Open World for #femedtechquilt

At the end of last week I sent off my contributions for the #femedtechquilt project, and I’m not going to lie, it was hard to part with them.  As soon as Frances Bell raised the idea for this amazing project I knew that I wanted to make something out of Harris Tweed, a protected, handmade fabric that is only made in the Outer Hebrides where I’m from, and which is woven into the identity of both the islands and the islanders.  I decided to try and make a representation of the header image of this blog, not only because Open World is where I share my open practice, but also because that header image is my own picture of one of my favourite places in the whole world, Traigh na Berie beach in Uig, on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis.  I’ve visited this beach almost every year of my life since I was a small child, I did my higher geography project on the flora of the beach, my Masters dissertation was on the anthropomorphic landforms of the surrounding area, I worked on archaeological excavations there, and I use another picture of the beach as my twitter header.  I’ve also returned there frequently with my own daughter.  It’s a place that I have a deep attachment to, which has always inspired me, and still does.

I already had some beautiful left-over tweed from a length I bought to make curtains for our VW camper van, and I bought a bundle of off-cuts when I was home in Stornoway in the summer.  It wasn’t difficult to make a rough representation of the beach, as the colours of the tweed naturally echo the colours of the Hebridean landscape.  Sewing it was more of a challenge.  My mother taught me to sew when I was a kid, but it’s not something I do regularly, other than altering clothes.  In order to sew my square, I had to get my mother’s sewing machine, which I inherited when she passed away a few years ago, repaired and reconditioned.  Using it seemed fitting, as she was a talented seamstress who used that machine to make beautiful tweed coats and jackets for my sister and I when we were young.  I was really pleased with the way the square turned out, it looked much better than I could have hoped.  One thing that really surprised me when I was making the square was just how evocative the smell of pressed tweed is. It immediately took me right back to the islands and my childhood. For me, this square represents hope, inspiration, and the unbreakable threads that connect us to the people and places we hold dear.

Tweed on the machair

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My other square was much more low effort, but it still has meaning to me. It’s a tracing of the Open Scotland logo drawn in fabric pen on cotton cut from one of my daughter’s old school shirts, and it represents the hope that one day all publicly funded educational resources in Scotland will be freely and openly available to all.   Open Scotland was an initiative that I founded, along with Joe Wilson, Sheila MacNeil, Phil Barker and others, back in 2013 and I’ve poured a lot of time energy and commitment into it, so I wanted to commemorate it in the quilt.  I also love the idea that my daughter has made a small contribution to the quilt too.

Tracing the logo

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Dunfermline College of Physical Education: A personal connection

While I was off on strike I was able to spend some time finishing a project I’ve been working on for a couple of months; editing the Wikipedia page for Dunfermline College of Physical Education.  I was inspired to update the existing page by the recent Body Language exhibition at the University of Edinburgh Library which delved into the archives of Dunfermline College and the influential dance pioneer Margaret Morris, to explore Scotland’s significant contributions to movement and dance education. And the reason I was so keen to improve this page, which was little more than a stub when I started editing, is that my mother was a student at Dunfermline College from 1953 – 1956, and when she died in 2011 my sister and I inherited her old college photograph album.  

My mother was not a typical Dunfermline student. Unlike many of her fellow students, who were privately educated and went straight to the college on leaving school, my mother was educated at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway, and after leaving school she took an office job while working her way through the Civil Service exams.  She’d been working a year or so when the college came to the island to interview prospective students, and her father suggested she apply.  Her interview was successful, and she was awarded a place and a bursary to attend the college, which at that time was in Aberdeen.  Having experienced a degree of independence before going to Dunfermline, my mother chaffed at the rigid discipline of the residential college, which expected certain standards of decorum from its “girls”.  She didn’t take too kindly to the arbitrary rules, and it’s perhaps no surprise that her motto in the college year book was “Laws were made to be broken”.  She did however make many life-long friends at college and she went on to have a long and active teaching career.

My mother worked as a PE teaching on the Isle of Lewis, first as a travelling teacher working in tiny rural schools across the island, and later in the Nicolson Institute.  She passionately believed that all children should be able to enjoy physical education, regardless of aptitude or ability, and she vehemently opposed the idea that the primary role of PE teachers was to spot and nurture “talent”.  Her real interest was movement and dance and many of the children she taught in the small rural schools where convinced she was really just a big playmate who came to play with them once a week.  Sporting facilities were pretty much non-existent in rural schools in the Western Isles the 1970s. Few schools had a gyms or playing field, so she often organised games and sports days on the machair by the beaches. The first swimming pool in the islands didn’t open until the mid 1970s and prior to that she taught children to swim in the sea, on the rare occasions it was sufficiently calm and warm.  None of the schools she taught in had AV facilities of any kind and I vividly remember the little portable tape recorded that she carried around with her for music and movement lessons.  She retired from teaching in 1987, not long after the acrimonious national teachers pay dispute.  Despite being rather scunnered with the education system by the time she retired, it’s clear that the years she spent at Dunfermline played a formative role in shaping not just in her career, but also her personal relationships and her approach to teaching. Typically, she was proud to be known as the rule breaker of her “set” and I think she’d appreciate the irony of her old pictures appearing on the college Wikipedia page. 

In order to add these images to Commons, I’m having to go through the rather baroque OTRS procedure, and I’d like to thank Michael Maggs, former Chair of Board of Wikimedia UK, for his invaluable support in guiding me through the process.  Thanks are also due to colleagues at the Centre for Research Collections, which holds the college archive, for helping me access some of the sources I’ve cited. 

One last thing….when I was producing our OER Service Autumn newsletter I made this GIF to illustrate a short news item about the Body Language exhibition. 

Garden Dance GIF

Garden Dance, CC BY, University of Edinburgh.

The gif is part of a beautiful 1950s film featuring students from Dunfermline College called Garden Dance, which was released under open licence by the Centre of Research Collections.  The film is described as “Dance set in unidentified garden grounds, possibly in Dunfermline” however when I was looking through my mother’s college album I found this picture of the very same garden, so it appears it was filmed in Aberdeen. If you click through to the film, you can clearly see the same monkey puzzle tree in the background. It was obviously something of a landmark!  I wonder if my mother is one of the dancers? 

 

LGBT History Month – with emphasis on the B

This month is LGBT History Month and it’s inspired me to share a little bit of my own LGBT history, with emphasis on the B. Actually I’ve been meaning to copy some of this material for ages now and I even bought a blog domain a couple of years ago to share it, but I’ve never got round to doing anything with it! 

All this material is from the mid to late 1990’s when I was a member of the fabulous Edinburgh Bisexual Group which ran from 1984 – 2000. There was no bisexual group in Glasgow at the time but Glasgow was blessed with some really innovative arts programming featuring performances from Ron Athey, Annie Sprinkle, Penny Arcade, and Leigh Bowery among others, and the club scene was second to none.  

This is the kind of bisexual ephemera that tends to escape the attention of archives, so I was encouraged to recently discover the Bi History Archive project based at Glasgow Zine Library.  I should really to to get round to sorting through the rest of the material I’ve got stashed around the house to share some of it with them. 

2018 – It All Adds Up

A recap of 2018 in numbers…..

3 Keynotes

I was honoured to be invited to present 3 open education keynotes this at the beginning of this year at OER18, the FLOSS UK Spring Conference and CELT18 at NUI Galway.  Each keynote presented different challenges and learning opportunities, particularly FLOSS UK where I had to get up on stage and talk to an all male conference (there were only 3 women in the room including me) about structural discrimination in the open domain. It was pretty terrifying and I couldn’t have done it without the support of the #femedtech community.  Indeed the #femedtech network has been one of of my main influences and inspirations this year and it’s been a real joy to see if go from strength to strength.  My OER18 keynote also resulted in my most impactful tweet ever with 16,592 impressions to date.  Predictably it wasn’t about open eduction, it was about shoes :}

Bessie Watson

To coincide with the centenary of women’s suffrage on the 6th February, I wrote a Wikipedia article about Bessie Watson the 9 year old suffragette from Edinburgh.  Bessie’s story really seemed to capture the imagination and it was great to be able to bring her amazing life to wider notice.

11 Days of Industrial Action

The USS Pension strike had a huge impact on the whole Higher Education sector early in the year.  I was grateful that I was in a position to be able to support the strike, which I know was much more difficult for many, many colleagues across the sector employed on part time and precarious contracts.  Although the strike was nominally about a single issue it really did galvanise action around a whole host of deeply problematic issues including workloads, pay, conditions, equality, precarity and the commercialisation of higher education.  It was a real inspiration to see so many staff and students getting behind the strike and to be able to join the strike rally in George Square in Glasgow.

USS Strike Rally, George Square, Glasgow, CC BY, Lorna M.Campbell

Repeal the 8th Campaign

Once again I was hugely inspired by the people of Ireland and the way they came together to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution, to recognise womens’ right to bodily autonomy and to amend abortion legislation.

AO3 an Inspiration in Open Source

In June I was delighted to listen online to Casey Fiesler’s amazing Open Repositories keynote Growing Their Own: Building an Archive and a Community for Fanfiction.  I’ve long been a fan of AO3 and have been endlessly frustrated, though not surprised, that this phenomenally successful open source initiative run on feminist principles isn’t more widely recognised and celebrated in the domain of open knowledge.  Casey’s brilliant keynote showed us how much we can potentially learn from AO3.

Wikimedia UK Partnership of the Year

In July the University of Edinburgh won Wikimedia UK’s Partnership of the Year Award for the 2nd time, for embedding Wikipedia in teaching and learning and for advocating for the role of Wikimedians in Residence in Higher Education.  None of this would be possible of course without the support of our own tireless Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew.

Left to right: Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, Open Education Resources; Lorna Campbell, OER Service; Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence; Anne-Marie Scott, Deputy Director of Learnng, Teaching & Web Services. CC BY, University of Edinburgh.

50!

The other significant event in July was my 50th birthday :}  The day itself was lovely, lazy and lowkey and I spent most of the month catching up with friends from all over the world online and in person.  It was wonderful.  My partner bought me glider lessons as a gift but sadly I haven’t taken them yet as I haven’t been able to get to the air field since….

RIP Magic Bus

After 13 fabulous, and admittedly often frustrating, years our VW T25 camper van died a death, though not before taking us on one last holiday to Galloway and then home to the Hebrides where I finally got to visit Traigh Mheilein beach in North Harris.  Traigh Mheilein is often described as the most beautiful beach in the Hebrides and boy does it live up to that reputation.

Traigh Mheilein, Isle of Harris, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

ALTC 25th Anniversary

In September I was back in Manchester for the 25th ALT Annual Conference.  As an organisation that truly embodies its core principles of collaboration, participation, independence and openness, ALT continues to be an inspiration right across the sector and I’m honoured to be able to play a small role in supporting the organisation through the ALT Board and the ALTC social media team.  The 25th conference was one of the best yet and my own personal highlights included thought provoking keynotes by Maren Deepwell and Amber Thomas, Melissa Highton‘s unflinchingly honest talk about developing and implementing a lecture recording policy at the height of the USS strikes, and Catherine Cronin and Frances Bell’s personal feminist retrospective of learning technology.  Catherine and Frances’ session also inspired me to take a step back and reflect on my own career as a learning technologist.

Wiki Loves Monuments

September means Wiki Loves Monuments and this year the competition was even more fun than last year, which I wouldn’t have thought possible!  Huge thanks to everyone who participated and who made the competition so much fun, particularly our Wikimedians in Scotland – Ewan, Sara and Delphine.  I uploaded 383 pictures and came 15th overall in the UK.  Most of these pictures were taken during our summer holiday so I really have to thank my parter and daughter for their patience :}

Naval History

I haven’t been writing much Naval History recently and indeed I’ll be stepping down from the Society of Nautical Research‘s Publications & Membership next year after 5 years in the chair.  However my colleague Heather and I did publish one short paper in The Trafalgar Chronicle, the journal of The 1805 Club, which this year focused on the lives of women and families at sea and on shore.  Our paper “I shall be anxious to know…”: Lives of the Indefatigable women, shone a spotlight on the personal lives of some of the women we encountered while researching our book Hornblower’s Historical Shipmates.

Blogging to Build Your Professional Profile

In October I built my 1st ever SPLOT!  As part of the roll out of the University of Edinburgh’s new academic blogging service I was tasked with developing a digital skills training workshop on professional blogging and what better way to do that than by practicing what we preach and building a blog!  Anne-Marie Scott set up the SPLOT template for me and it was all plain sailing from there.  The Blogging to Build Your Professional Profile workshop has already proved to be very popular and all the resources have been shared under Creative Commons licence so they can be reused and adapted. It was great working with LTW colleagues on this project, particularly Karen Howie, who a good friend from early CETIS days and an awesome person to work with.

#QueerArt20

In late November Gary Needham, senior lecturer in film and media at the University of Liverpool tagged me in the #QueerArt20 twitter challenge; one image a day, any medium, no credits or titles.  I’ve loved seeing the images other people have been posting and it really was a challenge to choose just 20 of my own to post. It was also a timely opportunity to reconnect with queer culture.  And talking of which…

120 Beats Per Minute

I didn’t see many memorable films this year but one that I did see, and which will stay with me for a long time was 120 Beats Per Minute a deeply moving and viscerally powerful film about queer activism set against the background of the AIDS crisis in Paris in the late 1980’s /  early 1990’s.  It’s a beautiful, painful and necessary film and I would urge you all to see it.

CETIS – The End of an Era

At the beginning of December I stepped down as a partner of CETIS LLP ending a 17 year association with the organisation in all its various incarnations.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without CETIS and I wish all the partners the very best for the future

….and the lows

Brexit has cast a noxious cloud of reckless xenophobia, bigotry and intolerance over us all, with the only glimmers of hope being a 2nd referendum and the more distant promise of Indy Ref 2.

It’s been equally been horrifying to watch the rise of right wing populist movements across the world.  Fascism might have a new acceptable ALT-Right face but it’s still fucking fascism.

I was heart broken by the death of Scott Hutchison in May.  He was a phenomenally talented writer and his songs uniquely captured the struggles so many face with alienation, depression, isolation and addiction.  Scott faced all these demons in true Scottish style; with scathing wit, self-effacing humour and heartbreaking poetry.  Just a few months before his death, I was packed into the Academy with hundreds of others for 10th anniversary tour of The Midnight Organ Fight.  It’s a night I won’t forget.

Frightened Rabbit, Barrowlands Ballroom, December 2016. CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

On an open education note, one of my frustrations this year is that, due to lack of time and focussing efforts elsewhere,  I had to neglect Open Scotland.  I really hope I’ll have an opportunity to revitalise the initiative next year as we still have a lot of work to do to persuade the Scottish Government of the benefits of open education.  This might seem like a trivial exercise when Scot Gov is facing the catastrophic challenge of Brexit, but surely we need open and equitable access to education and educational resources now more than ever.

I think I’ve exhausted my numbers now and they all add up to quite a year (sorry, that’s terrible) it just remains for me to wish you all the very best for 2019.

Wiki Loves Monuments 2018 – Pipped at the post!

Wiki Loves Monuments, Wikimedia’s annual photography competition, came to a close at the end of September.  An astonishing 4,374 images of Scottish scheduled monuments and listed buildings were uploaded to Wikimedia Commons over the course of the month, over double last year’s total of 2,104 and almost a third of the 14,203 images uploaded in the UK.

Competition was fierce towards the end of the month, Ewan McAndrew, our indefatigable Wikimedian in Residence, pipped me at the post on the very last day of the competition with 442 uploads (13th overall) to my 383 (15th) and Anne-Marie’s 213 pictures of graveyards (21st).  In my defence, I was wrestling with an outrageously crap internet connection at home that almost had me weeping with frustration while I waited hours for images to upload. Still, over a thousand uploads is not a bad score for one division of Information Services!

It was great to see so many new people getting involved in the competition this year too through the efforts of Sara Thomas, Wikimedia UK’s Scotland Programme Coordinator and Delphine Dallison, Wikimedian in Residence at SLIC.

Wiki Loves Monuments is so much fun that I’m always a little sad when it’s over, and it’s almost impossible to break the habit of pulling out my phone to snap any likely looking listed building I pass.  I’m already storing up pictures for next year!

Kirkandrews Memorial Chapel, CC BY SA, Lorna M. Campbell

What I did on my holidays

I’m not long back from annual leave and still wading though the inevitable backlog. There are a couple of posts I need to write about events that took place earlier in the summer, and the Wikimedia UK partnership award which the University of Edinburgh won in July 🙂  In the meantime here’s a pretty picture I took while I was at home visiting family in the Outer Hebrides.

This is Traigh Mheilein beach on the Isle of Harris which is reached by a precipitous walk up and over a slightly scary sea cliff.  I tweeted this the day we walked to the beach and was rather chuffed when Harris Distillery (they who make the gorgeous Harris Gin) tweeted it with credit from their account earlier this week.  Since people seemed to like the picture, I uploaded it to Wikimedia Commons where anyone can use it free of charge with attribution only.

I spent quite a lot of my holiday taking pictures for Wiki Loves Monument, Wikimedia’s annual photography competition, which will be running throughout the month of September.  Last year I raided my old holiday snaps for the competition, this year I have a whole bunch of new pictures to upload including  a 16th century chapter house, a cute little Arts and Crafts church that Anne-Marie Scott rudely described as lumpy and squat, the castle where my granny used to work, a Stephenson lighthouse, and the remains of an old whaling station. No strip clubs though….

Keep Yourself Warm

I was so very, very saddened to hear of the death of Scott Hutchison, singer and lyricist of Frightened Rabbit today. I only came across the band a couple of years ago but I was deeply moved by Scott’s songs. He was a phenomenally talented writer and his songs uniquely captured the struggles so many face with alienation, depression, isolation and addiction.  Scott faced all these demons in true Scottish style; with scathing wit, self-effacing humour and heartbreaking poetry. Seeing the outpouring of grief today, it’s clear that his songs helped many people who couldn’t find the words to speak for themselves.

I saw Frightened Rabbit play live a couple of times, I heard them bring the house down in Barrowlands in December 2016, and just a few months ago I squeezed into a rammed Academy for the 10th anniversary tour of The Midnight Organ Fight.   One thing really struck me about that last gig, half way through the set the band played Poke, a very poignant, very grown up song about the kind of break up we’ve all been through. What was really striking about that song, on that night, was that the sound of the audience singing suddenly changed and for those glorious 3 minutes it was the voices of all the women in the crowd that raised the rafters. I think I may have shed a tear, I’ve certainly shed more that a few today.

Rest well now Scott and keep yourself warm.

Frightened Rabbit, Barrowlands Ballroom, December 2016. CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

2017 Highs, Lows and Losses

I ended up taking an unscheduled break from blogging and social media over the holidays as I was laid up with a nasty virus and its after effects.  Bleh.  So in an attempt to get back into the saddle, I’m taking a leaf out of Anne-Marie’s book with this “Some things that happpened in 2017” post.  So in no particular order here’s a ramble through some of the things that made an impression on me, for one reason or another, over the last year.

OER17

OER is my conference;  I’ve never missed a single one since it kicked off in 2010.  They’re always thought provoking and topical events, but OER17 The Politics of Open was particularly timely and unexpectedly emotional. I was fortunate to take part on several panels and talks, but the one that will always stay with me is Shouting from the Heart, a very short, very personal, lightning talk about what writing, openness and politics means to me.  I’d never given such a personal talk before and, not to put too fine a point on it, I was fucking terrified. I was supposed to end with a quote from the Declaration of Arbroath but I bottled it and had to stop because I was in danger of crying in front of everyone. It was a deeply emotional experience, but the overwhelming response more than made up for for my mortification.   I was also extremely grateful to meet up with many old friends and to meet many new friends too.

International Women’s Day

I was honoured to be name checked on International Women’s Day by several colleagues who I respect and admire hugely.  I’m still deeply touched.  Thank you.

Mashrou’ Leila  مشروع ليلى

Mashrou’ Leila مشروع ليلى are a Lebanese indy rock band whose lead singer Hamed Sinno is openly gay and a vocal advocate for LGBTQ issues, women’s rights and contemporary Arab identity. Mashrou’ Leila also happen to be one of my favourite bands of the last year so I was over the moon to be in London when they played an amazing open air gig at Somerset House in July.  It was a fabulous night and I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a diverse crowd at a music event.  I got quite emotional seeing the rainbow flag flying over Somerset House. Sadly, when Mashrou’ Leila played in Cairo a few months later, seven concert goers were arrested for raising that same rainbow flag and were subsequently charged with promoting sexual deviancy.

Mashrou’ Leila, Somerset House, CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

Wiki Loves Monuments

I’ve meant to take part in the Wiki Loves Monuments photography competition for years now.  I’ve taken hundreds of photographs of monuments over the years and they really should be in the public domain rather than languishing on various ancient laptops.  But it took my fabulous colleague and University of Edinburgh Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, to prod me into contributing.  Ewan made it his mission to get as many photographs of Scottish monuments uploaded to Wikipedia Commons as possible, and maybe try to beat the Welsh in the process.  The whole competition was hugely enjoyable and got very competitive. By the time it closed at the end of September over 2000 new images of Scottish monuments had been uploaded, and 184 of my old holiday snaps had found a new lease of life on Wikimedia Commons. Hats of to Ewan and Anne-Marie for the hundreds of amazing photographs they submitted to the competition.

A few of my pics…

Women in Red

In 2016 I was honoured to join Wikimedia UK’s Board of Trustees but it was in 2017 that I really started editing Wikipedia in earnest.  I created a number of new pages for notable women who previously didn’t have entries.  The ones I’m most proud of are:

Mary Susan MacIntosh, sociologist, feminist, lesbian, and campaigner for lesbian and gay rights.  MacIntosh was a founding member of the London Gay Liberation Front, she sat on the Criminal Law Revision Committee which lowered the age of male homosexual consent, and she played a crucial role in shaping the theory of social constructionism, a theory later developed by, and widely attributed to Michel Foucault. MacIntosh’s Wikipedia page still needs a lot more work, so please, if you can help, go ahead and edit it.

Elizabeth Slater a British archaeologist specialising in archaeometallurgy. She was the first female professor of archaeology appointed by the University of Liverpool.  Liz was also the only female lecturer teaching archaeology at the University of Glasgow when I was a student there and her lectures made a huge impression on me. I was chuffed to be able to build a Wikipedia page for her.

Open Tumshies

Mah tumshie appeared in The Scotsman online! And you can read about it here 🙂

Open tumshies ftw!

Audierne Bay

In July my partner drove our aged VW camper van all the way to Brittany and we spent two weeks camping in Finistère with our daughter.  While we were there we visited Audierne Bay, where the Droits de L’Homme frigate engagement took place during a ferocious gale on the night of 13th January 1797.  This engagement was the starting point for the book Hornblower’s Historical Shipmates, which I wrote with my dear friend Heather Noel-Smith.  The day I visited Audierne Bay was bright and sunny and the beach was filled was families and holiday makers.  It was a sobering thought to stand there and look out at the reefs where hundreds of men lost their lives two hundred years before.

Audierne Bay, CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

CMALT

Finally, after years of procrastinating, I wrote my portfolio and became a Certified Member of the Association for Learning Technology.  And I did it all in the open!

Me and inspirational ALT CEO, Maren Deepwell, CC BY, @ammienoot

UNESCO OER World Congress

In September I was honoured to attend the UNESCO OER World Congress in Ljubljana to represent the University of Edinburgh and Open Scotland, along with my colleague Joe Wilson. I’m so glad we were able to attend because, along with the fabulous Leo Havemann, we were the only people there from the UK.  It was a really interesting event and I hope the resulting OER Action Plan it will help to raise the profile of OER worldwide.

UNESCO OER World Congress, CC BY Slovenian Press Agency

Louvain-la-Neuve

In November I was invited to give a talk about OER and open education at UCLouvain. It was a brief but enjoyable trip and I’d like to thank Christine Jacqmot and Yves Deville for their hospitality and for showing me around their unique city and university.

Mural, Louvain-la-Neuve, CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

Tango

I don’t get to dance much these days, due to work, commuting, childcare etc, but I did get to have one or two tango adventures this year.

A wedding and a ridiculous frock

In October my sister got married in Stornoway and I promised to buy the most ridiculous vintage frock I could find for the wedding.  I think I succeeded.

Channelling Abigail’s Party…

These guys…

Nike & Josh, CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

Also these guys…

We had a family of foxes living in the garden this year.  When I was working from home through the summer months I often had two or three foxes curled up sleeping in the sun outside my window, if not even closer!

Josh & friend, CC BY Lorna M. Campbell

Inevitably there was some real low points and losses during the year too.

I had a horrible medical emergency while travelling to Brittany and had to get blue-lighted off the boat in an ambulance and carted off to hospital in Morlaix.  Never, ever, have I been so glad that my partner is a nurse and stubborn as hell.  Without him, I don’t know what would have happened.

Public Transpot

I don’t drive.  That’s a choice, not an accident.  But I travel continually so I spent a lot of my time on public transport. I take the bus and the train to work, which is a four hour commute twice a week.  When public transport isn’t available, I use a local taxi firm.  I never use Uber, because fuck that for a business model. I keep reading all this stuff about automated and driverless cars but tbh, I don’t want any more cars on the road, driverless or otherwise.  I want decent public transport, which is regular, reliable, clean, and safe for women travelling alone at any hour of the day or night. Oh, and I also want the people who work for these public transport systems to earn a decent living wage.  Is that too much to ask?

Maryam Mirzakhani

Maryam Mirzakhani was an Iranian mathematician, professor at Stamford University and the first woman to win the Fields Medal for mathematics.  In March I was invited to speak at the International Open Science Conference in Berlin and I took the title of my talk, Crossing the Field Boundaries, from an interview with Maryam.

“I like crossing the imaginary boundaries people set up between different fields—it’s very refreshing. There are lots of tools, and you don’t know which one would work. It’s about being optimistic and trying to connect things.”

A Tenacious Explorer of Abstract SurfacesQuanta Magazine, August 2014

Four months later, I was deeply saddened to hear that Maryam had died of breast cancer at the age of 40.  The loss of such a gifted woman is unfathomable.

Bassel Khartabil

In August we heard the devastating news that the detained Syrian open knowledge advocate Bassel Khartabil had been executed by the Syrian government in 2015.  I never met Bassel, but I was deeply moved by his story and I contributed to a number of initiatives that tried to raise awareness of his plight. I will never forget that this man lost his liberty and his life for doing a similar job that I, and many of my colleagues, do every day.  This is my memorial to him.