Sunday, August 9, 2009

Giving Gifts, Conferences, Art and Creativity

The Chronicle of Higher Education had a very interesting article recently on "Giving Gifts." When I travel I enjoy bringing back souvenirs for those who have supported me both professionally and personally and who, in general, make life more pleasant. The article noted the giving of books that one has authored as gifts, which is something I have been doing recently since the publication of the Fragile Networks book. As the article states, books are costly, and, hence, their giving and receipt marks a valuable exchange. Reciprocity and gift giving occurs not only in academia but in all cultures. At the very least, those who are acknowledged in one's book, should be the recipients of a copy as well as those who have provided funding for the research that the book is based on.

Travel is one of my favorite experiences and is a gift, in and of itself. Academics, typically, engage in travel when they go to conferences since, despite the convenience and accessibility of virtual communications, face to face time really matters in knowledge exchange. Soon, we will be off to Chicago to take part in the 60th anniversary of the Mathematical Programming Symposium, which I am very much looking forward to. I also hope to get a chance to visit some museums since art and beauty feed my soul.

Last summer, I presented talks at two conferences in Paris (the Transportation Infrastructure Conference at La Defense and the Computing in Economics and Finance Conference at the glorious Sorbonne). The photos above were taken there. The NY Times had an article recently in which the journalist observed those in the Louvre and the time that they took in admiring the works of art (or not). Interestingly, it was noted that many just bounded through many of the rooms without notice of the beauty of the art displayed. I hope that you enjoy the photos above and also take the time to smell the roses. As psychologists have recently noted it is experiences, even more so than gifts, that leave lasting, pleasant memories. Books, however, as gorgeous paintings, may also last through the ages and be referred back to and enjoyed, time and time again.