Gov 2.0 Conference – Some thoughts

5 11 2010

The recent Gov 2.0 conference in Canberra was a great demonstration of the momentum that is continuing to build around social media and access to open government data.

These moves have not come over night, over the course of many years there has been a strong movement towards applying the principles of the W3C and the vision of the inventor of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee. In short, his vision is about a Web for everyone and by everyone­—accessible, usable and a space of equity. Berners-Lee’s creation was fueled by a highly personal vision of the Web as a powerful force for social change and individual creativity. See Weaving the Web (1999) if you are interested in his philosophical take on the web.

The reality is that although open source, free ware developers, artists and citizen journalists have been actively sharing, talking, forming communities and mixing online content for nearly two decades, government has been slow to come to the table. Issues of copyright, protection of information and IT security are all seen as potential barriers for government agencies to join the conversation.

The community online has also changed exponentially. For example, research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics about Internet Activity cited that 3.8 million Internet subscribers registered in Australia at the end of the September quarter 2000, and by June 2010 this had increased to 9.6 million. Also, the way we access the internet has changed – with wireless and mobile access now almost on par with broadband access. See Internet Activity, Australia, Jun 2010 for more information.

These videos from YouTube is a good example of the growth of social media


What this conference has demonstrated is that there is a significant risk to not taking action, as government will be left behind and not seen as credible, approachable or responsive to citizens concerns. Sadly to say, in many areas of government there is active resistance to the principles of Gov2.0 because of an unwillingness to acknowledge that the issues are not about technology but about effective engagement and fostering behaviour change. But on the positive side there is some very engaged use of social media and open data that demonstrates a willingness to ‘go to where the conversation is’.

Aside from the recommendations set forth in the Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0 report put out by the Gov 2.0 Taskforce and the Declaration of Open Government, there are also significant moves in the sharing of government data. Peter Alexander from AGIMO discussed a range of initiatives, which are all on the AGIMO Blog as well as the use of Creative Commons Licences (see the Qld Government Information Licencing Framework).

The range of talks was excellent and to have senior public servants supporting moves towards Gov2.0  is very encouraging – thanks especially to Mia Garlick, Andrew Stott, Andrew Mills, Patrick McCormack and Peter Alexander.

In conclusion, there are still many challenges to educate people in decision making positions about the benefits of social media and open data. Perhaps the wrong people were in the room as there was a sense of ‘preaching to the converted’.  The tweet stream reflected this sentiment with one tweet referring to the lack of support as CRAP – Chronic Risk Averse Paranoia, which I thought was hilarious. That said, what I took away from the conference was some potential solutions and strategies that may be effective in terms of building support for more open and engaged approaches to communications and information sharing.

Gov 2.0 2010 Conference themes included:

  • Update on where the government will take Gov 2.0
  • Promoting innovation
  • Using a crowd sourced community of peers to assist decision making
  • Implementing a business communication strategy that includes Gov 2.0
  • Demonstrating net outcomes and benefits
  • Upskilling your team in social media
  • Utilising open and closed online forums, blogs, twitter and e-newsletters
  • Managing engagement within the twitter sphere
  • Maximising the time of limited resources

Check out:





TEDxCanberra

24 10 2010

I was not quite sure what to expect at TEDxCanberra, as this was the first time I had attended a TED event. However, I did have a few clues — I had seen videos of other talks online and knew that the tag line was “Ideas Worth Spreading”. TED started in 1984 with the original context being about “Technology, Entertainment, Design” but the event had grown far beyond those categories.

TEDxCanberras theme was ”Thinking Way Beyond”, with sessions divided into four categories: society, knowing, empowerment and change.  Notions of society, health, technology, education, the arts, science, human behaviour and culture were explored, ”in the context of what these things could be in the future or how they are making our future now”.

Three ideas have stuck in my head: “find your passions”, “pay it forward” and “follow your dreams” and all are aspirational and inspirational.

I particularly loved the video of Temple Grandin, who spoke about how “The world needs all kinds of minds“. In the video clip she talks about how her mind works — sharing her ability to “think in pictures,” which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids. Her talk reminded me of how important it is as a teacher and as a designer to think of how people receive, store and retrieve information – visually, aurally and kinetically .

Under the theme of Empowerment and with a focus on making dreams come true, I found Francis Owusu and his performers from Kulture Break very inspiring. I wonder if this is because I am a parent of a teenager that is starting to follow his dreams. Francis talked about how we should be dream enablers not dream stealers, an important point to remember as a parent. His presentation was broken up into sections and there were Hip-hop performances in-between, which illustrated and integrated the points of the talk, as well as being really cool and entertaining.

Kulture Break dancers

Kulture Break

Attribution Some rights reserved by Gavin Tapp

Here is some more information about Kulture Break  from the website:

Kulture Break all began in 2003 with founder Francis Owusu wanting to provide an outlet for young people to use their creative abilities to discover who they really are. He believed that you didn’t need to become somebody you are somebody! So he started out teaching break-dance and Hip-hop to students in a local high school where the name “Kulture Break” was born. The name embraces the meaning of breaking new territory, overcoming negative cultural barriers, stereotypes and empowering people. Kulture Break’s vision is to “influence a culture and empower a generation“. Offering more than just dance; it’s has become a movement with a positive message of hope and transformation for youth.

There seemed to be running through the talks a message of how we could transform society in a positive way, with a focus on empowering communities, especially young people, making me wish I had brought along my 17y/o son.

Ash Donaldson’s discussion on notions of bias was also very interesting and a number of his points rang true for me and my personal bias around so many issues. Also, by him talking about how are all biased in the way we see the world, it reminded me of when I was at university studying Art History. As trainee critics we were expected to look at an artwork objectively — a concept I always struggled with as we bring our own perspective and experience to everything we see and do.

So many of the other talks were fantastic as well — Pete Williams on Flowerdale, Mitchell Whitelaw (as always), Sunny Forsyth on the fantastic Abundant Water project, Kristin Alford, Mark Pesce and of course Patrick McGorry, whose work on raising awareness about mental health and youth is critical.

In summary, TedxCanberra is a cogent reminder that as a society we need to think differently, to prioritise differently and to think beyond ourselves as individuals to move forward. If we are enabled and empowered and aware of each other, anything is possible.

Thanks so much to all the organisers and the speakers for a wonderful event.

For all the tweets go to #tedxcanberra

Check out images on the Flickr TedxCanberra Group Pool

In the media: Great minds come together at TEDx Canberra Read the rest of this entry »





Not navel gazing at #media140

27 09 2010

The recent media140 event in Canberra on 23 September 2010, titled ‘How is the real-time web transforming politics?’ was definitely worth going to, even if it was lacking in some areas. What I was hoping for was some commentary round issues of social inclusion, especially how social media tools have changed communication in the broader community and how viral media makes an impact on the ground. I was especially interested in how community has used these tools to raise awareness about political issues.

My interest in this event was two-fold. Firstly, it was a fact finding mission for my work at www.livinggreener.gov.au – to see what tools are being used and how effective they are in terms of communicating to our target audiences. Secondly, as my PhD project focused on the relationship between online and offline space, activism and community, I wanted to see if connections were made between who and where and what.

Julie Posetti @julie_posetti was one of the key organisers and she did a fantastic job at bringing together a diverse range of commentators, journalists, politicians and activists that are operating in the social media space. I use the term social media loosely as it may be better described in regards to this event as ‘tweeting for the election’.

One of the key elements of this event was the projection of the live twitter feed on two screens either side of the podium. This was an interesting, albeit at times disrupting voice that distracted the audience from the speaker/s, often with humorous results. I found this was a wonderful way of demonstrating the power of two way communications as the recipient of the information/message had the capacity to talk back.

Rather than offering a summary of the event in its entirety, I have opted to comment of each of the sessions separately to provide more detail.

Keynote 1 – US Ambassador Bleich @USAembassyinOZ – Lessons from Obama’s Campaign

Ambassador Bleich’s opening keynote address explored the success of the Obama campaign in regard to the use of social media.  One of the most interesting and relevant points made in this presentation was the relationship between the use of the web and the resulting actions on the ground. The other significant point made was that there is no difference between communications online to offline – that you need to have substance to the message and clearly communicate the issues – there is no ‘magic pudding’.

Obama’s role was central to the campaign strategy and because of the lack of funds he needed to think creatively to get his message out there. In short, Obama needed his name everywhere and trust his supporters – believing that people will behave in similar ways whether online or offline.

Some of the challenges included how to deal with the ‘end of the season’, when the work has been done and the sense of personal connection is lost. Also, people online feel like they have a closer connection and there is a difficulty in managing the volumes of emails, etc. Also, the political space of campaigning is different to that of governing – as a campaigner you represent your supporters and once in government you speak for the entire nation.

My personal take of the Obama campaign is that it seems to have modeled itself on many of the early net-activist strategies used in the late 1990s early 2000, where activists would share information online and then go out in the community and raise awareness of issues. The media campaign for Obama benefited from the fact that the media tools have improved and many lessons have been learnt from those early days.

Panel 1: How are real time and social media platforms changing political communications: Malcolm Turnbull @Turnbullmalcolm, Christine Milne @SenatorMilne, Possum @pollytics, Latika Bourke @latikambourke, Samantha Maiden @samathamaiden

This panel had a range of views which all saw how social media has influenced political communications in different ways. Some of the main points of the discussion included was Possum’s observation that Australia political parties have not really engaged with new media and there is an inherent challenge to engage new audiences – i.e. preaching to the converted. Latika Bourke commented that many politicians pay lip service to the media, using twitter as a channel to publish media releases rather than actually engaging in two way discussions.

The highlight of this panel was the almost heated discussion of the National Broadband Network (NBN) between Malcolm Turnball and Possum. This discussion unfortunately was nipped in the bud, which was a shame as access is a key issue to the debate on social media.

Interview with Rob Oakshott MP @oakeymp: The Role of Social Media in the New Political #Paradigm

Julie Posetti interview with Rob Oakshott looked at a range of topics, including the tweet backlash of his now famous 17 minute election deciding speech. In short, Oakshott wanted to explain it was a considered process hence it taking so long. He also talked about the mobile app he has that tracks his movements via Google maps at roboakshott.mobi. On a number of occasions he questioned the media’s appetite to play the man and not the ball and hoped that more consideration would be made in this area as it detracts from the political issues at stake.

Oakshott also expressed a concern about the ‘fifo’ approach to journalism (fly in-fly out) as it fails to adequately report on community issues.

Keynote 2 – Senator Kate Lundy @katelundy

It is no secret that Kate Lundy is an advocate and supporter of social media and technology. I first saw Lundy speak at a Girl Geek dinner where I also gave a presentation about Dorkbot CBR. In her talk she mentioned how Australians have a history of taking up technology early and that 72% of households have the Internet. Lundy discussed the importance of the NBN in providing access to more Australians and pointed out that it was not just regional and rural areas that miss out in regard to broadband access, citing the Canberra region of Gungahlin as an example. In addition, she emphasised that the NBN debate should be kept separate to the Internet filter debate. Personally, I think there does seem to be an ideological disparity between providing access and then restricting same.

Panel 2: The changing role of traditional political news gatekeepers in the age of the real time web: Peter Martin @1petermartin, Karen Middleton @karenmmiddleton, Lyndal Curtis @lyndalcurtis, James Massola @jamesmassola, Bernard Keane @BernardKeane

The question of the journalist being ‘gatekeepers’ or ‘curators’ of political news on the web was the topic of this panel, which I found to be an inwardly focused discussion on how traditional media can keep control of the news, well, that is how I understood it.

For me, this panel demonstrated that many mainstream journalists are still grappling with this reality that they do not ‘own’ the news and that citizens are commenting and reporting themselves on how they see the news. The most interesting part of the panel was the live twitter feed at #media140, where many in the audience were commenting that the discussion was ‘navel gazing’ and at the end expressing frustration at the panel going over time. In short, the related media theory was not broached, and I tweeted to remind myself of Axel Brun’s text Gatewatching, which has been around since 2003.

Keynote 3 Simon Sheikh, GetUp! @simongetup – Activist Media Models

This presentation from GetUp!’s Simon Sheik started with a video clip of some of the campaigns that the organisation has supported since it started in 2005.

Sheik talked about how politicians and mainstream media has difficulty in understanding who Getup! is and explained that everyone who gets involved is GetUp! He mentioned Senator Abetz’s ongoing criticism of GetUP! as a front for The Labor and Green parties. See GetUp! – A New Kind of Astroturfing

There were a few tweets about how GetUp! raises funds, but for my money the approach is successful for the same reasons that the Obama campaign worked. That if you can build an audience who supports your cause, you will also build capacity on the ground. He used that case of David Hicks as one example of how GetUp! influenced public opinion and political change. The other more recent examples were the successful GetUp! court cases where they took the AEC to the court, challenging electoral laws that prevented voters from enrolling online and the case where the High Court ruled Howard government changes that closed the electoral rolls on the day writs were issued were unconstitutional.

Panel 3: Spin on speed: Controlling the message in the real time web era: Moderator: Alex Sloan @666Canberra, Jo Scard @scardjo, David Hood @davidahood, Jeremy Irvine @jeremy_irvine and Jodee Rich @wingdude

Although there were some interesting observations in this panel there were only a couple of stand out comments for me. David Hood touched on the issue of social inclusion and getting the message heard. Jodee Rich commented that politicians don’t need to be tweeting and broadcasting in the social media space but they need to be actively listening – “running a social media campaign is about listening”.

Keynote 4 Claire Wardle @cward1e – The UK Social Media Election 2010

This was probably the most entertaining of the keynote presentations, which focused on the recent UK election. Dr Claire Wardle impressed the audience with her sense of humour and excellent use of a powerpoint presentation (did I say that!). The presentation titled The UK election and Social Media was made available on Slideshare – which is always useful for referencing.

It would appear that the political parties in the UK all used social media in a way that was responsive to each other and to the community and looks by all means a much more lively and engaged election campaign than Australia’s recent election.

Dr Wardle was able to reengage the audience that according to tweet feeds was becoming ‘snarky’, perhaps as a result of too much discussion that was internalised and circular – media talking about media talking about media.

Some highlights of this presentation included discussions about:

  • the Slapometer (the UK’s version of the worm)
  • #nickcleggsfault – a twitter feed where people blame everything on Nick cleggs
  • Bigotgate – when Gordon Brown complained that a constituent was a bigot and didn’t realise he still had his microphone on

Dr Wardle also talked about the importance of humour and the impact that it has on people because it is an emotional response. Also that we needed to “stop thinking about online and offline as two separate things because they compliment each other”. Check out the Slideshare presentation for more examples.

Panel 4: Alternative views of political news: Peter Brent @mumbletwits, First Dog on the Moon @firstdogonmoon, Mike Bowers @mpbowers, Malcolm Farnsworth @mfarnsworthand Julian Morrow @moreoj

This was an interesting panel in terms of the mix of personalities and roles – from cartoonist to political blogger to comedian to photographer and researcher. Covered a range of issues from the use of ABC footage to the role of satire in politics. Also talked about something that was earlier referred to as the Anne Frank effect, where people are blogging and tweeting in their cupboards as events happen. At this point I was reminded of Salam Pax’s famous 2003 blog Where is Raed? At the time Pax’s blog received a lot of critical attention from people in the blogosphere because of the invasion of Iraq by coalition forces. He has since moved the blog and retitled it Salam Pax: the Baghdad Blogger

Panel 5: GOV 2.0: Participatory Democracy and Citizen Engagement: Moderator: Chris Winter (ABC Innovation), Dr Jason Wilson (CONF) @jason_a_w, Stephen Collins @trib, Craig Thomler @craigthomler, Senator Scott Ludlam @SenatorLudlam

This was the panel I was most interested in seeing and I think it would have benefited from being scheduled earlier in the day, as the issues that came up in this panel needed to addressed far earlier, in my opinion.

Social inclusion, the recognition that social media is much bigger than Facebook and Twitter, the aspirations of Gov 2.0 and the engagement of community were all themes in this session.

Well known Gov 2.0 blogger Craig Thomler announced at the outset that he was a public servant and that he was at the event as a private citizen – a point that needs to be stated, given that as an APS officer he is bound by a code of conduct.

Personally there was not enough about how open government and Gov 2.0 can be invigorated from the inside out, which is a big challenge and one recognised in the Gov 2.0 Taskforce report. Nonetheless, there was some very sharp observations made about the media and other panel discussions. For example, Dr Jason Wilson referred to earlier comments made by panellists about political blogger Grogs’s Gamut and his apparent anonymity. He asked “Who is Grog’s Gamut?!”. In response a handful of people stood up and announced “I’m Grog’s Gamut!” “No, I’m Grog’s Gamut!”. It was a response that had been organised in advance by a some friends (including Wilson) as a bit of a joke because throughout the day the name “Grog’s Gamut” had been mentioned a few times – to the point where Osman Faruqi was tweeting that he had been having a drink every time it was mentioned and that he was pretty well on his ear. From Grog’s Gamut.

Conclusion

It is interesting to note that several days after the media140 conference, there has been renewed discussions on who has a right to comment on politics in the media. Craig Thomler wrote that: Today Grog, of the Grog’s Gamut blog, has been outed by James Massola of The Australian as Greg Jericho, a federal public servant who happens to blog on matters of politics. (27 September 2010)

The fact that James Massola, who appeared on a panel at media140 chose to ‘out’ Greg Jericho and question whether Jericho had a right to challenge political views in the media, highlights that mainstream media is struggling with the concept of citizen journalism.

In summary, if we are going to move towards Gov 2.0, open government and truly social media, then some crucial steps need to be made. Firstly, there need to be a realisation  from government and the media that public servants are citizens and as such are therefore entitled to comment on information in the public domain. Secondly, any type of discussion of social media needs to address issues of social inclusion and access to media. Thirdly, to address the issue of access there needs to be a redressing of the digital divide, another topic only touched on at media140. Finally, there needs to be a fundamental notion of  trust in the community by media and government so that information can effectively be distributed and shared.

Fave #media140 tweets This is a very small collection of some of the tweets that I liked from the event – if you are interested in reading the feed go to #media140

Read the ABC Canberra at Media140 blog for a transcript of the presentations.





The Room – the cult phenomenon

23 08 2010

I am a bit partial to chasing the free tickets sometimes offered by community radio 2xxfm, where I am a subscriber and past volunteer. Most of the films I have seen have been quite obscure and best defined as international, art house (for example Let the right one in). I don’t think I have ever scored tickets to a film that could be considered bad as I love films that are not mainstream cinema.

This time I was fortunate to score tickets to The Room, (2003, Tommy Wiseau, Dir) a D grade film that has cult status. I arrived at the cinema with no expectations, aside from the email promotion stating that it was the “Citizen Kane of bad movies”. If I had more time beforehand, I would have done some reasearch and looked at reviews like The Crazy Cult of ‘The Room’, so I would have been prepared.

The first thing I noticed was the audience, who my companion commented were ‘hyperactive’. There were instruction sheets on the chair for audience participation and I wondered if this was like Rocky Horror Picture show, where people can engage in the action. Some guys were throwing a football around and the people seated close to us were very sociable, reassuring us that we would enjoy it. And that we did.

Originally promoted by the slogan “A film with the passion of Tennessee Williams”, the movie tells the story of Johnny, a San Francisco banker played by Wiseau, whose fiancée Lisa has an affair with his best friend Mark. At the beginning of the film, Lisa has become inexplicably dissatisfied with Johnny, confiding to her best friend Michelle and her mother Claudette that she finds him boring. Lisa seduces Mark, and they begin an affair that continues throughout the film, even as Mark more than once tries to break it off. Throughout the film there are numerous sub-plots that are never followed up – for example Lisa’s mum being diagnosed with breast cancer. Then there is the random guy who shows up at Johnny’s party who is not introduced, though he seems closely connected with the main characters. In one scene, the characters are wearing tuxedos and in another they are passing around a football, both for no apparent reason.

As soon as the film credits started the audience cheered wildly. It appears that Wiseau directed, wrote and producted this film as well as having the starring role. Every time his name came up the audience called out “Tommy, Tommy”. From that point the interaction was constant, from throwing plastic sppons (a reference to a framed picture), running around the cinema and passing footballs, calling out “Hi Johnny”, “Hi Danny”, jeering at the unerotic love scenes (the one with Wiseau is quite revolting), and clapping along to the RB music used during Lisa and Mark’s sex scenes.

Clark Collis comments that “Late-night showings of cult films such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Big Lebowski are known for their rowdy and strange behavior too. But people who go to see Rocky Horror and Lebowski think those films are good.” I must agree, Rocky Horror is a film I have seen many times at the cinema and on video and I used to have the soundtrack on vinyl and probably could still sing along word for word. I do think it is a good film, it is smart and funny and challenges traditional ideas of gender and sexuality.

The Room is not a good film, but it IS so bad it is good. Would I see it again? Well, yes, if I get to enjoy the antics of audience and have my own plastic spoons to throw at the screen.





The Will to Freedom – Street Theatre

21 08 2010

The Will to Freedom is a new production as part of the “Made in Canberra” series at the Street Theatre in Canberra.

The play is about Sophie Freibach, a 38-year-old German doctor, who recounts the story of Raja, an African Muslim woman fleeing a forced marriage. Sophie, compassionate and deeply disturbed by Raja’s experiences, tries to understand what it means for Raja to become an independent woman. In The Will to Freedom, the journeys of these two women are mapped and entwined: Raja’s towards freedom and Sophie’s towards understanding.

In terms of describing the style of this piece of theatre, and I am no expert, I would define it as musical theatre. The show’s New York-based director Joanne Schultz, who is acclaimed for her socially engaged, hybrid theatre productions across diverse performance genres, describes this music-driven work as “part feminist fable, part noir-cabaret.” Schultz’s description is apt as the story is focused on subject matter that is very difficult, sensitive and culturally specific. Herein lies my biggest criticism of the work, which I will discuss later.

The play is an original independent work for solo voice with the libretto written and sung by German-born singer and voice trainer Maike Brill and piano music composed by pianist and musicologist Anthony Smith. The music draws on a range of musical styles from late-19th-century European art music, through 12-tone music, tango and African drumming, to contemporary music – a diversity of styles intended to reflect The Will to Freedom’s emotional and psychological journey on the pathways to understanding.

Although I found the story and the performance very powerful, I walked away with a range of questions about the political correctness and the cultural, religious content of the story. My first ‘problem’ was that this was a story written about a particular kind of cultural experience, one that is written (I assume) from a spectator’s position, albeit one informed from a range of reliable sources. The references include Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s autobiographical book, Mijn Vrijheid (Infidel), and a number of news articles, which are referred to in the performance.

I question why is it OK to talk about one type of experience and not another? For example in The chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, the writer Thomas Keneally wrote the story through the eyes of the central character, a young Aboriginal man, which he later regretted, saying that it should have been narrated from a white person’s perspective (see On the Integrity of the Narrator in The Lover and The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith by Colin Giesbrecht). Keneally recognised the inappropriateness of speaking for another in the preface of the 2001 edition. Given the wealth of work done in the field of postcolonialism since the late 1980s, it is clear that to speak in such a way about another does not empower the cultural/racial/religious group – it only denies them a voice.

In the Will to Freedom Raja’s story is told by Sophie, but for the majority of the play, we see Raja speaking for herself – telling her story. There are no surprises in the westernised perpective in the telling of her story, as the relationship between religion and culture is blurred and homogenised. I do not wish to claim myself as an authority in this area, as I would fall in the same trap, but from my past experience with Islam (I was married to a Muslim for 3 years), there is a huge difference between what is written in the Koran and what is practiced as part of culture. Indeed, there are vast differences in cultural practices across the Islamic world. For example, the practice of female circumcision referred to in the play, is considered abhorrent in many Muslim cultures.

My personal experience was of North African, Berber Muslim culture and I found the women I met to be strong, educated and vocal, whilst at the same time modest, submissive to Islam and the teachings of the Koran. As I write this review I am also conscious that we are in the holy month of Ramadan, a time when Muslims focus on their faith and family and despite the difficulty of fasting it is a happy time where the breaking of the fast is celebrated with family and friends. I do not know if the performance was intentionally scheduled during Ramadan, but it is noteworthy that it coincided with this significant event in the Islamic calendar.

There is no denying that many women are oppressed in many parts of the world, including behind closed doors in our supposed free society. But why do we need to keep singling out Islam as the perpetrator of these oppressions?

That all said, I enjoyed The Will to Freedom and think it does raise many legitimate issues about human rights and the rights of women. As this play raises questions about the ability of people to speak, it is a valuable piece of work, even for its limitations. Maike Brill’s deft ability to slip between Sophie and Raja by the simple use of the headscarf is evocative and convincing and the piano accompaniment is emotive, as is much of the monologue. What stays with me is Raja’s most powerful line, “Human rights above religion”, which is a most worthy sentiment, no matter where you stand.








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