The Loch Computer project, which I mentioned last October, is also going well. I attended a networking meeting of the group recently, and very much enjoyed the presentations on “remoteness and connectedness” in the opening session, which were intended to spark conversations on these themes over lunch and beyond. (This was of course partly because I wasn’t doing a presentation myself this time, having delivered my thoughts on Remoteness and Connectedness in the Library World at the previous meeting, so I could relax and concentrate on other people’s treatment of the topic!)
This time Professor Al Dearle spoke about how difficult it is to connect to the internet in a surprising number of places. We all tend to think that the internet is everywhere, but is it really? For places where connectivity is frustratingly, and sometimes dangerously, non-existent, his new Qraqrbox app might be the solution. He explained how, running on a fraction of an Amp, the Qraqrbox thin server can offer a wireless web service powered by a solar panel, and deliver a “puddle” of disconnected internet even in the depths of a Scottish winter.
Peter Mackay’s talk alluded to all sorts of connections – to the connections between Gaelic Ireland and Gaelic Scotland, for example, and to the connections via satellite and video phones which correspondents have to make to gather copy for the heroically alternative Gaelic news service. He saw an interesting connection in himself between his love of mathematics and his love and poetry, and was intrigued by ways in which poetry allows for things NOT connecting.
Print-maker Leena Nammari talked about connections to her home in Ramallah, Palestine, describing how her work has always in a way been an investigation of the question “what is home?” The longer she stays away, she says, the harder it is to feel connected. This theme of “unconnectedness” was explored through various metaphors. For example, while Jerusalem has 3G communications networks, Ramallah on the other side of the wall has not. Again, showing a photograph of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem rising above the Western Wall, she talked about how inaccessible this beautiful place had been to her as a young Palestinian.
Sara Lodge drew on her experience as an election monitor in Antigua to offer what she described as a “political afterthought” to the theme of remoteness and connectedness. Describing the procedures she was required to monitor, and marvelling at the commitment and interest of the voters she worked with, she wondered if the more remote you are from central government, the more connected you might feel to your local community politics.
As at the previous meeting, I was amazed at the range and variety of ideas which speakers managed to tease from the subject of remoteness and connectedness, and found the ensuing discussions rich and useful. PowerPoints from some of the talks are available on the project website at http://lochcomputer.weebly.com/ideas.html and more will be added soon.