An Analytical Approach of “On Photography: In Plato’s Cave by Susan Sontag”

On Photography: In Plato’s Cave is one of the solid chapters that explains how photography works and how we see things through it. It is a reference in photography since it explains some concepts that are used today after more than 40 years of publishing the book such us how do we see photographs in a modern and well-developed era in terms of technology.

It started by throwing light on photographs as entities that can make the human being feels that he or she owns the world in a single sheet of paper just by collecting many of them. Collecting photographs is like collecting the world since they represent unique experiences of different people around the globe. They are represented as proofs and testimony with an incredible power of convincing. However, Susan Sontag mentioned that photographs can be seen from another perspective which is the interpretation part. In addition, she mentioned the role of a camera in order to realize and relive our experiences. Moreover, photographs are a path to live some experiences without being a part of them which leads us to construct a nostalgia that combines what we lived and what the others lived.

In my opinion, I strongly liked the chapter because it was written many years ago, and it still explains or even predict some aspects of photography today. And it showed how people behave towards photographs and what effects do photographs on them.

First, I agree on describing photographs as collecting the world. However, we can go beyond that and say that photographs is collecting the relevant parts of the world that interests the photographer. We can argue on that by saying that the uninteresting parts of the world are usually neglected. For instance, trash cans are not usually captured because they do not seem to be interesting to anyone. Psychologically speaking, the human behavior tend to feel comfortable by seeing the good looking things, so the photographer, as a human being, is always looking for interesting things to capture. In addition, he or she tries to present it from different angles and frames, that are not usually seen, to represent it in a more interesting way.

img_8875
Agouti’s Dust by Mehdi Laziri – Copyright Mehdi Laziri – Unauthorized use is prohibited

Capturing the interesting moments has been for the personal satisfaction and for the history. Nowadays, capturing the moment has evolved with the social networks because of the smartphones which are widely used cameras. So, instead of taking a picture for the the personal satisfaction, another variable has been added to what Susan Sontag discussed which is sharing. It is no longer just about collecting the personal experiences. It becomes about sharing the personal experiences with the world as well.

Second, I agree on the fact that photographs can be interpreted in different ways. We can also add to the statement that photographs can also serve a certain ideology or religion. It can be used also to push human being to take action against an existing political agendas. Photographs are powerful than words. From my experience, I have read many political articles about the war in Syria, but honestly it just push me to construct a sense of solidarity. However, when I saw the picture of the Syrian child who died when he evacuated with his father their country looking for peace, I strongly realized the damage than the war has been causing in Syria. It really pushed me to think and do something to help those people who are dying because of some political agendas between the the major political powers in the world. On the other hand, such photographs by independent photographers show what the mass media hide from the world. It can be seen as an alternative media solution that fill in the gap that mass media created.

image

Alan Kurdi by NILÜFER DEMIR

Third, I see the part when Susan Sontag talked about photography as a way to make us feel that the world is more available to us as an insight about the filters that most of social network applications are using today. When we take a picture of ourselves, it does not necessary reflects the reality. It represent how we want the reality to appear. It is different than manipulating pictures because it is manipulating reality. Applying filters, on the other hand, reflects how the reality lives in the photographer’s head.

References:

Demir, N. (2015). ALAN KURDI [“As a father, I felt deeply moved by the sight of that young boy on a beach in Turkey.” -David Cameron, former British Prime Minister]. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from http://100photos.time.com/photos/nilufer-demir-alan-kurdi

Laziri, M. (2016, March 20). Agouti’s Dust [Awesome Volunteer Ouissal cleaning a window while sun is beautifully saying hello.]. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from http://yourshot.nationalgeographic.com/photos/7961510/

A Hebrew Female in My Heart – في قلبي انثى عبرية

I just finished reading a book called “A Hebrew Female in My Heart – في قلبي انثى عبرية” which amazed me. Unfortunately, there is no English version of this book. I would love to read it in English in the future. My rating for this book is 5/5. It is written by Dr. Khaoula Hamdi who is a Tunisian author and a professor of information technology which surprised me when I first read this piece of infomation. She has been telling the story of a Hebrew girl between Lebanon and Tunisia, between Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, between war and peace, and between love and religion in 388 pages. If you did not read the book, and you do not want to be spoiled, please stop reading till you finish the book.

This interesting mixture of concepts and the fact that the book shares a real story pushed me to finish it as soon as I can. The way that the author used to describe the events made it more interesting to read.

A Hebrew girl called Nada from a Muslim father and Jewish mother initially lived in Tunisia then moved to Lebanon after the divorce of her parents. Her mother married a Christian man who filled the gap of the father in both Nada and her sister Dina lives.

One day she found two Muslim men on the door in a terrible situation. Ahmed was injured and Hassan his best friend supported him. Nada took care of Ahmed in the garage even if it is prohibited because of the difference between their religions, especially because of the war in south of Lebanon. They felt an unusual feeling with an absolute respect to their religions in the sense of the meeting between people from different genders at that time which would build a great story after.

She faced many consequtive bad events from the death of Rima who was her best friend in the civil war in Qana, Lebanon. Rima saved her life by teaching her Islam in addition to the lessons that Ahmed was giving to both of them, and the injuries that she had in the same war while looking for Rima. In addition to the disappear of her lover Ahmed in one of resistance’s operations which was 4 years long in which Ahmed lost his memory. He lived in a village in this period thiking that he is Christian. Moreover, she was not allowed to live in her mother’s home after she converted to Islam. This path changed her life because of the books that Ahmed gave her and the behavior of Ahmed and Rima which had a critical effect in her life. Moreover, the death of George who was her spirtiual father and her spiritual brother Micheal had a bad effect on her mental health. At the end, she helped all her family members and friends to convert to Islam. She married Ahmed, and they are still living in peace.

I did not mention some events and some other people who played a great role in this story. I strongly encourage you to read it because it pushed me to see things from different angles.

I learned from this book that religion should not be interpreted by judging the behavior of people who believe in it. In addition, the concept of religion itself does not cause the wars. In fact, the political and economic agendas are the main cause of hate.

I learned that media is a “make-up” tool which can make a religion more trustworthy than another. However, this is based on personal opinions or some agendas that those media agencies are serving which makes the media a dangerous tool that affects the public opinion.

I concluded that the religion should be taken as a well-formed set of noble ideas which cannot be interpreted by science because science is not absolute while the religion in it is core can be seen as absolute, so comparing religion with science is not a good path to follow. Religions can be compared to each other based on the concepts that they are promoting without being influenced by a third party which can manipulate the pure opinion of any human being.

I noticed that people from different religions can live in peace if each one of them respects the ideas of the other. This story illustrates this image that media does not promote. It taught me how to respect friendship and how to handle conflict between close friends. In addition, it taught me how to forgive people and take into consideration their special conditions at that specific moment.

How Linux Affected my Life?

I have been using Linux-based operating systems since 2012. I have been building a strong relationship with my favorite operating system Ubuntu. When I thought deeply about it back then, I realized that it is not just an operating system. GNU/Linux is a philosophy in computer science. It is an independent way of thinking. It brings us to talk about the open source projects. These kind of projects show that great things are made by many people who love what they are doing. They are based on contribution and combination of millions of developers around the globe who are different in many aspects of life. They have different religions, different cultures, and different languages. However, code and love of making people’s lives better unite them.

It affected my way of thinking, my behavior towards myself and my environment. It taught me that life is not all about money. Life is about helping other people even if they do not know who you are or what you are doing.  We gain good friends who share the same interest with us or maybe just respect us because we are doing something that they think it is valuable for them or the community in overall.  Some of them do not understand or give the necessary value to what I am doing, and they decide to leave because they think I have a boring and nerdy life. It is their problem because I believe I am doing the right thing for my personal satisfaction. Some of them encourage me everyday and teach me everyday in all life’s aspects, and they accept me as I am. I will show to those people that I worth their confidence.

It affected my decisions. When I want to make a decision, I think a lot about it. Linux taught me that there is no way to return to the previous state. When you type “sudo rm -rf /opt/folder”, there is no way (without forensics headache of course) to return back on time to the normal state. It taught me to be strong and precise in my decisions.  In addition, when you type “sudo” at the beginning of any command, Linux taught me to assume my responsibilities and to be professional in my decisions. It has two different states: normal and superuser state. So, it taught me to separate the professional and personal life. The professional one needs careful management and strong behavior.  On the other hand, the normal one cannot decide on some very important life decisions, so it can be handled without any additional stress or thinking.

It affected my emotions. I started to think in a binary approach. I do not take or think about the decision twice. When I decide on something, I assume my responsibility in terms of the consequences that it might have. So, in life either you get 0 or 1. I do not believe in 0.5. Adopting this approach causes consecutive failures in my social and emotional side. However, it is still clear in my mind because there is no such state between love and hate.

GNU/Linux is not just an operating system. It represents the way of thinking of millions of noble souls who made the Humanity great by connecting the individuals and providing a wonderful platform for the new technologies to appear.

Image Copyright: AudioBoom https://d15mj6e6qmt1na.cloudfront.net/files/images/1745/5387/trh_open_source_artwork_wide-a351735085ed65356885b7e1df06a4172f251b6c.jpg

An External Approach of Seeing Education in the Moroccan Context

Since my childhood, I have been loving explaining a concept to my friend. I have been loving writing on the board and seeing my friends behind me. I do not hesitate when someone asks me to help him or her to understand a topic. I love reading what does not appear in the textbooks. I enriched this experience, after years of learning the basics of computer science, by volunteering in teaching web development during a summer camp. It was one of the best experiences that I ever had because I helped some high schools students to build their own websites. It was a unique experience that taught me how to deal with students, how to act in a classroom, and how to explain a hard concept in a fun and easy way. My interviewee was happy to see a student asking about his job because he told me that it is a good opportunity for him to talk about the problems that he faces everyday. He is an associate professor at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane. He asked me to not include his name in the report. I was glad to meet him because I learned many things from a different mindset. The interview was as follows:

Ahmed Lekssays: What happens during a typical day?

Professor: I have a few hours of teaching, office hours, and independent research. Sometimes, I have some meetings with the administration about the supervision, curriculum, and students. In addition, I have to deal with students in some internships, capstones, and exit tests.

Q: What are the most important personal satisfactions and dissatisfactions connected with your occupation? What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying? Most challenging?

A: I believe that explaining well a topic  and see that students understand it well forms my personal satisfactions.  On the other hand, I believe that if the student did not get the point behind a topic is a dissatisfaction for me. The challenging part of my mission is to explain a topic which requires some prerequisites and background information because I need to explain the  prerequisites  and the actual course material in a short period of time.

Q: What kinds of problems do you deal with?

A: Some of the problems that I face in teaching are politics related problems with administration, lack of students’ motivation, and issues related to U.S. modern educational system.  The U.S. modern educational system reduces the meeting time with students, so professors do not play their mentorship role with students. Hence, professors do not affect their students. I think that the professors’ roles go beyond what is stated in the textbook. They should affect their students in other aspects of life such as ethics.

Q: What are the major qualifications for success in this occupation?

A: Success is relative. I will be answering according to my own definition of success. For me, it is making a difference in students’ lives. The 3 keys of success in this mission are sincerity, dedication, and patience.

Q: What special advice do you have for a student seeking to qualify for this position?

A: First, you should not take it as a job or just a position that guarantees an income. Second, you should take your studies seriously. Finally, you should keep learning outside the class and beyond what textbooks stated.

Q: Do you have any special words of warning or encouragement as a result of your experience?

A: According to my experience, you should always question your intention. Why am I doing this? Is it for money, fame, or status? This will help you to figure out the right reason. If it is based on money, fame, or status, just look for another mission. Teaching is not for you.

Q: What kinds of experience, paid or unpaid, would you encourage for anybody pursuing a career in this field?

A: Tutoring would be a great experience, especially if it is not paid. By explaining a concept to someone, you will benefit as well. You should take it as a duty to help your environment understand a concept that you are familiar with.  

Q: How has your job affected your lifestyle?

A: Actually, it affected it in many ways, but the important thing is that you keep learning, and you are always surrounded by young people, which improves your energetic outlook.

Q: How do you see professors’ value in Morocco?

A: Moroccan society shows a high respect to professors in general. However, there are some professors who do not take their job seriously. Thus, they affect other professors who are serious about their mission.

Q: How do you see professor’s’ role in the development of nations?

A: The role of professors is fundamental in the development of nations. However, as I said before the professor should take teaching as a duty. The professor should have an impact in his or her environment. For example, “At Taalim Al-Atik” is a good example of having an impact on students because of everyday meetings. The students learn how to deal with different status. For instance, they know how to deal with him or her when he or she is angry.

Q: Is there anything else would you like to share?

A: I would like to keep my name hidden. On the other hand, I am very disappointed about the status of professors’ around the world. Some professors are teaching because of money, fame, or status. Thus, the work atmosphere has become negative.

I was inspired, motivated, and influenced by my interviewee because the interview contained what I was looking for. I needed to question myself in order to choose the right path. My interviewee sees teaching as I was seeing it. It is not only a job. It is a duty and a mission that can change positively a community. The main points that I got from the interview are hard work, patience, and dedication.

First, I learned that the professor is a hard worker who goes beyond what is stated in the syllabus or course material. The professor should have the ability to think outside the box in order to explain a concept to his or her students. This skill can be improved by looking for different resources and by analyzing different teaching strategies. Thus, the continuous learning is not always about the field of studies. It goes beyond that because it involves analyzing the background of students in terms of psychology, culture, and ability to grasp the information. A professor should have the ability to explain hard concepts in an easy way to help the students to understand it because the way of explaining reflects the understanding of the concept by the professor himself or herself. In addition, the professor should be open-minded because sometimes students know what the professor does not know, so the flow of information should be in both directions.

 Second, teaching is about patience. The professor has a fundamental role in his or her community. He or she is a source of knowledge that can build knowledgeable community. The professor should have an impact on his or her students who represent the next generation. However, it is hard under the American educational system because the meeting time is not enough to have an impact on them. The professor should be a model in different aspects of life because he or she is seen as a leader that the community respect and follow. So, the fundamental key if a student wants to pursue his or her path in teaching is patience. It is not a job that pays materialistically. It pays in terms of personal satisfaction and effect that goes beyond the personal goals. Therefore, it should be seen as a duty not an a source of money.  

Finally, dedication is another fundamental key is building a successful career as a professor. The professor should love what he is doing. He or she should play his or her role without expecting a reward from the community. The best example for a student to experience this job is tutoring, especially if it is unpaid. The student will learn how to give without expecting a reward. It can be unseen because it is not materialistic, but it enriches self-satisfaction which is my ultimate goal. Success can be seen from different perspectives, but I define it as reaching self-satisfaction by sharing knowledge with the Humanity.

To sum up, being a professor is not an easy mission because it involves many aspects such as personality, community, and personal definition of success. The main keys that the students should have in order to be a successful professor who has an impact in his or her community are patience, dedication, and hard work. Sharing and building knowledge is a noble thing because it helps Humanity in the path of development. This mission can be experienced by unpaid tutoring because it is a minimal version of teaching.

Image Copyright: Artsfon http://www.artsfon.com/pic/201511/1920×1080/artsfon.com-75547.jpg

A short discussion with my Hebrew friend

Since the first era of the social sciences with Ibn Khaldun in the 14th century, culture was a central topic because it involves the study of groups of people. As defined by Hofstede G., “It is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another. It is what makes a human being belong to a group” (Hofstede 7). According to an article published by the University of Washington, babies begin to learn language while in the womb. They listen to what their mothers say in order to build a linguistic system which determines their mother tongue after birth. In addition, they start learning the other aspects of their parent’s culture starting their first hours in life. They begin the adventure of discovering what is around them by observing how people behave. By observing, they start to build their own experiences based on what their parents tell them, what they see in their families, and what they observe in the global environment. So, human beings are what they learned from what is around them. One of the important aspect that varies from a culture to another is accepting the other. The other in this case may mean a person, a group, or a culture that is different than yours.
In this interview, I compared how the Islamic culture differs from the Jewish one. I took some aspects such as dress code, marriage, and way of life which can be of a different religion, gender or ethnicity. And I asked a Jewish person about how she sees them. I wanted to experience the cultural relativism which is how people react towards a different environment and based on what they judge them to be superior or inferior than their own culture. On the other hand, I wanted to test my abilities to deal with a person who is literally different than me in ethnicity, religion, and gender. In addition to that, I wanted to discover a culture that is transmitted to us as a monster that we should not talk with or about. Even if they are a part of the Moroccan culture for a long period ago.

    First, dress code in the Jewish culture has some strict aspects. For instance, it is prohibited to wear a garment that consists of wool and linen. In addition, it is prohibited for a man to wear a women’s garment and vice versa. However, the priests are the main dressing aspect that is discussed in details in the Torah because it represents a reminder to the Jew to stick to what is written in the Torah. I found an interesting fact about the dressing code in Jewish culture which reflects the religious identification, social status, and the emotional state. For instance, a married Jewish woman must cover her hair to show to outsiders that she is no longer single. In overall, there is a law that governs covering the body, but it is more strict with women than men. Another interesting fact is that women cannot wear pants because they are strictly prohibited. Instead, they can wear long skirts, but it is prohibited to wear tights even if the legs are seen. All these aspects depends on what Jewish group Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform the Jew belongs to. However, they are influenced now by the other culture. Globalization brought the change in Jewish culture by changing some traditional aspects in the dressing mode. For instance, women start wearing pants, which was prohibited in the traditional dress code. At this point, the dress code of the Islamic culture is stricter, but it does not reflect the personal or social status.

     Second, marriage in the Jewish culture has some special conditions that surprised me when I compared them with the Islamic conditions. Jewish culture does not allow the intermarriages in any directions. This point led us to talk about both religious aspects. In Judaism, the mother is the central part of the family because if she is Jewish, her children will be Jews. So, if a Jew marries a woman from another religion, their children will not be necessary Jews. They might follow their mother’s religion. This fact explains why the intermarriage is not allowed. In addition, Judaism believes in the concept of soul mates which means that there exists another part of the Jew somewhere else with the same religion. Concerning the divorce, the man has the divorce a woman for any reason or no reason, but in the traditional Jewish law, the woman is not allowed to start a divorce process. In overall, it is considered an unfortunate necessity which is a common point between the Islamic and Jewish culture.
Finally, the ways of life differ from my culture and the Jewish culture in many levels. For instance, some Jewish groups think that they should not stay in one place for the lifetime because God sent them to be around the Earth. At this point, I discovered a new thing which is that some Jewish groups are against making Israel a state because building it contradicts about their mission that God assigned to them on Earth. In addition, I learned that the extremism has no religion because there are some extremist groups who represent Judaism and kill innocents everywhere. I tried to compare it with the extremist groups who represent Islam and kill innocents around the globe. And I found that these extremist group should not be linked to a religion because they represent themselves, not the religion.
To sum up, I learned new things by comparing my culture to the Jewish culture. First, the communication is the key. We should not have per-judgments before we really talk and interact with the other. Second, there are always good people and bad people in every religion, and we should not link the bad actions of people who think that they belong to a religion to the religion itself. We should make a difference between religion and people who believe in it. Finally, extremism is a mainly a problem of lack of communication and ability of accepting the difference.

References

Fishbane, Simcha. The Impact Of Culture And Cultures Upon Jewish Customs And Rituals :  Collected Essays. Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2016. eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 17 Sept. 2016.

Hofstede, Geert. Cultures and Organizations: Software of the mind. New York: McGraw Hill, 1997.

Leaman, Oliver. Judaism : An Introduction. London: I.B.Tauris, 2011. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 17 Sept. 2016.

Li & Karakowsky. Do We See Eye-to-Eye? Implications of Cultural Differences for

Cross-Cultural Management Research and Practice. The Journal of Psychology 2001.

McElroy, Molly. “While in Womb, Babies Begin Learning Language from Their Mothers.” UWToday. University of Washington, 2 Jan. 2013. Web. 18 Sept. 2016.

Image Copyright: Broken childhood, Mikayel Harutyunyan.