My, That’s A Lot for Today


DF Westminster Speaking 2015 09

A lot of steps, students and stupid ranting from me. (I had to find three things that started with st. Oh and in this trio, the only stupid element is yours truly.)

Made to look a tad more foolish with a clicker that didn’t work — a tad like Steve Jobs in the famous iPhone announcement — I did something I haven’t been doing for a fair while today at 14:30: speaking in front of an audience of 100+ people. Thankfully, my MacBook Pro was not too far — mere inches — so I just tapped away on the keyboard. I was in a huge hall — the largest on the Harrow campus of the University of Westminster — and you thought they’d have a fully functioning microphone in front of an audience of 100+ (some stats had it close to 200)… Good guess. (Stage fright is a one-off thing, though, and I’m way past that; never mind my last speaking gig in front of close to 100+ was in spring 2014 — I was ready…!)

But then technology gives up, and humans continue, “unplugged”. Thankfully I was in a hall where it was so designed that, as long as you were “loud enough”, your voice would suffice — no extra technology ended. For the next 30 minutes, close to 200 students listened to someone whom, the way he thinks of it, could have done his maths a little better. (I admit I’m never too pleased with a presentation I give. I always find faults, no matter what the audience reception was. But that’s my Swissness at work!)

My 30-minute “blah” was about a myriad of things — all related to media, journalism, and the like. Things such as framing the news, covert (and not so covert) agendas, and pigeon-holing people. Things such as really trying to make sense of anything from the refugee crisis in Europe to Corbyn leading Labour (what the media thought, and what the academics thought). Things such as how social media was such a big game-changer, and how the Chinese Great Firewall couldn’t 100% define what happened inside the People’s Republic.

A few of the points I wanted to point across included the following…

  • What most supposedly equate the rather thorny topic of “censorship in China” with — and why it’s far from the full story
  • Why traditions in Chinese, not merely political ideology, defined how it presented that country’s news in a particular way
  • The impact of media on public opinion around election time — both in the UK and Switzerland
  • The theory of the spiral of silence — and the fear of inaction on the side of the grassroots

I finally left students with two “blahs” (for lack of a better word, again) when it came to critically making sense of “the news”:

  • You are what you know — famed from CNN back in 1999; a hint at the info gap and how to conquer it by always opening up to new ideas and views
  • Seek truth from the facts — very PRC-ish but the idea was that students would go after the truth from extant facts and open up their minds

Incredibly enough, one of the module leaders got back to me saying there were some pretty positive comments about my presentation. If hauling nearly 5 kg of northeastern Chinese rice from Chinatown to my wife was an “arduous march”, that note form the module leader made all those 9,000 steps worthwhile. Phew.

The pressure is on for me, though, to do even better next time…