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Hong Kong: new faces, new insights

I am sure every idiot takes this photo from their hotel window, but no matter. Who says I am no idiot anyway?

I love the place! This despite my having the mother of all jetlags. God knows I travel enough long distances and I should know better. Melatonin makes me queasy so I decided not to take any on this trip and see if I could get to sleep by myself. Result: 2 nights of complete sleep deprivation. Last night I did finally manage to sleep, but woke up this morning with a sore throat and a bad headache. So, although there is a really interesting workshop on meaningful media today, organized by newly met colleague Gino Yu, from the Hong Kong Polytech University here, I have decided to stay in my room. I have my paper presentation at the actual TSC conference tomorrow and I need my wits about me – unlike yesterday (I am ashamed to admit), when I was at a one day conference on Social Approaches to Consciousness to which I had been invited by Charles Whitehead to make a presentation. I was completely out of it from fatigue; in fact, at one point it was so bad that I dozed off altogether. Yet even so, I heard some great stuff:

For one thing the presentation by Charles Whitehead himself on anthropological neuroscience. Nevia Dolcini, a psychologist from Italy (with whom I hit it off immediately over a stolen cigarette during one of the breaks :-), spoke on whether the recognition of the “other mind” was innate. Another really great one by Etzel Cardena on emotion and consciousness and also one by David Craik on cultural distortions of the “self” – some good insights into the shape shifter syndrome there. A paper by Robin Zebrowski on Cog, the MIT robot and Merleau-Ponty and then my favorite at the very end by Imants Barušs, in which he discussed the implications of a scientific study (survey) he had conducted on the meanings of the term consciousness, revealing a correlation between IQ levels and how a person’s world view is defined on a scale from materialistic to transcendental values. Seems that the more a person is open to spiritual definitions the more curious and inquisitve/open to experience they seem to be and apparently also their IQ is ever so slightly higher. Not only did I like the contents of his talk but also the delivery of it, which was tongue-in-cheek, funny and mischievous. And indeed, when I got back to my room last night and rushed over to the TSC Ning to befriend all of these lovely new people I was extremely gratified to discover that Dr. Barušs is very kindly introducing us to his “lab-animals” on his photo feed there: A teddy bear, a floppy dog and Peter Rabbit! And then, David Craik also seems to be quite a pro at the game of playful hilarity, when he ended his already brilliant talk with the strict little homily to not to forget for even a nano second that we were nothing but a bunch of uppity apes pretending to be situated above our actual humble primate station in life, painfully apparent nonetheless underneath all our aquired paraphernalia of “culture”. Wonderful!

And then, somewhere in there I stumbled through my own presentation on alpha.tribe and multiple creative identities and was gratified to see that they all seemed to think it was ok. In a gaggle of scientists I was not laughed off the lectern at least… Charles Whitehead even patted me on the back! Felt fabulous, I have to say!

I love these kinds of conferences, where one gets exposed to the output of professions like anthropology and psychology; other points of view, other approaches, giving one new insights and inspirations. I was in Tucson in 2006 at the TSC conference, where I presented a poster together with Yacov. And then I absolutely loved the CC07 conference of course – I hope to God I get in this year also…

So, yes, I am very pleased to be here. I grumble to no end before I leave on any trip and more often than not, unfortunately, I hate the whole thing from one end to the other – can’t wait to get back home. So far Hong Kong and TSC isn’t materializing as one of those experiences. A lot of it does have to do with the contents of the event for which I am here and the city which is the background to the conference is wonderful! Not that I have seen a whole lot of it, mind you. Just a small walk in Kowloon where my hotel is and then the view from my window. But one does get a feel for a place, and this place feels good. My university has an exchange program with HK Polytech and if they ever want me to come over and do something here I will be on the first plane out. In fact, I will try to pick up the nerve and come straight out and ask Gino Yu at some point if he would like me to give a workshop on SL or something like that.

Meanwhile, my old student Sertaç and his wife Melike who live here will be taking me sightseeing later today, so now I need to rest a bit before I set out since despite all positive feelings, I still feel pretty lousy physically…


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