Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Europeans working together

Last week we had a group of interesting, talented and committed visitors to our workplace. As you may know some of my colleagues and I are involved in a major European Project funded by the European Commission. Among our visitors were those from Italy, Spain, Ecuador, Argentina and Slovenia

One of the work packages requires us all to work together on case studies, mostly current ones in the world, advise and teach valuation methodologies and aid environmental justice organisations to acquire the knowledge and experience to effectively collect data and plead their cases on behalf of the environment and their local communities.

So there we were, a collection of academics, scientists, and 'activists with good hearts and strong experience' working together for the benefit of our planet and its people.

Some of the issues we deal with involve: water, nature's rights, land-grabbing, oil contamination, fracking, bauxite mining, gold and copper mining, electronic waste, industries such as coal and steel, shipbreaking, uranium mining, nuclear energy issues.

My part in all this involves taking the case study information prepared by activists (under advice from my colleagues) and transforming the material into online teaching materials so that civil societies and others interested in how conflicts and environmental issues can be assessed and dealt with can study it.

As a result I need to develop an awareness of various ecological economics methodologies, along with the use of technologies for online learning and communication. Everything I do is a form of communication and is certainly requiring me to learn new ways that I never came across in my applied communications degree years ago.

There will be a series of project meetings between all the project members at Rio De Janiero in June. My colleagues and I will be participating. It's just before the UN Summit Rio + 20 which I won't be attending, alas. I will also be attending the conference for the International Society for Ecological Economics. I'll never want to be an economist but I need to understand the context in which I work.

Technology understanding and communication walk hand-in-hand now. Recently I attended a two-day workshop at the University of Nanterre. It concerned how to put together a web-documentary (not a web document or a video). A web documentary consists of a website which has interactive components with a pre-determined order accompanied by options. That means short punchy video clips, putting them in the best order to meet the objectives and organising the navigation between the various segments; something like a hybrid between creating a video and constructing a website.

I found it enormously challenging because it was in French with many people participating and no allowance made for my level of language. Trying to pick up on a new application which was being spoken about in technical French was a nightmare. They were referring to the Klynt software. It didn't help that some of us had a bug in the demo version and only a few hours in the morning to play with it. Slightly interesting though what I learned could have been said in an hour and it was gruelling. Not the least because of the four hours each day I spent getting there and back. I needed three trains each way, waits in between and always got lost at the unfamiliar Gare de la Grande Arch - La Defense. Up down several levels, this way, that way, signage inadequate for me.

During the presentations at the workshop I felt there was much too much blah blah going on and not enough getting to the point and being practical. Sitting on your bum with a powerpoint is not very riveting to my mind.


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