A European tour of London

Someone has contacted our office and asked for some ideas of European-themed monuments etc to visit with his class when they come on a trip to London in February. I posted about it on Facebook and Twitter and got a few ideas. Luckily, just at that point our work servers crashed, so that gave me some time to do a bit of digging about and put the ideas together on a Google map.

So here it is and if you have any other suggestions, particularly quirky ones like the Savoy entry, then please leave a comment and I’ll update the map.

Time for something of a change

Something very exciting is happening to me in a few month’s time. I will be packing up a couple of bags and moving to Melbourne for 18 months. I’ve decided to go back to university, and have been accepted on to the Executive Master of Arts at Melbourne, a leadership-type programme targeted at people in mid-career, and with a strong communication component, which I’m sure you can imagine appealed to me very strongly! I think a new perspective on the world, from a part of it that I don’t know very well, is just what I need at the moment.

I’ll definitely keep blogging, and hopefully will have more time and more space in my head to devote to it. I’m sure I’ll be interested in the same kind of issues on the other side of the world: tech, engagement with politics, use of social media especially for the public sector, EU stuff and foreign languages.

I’ve still got a few months in London, culminating in the Citizens’ Dialogue event on 10 February, so you’ll still be hearing from me here for a while yet.

Is eBay a force for good?

I took part in the @EurVoice Twitter event yesterday, which was a most enjoyable and interesting experience. One question that came up was ‘is eBay a force for good’ and I replied that the answer to that was too complex for 140 characters, but that I would try to blog on it. So here we go.

We’re at a moment of major change at the moment. Our ways of working, communicating, interacting are changing almost on a daily basis. Even in the 6 years since I did the Eisenhower Fellowship, communication technologies have been revolutionised by smartphones and tablets. Traditional media is being disrupted by the ability of people to talk to each other directly. The upshot of this is that there is a lot of focus on tools and platforms, and moral values are ascribed to them.

My position is that these tools and platforms are morally neutral. They are only as good or bad as the people that use them and own them. Twitter may have a lot of people using it to be horrendously sexist and misogynist, but that’s because those people are those things. Twitter is also used by the victims to bring this behaviour into the daylight, rather than hiding in the shadows as it has done for years. This isn’t even about technology. A stick can be used to help an injured person walk, or to bash someone over the head. It’s about the user, not the tool.

This is of course a generalisation – there are some tools that are specifically designed to harm and should be dealt with in that light (guns, say, or spyware). And of course the people that run the tools and platforms have their own obligations – to be open with us about what they do with our information, to make sure that they put rules in place to limit abuses, to respect the laws that apply to normal behaviour on their platforms.

So is eBay a force for good? If used by good people to do good things, of course. Is it inherently a force for good? No. But neither is it inherently a force for bad.

Get it off your chest

I am currently working on an event to be held in February of next year called a Citizens’ Dialogue. Vice-President Reding will hold a ‘town-hall’ style debate, at which she will answer questions people have about EU action in three areas – responding to the economic crisis, your EU rights and the EU of the future. In order to make the process as inclusive as possible, we have launched an online dialogue, in association with Delib and Democratic Society, for people to submit concrete ideas. Two themes are live at the moment and the third will go live on 16 December.

This is a chance to make your voice heard. We can’t guarantee that everything suggested will happen. But this is a way of feeding ideas in that will be put in front of the people that are making the decisions.

Over for another year

Many thanks to everyone that took part in yesterday’s Multilingual Blogging Day, also known as #babel13. More than 30 blogs took part, ranging from cabbage and cake recipes and sewing, to a multilingual test on your language profile via life stories and a list of the most useful words.

There was some great tweeting as well



and many, many others.

All the blogposts I found are on my new blog Facebook page. Do let me know if there are any I have overlooked.

La vie et les villes multilingue(s)

Pour moi, une grande joie de ma vie à Londres, c’est d’habiter une ville multilingue. Juste ce matin, pendant mon voyage quotidien au bureau, j’ai entendu 5 ou 6 langues autre que l’anglais, dans le Tube et dans les rues. Les langues changent d’un quartier à l’autre – dans le sud-est de Londres, j’entendais beaucoup de langues africaines et il y a aussi des communautés chinoise et vietnamienne là-bas. A Chiswick, c’est plutôt des langues européens. Cette carte montre très clairement la diversité des langues à Londres et (ce que je trouve le plus intéressant) les regroupe par “famille”.

A partir de mars de l’année prochaine, je vais me retrouver dans une autre grande ville avec une diversité linguistique, c’est-à-dire Melbourne, Australie. C’est assez connu que Melbourne héberge des grandes populations d’origine grecque et italienne. Mais selon ces chiffres, presqu’un tiers de la population de la ville parle une langue autre que l’anglais chez eux. Certes c’est en grande mesure du aux étudiants étrangers, mais pour moi, c’est une grande avantage de Melbourne face aux autres villes australiennes. Vive la diversité linguistique!