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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Friday, November 25, 2005

I've set up a Bloglines account for the Global Consortium at Social Solutions on an aggregation of feeds around ethnography, anthropology, usability and user design and experience and some other feeds I thought might be useful. You can access it here. I leant heavily on Lorenz's hard work in setting up the Antropologi feeds :)

2:03:47 PM    comment []  trackback []

Some observations from my trip to the US, that made me feel all's not paradise in one of the leading nations of the world. Fear is one of the things that struck me repeatedly. I saw and heard many indicators of a certain 'fear' in the culture - something I have labeled so, for want of a better term. Maybe it is protection, but I perceived it more as people operating from fear. A few things that stood out:

  • the security checks at airports - while they make you remove your outer clothes and shoes (which is a real pain as you're always wearing so much because of the weather), they don't really detect lighters or matchboxes in your hand baggage
  • NDA's - oh those Non-Disclosure Agreements you have to sign, even if you just step into an office. It's like saying "either you're with us - or against us". Hmmmm.
  • ID's - the need to show some ID everywhere - the thing is for the most part, it isn't even really looked at - I have documents on my maiden name and my married name, and often I caught myself showing an ID on my married name when the booking or credit card I was using was on my maiden name. Noone even blinked.
  • I was talking to some people at PopTech about how we worked on disaster relief efforts on the internet, and several comments made me think of fear again. I was asked by a few people, do you have liability insurance, aren't you afraid you would be sued ? This really stunned me. My response - who would anyone sue - these are blogs/wikis/virtual phone banks not owned by anyone, there is no organisation, the people who have worked on it live in several countries across the world. And why would anyone sue us?
  • There were some roadworks while we were driving to New York city from Camden Maine, and they had amazing visible signs, and signals that indicated which stream of traffic should pass when. In addition, they had people there manually holding up signs of stop and go. I wondered aloud why it was necessary to have the people there, as the road signs were so good. I was told, its because if anything untoward happens to any car or driver, the company doing the roadworks could be sued big time, so to make doubly sure it didn't happen, they had people manning the signs as well.
  • Again, I heard people say things like there were people in New Orleans who didnt really help people who were in trouble in New Orleans - someone told me of how he knows a person who didn't reach out to rescue someone who was in the flood - because he was too scared that if in the process, he damaged some body part of that person, he could be sued.
Is this sense of protection then another form of power yielding fear? Is it not crippling individual freedom and liberty in a country that prides itself on that? Does it make you think in black and white, and miss shades of grey? Does it kill humanity in some ways?

The other thing that struck me several times on this trip, is that it's terribly hard work living in the US - buying groceries, doing laundry, taking out the garbage, running to the store for every little thing. In India we (disclaimer - am fortunate to be one of the priviledged here) are so spoiled ... then I have to deal with doorbells all day :)

And gosh I never walk as much as I did there - distances are huge, the hotel in Seattle where we were was far from any 'life' and we had to walk a lot to get to a store or to a restaurant. Even when you drive there, just getting to your rental car is hard work. In India I wouldn't think twice about getting into a rickshaw or a cab right as you exit an airport and saying take me home.

1:42:15 PM    comment []  trackback []