Travel Gazette 1: Ankara & Istanbul

I’m still near to the beginning of a five-week research trip through Europe – I get home at just about the end of October. I’m going to do a series of gazettey blog posts, both as an aide-memoire and a way of sharing my trip given the patchiness of internet connectivity that goes hand in hand with travel (and hence the inability to tweet incessantly!).

So, John Hartley and I spent most of last week in Turkey at the very kind invitation of our colleague and PhD student Burcu Simsek, who is both a member of staff at Hacettepe University in Ankara, and a CCI doctoral candidate. Thanks to Burcu we had an excellent tour of both of Hacettepe’s campuses, as well as all the must-see tourist stuff: museums, the older bazaar streets, and plenty of excellent food.

The main purpose of the trip for John and me was to do one keynote presentation each, as well as a joint panel on Digital Storytelling, at Bilism 2010, a big national IT conference. My presentation on YouTube discussed the ways we might use YouTube’s 5 year history and its competing futures to think about current controversies concerning the future of the Internet more broadly – tensions between various nationally-specific ideologies of ‘openness’, in tension with equally different norms of ‘control’ was what I tried to boil it down to. Of course giving a paper on the popular uses of YouTube in a country where it is currently blocked by official legislation was slightly surreal, but given the number of people who were already familiar with Charlie Bit my Finger and Susan Boyle, (and how easy it is to bypass the block), I think it went OK.

John, Burcu and I also presented a joint panel on Digital Storytelling, which Burcu has introduced to Turkey via a very productive partnership between Hacettepe University and the womens’ organisation Amargi. The digital storytelling workshops she has run so far are also the primary fieldwork component of Burcu’s PhD on digital storytelling and womens’ participation in the Turkish public sphere. In fact the panel was kind of the first public launch of digital storytelling in the Turkish context, so it was pretty exciting to be part of that.

At the end of the conference all three of us flew to Istanbul for the most intensive day of touristing I have ever experienced, including among many other things 2 hours of awe and wonderment at the Hagia Sofia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (video below), and the Sultan’s Palace.

After all that (and of course more food), we survived what has to be the world’s best example of Extreme Shopping: the Grand Bazaar; and finally, a brief dip into Istanbul’s extremely lively nightlife, finishing up with a gig (part of the Akbank Jazz Festival) at Babylon, a pretty important insitution in the local music industry, with its own magazine, record label, and so on.

Next up: Urbino, where I’m writing this!

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