The Power to be, to live, to see

How can we navigate the world without using the sense of vision?

The Web is the defining technological revolution of our lifetime. Almost 2 billion of us are now online. The internet has created an unimaginable wealth of information and has an enormous impact on all our daily lives.

It facilitates organisation and communication. Nowadays, we quickly book a flight through the Ryan Air App on our smartphone or use CamScan to send the newest version of our CV via e-mail to the company we are applying for an internship at.

For us, the Web is handy. For people with disabilities, it is a lifechanging revolution. It restructures their relationship to life, to work and to the planet radically.

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Chieko Asakawa

At the moment there are 37 million blind people in the world. Those who have access to the World Wide Web celebrate the power and the reach that it gives them. Suddenly their world is getting more and more open.

Through advanced technology they became able to live more independently. Chieko Asakawa lost her sight at the age of 14. Since the digital revolution she is fighting for a completely independent life for the blind community. Her latest technological invention is an app that allows blind people

  • to move around indoor and outdoor all on their own
  • to go grocery shopping without any help
  • to meet friends and even to identify their facial expressions

The Web also has its adversaries. It has been blamed for creating a generation of web addicts. These web addicts, however, are not only us spending hours on the internet, but people like Chieko Asakawa, who are truly grateful to be dependent on technology and not on other people anymore.

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 featured image © independent.uk

first image © tedtalks.com

When you realize you can’t argue with your lecturer . . .

Did you know that the French artist Paul Cézanne has nothing to do with French society?     No? Neither did I!

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I thought I had found the perfect topic for my final oral exam. Unfortunately Monsieur Cézanne didn’t meet the criteria of the module French Media Society and Language. How is one of the most influential French artists on modern art no link to French society? And isn’t it all about a vivid discussion in the foreign language in order to improve my language skills?!

One important aspect of the module is to show passion for the French language. I have loads of passion for this language which I can show even more when I am allowed to present a topic I am highly interested in!

When I tried to find a possibility to link my topic of the 19th century artist to the module description, the lecturer suggested that I should talk about the artist’s representation in French media at this time. I erupted into laughter. The good man tried so hard to squeeze my idea into his curriculum restrictions that he totally forgot that media did not exist in 1840s France.

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Paul Cézanne Montagne Sainte-Victoire sur toile

University education today is far more restricted than back in time. Fifty years ago students could attend any modules they were interested in even if their studies weren’t related to the said modules. They were encouraged to broaden their knowledge in a field of study totally different to their own one.

Universities should re-establish this highly enriching learning policy. The selection of subjects that students can do after college have never been wider than today. As a result, every student should own the right to explore study areas beyond their own nose.

It’s true. All of it.

In the age of digitalisation our behaviour of how we find new information changes. Nowadays, when it comes to information gathering, none of us buy newspapers anymore .

Who needs newspapers when we have access to the World Wide Web? Exactly, no one!

FakeNews newspaper

Newspapers are a dying breed in a time where serious, factual journalism has never been more important. “Fake news” is the watchword of the moment. The paroles of European populist parties and lately, the President of the USA, are blaming the media of publishing nothing but lies. We, as rational citizens, are aware of the empty accusations and rely on the credibility of public-service broadcasters. But do we actually make use of them?

  • Who of us are scanning the electronic version of long-established newspapers every day?
  • When was the last time you read an article in its entirety?
  • Who would consider subscribing to a newspaper in the light of the online world we live in?

Social Media offers a much faster solution of updating our knowledge of politics and current events. We scan dozens of videos and headings every day as soon as we refresh our Facebook newsfeed. What we don’t take into consideration is that social media only presents us news that we are interested in, according to our data. The knowledge we acquire through Facebook, Instagram & Co.  is social media taking overtherefore highly limited. Moreover, we don’t know

  • where certain information originally comes from
  • who shared it
  • how many peopled modified it and
  • if it’s actually true

It is not shameful to gain information online but it is important to compare the said information to reliable sources that produce serious journalism. It is the debate that counts in a democratic system. If we want to counter populists’ “empty talk”, we need to have a differentiated perspective that undermines their black-and-white way of thinking.

 


featured image ©upfront.scolastic.com

first image ©The New Yorker

second image ©technewsworld.com

My not so private trip to Africa

Privacy in an online world?

Last week I went to a meet-and-greet event organized by Erasmus students. Loads of familiar faces were standing in the room, talking to one another and exchanging social media accounts. I could hardly spot a person in the crowd not holding a smartphone in its hand.

Suddenly, someone was tapping on my shoulder. I turned around and saw a red-hair girl standing in front of me. She looked familiar, although I had no idea who she was.

“Hi Jana, which company did you book your jeep safari in Namibia with back then?”  asked the girl.

Totally dumbfounded, I told her the name of the company. How did she know I spent my summer holiday in Namibia 5 years ago and, moreover, who was this girl?

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She underlined that she absolutely loved the pictures of Windhoek I uploaded on Facebook. This was my moment of sudden insight. A few days ago I accepted her friend request on Facebook. Apparently she had gone through all of my pictures and recognized my face this evening.

While she wanted to know more about my jeep safari in Africa, my thoughts wandered…  I was talking to a total stranger about an intimate summer holiday with my family. What else did I present to the World Wide Web that I would never tell people I barely know?

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© Jia Tong Zhou’s Blog

Back home I changed my privacy settings on Facebook. I realized that I don’t want strangers to know that much about my life. I started to hide dozens of other pictures from the public, in which I was having a good time with family and friends.

I never thought about the impact that pictures of this virtual world can have on my real life. From now on, I will always think twice about who I give access to my life on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram. Moreover, I will only share experiences online that I am also willing to tell people about in person.

 

Did you check on (N)etiquette?

Ever since it is considered important to behave in an appropriate manner when it comes to special occasions. During

  • a job interview,
  • a conservation with your lecturer or
  • small talk with colleagues at the annual office party

it is not only a certain dress code that matters but also the way you present yourself through communication, body language and polite phrases.

Nowadays social interaction and professional networking takes place online so that rules of etiquette can get lost easily or aren’t considered at all. A certain Netiquette, however, is as essential as steady eye contact and a firm handshake during a job interview.

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©fotosearch.com

As soon as I became a student at a prestigious German university I realized that a supposedly quick email to one of my many lecturers did not turn out to be as quick as I thought it would. Not only had I to include my lecturer’s entire title into the form of address I also needed to use the politest form of address as it was my very first e-mail to the man with postdoctoral qualification.

I was surprised when I learned in a mandatory tutorial on Netiquette that I am allowed to switch between registers of language as soon as my lecturer uses a less formal complimentary close in his response email.

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©tes.com

 

Although we are all sharing one World Wide Web, Netiquette changes across borders. Since I arrived in Ireland I have enjoyed the freedom of simply addressing lecturers with their first name in my emails and closing them with “Kind regards”.  Since English is the top language used in the internet, almost 950 millions of users are lucky to adhere to this more relaxed Netiquette, which I frankly prefer too.

Embracing the Irish Culture

It is a common fact that a strong Irish accent poses difficulties for any foreigner. As soon as you, as a Non-Irish, can understand an Irish landlord or bus driver you have already done a good job.

Apart from the strong Irish accent, there is also the Irish slang which causes misunderstandings if you are not familiar with typical words Irish use in their daily life. In order to feel more included into the Irish community my German friend and I familiarized ourselves with some of the common expressions and characteristics the Irish accent brings about. This might bring the craic for you, too 😉

Once, I, as a Non-Irish, was able to have a conversation with my Irish fellows I figured that it is not only the slang which causes misunderstandings, or the accent which often leads to no understanding at all, but also the meaning of certain expressions.

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image source: gruntinggrowler.com

A funny misunderstanding in the Irish world of communication that crossed my daily life as a foreigner on this Island is the usage of “see you later”.

Irish often say “see you later” although they won’t see you again the same day. The German translation  of “see you later” is “bis später” and literally means “see you later like in an hour at the latest”. In the beginning I was often confused when classmates said goodbye at the end of the day by using the term “see you later”. I even panicked as I thought I had forgotten a meeting for a group project or something similar.

Nowadays I know and have adapted to the meaning so that I am delighted to end my blog saying to you guys “see you later”. 😉

 

Embracing Campus Life at UL

Not only that UL introduces me to the creation of my very first blog, it also provides an impressively student-friendly environment…

As I am used to a rather impersonal, big, German university, I was impressed how UL welcomes international students from the very beginning. Everyone on Campus seems to be outstandingly friendly and willing to help. During the flawlessly organized introductory week I was led from one event to another and I suddenly realized that the common stereotype of the Irish being super friendly is actually not a stereotype but reality.

Behind this friendliness Irish students sparkle with real activism. With more than 70 clubs and societies UL invites Internationals to take part in the colourful and exciting life on campus. During the recruitment drive in UL Sports Arena every club and society has its own stall to gain new members. What a wonderful opportunity for internationals to get in contact with native Irish!

Within this buzzing community we, as guests of UL, have the one and only chance to try something we have never done before and see ourselves from a totally new perspective. No matter if one goes for sailing, trampolining, chess, fencing, drama, politics or tea appreciation. Every interest is covered.

As I always wanted to try sailing I immediately joined the winds sports club . If wanted to I would now have the chance to spend every second weekend sitting on a boat, feeling the wind in my hair and sprinkles of sea water on my face…

The feeling one gets from trying something totally new is unbelievably enriching.

This does not only refer to the Clubs and Societies at UL which offer such an experience but also the decision to go on Erasmus. I’ve been able to enhance my interpersonal skills in many ways. I learned to approach people in a more open-minded way and I became a better listener, which one needs to be if one wants to have the slightest chance of understanding the Irish accent by the way.  😉