10 11 2013

I have been back home just over a week and trying to adjust to being back in Australia, back at work and trying to refocus my energies.

The garden is not too much of a job catching up, the mulching and weeding we did before we went away was effective, though as any garden, needs attention.

Our little cat Sooks (Genji) has not come home, which has changed the energy of the house somewhat, he is truly a member of our little family and his presence is sorely missed. When we travel and I get homesick, it was always for our little unit of four, thinking of sitting together, out the back on a beautiful Spring day.

Trying to refocus includes a desire to be more routine about writing, starting small, hoping that by regular attention to the practice of writing, that the writing will flow.

In all the blogs I follow is there a consistency about the writing, a discipline that I need to adopt. Writing regularly engages readers, which is the purpose of writing a blog after all.

The thing I love about writing for mediakult is that I can play across many professional and personal areas of interest: media, technology, environmental sustainability, arts, culture and ideas of place (which are also published on

I am also hoping that writing in this public context will help me with writing in a personal context, like as Virginia Woolf describes writing a diary as “a method of practicing or trying out the art of writing.”

Although the practice of writing sometimes frustrates me, it is also driving me in a way, there is a need to get better, to explore more, to learn as a writer. One thing is to learn balance, between the passive activity of writing and to be actively discovering new experiences and places.  Also, how to write while travelling, is a skill I would like to improve on. I have not yet perfected the art of regularly writing every day and I blogged very little on our last trip overseas, which was unusual compared to earlier journeys.

Being grounded I find is both a positive and negative thing – it gives you a chance to breathe, to take stock and clear one’s mind for fresh ideas and energy. On the other hand it can grind you, bringing you down by slipping into the repetitive routines and behaviours lived at home.

My little writing effort is to avoid that monotony one experiences about the every day grind, it is a chance to explore possibilities and think outside of the routine of working life.

Some favourite blogs

10 11 2013

I always wish I had more time for reading, it is one of my favourite activities and I like reading about all kinds of topics, from current affairs, media trends, gardening, art, etc.

Anyway, one way I have found useful to keep informed is by setting up Google Alerts, on a range of topics. I receive regular emails reporting of media and blog articles related to the topic areas.

I also follow a few blogs and always find something interesting in brain pickings, check out this article about Author’s self portraits. I also like this article about advice on writing from famous authors.

Another blog that regularly has interesting articles is gov loop, here is one – 8 lessons to guide your career and an interesting one on selfies.

I also like Purpose Fairy, for all kinds for reasons!

There also also a few email lists that I have followed for nearly 2 decades – nettime and -empyre-  are two examples.

It would be good to just sit down and read a novel now and again, but nowadays it seems that there is only time on holidays 🙂

All about X, 0 and 1 – Mez Breeze

7 08 2012

Mediakult is very pleased to be presenting the work of Mez Breeze this month on All about X, 0 and 1. I first came across Mez in 1995 when I joined the Nettime list, when at the time Mez was publishing a lot of her poetic code work known as Mezangelle. Here is some information from Wikipedia:

Mezangelle  is a type of poetry Breeze developed in the 1990s using Internet text language found in ASCII codes, online games, and other forms of Internet communication. “Mezangelle” refers both to the works themselves and the hybrid language in which they are composed—codeworks of this sort “playfully utilize programming terminology and syntax” (Sondheim, Alan. Introduction: Codeworks) alongside “human-only” or so-called natural language, creating a creolized language that combines human language and code. In these works, the primary message is semantically overcoded in such a way that multiple different readings are made possible.

Our paths ‘virtually’ crossed again when we were both included in the 2000 publication of the Net Art Guide, (Fraunhofer IRB Verlag, 2000), compiled by the Electronic Business Innovation Center (EBIC) based in Stuttgart, Germany.

Since her early days of  creating code poetry, Mez has gone on to create and collaborate on many interesting projects.  For example, she also explores and exploits environments that involve online socializations or encounters. Such encounters involve the modification of online gaming environments, such as World of Warcraft, EVE Online, and Second Life, and social networking and alternate gaming software such as Facebook, Passively Multimedia Online Game (PMOG) and Twitter. As a member of the online group Third Faction, Mez has been involved in a number of in-game projects within World of Warcraft, with the aim of disrupting and challenging the combative structure of the game. In this way, Breeze challenges the assumed binary division between the online environment and the real world, and acts to subvert the factionalized “confrontational player-vs-player interaction” ( Evans, Sally. ‘The Anti-Logos Weapon’: Excesses of Meaning and Subjectivity in Mezangelle Poetry) that the game world tries to enforce. Breeze’s use of multiple avatars for her digital works further emphasizes the breakdown of the division between digital and real selves.

Other recent projects include The Dead Tower, a collaboration with Andy Campbell, (see a review by Leonardo Flores) and a book titled Human Readable Messages.

For her submission to the ‘All about x, 0 and 1’ program, Mez provided us with a great video of what it means to be a networked artist.  Hope you enjoy it!

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:


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 »

Report: Life of Information Symposium

27 09 2010

I arrived at the Life of Information Symposium (#lois2010) at ANU somewhat fatigued from the previous days attendance at media140.

Fortunately, I did not feel this way for long. Thanks to Dr Paul Arthur, et al, this event was very well organised, with the timing of presentations and discussions very tight and subject matter kept on topic.

A broad range of very interesting online dictionaries, encyclopedias and collections were discussed including Atlas of Living Australia, Austlit: The Australian Literature Resource, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Australian Medical Pioneers Index, Defining Moments, Dictionary of Sydney, Black Loyalists, Encyclopedia of Australian Science, Gallipoli: The First Day, Founders and Survivors, Invisible Australians, Mapping Our Anzacs, Obituaries Australia, People Australia and Trove

The speakers included Stephen Due, Janet McCalman, Sandra Silcot, Len Smith, Zoë D’Arcy, Cassandra Pybus, Katherine Bode, Donald Hobern, Kerry Taylor, Basil Dewhurst, Ian Johnson, Ross Coleman, Emma Grahame, Steven Hayes,  Stewart Wallace and Tim Sherratt.

My primary interest in this event was to learn more about the technical applications used in the digital humanities as this is a current research interest, particularly data visualisations of semantic web data. So for me the most interesting presentations were by Cassandra Pybus (Black Loyalists), Ian Johnson (Heurist Scholar), Tim Sherratt (Invisible Australians) see his presentation on Slideshare and the team from Dictionary of Sydney – Ross Coleman, Emma Grahame, Steven Hayes and Stewart Wallace. These projects were discussed on a range of levels including content, context and technical tools used for production and management of data.

I could not help comparing media140 and lois2010 even though these events were so different in terms of outlook. What was evident for me as a connection point was the use of the Internet as a communications channel. The major difference at media140, there was a focus on a small number of tools i.e. Twitter and Facebook, whereas at lois2010 many of the projects used custom built, open source and free tools. I guess researchers lead and the rest follow.

The other big difference was the use of social media during the symposium – at #media140 over 2000 tweets were transmitted as opposed to the 50 or so at #lois2010. In fact at one point, I tweeted that I was a lonely voice. Quite a different scenario to the day before.

In summary, I think that the digital humanities is building momentum and starting to really analyse the way in which its subject matter is managed and disseminated. There are still many challenges, including how to manage divergent ontologies and develop tools that have archival value. One of the most interesting questions came from a cultural studies researcher about how dissenting narratives could be portrayed and how other voices could be included in some of the biographical projects. For me this is a crucial issue and one that crowd sourcing can assist with as the audience should be able to include their voice to the narrative.

The other question in my mind is about the audience and their capacity to utilise the tools effectively, which comes back to my accessibility and usability hobby horses. What I would like to see next is a symposium that focuses on the functionality and usability of tools rather than the subject matter as this is currently a gap in my skill set, which I am trying to overcome as quickly as possible.

I look forward to seeing some of the presentations on Slideshare, and I will update this post with the links when they become available.

Project list


During the Friday Forum Gavan McCarthy mentioned this report on contextual information frameworks:

THATCamp CBR – Digital/Augmented space session

1 09 2010

In this session, the focus was on how we can traverse physical space with digital tools, map our location and connect with others. There was a particular focus on who has been in the same location and what this could mean for sharing an experience of a space or idea of place. The discussion was led by Dr Chris Chesher, who initiated the discussion by sharing his interest in robots and augmented space.

This topic is close to my heart as it is related to my creative practice as well as my PhD research.

This discussion covered a lot of ground in terms of covering tools, conceptual issues, future possibilities and challenges. For this reason, the majority of this blog post is a list of dot points which are split into three sections – concepts/issues, tools and references. The best aspect of this session was that there was a lot of blue sky thinking about what was imagined, what was possible and what is already emerging. Thanks to @ellenforsyth for providing the initial list of discussion points.


There were so many ideas, concepts and issues that emerged from this discussion, that I thought it prudent to try and only list some of the main themes:

  • how robots inhabit space – robots moved from science fiction to reality
  • gps – networked connections which inform about the space
  • spaces which have embedded information systems
  • what are the regulatory questions?
  • using mobile devices to record knowledge, stories in situ and feed it back for others
  • problems have changed – the technology gets smaller – perhaps the tablets are the solution – better image size – can make available in museum (Puke Ariki doing this now or soon)
  • two sides – using location based information to access received wisdom (museums, libraries, archives) but the other side of the community generated knowledge – accumulation of wisdom about specific locations – mention of 4square as a way of getting local recommendations
  • looking at memory – it may be the experience of the place, not the place itself – the personal stories, example of visiting the site of the former World Trade centre and the stories around
  • issue of following people on twitter who may over tweet their location – are we interested?
  • question about how to represent “my space” in a physical and an online way – how can an indiviual represent their physical space
  • second life mapping? dashboard with all spaces represented – could have a physical representation at some point, virtualising
  • artists working with gps locating combining in physical space – eg. Nigel Helyer
  • need for a truly topological architecture which can change, be exploratory, but can leave a trace others can interact with
  • AR – example which uses face recognition technology – as a navigation and access tool – using separate feeds for interaction,
  • is there an intiutive, pure way of leaving the trace in the environment?
  • the audio moving as you move through physical space – wanting diversity
  • who funds the staged experiences? collaborations? scalable? interlinking? example of staged experience cycling through inner west Sydney looking at galleries – other wise would not explore
  • push space – potential for marketing, but also possible for heritage and art discovery
  • example of Blutooth enabled signs in Adelaide for a band – song sample played
  • rfid – can slide tags in everywhere – no way of judging/evaluating them – perhap a solution is to be able to put filters on?
  • is there a market for the cultural sector to be a collective filter for people to opt to – as a collaboration rather than organisation by organisation?
  • idea that aggregators with crop up in the future – subscription option – also location filtering?
  • there could be a place for local aggregated information for discovery
    multiple view points helpful for many areas/locations
  • are the technologies providing the connections or enabling the connections
    broadening connections and also ultra local possibilities
  • different platforms with different norms about who you will have relationships with – differences with facebook, twitter, delicious…
  • need to keep in mind W3C standards and full accessibility – plus multilingual options? also social inclusion is very important – eg. iPhone ad showing people using their phone to sign
  • example of developing countries doing really interesting things with mobile phones, mobile phones as leap frogging technologies
  • example of using mobile phone technologies in refugee camps, and in transitioning to settlement
  • mobile phone as private space – this feeds into the notion of augmented space and personal/public have become blurred with the use of technology
  • banking transfer system in one African country based on mobile phone
  • are we already augmenting reality – by sharing things in different ways?
  • phones in West Bank provide a way around the changing boundaries – as can reroute people about the changes, adn map for boarder crossing pathways with real time updates
  • parking police mobile app – you know where they have been…
  • rfid tracking of cattle and sheep – genetics and feeding
  • stories from the US passing laws the prevent employees being micro chipped


  • readcloud – for ipad – people in a book club can comment, add images, where they are, twitter feeds, within the application of the book club, bringing together online and physical
  • soundcloud – similar with comments on the audio track, or kindle ap with high light within text to share possible sections of reading
  • Parramatta Library/Heritage centre will loan devices for accessing the walking tours
  • Museum which created a story ending at at secret room at the museum, online sources from Nina Simon blog
  • Tools for geocaching audio –, graphito (iphone app)
  • What about qr codes, qr queries? has their time passed? Issues of adding qr codes to buildings – who owns the plaque, can the code fit? Not all phones can read qr codes
  • new forms of fiction – King Park app finding your way to particular points – you are part of the story – also a version for Sydney Park
  • judas goat – feral goat tracking device – way of doing feral goat reduction
  • mesh technology could tie in with local applications as well
  • in France – Free – two boxes – networked foneros (?) works feeding “extra” bandwidth into shared area – sharing your own bandwidth
  • 4square – using gps to recognise where you might be, and can share information with friends or tweet or post tips for anyone to read – game mechanic “mayor” of place
  • Parramatta Heritage i-phone app for Governor Macquarie heritage walking tour, walking the past in Parramatta through the built up environment
  • mesh mobile phones – mobile phones reaching the tower through other mobile phones – for emergency phone towers


  • Cyberspace first steps (text title) this book was refered to, circa 1999, but I have not yet found it in a collection)

THATCamp CBR Report

1 09 2010

Last weekend I participated in a very interesting event titled THATcamp Canberra, which was organised by Tim Sherratt (@wragge), Cath Styles (@cathstyles) and Mitchell Whitelaw (@mtchl) and hosted by University of Canberra.

To explain, THATCamp Canberra was a user-generated ‘unconference’ on digital humanities. It was inspired by the original THATCamp, organised by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, and is one of a growing number of regional THATCamps springing up around the world. (‘THAT’ = ‘The Humanities And Technology’.)

The unconference model works on the idea that the participants generate the sessions, based on individual interests and research. In the lead up to THATCamp, participants blogged suggestions and then when we met on Saturday morning, the program was decided as a group, facilitated by Tim.

The sessions covered a broad range of topics including data visualisation to digital mapping to semantic web to augmented/digital space. Here is link to the THATCamp CBRprogram from Cath Styles Flickr page.

The sessions I attended were:

I missed the data visualisation session, but thanks to Michael Honey, this list of data viz links is a great resource of information about projects and tools focused on the visualisation of data.

As a general comment, the content of the sessions I attended was very rich, which was achieved by sharing experiences and tools in the spirit of collaboration. I have referred to some of the tools and projects in my reports on the workshops I attended. I went to THATcamp hoping to gain some practical skills and I found this, plus much more. I think the unconference model is a great way to focus on what participants want to explore, which was a big contributor to the success of the event.

Here are some other posts and reports on THATCamp Canberra:

Call for Papers – Special Issue Cultural Science

23 08 2010

Special Issue Cultural Science (
Internet Research Methods as Moments of Evolution

Editor: Thomas Petzold, ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

Call for Papers

This special issue of Cultural Science explores Internet research methods at the intersection of socio-cultural and evolutionary research. It invites contributions that combine innovative research design on the Internet with an evolutionary treatment of socio-cultural change to reconsider the dynamics of institutions, identities, and socio-cultural relations. By doing so this special issue seeks to identify and further develop discussions of specific methods as well as wider considerations of underlying propositions that deal with evolutionary approaches to culture.

Methods as moments of evolution relates to phenomena Internet researchers seek to unravel by using specific approaches and techniques as well as to the more general idea that Internet research methods must be understood as part of an evolutionary process of scientific working and thinking.

For this special issue, contributions are welcome that take methods and concepts from disciplines previously unrelated or but marginally related to cultural research and the humanities and apply, adapt and adjust these to Internet related research into structural and dynamic changes. Such an approach, it is expected, shares methods with other emerging disciplines and fields such as computational social sciences (Lazer et al 2009), digital humanities (Schreibman, Siemens and Unsworth 2004), and web science (Berners-Lee, Hall, and Hendler 2006).

This special issue welcomes case studies as well as broader methodological analyses of:

* Internet research methods and instruments exploring evolutionary processes of
Internet related issues in general,

* the dynamics and structural change of culture and language on the Internet in

* the challenges and limits of both visualising large data sets and/or small nuances of micro-case studies, and asks

* what it means for Internet researchers to consider methods as moments of evolution.

Prospective authors are asked to submit contributions (full papers, essays, visualisations, think pieces, in PDF or Word format, with references in Harvard style) of up to 8000 words to Thomas Petzold, Henry Li and Woitek Konzal by 30 September 2010. All submissions will be peer-reviewed. Early-career researchers and doctoral students are encouraged to contribute to this special edition. Accepted papers will be published in December 2010.

Special Issue of Cultural Science:

Deadline for submissions: 30 September 2010

Final revised papers due: 15 November 2010

Publication: December 2010


Berners-Lee, T., W. Hall and J.A. Hendler. 2006. A Framework for Web Science. Now Publishers Inc.

Lazer, D. et al. 2009. Computational Social Science. Science 323: 721-3.

Schreibman, S., R. Siemens and J. Unsworth. 2004. A Companion to Digital Humanities. Oxford: Blackwell.

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.