How does a Bowdoin education make a student feel at home in all lands?

“The IP requirement,” joked Associate Professor of Government and Asian Studies Henry Laurence in his Uncommon Hour talk on Friday.

The lecture titled “To Be at Home in All Lands? Does the Internet Make Nations Irrelevant?” aimed to shed light on the changing meanings of travel and global culture in the digital age.

“The Internet allows you to carry the Bowdoin bubble in your pocket,” Laurence said. “It allows you not to engage in the full world.”

Just like past forms of new media, Laurence acknowledged that modern technology is shrinking our world. Though he asserted that ultimately the Internet is just a tool and it will not have overwhelmingly detrimental effects on society.  

In emphasizing the significance of travel despite an increasingly connected world, Laurence recalled his experience working on a cargo ship as a young man.

“The people on the ship were the people most different from me that I have ever met,” said Laurence. “Therefore, I think I learned the most from them.”

Laurence admitted that being truly at home in all lands is an impossible task. He argued that the best way to come close is through travel, and making interpersonal connections that one couldn’t make with technology.

Laurence’s lecture was the first in this year’s Uncommon Hour series. Modeled after the TED talks, Uncommon Hours are meant to be short, interesting, and out of the average listener’s comfort zone.

“We want to give students a little bit of variety,” said Allen Wong Yu ’14, Vice President for Student Affairs.

Uncommon Hour talks take place Fridays at 12:30, a campuswide unscheduled period reserved for more formal Common Hour talks.

“Common Hours don’t happen every week so we try to take advantage of the Fridays that don’t have an official Common Hour,” said Yu.

Uncommon Hour speakers are chosen based on student nominations. According to Yu, professors from the most popular departments such as Government and Economics are nominated disproportionally to other departments because more students are exposed to them. For this reason, the selection committee tries to adjust and represent different subject areas as equally as possible.

“Because they’re so short and they’re from professors that everyone seems to like they have really big turnout,” said Yu.