Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Institution is the last resort of a scoundrel.

On the second day at the CUTE center in NUS (National University Singapore), we had another hectic and yet deeply enjoyable time. In the morning, we discussed in the session of Society 2.0, chaired by Penny Low, Member of the Singaporean Parliament. Adrian Cheok and Masa Inakage joined in, adding stimulation to the already heated and heating debate.

In the afternoon, we had a public talk on the NUS campus. The groove was fantastic. Thomas Crampton, social media guru specializing in China and Asia, (Thomas Crampton's webpage) started his talk capturing in video the dialogue with Yair Goldfinger, founder of ICQ. When I asked Thomas what he was doing, he said he was just shooting for youtube. A speaker on stage capturing his own talk for youtube! That was just the right atmosphere for me.

Talks by Yair Goldfinger and Penny Low followed. It was my turn to give a talk. I discussed how the evolving contingency structures on the net was nurturing humanity 2.0. Woo Woontack then gave an excellent talk on augmented reality.

In the Panel discussion that followed, I said something that I would only say when I felt certain that the audience was the right kind and the reception would be electric. I said, just as in the famous quote by Samuel Johnson "Patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel", nowadays "Institution is the last resort of a scoundrel." Thomas Crampton jibed in, saying that universities should aim to be open to the public as much as possible, as it was the mission of the universities to spread knowledge to the wider society.
There was a memorable response from a man in the auditorium who said that he was living on an island which was 12 hours ride on boat from Singapore, and how he was accessing all the academic information thanks to the internet.

Before we knew it, it was twilight. We had a wonderful party on the NUS campus. At such times, I have a habit of strolling away from the people. When I was admiring the Singaporean sunset alone, I noticed there was another soul looking in that direction. It was none other than Masa Inakage.

At these moments one feels that two souls are resonating. Masa was admiring the same natural wonder with me, without knowing that I was hiding myself in the darkness of night.

Penny Low, M.P, in the morning session.

Adrian Cheok and Masa Inakage

Thomas Crampton capturing his own talk for youtube. Yair Goldfinger is being interviewed.

The sunset on the NUS campus.

Masa Inakage admiring the same sunset.


Moonflower said...

What a stimulating session and a public talk !
If a debate grows heated right, the participants both speakers and the audience will be thrown into the unkown land and show their cultivated fruits freely.

I imagine the Singaporean sunset absorbed the retained heat from the two Japanese nice guys and wrapped them with a soft pall of darkness gradually.
I would like to heartily applaud their away fighting.

砂山鉄夫(Tetsu Sunayama) said...

What a beautiful afterglow of a sunset! I love the sunset too. We, in this region,enjoy watching the sunset over the edge of the horizon of the ocean.

It's an instant, but I sometimes feel it's eternal.

Greg said...

We have to consider the role, power, and impact of all institutions, not just universities. Besides spreading knowledge (and not just information), they can be centers and models for nurturing critical discourse, cultural works, and scholarship. It sounds like you are enjoying such a place and time in Singapore. Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

Thomas Crampton said...


It was great to meet you and I really appreciated many of your ideas.

I will never forget that intervention from the gentleman who lives on an island off the shore of Singapore.

He was incredibly eloquent and had nothing to do with NUS or academia.

I wonder if I will ever meet him again. (All I know is that he comes from Costa Rica and builds web pages)


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