Make space

An illustration from Safavid Iran on the community of kitab-khana — the 'book-house'.

I’m very fascinated on yesterday’s discovery found through Alan Jacobs’ brilliant newsletter, Snakes and Ladders, about this very interesting institution during Safavid Iran called kitab-khana, literally ‘book-house’. I remember when libraries in Malay used to be called kutubkhanah, which I used to think was named after the Pole (of ‘kutub’ = North and South Pole) of which also strangely I never found out why. I guess curiosity did not strike me enough during that time that I never bothered to find out. It was also interesting that kitab-khana was described as more than a library — it used to hold workshops, where calligraphers and painters ans scribes and papermakers and binders gathered to work together to create beautifully illustrated books. Kitab-khana was more than just a house that kept books, it was a community.

Some good news finally surfaced after a few weeks of January. My mother was discharged early this week, and it turns out to be nothing serious. My thesis submission administration woes finally came through, which means I am ready to submit any time soon. I am currently going through the details one last time before I send it for printing next week. It felt like a massive weight had finally been lifted off my shoulders.

I have been thinking about my future viva voce a lot and the potential questions I am going to receive, particularly that my research had a great deal to do with political participation and technology (in particular social media) and as we all know, those two are pretty much fields which are very fast-paced and erratic. I have been thinking a lot about how political participation had adapted throughout various media spheres — from print to blogs to social media to chat apps (Whatsapp/Telegram) to also having their own apps (in the case of Catalonia protests). What this means for researchers next is how we need to find ways to not only be able to procure the data from these private channels and apps, but also how to do in an ethical manner. I have also been thinking about the ethical data mining a lot after I stumbled upon a site providing Twitter data on Lebanon protests, knowing that even though Twitter stated that any public tweets are public in a sense that they are available for anyone for any type of research, but also knowing that these data could potentially put the protesters — of whose details are available and mineable publicly — in trouble in case if they get in the wrong hands. These ethical questions are something that I have been interrogating myself a lot, and one of the things I would probably bring up during the defense.

Tiny Spells, every so relatable, today wrote on why she writes: “I write so that my words would have weight. I write because of a limitation I have long grown past.” Andre Aciman, of whose thoughts about writing has always been helpful for me to always show up and write anyway, because, “you write not after you have thought things through, you write to think things through.” James Baldwin, taking it up on another level, as he always does, “you write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world.”

After I switched to a daily journal Moleskine with designated pages for every day, I write every day. It felt like when there’s a space for it, I would fill it. It feels like an apt analogy — when you make space for yourself or someone or something, you or they will feel compelled to fill it. So make space, because it’s a good thing.

Some related, some not:

  • A new type of political activist is emerging within and alongside with contemporary movements: the WhatsApper, an individual who uses the chat app intensely to serve her political agenda, leveraging its affordances for political participation.
  • We were promised flying cars but got apps instead.
  • Revolution in every country.
  • “They weighed the body a few minutes before death. They weighed the same body a few minutes after death. They used simple arithmetic—subtraction—to determine the weight of the soul.”


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