Naming names at the Cheltenham Science Festival

I didn’t get the grant to attend the Cheltenham Science Festival (though I was runner-up, thanks UCL). As a result, everything I currently write is entirely unbiased and paid for by myself.

I attended several events today:
1. The Web and Us
2. Conversation without Words
3. Stand-up maths
It should have been four events, because there was a follow-up to Conversation Without Words of a tango lesson (as an exemplar of conversation without words) but we were fortunate enough to find a buyer for a tickets.
Right, report back. My name is now on this blog, so I have to be willing to stand by what I say.
The Science of the Web didn’t say much that I didn’t know, but it reframed my knowledge. This is never a bad thing. My quote of the week (and possibly the month) was provided by Aleks Krotoski quoting Melvin’s Kranzberg’s first law of technology “Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.”.This was in response to a question of mine (self-aggrandisement is not good, nor is it bad, nor is it neutral) about the fact that the web was designed and created by a specific sub-section of the human population and how does the virtual society it supports mirror that social group. The panel for this discussion (the aforementioned Aleks, Uta Frith, Nigel Shadbolt, Bill Thompson and facilitated by Wendy Hall) was extremely (a) intelligent and (b) optimistic. Having read “The Social Life of Information” I’m not sure that I’m as optimistic as they were. I would like to name-check Bonnie Nardi, but I have a horrible feeling that many of my concerns are based on family experience, and after listening to Aleks Krotoski talking about the identifiable behaviours of your online anonymous persona, I don’t want to admit to anything. Any where.
The sceond talk I went to was on conversation without words. This talk embarrassed me so much that I emailed one of the headlined participants with my criticisms. It was so bad that I’m not even going to say who that was – you can look it up if you really want to know.
The final session of the night was Matt Parker’s Stand-Up Maths. I’ve seen him before, and he was just as entertaining this time as he was the previous times (which for sad, geeky people like me, quite a lot). My only regret is that I’m not quite sure if I learnt anything from the experience, and let’s face it, people like me only fully value experience if they can come back and wow you with what they’ve learnt. anyway, it’s late, and having not gone to Botany of Gin lecture, I have been doing my best to make up the shortfall here. I think that I now need to turn my main (and tastebuds) to Bombay sapphire and leave the blog for another day.

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