Shoring uncertain times (16 January 2009)

I don’t know how I will be able to bring all the books back. There are those written by friends and that they gave to me, and those that I bought. Another bunch, this time at Harvard Bookstore. I don’t like the place so much: there are stacks of bestsellers like in franchises. However, they have an excellent sciences department. Among others, I find a 2002 book on the designing objects by taking in account their full life cycle and a collection of the best papers by Cory Doctorow (Scroogled is missing). The a posteriori paper publishing of texts that have already been disseminated on-line will further develop.

Talk and brainstorming session at the Berkman. We consider organizing an on-line debate between producers and users of knowledge in European universities, and the presidents and other institutional representatives of these universities. The project emerged in connection with the COMMUNIA European network. The idea is to incite universities to make their voice more heard on policy making circles regarding issues that impact access to knowledge. I present the approaches to public debate and the tools debate cartography, text annotation) developed by Sopinspace. We discuss starting points, types of outcomes, examples of similar processes.

Text annotation and comments again, but in a totally different context. I am invited for the Shabbat dinner by an Israeli friend in sabbatical at Harvard. I fear the inescapable discussion on the war in Gaza. I lower my head during some remarks of a cousin of the family that I read as trying to justify the unjustifiable. I question the son of my friend, student in Jewish studies, on the talmudic tradition of text annotation. Comparisons with what I learnt from a Palestinian professor of literary studies on the Arabic methods of annotation in rhetorics. Then, at the end of the dinner, comes the text comment by the head of the family. Which text depends on the calendar. Today it is Exodus, I, 15-19:

15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah,
16 “When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth and observe them on the delivery stool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.”
17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.
18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”
19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”

Here is more or less what my friend says: There are two things that I find interesting. The first is that though Pharaoh has an absolute authority and power, he searches nonetheless to obtain the agreement of people to commit these murders. The second thing that I find interesting is that in such situations, there are individuals who find the courage to refuse, and they are often women.

These are only words, but thanks to them, the door of hope remains half-open.

This post is also available in: French

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