Topic Hat

All the topics we have thrown into the hat can be found below with full descriptions and questions. We have printed them out and hidden them in colorful envelopes for the club sessions. We pick one randomly every time. If you see a crossed out title, it means that the topic has already been covered in the club.


By Tímea Balogh

*** If you have a good topic in mind, feel free to contact us. Send along a short description with a few thought-provoking questions, and if we find the topic suitable for a club discussion, we will just throw it into the hat.

NO SMOKING, пожалуйста (pa-ZHAL-sta=please)
Smoking is quite a hot topic for a number of reasons. It harms your health, there is often conflict between smokers and non-smokers, and it doesn’t even smell very nice. On the other hand, people can enjoy it, it can release stress and it isn’t the only bad thing we do to our bodies for enjoyment (I’m looking at you alcohol, fatty foods and sugary drinks). Russia is now considering banning smoking entirely, in a way that people born in or after 2014 cannot buy tobacco at all. That means that after a while, no-one will be allowed to buy cigarettes. They aren’t the first: Turkmenistan banned smoking completely, and there is a smoking ban in Ireland as well.
What do you think of this? What about from a human rights point of view; is it okay to ban people from something they have been allowed to do before? How would it be different from drugs? What about the situation in Hungary?

Most of us here probably weren’t too active on the internet when they were younger. I’m talking about the age before Facebook and Twitter. That probably means that those times will be just in our memories. And looking back, this may be okay – we all make mistakes, we all have opinions we’re glad we’ve changed; not to mention some horrible hairstyles. But today, everything you do is documented. Saved on a server, public on Facebook or as a Google result, but in some way can you see what you looked like, said or thought at the age of 2 to 20. Some believe this is not okay – what if you grow up and you want some things forgotten? (E.g.: embarrassing, but for your parents ‘cute’ pictures.)
What do you think about this? How much of your past is online? Is there anything you would be glad/not glad to find? Do you think our way of remembering things will change with the digital age?

We all know emojis. We may even use some of them – I’m sure we all use a smiley face or a laughing emoji. But there a lot of others and more and more are made every day – according to an expert, emoji is the fastest growing language. Of course, it is not really a language, but emojis still carry meaning. And this meaning can change from country to country or even person to person. For example, a ‘waving hand’ can mean ‘goodbye’, but in China, it means ‘bye, you are not my friend anymore’. Kind of like a middle finger in Europe. Even though it is not a real language, there is now a job title called ‘emoji translator’.
Do you think it will ever become a language? Could it become an international language that everyone can understand? Do you think a poem could ever be translated to emoji, or could an emoji poem be translated into English or Hungarian? Do you think it makes our everyday language less rich?

We produce and store more and more data every year, every day, every second. With the digital era the whole concept of information has transformed, and instead of 20-volume encyclopedias we can have an unprecedented amount of information with just a click. In many ways this fact has changed how we think and it has also changed how we communicate. Every word ever said on the internet is saved, so it can be searched for and found. But there are apps that focus on this and make information non-permanent. With Snapchat, for example, you can send a picture to others, but that picture will eventually delete itself.
What do you think about the permanent nature of information? Do you think we should be able to let go of more data? Does this change the way we experience things?

“Plane Bae” is the title of a social media love story that very soon turned into a nightmare, leaving one question behind: is there such thing as privacy in the 21st century? A woman, flying from New York to Dallas, began to document the romance of two seatmates. She kept tweeting about their personal conversation, their orders, and her speculations about their connection. The tweets broke the internet. Besides the appreciative comments, a flood of people expressed their concerns about the privacy of the couple. The woman later apologized, but her story seems to have left a mark on the history of the Internet.
Do you think the meaning of privacy has changed over the past ten years? How much do you share about yourself online? Have you or someone you know ever had a similar unfortunate experience?

There is a place called Honesty Bakery in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The idea is that there is no cashier and security cameras. Instead, there is a trust box. People walk in, choose their products, and they decide how much money they want to leave in the box. The owner of the bakery says the results are surprising. At the end of the month, they usually find as much money in the box as they expect, sometimes even more. The concept seems to be working.
Can you imagine a shop like this in your country? Have you heard of any similar places around the world? How much do you think people in your country trust each other?

The appearance of smartphones enabled us to capture important moments of our lives almost anywhere, any time. For example, the legendary Brian May (guitarist of Queen) takes a 360° selfie at every concert and makes it available for the audience. On the other hand, people take many pictures or even videos during concerts and some artists are seriously bothered by that. So much so that they want to ban smartphones from their concerts. The main reasons are: selfie sticks can be dangerous, phones are blocking the view for others, and most importantly, the audience is not in the moment, enjoying the show.
What’s your opinion, are these artists right? Would you visit a no-phone concert? Do artists have the right to decide if you can take a picture or not of their show?

Have you ever heard of PodShare? It is an American co-living network whose goal is to provide budget-friendly living while building a community. Instead of a room, people only pay for pods (they’re like bunk beds) which is their own but everything else, like a kitchen or a bathroom is shared between the habitants, even the food or toiletries. The price for residency is cheap compared to average rental costs, and you can share your pod with a partner or move to another place of the network freely within your paid time of residency.
Would you like to live in a place like this? Why or why not? Which is more important to you, to have privacy or a great living community?

In some form or another, art is all around us. We listen to music, watch films, look at paintings or photos, read poetry, and so on. Some of us might even make art from time to time. Of course, it is not without its challenges – you can get discouraged easily, it’s difficult to find the money and the time, or even the audience. Of course, we don’t all have to be the greatest of the greats – it’s okay to ‘just’ play songs that others wrote, without trying to come up with our own 9th Symphony or Bohemian Rhapsody.
Do you make any art? If you could do any art form, which would you do? Which is the most difficult for you to appreciate?

Computer games have been around many decades and every year they go through amazing developments. Just think about the near-lifelike graphics, or inventions such as Wii or VR. But that is not the only change. They have become increasingly like sports – they can get competitive, the best players are admired, and there have been teams and televised matches for some years now. It is a fast growing industry that could reach $1.5 billion by 2020 (to compare: the NHL is a $4 billion industry). Because of this, there are e-sport scholarships in the US, and parents have started to hire tutors to help their children become better at these games.
Where do you stand on computer games? Do you think they are like sports and perhaps will be in the Olympics soon? Do you think it’s a good thing that children are encouraged to become better at them (or should they stay games – mainly used for relaxation)?

In 2017, Americans spent about 9 billion dollars on Halloween – including costumes, decoration and sweets. The average spending was 86 dollars (24,000 forints) per person. Meanwhile, in the same year, the majority of Hungarians spent only 1-2000 forints to celebrate this holiday.
What do you think of this comparison? Do you think the celebration of Halloween is all about money nowadays? What do you think about importing holidays from other cultures?

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