A Story Breeds A Story

While I was in Malaysia, I had the honor to meet and talk to quite a bit with Professor Emeritus Howard McKaughan. We talked a about his linguistics based work in Mexico, the Philippines, and in Malaysia. He can tell stories, interesting stories.

Howard - Story Telling

Howard - Story Telling

There is something unique about his generation of Americans (currently in their 80s and 90s). It is their ability to craft and tell stories. I feel that this is a cultural point I don’t have. It could be because I am third culture, or because I talk to much of the macro-details, or it might simply be because I am long winded.
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This October, when Becky and I went to Malaysia she insisted that I try durian. Having never been to Asia before one might think that I would have a hard time describing this “Asian fruit”.

Picture of Durian from Wikipedia

Durio Kutej

Well I did try it. Some of the guys I was with were even very fond of it.

Here is my summary:

  • Is kinda structured like a pomegranate on the inside but has pointy things on the outside
  • Smells like Liquid Augmentin
  • Feels on the tongue like over steamed cauliflower
  • Throws like a hand grenade
  • And it stays on your breath for two days.

Some Notes on Using FLEx

During the workshop there was ample opportunity to observe how 80 people interact with the same piece of software.

About 80 people

About 80 people attending the workshop.

Of the 80 participants no more than 10 were from the university. While I was presenting my session I asked some technology owned questions and I found out that: Continue reading

Teaching FLEx in Malaysia

In October, Becky and I were invited to present FLEx at the Universiti of Malaysia, Sabah as part of a workshop for compiling native dictionaries and managing cultural data. I learned a lot about dictionaries, about using FLEx to organize dictionary data, about Webonary and about Malaysia.

One of the things this workshop helped me to clearly articulate was that there are four knowledge content areas which dictionary creators need:

  1. Knowledge about Theoretical Linguistics to understand the language being described and the categories possible in the dictionary.
  2. Knowledge about the language being analyzed and described so that they can apply the appropriate options available to this situation.
  3. Knowledge about how to manage the editorial process for the dictionary (including entry submission).
  4. Knowledge about how to use the software to implement the editorial process.

This workshop’s focus was only on the software used to implement the editorial process (mostly the data collection part of the editorial process). So in some ways it felt like we weren’t giving the participants all the tools they will need (or even showing them all the tools they will need). But we had to realize that it is not our responsibility to give them all the tools they need or to expose them to these issues. They need local contacts for that. Regardless of these issue we were still ecstatic that there were about 80 people in attendance.

About 80 people

Opening Cerimonies at UMS

Becky took most of the sessions on FLEx. She presented on using FLEx as a tool for collecting words and various things about words. We covered several input methods and features in the application.

Becky talking about FLEx as a tool

Becky helping people doing exercises

I presented a session on explaining how to get data out of FLEx. We talked about putting dictionary data on the web and turning it into .epub files.

Hugh presenting on getting things out of FLEx

I think one of the more interesting things that I learned was about expectations, culture and photographs.
Many people wanted photographs with us (or of us). This is not totally unexpected. What was unexpected was that rather than taking one photo and sharing it (passing it around), everyone wanted their own picture. Not their own picture with us but a picture with us made with their own camera! It was in that moment that I had an epiphany. Having training in Language Documentation I am aware and concerned with rules and laws concerning privacy. In the U.S. when dealing with issues of informed consent and intellectual property, it can not be assumed that if I want to take a picture of you that I, the owner of the camera, own the picture. Furthermore it can not be assumed that I have the right to do with that picture as I please. i.e. Post it to the internet. This may be in part that our laws are based on our semantics. It may be in part our culture. But there I realized that if the photo is taken with your camera you own the photo. You can do with it as you please. The asking for permission is that you have asked for permission to take the photo.

Taking our picture

Taking their picture, while they were taking a picture of us. Since he who owns the camera, owns the picture...

I took this last picture at about the same time I had the epiphany.