Safe Hans

The weather here yesterday in Leeds was appalling. It poured down from the start of the day until the evening, but were our spirits dampened? No they were not, because we enjoyed an excellent first day here at ALT-C 2008. The day started with a rousing keynote speech from Professor Hans Rosling, who soared to new heights when he suddenly decided to climb a step ladder half way through his speech. Mark van Harmelen (ALT Director of Development) rushed to grab the ladded to steady the speaker, and through his white knuckle anxiety, we could all see the health and saftey risks and potential litigation flashing through his mind (photo from Helen Keegan's Flickr stream). Hans was safe however, and proceeded to wow the assembled delegates with a virtuoso performance, and opened our eyes to demographic statistics of birth and death rates, economic rises and declines and carbon emissions across the globe, using a new piece of graphic animated software he and his son had developed. Known as Gap Minder, it reveals statistics in a way never before seen, except perhaps in a more simplistic way by the likes of visual search engines such as Quintura.

In a style reminiscent of that other great Scandinavian, Victor Borge, Hans Rosling made some pithy omments that had the audience both laughing and questioning their previous take on life. Encyclopedia Brittanica, he said, is read by people who believe it to be true. Wikipedia is read by people who know it is not true, and that is its value. The main global trend now, he declared, is convergence. And still the gems kept coming - 'TV stations use graphics and animation to brand rather than to inform, he told us'. 'Ignorance is the best friend of the teacher'. And finally.... 'there is no digital divide - only a continuum'.

For those who missed this most excellent keynote, the video on demand is now available on Elluminate here. Now for day two of ALT-C....


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