London, before and now.

London, before and now.
London Bridge
London Bridge, October 2018

I haven’t been in London since 1993. And it has changed just like everywhere else. Seems more claustrophobic then I remember.  The skyline is a chessboard of old and new buildings.  A host more glass and steel structures that I like and not.

Maybe those old memories are now regulated to the depths of my subconscious.  Transformed into veiled illusions.  Snippets to be recalled for comparisons.

Last month, September marked module two in our study abroad program.  I facilitated the learning of our introduction to tourism class.  There we learned the breadth and depth of tourism, some of the most important concepts and theories.  Stressing how important it is that we in the industry craft a memorable experience.

Only a few memories stand out from my first visit to London.  A nice chap that did our

The White Tower
The White Tower

tour of the Tower.  He wasn’t one of the Beef Eaters, but a tour guide with a black bowler and black coat.  That is all I remember, except the crows and some of the tower itself.  I know I saw the crown jewels, but can’t recall individual pieces. Sparkle, nothing more.

Returning this past fall, it is like a bright shiny penny.  All new and glistening, beckoning to be claimed.  I set out for traitor’s gate, then the medieval apartments, and finally the White Tower to see the armor and examples of weaponry.  All for research and references for my writing.  And it struck me how tourist have changed.  How behavior has changed.

Everyone jockeying for that perfect position for a selfie.  Navigating through the apartments with several tour groups, wall to wall people.  I don’t remember it being this crowded last time.  Definitely not the technology.  Back then it was analog, or SLRs, no cell phones or DLSR.

This time it was about movement.  Moving quickly through the landscape, gain as much information as possible before moving on to the next.  I was caught up when I wanted to spend hours.  Hours to examine and study, both cultural assets and the people who populated the attraction.  But I couldn’t.  I couldn’t enjoy the Tower as I wanted, caught up in the flurry.  Move, move, move and move again.

Tourism has changed in the last twenty-five years.

Inside the Medieval Apartments in the Tower
Inside the Medieval Apartments in the Tower

Do tourist really see what they are looking at?  Do they know their history or the meaning behind the attraction?  Do they take the time in the place to understand and talk to the guides?  Do they appreciate what they are viewing?  How important the structure is to our cultural heritage, our past, our present and our future?  Or has these attractions come to mean something else?

That is what I cover in module 3–tourism, culture and place.  Tourism’s effect/affect on destination, the host-guest relationship and their impact on place.  Cultural tourism is one of the reasons people travel to places.  It pulls and tugs at you to make a choice, and move.  It may be the only reason.  For instance, ancestral tourism.  The want and need to find those places associated with our ancestors, our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents.  Answers the age-old question–Where do we come from?  Who are we?  What were they like?

Concepts discussed include authenticity, culture, identity, place, place attachment, place dependency, sense of self, sense of belonging, etc.  A lot to cover in just three and half weeks.  I traveled to London for two reasons, well three.  I wanted to see the city again and what it looked like now.  I wanted to visit key heritage sites for my writing research, and finally, I wanted to see the places associated with my genealogy research.  The Tower is just one because I have may or may not have a link back to William the Conqueror (apparently my 27th Great Grandfather).

So, London holds this place of interest for me now.  Or maybe it is the type of place.  Not just the destination.  Maybe my choices, my needs and wants have shifted to something more.  It happens throughout our lifetime.  I see London in a different light.  Every trip will be different because of the variety of choices.  But the mainstay for me at least is the history in one form or another.  The cultural heritage of the place.

 

Stepping off into Magic

Stepping off into Magic

Cuillins from Kirkibost
Originally uploaded by bruiach1

Wrote in 2010:

I wrote several years ago, well seven, actually about my meeting an elderly gentleman at Inverness Bus stop. At the end of our conversation, we parted as friends and he said something strange about gifting me with magic. That conversation has stuck with me the longest. I don’t know really why. I can only guess.

I fondly remember returning to Scotland from the States. How the moment my feet touched off the plane onto the ramp leading up to the airport proper, a grin spread wide across my face. I felt the anxiety of travel slip away as if some hands pulled away a clinging shawl. I wanted to run through the airport, customs and out into the misty Glasgow morning. But I took my time. I took my time, savoured each step.

I dreaded gathering my luggage but knew that soon, I would be out on the road back to home.

Today, I live in the middle of the corn belt in Illinois. I have to say that I miss the green and the rain. I miss the magic moments that seem to creep upon me without any announcement. As if there was this boundary, only Scotland creates. And it reaches out with strong hands to pull you in and to keep you there. There is no stagnation. There is always energy. I looked for all those thresholds and eagerly stepped off into the magic. Even loving the moments of wet socks and drenched clothes. Sometimes the reward was worth searching for that elusive elixir.

The boundary though is transparent. Scotland needs not exert any control. It is understood. It exist without explanation. It knows that you will be back.

Today, as I drove the length of the road from one town to the next and back again, I noticed the browning fields of summer corn. The leaves are turning and falling as the chill of autumn sets in. Some days, summer tries to reassert itself but autumn is just laughing. I think it is a patient task master, knowing the full the cycle of things. He sits down, draws his breath slowly and sighs. I wish there was more bite to autumn, like back in Pennsylvania. I don’t know. There seems to be something missing. I have no idea what it might be or what it is. Even now, at my favorite time of year, I feel lethargic from lack of choice.

I hate to be so detrimental to this area. I hate that I’m becoming entrenched in my old ways, complaining about everything. I hate that there isn’t more laughter.

I now know what it feels to return with the elixir and you’ve told your story. You’ve reached the end of a great adventure. It has changed you for the better. And yet, I think Vogler and Campbell, didn’t express this sufficiently. You can again, enter into that stagnation, waiting for something to come along and pull you again onto the road.

A road that leads to that magical boundary….

While I wait…

While I wait…
Faith Popcorn's Brain Reserve
Faith Popcorn’s Brain Reserve

Well, while I wait and prepare for a phone interview this morning, I zipped over to Faith Popcorn’s site, Brain Reserve.  I use Popcorn’s site both in my understanding of current trends and issues, as well as within the classroom.  I am all about the future and like the game of anticipation.  I love examining what is trending, what is going to happen, even predict the future, especially with technology.  But to know how technology is going to change or expound our dynamic world, you need to know what is going on out there; how people are changing.  That means trawling for information, dissecting the mass of words and envisioning, visualizing, what is going on.

Faith is predicting that women are on the cusp of cultural authority.  That they are again, stepping out of the shadows and taking the reins of most decision-making.  Hasn’t that always been the case, but were behind the gossamer veil that is the shoulders of most men.  Women were the silent child, eyes narrowed, always looking for the nuances of the world and stepping forward at critical times.  Now, even more so, we are exerting our voice, in better way than the feminist revolution of the late 60’s and 70’s.  We are exerting our brain power.

I agree and disagree with Faith on certain aspects. I know we are on a precipice of change, and we are exerting a great deal of energy fighting against the tide.  I have been at this precipice since 2003 or earlier, looking over into the differing shades of the abyss, or back at those that are behind me.  Technology has been a major player, a companion beside me.  The medium is prompting questions, making suggestions, and gritting its bytes for us to see potential and make the leap.  The early explorers (visions of the Life Cycle) have already leapt out over the edge and are navigating through the next generation.  Those active involvers that are still immersed in old technologies, are feeling the fingers tickling at their psyche’s to ditched the old and return to that fun first stage; throw caution to the wind and fly.  And those reaching the pinnacle and/or stagnating, afraid of what is coming, need to ask the question, that many do not ask themselves, “What are you afraid of?”

This could harken back to self-identity and self-awareness.  That there are those unwilling to even think about the opportunities and possibilities of the future because of the loss of something innate or even traditional.  But what is tradition?  Maybe the definition of tradition, the authentic needs to change.  Maybe it is not about the people, but about the action?  For instance, I had dinner yesterday with my Greek family.  We had a traditional dish of gravy meat and Greek noodles, called Stifado (I think).   The stew, much like my own mother’s ‘golfer’s stew’, had at its bedrock in wine, cinnamon and the cooking process.  I enjoyed it immensely and made sure I thanked the cook, several times.  At the end of the meal we had a traditional talk as the grandkids, nieces and nephew went on their way to play.  At one point, recipes were compared or I should say finished dishes.  What I am getting at, is this is a traditional dish.  Culture exists in its varied forms, and conveyed in different styles.  A simple recipe card passed down from one family to another is a tradition.  We don’t necessarily have to have the same customs present.  The dish is the tradition.  The act of sitting around that table is a tradition.  We don’t lose our identity with change.  As Darwin, expounds, we adapt, we overcome and we persevere.

If we jump off that precipice that is looming on the horizon, that edge that we are inching closer too, what are we afraid of losing, giving up, or see disappear?  Are we not ourselves, made better?  Are we not captains of that adventure, that journey that can control and not, the internal and external forces that push and pull at us?  We cannot be afraid of change.  We may balk at its first steps, but at one point, we need to turn the light on and throw caution to the wind.

 

What about tomorrow….

What about tomorrow….

I just got back from ICHRIE in St. Louis, MO and technology was a big part of the conference.  I found one video that encapsulates what I have been telling my lodging students for the past 7 years here at Eastern.  As well as the students I had in Glasgow.  Technology will enable us to greater proficiency, effectiveness and efficiency.  Traditional values will return, evolved into a higher art form.  Personalized service will take on greater depth with the application and integration of technology applications, both platforms and software.  We will not be tied to a machine, to one place.  Marshall McLuhan’s postulate that ‘technology will be an extension of ourselves’ will be realized.

In one of the novels I have just finished, technology is one of the support characters and plays an important role in catching the bad guy.  One line I wrote:

The movement of his eyes had the document scroll upward so he had uninterrupted viewing.

The hero has set his SMART phone down on a sink and has projected his emails up onto the mirror above the vanity.  He uses his eyes to scroll through his messages as he hastily scans the information.  His cousin has developed this app that highlights key words so the hero’s brain can process the information faster, filling in the blanks and leaving him with no question about what is said.  It is taking the acronyms used in texting to a new level, utilizing the power of the brain to formulate patterns of decisive thought using the visual dexterity that it is capable of.  These thoughts of mine are based on Human-Computer Interaction theory.

The future of technology and innovation
The future of technology and innovation

I really feel that the next few years will see an exponential growth of interfacing our day-to-day activities, physical and psychological, with that of machines.  Design and use will be more transparent given cultural specifics.  We will truly extend our abilities, capabilities by extending ourselves into our environments.  We will be linked physically into our environments, physical, natural, economic and social even more so.

Do I see a future as portrayed in movies such as iRobot?  Will the machine become more?  Yes, I do see it becoming more and I do see a time when the machine will have a brain.  Independent thought, yes.  Will they become a new species?  A new culture?  Sure.  When, I can’t pinpoint an exact moment.  But we are all evolving, immersing ourselves within this new cultural environment.

More later….

Mapped out the Dragon Fly Effect for upcoming conference

Mapped out the Dragon Fly Effect for upcoming conference
Dragonfly-Effect-and-the-Four-Pillars-of-Social-Media
Dragonfly-Effect-and-the-Four-Pillars-of-Social-Media

Presenting on multi-media and hyper-media use in the classroom at the Educational Academy at ICHRIE in St. Louis, MO this July and so, as per my usual, had to map out my ideas for creating an innovative culture. This mind map addressed the three prong approach of collaboration, communication and critical/creative thinking.  Wish me luck!

Don’t throw the bath water out just yet…

Don’t throw the bath water out just yet…
Innovative culture part of the bigger mind map
Innovative culture part of the bigger mind map

Signed up for a course in the fall from the free database at Coursera called Creativity, Innovation and Change.  I am a stickler for innovation.  A friend and co-worker commented the other day about my use of mind-mapping that she had never heard of it before I arrived at my current local, job.  I am  not surprised by this, not many do use visual methods to solve problems.  I have always been a visual thinker and my parents can attest to that, having sneaked a box of crayons into my cot when I was a wee lassie and went Picasso all over my sheets.

I am envious, jealous, irritated, frustrated and astounded by the various forms of innovative techniques out there.  Again, choice I think has something to do with it.  I revert back to Marshall Mcluhan and Joseph Campbell when my brain goes into overload and is on the verge of ‘cracking’ as I call it.  That moment where you have a million thoughts going through your head and ‘bam’, like the computer, on overload, freezes and reboots.  I just can’t extract any more information or possible solutions without some means of shut down or stepping away, letting the thoughts incubate.

Maybe I should call it ‘fracking’?  I know the word is used by petroleum engineers to illustrate how water or fluids are forced into fissures in rocks to open them up further to extract oil and natural gas.  But think about it, are we not using innovation to open the cracks in the mind to allow for cognitive and reflective thought to illuminate various answers to problems.  If we want to be proactive in our thoughts about potential problems, would fracking be better term.  Does fracking have to be solely used by engineers?  This harkens back to my students and engaging them with the information that I know is embedded in their minds from four years of university.  How do I tap into those brain cells and open them up so that they can articulate their knowledge?

How do I challenge, push them to their limits to put to the test what they have gained?  I can see it in a few; how some have gone from a limited awareness to a greater awareness and employ that knowledge in written assignments.  But still, I need them to execute that knowledge.  Hence, frustration and irritation in myself.  “God, grant me patience but hurry.”

Another reasons why I have them examine my ‘Big Mind Map‘ and offer up their opinions.  I ask them if they can see the relationships?  Can they see the interplay of subject matter?  How can they use their own creativity to address problems that would slow down or create stagnation within the business environment?  It is not just about book learning, but about them going further, farther in their interpretation and application.  Why I have told them about this free course.

I want to, for a better word, push them over that precipice into a newer realm of thinking.

Reflection…short and long-term thinking.

Reflection…short and long-term thinking.
Tourism Business Environment
Tourism Business Environment, depicting the functions of management and innovation

Sometimes, I feel like I’m constantly in the dental chair.  (Nothing against dentists, but it is not my favorite place to be, even with the sonic cleaning tools.)

It is a challenge to engage the students in strategic thinking, to discuss the overall short and long term impacts on a business as well as the industry.  Monday’s are especially hard; hard for anyone including myself.  You just don’t want to think.  But you have to, you have to be on your game, at point from the moment you wake up.

I created these mind maps to help my students understand constructs that I discuss in class, even in other classes they have outside of hospitality.  I’m trying to understand if these maps even work.  I am a visual thinker and I wonder if my students are?  I pose questions, give them case scenarios from experience, trends, ‘in the news’ to try to stimulate their grey matter. For instance, what will happen if there is the slights fraction of change in percentages, money, information and so forth–what happens to the business?  What will happen to the employees?  What will happen to the company?  What will happen to all the stakeholders?  How will revenues and profits suffer?  They need to make the connections to the various contact points and beyond.  And then return.  Common sense stipulates that for every action, there is a reaction which will lead to a result that will lead to another action.  It’s a continuous cycle of events.  Clichés aside we are never off the merry-go-round.

So I was questioning my diagrams.  Asking myself what am I missing?  Where are the gaps?  I ask the students to examine and offer up possible changes.  That happened in Monday’s ethics.  I had the epiphany through their conversations that maybe there is an eleventh principle, responsibility.  This is similar to accountability, concern and respect for others but still has specific connotations that might warrant inclusion.

Still thinking….