Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Istanbul: Qualitative Computing: Thinking about what it means to be international

Turkish wall hangingImage by ali eminov via FlickrI continue to think about the great experience of the Qualitative Computing conference in Istanbul.  The memories linger on...

One thing I particularly liked was that it was a small conference, and this gave me the chance to hear the papers of everyone who participated.  This meant that everyone was talking and thinking about the same material, and there was  a common curriculum I guess you could say.  Stronger or weaker papers, we all had the experience of hearing and responding to them, and this pushed us further in our discussions, I think, then if we had only gone to sessions as we chose them--cheery picking what we thought we would like. 

But in those sessions I found that "internationalism" emerged in a variety of ways.  First, there were participants from a range of countries (I was the only U.S. citizen there)...and each presentation couldn't help but give a flavor of that culture/language/context when we spoke.  This flavor was also present in the questions we asked and the information we used as evidence in our discussions.  It comes with us regardless of how neutral we think we are in our presentation. 

For instance, I was surprised at how much these discussions about qualitative computing were also teaching me about higher education in different contexts.  Over lunch or dinner, in the bus to and from the conference, we were also sharing about the ways our different positions were organized, how disciplines were represented in different political contexts, etc.  All of this was hugely international in content. 

And, of course, the studies were conducted in specific locations--a land use discussion in Barcelona, churches in Brazil, immigration in Mexico, nursing care in Germany.  Each paper presented a case that was embedded in a different context that was international in its full scope.

I greatly valued this component of the conference.  I know that the conference planners had sought to make this a truly international gathering...and I think it was, and in more than name only.  There was a real sense of making and doing together across a broad range of settings.  I think this was a very successful component of the conference.  I will certainly carry what I learned here to other things I want to do that would come under the label of international.

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