Cultural sensitivity

I’m at a medical education conference in Amsterdam this week and on Tuesday I gave a workshop on collaborations in e-learning and the need for educational technology standards. We did some group activities including assigning metadata to an object. I thought I’d throw in something about emerging folksonomies and illustrated this by uploading a picture asset to Flickr, adding a few tags then demonstrating how Flickr tags assemble into an informal taxonomy including semantic clustering. Cool, it worked well and I think I made my point successfully.

Anyway, that’s not the point of the story. During the Flickr part of the workshop I got a bunch of sniggering from some of the Dutch delegates. Well now as I often try to employ a little humour whenever I speak in public I thought that I must be going down well in the Netherlands. But no, this amount of sniggering made me think there was something I must have missed. Anyway it passed and the workshop went well. At the end, one of the students in the audience came up to me and explained exactly why my presentation cause so much mirth. Seems Flickr, when said out loud sounds a lot like flikker, which if you’re Dutch you’ll know it means gay! That’s why I love travelling, you learn something new every day!