Saturday, 15 November 2008

News Item on Leeds Met Website

On Friday, my faculty Innovation North at Leeds Met posted a news item on the web site, giving a brief summary of the report I had sent last week.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Travelling Back

Friday morning we leave at 6:30 from Vallabh Vidyanagar. The plane from Ahmadabad leaves about 25 minutes earlier than scheduled. At the stopover in Dubai, the non-vegetarians among us enjoy a juicy burger at Burger King. Then the last flight leg, to Manchester. Resting and enjoying the in-flight entertainment system.

It has been an amazing time here in India, and we all are now digesting our impressions. We have collected data, Brian has created paintings and poems, we recorded interviews, and we established links for future collaboration. In my view, the project has been a great success.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Visiting Ahmadabad

On Thursday, we were invited to a private residence in Ahmadabad for lunch. The person who was inviting us, had attended the workshop in the week before at the Creativity Conference. She would expect us for lunch with her family. Jane, myself, and Asha decided to join Brian and go to Ahmadabad. First, we took one of those motor rikshas from Vallabh Vidyanagar to the Anand train station. There, we encountered a long line at the ticket counter - it seemed impossible to get a ticket for the next train in time, as it was scheduled to leave in about 10 minutes. But Asha knew where to get tickets, at a dealer outside of the station. The ride from Anand to Ahmadabad cost 15 Rupies per person - approximately 20 Pence.

The train was quite full, people sitting on the ground, but we got seats together. People wanted to get their picture taken with us. The ride took two hours. I was able to record with the in-ear microphones the acoustic environment, for later mixing it to video recordings.

The train arrived in time, and our hosts were picking us up at the airport and driving us to their home. We got to know their family members and had a nice time. A brief moment of panic occurred when a monkey was seen in the kitchen...
Then Jane and I went to the old town of Ahmadabad, to see a few parts of the old architecture of the historic centre. A very densely populated area, with interesting buildings and wood carvings.

We met Brian and Asha around 3:45 at the bus station, from where we took a bus back to Anand. A bus ticket cost 45 Rupies. The ride on this Express bus also took two hours, through several towns and countryside. In Anand again a motor riksha, back to the guest house.

In the evening we invited our host from the University to a good-bye dinner at a restaurant.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Driving through Southern Gujarat

Today on Wednesday the part of our group which has gone further south to Surat, visits an educational institution at the outskirts of the city. We stayed in a hotel, as guests of this instutution, and visit its nearby campus to talk to the director and the president. We will talk with our home institutions about the possibility to establish links, for the benefit of both.

We have a brief tour through the city of Surat, which is a centre of diamond publishing and textile industry. Then back towards north, onto a 5 hours drive. The road is being widened and converted into a motorway, but the ongoing construction causes congestion and a bumpy ride. We admire and at the same time are scared by the capabilities of our driver, who appears to drive in a suicidal way, on the wrong side of motorways, between oncoming traffic, constantly honking and taking the right of way of other traffic participants. But after 5 hours we arrive safely at the guest house in Vallabh Vidyanagar.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Workshop at Narmada River

On Tuesday we leave early in the morning for a several hours drive south, towards the Narmada river. On our way we see many groups of pilgrims who walk with drums and costumes towards shrines.

Our base is a hospital near the river Narmada. It is sponsored by a charity and provides free health care for the surrounding tribes. The area is very rural: the houses are built of mud, and it looks exactly like in the tribal museum that we have visited in Ahmadabad. It seems that several time epochs live here simultaneously in parallel: out current 21st century, with cars and mobile internet, and the century-old rural agricultural traditions of the local population.

The river looks very peaceful and quiet. The dam further upstream regulates the water and releases only a very small trickle. This has changed the whole river surroundings over the past years.

The workshop encourages the participants to reflections, writings, and paintings. A few students from the Sardar Patel University who have accompanied us, bring back a few paintings which they did while being in the river bed.

Unfortunately, the Tata Indicom mobile network appears not to be present here in the countryside, so I cannot provide a live update.

We then drive further to the large Narmada dam, which has been planned since the 1950 but has only recently been completed in its first stage. Further work is in progress, as the dam height is being increased further. Is an impressive structure, and the echoes from the people are divided: some say that it is a strong interference with nature, others praise its benefits for the population.

We drive towards a few visitor points with nice views onto the dam and the regulated water flows.

At the base camp in the hospital, our group divides: most of us return back to Vallabh Vidyanagar, but three of us (including me) drive further towards Surat, where we will meet with a local educational institution which seeks links to UK educational institutions.

Monday, 10 November 2008

International Reflection on Leeds Met Website

Today appeared on the Leeds Met website the International Reflection which I wrote last week. Upon my return to Leeds Met, I will brief interested parties on how to proceed further with this project, to contribute towards its aims and objectives.

Testing Immersive Recording

On this day after the conference yesterday, each of us feels relaxed, as this milestone of mutual exchange between two continents has been successfully completed. We began further project planning, for the time after our return to the UK. Important is to keep the momentum going. Our group had so far worked very well together, we complemented each other quite well, and achieved remarkable output: simultaneously in the two regions (Yorkshire, Gujarat) several poems were written, paintints were produced, and technology was used to bridge the two locations. I had produced GPS tracks of all our activities which will be placed on Google Maps / Earth after our return to the UK, and I had documented our project with photographs and video recordings. These materials will be used by our Leeds Met students to produce documentary material for publicising the project output.

Now is the opportunity to pursue an activity which is unique to this project and pushes into a new dimension: to use immersive recording for the purpose of capturing an individual experience. I put my head-worn camera on, use the in-ear microphones, and drive again to the Vadtal temple complex. I do not get any more stares than usual - in this rural community there are rarely any Westerners seen. So my somewhat "technological" appearance does not seem to appear any stranger than the mere fact that I as a visitor from Europe are here in this region.

I record at the Garden of Knowledge and at the Vadtal Temple complex. Then, back in Vallabh Vidyanagar there is a Youth Festival, with competitions of universities in folk dancing. A colorful procession moves through the town, with the various university teams performing dances and music. A great opportunity for my immersive experience: I capture simultaneously with three devices: head-worn camera, in-ear microphone for surround head-related sound, and a hand-held HD video camera for a conventional documentation.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Online Conference between Yorkshire and Gujarat

Today's main event was the preparation and conduction of an actual live link between Yorkshire and Gujarat. In the morning, we began to prepare the agenda and the material which we would present. This would be some of the material which had been prepared in the past days, during the workshop and the data collection.

It was not clear if the online link would work. A fallback option would be just a txt chat on Skype or Google, but we were interested in testing video and audio links as well. We transmitted all relevant material to the Google group which had been set up for this project, so that our counterpart in Yorkshire would have access to the material also offline.

But it turned out quite well. We sat in the conference room of the H M Patel Institute and linked to our group in Castleford via Skype. The video worked more or less ok, but it took bandwidth away form the audio. So in some instances we had to shut it down. A few poems were recited from both sides, paintings and concepts were exchanged, and the technology aspect in this project was highlighted. We presented a summary of the interviews with the people who were affected by the river changes at the Sabarmati river, and the group in Castleford presented the concept of a future city with a low environmental impact.

Overall an event that went very well!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Activities around Vallabh Vidyanagar

On Saturday morning our group visits the painter Kanu (Kanaiyalal) Patel in this studio. He presents each of us with a gift: a small booklet with poems and a printed collection of some of his works, under the title "Masks".

In the afternoon we visit the Sardar Patel memorial, which is towards west of Vallabh Vidyanagar. It is in a large well maintained park, with palm trees and a large fountain in the centre. The memorial itself is a kind of conference center, devoted to explaining about the life of Sardar Patel who was a colleague of Mahatma Gandhi during the time of India becoming independent.

Asha also guides us to a nearby temple with a peaceful atmosphere. As we continue a bit further, we reach a small town, and we drive to the center. There is a central court, with many people there in a festive atmosphere. This is the Vadtal temple.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Second Day in Ahmedabad

In the morning we are invited to attend the 11:00 prayer session in the prayer hall. Since there is a bit of time, I am using this opportunity to set up my head-worn in-ear microphones and record some of the street sounds, simultaneously with the HD camera. As the sound recording on the mic input of the video camera does not appear to work very well - too high sound level, without any manual override control -, I record the audio separately onto a digital recorder. It can later be synchronised to the video.

At 11:00 the students move into the hall and take a seat on the floor. Brian, Falguni, Adam, and myself are taking a seat in the front. Then we are invited to say a few words to the approximately 300 students who are present. First, Falguni introduces the rivers project. Then I talk about creative technology. I am equipped with all my gear, looking slightly awkward among all those simplicity and the emphasis on manual labor. I make a point of explaining that I use this technology for linking people and worlds. and for sharing individual experiences. Then Brian makes the concluding remarks. All speeches including the preceeding prayer were recorded on my in-ear microphones - I will publish this recording soon after transferring it to the PC.

Afterwards we visit the marvelous tribal museum on the campus. It seems not to be well visited, as we appear to be the only visitors. But it offers a very interesting insight into the different tribes and their culture. These tribes still are well functioning in the India countryside.

The women in our group visit SEWA in the afternoon, while Brian, Adam, and myself return back to Vallabh Vidyanagar. On our way back we stop at a famous mosque, where Adam has the opportunity to participate in the Friday prayers. Crossing the street is quite an adventure, as the following video shows.

In the evening we enjoy a nice dinner in the private home of Sunil Shah, who had helped me so much with getting the mobile internet connection. His wife cooked excellent dishes, combining the taste and spices of India with some of the European cooking traditions (e.g. chips).

Thursday, 6 November 2008

First Day in Ahmadabad

On Thursday morning, our group left with two cars from the university in Vallabh Vadyanagar to Ahmedabad. Our first stop was the Gujarat Vidyapith (Vidyapith, a sanskrit-turned-Gujarati word means a University; the university was founded in 1920 by Mahatma Gandhi), where we were welcomed by the VC Sudarshan Iyengar. He explained to us the significance of this university, which follows strongly Gandhi's rules for simple life and rural revitalisation. Technology is seen here as something not very possitive, just barely a necessary evil for some of the communication needs.

We move into our rooms in the guest house. The rooms are designed to host two people each, and we are asked if we would mind that. However, as we Westerners cherish our private sphere around us, we are then offered each an individual room.

We drive to the Gandhi Ashram at the bank of the river Sabarmati. There are Gandhi's house and a museum devoted to his life and work. At the river, there is a lot of construction going on: large concrete slabs are erected at the river banks, and some structures indicate that this river would be converted into a flood-controlled long lake.

Here now, our actual work regarding this project begins. These days before were very fruitful for networking and engaging with the people at the Anand University, but now we are conducting our actual project work. A workshop is held with poetry readings about the river. The participants should write something about the river which then is shared. Further, a translation workshop is held, highlighting the difficulties of translating Gujarati into English and vice versa. My role here was to record some of the activities for our project documentation.

A very interesting part of this activity is the conduction of interviews with people who are somewhat affected by the river and its transformation. We meet an elderly person who defends the project, saying it will bring water regulation and is beneficial to all citizens. But there are also sceptics who argue that this work destroys the coherence of the river with its banks and the surroundings.

In the afternoon we visit a woman who is working for the organisation darshan. They create street performances about critical issues, as they have been banned form performing in regular theatres. One issue which they have addressed in the past is the violence which had erupted between Muslims and Hindu in 2002 and the following years.

Live from the Sabarmati River, Ahmedabad!

We are right now at the banks of the Sabarmati River, at the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad. We just held a workshop about poetry and the river Sabarmati, and now we are conducting interviews with people whose lives have been in some way influenced by the river.

Earlier today we stopped at Gujarat Vidyapith where we were hosted by the VC. We will stay the night there in the guest quarters.

This live blog update is possible because of our mobile internet connection. The new Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 comes quite handy now, to edit and collect data on the outdoors.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Fourth Day in India

The activities during the first three days were:
- planning the week,
- settling into the accommodation,
- meeting Vice Chancellor of Sardar Patel University, Dr. B.G. Patel,
- giving a keynote address at the conference "Creativity and Literature" (Brian Lewis),
- organising a workshop on creative writing (Beccy Stirrup and Jenny Marsden),
- giving individual presentations about our work and about creativity in general (Jane Weatherby, Ruth Dass, myself).

Today we visited two other faculties:
- the Faculty of Arts who are hosted in a very interesting contemporary building
- the Faculty of Business, Department of Tourism, where we received a nice Gujarati meals prepared in the restaurant of this institute.

We further discussed the plans for the next two days, as we will head out to the river Sabarmati, to hold workshops and conduct interviews.

I will then for the first time test recording of video and audio with the immersive equipment, which is head-worn and can provide a subjective capture of the experience of the wearer of this equipment.

Thanks to our friendly hosts, especially to Sunil Shah, we do have now internet: we purchased an online connection through a special USB wireless modem, through the name of one of the University employees. This allows us now to have internet during the whole rest of our stay. However, the connection is quite slow, and we do only have a limited number of minutes available - which means that we need to economise on the usage.

Nevertheless, I used this connection today in the evening, to upload pictures to Flickr and to report back to our colleagues in Yorkshire.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Conference "Creativity and Literature"

The conference "Creativity and Literature" which is held here at the Sardar Patel University, Vallabh Vidyanagar, at the H.M.Patel Institute of English Training & Research, 3.-4.November, fits very well with our theme of using the arts to create awareness, and we decide to actively participate in this conference. Beccy and Jenny give a workshop on creative writing, Brian gives a poetry reading on Monday evening at the poets' meet, and the rest of us (Ruth, Jane, and myself) each give a presentation on Tuesday morning, about our work our institutions, and our vision regarding creativity. I mention the strong links of Leeds Met with India (Bollywood, Gandhi Hall), and the students applaud enthusiastically, especially since the province of Gujarat is the home of Gandhi. My presentation is somewhat ad-hoc, as I was not sure what the audience would expect. These are students of English Literature, with the ambition to become writers and teachers. So I twist my presentation towards creativity, looking at technology to aid human creativity, as well as being a bit provocative and point to artificial creativity, with an example of the "Cybernetic Poet" who might eventually replace human poets like Brian. (Just kidding of course).

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Arrival in Anand

The travel on Emirate Airways went well. Some of us could get a bit of sleep, others were reading ("Cultureshock", as a preparation for the experiences in India), others were enjoying the selection 100s of video-on-demand movies. We arrived in the morning, 8:30 local time. The driver from the university was already there, and we squeezed into the Toyota: 6 passengers and one driver, on two seat rows.

After a drive of 90 minutes on a motorway, sometimes shared with pedestrians, lots of moped drivers, and sometimes herds of cows, we arrive in Anand, a town about 100km SE of Ahmedabad. We will stay at the guest house of the Sardar Patel University in Vallabh Vidyanagar.

After a brief break, we have a meeting at the university with our hosts Dr. Rajendrasinh Jadeja, Director of the H M Patel Institute, and Dr. Falguni Bharateeya, Head of the English Department, where the program for the next days is being discussed. Our organisational contact is Asha Makhecha (from the Faculty of Business) who had been setting up the meetings, and who showed us around so that we would find our way here in Vallabh Vidyanagar. It turns out that on Monday and Tuesday there is a conference held at the university: "Creativity and Literature". We agree to participate and give a few talks to the participating students.

One problem is the availability of internet: there is one PC in the computing lab which has Internet connection, but for some reason the Ethernet cable does not work with my laptop - no connection is shown. Our host will try to resolve this in the next days, but for now I cannot send out blog entries or emails.

In the evening we have a dinner at a local restaurant, and afterwards we are invited to Asha Makhecha's home for a tea.

Travel with Emirates Airways

We had chosen to fly with Emirates Airways, as they had a very reasonable price. They fly from Manchester to Dubai, then go on to Ahmedabad. Nice food is being served.



We have 4 hours in Dubai Airport, from midnight until 4 am. It is quite busy there, obviously many flights arrive around that time. All stores are open, so one can get a last supply of power adaptors, memory cards, and batteries.

Saturday, 1 November 2008


Four of us met at 9:00 in the Leeds train station, taking a train towards Manchester.
This time, there was no direct train, but we had to switch at Manchester Victoria to a bus.

Long line at the check-in for Emirates. I can use the bag drop-off line, because I checked in online yesterday. But the process still is very slow.

A guy in the queue who travelling to Dubai mentions all the new building developments there - and he is not very positive about their environmental impact.

--- on board now, switching off the mobile.

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Friday, 31 October 2008

Photos from Jake

Brian sent me this morning these pictures by Jake.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

New "official" blog is online

This blog here is just considered the "working" blog for this project, documenting the development and the individual contributions. Jake has set up now another blog, which could be the starting point for a fully public interface to the project: Two Rivers Talking.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Meeting with Brian

On Friday afternoon I drove to Pontefract to meet again with Brian, to discuss the upcoming travel and funding issues for our project. He showed me his atelier where he had a large collection of his own paintings, among them a collection of the Gordale Scar and other nature-related works.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Malham Cove Photosynth

Here is another photosynth, from the pictures I took at Malham Cove during the "Moot" with Brian on 28.September.

Gordale Scare Photosynths

I just completed two Photosynths with some of the pictures which I took during the Moot 2 weeks ago with Brian, when we went to Malham in the Yorkshire Dales, to explore the sources of the river Aire.

If the synth does not show up properly, you may have to reload this page. Also, you need to install the photosynth viewer software from the Photosynth website.

Towards Gordale Scar

In Gordale Scar

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Meeting at Old Broadcasting House

On Tuesday evening, our group met for the 2nd time at the Leeds Met Old Broadcasting House. Before the meeting, I recorded again Brian's explanation of the project, this time in HD and with him in a jacket. I will still have to edit this statement before I can post it onto YouTube.

Brian told about his story regarding getting the visa in Birmingham. Beccy will also travel to Birmingham to hand in the application at the embassy. I had sent my application per postal mail - am still waiting.

Jake and Laura will establish the Yorkshire connection point during our online collaboration on Sunday, 9.November. Beccy talked about her Malham work and about the online story that she is developing. Brian talked about his interest in "embodied energy" and "working with concrete". Jane talked about the "myth-busting" that she intends to do related to climate change, and she also wants to explore the academic communities during our India visit.

On 22. October another meeting will be held in Castleford.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Giving a Pitch to Leeds Met Students - in the GANDHI HALL

The BSc students at Innovation North (Leeds Metropolitan University) have to create a major group project in their last year. This usually involved cross-discipline work, with students having background in Multimedia, Computing, Web Design, Video, and Audio coming together and creating impressive artefacts. Today on Wednesday, these students were given several pitches of project ideas in the Gandhi Hall of the Leeds Met Headingley campus.

I used this opportunity to propose this project "Voices of Gujarati and Yorkshire Rivers" to the students, for them to create an interesting multimedia experience) web, DVD, etc. which would highlight the outcomes or document the progress of this project. Several hundred students attended this event, and I already received feedback from one student who is in fact from the Gujarat area and who wants to participate.

Very symbolically meaningful, this event took place in the Hall which is named after the most famous of all Gujarati humans, Mahatma Gandhi.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Moot at Malham

Today on Saturday, Brian and myself went to Malham, to create videos and other documenting material from the sources of the Aire. Brian pointed out several very interesting facts about these sources: that the water would not flow directly, but would first sink into the ground, then unearth at another location, before becoming the Aire.

We saw the impressive Gordale Scar and walked over the hills to enter the cove from above. It was a beautiful day, "Indian Summer" with blue sky, but a fresh and "crispy" air. There were a number of tourist visitors there, but somewhat less than expected. It seemes that the summer season already is over.

Janet's Foss, near Malham.

Gordale Scar

Malham Cove

Overall, we walked a distance of 5.8 miles.

Walking around Malham Cove.