World Gets Smaller

The best conference lunch I've ever had.
The best conference lunch I've ever had.

The world continues to be far too small, as I ran into a former colleague today. “Julie, Julie Posetti?’, I said, looking across at her as we walked up the stairs together, Julie used to work for the ABC in Wollongong, but is now based at the University of Canberra, where she lectures in journalism. “I saw you across the room and thought your face looked familiar. What is it? 12 years. You look so relaxed…” she said in reply over morning tea at the University of Stockholm.

One of the few work-related things I’ve organised for this trip is registration for a conference, “Global and Media Divides”. I’ve registered primarily because it’s a personal interest, and secondarily because there might just be an interesting story or two, or personal contact I could make from attending.

To be honest, today has been a little turgid and I haven’t really heard all that much that differed from what I learned in first year at university. Yes, I know there are different models of development. Yes, I know technology has the capacity to be either a process for good or evil.

Twenty years ago the lecturers would have talked about faxes and satellite television, and now it’s phrases like “mobile phones” and words like “convergence” and “Facebook” they throw into their lectures.

One of the keynote speakers, Jan Nederveen Pieterse, was straight out of first year university political economy. “The old commie”, as I’ve called him in the notes I’ve written, argued there was still a role for “state capitalism with some increased democracy”. And of course he argued, the current economic decline in the United States is evidence of the crisis of capitalism that will inevitably be replaced. Something like that, anyway.

The other keynote speaker, Annabelle Sreberny was a little more interesting in my view. She was willing to admit she didn’t have all the answers, conceded a certain ethnocentrism, and added that she was learning new things all the time.

Unfortunately, neither spoke extensively about the media. They spoke about global divides, and about how those divides are reflected in the media in a very cursory manner, but neither really got into the nuts and bults of how the media increases or ameliorates (now there’s an academic word that’s overused) these divides. Still, I guess that’s the kind of stuff that will be explored in more of the workshops.

As the rest of the day looked a little boring, I left after lunch (roast beef, potatoes, pickled vegetables – very nice), and will go again tomorrow when there are a number of papers which I’m personally very interested in hearing presented.

The popular culture stuff, in particular, looks really interesting. There’s a paper on “new Swedishness in the Swedish media”; one about “NZ Idol” called “The talent song contest in a small country” (should be a hoot); one on instant messenger use amongst teenagers in China; and one on “queer representations in popular television fiction”.

Yes I know this is supposed to be a holiday, but it doesn’t mean I should just be sight-seeing. In contrast to Agnetha Faltskog who once famously sang, “Now I got a mind, but I put it on vacation”, I like to do this kinda stuff. And it’s nice to be able to go along and listen without the associated work pressure.

Still, if there’s someone interesting who is good talent, I’ve got my little recorder. And, of course, the bloke from the Media Report has indicated he would be interested in anything suitable that might come from the conference.

Coming back after lunch I chatted online with Sue for a bit, which was terrific.

It rained for a while this afternoon, which was a bit of a bummer. So I headed to a local internet/print/cafe thingy to get some cards printed. The kind of cards you give out to people in bars, on tours etc, which give them an email contact, a phone contact, and not much more.

And then, as it continued to rain, I headed for somewhere dry. For a while I found a quiet spot under an awning. A Swedish woman walked by and said something along the lines of “you’ve found yourself a nice home there out of the rain”. I was so impressed that I understood what she was saying.

In fact, I’m starting to find it a bit easier to understand without needing to translate in my head. There are many times when it’s all just a big jumble, and I don’t understand a single word, but there are other times when it’s also fairly clear. Like this morning with the media person at the university. She spoke beautiful, clear Swedish, with each word clearly defined. Mostly though, I’m having to try to understand a whole bunch of words joined together, and often shortened and slurred as we do in English.

Late this afternoon, while the rain continued, I popped in to Torget for a glass of wine. I still don’t really understand the Swedish thing of offering you a glass of water with every glass of wine. I’ll have to ask someone to explain it some time, I guess. But I sat there for a while, and was further surrounded by Americans. Eee gad.

Coming back to the hostel, I’ve suddenly found our four-person room with two people in it, has become a four-person room with four people in it. Oh my goodness, I thought to myself. Sabine and Marianne are from Germany and that’s all I know about them at this stage. I’ve introduced myself, said hello, and that’s about it. More tomorrow, undoubtedly.

I’ve also had an email from a mate of Patrick’s who is gonna be in Stockholm next week. “Feel like a beer?”, he writes. He’s gonna be studying in Norway for the next few months. The world just gets smaller, eh?


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