Monday, May 07, 2012

Beyond the net: or, why you should donate books on May the 26th

[This post is a rather long-winded way of announcing that the launch of the Oceania-themed double issue of the Kiwi literary journal brief will be held at the Onehunga Workingman's Club, at 158 Onehunga Mall, on Saturday May the 26th, from 4 until 7 pm. There'll be a kava bowl and food upstairs, and booze downstairs. As I explain below, we'll also be taking donations for a worthy cause...]

The 2009 sci fi flick Surrogates is set in a future where humans spend almost all of their time lying in bed, hooked up to virtual reality machines. In the world of The Surrogates, virtual reality is so popular that people often forget that they have real, flesh and blood bodies that require feeding and cleaning. I sometimes think about the dystopia of Surrogates when I read the pronouncements of the more fervent evangelists for the internet. Over the past decade or so a succession of businessmen, superprogrammers, and politicians have proclaimed that the net has the potential to bring prosperity, equality of opportunity, and wisdom to the benighted peoples of the world. Too many of the apostles of the net, though, seem to forget that a troubled world, full of intractable distances and unstoppable forces, exists outside cyberspace.

David Willetts, Britain's Minister for Universities and Science, recently joined the ranks of the internet evangelists. Announcing plans to make all of the academic research published in Britain freely available online, Willetts proclaimed that the internet had the potential to 'return knowledge' to 'the people who paid for it', and eliminate problems of access to education. Willett seems to believe that, simply by putting academic material online, he can eliminate the vast gaps in resources between Britain's exclusive top-tier universities and the rest of its tertiary sector, and atone for the increases in student fees that have put many young Britons off tertiary study.

Willett's online archive of academic material will benefit researchers who work outside universities - people like local historians, genealogists, and journalists - but it will not substitute for a training in scholarly methods. The archive won't turn millions of Britons into brilliant autodidacts, and it won't destroy the enormous advantages that a few years at an elite university give to a few young Britons.

But David Willett is not alone in his immoderate enthusiasm for online research. In many Western nations, including New Zealand, university libraries have for years now been merrily disposing of supposedly obsolete back issues of journals, and signing up to online databases which provide access to those journals. Creaking old books have gone into the shredder, too, and been replaced by links to electronic archives like Project Gutenberg.

There is no doubt that the creation of online databases and libraries has benefited many scholars. Instead of groping about in shadowy library stacks, students at many universities can now access old articles or obscure tomes with the click of a mouse. Writers can see their articles and books reach more dispersed audiences. It is easy to forget, though, that in many parts of the world online research is a physical and financial impossibility. In these places scholars must work outside the vast virtual reality machine we call the internet.

Last Friday I met Sisi'uno Helu, the Director of the 'Atenisi Institute, a private university on the swampy western fringe of Nuku'alofa, the capital and only city of the Kingdom of Tonga. 'Atenisi was founded in the 1960s by Sisi'uno's late father Futa, and became famous for its dedication to classical scholarship, Tongan song and dance, and democratic politics. But Tonga is a poor country with a ruling elite that is uncomfortable with free speech and open enquiry, and 'Atenisi has often struggled to find resources. Helu and his students raised and maintained the university's buildings themselves, and their library and laboratories were always meagrely stocked. The Helus are a famously musical family, and in Tongan Ark, Paul Janman's film about 'Atenisi, Sisi'uno's opera singer sister Atolomake is shown performing on a makeshift stage near a wild section of the Tongan coast. As wave after enormous wave breaks on the rocks behind her, Atolomake sends her voice higher and higher, striving to drown out the dissonance with phrases from Verdi. Her performance becomes a metaphor for the struggle of 'Atenisi to rise above the blows of poverty and persecution. 
Last Friday Sisi'uno and I swapped stories about Tonga's extraordinarily slow internet connection. As a tourist in Tonga, I'd found the slow pace of the net an irritation; as an educator, Sisi'uno finds it a disaster. Tongans with access to computers can, with a bit of patience, check their e mails, and scan the news at Matangi Tonga or The Guardian Online. The slowness of their internet service makes  it very difficult, though, to perform the complex searches required by academic databases, or to download material from online journals. A scholar at the University of Auckland can click his mouse and download the pdf version of an essay from the Journal of the Polynesian Society in a couple of seconds; his counterpart at 'Atenisi would have to wait for many hours, or until one of the frequent disruptions of Tonga's internet service knocked him offline.

Even if Tonga's internet service were improved, most of its students would have little hope of roaming the world of online scholarship, because they cannot rely on regular access to a computer. Few Tongans can afford a laptop, and few schools can provide more than a handful of computers to their students.

Tonga's poor internet connection and lack of computers make old-fashioned 'hardcopy' books and serials crucial to the education of its young people. Unfortunately, the country is not richly endowed with either bookstores or libraries. The Friendly Islands Bookshop has a virtual monopoloy on the book trade in Tonga, and is notorious for charging high prices and carrying inadequate stock. The last time I visited the Nuku'alofa branch of the FIB, the only novel I could find was a paperback copy of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, which was priced at a cool seventy-five pa'anga. Tonga has a long and heady literary tradition, and has in recent decades produced a world-class fiction writer in Epeli Hau'ofa and a renowned poet in Konai Helu Thaman, but the FIB is dominated by men who wrote thousands of years ago in  languages like Hebrew and Aramaic. It is easier to find a dictionary of Hebrew than a Tongan phrasebook in the store.

The deficiencies of the Friendly Islands Bookshop would not matter so much if Tonga possessed a good public library system. But Tongatapu, the country's capital island and home to seventy percent of its people, lacks a single public library. Tonga has a literacy rate which compares well to those of much wealthier nations like New Zealand, but its people lack the plentiful supplies of books that Kiwis take for granted.

Last Friday Sisi'uno explained that, because of the inadequacies of the internet and the absence of public libraries on Tongatapu, 'Atenisi's library was very important to its students, and badly needed replenishing.

When I presented her with a copy of the forthcoming issue of the Kiwi literary journal brief, which includes some work by her father, and with copies of a series of publications by Titus Books, Sisi'uno told me that she'd add these volumes to the shelves of the 'Atenisi library. She said that more donations were welcome, and it occurred to me that we could use the upcoming launch of brief 44-45 to collect some books to send to Tonga.

With Sisi'uno's agreement, then, I'm encouraging the bibliophiles who turn up to the launch of brief at the Onehunga Workingman's Club on Saturday the 26th of May to bring a book or three with them. Whether it's a novel you want to pass on, a political polemic you feel evangelical about and possess in duplicate, a textbook you no longer study or teach, or a tome by Scott Hamilton you bought out of guilt and now want to get rid of, your gift will be appreciated. The donated books will be packed up and posted to 'Atenisi. If you can't bring books to donate, you can always leave some coins in a cup to help pay for postage. For more information about the launch, or about donating books, flick me an e mail at shamresearch@yahoo.co.nz

[Posted by Maps/Scott]

44 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a school of thought that Americans are getting dumber, since fundamentalism and paranoid conservatism are gaining strength. Maybe all the flat screens and cell phones are traps, keeping people from taking the trouble to actually learn something.

3:02 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Scott

I'm clearing out cupboards etc and have already simply given away about 60 books and I have so many I am even throwing some straight into the rubbish.

But I have a range of things (not just novels although there are a lot of such but one can learn a lot from novels - even "factual" things - some also are technical or non fiction in general and still will be useful) I could easily give if people want to pick them up from me here. Obviously not from my own collection but I have some duplicates.

Partly I simply have too many old books here and I want to make room in the house.

The better stuff I can offer at a reasonable price.

Books as books retain their use...there is only a fraction of what is in books on the internet. Also digital storage is less reliable and not as long lasting than physical or "hard copy" storage..but there are other aspects of "digital books" that are good.

But like art, I think people need to learn hands on stuff before going into the virtual and I believe for example that students learning animation do just that.

Now even scientists fall prey to the mistake of relying on the internet and forget to do certain kinds of individual and or book based or library research.

In some ways Tonga and other Pacific nations) should think seriously about shutting down computers and TV etc while it can...think of the mass of drivel on TV and its got worse since TV first started here in NZ.

But not everyone lies reading so TV etc is great for people such as my son who don't read very much.

Some complex issues.

6:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BELEIVE IT OR NOT, SAMOANS ARE NOT TONGANS DESCENDANT.. MOST TONGANS SAY THIS CAUSE THEY SEE THAT SAMOA IF GETTING KNOWN AROUND THE WORLD BECAUSE WE ARE THE #1 COUNTRY EVER... WE WON THE RUGBY WORLD CUP IN 2010... WE GAIN OUR INDEPENDENCE FROM NZ WITHOUT VIOLENCE... WE RULE ALL OF TONGA BACK IN THE DAYS BEFORE THERE WAS EVER A TUI TONGA.. TUI MANUA WAS THE RULER OF THE PACIFIC (TUI MANUA IS SAMOAN, MANUA IS A SAMOAN ISLAND) SAMOA IS THE #1 COUNTRY IN THE WORLD THATS WHY TONGAN PEOPLE SO JEALOUS THAT THEY SAID SAMOANS ARE THEIR DECSEDANT.. BY THE WAY THE FIRST TUI TONGA IS OF SAMOAN DECSEDENT, TUI MANUA WAS THE FATHER OF THE FIRST TUI TONGA... BUT C'MON NOBODY NOT EVEN STEPHEN HAWKIN (CLAIM TO BE SMART AS GOD) CAN TELL WHO COLONIZE FIRST IN THE POLYNESIA AREA.. WELL SAMOAN MYTH SAID SAMOAN ARE FROM SAMOA NO WERE ELSE....(ALL YA TONGA UFA WHO SAID SAMOAN ARE FROM YOUR DECSEDANT, UR WRONG...YOU PEOPLE JUST MADE THAT UP CAUSE YOUR STINK *N DOG-EATING CREATURES ARE NOT KNOWN, SO YOU NEED A NEARBY ISLAND LIKE SAMOA AND FIJI TO SHOW TO THE WORLD YOUR IMPORTANCE...WELL I DONT CARE WHAT THE FU *K THE CANADIAN SCIENTIST SAID ABOUT YOUR STU PI* CULTURE, U GUYS LEARN ALL OF YOUR TRADITION FROM US SAMOANS)

Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Did_Tonga_rule_Samoa#ixzz1uDcLpSlF

8:42 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that last comment was unhelpful

4:13 pm  
Anonymous give up books said...

Richard etc I have long ago stopped reading books. I also don’t bother to read long articles in the internet. I would suggest you adopt the same attitude. I read drivel for years and so what. I got nothing out of it.

Life is living. Not books.

9:27 pm  
Anonymous books suck said...

PS If I don’t like to read, then what do I do in my ‘down time’ I hear you ask…well I like to listen to the radio, mainly talk radio whilst on the internet or I play video games. It just feels more productive than reading a book.

9:30 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Your point?

11:04 pm  
Blogger me said...

As a great man once sang, "there's more to life than books you know, but not much more."

A great idea. what sort of books would be most useful Scott?

11:11 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

aren't many books banned in tonga?

salacious materials and left-wing materials for eg??

1:59 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Hi folks,

Michael Horowitz, former Director of 'Atenisi and current deputy Director of the Vava'u Institute in the north of Tonga, has just e mailed me to tell me he's flying down for the launch. I'm hoping that we'll be able to smuggle a few books back with him when he returns to Tonga. Even if he has to pay for excess luggage, it should be cheaper to send books with him than by airmail.

I have heard vaguely about the censorship of books in Tonga, but I don't know any details. It might be unwise to try to bring manuals on the occult or sympathetic treatises on Satanism into the country. Paul Janman and Brett Cross probably ought to leave their Aleister Crowley tomes on their shelves!

I know that, by law at least, Marxist literature is banned from Fiji, but I'm not sure if the same taboo exists in Tonga.

Sisi'uno said that she was bringing some books on business and - I think - accounting back to Tonga with her, but didn't give the impression the 'Atenisi library had gotten much else lately. I'm going to donate a bunch of books - novels, biographies, histories - which I've accumulated on my raids on op shops out here in West Auckland over recent months.

11:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ten surprisingly banned books:
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/01/20/surprisingly-banned-books_n_1218905.html

11:53 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I once sold a book to an engineer from the Solomons how to build a pump or pumps. It was a good price.
He appreciated it. Despite the internet and data bases, information of all kinds is still found in books or journals etc. This is not to say that books as objects made of cellulose wont eventually be replaced by some form of computer equivalent.
the question here is not where I read books or "live life" but that places such as Tonga and Samoa etc need books (and in this case Atenisi)...

On a long term I can probably supply books I don't need (and some of or many of them will be good) but to get the best ones, if Atenisi can arrange something I can provide them at reasonable price. But I don't want to pay transport or postage and packing costs. And I'm not a charity.

My own financial situation is not much bet than the average Tongan's - but that said, I can find stuff - but anything substantial will cost. And I have or have had books on just about every subject you can name.

Atenisi or other Tongans (or others) should think of it (spending on good books of many diferent types or subjects) as an investment in their future.

They need to think like business men and women. I believe in business investment.

1:54 am  
Anonymous Ciaran said...

had a lk at that documentary film and tho interesting it just lks like a study is decline...ppl who were once great seafarers living in third world housing...rearing pigs...wearing western clothing...and people were shabby and not in great physical shape...repeating the empty phraseology of western metaphysics...athenian as well as christian...what about the real culture of the polynesian ancients who crossed the great seas and performed great deeds...maui etc...that is the film i would like to see...a pacific jason of the argonauts

11:22 am  
Blogger Paul Janman said...

Hi Ciaran,

Thanks for your interesting criticism of Tongan Ark. Yes, I too would like to see an 'Argonauts of the Pacific' but Tongan Ark represents uncomfortable contemporary (perhaps also eternal) realities. I think a strictly 'positivist' approach would be equally flawed.

The film is also an indictment of the powers that are not allowing the modern 'argonauts of the mind' like Futa Helu to create paradoxical cultural hybrids of Eurocentrism and Tongan purism. In this way, they rob such innovators of their creativity and free will.

So Tongan Ark examines a proud but exploitative and intolerant Tongan society and government. It does so in the context of the global economic and cultural hegemony of consumerism and utilitarianism that has hijacked critical education.

Futa Helu's struggle against these forces in circumstances of undeniable poverty and decay, was truly heroic. The film deals in all these paradoxes and more.

12:55 pm  
Blogger bielby said...

Good news for Tonga on the internet front at last:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/05/11/tonga_gets_big_bandwidth/

10:54 am  
Anonymous Scott said...

Thanks for that biebl. It's hard to imagine Tonga with a fast connection, but I suppose if Papakura could get a cafe that served chai lattes, nothing should be unthinkable! And let's hope all the world's insufferable IT enterpeneur-gurus - the David Farrar types who infest the internet - don't start holidaying in the Friendly Kingdom with their blackberries...

12:03 pm  
Anonymous Ciaran said...

paul janman...thankyou for your reply which is more than most people give me...i have one more question on reflection...

what do you think of the physicality of tongan people...especially the men.

?
thanks in advance.

1:47 pm  
Blogger Paul Janman said...

Hi Ciaran,

Not quite sure what you're question is. Also, I'm wondering what you meant by the 'Athenian metaphysic' in your previous post. You might want to flesh these out a bit.

Thanks.

10:28 pm  
Blogger Paul Janman said...

Tongan Ark will have its World Premiere as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival at Sky City Theatre on August 4th at 4.15 pm. http://www.nzff.co.nz/film/d884cbe0-d1aa-40d0-9435-fe259a21f9fc

Included is a live performance by the 'Atenisi Foundation for Performing Arts and a free panel discussion, performance and drinks at the Civic Wintergarden afterwards. Tickets go on sale this Friday. Discounted group bookings are available.

Follow us on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tongan-Ark/121780031235309

See also the Tongan Ark website: www.tonganark.net

Hope to see you all there. Malo! Paul

10:11 am  
Anonymous Live Rugby Streaming said...

Mark your calendar! The Greenwich Book Festival returns in 2017 on 26-27 May. We'll have events for all book lovers. See you there.

6:02 am  
Blogger Marktaylor said...

Rugby Live Stream
Rugby league World Cup 2017 Live
Rugby Live Stream
World Cup Live Stream

5:29 pm  
Blogger Rugby said...

All Blacks vs Canada On Facebook. Facebook How to Watch All Blacks vs Canada live is one of the largest social networking sites with 2.3 billion monthly active users. If the Facebook authority wants, you can enjoy All Blacks vs Canada Live

8:51 am  
Blogger Titanic said...

How to watch Mr. Olympia 2019 Live on Official Channel?Mr. Olympia Live Now
BBC is the official Channel for Mr. Olympia 2019. So, people all over the world can enjoy Mr. Olympia 2019 Live from BBC Official Channel.

8:56 am  
Blogger Sumon The MUSAFIR said...

Rugby World Cup 2019 will air on September 2019.Wallabies vs Wales stream free You have not enough time to get ready. Your favorite Wallabies vs Wales match also here under this RWC 2019. As a die-hard fan of rugby, you need to know some essential element about this game. Because you are willing to enjoy the match. You should know about this match.

8:58 am  
Blogger Rugby said...

With the help of progressively current NRL Grand Final developments, it has ended up being very easy to acknowledge NRL Grand Final 2019 on any contraptions. Fans can watch NRL Grand Final 2019 Live stream online on their Ipad, Mac, Pc, PC or any Android contraption. They can watch and check out the investigations at whatever point, any place, wherever on the planet. In this way, you can enjoy your favorite NRL Grand Final 2019 Live

9:15 am  
Blogger Titanic said...

When and Where will All Blacks vs Springboks Live StreamAll Blacks vs Springboks Free Streaming
The match between All Blacks vs Springboks will air at 15:45 Pm On Saturday, September 21, 2019. The match will one of the best match on the Rugby World Cup 2019

9:16 am  
Blogger Sumon The MUSAFIR said...

Rugby World Cup 2019 will air on September 2019. You have not enough time to get ready. Your favorite Wallabies vs Fiji match also here under this RWC 2019. As a die-hard fan of rugby, you need to know some essential element about this game. Because you are willing to enjoy the match. You should know about this match.Wallabies vs Fiji Live streaming Since the official site consistently gives the news which is identified with the occasion.

9:19 am  
Blogger Rugby said...

2019 Solheim Cup Live Stream online Solheim Cup 2019 Live Schedule Official Channels. Sky Sports has secured the deal as the broadcaster of the Solheim Cup 2019. The respective channel will be covering all matches of the event from the beginning to the end. Sky TV subscribers can directly enjoy the upcoming event since they just need to tune into the Sky Sports channel.

9:29 am  
Blogger Titanic said...

ow to watch All Blacks vs Italy Live on Official ChannelAll Blacks vs Italy Live match online
ESPN is the official Channel for All Blacks vs Italy. So, people all over the world can enjoy All Blacks vs Italy Live from ESPN Official Channel

9:33 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

AFL Grand Final 2019 is the up and coming high-voltage occasion in Australia. All the native of Australia preparing to appreciate this occasion. This is so fighting game you have ever observed. Therefore, the AFL Grand Final is one of the well-known game. This is the reason you need to get data about this.How to Watch AFL Grand Final 2019 You will get all the data from the official page. Since the official site consistently gives the news which is identified with the occasion. What’s more, this data is extremely basic for all.

9:36 am  
Blogger Sohanur Rahman said...

Before America gets turned on turkey and settles in to watch some football, everybody’s eyes go to Manhattan during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Walk 2019. Thanksgiving Day Parade 2019 Broadcast The yearly show of goliath inflatables, floats, group advertisers, entertainers, strolling gatherings, theater and Broadway in New York presentations and celebs is exceptional contrasted with other NYC events in November. Doubtlessly, it’s entertaining to watch in your PJs, yet there’s not the slightest bit like survey the procession vis-à-vis.

9:04 am  
Blogger sportsnews360 said...

Oklahoma City has bid to return the NFR to NFR 2019 Live Stream online Oklahoma but is always outbid by the deep pockets of Las Vegas. Starting in 2011, Oklahoma City hosted the National Circuit Finals Rodeo. Which are the Finals for the PRCA’s semi-pro series? This was seen as a step towards proving the crowds exist to bring. The NFR back to Oklahoma

9:06 am  
Blogger Enamul said...

American Well known Music Grants in AMAs. It is otherwise called American Music Entertainment expo. In this year AMAS 2019 Live Stream another AMAs is thumping at the entryway. American Music Awards 2019 will air on November 24, 2019. It is one of the most popular grants on the planet. Individuals everywhere throughout the world are holding on to appreciate this AMAs 2019 Live. Along these lines, you have insufficient time in your grasp to make the most of your preferred American Music Grants Live Stream.

9:17 am  
Blogger mohidul said...

Melbourne Cup 2019 hole tournament you have to stay in Australia.Melbourne Cup 2019 Online race So, you need to know about the travel package. There are many hotels in Australia which will provide your room and all kinds of facilities for spending money. You have to stay in Melbourne for Some days to enjoy Melbourne Cup 2019. Some days you have to spend $8000-10,000$. You will get a twins room or single room. You can enjoy the tournament with your family. You and your family have to stay here for Some days. This not a big cast for you.

9:18 am  
Blogger Sumon The MUSAFIR said...

Presidents Cup is one of the elevated golf events on the planet. It is an incredibly notable golf event. The Presidents Cup is a movement of men’s golf facilitates between a gathering addressing the US. Furthermore, an All-inclusive Gathering addressing the rest of the world less Europe.Presidents Cup 2019 Live Europe battles with the US in a near yet astonishingly progressively prepared event, the Ryder Cup.

9:20 am  
Blogger Helal said...

Grey Cup 2019 is going to be the Greatest Event In this year 2019. Grey Cup 2019 Live Streaming In The Event, famous players will be an amazing experience for you, your friends and family.

9:38 am  
Blogger lajwantidevi said...

call adultxxx
call girl
xadult

5:54 pm  
Anonymous Presidents Cup said...

How To Watch Presidents Cup 2019 Live Stream Online The Junior Presidents Cup will be played Sunday and Monday, Dec. 8-9, of Presidents Cup week at Royal Melbourne. Karl Vilips qualified as the No. 1 player for the International team

2:54 am  
Blogger Enamul said...

NFR 2019 is one of the most famous games in the USA. not only the USA but also people all over the world enjoy this Event. NFR 2019 Live online For this reason, many fans can’t get the chance to enjoy their favorite Event by sitting at the Venue. So, a big part of the fans watches their favorite NFR 2019 Live Streaming on tv channel. There are many channels who will telecast National Finals Rodeo 2019 live. As a fan, you should know about that.

2:34 am  
Blogger MR. Salvi said...

It is a piece of good news for the awards fan. Golden Globe Awards 2020 Live Golden Globe Awards 2020 is an upcoming awards event. It is a very popular award all over the world. So, people all over the world are waiting to enjoy this event. The way of Golden Globe Awards 2020 Live we have shared.

8:32 am  
Blogger MR. Salvi said...

Grammy Awards 2020 is an upcoming awards event. Grammy Awards 2020 Free People all over the world are waiting to enjoy Grammy Awards 2020 Live Stream. But you need to access it. The way of Grammy Awards 2020 Live Streaming we shared. You have to follow our instructions. For more information keep visiting us.

8:49 am  
Blogger Aron Roger said...

The fame of golf lies most with the English talking portions of the globe. Passing by the quantity of greens, Scotland stands high. Golf for some isn't a take a break; it is their life itself.
Presidents Cup 2019 Live Stream

11:25 am  
Blogger janny jonusa said...

The NFR 2019 is held each year in the first full week of December, at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.NFR on tv

12:29 am  
Blogger Rayhan Khan NYC said...

Presidents Cup 2019 is the upcoming most exciting event. If you are a golf lover and unable to attend the tournament in person, then the best thing you can do is to watch President Cup Online.

4:01 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home