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17 May 2009 / erikduval

Snowflakes in Graz!

Had a GREAT time this week in Graz, Austria. I spent the Wednesday at TUGraz with Hermann Maurer and Martin Ebner. In the afternoon, Hermann gave a talk on “why theory is necessary, but dangerous“. The dangerous part referred to the fact that we often shy away from trying to do things that have been proven to be impossible in theory. Yet, sometimes, we find ways to do them in practice…

This is a really good and important point, I believe: my favorite example from my own world relates to music recommending. A common misconception is that music recommendation requires an understanding of why we like certain music in certain contexts. I consider it a deep mystery why music can make me cry or make my hair stand up. I don’t understand how that works. But, that doesn’t mean that we cannot automatically create the desired effect: see or pandora

My own talk on learning in times of abundance went rather well. Before and after, there was quite a bit of twitter traffic – no surprise, with Martin Ebner as one of the local hosts!

On the second day, I re-connected with Nick Sherbakov, who continues to do GREAT work on the TUGRaz  learning environment, together with Martin.

Around noon, I crossed the street to the KNOW center, to discuss our STELLAR collaboration with Stefanie Lindstaedt. I gave another talk, of course again on the theme of the snowflake effect. This time, I emphasized the importance of openness and the fundamental reason why I prefer an open approach to a “walled garden” – see also my earlier post.

As on the previous day, the students refrained from making comments or asking questions during the session. But I am very happy that they did make use of twitter and facebook to ask follow-up questions about the role of music, and how the evolution of radios is a good source of inspiration.

In the afternoon, I had a great time with Stefanie’s team and got to see some wonderful demos on what they do – lots of similarities with our work on ALOCOM and attention metadata. It’s so much fun to see the awesome results of Really Good Work: I had no idea they were so advanced with for instance their context detection work. I sure look forward to working more closely with this team…

Well, many THANKS to all who made my visit so much fun – including the students who came to my talks!



Leave a Comment
  1. Christian / May 19 2009 12:36 am

    Great talk, i liked your presentation style as well as your concept about snowflake learning a lot! Unfortunately you only had one hour to talk… i would have liked to listen longer 🙂
    besides, you mentioned that after “video killed the radio star”, there will be something like “internet killed the video star”. there’s already a youtube version:
    kind regards,


  1. links for 2009-05-18 « Kanako’s Blog
  2. Blogging About Generational Differences « Virtual High School Meanderings

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