for the first time professionally and deeply introduced to semantics on Web, and later I’ve tried through talks, presentations, writings to spread it to my country but seems then and now noone was really interested in this. I never thought that I will go back to my long forgotten passion. Also, a colleague who was on that SW conference reminded me the other day that I was throwing the coins (oh well, I remember valuable 2euro coins and eating gelato whilst sitting on the edge of the fountain) in Fountain di Trevi assuring me that I’ll come back to Rome, as I never thought about this possibility afterwards. Looks like that the future of the web has reached me and I am so overwhelmed, everything is new for me and challenging.

In the next few days I am getting introduced to a new system, programs, new colleagues, projects, but before that I am finishing what I need to finish in Belgrade and beyond, packing (boxes, luggage’s and mess around me), and looking for a new apartment in Rome. I will reside in Rome (w00t!) which is wonderful as I will be working and collaborating with International team and speak and use English, but after work I will learn (or re-establish my forgotten Latin) Italian, and soak myself into Italian culture (super ecstatic as I’ve always inclined to Mediterranean lifestyle). I started to read Repubblica’s technology and science section with a little help of Google translator, but you’ll see me talking fluent Italian very soon. Those who live in Rome, say Halo or Ciao to me when you see me!

Did I tell you that I am super excited that I will work for the great cause and create the dots for the futuristic Web, participating in great world wide projects?  I can’t wait to begin with my new job, programs, and feel so blessed to be a part of an invigorating web of science, IT environment.

useful resources about Belgrade for foreign visitors – FVC

Despite the fact that ‘Belgrade and Beyond’ blog exists in other form {digital serendipities}, I am still writing  about interesting events and electronic resources on Belgrade, Serbia. For those of you who are not familiar and you happen to reside in Belgrade for some reason, this information may be valuable to you.

Belgrade Foreign Vistors Club (FVC) presents the online community for foreigners in Belgrade, created by  Jonathan Davis. Beside Belgrade FVC there is Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club Wiki, an online information resource for foreign residents and visitors to the city of Belgrade, where you can find high quality community edited information resources and guided directories with useful links.  Also, check out Belgrade FVC forum where you can interact with other members, Twitter feed, and there is Facebook group informing users with current events, reviews, recommendations. I hope you’ll find this information and links useful especially if you are planning a trip to Belgrade or maybe to move here.

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