Posted tagged ‘travel’

A world in isolation, or a world networked?

July 31, 2011

While waiting in Newark airport for my flight back to Europe, I got into conversation with two academics from Europe (one from Germany, the other from England) who had both attended a conference in New York. It was part of a regular series of conferences in their subject area, and they usually take place in the United States. Until about five years ago roughly a third of those attending would be from outside America.

This year, they told me, the non-US attendance was less than 10 per cent, and they themselves were unlikely to come again. This, they explained, was not because the conference had no value, but because it was becoming unaffordable, because they were under pressure not to increase their carbon footprint, and because informal access to people was now so easy online that a physical presence at a conference was seen by some of those holding travel budgets to be superfluous.

Is this a trend we should want to encourage? Is the era of scholarly networking in each other’s presence now at an end? Does it matter, in the new online world?

For myself, I am an enthusiast for the advantages of the internet, but I shall be very disappointed if the concept of the international academic encounter is now a thing of the past. I think something would be lost.

The charms of Dublin airport

July 2, 2011

These days very few would regard airline travel as a pleasure; it is something we must put up with as we seek to get from A to B. But if there isn’t always very much to make the journey enjoyable, airports and airlines do sometimes exhibit interesting oddities.

Here are two from Dublin airport. Alone of all airports in the world as far as I can see, Dublin airport makes passengers hand over umbrellas at security screening so that these can be quickly and dramatically opened and shut. What on earth for? What unacceptable security risk do umbrellas pose?

Secondly, here’s something I really like. As you approach the baggage hall in Terminal 1, there are signs advising passengers what to do in preparation for the passport control desks that they must negotiate first. The curiosity is, these warning signs are exclusively in Portuguese, and no other language is used, not even English. I guess I was unaware that there is a large (or actually, any) Portuguese community in Ireland. Or maybe these signs are there in anticipation of the rush of Portuguese politicians and officials likely to come to Ireland to see how to (or how not to) manage a national bankruptcy.

‘Desfrutar o fim de semana’, as they say in Dublin airport.