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Sense-making & Lithuania

September 5, 2013

My first time in Kaunas but not my first time in Lithuania.   I was here to speak at the ECKM conference.  I have been on the committee for this for a decade or more I think and keynoted at at earlier event in Dublin so it was good to be back.  OK getting here yesterday was not fun.   I ate something that disagreed with me and had a difficult two hour drive to Gatwick followed by a highly stressed flight on Ryan Air; mind you anything involving Ryan Air is stressed anyway but feeling you want to be sick all the time just makes it worse.  So when I was picked up at the airport all I wanted was to be taken to my hotel and left to suffer.  My hosts kindly did this and I collapsed into bed without even unpacking.

By the morning I was recovered but now in trouble!  I had taken on a topic that required some reading and had planned to work on it during the flight and then in the evening.  I now had about half an hour before I needed to leave for the conference venue so I hastily turned to Browning and Boudès paper comparing my approach to sense-making with that of Karl Weick.  I was flattered when this paper came out as I have nothing like the reputation of Karl.  Brenda Dervin (whose work influenced me more) however thinks there are three main schools of thought here.  Hers, Karl’s and that linked to myself, Klein and a few others.   The nice thing about the paper is that it points our differences and similarities.   So in my talk I picked up on basic complexity theory, narrative research and then focused on what was in common at the end.   I won’t repeat the material here as you can read the paper (but replace science fiction with science when you get to that point) and also listen to the podcast and see the slides.

I had a really nice walk through the pedestrian centre of Kaunas and I want to go back!  It was a really interesting place and my visit was only fleeting.   I got to the conference centre to discover panic as a student had been delegated to escort me and he was still back at the hotel wondering where I was.  I then discovered that instead of the half hour I had planned to play with the slides I only had five minutes so the adrenaline cut in!  It was well received and I had meetings afterwards with the medical schools and the Dean to talk about future work together so I expect to be back soon

Following a good al fresco lunch (near the site of the opening picture) in good company and a quick press briefing I was move to another faculty members car for the drive to Vilnius Airport.  The conversation ranged over several topics but I was struck by the small nation similarities of Lithuania and Wales.  In particular language suppression   The introduction of public education to Wales came with a high price, namely the insistence that English, the language of Empire, should be the medium.  We also have the notoriety of the Welsh Knot and other techniques.  One of the results of that was a terrible fake ‘posh English’ accent that my Grandmother felt she should assume with strangers.  Lithuania I discovered had seen to formal attempts to exterminate its language and one de facto, which it had survived while other regional languages had not.

The desire to eliminate other people’s language and to homogenise their culture to your own in their best interests are common characteristics of Empire.  It is the well meaning well you really want to be like us don’t you aspect which most depresses me.  You see it in American beliefs that the world wants democracy in the US’s particular and peculiar form as much as it did in those English educationalists, the French (still) in respect of Briton and other minority languages and so on.  Strength should rest in learning to live with the diversity of how other people are, rather than an intolerance of anything other. 

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