In 2013, I gave at talk at the ICOT conference that was held in Wellington. It was a long and rambling presentation, somewhat vaingloriously on the topic "What data actually matters, and are we paying attention to it?".
I riffed on a visit to Disneyland observing lines for rides, the 48 hours of my daughter's birth and the signage during our stay in hospital, on David Foster Wallace's 'This is Water', on the unintended consequences of the Moneyball effect and at some level it was meant to be about being a better teacher.
The hosts grabbed me afterwards for this video interview - which is a relatively fair summary of what was going through my mind at the time.
This was the final section of that speech and I think, almost eight years later it still stands. It was a different time, and like all of us I was a different person, but after the last eight months, it is I think fair to pause for a moment, enjoy a tune or a few and reflect on the still pressing need to seek out resonances between each other.
In 2013, it was about shining brighter.
I've listened to a lot of mashups in the last few years. They capture the current global zeitgeist very well I think, and even my students have come to enjoy them. One student, on hearing one I was playing in class mused, ".. this is better than the original, and you get to hear more music."
I don't know if that's an indictment of my listening abilities or if it's just a reflection on my own ability to concentrate.
DJ Earworm has since 2005 produced a single mashed up song of the year, using data from the Billboard charts, and mixing together the top 25 songs.
I read an interview with DJ Earworm recently, in which the journalist asked:
A lot of people would hear those lyrics and say 'Pop music is so vague, how do you pull any meaning out of these songs?'
His reply was this:
"None are ever empty. They all represent a person's point of view about a situation. And so you have to ask yourself, well, what are these points of view? Are there similarities? Are there differences? And also, what is it about them that has some sort of resonance, that goes beyond, that connects and makes you feel a little more than it would have originally?"
I think that captures in a really nice, less circumspect fashion perhaps, the essence of DFW's final plea.
That we must aspire to choose to remain aware, of all that is real and essential, so hidden in plain sight, "to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out."
To constantly keep reminding ourselves over and over:
"This is water."
"This is water."
Here's to looking for those points of view, for the similarities, for the differences, for the data bits that matter and the ones make a difference.
To searching for the resonances and to making you, to making those you work with, and those you stand in front of, feel a little more than they thought they might.
Each day. Every day.
In 2021, here's to something to believe in.