Category Archives: Social Science

Supervisor Shuffle

My second supervisor is leaving after Christmas so my third has kindly stepped up to take her place. I met all three at Harrow campus on Wednesday to have a general discussion and get her up to speed with my research project. Fatimah is an very able replacement. Her knowledge of empirical research will prove invaluable to me over the next two years. She already put forward some useful suggestions which are all based on her personal experience of similar research. Sometimes having a fresh perspective on a project can bring new light and life to a subject.

I have just marked 55 essays for the BA Network and Society module. Each one has taken at least half-an-hour to read, mark and write comments but some can take longer when the essay is poor. They needed to be finished by the end of this week so we could have a second marking session with the other seminar tutors. This entailed double marking 10% of essays to make sure all the tutors gave consistent marks. Marking assignments is a very time consuming business and this has taken a lot of time over the last couple of weeks. I’m glad it’s over.

Weekend was rounded of with a trip to see the comedian Steward Lee at the Leicester Square theatre. He very much lived up to expectations. He’s a big fan of The Fall like myself. I asked him afterwards if he’d be able to see them at the Electric Ballroom a couple of weeks ago. He hadn’t because of his shows.  I said I’d seen him at Fall gigs in the past and sent him some photos via his manager so he gave me a signed copy of his book, How I Escaped My Certain Fate, (left) which they were selling in the foyer. Top bloke.

Summer School Days 9 & 10

Everyone is getting very tired now and the energy levels are depleting by the early afternoon. The last two days have been mainly concerned with getting the final student presentations finished and feedback given. Attendance at these has been very high surprisingly. However, the afternoon workshops, How to Teach Using Blogging by Fausto Colombo and Theory Matters by Beybin Kejanlioglu have had a low turn out due to tiredness and, probably, information overload.

Last night we arranged an unofficial farewell party in the halls of residence ahead of the official farewell meal in restaurant in the city. It had previously rained yesterday after a long hot sticky few days but the heat was back and the evening was warm. There was a stage and dace floor on the main hall and Bart Cammaerts, who’s had plenty of professional DJing experience, supplied  the music. I think there was an expectation by most of the group that he was going to play lots of well know chart music. It was a bit of surprise to them when he started with some rather kitch French instrumental music followed by some house and techno. To me this was a delight. So often do these events end up with music sounding like it’s from a wedding, trying to please everyone. Bart did a stirling job. He even played some Jah Wobble and Bela Lugosi’s Dead by Bauhaus.

Summer School Day 5 & the weekend

The Summer School has continued throughout the weekend with officially only half-a-day off, this morning (Sun). The European Union funding rules stipulate that students should be engaged in study for the whole 12 days. Slave drivers!

Many people, myself included, were rather fragile on Friday due to our first night exploring the bars in the city. Thankfully we went on a visit to an NGO in the centre of Ljubljana in the morning and then to the Slovene Ethnographic Museum in the afternoon where the  lectures took place. Michael Bruun Andersen gave the first on The Meaning of Form in Journalism: The case of television news. It was a hot day and the museum had no air conditioning so along with the after effects of last night’s alcohol many people didn’t make the afternoon sessions. Indeed, I left after Michael’s lecture and spent what was left of the afternoon meandering around the city.

Saturday is an early start again with a abstract writing workshop for the whole morning given by Nico Carpentier.  Nico gives us lots of advice and gives us a picture of what academic research entails.

Saturday was also the day when the first group of lecturers leave and new ones arrive. So we went down the student discount bar in the city centre and gave them a good send off (left) then back down to the bohemian Metelkova district again. This time the bar was playing some rather dated punk music.

Sunday morning and early afternoon was officially a rest period. Most people too the whole day off although there was an optional lecture in the afternoon. I sent the day going round the Sunday flea market and then a walk up the hill to Ljubljana Castle with Virpi and Julia. The castle has a fabulous 360 degree view of the city

Summer School Day 3

The morning session was taken up with Student Workshops. Today’s lecturer respondent and afternoon lecturer is Andreas Hepp (left in picture) and with the moderator Nico (right). The sessions are rigidly  monitored for timings. Many of the early presentations are too long and are therefore truncated. This is a little frustrating from an observers point of view but necessary with issues of fairness and keeping to schedule. No amount of pleading from the presenter will get Nico to give them more time. All the sessions are being recorded for uploading to the web and revisiting later. My presentation is first thing tomorrow so I’m going to get an early night tonight in preparation.

The afternoon session begins with Andreas’ lecture on the Mediatized worlds and media research: Non-mediacentric media studies as a challenge and followed by Kees Brants workshop on the Potentials and Pitfalls of Comparative Research.

There is an evening Roundtable session too on the Future of Communication Studies with Denis McQuail and Hanno Hardt. Its already been a long day and most of us are fairly tired. The mood of the panel is sombre and delivery is muted however Denis McQuail always has something worthwhile to say. This can not said of  Hanno Hardt who grows increasingly negative about the future of communication studies and seems intent on harking back to what he perceived as better times. His very long winded and dismal outlook added a wave of despondency through an already weary and frustrated audience. At this point, as though by telepathy, Kees shouted out that he thought he was wrong and that he should buck his ideas up which prompted a low level argument between the two. This was an event that was desperately needed and brought a bit of life to an otherwise rather dull session. I wish it’d happened half-an-hour earlier.

Had a chinese meal and one beer in a local restaurant and then went back and completed the final preparation for my presentation in the morning.

Summer School Day 2

Last night I got to know the students and lecturers at bit more. So, what are they like?

There are 51 of us from different universities throughout Europe. We inhabit a two-a-room dormitory in a student hall of residence. The room is fairly basic although it does have free internet and wifi access. Phew! Refreshingly the majority seem to be quite positive in their desire to socialise. I’m immediately stuck by their mastery of the English language. It’s very humbling to realise that the the majority of these PhD students are describing complex concepts and theories which are not in their native tongue. I have difficulty in articulating my ideas from a mono-linguistic position! It endorses the view that we Brits are lazy when it comes to learning foreign languages.

It also, of course, shows the adoption of the English as the main language within the European academic circles. Indeed attending a conference in Slovenia which is conducted in English proves this.

There are about about 10 lectures who mostly stay for the first week and then are replaced by an new group for the second.

Today’s morning lecture was by Hannu Nieminen on The public sphere and social networks: transnational tensions which focuses on Habermas’ concepts of the public sphere . I’ve been to a lecture by Hannu before. He is an alumni from at the University of Westminster and presented  his resreach into European media and communication policies: cultural defence vs. Americanisation?.

The second part of the morning session started what will form a large part of these two weeks, the Student Workshops. Each student has had to upload a 3,000 work PhD proposal a month ago. We’ve been divided into three separate flow groups. I’m in yellow. Through out the 12 days each student gives a 10 minute presentation summarising their research topic. This is then responded to by a student representative, a lecturer and the flow manager. It’s a provides very detailed and valuable feedback from sources other than your own institution.

The afternoon session begins with an engaging and stimulating lecture by Anastasia Kavada from our own University of Westminster on Developing research on web 2.0 platforms.

The final part of the afternoon is taken up with a very detailed Oral presentation skills workshop which entails mainly about how to get the most out of Powerpoint. This overruns quite considerably and, although very useful, everyone is quite relieved when it ends.

Summer School Day 1

Arrived in Slovenia yesterday. Staying in a shared room in a halls of residence which reminds me of being a student in the late 70’s. Halls are in good condition with free wi-fi internet but the breakfasts are poor.

Started the programme today at the new and modern Faculty of Social Science in Ljubljana (left). First day was very intensive. The resonating phrase was ‘Discourse Analysis’ firstly through an excellent lecture by, ECREA board member, Nico Carpentier and also through constant references in the poster workshop in the afternoon.

We all had to produce a poster to sell our PhD. The idea being that it would help us to define our project in 5 sentences. All fifty of the posters were then explained to the group by their creators which made for a rather gruelling end to the day. There may have been too many for this time in the day. It was a good exercise in conceptualising our projects on a single page and using paper and pens to do this was fun retro idea. This was mine (left)

Finished the first day with a welcome meal and a few local beers in a local restaurant. I think this is going to be a good experience.

Summer School in Slovenia

It’s now very near to the end of the second semester and so I’ve applied for and been accepted at the 2010 ECREA European Media and Communication Doctoral Summer School. This year it’s taking place in Ljubljana, Slovenia from 15 – 27 August.

There is a lot of preparation and writing needed before I go. I’m expected to prepare a 3,000 word paper on my PhD project with questions or problems that I would like to be discussed during the workshops by June 14th. When I get there I’ll give presentations of my PhD and take feedback, advice and criticism.

As well as this everyone attending the Summer School is expected to choose up to 3 papers they would be interested in being a respondent. We’re also expected to actively participate in the discussions of our own and other people’s work and act as a respondent of someone else’s paper. This means everyone will have to read other participants papers before the summer school.

So there is much to do before I get there. It’s a full 12 day programme which sounds stimulating and also labour intensive but I’m looking forward to it.

Final Creativity Lecture followed by Lou Reed

Yesterday was the last lecture and seminar on the Creativity module. The student’s second essays need to be submitted imminently so we’re expecting a very low turnout. I spoke with my colleagues to see if we could amalgamate our classes to have a large end of module group. We got them to work in four separate groups and gave them 25 minutes to come up with marketing strategies and media campaigns for two current issues.

1) The General Election is approaching. Devise a media campaign to encourage 18 to 25 year olds to vote at the General election.

2) The Digital Economy Bill has just been rushed through parliament. This gives ISP’s the legal responisbility to take internet access away from individuals and households. Devise a media campaign to discourage illegal music and film downloads.

This was a great session and the presentations were very well thought through with lots of radical and inevitably reactionary ideas.

In the evening a friend of mine had managed to get two tickets to see Lou Reed perform his ‘white noise’ classic “Metal Machine Music” at the Royal Festival Hall. This was an album he recorded in the early 70s and was considered unlistenable at the time. It still is now by most people.

The first half hour was spent listening to a repetitive drone with no one on stage. I half expected him to come out and bow and then walk off as if we’d just witnessed an amazingly minimal set. When Lou and his two younger musical cohorts eventually came on stage there was a photographer frenzy at the front. They all left after about the first ten minutes. After they’d got their pictures.

Seeing him perform this album live was both bizarre and electrifying. The music was indecipherable in that it was hard to distinguish one track from another. It didn’t matter as this was a rock legend on stage.

There was a moment I found very amusing. At one point, while Lou was playing some feedback from his guitar, he summoned a stage hand to go and twiddle with some knobs on an amplifier and seemed to get a bit miffed when stage hand didn’t do it right. The stage hand frantically kept trying, eventually finding the correct knob to satisfy Lou but given the racket coming from the rest of the equipment it was hard for us, the audience, to notice any discernible difference. It was still a cacophonous, albeit fascinating, din. Great to see he’s lost none of his petulance though.

Read more about Metal Machine Music in Paul Morley on Music in the Guardian

Public Service Media in the Digital Age Conference

Yesterday I went to this event organised by The Connection Factory and created by David Gauntlett (left) from the University of Westminster. It is about ‘Building Collaboration and Engagement for Media Professionals and Academic Researchers’.

The conference addressed how public service broadcasting has changed with the rise of the web to “provide ‘public service’ interactive media offerings, which may be commercial or non-commercial, and may be produced by charities, activists, academics, government, other organisations, and new or established companies”. Speakers included: Richard Deverell from BBC North, William Dutton from Oxford Internet Institute and Jude England from the British Library. The whole conference was recorded by Open Democracy and all the speakers presentations are available on their site.

For me the most interesting speaker was Dougald Hine from the School of Everything who gave a very insightful view of this subject. I’ve included his video below.
[vimeo 10559807 460 260]

British Library & Question Time

The snow has nearly gone and yesterday was was a eventful day. I had my monthly meeting with my supervisors in the  morning. This time at the British Library which is always an inspiring place to visit. We spoke for about two hours and mainly discussed my impending deadline for the Application to Register and Plan of Work which outline my research. This has to be reviewed and accepted by a panel of academics who judge whether it will contribute to knowledge and is sufficiently original to warrant pursuing.

There were just minor changes to the document and for the rest of the meeting we discussed the practical implications of the research, the books I needed to read. I feel I’m a little deficient in my knowledge of the sociological background surrounding subject so I was recommended some books to read.

Before Christmas, while  watching Question Time on BBC One, I applied to be a member of the audience on the programme as it was visiting my local area. On Monday I was called by a producer and last night was in the audience. We were asked to submit two questions and they pick a sample and the author get s to ask the question to the panel. My first Question was about Alastair Campbell and the Iraq Enquiry. My second is about the breaking news story concerning Google adopting to remove censorship from it’s Chinese google.cn website after a cyber attack on its gmail accounts. “Was Google ethically wrong to set-up in China and right to stop playing by the censorship rules now?” This was probably a bit obscure for the likes of a mainstream political programme but in internet circles this is big news. Needless to say I didn’t get to ask either of my questions.

Went down the pub afterwards just in time to watch the end of the Rovers v Villa game on TV. We lost again!

Earlier in the day I visited my Twitter account and found that David Gauntlett has uploaded another of his videos. This covers ideas from his forthcoming book Making is Connecting. He’s very prolific and a bit of a rising star in his field and he’s also building quite a reputation. I feel privileged that he’s my supervisor.

[youtube nF4OBfVQmCI 460 280]