From PhD to Postdoc

Last week I attended the seminar ‘Transition from Ph.d. to postdoc’ organized by Det Unge Akademi at the University of Århus. I have to confess that I had really high expectations for this seminar, willing to find a way to come back to Denmark in the near future. The seminar and the venue were just perfect.

Before attending I was warned by my friend Thomas, who went to this seminar last Spring -it is weird dividing the year into seasons, back in Ecuador there are just two: winter and summer, the first meaning lots of rain and the second lots of sun, and when I say lots, it’s LOTS of both. So 4-season references make me doubt when they actually happen- and suggested 3 take-homes: leave Denmark, learn to handle rejection and you’ll probably fail and never make tenure.

As my aim is to go beyond that first take-home and actually come back to Denmark, I was quite discouraged, but still made my way to the seminar, enjoying the good mobility in Denmark both referring to the superb public transportation  (I know that people claim for train delays some days … but that is not often and the service is always good) and the possibility to move from one university to another.

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Århus – train station

Århus has no bus terminal, I was alerted by my friend Kjerstin, who made her best to explain me how to catch the bus to the University. What I didn’t figure out was that there are different bus stops along Park Allé which means that buses 2A and 16 stop around the corner on this same street. Anyway, I took the next bus and arrived to Århus University’s iNano building.

In my way to the building, with Googlemaps in hand, I found a couple of students, visibly lost. As I approached I heard them speaking in Spanish. Both were from Venezuela, on their last year as industrial PhDs at Århus and Ålborg, respectively. I got ‘shocked’ when after telling them that I come from Ecuador, Nestor, the Ålborg PhD, said: “great, so we have another Bolivarian fellow”. It is not that I couldn’t understand the words, but … I have NEVER think of me as being ‘Bolivarian’ and all that social imaginary of the ‘patria grande’ (big homeland) … Stop tissing!  So anachronic! No, we have gone beyond the independence. It happened for precisely 192 years ago a 24th of May back in 1824… no, no, no Bolivarian. Ecuadorian! Forget reviving the past. We have moved forward. We are not the same as Venezuela nor Colombia. I was so shocked  that I didn’t say a word, but mumbled this the whole day as the seminar started.

The first key-speaker, from the Carlsberg Fund, which is known by its support to research, had a last-minute cancellation. Sad. Then the next speakers encouraged us to apply to high-ranked universities, improve our profiles in LinkedIn and network, network, network to find the postdoc position of our dreams but … outside from Denmark.

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Astonishment face

Then it got hilarious … as a way to say. The next keynote-speaker had a wonderful profile, got a postdoc position at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin and back in Denmark she decided to leave academia for a very interesting job at Vestas, the Danish global wind energy company. Then, in her presentation, she used the metaphor of the ladder, to scale positions in an organisation, and contrasted to the interconnected jungle-ladders of children playgrounds where she, together with her kids spend lots of time nowadays as she ought to quit her job and is entirely devoted to homemaking.

Homemaking is a very respectful activity, but I chose academia. I like teaching, I love researching and reading and studying and learning, and writing … why do the organizers bring as a postdoc exponent somebody that does not share the interest of the rest of us, around 100 PhDs from a wide variety of disciplines, looking forward to continue studying? Strange.

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25.05.16 17:10

The best of Århus was the cycle-meter standing in front of the building of the Faculty of Law. A little more than 100.000 bikes have crossed this year that corner, and the screen changed to 768 bikes for that day, right after the picture was taken when a bike rode by.

And from the seminar, as my take-homes I got the presentation card of the Vice-Dean of the Arts Faculty at Århus University, and I am sure I will continue watching my daughters climb jungle-ladders some place, leave the past in the past and persist in this academic journey with failures and hopefully sometime also with success.

Music: another language

I have just read this article at DAMUSA about children attending violin lessons at the welcome class (modtagerklasse) in Morsø, a town -actually an island- in the northern part of Denmark’s Jutland Peninsula. The article suggests that children have been able to learn violin by following the music, even though they could not speak any Danish at the beginning and as a result they learned both the instrument and the language.

A similar story can be told from my daughter Rebeca. She started taking flute lessons soon after we arrived to Denmark. She played the instrument for one year before we arrived and brought the flute with her. I thought it would be better for her to learn Danish first, in order to communicate with the music teacher, so I didn’t ask for a place at the music school upon arrival. However, as Far (my Danish dad) — who is a teacher— heard this, he told me quite the opposite, that music is a language in itself and can be embraced regardless of the spoken language.

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April 2016.  Rebeca’s arms frame her teacher Erik Meyland. Photo: Kolding Musikskole.

He was right. Rebeca started lessons at Kolding Musikskole with Erik Meyland –an incredibly patient and skilled teacher– in October 2013. I went to the first two lessons, and was asked to translate a little bit as Rebeca did not speak Danish nor English at that time. She had just turned 9. On the next lesson, I waited for her outside the class. It went well. The next class I could not be there as I had a course elsewhere, and she went with her dad; no translation was required at all. Afterwards she has gone by her own. As my Far said: it is another language. Rebeca has attended flute lessons for 2 ½  years in Denmark. Last year she started playing at the Junior Wind Band and at the beginning of this year ,she was promoted to the Wind Band where children 12-15 perform.

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25 December 2015. Rebeca played Danish Christmas carrols while the family sang and danced around the tree, a very Danish tradition.

She enjoys playing flute, tværfløjte. I am not sure that there is a direct relation between her music and language skills, but maybe there is. She was able to attend and follow flute lessons without knowing Danish, and nowadays she knows music terms in Danish and not in Spanish. But she will probably find out the missing words when we get back home. As said, it is a different language that needs not to be equated with spoken language.

My older daughter Avelina, has learned to play celtic harp while in Denmark. It was a happy infortune when she started. She had played piano for 3 years at home and pursued to continue here, but there were no available teachers for piano lessons. She was on the waiting list at the music school for an entire year. When the next year started, there were still no open places available. Rebeca’s flute final concert was held at the botanical garden (Geografisk Haven), where a group of harp students performed before the flutes.

I went to the school’s webpage and found out that for starting harp lessons it was suggested to have at least one or two years of piano lessons. It was just perfect. Harp lessons were until then just in Odense, but the webpage mentioned that if there were enough students, lessons could be arranged in Kolding. Avelina liked the idea.

The last 2 years harp lessons take place each 15 days in Kolding, with the enthusiast harpist Anne-Marie Høst. For two consecutive years, has Avelina  attended the harp encounter (Store Harpedag)  with more than 30 harpists, in Fuglsang manor on Lolland (in the neighbourhood of my Danish parents, who have sat on the first row each time!).

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May 20, 2016. Avelina (2nd. left) with harp students, their teacher Anne Marie Høst (3rd. right) and harpist Natalia Castrillón (1st. right).

This year she joined Kolding’s Renaissance Band and performed at Roskilde’s Cathedral for a month ago. She has attended two harp workshops, one of Celtic harp with the Scottish harpist Rachel Hair in Odense and another on Latin-American harp with Colombian harpist Natalia Castrillón, who studies in Århus and will be performing this summer at the Jazz Festival in Århus. Both workshops have been held in English. Avelina speaks good English, Danish, Spanish and  … harp.

 

 

Nord Sjælland

I believe that proper nouns should not be translated, but in this particular case putting together “s”, “j” and “æ” turns a little bit difficult to pronounce, if you are not familiar with Danish; therefore, the English translation “North Zealand” is of much help. SDU’s International Office arranged a visit to the north of the island of Sjælland (north from Copenhagen) for international staff + families at the end of April. We visited the modern art museum of Lousiana, the castle of Kronborg and the palace of Frederiksborg.

LousianaDSCF2637A bus departed from Esbjerg early in the morning, picked us up at the bus terminal in Kolding, stopped in Odense where international staff from the main campus hopped in and drove straightly to the museum of Louisiana. We had less than 2 hours to visit it, which was a pity as there were many things to visit and see. Time is never enough for visiting a new place nor a museum with different expositions.

KronborgDSCF2810Unfortunately we had no luck with the weather, and we couldn’t actually appreciate the beautiful houses and gardens in the surroundings of Helsingøre in our way to the next stop: the castle of Kronborg.

We arrived just on time to meet “Horatio”, the last guard of the castle and Hamlet’s friend, who was desperately waiting for us to tell the last accounts of what have happened in this place.

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Part of SDU international staff at Kronborg’s gardens.

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Horatio and my daughters.

Unexpectedly we became active performers of Hamlet’s play and ran behind Horatio, up and down the castle gardens to see where the ghost of the King has appeared. Horatio ran to the basement and so did us. Then we went to the living room where we met another actress, the busy “royal housekeeper” who greeted us and rush to be ready for the royal visit. We went to the library and the ball room following the story of Hamlet. It was an amazingly nice way to visit the castle and be part of the play. This guided tour is called “In Hamlet’s footsteps“. Once Hamlet was over, we had some time left to visit Holger Danske and the casemates of the castle.

 

Afterwards we went to our hostel, Tisvilde Hostel, located a little to the south of Helsingøre. After dinner, the rainy clouds were almost gone and we could take a 2 km. walk to see the sunset at the beach. In the afternoon, we had time for networking and getting to know the people from the different departments and campuses that joined this trip.

FrederiksborgDSCF2901Next morning, after breakfast we went to Frederiksborg an impressive Renaissance castle situated in Hillerød.  We had a guided tour around the castle, the church and the gardens (Frederiksborg video DRKtv). The fabulous end of the trip was a lunch at Leonora Café at the Palace.

It was a wonderful trip. Anette Møller, international coordinator of SDU, made this trip a fabulous one. I must say that this is not the first trip that my family and I have enjoyed together with the international staff from SDU – Jylland. Last year we visited the Viking Market in Ribe, which was such an interesting site and last Christmas we visited Tønder, the most beautiful Christmas market in the country and a very cozy old town.

P.S. This beautiful weekend in Nord Sjælland was grieved by the notice that at the same time my country, Ecuador was struck by a powerful earthquake of 7.8 magnitude (after the earthquake, how to help).

EndNote … I quit!

mendeleyAs I arrived on Monday to my office, I found on top of my desk both the box with my printed dissertation and a ‘Mendeley kit’ composed of highlighters, post-its and a notepad with the message “ALDRIG mere EndNote” (Never again EndNote). It was a present from my friend Roland Hachman in response to my EndNote “crisis”.

For not so long ago, as Roland started as a PhD student and moved to the desk next to me, we had a quarrel about reference management software. I advocated -almost with facts and figures- for EndNote, while he stood up for Zotero.

I have had a lovely time with EndNote. For almost 3 years ago, I enrolled in a data management course in which EndNote was introduced. Since then, I have used it nearly daily and had convinced at least two other colleagues to engage in it. I have been fairly in love with EndNote. We have had wonderful time together. But fairy-tale stories with happy endings happen seldom in real life.

Each chapter of my dissertation has been worked separately and after the final corrections and amendments, I started putting all together in one single file. In this way, Word would make a unique table of contents, footnotes would have continuous numbering and all the reference would be in one single reference list. Everything worked well until I introduced chapter 6. Then, Word crashed.

I was adviced to copy the whole in a new document, introduced again chapter 6 and it worked well. But then, chapter 7 was introduced and when saving, an endless saving loop started. Whenever I tried to save the document a Save As window popped-up.

This happened 6 days before delivery. I tried everything. I went into as much Word fora possible, just to find out that this is a recognised bug that has affected Word since version 2007 when working with formulas and macros. I cannot say it comforted me in any way to read many comments sharing this same misfortune (e.g. http://osdir.com/ml/search.endnote/2004-05/msg00026.html, https://thesiswhisperer.com/2013/08/21/endnote-vs-well-everything-else/ ).

It was just horrible.

I left the office heartless, to ask my hubby at home if he could figure out something. He is the smart one when technical issues happen. The ruined dissertation was no longer a urban myth, it happened to me.

While my husband struggled to find some clues in his computer, and being prevented to even touch my computer as I was (and still am) afraid to instinctively push Ctr+Alt+Del so that all my work will be gone forever … he asked me if I have tried to print it digitally.

Yes, I could. And I could also ’Save As’ .pdf. Since then I started making .pdf files after each change. I have a thousand files in my computer: final.pdf, final_final.pdf, final_fin.pdf, the_very_final_final.pdf … and so on.

The very-last-final-fin-version was done just on time to hand it in to print. I have been trusting on my computer’s RAM to keep the program opened these last 3 weeks. It is still there.

It is a sort of “euthanasia” which I am not willing to accept. I have to ‘kill’ the Word document sometime. The dissertation by now is delivered, printed and in the hands of the Phd tribunal. I have a possibility of 50/50 that it would be accepted as it is, or that I need to make changes before being able to defend it. They have 2 months to judge it. So the next 2 months the computer needs to keep Word opened without crashing.

Each day, I need to remember to close all other programs, so that hopefully the computer will not have any issue and be forced to close. But I do need to install a new version of NVivo for a workshop in June, and I am still trying to figure out how to avoid the SaveAs loop and shut the computer.

I am also taking Roland’s advice, and will start moving all my stuff to Mendeley. EndNote was wonderful while it worked, but now I don’t trust on it any longer.

As I am finished this semester, I will be un-enrolled at SDU and miss all my software privileges, one of them is the use of EndNote. So Mendeley sounds as a good option.

Sorry EndNote … but you deserve it. I QUIT!

Paulo Freire y su legado libertario

#dddsdu  o de como las fuerzas malignas del universo se confabularon para desencadenar los más macabros sucesos un 29 de febrero. Notas para lo que pudo haber sido mi gran presentación en la conferencia “Didaktik, Design og Digitalisering”, SDU – Kolding, 29.02.2016

“Si algo puede salir mal: saldrá mal” Ley de Murphy

  1. Conectores. Acabo de cambiar de computador, a uno fantástico, rapidísimo, liviano, plano … en donde los “enormes” conectores standard (léase de red, VGA, HDMI y paralelo) son impensables. La calidad de proyección mediante un cable HDMI es muy superior a la de un VGA, por ende (o por snob) llevo siempre conmigo un conector de mini a HDMI. En el aula de proyecciones, el cable disponible tenía entrada VGA, no HDMI. El adaptador de mini a VGA me instaló el encargado de sistemas en el monitor externo en mi oficina, bastaba con llevarlo en la mochila, así sea grande, así el display pierda calidad y no sea lo óptimo … Y claro, esto se hubiese solucionado si unos días antes visitaba el aula y me percataba de los cables disponibles y los conectores necesarios.
  2. Equipo ajeno. Mi computador no podía conectarse al proyector. Rápido. Usar otro computador. El archivo, en Dropbox compartido. No hay problema … o por lo menos eso creí. La presentación la hice en Power Point. Siempre uso 2 monitores. El archivo se muestra en mi laptop con notas y comentarios y proyecta solo la diapositiva en el otro monitor. Ayer hasta las veintitantas de hoy revisé la presentación y agregué todas las notas, tips e ideas de todo lo que seguro me olvidaría durante la presentación. Todo anotado en los comentarios de presentación dentro de las diapositivas. Hoy al empezar la presentación en el computador ajeno, en lugar de mis notas solo veo las diapositivas tanto en la laptop como en la pantalla del auditorio. Ni una nota, ni un comentario. Nada. Silencio. Empiezo atolondradamente, tengo las diapositivas, no tengo mis notas. Me siento desvalida, desnuda. Acabada.
  3. Impresos. Sola yo y mis diapositivas, sin notas, sin ayudas. Nada. ¿Por qué no imprimí las diapositivas con las notas? O escribí en papel, de puño y letra para asegurarme un respaldo que me diera el empujón que hacía falta, que hiciera las veces de apuntador en esta obra de teatro. Yo. Sola. Con mis diapositivas, como si fuésemos extraños, desconocidos en la primera cita.

fot2Y así, pasaron los primeros 500 minutos de terror (probablemente fueron 3 pero en mi horror enorme fueron mil) sin poder articular dos ideas juntas, chapuceando en un inglés de vergüenza.

Mi redentor: el pedagogo brasileño Paulo Freire. A partir de que su nombre apareció de pronto en una de las (extrañísimas) diapositivas, logré verbalizar de nuevo, logré decir algo coherente, sensato y cómo más podría ser si su legado es siempre aquel del dialógo, de la reflexión y la acción para el cambio.

A lo mejor no fue tan mala la presentación, por lo menos el tweet de uno de los asistentes, recoge el sentido de lo que intenté decir:

on Social Movement Learning through Paulo Freire and the Rhizome Deleuze & Guattari

Cinco minutos mas para la cuenta atras

… hacemos el balance de lo bueno y malo
cinco minutos antes de la cuenta atrás.

IMG_20151231_181849En Kolding, en nuestro último año “por esta vez” en Dinamarca, recibimos el año nuevo con las campanadas de la Puerta del Sol.

En casa de mis padres siempre hemos visto la celebración del año nuevo en España, pero nunca le había prestado real atención. El “siempre” en realidad, es imposible ya que la televisión por cable llegó a mi casa cuando yo ya no vivía ahí, es decir que “siempre” no tiene más de de 15 años. En fin, tan sumida en la letra de Un año más, este año conectamos con RTVE “cinco minutos antes de la cuenta atrás” con la certeza de estar en el horario correcto para poder comer las uvas con cada campanada, ya que esto es –ahí sí cabe el siempre– siempre imposible en el Ecuador, por la diferencia horaria.

Simultáneamente el IPAD estaba conectado a las campanadas del Municipio de Copenhague transmitidas en vivo por DR.TV. La cámara mostraba un plano fijo del “reloj de antaño, como de año en año”. Pese a que en el fondo las dos transmisiones enfocaban un reloj, la sobriedad danesa contrastaba con la euforia “entre pitos y gritos de los españolitos”.

La canción de Nacho Cano de hace más de 20 años, interpretada hace poco por Ana Torroja y las mexicanas Ximena Sariñana y Carla Morrison es lindísima. Pero hasta ayer, gracias a la explicación de los presentadores previa a los campanazos logré decifrar qué quería decir el “1, 2, 3 y 4 y empieza otra vez que la 5ta. es la 1 …”. Y pensé en todas esas cosas que nosotros simplemente adoptamos y repetimos por el solo hecho de compartir idioma, cuando en realidad carecen de significado en nuestro contexto.

Me preguntaba también por qué si siempre (de nuevo la longitud del siempre es debatible) me gustó Mecano, nunca más los escuché. Y entonces mi amiga Paulina compartió en su muro el video de esta reciente grabación. Y ahí me acordé.

Claro que fui fan de Mecano, compré entradas para verles en la Plaza de Toros. Yo estaba en tercer curso. Fui con mis dos primos y la Pauli y el único recuerdo que tengo es cuando Ana Torroja tomó el micrófono y se despidió: “Gracias Guayaquil!!!” y encima repitió: “Hasta siempre Guayaquil!!!” … fue un baldazo de agua fría. “QUITO!”, le gritábamos todos. “Quito!”, repetíamos … y se fueron del escenario … sin saber siquiera a quién le había cantado y quiénes habían coreado una a una todas sus canciones.

Y entonces, pienso que esta canción ya no me gusta tanto … aunque las bellísimas voces de las mexicanas le dan un cierto brillo:

yo no olvido al año viejo, porque me ha dejado cosas muy buenas

Consulta privada

Para evitar el agobio de la espera, en sendas salas de las más diversas especialidades médicas que van desde laboratorios clínicos hasta consultas de especialistas, doy ávida lectura al libro de Jeff Jarvis: “Public Parts – How sharing in the digital age, improves the way we work and live”. Es un libro super interesante y muy relevante para mi proyecto de investigación.

Jarvis sustenta la importancia de ser partícipes en la esfera pública, la cual, en gran medida, actualmente está definida por nuestra presencia en el Internet y sus redes sociales. El principal argumento es que al abrirnos a la esfera pública nos damos a conocer, compartimos ideas y experiencias y aportamos y enriquecemos a la vida en comunidad. No por ello, el autor desdeña los riesgos de una total apertura y sin embargo, sostiene que las beneficios  superan a los perjuicios.

El libro me sabe distante, y paradójicamente actual en la consulta médica en Quito. A la usanza de la universidad danesa, me dispongo a buscar reseñas de tres neurólogos que nos recomienda un médico vascular (quien a su vez fue recomendado por un médico amigo), que podrían tratar la dolencia de mi madre.

Esta imagen se asemeja al librero del consultorio del neurólogo, poblado por empastados por año y edición del Journal of Neurology Foto: Stewart Butterfield (flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

En Google, busco sus perfiles y por supuesto, sus publicaciones. Sus nombres constan en los listados por especialidad de las diferentes aseguradoras y foros médicos, junto con la dirección y el teléfono de su consulta privada. Publicaciones sobre su práctica no las encuentro en ninguna parte. El nombre de la universidad que les otorgó su especialidad médica aparece en el listado de uno de los hospitales. Nada más, ni un curso, ni una ponencia, me devuelve tan popular buscador. Definitivamente la consulta en Quito, es privada. Y su presencia en internet es aquella que caracteriza a la web 1.0: páginas estáticas con nombres y direcciones.

La web 2.0, caracterizada por las redes sociales virtuales y la participación de los usuarios como gestores y creadores de conocimiento, no ocupa espacio alguno a la hora de hablar de medicina en Quito. Aquí se conoce a uno u otro médico por recomendación a través de las redes sociales sí, pero no virtuales sino conexiones cercanas, físicas y más bien familiares: “A mi mamá le atendió tal médico, es excelente”; “El médico cual es un carnicero, ni me examinó y ya programó la operación”.

A esto se suma que debo tratarme tres dientes antes de regresar a Dinamarca. Dos coronas que me colocó mi antiguo dentista resultaron un fracaso. Me recomiendan un nuevo odontólogo.

Asisto a su consulta y me desayuno que se trata de un “rehabilitador oral” (hasta entonces desconocía las especialidades de odontología). Por supuesto, tampoco hallo con facilidad a mi nuevo doctor en el Internet. Luego de una larga y trabajosa búsqueda, encuentro el título de su tesis de especialidad en el Brasil y el nombre de los profesores de su tribunal de grado. Para mi alegría, su tesis es pertinente para mi tratamiento, lo que borra inmediatamente todo recuerdo de la hinchazón del labio, producto del forcejeo con el instrumental dental. Me coloca coronas e-max. Busco pros y contras de ellas en el Internet. Tal parece que me durarán por largo tiempo. Respiro.

Mientras escribo esta entrada en el blog, mi papá discute por teléfono acaloradamente con el servicio técnico de la proveedora de Internet. La red está caída pese a que hace una semana nos instalaron un nuevo módem. El servicio es inestable, va y viene todo el día. Mi papá sólo lo nota por la noche, cuando se conecta para revisar alguna noticia o cuando se comunica por Skype con sus nietos. En Dinamarca, tener internet así sería intolerable. Allá el recuerdo de la telefonía fija está archivado en el mismo cajón del VHS, el tocacintas y la disquetera: el Internet es fundamental y las redes sociales virtuales son las que nutren de información.

Lo paradójico es que, pese a que la telefonía fija prima en Quito, por costos y por costumbre frente al teléfono celular que le pisa los talones, la apropiación del internet por parte de los ecuatorianos, tanto hombres como mujeres, jóvenes y adultos, aún no es tal, por lo menos en lo que yo he podido constatar en las últimas semanas.

Pero en el ámbito político, la esfera publica del Internet es grandilocuente. Así hoy, la SECOM anunció el inicio del proceso de disolución de Fundamedios (la veeduría ciudadana de la libertad de expresión) “por divulgar y promover contenidos de blogs de opinión independientes”. No quiero ahondar en el tema, pues realmente no conozco nada sobre el caso. Simplemente me remito a este irrisorio argumento. En un país en donde algo tan importante como la salud y la práctica médica no están en el internet (cuya provisión es mala y su uso es exiguo), me pregunto ¿reproducir un texto de un blog es motivo suficiente para perder la personería jurídica? En otras palabras, se está penando convertir al blog, que en esencia es algo privado, en un texto público.

Pasar de lo privado a lo público es el reto que propone el internet; pasar de las estrechas redes sociales familiares a una amplia esfera pública en donde muchos tenemos muchísimo que aportar sobre diversidad de temas.