Tuesday, March 15, 2016

"Herding cats" - that's what I remember from Erik Duval's talk . . .

... when I first saw him. According to the date in this news clip, in which I reported about that event, it must have been summer 2002. Afterwards, me and my colleague followed him out for a cigarette - his talk was so different from the others in that event, so we wanted to know more.

Later, in 2005, I signed up for the pre-doctoral programme in his department at KULeuven. Erik Duval had such a magnetic stage personality and strive for his thing. I thought that if I'm going to stick with the field of Technology Enhanced Learning, I'd better be with people who are inspirational - with those who are the "doers and shakers". So I kicked off into a slow uphill scramble with my doctoral studies and we managed to do a few things together.

But the story didn't turn out to be a sweet one. If he was the reason for me to sign up at KULeuven, a few years later, he was also the reason for me to sign out. It was troubling times, for both of us, I assume. When we last talked then, he said something that stuck with me. It was something like "one day, much later, we will talk and you will tell me what went wrong". I was thinking "WTF, I will never talk to you - not ever again". We did talk, and even reconciliated, but we never talked about that. I hope the thing did not stick with him like it did with me.

Now I feel grateful that only some half a year ago, through some professional exchange, I had a chance to let him know that I actually had learned to appreciate that period in my life and that there was a lot that I had learned from him. Sometimes we don't really know it right away, but for me, little things in my academic practices would remind of him (e.g. the rigour to demand user studies and not to accept papers on prototypes only; asking "how do you know you are successful with your study/experiment/?").

It's funny how some people just stick with you - I guess Erik is one of them.

I cannot imagine the loss that his family is feeling now - my thoughts are with them.