Saturday, May 30, 2009

Literary Boston and New York

I've been willing to write about my trip to Boston and New York City a while ago. It's been a month now that I'm back but it's not too late to share some great literary moments I had there.

Bookshop on the corner of Bleecker and 11th Street, New York City

First let me start with Boston, a city full of culture and history where I was to attend the Media in Transition conference at MIT. I've attended several panels on different topics.
The first panel was about Digital Classrooms and Digital Curricula, there's been very fruitful and necessary discussions about collaborative education and teacher training on new technologies. Students may be digital natives, but most of the teachers aren't. A clear emphasis on knowing rather than knowledge (don't think knowledge is only in your brain) has been put forward so to go towards a more participatory culture.
"Classrooms don't have walls anymore" was one of the messages about the possibilities given by new media & technologies to use in education. The second panel I've been to was Race, Nationality and the Digital Technologies with 4 very interesting papers that I would suggest you have a look if interested in the topic. The use of the internet has been analysed from Black communities in the USA to Aboriginal communities in Canada. One paper has also presented how hate speech, which was mostly spread through underground media (flyers, meetings...) in the recent past, has been reaching a much wider audience, expanding globally, being very active on social networking and in the cyberspace. The Databases, Encyclopedias, Archives panel has been focusing a lot on history, on digital approaches to history, and on the evolution of the encyclopedia and the emergence of wikipedia. The last panel I've been to was Fiction and Media Change. Since the last few months, I've been more and more interested in the emergence of a "new" literature, with authors not afraid of using new technologies in their narratives, or even to write for different types of media than the printed book (the Penguin project "We Tell Stories" is one great example of the possibilities offered by new media to tell stories). These various possibilities haven't been really discussed in the panel, staying more focused on literary theory and other comparisons between the novel and the cinema for example. There is thus still a lot more to share and to explore, so do have a look at the titles of the papers, most of them available online (see the list and links at the end of this post). After MIT, a visit to Harvard was of course compulsory, and so to the wonderful bookstores all around Cambridge. The Boston Public Library was stunning, and the lovely Boston Athanaeum has been a great discovery.

Boston Public Library

New York has also its load of culture and literature. It's the fourth time I went to New York and never really took the opportunity to enter the Public Library, which I did this time and couldn't understand why I didn't put such a great place in my list together with the MET, MOMA and other landmarks (seeing it from outside is not enough). I've been quite moved seeing the Gutenberg Bible.

One of the 48 copies of the Gutenberg Bible, New York Public Library

And last but not least, I could enjoy the PEN World Voices Festival in New York, which I wanted to go to for such a long time. I've had the chance to meet and listen to authors I really like, among them Laila Lalami, Neil Gaiman and Shaun Tan. I've also discovered many wonderful authors, and I had to come to New York to discover a Dutch author of children book from Amsterdam, Marieken Jongman. I told her I would attend events she will be in when back in Amsterdam.

Neil Gaiman, Marieken Jongman and Shaun Tan at the PEN Voices

And here are the signed books, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami and Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan, both wonderful books:

You can read all the papers of the panelists on the MIT6 website. Here are the panels I've referred to above:

Digital Classrooms and Digital Curricula

Jami Carlacio, Lance Heidig, Teaching Digital Literacy Digitally Julio Gonzalez-Appling, Technology as a Bridge in the 21st-Century Classroom Bernadette Longo, Using Social Networks and Mobile Technologies to Enhance the Classroom Space Alice Robison, New Media Literacies by Design: The Game School
Race, Nationality and Digital Technologies
John Edward Campbell, From Barbershop to BlackPlanet: The Construction of Hush Harbors in Cyberspace
Kate Hennessy, Repatriation, Digital Cultural Heritage, and the (Re)Production of Meaning in a Canadian Aboriginal Community
Adam Klein, A Space for Hate: The White Power Movement’s Adaptation in Cyberspace
Nancy van Leuven, The New Mediated Environment of American Indians
Databases, Encyclopedias, Archives
Paul Arthur, History in Motion: Digital Approaches to the Past
Erinc Salor, Encyclopedic Endeavor and the Internet
Peter Walsh, The Uses of Catastrophe: Ninveh, Layard, and the Future of Knowledge
Fiction and Media Change
Jonathan Butler, Novel Obligations: The Future of Fiction in the Digital Age
Staffan Ericson, Death at Broadcasting House
Joanne McNeil, New Media in Fiction: Why the Novel’s Protagonist Never Plays with his iPhone
Annika Olsson, Narratives of Literature in Print and Cyberspace