‘The words we use construct the world we live in’ is the tagline on Shelagh Aitken’s business card. She works as an editor for AI Practitioner, the journal on AI practice and theory. What brings her here?
“Well, we have a stand here, with the journal. I am here to share information on it, to meet with the authors. And to remind people that participants can download a free copy before April 29th!” She laughs. “Please put that in, it seems not everyone is aware of it.”
It is Shelagh’s first AI conference ever. And that is very special. “I am meeting people here that I have been working with for over 5 or 6 years, but have never seen before. We only ‘meet’ online. And now I see their faces, talk with them. That is great. I met Diana Whitney for instance, in the hotel lobby. She heard my name and immediately said: “Oh, you are Shelagh!’ That was such a great moment. And there are many more, also unexpected ones, like with Tim Slack from Appreciating People. We didn’t know each other, but share a stand together and get along great.”
Editing to her is an appreciative process in itself. “Sometimes we have to take stuff out. But that is not the core of what I do. As an editor, I consider my role to be that of the ‘sculptor’ that frees up the statue out of the stone, as Michelangelo used to say about scuplting. Carefully searching for meaning, tweaking the words, to get the message across.”
Getting feel for AI
Attending the conference also helps her to get a firmer grasp on AI, she says: “I am familiar with most of the terminology by now, and have read a lot of examples and case studies. But I have never actually been involved in an AI process. Being at the conference, hearing all the stories, meeting the people really makes it come alive for me. Now I also get to ‘feel’ what AI is about.”
“That, together with meeting all of these authors in person, will make the email contacts and editing different from now on, I’m sure. Even more rewarding.”
By Saskia Tjepkema
This is the third in a small series of participant’s portraits. Just to give a glimpse of the great diversity of people who attended and their range of stories. Other portraits are of Rafael, Grace, Jean & Perla and Daniel.