15 Feb 2012
Last month, Karim, Chris, George, Tom, and I were lucky to spend a week at Cambridge University in the company of our Nurani project team colleagues Zainab Balogun, Rim Hassan, Hilary Marlow, and Mike Higton. Special thanks to David Ford for welcoming the Meedan team to Cambridge again. Regular readers of this blog (Hi, Mom) will recall that the second phase of our Nurani project continues with generous support from the British Research Council - as administered by the EPSRC.
The EPSCR award promotes 'research in the wild' on projects of high impact social value. The wilderness we are exploring with the Cambridge team is digital. In short, we are attempting to take an offline practice called Scriptural Reasoning (SR) - which brings together a multi-faith group of scholars to contemplate and discuss two or three passages from the primary Abrahamic texts - into a distributed, digital, and multi-lingual setting. The outputs of this project are two instances of the cross-lingual discussion platform we developed for Cambridge last year (with the support of Coexist Foundation); a multi-lingual library of primary texts; and, usability testing and reporting as a global set of scholars start into this digital wilderness. We can imagine in ten years time having a view through the primary texts to the conversations and annotations that represent the views, questions, insights, and efforts of a multi-lingual set of scholars contemplating their faiths and texts in a digital setting.
It was wonderful to spend an afternoon with scholars from Cambridge in an actual SR session. Thanks to Mike and Rim for inviting us to join. Our takeaways included: there was more laughing than we expected (this being quite challenging to model in a digital/emoticon setting); and, there was more time spent on etymological and linguistic questions (this being a nice opening for a multi-lingual and digital).
Must also note that we had a great time at Caroline Hartnell's @alliance Arab Spring philanthropy meeting in London - very impressed with Salah Kalil's vision for the Alexandria Trust - OERs in Arabic for Social Sciences. Also wonderful to have met the inspiring Jerry White - Nobel Laureate, Land Mine activist, and M Phil student at Cambridge. Also - great to have spent a morning with John Norman at his CARET lab looking at the future of educational technology and thinking about ways Meedan might contribute to his seriously great work on Sakai OAE.
In the spirit of Meedan's commitment to contextualization and deep usability studies, I challenged the team to put some serious attention to investigating the pub culture in Cambridge. Notably, abu Weyman showed some serious chops on the penny whistle in a pub setting where the musicians outnumbered the patrons.