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Need Some Exam Tips? Try Lynda!

January 15, 2018 Steven Lake

Looking for some exam tips? Why not try Lynda, our brand new online learning platform, which has two video playlists specifically aimed at giving examination advice.

Lynda.com is a learning platform which has over 5000 video tutorials used to develop creative, software, technology and business skills for learning and teaching. Available to all students and staff, Loughborough University has purchased a subscription from Lynda.com to enhance your digital skills and personal development. Normally costing £250 for an individual annual subscription, you can use Lynda.com for free right now.

To access Lynda, sign In at the top right of the page, click Sign in with your organization portal and simply enter ‘lboro.ac.uk’ in the box asking for your organisation URL. This will direct you to the Loughborough University sign-in page where you enter your University credentials.

Keep Calm Week 15th-19th January

January 12, 2018 Steven Lake

Why labour movements in the UK and US need to build their own 'special relationship'

Why labour movements in the UK and US need to build their own 'special relationship'

January 12, 2018 Loughborough University

Most people see the so-called special relationship between Britain and the United States as a compact of states and armies, of presidents and prime ministers. They leave out another “special” relationship between the two countries – between their workers, and their unions.

That relationship has a long history. British emigrants in the 19th century formed many early American unions. For 200 years, British and American workers have collaborated in the creation of labour parties, in the struggles of the low paid, of women, of people of all races and of trade unionists persecuted for heeding the call to organise and strike. They have exchanged fraternal delegates to their conventions. They have swapped warm words about solidarity and justice. They have also failed to live up to those words – more than once.

The history of labour’s special relationship has never been more relevant. British and American workers need allies to reverse the long decline of their unions and living standards. They need help to take advantage of new opportunities in logistics and other industries. They both face populist, anti-union governments – and, to resist them, the new forces associated with Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders
need to work closely together.

Three individuals and campaigns, from the 19th century to the present, could help British and American trade unionists to think about solving those problems today.

The Morgan plan

Admirers of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders might not know of the Morgan Plan, a document drawn up in 1893 by a British-born machinist, Thomas Morgan. That plan was an 11-point programme directly inspired by the recent moves in Britain towards the Independent Labour Party, a forerunner of today’s Labour Party. It called for the American Federation of Labor (AFL) to demand the nationalisation of key industries, much like British Labour’s old Clause IV. It also demanded that the AFL set up an American Labor Party.

Samuel Gompers. Wikipedia

If we haven’t heard of the Morgan plan, we probably recognise the means used to defeat it. Before the AFL’s 1893 convention, most affiliated unions endorsed it. Yet the federation’s president, Samuel Gompers, and his allies managed to defeat the plan and the socialists who advocated it. They did so through shrewd handling – a cosy word for manipulation – of the convention.

Gompers tried to dilute Morgan’s 11 planks by having the convention vote on them one by one. He then convinced enough delegates that Morgan’s programme would make enemies of the Democratic and Republican parties and mean ruin for American labour. The delegates who came pledged to support Morgan voted him down.

Corbynistas and Sanders supporters should not dwell on the fact that the process was rigged. They should emphasise the fact that British-American cooperation (nearly) led to an American Labor Party – in 1893! Americans who want to try that route again should learn from the Morgan plan – and its failure. Like their predecessors, they can learn from and work with their British friends.

Emma Paterson

Few people better sum up the potential of labour’s special relationship than Emma Paterson. Born in 1848, she became an active trade unionist before the age of 20 and served from 1872 and 1873 as secretary of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage. A trip to the United States in 1873 changed her life. While there, she saw women organising their own unions, especially in female-dominated industries.

Logo of the American National Women’s Trade Union.
Wikipedia

Paterson’s feminism and trade unionism came together on her return to Britain. She called for special efforts to organise women in largely female trades, and to promote that cause, helped to set up what became the Women’s Protective and Provident League, later renamed the Women’s Trade Union League. Paterson edited the Women’s Union Journal, spoke at countless meetings and picket lines, and was a tireless advocate of women as voters and as trade unionists until she died in 1886.

Transatlantic cooperation did not stop with her death. Activists in the British and American Women’s Trade Union Leagues maintained close ties well into the 20th century. Thanks to them, and to pioneers such as Emma Paterson, British women in the workforce are now more likely to be unionised than men, and American women nearly as likely. They show us what can be done when feminism combines with trade unionism -– and when British and American trade unionists learn from each other.

Fight for $15

They still do. In the past decade, in the same kinds of industries that Paterson singled out for special attention – low-paid, usually (but not only) made up mainly of women and people of colour – organising has begun in places where unions seldom existed before.

The most conspicuous example has been the American Fight for $15, a campaign that grew out of strikes by fast food workers in 2012. It now encompasses a range of service workers, from home carers to hotel cleaners and even casual university teachers. It has won political victories around its central claim: a US$15 minimum wage that workers could live on. New York, Seattle and Los Angeles, among other cities, have agreed to raise their minimum wage to $15 by the end of the decade.

Their example has spread elsewhere in the world. In the UK, the Bakers, Food, and Allied Workers’ Union has taken up the cause of fast food workers – and in September 2017, McDonald’s workers went on strike for the first time since the company opened its first British store in 1974. Their action and their demands – union recognition, an end to zero hours contracts, and a £10 hourly wage – drew on earlier American struggles.

This is a perfect moment to revive labour’s special relationship. Against Donald Trump and Theresa May, we have the legacy of Thomas Morgan and Emma Paterson. I know which alternative I would rather choose.

Steven Parfitt, University Teacher in History, Loughborough University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Is the EU subsidising autocracies? Hungary and the rise of the 'illiberal' model

Is the EU subsidising autocracies? Hungary and the rise of the 'illiberal' model

January 12, 2018 Loughborough University

The rise of self-proclaimed illiberal democracies in East Central Europe arguably constitutes one of the most formidable – albeit perhaps still underestimated – challenges the EU is currently facing.

Whether and how the EU should react has been debated. All sides portray the EU’s role in these illiberal regimes as that of an outsider. But a closer look at the political-economic functioning of these nations suggests that the EU – through its structural development funds – is actually part of their illiberal model. That, in turn, suggests that cutting funding from Brussels could be a potentially powerful incentive to bring them back into line.

After years of relative inaction, the EU has started to take measures against some of these states. In June 2017, it launched infringement proceedings against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic for refusing to comply with agreed quotas by taking in refugees.

In December 2017, the European Commission took actions against Poland based on the view that a recent reform undermined the political independence of Polish judges. The Commission took the unprecedented step of proposing action under Article 7 of the EU treaty. That could potentially lead to Poland losing its voting rights in EU decision-making.

There is some debate about how efficient and legitimate such measures are. French ex-MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit wants to go further. He says illiberal democracies should be encouraged to exit the EU altogether. Meanwhile, Polish MEP Danuta Huebner warned that the EU would only hurt the citizens of these countries, not their elites, if it were to cut off funding. In her view, that could serve to further reinforce anti-liberal sentiments.

Funding from Brussels

To decide these moral and practical questions about intervention, it may be necessary to look more closely at the political-economic functioning of the illiberal model and the role the EU has played in its emergence. One of the key features of the Visegrad countries (Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic) during the 1990s was their heavy reliance on foreign direct investment. The process of post-socialist industrial restructuring and modernisation depended on support from outside their own borders.

Social scientists Andreas Nölke and Arjen Vliegenthart dubbed this emerging model of capitalism “dependent market economy”. The FDI-led industrial modernisation meant that these countries lived by decisions made outside their national borders in the headquarters of multinational companies.

Part of this model was what social scientists Dorothee Bohle and Bela Greskovits called an “embedded neoliberal arrangement”. This consisted of providing multinationals with very favourable conditions, both in terms of taxes and relatively low wage levels, in exchange for relatively highly-skilled workers. To compensate for low wages and other negative consequences of industrial restructuring, the state offered its citizens generous welfare payments.

For some time, this model enabled these countries to grow economically. It provided citizens with decent jobs in fairly high-value-added industries, such as car manufacturing. Further to the east, countries such as Russia and various central Asian republics were struggling with resources-export-based models.

Hungary spurns international investors

Events in Hungary illustrate how the rise of illiberal governments has all but put an end to this model. After years of wooing multinationals, the government of prime minister Viktor Orbán has started to take increasingly aggressive steps against them.

Our research shows that many companies are increasingly experiencing pressure from a regime that doesn’t shy away from using what one of the CEOs we interviewed called “mafia tools” to increase its control over the economy. These methods include essentially blackmailing companies to partially or completely give up control of the firm to members of the Orbán clan. The threat of arbitrary tax audits, prohibitive special taxes or special legislation directly geared towards undermining specific companies’ business models are also concerns.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with a state deciding to assume a more prominent role in the economy, including (re)nationalising private companies. Yet in Hungary these measures seem to be mainly aimed at enriching members of the clan around Orbán.

Such an aggressive stance – both in rhetoric and action –- against foreign capital seems surprising given the country’s dependence on foreign direct investment. It can partly be explained by Hungary’s membership of the EU. Joining the union in 2004 meant Eastern and Central European countries could access structural funds – an alternative source for much-needed finance for industrial restructuring and modernisation.

Recent research by Dénes Bank found that these EU funds are now more important to these nations than FDI inflows. Between 2007 and 2013, EU funds for Hungary alone amounted to €35 billion whereas total FDI inflow was €28 billion.

These structural funds may largely explain why Orbán and his clan can afford the luxury of boldly expanding their grip on the economy without fearing the consequences of an increasingly hostile investment climate. As such, EU structural funds may be much more central to the emerging illiberal model in Central and Eastern European countries than is commonly acknowledged. Indeed, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to draw the troubling conclusion that they may be the very fuel that makes the illiberal motor turn.

From this perspective, the idea, which is part of discussions about the next EU budget, of making some EU funding conditional on criteria such as respecting the rule of law should be very seriously considered. Removing the fuel may well be a necessary measure to make sure the illiberal fire does not spread any further.

Gerhard Schnyder, Reader in International Management, Loughborough University and Dorottya Sallai, Senior Lecturer in International Business, University of Greenwich

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Loughborough Nightline - Here to Listen, Not Lecture

January 11, 2018 Steven Lake

Avoid the Seven Deadly Sins of Academic Misconduct

January 11, 2018 Steven Lake

Don't Panic! Extra Exam Support on Campus

January 10, 2018 Steven Lake

It’s that time of the year again! But don’t panic – there are a wide range of resources available on campus to help you through the stresses and strains of the exam period, ranging from a wide variety of study spaces (that’s right, not just us!), IT help and personal and medical advice if things are getting on top of you. Visit the University’s one-stop exam support page here – http://www.lboro.ac.uk/internal/news/2018/january/exam-support.html – for more info.

Changes to Windows 10 and Windows 7 Task Sequences Friday 12th January 8:30am – 9:30am

January 10, 2018 Chris Carter

All Windows 10 and Windows 7 Task Sequences, encompassing staff, labs and In-Place Upgrades, will be updated during the Task Sequence at risk period. It is therefore recommended that you do not image, provision or in-place upgrade any machines at this time.

We will inform you when the work has been completed.

This change is to update the Sassafras client installed in the Task Sequences, as well as some minor housekeeping. The Sassafras client is being upgraded on existing machines by a separate deployment.

Timescale:

12/01/18 – 08:30am-09:30am

Changing the Culture of Banking

January 10, 2018 Ondine Barry

“Over the past 20 years, the norms of behaviour in important parts of the banking sector have fallen below what the public has a right to expect”

“A loss of trust in the banking sector as a whole has broad and damaging consequences”

 — Consultation Paper, Banking Standards Review, February 2014

 

The focus of this blog is on the issue of culture in banking.  The scandals surrounding British banking in recent years are well known: the banking crisis, several examples of banks mis-selling financial products to vulnerable consumers, attempts to rig LIBOR and manipulate the foreign exchange market, and mistreatment of SMEs.  As a result, record fines have been imposed on several banks.  All of this has created a lack of consumer trust and confidence in banks: as put by the Banking Standards Review (2014): “there is no dispute that the banking sector taken as a whole has lost the trust of the public, and needs to earn it back”.

In this context a new paradigm of research and public debate is emerging which focuses on underlying culture and incentive structures in banking.  It seeks to explain not so much what banks do but why they do it and behave in sometimes hazardous ways to the detriment of some consumers. This in turn raises the issue of whether bank culture should become an issue to be addressed by bank supervisors and, if so, in what ways.

Although our focus here is on recent experience in the UK, much of the analysis applies in varying degrees to other European countries. Lindley (2014) indicates that many of the problems focussed on bank culture and incentive structures in the UK apply equally to many other countries.

 

ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES TO REFORM

There are basically three alternative generic approaches to reform to address the issues:  (1) individual self-regulation by banks, (2) externally-imposed regulation, or (3) collective self-regulation by an industry-wide body.  The first-mentioned cannot be relied upon because of free-rider problems, the lack of certainty and credibility for the consumer and other banks, and moral hazard and adverse selection problems (good firms may be induced to follow the opportunistic behaviour of bad firms because it can be profitable in the short run – moral hazard – or may exit the market if the hazardous norms of their competitors come to dominate the market).

The problem, therefore, is that individual self-regulation cannot be relied upon. There are also limits to what can be achieved by external regulation in the absence of cultural change in the industry.  In practice, there is a limit to what regulation can achieve for consumer protection and the enhancement of consumer interests if the underlying culture is hazardous and, therefore, if there is not a major change in the underlying culture and ethos of banks. Perhaps the focus should be more on culture that is based on ethical values than on formal regulation. Furthermore, some insiders have argued that regulation may exacerbate misconduct by promoting a culture of formal compliance, as opposed to one based on substantive ethical values.

In which case, there is a case for an industry-wide collective regulation by the industry itself. This amounts to establishing industry standards to change the underlying ethos and culture of banking. An over-arching issue is the extent to which it is realistic and feasible to move banking in the direction of being a true “profession” as is commonly understood.  The underlying principles of a profession (such as the legal, medical, accounting profession) are that there are collective standards which are universally accepted; these standards are created, monitored and enforced by a professional body; there is a discipline of enforcement with sanctions imposed when the code of behaviour is breached; the consumers’ interest is always at the forefront, and there is a general loyalty and commitment to the collective ethos and standards of the profession. Of course, this is not to say that such professions are without blemishes and questionable behavior.

 

Reform of culture: a Cultural Mission

In a detailed study of the weaknesses in the culture of banking, and the way that the financial sector has in many respects failed the consumer, a report from ResPublica (Llewellyn, et. al, 2014) made several recommendations including inter alia: improvements to internal governance structures of banks, enhanced competition, greater diversity in the banking sector, establishment of codes of conduct with the customer at the heart of standards, tougher shareholder fiduciary duties to promote activism, and encouraging banks to compete on customer satisfaction.

Change in underlying culture is difficult to achieve in any organisation. But an outline of a strategy can be given along the following lines in what might be termed a cultural mission:

  • Financial firms need explicit ethical standards in their missions based on the general principle of “treating customers fairly” along the lines indicated several years ago by the then Financial Services Authority.
  • Training and Competence regimes within financial firms need to explicitly incorporate such standards.
  • Whilst the cultural ethos needs to be established from the top of an organisation, it needs to be “owned” throughout the organisation.
  • Ethical standards, and the principle of “treating customers fairly”, need to be monitored with clear mechanisms established to enable systematic internal audits to take place.
  • Internal reward structures need to move away from a bias towards a sales culture.
  • There needs to be systematic and universal mechanisms to investigate the risk characteristics of products, contracts and services and that these are clearly understood by front-line staff at all relevant levels.
  • There needs to be credible complaints-handling mechanisms and procedures which have the confidence of, and credibility with, customers.
  • Internal whistle-blowers need to be protected.

In essence, the desirable culture is one of strong ethical standards in dealing with all customers and which have the principles of “treating customers fairly” as a central guiding principle.

THE BANKING STANDARDS REVIEW COMMISSION

A step- forward in the direction of collective self-regulation has been the establishment of the Banking Standards Review Council (BSRC) following a series of recommendations made by Sir Richard Lambert who was commissioned by the banking industry to develop plans for an independent professional body to promote high standards in banking. The conclusion of the Lambert review is that: “there is a strong case for a collective effort to raise standards of behaviour and competence in the banking sector, and the best way to deliver this is by setting up a new and independent body to drive the process forward”. In particular:

“The objective of the Banking Standards Review Council will be to contribute to a continuous improvement in the behaviour and competence of all banks and building societies doing business in the UK.  It will act as an independent champion of better banking standards in the UK, and be driven by the interests of customers and of the wider group of stakeholders with a concern for the well-being of the British banking system.” (Lambert, 2014).

The plan is for the BSRC to work with the industry to develop a single principles-based code of practice to set standards of good practice and based on high-level principles being established by regulators. The BSRC will be charged with raising standards in the banking industry with respect to culture, competence and consumer outcomes. It will rely on public “naming and shaming” of recalcitrant banks. Above all, it will highlight and champion good practice in banking.

 

CONCLUSIONS

There are limits to what regulation can achieve for consumer protection if the underlying culture and incentive structures within banks and other financial institutions are hazardous. One of the problems with externally-imposed regulation is that it tends to focus on processes which in turn sometimes inculcates a “box-ticking” approach. Furthermore, scandals have occurred despite detailed conduct of business regulation imposed on banks.  In which case, it may be that regulation has focussed on the wrong issues: processes rather than culture and incentive structures. Regulation is a necessary but not sufficient condition for consumer protection. Perhaps what is needed is a more fundamental change in the culture of banking. This may be more achievable if an industry-supported professional body were to deal with issues that are difficult for regulation to address.

 

REFERENCES

  • Lindley, D (2014), Risky business: the case for reform of sales incentives schemes for banks”, Consumer International, October
  • Llewellyn, D T, Steare, R and Trevellick, J (2014), Virtuous Banking: Placing Ethos and Purpose at the Heart of Finance, ResPublica, London

David T Llewellyn

This Blog post was written by David T Llewellyn, Emeritus Professor of Money and Banking and former Chair of the European Banking Authority. David is a member of the Economics discipline group and can be reached on D.T.Llewellyn@lboro.ac.uk

Making your 2018 count at Loughborough

Making your 2018 count at Loughborough

January 8, 2018 Rachel

It’s that time of year again: new year, new you. What have you promised yourself you’re going to change this year? Here are our ideas for fulfilling your New Year’s Resolutions at Loughborough in 2018. Continue reading

Presentations by the three recipients of the Vice-Chancellor’s awards for excellence in teaching and learning

January 8, 2018 Matt Hope

The most recent CAP forum, introduced by Dr Nick Allsopp, provided opportunity for the three recipients of the Vice-Chancellor’s awards for excellence in teaching and learning to disseminate their practice. The event was well attended and each of the speakers engaged in a lively debate after their presentations.

Dr Cheryl Travers from the School of Business and economics disseminated her good practice relating to learning, transfer and impact where she used a five-stage model to encourage and help students to write smarter goals by using reflective practice. Further information is available in the following blog post: How to Evidence Excellence in Teaching and Learning – Reflective Goal Setting

The second speaker was Paula Gamble-Schwarz from the School of the Arts who presented on the Arts Foundation course. Paula talked about how this course, which has approximately 180 registered students, had been successfully restructured; students receive 20 hours contact per week and participate in a collaborative exhibition with Japanese students from Joshibi University of Art and Design. Further information is available on the following blog post: How to Evidence Excellence in Teaching and Learning – Foundation Programme

The final presentation was given by Dr Richard Hodgkins from Geography who focused on the importance of obtaining buy-in from the students and the student experience. He gave details about the achievement of accreditation from the Royal Geographical Society for our Geography degree programme. This accreditation has only been achieved by 20 institutions. Further information is available in the following blog post: Giving Students, Parents and Employers Confidence: Geography’s Experiences of Accreditation

 

 

 

24-7 Opening of the Library During January

January 6, 2018 Steven Lake

Our 24-7 Opening for the January exam period begins when we open for the start of term on Monday 8th January at 8.30am, and will run until 2am on Thursday 1st February. For those new to 24-7 – and as a reminder to old hands! – here’s a some do’s and don’ts about 24-7 etiquette…

First and foremost, please respect your fellow users by considering what behaviour is (and isn’t!) appropriate in the Library by studying our guide to Library facilities on our homepage.

Space is ALWAYS at a premium during exam time, and sadly there are always a few who feel the need to take up more space than they actually need – even when they’re not actually in the building! So please, be kind and considerate and don’t leave your stuff lying about when you’re not there, as you’re depriving other people of a much-needed place to study. We WILL be removing any items left unattended for 30 minutes to free up space (assuming someone else doesn’t help themselves to your stuff first!).

Also please remember to keep your ID card with you at all timeseven when you go for a break. Any attempt to enter the Library without your card will count as one of your three strikes. Quite apart from the fact that you need it to gain entry to the Library, it is a University regulation that you keep your ID card with you at all times while on campus – if you lose it, you must report it and buy a replacement. And don’t lend your card to your friends – that’s against regulations too, and subject to disciplinary action by the University (and you really don’t want that!)

Levels 1,2 and 4 are intended to be areas for quiet study – please remember to keep the noise levels down to an absolute minimum on these floors, or you will be asked (nicely, by us, probably not so nicely by your fellow revisers!) to desist. If you want to chat – or have a snack – Level 3 is the designated social area.

Our designated Silent Study Area is on Level 4. When we say SILENT, we do mean SILENT! If you cannot abide by this, you will be asked to leave the area if you persist in causing disruption to your fellow users. We genuinely don’t like telling people off as much as they don’t like being told off, but for the sake of those genuinely wishing to study, we cannot tolerate bad behaviour or disrespect towards other users and staff. We appreciate that at times like this the stress levels rise, but though there are plenty of places on campus to let off steam the Library is NOT one of them! This applies just as much to use, or indeed misuse, of social media – think before you post anything, anywhere, however witty you may think it is!

Our bookable study rooms, carrels and pods are pretty busy even off-peak, but during exam periods they’re especially popular. Please remember that you have to book them first before you can use one – don’t just turn up and sit down assuming the space is available, because it probably isn’t! And if you do book a space, please remember to actually come and use it. We give people 15 minutes to claim their reservation, otherwise we will allow someone else to use it – it’s simply not fair on other students to leave rooms unclaimed & unused. We try to monitor room bookings daily and update availability via our dedicated Twitter feed – it might be worth keeping an eye on it if you need to book a room at any point.

Please use the bins and recycling containers to keep the Library clean and tidy. Please remove all rubbish from your desk when you go – leave it as you would expect to find it. If, however, you don’t find it as you would wish to find it, let us know and we’ll alert our hardworking cleaning staff.

If you’re a smoker, please remember that you cannot smoke directly outside the Library entrance – you must use the smoking shelter in the Library car park opposite. Some of you are probably getting as tired of being told this as we are of telling you, but get used to being nagged (or worse) if you continue to ignore this rule – it is a University regulation as well, and subject to the same disciplinary procedures if you break it.

Although the Library is open 24-7, the Library Enquiry Desks are only staffed between 8.30am – 10pm. During the evening, the Library is supervised by security staff. If you need printer credit, remember that you can buy it online.  Otherwise, if you experience any problems at all regarding any of the Library facilities, just ask any member of staff at the desks, or contact us through our Ask a Librarian email service or our Twitter and Facebook feeds – we’re here to help you as best we can.

Happy revising!

Happy New Year!

January 5, 2018 Kerry Featherstone

On my last visit to Bradgate Park, in December, the place was covered with sheet ice and the car parks were closed.  This was a shame, because I’d taken one of my creative writing students from Loughborough University for her first visit.  But one of the attractions of Bradgate is how the weather and seasons can change your experience of the Park – sometimes without warning!  And poets are made of tough stuff, so we took off on foot, and Hannah got a taste of the landscape, the buildings, and the wildlife.  And the freezing temperatures.  And of course she’ll be back for more visits.

The week before that, I was interviewed on BBC Radio Leicester.  I was asked about the Poet in the Park project, and read a poem live on  air.  I’m not sure that this view of the Winter dark is what Friday evening listeners needed on their way home from work, but here’s my poem, which recognises the darkness of these months, but also sees some light in it all.

 

Towards the Winter Equinox

 

Everything gets colder.  Here’s frost and wind

cutting across the rutting stand:

our lights shout at the dark earth, and the animals moving across it, from Holly Plantation to Thorn Spinney.

The Winter whites and reds: holding us together.

Every bulb and candle flame

tries to warm the landscape, into the bones,

and bring you home.

 

The days are squeezed. As November dims, the rut subsides.

Here are trees: is it Elder Plantation?

Or the cut pines  that expand, with a glamour of decoration

across the hours of limited vision, fires of wood that

spit movement and understanding.  We become slower, our resin

pausing for a season.

 

We build our caves,

leave home less,

these days when the season circles us

more tightly.  Wondering

at the noises; we cross between Tyburn and the Reservoir

where groups of bucks form again,

where the mud clings, and the rooks are pitiless.

 

But there are lights with us; oil, wax or battery.

We remain with our baubles, and are reminded to

mark those bright points which keep us

from overstepping the gap between safety and the deep cold.

Keep the light inside, bubbled over into Christmas and beyond.

Because it has promised to bring us home.

Women’s income generation through mobile internet: New artefacts, old societal structures

January 5, 2018 Ondine Barry

The link between the diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and women’s empowerment, with particular reference to developing country contexts, is being leveraged in the formulation of global development policies. The World Development Report 2016 states that ICTs allow women to participate more easily in the labor market, enacting mechanisms of empowerment based on income generation.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 5, centred on gender equality, has a sub-target 5b to “enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women”. Statements of this kind are predicated on the recognition of a link between technology adoption and development, with strong implications for both the theory and the practice of female empowerment.

At the same time, mobile and mobile Internet use are growing exponentially around the world, and their growth – much faster than that of fixed lines or desktop Internet – yields visible potential for social development. The focus on poverty reduction, recognised as a priority in the post-2015 agenda for global development, needs to be accompanied by the ability to disentangle the mechanisms through which ICT enables development in practice. This makes it important to unpack the link between mobile Internet and female empowerment, conceived in terms of income generation as well as changes in oppressive societal structures.

The study

One of the key routes to female empowerment is income generation, whose potential is being increasingly leveraged in economic development policy. This raises questions on the type of empowerment fostered by mobile phones, as well as the mechanisms through which this is enabled or constrained: crucially, what kinds of income generation can these devices enable for women? And what implications does this have for development management?

We sought to answer such questions by analysing empirical data from 30 focus groups (a total of 198 respondents) conducted in Kenya, Ghana and Uganda, with 18 to 25-year-olds living on under $2 a day. While the original focus groups were conducted with both men and women, we analysed the female focus groups first, then brought in male perspectives for contrast.

The focus group data allowed us to shed light on the mechanisms flowing between mobile Internet usage and income generation, through the narratives of women adopters operating in resource-constrained environments. In all three settings, we found that mobile Internet yields affordances for low-income women, creating new mechanisms of income generation that involve creation of new microbusinesses and expansion of existing ones.

However, in terms of the translation from income generation to empowerment – conceived in terms of transforming power relations in favour of women’s rights – our respondents’ narratives cast doubt and suspicion. In spite of the affordances of mobile Internet, we found a range of old cultural stereotypes built around new technological devices, factually replicating old forms of patriarchy around new ICT artefacts.

Mobile phone adoption, in particular, does not challenge old cultural norms discouraging women from seeking independent work, and it is instead appropriated in narratives that rebuild existing stereotypical visions around the new devices.

In addition, policies underlying mobile-based economic activities are found to be mostly static over time, and are hardly challenged by the advent of digitalisation.

The implications

On the basis of our focus group data, affordances of mobile Internet are actualised by women adopters, but do not translate into empowerment conceived as achievement of greater and durable gender equality. Diverse implications arise for development theory and economic development policy.

From a theoretical standpoint, the study problematises a link – between adoption of mobile devices and empowerment of women in resource-constrained settings – which has not yet been supported by substantial empirical evidence. By ascertaining the presence of mobile-based income generation opportunities, combined with limited translation of these into gender empowerment, the study sheds light on the functioning of the link as experienced by below-poverty-line respondents in the three African countries researched.

In terms of development policy, the adoption of mobile devices is far from gender neutrality, and shows limited ability to challenge existing male-dominated sociocultural structures. While we did not hear of outright restriction of devices by men in our sample groups, what we did see was persistence of patriarchal cultural norms and lack of belief by women in terms of potential for societal change.

This does not automatically make mobile adoption ineffective for gender empowerment, and its ability to foster women’s income generation actually confirms the potential recognised in Sustainable Development Goal 5. It does, however, illuminate the need for a policy environment that sustains women’s inclusion, challenging norms and stereotypes that prevent the transformation of oppressive power relations.

While technology alone is not sufficient to determine this, its integration in a transformative policy framework may mean a significant step towards empowerment.

Full research paper by Savita Bailur and Silvia Masiero is available here. The paper is based on research conducted with Emrys Schoemaker and Jonathan Donner, for Caribou Digital and MasterCard Foundation.

This Blog post was written by Dr Silvia Masiero, Lecturer in International Development and member of the Centre for Service Management. Silvia can be reached on S.Masiero@lboro.ac.uk

Changes to Windows 10 Task Sequences 05/01/18 - Complete

January 5, 2018 Chris Carter

This work has now been completed.

The Windows 10 Provisioning and Imaging Task Sequences will be updated on Friday 5th January during the Task Sequence at risk period. It is therefore recommended that you do not attempt to carry out any Windows 10 installations at this time.

We will inform you when the work has been completed.

These changes will not affect the Windows 10 In-Place Upgrade Task Sequence.

The changes are:

Imaging Task Sequence (1703 v1.4)

  • Updated Synaptics Touchpad drivers following widely-reported keylogger vulnerability.
  • Added driver package specifically for Vig820 desktops.
  • Added DLLs for legacy Visual C++ Redistributables (required by CMIS).
  • Deleted steps relating to old and incompatible Windows 7 laptop utilities.

Provisioning Task Sequence (1703 v1.2)

  • Added DLLs for legacy Visual C++ Redistributables (required by CMIS).
Sport Analytics World Series Conference (London 2017)

Sport Analytics World Series Conference (London 2017)

December 21, 2017 Lauren Proctor

Last month, Loughborough University London was the lead academic partner for the UK leg of the Sports Analytics World Series, the first of seven global events over the next 12 months. A number of our academics spoke on panels at the conference, whilst our student ambassadors worked tirelessly to support the event. One of our ambassadors, Joel, attended the event and has provided an insight into the day. Continue reading

Fishing in the cold, making friends with ducks and Black History Month

Fishing in the cold, making friends with ducks and Black History Month

December 20, 2017 David Odetade

The days are moving so fast I hardly have time to catch my breath. Continue reading

Interview with my PhD supervisor

Interview with my PhD supervisor

December 20, 2017 Jacky Man

Hi guys. It’s finally December. It has been a busy and hectic year where a lot has happened for myself from starting to be a blogger for Loughborough International, to completing my dissertation and starting my PhDContinue reading

Finishing strong, looking back, and staying optimistic

Finishing strong, looking back, and staying optimistic

December 20, 2017 David Odetade

It’s official. We’ve come to the end of the year but it still feels like yesterday when I started blogging about my activities as a research student wandering through Loughborough and its environs, meeting lovely people, and carrying out wonderful activities along the way. It’s been an awesome time, trying something new and different, and enjoying what this year has churned up. There have been ups and downs, but a wonderful experience along the way. Looking back, I’d do it all again.

Christmas is here – time to celebrate

At this point, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and all the best of what the festive season has to offer. It’s starting to feel Christmassy with all the activities that make it a special occasion, already in full swing. As this happens to be my last blog, I would also like to wish all students preparing for their first semester exams in January 2018 all the very best. Go out there and smash it. You are awesome, especially to the first and third-year students I have had the privilege of teaching in the labs or tutorial classes. Also, a happy 2018 awaits everyone, but before then, I intend to finish this year as strong and effective as possible.

David last blog 3

Reminiscing – fond memories

Like I stated earlier, it’s been a learning curve for me, in that I have learned to do things I haven’t tried before, met wonderful people and family, and it’s shaping to be the best Christmas for as long as I can remember. I’ve had to push aside disappointments, as I believe every experience is and has been educational. I have interacted with beautiful minds, which has been made possible by the opportunities at Loughborough University. For this, I will always be grateful. To live in a wonderful environment where you’re continually inspired, or be an inspiration, is something I will always cherish. I can look back at 2017, and say proudly it’s been a wonderful year, all things considered.

David last blog 2

What lies ahead

I have made it a personal goal not to have new year resolutions, but set attainable goals in a short period of time, and look back to see how much I have achieved. 2018 for me is going to be big, as I will achieve confirmation for my PhD, and everything else will be a bonus.

There are obviously a lot of personal goals which I’m sure I will meet, as I have been making strides to attain them. I do encourage everyone to make resolutions, not just at the turn of the year, but short personal ones that can be evaluated from time to time. It could be as simple as making a small contribution to make the planet greener. It’s all we’ve got. I also have this philosophy of making everyone I meet feel much better than I met them. It might be through simple things such as a smile, or joke, just to lift their spirits. Not everyone will have a cause to celebrate during this festive season due to memories (bad). I am talking from my own personal experience, but little deeds go a long way in making a huge difference to these people.

David last blog 4

All I can say is Loughborough University and the community has brought me so much joy, and the least I can do is spread the cheers, especially to people in need of it. I suggest we all do the same.

Once again, Merry Christmas and have a wonderful 2018.

It’s been my absolute pleasure to pen these words over the past 12 months.

David

Our social media highlights of 2017

Our social media highlights of 2017

December 20, 2017 Rachel

Another year comes to an end, and it’s safe to say 2017 has been a fantastic year for Loughborough! The same goes for our social media, so here’s our best bits. Continue reading

The festive season seriously messes with your sleep – here's how

The festive season seriously messes with your sleep – here's how

December 20, 2017 Thomas Stovell

If I were to design a laboratory experiment that reliably disturbed sleep and increased fatigue for eight to ten days, it would look a lot like the festive period. To understand why, you need to consider how normal sleep works.

Sleep is controlled by three things: the supply-and-demand relationship between sleep and wakefulness or “homeostasis” – in a nutshell, the longer we stay awake, the greater the pressure to sleep; the body clock (or circadian rhythm) which syncs our sleep-wake cycles with the 24-hour day so that we feel sleepier during darkness than during light; and psychological factors that calm us down in readiness for sleep.

Normally, these processes work in harmony. So we are most likely to fall asleep when sleep pressure is high, our circadian rhythm tells us it’s bedtime and our minds are calm.

Among otherwise good sleepers, events that disrupt sleep tend to affect just one of these factors at a time, and then only briefly, allowing us to take the effects in our stride. For example, the inconvenient daytime sleepiness resulting from an all-nighter can be reversed with one or two nights of good sleep. The twice-yearly disruption of our body clock by daylight saving adjustments soon passes. And difficulty getting to sleep when we’re concerned about events the following day is usually manageable.

But the festive season delivers a perfect storm that challenges all of these processes at once and then makes it difficult to catch up on lost sleep. The result is lingering fatigue.

How the festive period gets to our sleep

First, there’s a supply and demand imbalance. Participating in festivities means longer days and later bedtimes; fun needs time. But opportunities for compensatory lie-ins may be curtailed by, for example, family visits, high street sales or the demands of parenting. Paradoxically, the whole period is typically rounded-off by the international sleep deprivation fest of New Year.

On top of this, the festive period also interferes with the timing of those habits and routines that help to keep our circadian rhythm in sync (like getting-up times, mealtimes and exercise times). When routine dissolves, sync fluctuates, and sleep suffers.

Christmas also demands planning, which in turn generates anticipation and anxiety (things can go wrong). This can add to our pre-sleep stream of consciousness as “cognitive arousal” – alertness that delays sleep onset. Some of the earliest experiments in the psychology of insomnia found that we don’t have to be anxious to keep ourselves awake – we just have to think.

With homeostatic, circadian and psychological regulators under pressure, some people will struggle to sleep. But there are two further disruptive elements in this seasonal storm: food and alcohol.

Overeating, not uncommon at this time of year, is a risk factor for indigestion, which, in turn, is associated with insomnia. Alcohol, even in moderate amounts, can initially promote sleep. But ethanol (the active ingredient) is rapidly broken down in the body, so alcohol-induced sleep shows “withdrawal” disturbances later in the night. With higher levels of alcohol, these effects are amplified, with withdrawal leading to early awakening and, of course, a hangover. In short, the quality of alcohol-induced sleep is poor.

How alcohol affects sleep.

How to be festive and rested

The ConversationChronic insomnia begins with sleep disturbances triggered by events, so managing sleep through these challenging periods is important. Avoid entering the festive period with a sleep debt. Don’t set yourself over-exacting standards of performance – you’ll fail. Compensate for lost sleep with an earlier night, a negotiated lie-in, or a 30 minute nap between midday and 4pm. And if your sleep needs help, download the free Sleepful app – it’s a present from Loughborough University.

Kevin Morgan, Professor of Psychology, Loughborough University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Header image: Stokkete/Shutterstock.com

My last blog!

My last blog!

December 19, 2017 Jessica Rutherford

This month has absolutely flown by! I’ve definitely got caught up in the chaos leading up to Christmas this year but it’s also probably something to do with the fact that my boyfriend and I spent 2 weeks of it on holiday, but my gosh that was much needed! Continue reading

A cliché Christmas

A cliché Christmas

December 19, 2017 Gemma Wilkie

We are literally two weeks in to December and I have already been a super Christmas cliché. Continue reading

Today I graduated....

Today I graduated....

December 19, 2017 Zoe Chritchlow

Written by Dr Lizzie Gadd

I graduated today. Nothing unusual in that.  Except I’m 46.  And I first registered for my PhD over 14 years ago.  It was a fantastic day.  Made even more special by the time spent waiting for it to happen.  Our honorary graduate, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock gave an inspiring and enthusiastic address about how if you really apply yourself to something with all of your heart it will happen.  And no doubt, she’s right.  However, it led me to reflect how some of us don’t have the gift of being single-minded about their life’s ambition.  In fact, some of us don’t even really have a single life’s ambition.  It seems to me that those that do are the lucky ones.  There is never any question as to what they will do, and with a whole life dedicated to achieving it, the odds of doing so are considerably increased.

I never had a clear idea as to what I wanted to do.  I could apply myself to most things, so no clues there.  I did a degree in English Literature, not something practical and vocational, so again, no clues there.  Like many people, I kind of fell into my career (in libraries and action research).  Luckily, I loved it.  And after a number of research projects resulting in a series of publications, I first registered for a PhD by publication at Loughborough.  But after having my first baby, and realising that actually writing a PhD was not something that sat easily with looking after the most important person on the planet, I withdrew.  It was a sad day.  But that baby (now 14) became my priority; and after 4 years, her brother too.  I still worked part-time; still loved it.  I ran two choirs. Three years ago, I picked up the PhD again, beavered away at it in my non-working days whilst the kids were at school, and the rest is history.

I guess what I’m saying is that a single-minded focus on your life’s ambition (if you have one) is not something that most of us experience.  Our goals fluctuate, our ambitions change, we enjoy many things (hobbies, families, jobs, study), not one, and their importance ebbs and flows throughout our life.  Achieving your goals takes longer when there are more of them (14 years in this case) but you do get there in the end.  Life is long.  Things are complicated.  For many of us, our true purpose might not become apparent until much later on (if at all). We just carry on opportunistically taking advantage of any interesting offer that comes our way. It doesn’t make our lives any the less valid. In fact, my colleague (also in her forties) who graduated on the same day as me, agrees that the experience we clocked up prior to submitting our theses made them an even more significant contribution to our fields.

So if you’re thinking of doing a PhD and you have other stuff in your life, my message is that you can have (bits of) it all.  You can do it.  It might take a bit longer, but you can do it.  If you’re thinking of doing a PhD and you’re older than your average PhD student, then good.  Your thesis will be the richer for it, I guarantee.  Don’t disqualify yourself.  If you fancy doing a PhD, but not now. That’s good too. It will wait for you. And when you come to climb up those stairs to greet your smiling Chancellor, and a sea of well-wishing academic staff, family and friends, it will be one of the best days of your life.

Christmas opening hours across campus

Christmas opening hours across campus

December 15, 2017 Loughborough University

If you’re staying on campus this Christmas, look below to see when our facilities and services will be open.  Continue reading

Merry Christmas from the Library!

December 15, 2017 Steven Lake

As term ends today, we’d like to wish all of our users a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and safe journeys to all those going home this weekend. We look forward to seeing you all again in 2018.

(And if you’d like to see more of the source of our festive montage above, check out our Christmas Countdown on our Instagram page – https://www.instagram.com/lborolibrary/ )

Our alumni's best of 2017

Our alumni's best of 2017

December 15, 2017 Rachel

The #LboroFamily is for life and our graduate community has seen a great 2017, both on campus and further afar. Here are some highlights from the year’s alumni activities.

Continue reading

Have You Met Lynda Yet?

December 14, 2017 Steven Lake

If you haven’t already heard about Lynda, then now’s your chance to see what’s on offer. 

Lynda.com is a learning platform which has over 5000 video tutorials used to develop creative, software, technology and business skills for learning and teaching. Available to all students and staff, Loughborough University has purchased a subscription from Lynda.com to enhance your digital skills and personal development. Normally costing £250 for an individual annual subscription, you can use Lynda.com for free right now.

How can you use Lynda.com?

  • Watch playlists of videos and courses that your lecturers create for your learning. Also produce playlists either for yourself or to share with your peers. Checkout the playlists we made to help with your January exam revision: Memory Tips for Exams and Exam Study Tips.
  • Download the Lynda.com app and watch Lynda on Apple, Android, Windows 8, Desktop App and Apple TV.
  • Download any course to watch offline.
  • On completing a course, receive a certificate which you can display on your LinkedIn page making you stand out to employers.

Also watch our playlists on Time Management and Microsoft Office tips to help keep yourself organised during the busy Christmas period.

Don’t just take our word for it, read some of our students’ reviews about Lynda.com:

So why not login by clicking on Sign In at the top right of the page, click Sign in with your organization portal and simply enter ‘lboro.ac.uk’ in the box asking for your organisation URL. This will direct you to the Loughborough University sign-in page where you enter your University credentials.

More information, help and guidance is available on: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/services/cap/tel/lynda/

Setting and Achieving your Goals - My 4 goals of 2017 and thoughts for 2018!

Setting and Achieving your Goals - My 4 goals of 2017 and thoughts for 2018!

December 13, 2017 Lauren Jefferis

Its coming to the end of 2017, and with that comes some (willing or not willing) reflection on how the past year has gone. Continue reading

I’m pleased that charities are using the Minimum Income Standard as their principal means test, but worried that they are having to fill in for failing state support

December 13, 2017 Donald Hirsch

In the past couple of months, I have been talking to people in a fascinating world that most of us are at best vaguely aware of: the world of benevolent charities, who give financial help to eligible individuals in need. Many of these charities are now using our Minimum Income Standard to help them decide whom to assist, and I wanted to find out more about their work, and what role our research plays.

Hundreds of these bodies, large and small, exist to help specified groups of people facing hardship, often drawing on endowments dating back a century or more. Their beneficiaries range from church widows in Cambridgeshire to people from virtually every profession – from dancers to sailors to civil engineers – who have fallen on hard times, whether because of illness, redundancy or their family situation.  Some of these charities have wonderful names such as the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, or the Society for the Assistance for Ladies in Reduced Circumstances (renamed, less colourfully, the Smallwood Trust this year). But are they anything more than an outdated relic of Victorian charity?

In fact, these organisations play an important role in helping their beneficiaries cope in what can sadly, as in Victorian times, be a cruel and uncertain world. A former merchant seaman living in a depressed port town is living from hand to mouth on benefits, and can’t find money to replace a broken fridge. A teaching assistant bringing up a family on low pay has fallen into serious rent arrears as a result of waiting to be paid Universal Credit. A young self-employed architect is struggling to pay the bills regularly, with an irregular income and high housing costs.  In an era characterised by a decline in secure employment and the rise of food banks, charities are working hard to meet the needs of people who fall through the gaping holes in the social safety net.

Their strength has always been that, rather than trying to replicate state-provided social security, with its strict rules for entitlement (and recently an often hostile attitude to those daring to ask for help), such charities can look at each individual’s needs and provide the assistance required. Yet a downside of this is that they have sometimes made highly judgemental assessments of people’s resources and lifestyles. I heard of one case where a charity was only willing to pay half the cost of replacing someone’s fridge because they smoked. Over the years, benevolent societies have accumulated all sorts of complex rules and practices for giving out money, often with rationales lost in the mists of time.

In conjunction with the Association of Charitable Organisations, I’ve carried out a survey of charities’ use of MIS, and interviewed officers in ten who use it. You can read my full findings in this report. Almost every one of the charity workers I talked to saw themselves as “modernisers” who had adopted MIS because they wanted to make their giving less arbitrary: to make eligibility criteria more transparent, and to replace value judgements about people’s pattern of expenditure with an externally validated basis for ensuring that they have enough income overall. Some of the best-endowed charities are able to operate a full system of “topping up” to MIS; others use it as a gateway to a more modest fixed grant, or to special-purpose gifts. Means-testing is rarely rigid, but typically is combined with discretion to take individual circumstances into account.  Charities commonly combine their financial assistance with the provision of services to help people back on their feet.

Charitable benevolence can, of course, never replace a decent public system of social security. While it’s great that well over £100m is being spent each year by organisations committed to getting people to a decent living standard, this is less than a thousandth of the public social security bill. The fact that some organisations are using our work to try to identify more systematically who is left in need by what they recognise as an inadequate public system is not exactly a cause for celebration. A significant symptom of this is that a number of charities who in the past had focused largely on pensioners are shifting their attention to working age people, whose safety net has waned while pensioners’ income guarantees have waxed. MIS accurately points to that change in relative needs.

A difficult feature of charitable support, which several of my interviewees mentioned, is that however systematic any one charity is in prioritising help to the most needy, there are vast inequalities in what people from different professions can expect from their benevolent societies. Charities’ differing endowments mean that where one may give a small grant or a few hundred pounds a year to someone on a low income, another could give a few thousand, and many other people in similar circumstances will get nothing, most often because awareness of these funds is often weak.

Yet for all their limitations, benevolent charities are a godsend to those they help. Hearing these charities’ officers speak thoughtfully and sensitively about how they approach the tough job of means testing brought a breath of fresh air to someone used to analysing what feels like a cold-hearted benefit system. These officers are focused on how they can do the most good – sometimes by providing hard cash at a time when it is most needed; sometimes by identifying the services and advice that can best help people repair their lives. They could certainly teach those who work in the public benefits system (and the politicians who guide it) a thing or two about what it means to have a spirit of supporting people, rather than blaming them for their own poverty.

With this supportive attitude, charities see MIS not just as a systematic way of carrying out a means test, but also as a concept that aligns well with their objectives. A standard that is not just about survival, but also about having the choices and opportunities needed to participate in society, corresponds to their goal of helping their client groups to thrive. It is applications such as these that makes our research worthwhile.

2017, it’s been a pleasure!

2017, it’s been a pleasure!

December 12, 2017 Symrun Samria

I think we can all agree that 2017 went by in an absolute blur. I swear that it was only yesterday that we were ringing in the New Year with a lot of champagne and a very bad rendition of Auld Lang Syne! Continue reading

Windows 10 Resetting and Re-Provisioning Guide

December 12, 2017 Mike Collett

A new document is available on DesktopResource, This document describes steps that can be taken to reset a Windows 10 computer back to basic operating system. It can then be provisioned as if it was a new machine.

This procedure acts as an alternative method to fix a poorly machine without the need for a complete reimage.

“\\ws2.lboro.ac.uk\DesktopResource\Windows\WINDOWS 10\Provisioning\Windows 10 Resetting and Re-Provisioning Guide.docx”

Who will win the battle of the workplace – robots or humans?

December 12, 2017 Crispin Coombs

This question has prompted considerable debate in the popular media and prompted the CIPD to commission research by Donald Hislop, Crispin Coombs, Stanimira Taneva and Sarah Barnard at Loughborough University School of Business and Economics to find out what current research says.

Our findings show there is useful guidance for business and society but thinking that that a simple answer to what we should do is somehow ‘out there’ would be a mistake.

Our report focused on three main areas:

  1. the impacts of automation on work,
  2. the social impacts of automation, and
  3. ethical implications.

What are the impacts of automation (artificial intelligence, robotics) on work?

Overall, our review suggests that these technologies will complement and extend human capabilities rather than remove humans from the process. For example, automated decision support for air traffic controllers has increased the performance and accuracy of controllers without wholesale replacement of the human controllers.

Similarly, an automated dispensing system in a UK hospital revealed that the change had a broadly positive impact on the pharmacists – for instance, reducing the amount of time they had to stay in the dispensary, allowing them to become more active on patient wards.

Workers’ attitudes to and behaviour in relation to robots and AI is a key mediator of the extent and the manner in which they are used. For example, workers’ trust in the technological systems can impact significantly on the effectiveness of their application.

However, workers’ trust and relationship with the technologies is likely to evolve over time, so it is difficult to predict how accepted these AI and robots will become in the workplace, without new primary research over a long time frame.

Social impacts of automation

There are potentially significant social impacts related to the increasing work-related use of AI, advanced robots and cognitive computing – one of which is on employment levels. However, opinion is divided on this topic, ranging from those who predict large scale job losses through the automation of non-routine work, to other perspective which suggest that large scale job losses are unlikely, and that there might in fact be a net increase in employment.

What cannot be disputed, however, is that technology will have some degree of impact on jobs.

Second, as the presence of these technologies within organisations increases, there is a bigger question around skills – as there will be an increased need for people, both workers and consumers, who are able to work with and interact with these technologies. For instance, there are various reports which suggest that the lack of ‘in-house’ AI skills is holding back organisations from implementing the technology within their workplace.

The need for skilled individuals who can work with innovative technologies is outstripping supply. A recent report by the government on how the artificial intelligence industry in the UK can be developed makes a series of recommendations on how this skills gap can be addressed – from developing more industry-funded courses in AI to an international AI Fellowship Programme for the UK. A similar set of policy recommendations would be useful to consider the possible skills implications of robotics and automation.

What ethical issues are related to automation?

Recently, both scientists and practitioners have pointed to the need of a robust ethical strategy that will ensure the safe usage of advanced technologies. There are calls for those that develop these technologies to be responsible for the impact they have on people. It is important that the legal and policy approaches focus on the human values we are trying to protect rather than on the range of possibilities technological development represents. But there is a great need for further research in this area. Evidence on how these technologies are being implemented in the workplace and how those that are interacting with the technologies experience this is lacking and is an important area to focus on.

Another important area of focus must be organisational decision-making process behind technological implementation. How is the choice between human capital and technology being made? What people factors are considered in the introduction of technology in the workplace? For instance, is adequate consideration given to the impact of technology on employees’ wellbeing? These are important questions with ethical implications for any organisation and warrant further examination.

However, it is important to note that due to fast paced developments and emergent nature of this field, only 40% of academic research that we reviewed was based on original empirical evidence i.e. studies that investigated how AI and robots were being used in the workplace. More than 50% of the research reviewed lacked primary evidence and typically ended by making predictions regarding possible future scenarios, often based on anecdotes. The evidence so far, such as it is, suggests that technology is augmenting what people are doing and enabling some degree of role expansion for employees. But we should keep in mind that workers, organisations, governments and society have the power to shape our future in the use of automation. The future is malleable, but it is up to us to be pro-active in shaping it.

Donald Hislop, lead author of the report, will be debating the battle of the workplace at the CIPD on 19 December 2017.

The full report ‘The impact of artificial intelligence, robotics and automation technologies on knowledge and service work’ by Professor Donald Hislop, Dr Crispin Coombs, Dr Stanimira Taneva and Dr Sarah Barnard is published by the CIPD and can be downloaded from: https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/work/technology/artificial-intelligence-workplace-impact 

This Blog post was written by Professor Donald Hislop, Dr Crispin Coombs, Dr Stanimira Taneva and Dr Sarah Barnard. For more information on this research, please contact Donald Hislop on D.Hislop@lboro.ac.uk

Freshers’ guide to exams – what can I expect?

December 12, 2017 Niamh O’Connor

So 2017 is coming to an end, and I hope you all have had a successful year so far and are looking forward to a lovely Christmas break at with family and friends. Continue reading

Throwback Photos

Throwback Photos

December 12, 2017 Hannah Timson

I’ve really enjoyed putting this post together as it’s allowed me to look back over some recent, and some not so recent memories (cue ‘why did I ever think that was a good look’ reflections). Continue reading

Small business Saturday: Delhi Bites and Cocoa

Small business Saturday: Delhi Bites and Cocoa

December 11, 2017 Piers John

Eating takeaway is something that I really enjoy doing. Sometimes you just need a break from your daily routines, errands, and studying which will relieve you from the burden of spending hours in the kitchen cooking and washing up. Continue reading

My Rag goal 2018

My Rag goal 2018

December 11, 2017 Emma Wiggins

Next year I shall be turning 30 and finally graduating Loughborough University with a Masters in Physics after five years of shear persistent hard work. Continue reading

#SmallBusinessSaturday

#SmallBusinessSaturday

December 11, 2017 Miranda Priestley

In and around Loughborough there are a lot of small local business that we can support. Continue reading

Library Opening Hours Over the Christmas Vacation

December 11, 2017 Steven Lake

With end of term – and Christmas – looming, we’d like to remind everybody of what our opening hours are during the Vacation.

Term ends this Friday, 15th December. The Library remains open as normal on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th December, then on Monday 18th we switch to a revised shorter opening schedule for the holiday period as follows:

  • Monday 18th – 09.00 – 17.30
  • Tuesday 19th – 09.00 – 17.30
  • Wednesday 20th – 09.00 – 20.00
  • Thursday 21st – 9.00 – 17.30
  • Friday 22nd – 9.00 – 17.30

As usual during vacations, last entry to the building is fifteen minutes before closing time, when we begin clearing the building.

The Library will be closed for the rest of Christmas from Saturday 23rd December to Tuesday 2nd January, when we re-open on the following schedule:

  • Tuesday 2nd – 09.00 – 02.00
  • Wednesday 3rd – 09.00 – 02.00
  • Thursday 4th – 09.00 – 02.00
  • Friday 5th – 09.00 – 02.00

We’re open as usual on Saturday and Sunday, and then when term starts on Monday 8th January, we re-open at 8.30 as usual, and then we switch to 24-7 opening for the rest of January.

#TBT photos

#TBT photos

December 11, 2017 Jameel Shariff

What a year it has been! So many adventures and lifelong memories. Continue reading

Snow Disruption on Campus Updates

December 10, 2017 Steven Lake

Further information and advice about the disruption on campus caused by the hazardous weather conditions can be found via this link:

http://www.lboro.ac.uk/internal/snow/

The Library, along with the rest of the University, will be open for business as usual tomorrow, but services may be affected by the weather conditions, and we advise all of our visitors to take extra care when travelling tomorrow – we’d love to see you, but only in one piece!

SERVICE UPDATE: Library to Close at 12 Noon Today (Sunday 10th December)

December 10, 2017 Steven Lake

Due to the bad weather conditions we are unable to keep the Library open. As such, we will be closing at 12.00 midday. We do apologise for this inconvenience, and understand that some of you have deadlines but for everyone’s safety we will need to close.

There is a huge amount of information online – our website has lots of help and guidance should you need it.

Other spaces are still open on campus for PC access or group work.

For further updates, please follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

How to survive #LboroGrad2017!

How to survive #LboroGrad2017!

December 7, 2017 Sian Leatherland

Our second ever graduation ceremony is nearly upon us! On Thursday 14th December at 11am, nearly 400 Loughborough University London students will formally receive their certificates inside Here East’s stunning Theatre on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. If you’re one of them, here’s 10 tips to prepare you for your special day! Continue reading

Database Trial - The Stationers' Company Archive

December 6, 2017 Steven Lake

We dip into the history of publishing with our latest database trial courtesy of Adam Matthew Digital.

The Stationers’ Company Archive is one of the most important resources for understanding the workings of the early book trade, the printing and publishing community, the establishment of legal requirements for copyright provisions and the history of bookbinding. Explore extremely rare documents dating from 1554 to the 21st century in this invaluable resource of research material for historians and literary scholars.

To begin searching go to:

www.literaryprintculture.amdigital.co.uk

Access is via IP address and the trial runs to 2nd January 2018. Please note that PDF download options are not available during this  trial.

We welcome feedback – good or bad – on this trial, please contact Steve Corn s.c.corn@lboro.ac.uk with your comments.

First Workshop!

December 6, 2017 Kerry Featherstone

This morning was the first workshop of the residency.  The day was cold and clear, and we were able to observe Bradgate Park in its Winter glory.  The workshop was over-subscribed, which was great to see.  We weren’t sure if anybody would want to write poetry on a cold Wednesday in December, but with 15 writers sitting around table at the Visitor Centre, there was a lot to listen to.  There were people with little or no experience of poetry; retired teachers; established poets; volunteers, members of writing groups…  A great mix.

We walked out in the cold, and wrote descriptions.  We wove phrases and images from those descriptions into personal reminiscences, and started to hear the links that were coming together, joining observation with personal experience.

We also imagined the voices of Bradgate Park: what would a tree, a wall or a rock say?  The poem below includes a line each from all the participants: a collaborative poem that really brings the park to life.  We hope you like it.

 

Bradgate Park Speaks

 

I am scrunching as I stride

through crisp leaves of oak.

 

The granite speaks: “I am stone.  Before you and after you,

I will be here.

I am cold, old, strong, immobile rock: Stonehenge a stripling to me.

I’m between two gates, bound to this route,

watching the soles of shoes and boot-bottoms descend. 

And beyond them, clouds.”

 

Cold hands have put these stones into place.

Lichens clothe the dry stone walls.

 

“I am a metal plaque set in a low trapezoid wall, stone-built.

I am marking a boundary between humans and the wild.”

 

The deer, from a distance, observe with disdain mums with pushchairs.

 

 “I am Queen Adelaide Oak and I am propped up. I cannot stand alone:

I am comfortable propped up by you three.

My poor leaves are thinning and shifting in the breeze:

seeing my family hundreds of years old

as I fall to the ground

and aspire to grow.”

 

The incongruous rippling banner disturbs the beauty of the ancient Park.

 

“My roots are firmly planted in this ground,

I cannot move but I see all that does.

This is my home in the wind,

in the sun under the stars growing old by the seasons:

this is my sanctuary.”

 

2018 goals

2018 goals

December 6, 2017 Tara Janes

Hi guys, my December blog post is going to be about reflecting on the past year and setting myself some goals for 2018. Continue reading

The days and nights of a final year student to graduate

The days and nights of a final year student to graduate

December 5, 2017 Imogen Newey

December 2016

That special time of year where festive decorations transform spaces and, if you haven’t already, you realise Loughborough is one big family. Continue reading

BT Sport studio tour

BT Sport studio tour

December 1, 2017 Lauren Proctor

Last month, our students on the Collaborative Project module had the opportunity to gain an insight in the world of sports broadcasting with our Here East neighbours, BT Sport. One of our Student Ambassadors, Victor, shares his experience of the day. Continue reading

Small Business Saturday - our students share their favourites

Small Business Saturday - our students share their favourites

December 1, 2017 Rachel

The first Saturday of December marks Small Business Saturday, which encourages consumers to ‘shop local’ and support small businesses in their communities. This year it falls on the 2nd December.

We’ve asked some of our students to share their favourite independent businesses in Loughborough, so why not try one of their recommendations this weekend?

Continue reading

Database Trial - 17th and 18th Century Nichols Newspapers Collection

December 1, 2017 Steven Lake

We’re dipping into the past again for our latest database trial courtesy of the Gale Company.

17th and 18th Century Nichols Newspapers Collection features London newspapers and pamphlets gathered by antiquarian and printer John Nichols. This collection, sourced from the Bodleian Library, spans the years 1672 to 1737 and complements the titles and issues found in 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers.

To begin searching go to http://infotrac.galegroup.com/itweb/loughuni?db=NICN

Access is via IP address and the trial runs to 2nd January 2018.

We welcome feedback – good or bad – on this trial, please contact Steve Corn s.c.corn@lboro.ac.uk with your comments.

Everything you need to know about the Careers Fair!

Everything you need to know about the Careers Fair!

November 28, 2017 Symrun Samria

Every year the university hosts the largest Autumn Graduate and Placement Careers Fair in the UK spanning over two days exhibiting over 240 organisations that attend to promote their graduate and placement role opportunities. Continue reading

Changes to Windows 10 Task Sequences 01/12/17

November 27, 2017 Chris Carter

The Windows 10 In-Place Upgrade, Provisioning and Imaging Task Sequences will be updated on Friday 1st December during the Task Sequence at risk period. It is therefore recommended that you do not attempt to carry out any Windows 10 installations or upgrades at this time.

We will inform you when the work has been completed.

The changes are:

Imaging Task Sequence

  • Changes to the disk format and partition steps to make them more robust, particularly on encrypted disks.
  • Upgrade Intel Bluetooth drivers and utility for HP EliteBook 8×0 G1 to a version compatible with 1703.
  • Upgrade HP 3D Drive Guard utility on HP EliteBook 2170p to a version compatible with 1703.

Provisioning Task Sequence

  • Add a check for BitLocker encryption to the beginning of the Task Sequence. If BitLocker is detected, the Task Sequence will exit and advise that the device must be decrypted before continuing.

In-Place Upgrade Task Sequence

  • Upgrades EFI Print Messenger (for the Online Printing service) to the latest version on PCs that already had it installed.

All Windows 10 Task Sequences

  • Microsoft Weather app configured to use the current location by default for all users (user can change this if they wish).

Timescale:

01/12/17 – 08:00am-09:00am

CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION AND HELP?

Please contact our Service Desk at mailto:it.services@lboro.ac.uk for more information.

Inter-Library Loan Service during the Christmas Vacation

November 27, 2017 Steven Lake

The University Library will be postponing Inter-Library Loan requests that it receives during the Christmas vacation.

If you would like to borrow a book or a similar item from another library over Christmas, please make your request before Friday 8th December 2017.  If you make a borrowing request after this date we will process it after the University reopens on Tuesday 2nd January 2018.

If you would like us to get a copy of a journal article, conference paper or similar item from another library for you before Christmas, please make your request before Friday 15th December 2017. If you make a copy request after this date we will process it after the University reopens on Tuesday 2nd January 2018.

If you have any questions, please e-mail interloans@lboro.ac.uk.

'He just pulled my hand in to his lap': what it's really like to be assaulted on the London Underground

'He just pulled my hand in to his lap': what it's really like to be assaulted on the London Underground

November 27, 2017 Thomas Stovell

Sexual harassment is rife in public spaces, and as an integral part of daily life, public transport is no exception. As global as it is endemic, women are forced to negotiate the risk and reality of sexual harassment as they get from A to B on a daily basis.

On the London Underground, the extent of the issue became apparent in 2013 after a Transport for London (TfL) survey revealed that 15% of Londoners had experienced some form of unwanted sexual attention on public transport in the city. A large proportion of these incidents happened on the Underground.

In my research, I spoke to women who had experienced sexual harassment on the tube. The unique nature of the space of the underground and the way people interact with each other when they’re using it mean that the abuse manifests itself in particular ways.

As Eliza, who has lived in London and used the tube her whole life said:

On the tube you’re simultaneously in close proximity with so many people and yet you’re completely anonymous. Everyone is in their own world … and I think some people take advantage of that.

Groping or “frotteuring” are the most common offences, and generally happen in the morning and evening rush hours. Masturbation and indecent exposures are more likely on quieter, off-peak trains.

The women I spoke to also described being “upskirted” – having someone take a photo up their skirt – and having indecent images randomly sent to them via the airdrop function on their phone. They said they had been followed, ejaculated on, had to deflect drunken come-ons, and put up with verbal and physical aggression.

The daily crush provides useful cover for perpetrators.
Axel Drainville, CC BY-NC-SA

Taylor, a 33-year old project manager in Canary Wharf, east London, called her experience “insidious”. On a late evening tube, she described how a man came and sat next to her:

He just pulled my hand in to his lap and held it there … I just froze … I was looking around trying to make eye contact with someone to say, ‘Get this guy off me’. The longer I left it, the more I felt like I couldn’t move … it lasted 15 minutes. Afterwards … I was so ashamed and confused by my own reaction.

When I asked her if she had reported the incident, she shook her head and said:

I had a hard time even explaining it to my boyfriend. How would I go about talking to the police? There’s no way they’d take that seriously.

The TfL survey showed that only one in ten people made reports after experiencing a sexual offence on the Underground. Due to the nature of the environment and the type of incidents that occur, reporting and policing sexual harassment on the tube comes with its own set of difficulties.

Unlike most acts of sexual violence, offences on the underground are committed by strangers. The police therefore have to rely on CCTV, Oyster card data, and, most importantly, information from victims when looking into a case. In a fast paced, densely packed, transitory environment, that can be extremely challenging.

Anonymity

Ruth, who commuted on the Waterloo and City line, described how she wasn’t even sure who assaulted her:

I felt someone’s hand touch me … between my legs … The carriage was packed full of men in suits, I couldn’t tell where the hand was coming from and no one looked suspicious. So at first I thought maybe I was imagining it, or it was an accident. Then the fingers moved from side to side … What was I going to do? If I’d said who’s touching me, no one would admit it. It would be so embarrassing. The tube arrived, the doors opened and everybody got off.

That kind of uncertainty and ambiguity often affects women’s reactions – both while an incident is happening and afterwards – making them reluctant to come forward. They also report a fear of being victim blamed, and thinking the incident was not serious enough to bother the police with, demonstrating the pervasive normalisation of sexual harassment. Furthermore, some women said they didn’t report simply because they wanted to avoid their day being further disrupted, which, considering the energy that often already goes into avoiding and negotiating sexual assault, is as valid a reason as any.

However as Rach stated, perhaps the onus should not be on women to report in the first place:

Everyone said to me, report it, you should report it. But I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to have to relive it again … It’s not my responsibility and I shouldn’t be made to feel guilty.

In an attempt to overcome some of these barriers and to put less pressure on victims, British Transport Police have taken various measures. There is now a number you can text to report incidents and undercover officers who are specially trained to spot this kind of behaviour are patrolling the Underground network.

The ConversationThe recent proliferation in reporting and public story sharing has led to an increased awareness that women are forced to negotiate this behaviour on a regular, often daily, basis in all kinds of places. Perhaps we should use this momentum to transfer the pressure and obligation to combat sexually invasive behaviour away from those who have already been victimised and instead collectively challenge issues of normalisation and bystander apathy that allow these incidents to occur on such a pervasive level.

Sian Lewis, Doctoral Researcher. Feminist Urban Sociologist, Loughborough University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Header image: unsplash/dwayne paisley marshall

Configuration Manager at risk due to new power switchover panel in Holywell Park

November 27, 2017 Gary Hale

The Holywell Pod will be powered down to install a new power switchover panel.
Configuration Manager has built in resilience in Haslegrave so the service will be available as normal but consider the service at risk during this time.
Further correspondence will be sent out as required.
Timescale:

Time – 14/12/17 – 08:00am-16:00pm

A Whole New World

A Whole New World

November 24, 2017 Liam

A day in the life of a Disney Intern… Continue reading

A ‘quick’ British-American trade deal? NAFTA suggests not a chance

November 24, 2017 Ondine Barry

This Blog post was published in The Conversation on 22nd November 2017 – written by SBE’s Visiting Professor of Economics Randall Wigle from Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada

Being a Canadian sabbatical visitor in the United Kingdom this year has allowed me to witness Brexit politics at close hand. As an economist, I’ve found it fascinating.

Randall Wigle

Some Britons feel that Brexit sets the stage for a bright future for the U.K., including a potential trade deal with the United States, while others are deeply concerned about the consequences of Brexit for both the economy and the country’s stature in the world.

The juxtaposition of Brexit and the ongoing renegotiation of NAFTA, however, raises questions about whether negotiating a U.S.-U.K. trade deal will be done “very very quickly,” as U.S. President Donald Trump declared in July.

For the full post, please go to: https://theconversation.com/a-quick-british-american-trade-deal-nafta-suggests-not-a-chance-87708 

 

 

Book Loans Over the Christmas Vacation

November 24, 2017 Steven Lake

With Christmas and the end of term looming, we’ve already received several enquiries asking when our Christmas vacation loan period begins.

From Friday 8th December all Long, Week Loan and Leisure Reading books borrowed or renewed can be kept over the Christmas vacation.

1st & 2nd Year Undergraduate loans will then be due back on Wednesday 10th January.

Finalist & Postgraduate loans will be due back on Friday 12th January.

Book recalls will also be suspended from Friday 8th December, resuming again on 5th January, meaning as usual we will NOT be recalling books over the Christmas vacation, though please note that any books requested & borrowed from our Hold shelves with outstanding requests on them will still only issue for one week.

Sport Business and Leadership site visit to Loughborough University

Sport Business and Leadership site visit to Loughborough University

November 24, 2017 Sian Leatherland

Recently, the Sport Business and Leadership students had the wonderful opportunity to visit our main University campus in Loughborough, as part of the curriculum led by Programme Director Dr Steve Swanson.  Continue reading

Sport Business and Leadership MSc - student site visits

Sport Business and Leadership MSc - student site visits

November 23, 2017 Sian Leatherland

Last month, the Sport Business and Leadership MSc students had the opportunity to visit the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst with programme director Dr Steve Swanson. Continue reading

For the less well off half of families, budgets continue to take away, not give away

November 22, 2017 Donald Hirsch

In today’s Budget, Philip Hammond repeated the mantra that the Government wants “to help families cope with the cost of living”, and even acknowledged that short term relief from the assault on living standards needs to parallel long-term investment to improve productivity and housebuilding. But he conspicuously avoided repeating previous references to “just about managing” families as the target for such help, and for those in the bottom half of the income distribution, the assault continues more or less unabated.

Alongside his ambitious long-term plans to improve the housing supply, Mr Hammond offered some modest immediate treats, none of them targeted at low income families.

The most dramatic, the abolition of stamp duty below £300,000 for first time buyers, will save someone buying a home at this price £5,000. For someone on a modest income unable to afford today’s astronomical house prices, it will save nothing.

The increase in the salary at which student loans start to be repaid, from £21,000 to £25,000, will reduce a recent graduate’s payments by £360 a year. For someone who didn’t go to university, it saves nothing.

The increase in the income tax threshold by £350 a year will put £60 in the pockets of most taxpayers, but only £26 for those on Universal Credit, and nothing for those earning too little to pay tax.

Meanwhile, the least well-off half of families are being made systematically worse off because they rely on means-tested support such as tax credits, which are being frozen in cash terms while prices rise by 3% a year. Mr Hammond ignored the widespread calls to reverse the freeze, and did nothing to modify a range of benefit cuts still in the pipeline. My recent analysis showed that even for those on a rising National Living Wage, these cuts typically outweigh projected pay increases, in some cases by a long way. While the NLW continues to rise, it is doing so far more slowly than projected when it was introduced, due to sluggish general wage growth, reducing further its potential to offset cuts in in-work support.

Rather than doing anything to improve entitlements, the Budget helped people on benefits only by partially addressing two problems of the government’s own making. One was to abolish the seven-day waiting period for Universal Credit, and introducing other measures to reduce the problems people face making the transition onto this poorly designed new system. The other was to increase a fund to improve the maximum Housing Benefit payments in some areas where rents are rising rapidly, partly ameliorating its general freeze on these limits. Such measures have been rightly welcomed. But they do not even begin to address the ongoing squeeze on living standards of families who are only just about managing, let alone those who are not managing at all.

Budget 2017: experts respond

Budget 2017: experts respond

November 22, 2017 Thomas Stovell

The UK chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond, has delivered a budget which offered help to first-time home buyers and the prospect of more money for workers in the National Health Service, but his speech was partly overshadowed by sharp cuts to GDP growth forecasts from the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR). Continue reading

An Afternoon of Fun at Loughborough’s Hidden Historical Treasure: The Old Rectory Museum

An Afternoon of Fun at Loughborough’s Hidden Historical Treasure: The Old Rectory Museum

November 21, 2017 PR Office

On Saturday 21 October two Loughborough academics Sara Read and Lyndsey Bakewell, from the School of the Arts, English and Drama, teamed up with the LSU Shakespeare Society represented by chair Corinne Bills and member Aiden Rainbird-Earley (who is studying systems engineering at the University) together with the volunteers at the Old Rectory Museum in Loughborough town centre to offer an afternoon of joke telling and fun with a historical twist.

Sara and Lyndsey have been researching humour and laughter in the seventeenth century for a forthcoming book chapter in an edited collection, Humour in the Arts: New Perspectives (Routledge, 2018) and a whole new book on the topic which is in the pipeline too. As part of their work, they were supported by the Research Office with funding for a summer bursary to have a student work with them for ten weeks. Corinne stepped up to this challenge and had a summer reading, collating and analysing jokes published in collections 400 years ago – of which there are a surprising number – with titles such as London Jests: or, A Collection of the Choicest Joques. Inspired by what they were reading the team decided it’d be fun to road test some of these ‘joques’ with a modern audience.

The Old Rectory Museum was the perfect setting for this idea since the theme of this year’s exhibition had been focussed on the seventeenth century with their Loughborough in the Civil War Years. The rectory is set in the medieval centre of Loughborough, and the building represents 800 years of the town’s heritage. Standing in its own grounds on Rectory Place on the edge of the modern town centre; the Old Rectory represents a rare survival of a stone built 13th century manor house, and is also one of the oldest rectories in the country. The museum has a collection of historical games such as iron spinning hoops and Nine Men’s Morris a game as old as some of the jokes and even mentioned in William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.

One of the most popular jokes on the day was a rather controversial one which has a local connection the Leicestershire village of Gotham:

A Conceited pragmatical Londoner travelling to Goatam, met a poor fellow coming from thence, thinking to shew his wit said well met wiseman of Goatam, how far to the place of thy Nativity? I cannot deny (said the poor fellow) but that my Country is a shame to me, but you proud Londoners are a shame to your Country.

Some of the other most popular jokes are below, have a read and see which ones tickle your funny bone!

  • A Carpenter being at work in a Bowling-green, was asked, what he was doing. He replied, ‘I am making a Bench for the standers by to sit upon.
  • Herring, walking by the side of a Rock, slipped and fell into the Sea; whereupon he called to his Friend to lend him a hand, ‘O no Sir’, said he, ‘that is the way to do you the greatest injury imaginable, by taking you out of the Sea which is a Herrings proper place’
  • A Gentleman losing his Watch, complained to his friend of his loss; ‘alas Sir,’ (said the other) ‘who can help it? Time will away’.
  • One asked another why men were not content to tell lies, but they must publish them in print, the reason is apparent said the other, because when they lie, do most desire to lie in sheets.

As you can see from the last one, those rushing to style current print media ‘Fake News!’ is yet another stereotype we have inherited from our history.

The final joke is one which puns on perennially funny toilet humour and was undoubtedly the star of the day:

A Citizen that was more tender of himself then wife, usually in cold weather made her go to bed first, and when he thought her plump buttocks had sufficiently warmed his place, he then came and removed her out of it lay in it himself; and to make himself merry, called her his warming-pan; she not being able to endure this indignity any longer, one night (Sir Reverence) she did shit a bed; he leaping into it, and finding himself in a stinking condition, cried out, ‘O wife, I am beshit!’. ‘No husband’, says she, ‘it is but a Coal dropped out of your Warming-pan’.

And on that note, we’ll finish with a reminder that The Old Rectory now houses a museum run by the Loughborough Archaeological and Historical Society and welcomes visitors each Saturday 11am to 3pm from April to October. If you’ve not been yet put a note in your diary to rectify this next season and enjoy a free afternoon to steep yourself in local history.

LSU Shakespeare Society’s next production is William Shakespeare’s The Tempest on next month.

Workshop provides essential lessons for academic writing

November 21, 2017 Ondine Barry

Last month Loughborough University Centre for Information Management hosted an international paper-writing workshop led by Senior Scholar and Fellow of the AIS Professor Michael Myers.

The workshop attracted early-career faculty and PhD researchers from Europe and the United States.

Participants discussed the challenges of writing up and getting published, choosing a title and crafting an abstract, tactics for improving writing style and strategies for responding to reviewers and editor feedback.

A particular feature of the workshop was the opportunity for all participants to have personal expert feedback on their journal paper draft provided by Michael (formerly a Senior Editor at MISQ and ISR), Professor Emeritus Guy Fitzgerald (former Editor of Information Systems Journal), Professor M. N. Ravishankar (Senior Editor of Information Systems Journal) and Dr Crispin Coombs (Senior Editor of Information Technology and People).

The workshop is part of a series of academic career development workshops initiated and led by Dr Coombs to inspire and develop academics to achieve the highest quality research performance.

The workshop, coordinated by Dr Konstantina Spanaki, received great praise from the participants:

“It was very useful and interesting; a great milieu to meet researchers and get inspired. I particularly appreciated the writing moments when we ‘had to’ sit and develop new writings. It gave me the opportunity to get something straight out of the workshop.” -Fatemeh Saadatmand, University of Gothenburg

“It was the most instructive workshop I have ever attended since I joined academia. I have walked away not only with a clear sense of what my paper will look like, but also with great suggestions on how to improve academic writing and craft the most important parts of a paper, starting from the title and abstract.” Silvia Masiero, Loughborough University.

“Informative and useful workshop, enjoyed every aspect of it! Highly professional, helpful and engaging speakers and organisers invested vast efforts to help PhD students and early career researchers improve their writing style and skills.” -Davit Marikyan, Newcastle University

“It was definitely insightful and interesting, and it is genuinely one of the best workshops I’ve attended. I enjoyed every second of it!” -Gongtao Zhang, University of Nottingham

Previous workshops have examined a range of topics including: from submission to 4* publication:

  • An example from MIS Quarterly, Professor Robert Galliers, Bentley University;
  • The use of theory and theorising for 4* journal articles, Professor Michael Myers; and
  • Bridging the Theory-Practice Divide with Mixed Qualitative Methods, Professor Robert Davison, City University Hong Kong.

This Blog post was written by Dr Crispin Coombs, Deputy Director of the Centre for Information Management and Reader in Information Management at the SBE. Crispin can be reached on c.r.coombs@lboro.ac.uk

Bradgate Stags - guest poem by Sue Mackrell

November 20, 2017 Kerry Featherstone

Sue Mackrell is a poet, workshop leader and creative project organiser, based in Leicestershire. She has researched and written extensively about a range of aspects of Leicestershire history and heritage, and has worked with all sort of groups from the County.  So I was delighted when she sent me this poem about Bradgate Park.  I know it’s not October any more, but this is still a brilliantly evocative poem.  Thanks to Sue for permission to post it.

 

Bradgate Stags

 

Magnificent in gold October light,

a crowned stag in autumn rut,

full rack of antler, twelve tined,

thick maned ruff spiked with mud,

impressive mass of muscled neck.

 

With the gait and stance of a conqueror, he

paws the ground, roars, guttural,

sniffing, strutting, gauging the strength

of his rival, locking antlers clashing

with elemental potency.

 

An atavistic appeal to primeval instincts,

shamanism and shape changing,

ancient masks and Mummers’ plays,

a Horn Dance, clash of wooden staves,

antlered heads invoking

Herne the Hunter, Pan the Horned God,

Cernunnos, god of the wildwood,

still surviving in transgressive rituals

of Stag Night revels.

 

 

Sue Mackrell

Verismic Upgrade

November 20, 2017 Nik Thanki

On the 21st November 2017 between 9am-4pm we are upgrading the Verismic Power Management Server to the most recent version.

This should have no impact to your services and will let you know once the server upgrade is complete.

2018 Teaching Innovation Awards now open

November 20, 2017 Deena Ingham

Do you want to make your teaching and learning more engaging, inspiring and innovative? Would you like to resolve an issue in teaching or learning in your discipline? Tackle issues of working in a group or team?

The 2018 Teaching Innovation Awards are now open for applications so this may be the chance to secure funding to support your work. Forms and guidance appear on the TIA webpage.

Open to anyone in the institution – staff, students, colleagues in the Students’ Union and professional services – these awards seek to enhance teaching and students’ academic experience.

All submissions go before a panel of colleagues drawn from across the University and LSU.

Awards range from £3,000 to £5,000 and are generally made to fund action research projects.

Previous winners have looked at improving the University’s use of: LEARN, feedback, new technologies in teaching, and student-led learning as well as ways of teaching practical skills and critical thinking.

This year’s awards are also open to previous winners who want to develop further impact from their original application.

The awards are administered by the Centre for Academic Practice on behalf of the University.

Applications will remain open until 28 February 2018. Applicants will need to discuss, develop and submit their ideas before then.

For more information visit the Teaching Innovation Awards page. If you would like a one-to-one bespoke session to discuss the awards, or a session for your School about the awards contact Deena Ingham at D.Ingham@lboro.ac.uk

Relaxing at University- 5 Ways from a Confessed Workaholic

Relaxing at University- 5 Ways from a Confessed Workaholic

November 17, 2017 Lauren Jefferis

As a student (and human in general), I like to keep busy. Having so much going on around me and so many opportunities it would be foolish not to get involved and in the meantime drown myself with responsibilities. Continue reading

Study Support at Loughborough University

Study Support at Loughborough University

November 17, 2017 Loughborough University

Starting your university studies can be a daunting experience. Upon having to move away from home, studying for a university degree is different as well compared to your previous experiences. We have listed 6+1 ways of getting support during your studies here at Loughborough. Continue reading

Celebrating our enterprising alumni

Celebrating our enterprising alumni

November 16, 2017 Rachel

It’s Global Entrepreneurship Week, and with #GEW2017 trending we’ve been sharing some of the successes of our go-getting alumni. Continue reading

Public policy is becoming ever more skewed in trying to focus on “deserving” groups

November 16, 2017 Donald Hirsch

The evidence is piling up: most people on low incomes will have been made much worse off in the course of this decade. Most depressingly, the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts that the child poverty rate, which saw a sustained fall in the New Labour years, from 34% to 27% after housing costs, will have shot up to 37% by the end of this Parliament.  New projections we are publishing today show some dramatic examples of falling living standards – such as among out of work families, who got around two thirds of their minimum needs met by benefits at the start of the decade, but will have only about half by its end.

But amid this general gloom, not everyone loses equally, and a few actually make modest gains. Our projections identify a pattern in these differing fortunes that tell us a lot about where public support for low income families is heading.

Most obviously, the worst losers are those who were worst off in the first place: people depending on out of work benefits. The unprecedented decision to uprate benefits more slowly than inflation, and at present to freeze them entirely, is overlain with a myriad of specific punitive cuts, notably the benefits cap, the restriction of tax credit entitlements to two children, the bedroom tax and increasingly severe restrictions on the rent levels that will be supported by Housing Benefit. Put together, these are pushing more families towards destitution, making the escalation in food bank usage entirely unsurprising.

None of those measures that have helped improve family incomes in recent years – higher tax allowances, improved childcare support, a higher minimum wage – have done anything to help people without work. For low income working families, some of whom have benefited from these improvements, it’s a more mixed picture.

Most of these working families are also experiencing severe cuts, particularly in tax credits and in Universal Credit, which in most cases are much greater than the small offsetting gains. The exception to this is low-paid working families with at least one parent working full time and the other working either full or part time. They may get enough gain from the National Living Wage to make them slightly better off overall.

However, most families whose low incomes trigger means-tested help from the state do not have as much work in this – and that’s often why they need the help. Lone parents in particular cannot gain from changes that require two workers in the family to offset the losses in state support. Couples with part-time or sporadic work, including those who choose for one parent to allocate time to family caring, are also lose out.

Thus, behind the strategy of combining lower in-work support with higher minimum pay is the inference that families who want to thrive should increase their working hours. This tallies with the emerging system of “in-work conditionality” under Universal Credit, and the rule that self-employed people have to earn more than a minimum threshold to gain from it.

This is not how Universal Credit was originally designed, when it emphasised opportunities to gain from small amounts of work. It threatens to create a new narrative in which families are seen as “undeserving” of state help unless they are have two parents, who are working all available hours. Yet the purpose of in-work support in today’s uncertain economy should precisely be to guarantee a reasonable income to people on reduced earnings, often because of relatively few or irregular working hours. If these groups come to be seen as the new undeserving poor, the very purpose of support for working families will be undermined.

Update to Windows 10 Imaging and Provisioning Task Sequences

November 16, 2017 Chris Carter

The imaging Task Sequence has now been updated to image PCs to Windows 10 1703.

We have also taken this opportunity to update the Provisioning Task Sequence to upgrade PCs from 1607 to 1703. Should you provision a PC that came with 1607 installed, the Task Sequence will now automatically update it to 1703. Please note in that scenario the process will take up to an extra hour to complete. PCs that already have 1703 installed will not take any longer to provision than previously.

Please report any issues or queries regarding this to the IT Service Desk on x222333 or IT.Services@lboro.ac.uk.

 

Winter is coming!

Winter is coming!

November 15, 2017 Niamh O’Connor

I cannot believe we are into November already. The time is passing so fast, and the Uni weeks are flying by. Continue reading

Update to Windows 10 Imaging Task Sequence

November 15, 2017 Mike Collett

Given the current situation regard with to XMA/Toshiba  sending a newer version of Windows than we are ready to adopt, we have decided to bring this change forward to tomorrow morning (16th November 2017)

————————————————————–

On the morning of Wednesday 22rd November 2017, the Windows 10 Imaging Task Sequence will be updated to v1.2.

There are changes to the disk partition layout to conform to Microsoft recommendations and Manufacturer’s practice.

The version of Windows 10 installed will be 1703 instead of 1607.

There is also be a minor change to the way application defaults are set.

The task sequence will be unavailable between 8:00am and 9:30am while this change is made.

If you have any queries regarding this, please contact the IT Service Desk on x222333 or IT.Services@lboro.ac.uk

Welfare & Diversity – Mental Health Support available at LSU

Welfare & Diversity – Mental Health Support available at LSU

November 15, 2017 Chidinma Okorie

I know I did sign off with my previous blog, but when I was presented with the opportunity to write about the Mental Health support that the Welfare and Diversity section of the LSU provides, I couldn’t resist. When duty calls, I answer…

It’s no longer news that I was John Phillips Hall’s Welfare and Diversity Representative for 2016/2017 academic year, and successfully organised the first-ever JP hall Welfare Week (Proud Welfare Rep). As a Welfare Rep, my focus was on the general well-being of students, and I ensured to get involved in (and organise) activities that promote and cater for this aspect of student life at Loughborough.

John Phillips Welfare Week

Support Networks

The Welfare and Diversity section of the LSU has Associations and Support Networks and Services that exist to ensure that students have the right support throughout their stay in Loughborough. HeadsUp is one of those support networks that promote positive mental health and well-being and raise awareness of mental health issues. I recommend that our new students especially get involved in the activities organised by this support group.

Buddy Box Challenge

Mental Health Day

The LSU also organises a University Mental Health Day aimed at promoting positive mental health amongst students. This year’s event (held in March) featured several activities including Art therapy, yoga sessions, and an interesting competition/challenge for Welfare Hall Reps. to create buddy boxes full of self-care goodies which will be given out on the Day.

It was an interesting one for me because we – John Phillips Hall Committee – won the Buddy Box challenge (One of such wins that ultimately earned us the Welfare and Diversity ‘Highly Commended’ award for the Most Improved Hall). Our beautiful Buddy box contained self-care goodies, including a hand-written letter from my Committee, expressing our love and inviting the winner for a massage. Aren’t we sweet?

Buddy Box Challenge LSU

Well-being

From my experience as a Welfare Rep, I know the importance of Mental health and well-being and would always recommend that all students – whether or not you have a mental illness/issue – should strive to improve their mental health. As a postgraduate student in a country outside my home country – with all the cultural, language, academic and everything-in-between barriers and differences – I had to ensure the stability of my mental health and general well-being in order to thrive socially, academically and otherwise.

There are different kinds of pressures that can cause stress and inadvertently threaten one’s mental health. Hence, it is important to always be self-aware and, once you notice you’re under such stress, seek the necessary support. Again, the Welfare and Diversity section provides such support to students throughout their study to ensure they ultimately have the best student experience at Loughborough.

I’ll sign off with this word of advice:

Remember, you cannot perform your best if you’re stressed. Therefore, put your mental health and wellbeing first.

On another news, I miss Loughborough! ☹

Salomé Doré: International Events

Salomé Doré: International Events

November 14, 2017 Loughborough University

My name is Salomé Doré and I’m from Nice, France. I’m your LSU International Development Officer for 2017/18. As your International Development Officer, and being an international student myself, I know how hard it can be to arrive in a new country – give my first blog a read to find out how my first days went in Loughborough.
Continue reading

Moving LORLS between Library Management Systems

November 14, 2017 Jon Knight

The Loughborough Online Reading List System (LORLS) is the system we developed here at Loughborough to manage the resources for directed student reading.  Academics put their reading lists into the system, and the students can then see them, both directly via a web interface and also embedded in the University’s Moodle Virtual Learning Environment.  LORLS also provides the library with management information to allow them to adjust stock and check which modules have up to date reading lists available. To do this, LORLS links in to other University IT systems such as the student data, the Active Directory and the Library Management System (LMS)

We started to write LORLS just before the turn of the 21st century, so its been around a bit and has already seen a switch from one LMS (BLCMP’s Talis) to another (ExLibris’s Aleph).  In the summer of 2017 we’ve been involved with another LMS transition, this time from Aleph to Koha.  We already have some experience with tying the basic elements of LORLS into Koha as the Dublin Business School use both and we helped them to get LORLS working with Koha for catalogue searches and some of the reports.  This integration uses Z39.50 and is relatively painless to do: LORLS just needs to be told the new host name, port, database name, username and password (if any) to access the new LMS’s Z39.50 server.  For once, standards usage mean it does interoperate OK.

However at Loughborough our LORLS configuration also includes some localised code to provide some extra features that aren’t in the main LORLS distribution, some of which were written after the previous LMS switch from Talis to Aleph.  One of these is the “purchase predictor”.  This a back end script that runs nightly and tries to use reading list data, information the number of students on modules, the loan history of items in the LMS and a few other bits and bobs to provide library staff with suggestions as to which books should be considered for acquisition (and why).

The purchase predictor needs more access to the LMS than Z39.50 provides for.  With Aleph, it has been using some homegrown Perl scripts on our Aleph server that we nicknamed “AIM” to extract required data out of the Aleph Oracle database.  With the move to Koha, these AIM scripts would need to be rewritten or replaced.

The data we need from the LMS is:

  • Budget codes and amounts for departmental spending (so that we know which departments to bill books or parts of books to based on module usage, student numbers, etc)
  • Details of holdings for a work.  In other words, how many copies (items) do we have for a given ISBN?
  • Details of outstanding acquisitions/orders that have been placed but not yet processed or fulfilled. This is required to stop the purchase predictor from continually trying to purchase the same popular works over and over again before orders have arrived and been made shelf ready.
  • The loan history of items for a work in a given period.  This is used to determine when items for a work are heavily used – if there’s always a few loanable books on a shelf then demand isn’t high enough to warrant buying more copies.
  • The prices paid for books when acquired.  This used as part of a process to work out a rough “average” price that an individual book for a work is likely to cost so that it can be compared to the remaining money in departmental budgets. Actual acquisitions may cost more or less obviously depending on the book, supplier discounts, etc, but previous acquisitions of a work give the purchase predictor code a good starting estimate (especially as book re-sellers have awful/non-existent pricing APIs).

Whilst Koha is an open source LMS with a well documented data structure and the ability to have new modules easily added, our instance will be hosted off site for us by PTFS-Europe.  Therefore where possible it was decided to opt for existing Koha API access to the LMS from our purchase predictor code running on servers in Loughborough, rather than adding new, specially written code on their server to replicate the previous AIM scripts.

One option that Koha provides out of the box is the ability for library staff to produce their own reports using SQL SELECTs on the database, and then have these reports made available via a web service API.  This reporting mechanism only supports SELECT statements, so it can only be used in a read-only manner, but that’s fine for much of what the purchase predictor needs to do.  The results of the reporting scripts can be returned in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) format, which is ideal for our Perl based scripts to ingest and process.  The Koha reporting mechanism does allow parameters to be passed into the report SQL statement, so the purchase predictor can influence what each report generates (for example passing the ISBN of the work that it needs a loan history for, and the earliest loan date that we are interested in).

Most of the required data above can easily be retrieved from Koha using the above scripts.  One that we do have to be careful about though is the loan history of works. Current and old issues in Koha are held in two, potentially very large tables and its very easy to accidentally write SQL that will start table scanning them as not all the columns required are indexed.  SQL run from the Koha reporting system can bring the underlying MySQL server to its knees if the table scans start generating large amounts of memory use, which they might for popular works.

As an alternative to this is to use the Koha statistics table to pull the current day’s issues out, and store them in our own MySQL server on the LORLS host.  We already did something similar to this for the Aleph server, and for much the same reason: using AIM scripts to live trawl through all the issue records could overload its Oracle server.  Our MySQL loan history database is added to daily with the previous day’s issues and has indexes created so that subsequent queries for work loan history can easily and quickly look back a month or two.

We tested the resulting SQL queries and a slightly modified version of the existing LORLS purchase predictor code on the test/development Koha installation, with some migrated dry run test data imported from our live Aleph LMS.  This appear to predict sets of suitable purchase suggestions for a variety of departments and modules.  We’re now waiting for our Koha LMS to go live.  No doubt this will still require a few tweaks in day to day use, but it does appear that the LORLS purchase predictor can be ported between LMSes.

 

Trying new things this November: Loughborough Student Union Calendar

Trying new things this November: Loughborough Student Union Calendar

November 13, 2017 Gemma Wilkie

It’s  well in to November now and all those cliché pictures of fireworks are up on Instagram from Bonfire Night! Continue reading

Financing and budgeting at university

Financing and budgeting at university

November 13, 2017 Hannah Timson

As four wise individuals once said, ‘money, money, money, must be funny in a rich man’s world’. Cheesy Abba quotes aside, financing and budgeting at university can often seem an uphill struggle. Continue reading

A balancing act!

A balancing act!

November 13, 2017 Jessica Rutherford

I am extremely pleased to announce that I have officially passed my end of year review! Continue reading

Update to Windows 10 Imaging Task Sequence

November 13, 2017 Mike Collett

On the morning of Wednesday 22rd November 2017, the Windows 10 Imaging Task Sequence will be updated to v1.2.

There are changes to the disk partition layout to conform to Microsoft recommendations and Manufacturer’s practice.

The version of Windows 10 installed will be 1703 instead of 1607.

There is also be a minor change to the way application defaults are set.

The task sequence will be unavailable between 8:00am and 9:30am while this change is made.

If you have any queries regarding this, please contact the IT Service Desk on x222333 or IT.Services@lboro.ac.uk

Crack is back – so how dangerous is it and why is its use on the up?

Crack is back – so how dangerous is it and why is its use on the up?

November 13, 2017 Thomas Stovell

There have long been scare stories about drugs so we need to be careful when interpreting new drug use data. But recent reports suggest that crack cocaine use is on the rise again. Continue reading

Goal setting

Goal setting

November 10, 2017 Jameel Shariff

In order to achieve your “personal best”, it’s so important to set yourself regular goals of things you want to achieve. Continue reading

Travelling at University

Travelling at University

November 10, 2017 Tara Janes

Hey everyone, this month I’ve decided to write my blog post on transportation at uni, mainly on different ways of getting to and from home. Continue reading

Why should I go to a Careers Fair?

Why should I go to a Careers Fair?

November 10, 2017 Miranda Priestley

As a student on placement, and someone who did attend careers fairs at university in second-year, I can tell you that going to these events does help you to find the right second-year placement and graduate opportunity for you. Continue reading

DEN Enterprise Workshop – Being a Part of the Winning Team!

November 10, 2017 Zoe Chritchlow

Written by Youssef Hamid, CDT-Embedded Intelligence

On the 19th and 20th September the Digital Catapult Centre hosted the Entrepreneurship workshop, organised by the Digital Economy Network. Two PhD students from the CDT-Embedded Intelligence, Orange Gao & Youssef Hamid took part on this experience which was a successful combination of workshops led by Prof. Philip Treleaven, UCL from UCL and practical hand’s one business creation simulations.

The round table workshops focused on entrepreneurship methodologies (Identifying your idea, branding and vision) and skills to acquire (Business model canvas, funding pitches). The PhD entrepreneurial journey was put in perspective by 4 real experience presentations where Ex-PhD students told the stories of their transition from a PhD student to a CEO or Confounders of their businesses.

Participants were encouraged to take a part pf the Dragon’s Den competition where teams of 4 to 5 PhD students pitched their new business ideas to the event’s organizational board. The £1000 prize winner idea “Cycle Rack” presented a mobile app offering London cycling commuters a safe and affordable parking spaces. The winning team (pictured below left) included Youssef Hamid – CDT-EI, Alex Owen – Web Science CDT, Yitong Huang – Horizon CDT and Cristina Guerrero – IGGI CDT. The team on the right are Orange Gao – CDT-EI, James Burnett – Horizon CDT, Keisha Taylor – Web Science CDT, Faiza Bukenya (Sustainable Energy Tech PhD Student) – Uni of Nottm, Tugba Gurler (Computer Science PhD Student), Uni of Nottm.

Thank you to Felicia Black for organizing such a successful event and to Prof. Teleaven for bringing the entrepreneurs. You can read more about the Entrepreneurial Workshop on the DEN blog.

International Student Book Club, Tuesday 14th November

November 9, 2017 Steven Lake

Murder on the Orient Express: why go to see remake when we know how it ends?

Murder on the Orient Express: why go to see remake when we know how it ends?

November 9, 2017 Loughborough University

For the distinguished crime novelist PD James, Agatha Christie’s distinctive contribution to the genre lies not in thematic complexity nor stylistic prowess, but in the meticulous fashioning of mysteries. In her 2009 book Talking About Detective Fiction, James wrote that Christie:

… is a literary conjuror who places her pasteboard characters face downwards and shuffles them with practised cunning … Game after game we are confident that this time we will turn up the card with the face of the true murderer, and time after time she defeats us.

If James is correct, however, and the satisfaction of a Christie story comes from its surprising plotting, then Kenneth Branagh’s new film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express would appear to be in difficulty.

It might be stretching things to claim that the plot of Murder on the Orient Express, written by Christie in 1934, is as familiar as that of Hamlet. Nevertheless, the identity in this instance of “the true murderer” is part of global cultural knowledge. Branagh’s film is after all merely the latest in a series of adaptations that include work for the big screen (Sidney Lumet’s Oscar-winning 1974 version) and for TV (in 2001 and 2010), as well as for BBC Radio (1992-93).

The plot’s secrets have also been disclosed in other books, films and TV shows with wide popular reach. An episode of Doctor Who in 2008, featuring Agatha Christie as a character, reveals “who did it”. Intriguingly, even Christie herself gave the attentive reader clues as to what happened on the Orient Express when she revived the character of Hercule Poirot in Cards on the Table (1936).

So, while some people may still be unfamiliar with the outcome of Murder on the Orient Express, many others will already be knowledgeable. Why, then, choose to watch Branagh’s film, with its unfolding of a familiar storyline? Christie’s own casual approach to narrative secrets in Cards on the Table is helpful here in freeing us from obsession with plot and prompting us to look instead for other sources of interest, both thematic and stylistic.

Nostalgia film

Recent critical approaches to Christie’s fiction have explored its constructions of gender, sexuality, class and nation. Studies such as JC Bernthal’s Queering Agatha Christie (2016) have given the work new life, helping to free it from nostalgic trappings of vicarage and country house. Such revisionism, prompted by current social issues, is available not only to scholars but to anyone who adapts Christie.

In Branagh’s film, unfortunately, there are few signs the source material from the 1930s has been radically rethought. True, Colonel Arbuthnot is no longer the white British officer of the novel – but instead an African-American doctor. Elsewhere, however, the political and cultural traditions of Christie’s own period survive intact. Branagh’s Poirot, for example, reasserts a robust masculinity that contrasts with the vulnerability and torment conveyed by David Suchet in the 2010 ITV adaptation.

The cast of Sidney Lumet’s Oscar-winning 1974 version starring Albert Finney as Poirot. Amazon

The new adaptation is in other respects, too, less abrasive than its screen predecessors. It opens in bright sunlight, unlike Lumet’s big-screen version that begins visually and acoustically like film noir. It also avoids the violence of the ITV adaptation, which starts with a woman’s stoning in Istanbul and later shows the villain’s murder in all its goriness.

“Let horizons, décors and fashions lull you asleep,” as the Orient Express’s own website puts it. Branagh’s adaptation largely follows the comfortable rhythms of the luxury train from which it takes its title. Nostalgia powers this approach to Christie’s material, rather than ruder sources of energy.

Exercising the eye

Box office returns indicate that Murder on the Orient Express is currently the most popular film in the UK. Since it does not rewrite Christie’s plot, however, or offer significant thematic innovations, what might be the secret of its success?

Here it may be helpful to turn to very early film history and what has been called the “cinema of attractions”. This term refers to a body of films that offered exciting or unusual spectacles, rather than complex stories. The new Murder on the Orient Express should be thought of as a lavishly resourced “attraction” of this kind that is thereby able to enthuse viewers who know in advance whodunnit.

Where the narrative is familiar to them, spectators may instead be diverted by identifying the film’s many stars. The camera alights successively on actors who include Judi Dench, Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer. There is the pleasure, too, of comparing Branagh visually and dramatically with earlier screen versions of Poirot.

“It is an exercise, this, of the brain,” says Poirot in Christie’s novel as clues accumulate. Audiences already knowing the solution to the puzzle, however, will find the new film chiefly exercising their eyes instead. Where there is mental challenge, it may be to assess the effects of a high-angle interior shot, say, not to work out whose embroidered handkerchief was left in the dead man’s compartment.

Judy Dench as Princess Dragomiroff with her maid, Hildegarde Schmidt. 21st Century Fox

In a short provocation called In Defense of Spoilers, Jonathan Rosenbaum argues that worrying about revealing a film’s storyline is not “a fit activity for grown-ups”. It exhibits narrow thinking that “privileges plot over style”. Why, asks Rosenbaum, is it frowned upon to say Orson Welles’ 1958 masterpiece Touch of Evil “begins with a time bomb exploding but [not] to say that the movie begins with a lengthy crane shot?”

The ConversationIt is thus not bad manners to give away the new film’s stylistic features. Branagh has chosen, for example, to use large-format, 65mm stock which gives a rich texture. There are swooping panoramas and extended tracking shots that impart movement, even as the train is stuck in snow. Such visual detailing is not secondary or unimportant, however, but actually essential to the pleasure of those watching who already know who wielded the knife.

Andrew Dix, Lecturer in American Studies, Loughborough University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Header image: 21st Century Fox

Poetry Found at Bradgate Park

November 9, 2017 Kerry Featherstone

Last week, I took students on Loughborough University’s MA in Creative Writing to Bradgate Park. For some of them, it is a place that they’ve been familiar with from childhood. For others, including our Erasmus students from Slovenia, it was a totally new.

I asked the group to write about the natural life and the human visitors to the Park, and then we looked around the display at the Visitor Centre. For this exercise, the group were asked to write an autobiographical poem: the catch being that they were only allowed to use phrases and sentences taken from the information boards.

They rose to the challenge brilliantly, so here’s an example by Kathryn Cockrill. Her first book of short stories comes out next year, but she also likes finding poetry….

 

Ornamental Remains

I am a picturesque ruin,
cracks formed from
explosive eruptions,
damaged by erosion,
a windswept wilderness.

I am a sanctuary,
a great estate of
tantalising wildwood,
stronger, a miniature
mountain.

I am ash and fire,
entertained by uninhabited culture,
no natural predators in
a delicate haven.

I will thrive.

European principles in Learning and Teaching

November 9, 2017 Lee Barnett

Colleagues in the Higher Education Academy have been working to co-author a set of European principles for L&T in HE as part of the EFFECT Project coordinated by the European Universities Association (http://www.eua.be/activities-services/projects/current-projects/higher-education-policy/effect) . The Principles have been drafted with the intention of having pan-European relevance, and the collaborative drafting process has aimed at achieving broad consensus. The Principles have also been designed to allow institutions to consider them and adapt them to their local context. Later iterations of the document will be augmented by guiding questions to help institutions evaluate their current position and establish strategies for enhancement, and will signpost to resources and examples from different countries to help with local adaptation.

 The Principles can be accessed at http://www.eua.be/Libraries/default-document-library/web_effect-principles-one-pager16102017.pdf?sfvrsn=2

At Loughborough we have reviewed our PGCAP for new academics and have recently submitted an iteration of this taught provision to the HEA for accreditation. Both the existing PGCAP and the new taught course encompass the European principles and we will continue to deliver a high quality taught course which is relevant to our academics and makes links to the wider context within which higher education operates.

 

Google to Microsoft Switchover - the Countdown has Begun!

November 8, 2017 Steven Lake

The upgrade from Google to Microsoft services is now in process. Emails have already moved to Microsoft Outlook, and we are now fast approaching December 1st, when full access to remaining Google services through your Loughborough student account will be removed. This includes Google Drive, Google Calendars, and Google Photos, among others.

Now is the time to back up your Google data to ensure it is not lost when access is withdrawn. The initial backup process is straightforward, and instructions can be found here: www.lboro.ac.uk/it/returners.

Please keep your data safe by storing it in a location of your choice. IT Services encourage you to make use of your new OneDrive for Business account, as it has unlimited storage and will allow you to access your files and data anywhere, on or off campus.

If you require further help, please visit the PC Clinic in the library, or email IT.Services@lboro.ac.uk. PC Clinic will also be hosting drop-in sessions near the end of the month, dedicated to walking you through the back up process. Details of the sessions will be posted on IT Services’ Twitter page (@LboroITServices) and ITS Announcements on the IT Services Website.

The new PhD loan - what we know so far

The new PhD loan - what we know so far

November 7, 2017 Lauren Proctor

The UK Government has recently announced that it will introduce a new doctoral loan for PhD students beginning their studies in the 2018-19 academic cycle.

Though the specifics have not yet been finalised this is what we know so far: Continue reading

Innovation Insights for the Digital Workforce of Tomorrow

Innovation Insights for the Digital Workforce of Tomorrow

November 7, 2017 Zoe Chritchlow

Written by Dr Carmen Torres-Sánchez, Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering

Innovation insights for the digital workforce of tomorrow was the 4-day event organised by the EPSRC CDT in Embedded Intelligence in partnership with the Digital Economy Network and attended by the UK community of practice in Digital Manufacturing, Robotics, Big Data, Cybersecurity and the Internet of Things.

A much-provoking Panel discussion addressed the digital skills gap and the role PhD students play in the knowledge economy: ‘Aligning skills to jobs for the digital future of the knowledge society’. Chaired by Dr S Barr, head of The Manufacturer, it brought together industrialists and entrepreneurs (the MTCHSSMIBlock Solutions), postgraduate educators (Loughborough University) and funding bodies (EPRSC). For the bulk of the programme, seminars, workshops and practicals were facilitated by world-class innovators and practitioners who brought to us the latest in Cybersecurity, Robotics, Computational Thinking, Data visualisation, Film making, and fostering of Creative thinking through Serious Games. Attending to the ethos of a Transition Zone activity, there was time for the honing of effective communication skills focusing on personal brand.

Image above is from one of the speakers for the Data Visualisation session, who has done a study on Twitter presence.

How to Evidence Excellence in Teaching and Learning - Reflective Goal Setting

November 3, 2017 Matt Hope

Cheryl Travers (School of Business and Economics) was delighted this year to be one of the recipients of the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. In the post below, Cheryl explains why she is passionate about innovating and improving the student learning experiences.

Arriving at Loughborough more than 24 years ago now, I was passionate about finding ways to deliver innovative, developmental, transferable and impactful student learning experiences. I wanted to give Psychology away to our students, to maximise their potential as employable, successful, resilient and happy future leaders and members of society. Over the years I have eagerly shared my approach and enthusiasm for learning and teaching with other faculty across campus to aid their own personal and professional development, as well as provide ideas for advancing androgogy. In addition, I have sought to spread the word via other means, e.g., online materials (https://youtu.be/yfT8_t9c8JE), regular contributions to SBE blogs and in house magazine ‘Inspire’, the media, key notes at SBE client conferences, and TEDx talks to reach a wider international audience. (https://youtu.be/8oSEQ7f6QRQ and https://youtu.be/q52A0aCFcq0). The impact for me, personally, has been a very satisfying and fulfilling learning and teaching career to date, sprinkled with a number of learning and teaching related awards (SBE Teacher of the Year award (2012), USA Academy of Management ‘Management Education Division’ award for ‘Most innovative contribution to management education’ (2014); Loughborough RiTA award (2016); BPS Division of Occupational Psychology Academic Contribution to Practice (2017) in addition to the VC excellence award this year). I am very proud of the academic, professional and international recognition I have received for my teaching and research.

I feel my most influential and far reaching contribution has been the design and dissemination of my Reflective Goal Setting (RGS) model, which was created to; support the transfer of learning across a range of UG, PG and Executive Education programmes; turn our students into highly interpersonally skilled and adaptable goal setters; and to enhance students’ employment and leadership potential. The resulting data gathered on their goal experiences has provided evidence for the ongoing impact of RGS and has resulted in a number of outputs so far (e.g. Travers, C.J. (2011), Unveiling a reflective diary methodology for exploring the lived experiences of stress and coping, Journal of Vocational Behavior, 79 (204-216); Travers, C.J. (2013),Using Goal Setting Theory to Promote Personal Development, Ch 36 pp 603-621 in New Developments in Goal Setting and Task Performance, Ed Locke and Gary Latham (Eds), Routledge; Travers, C, Morisano, D, & Lock, E. A. (2015). Growth goals and academic achievement: A qualitative study. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 85(2), 224-241). Currently we are carrying out evaluation and impact research on this model and the findings so far suggest that it can have far reaching impact for individuals, their teams and the organisations within which they work.

HEA National Teaching Fellowship Scheme - Applications

November 3, 2017 Matt Hope

The National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS) run by the Higher Education Academy opens its application ‘window’ in January 2018. Each University is able to support up to three candidates for NTF and Loughborough University now has an established process for choosing and then mentoring potential candidates for submission.

The first stage in this process is attendance at a workshop design to provide further information and to discuss the requirements for submission. The workshop will take place on 21st November 2017 from 12.00 – 1.00pm in Rutland 1.13a.

In preparation for the workshop colleagues are asked to write around 500 words about their teaching practice and bring this to the session. This should address the NTFS criteria:

  • Individual excellence: evidence of enhancing and transforming the student learning experience commensurate with the individual’s context and the opportunities afforded by it.
  • Raising the profile of excellence: evidence of supporting colleagues and influencing support for student learning; demonstrating impact and engagement beyond the nominee’s immediate academic or professional role
  • Developing excellence: evidence of the nominee’s commitment to her/his ongoing professional development with regard to teaching and learning and/or learning support

You can find out more about the NTFS on https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/professional-recognition/awards/national-teaching-fellowship-scheme-ntfs

All enquires to Nick Allsopp in CAP- email: N.J.Allsopp@lboro.ac.uk

Spotlight on… resources for your assignment

November 3, 2017 Matthew Cunningham

Abhi Sharma, Books HD, from www.flickr.com, used under a CC-BY 2.0 licence

Reality hits as your assignment deadlines approach!  Quality information resources are one of the foundations of highly marked assignments, so come along to the stand to discover how to:

  • identify the sorts of resources you will need for your assignment
  • discover which databases can help you find high quality resources quickly in your subject
  • search the databases or sources effectively
  • evaluate which books or articles would be appropriate for an academic assignment

When: Tuesday 7th November, 12-2 and Thursday 9th November, 2-4

Where: Pilkington Library foyer

Find out more via this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=364CfEeMrmk&rel=0

Chemists take on the YES Competition

Chemists take on the YES Competition

November 3, 2017 Zoe Chritchlow

Written by Diana Mehta, Doctoral Researcher, School of Science

The Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES) is a competition that encourages postgraduate students to come up with a hypothetical business plan that focuses on one of three research areas: environmental, biomedical or engineering. The idea can be extravagant and broad as you wish, as long as you have prepared a sound business plan to back up why your idea will make a potential investor some money.

This happened to be the first competition I had the pleasure of taking part in during my PhD. Being in my penultimate year, I needed something to take my mind off the daily grind, and the YES competition seemed like the perfect opportunity to help me do this.

I initially came across the competition through a colleague who had entered it a few years ago. His team thoroughly enjoyed the experience and they picked up a lot of useful information and skills along the way. He advised me to quickly form a team with a few colleagues who hadn’t taken part in the competition, and get stuck in. So we did.

After registering for the competition through the Doctoral College, we were quickly informed by the YES organisers about the competition and given various seminars, including finance and IP, through video chats. These were useful in helping our team expand upon our idea. Although three days were allocated towards the competition itself, our team decided to meet up for an hour a week to discuss ideas and how they fit within the scope of the competition. Initially, this was challenging due to having to think about something that wasn’t strictly research related. We were encouraged by the organisers to think broad and not worry too much about whether the idea was scientifically possible. This is where we were challenged the most, as being research students, we were constantly encouraged to think rationally and explore concepts that aren’t impossible in the real world. However, research also prompts creativity, so we dug deep to produce an idea that had business potential: creating ingredients for cosmetics from food waste.

The day of the competition came speeding by, and we were taken away from our usual day in the lab, to a three day residential in Nottingham. Our first two days at the competition consisted of various talks by influential people, on business strategies, marketing, finance and IP, as well as mentoring sessions to help improve upon our idea.  There were a total of 8 teams competing during those three days, however there was always some time allocated during the end of each day to put our competitive spirits aside and network with one another.

The final day was competition day, where all our efforts would be judged by a panel of potential investors. Our team decided to stay up fairly late the night before to make our presentation and rehearse it. To our surprise, many teams also opted to do the same, which meant everyone was very tired during competition day.

We were asked to make a 15 minute pitch to the investors, and allow 10 minutes for questions. Our pitch went as well as we hoped it would, however the questions were fairly challenging. Despite this, we worked as a team to answer the questions, which was lovely to see. We felt we gave it our best shot when we walked away knowing we had given the best possible pitch we could have, and answered the questions to the best of our abilities.

Although we didn’t make it to the final of the competition, we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I personally learnt a great deal about forming a start-up company, and the competition gave great insight into what resources are out there for people who wish to go down that route after a few years in academia.

I strongly encourage anybody who is reading this to give it a go, and ‘unleash your ingenuity’! The competition itself helps you to develop skills in areas you may not otherwise develop during your PhD, which will always be valuable regardless of which route you decide to take after your PhD.

My fellow team members: Akash Ratnayaka, Jake Walls, Ime Usen and Ryan Middlemiss were great to work with, and it was our collective efforts which helped us generate and develop an idea that we were proud of presenting to potential investors.

The Doctoral College gave us the support we needed to attend this competition, and I am very thankful to them.

Sunday Afternoon At Bradgate Park

November 2, 2017 Kerry Featherstone

Of course, being a poet in residence means writing some poetry myself, as well as helping other people to write.  And I have not been idle.  I hope that you recognise yourself, or someone you know, in this poem…

 

Sunday Afternoon at Bradgate Park

 

There’s a lazy sun on the surface of the Lin,

the oak trees look on with casual indifference.

Ducks are dabbling for buried treasure;

tails up, beaks down in the cold water.

 

For the humans, there’s an ice-cream kiosk,

the tea-rooms, with their cakes and quiches…

One family has booked a pub lunch and they’re late;

one’s already walking off a roast and a pint.

 

There are dogs of all sizes of paw and bark and nose:

it’s Sunday afternoon in Bradgate Park.

 

Apart from the pines, the trees are undressed

by the weather and the winds, and the leaves are left

in fashionable colours for the season:

russet and amber, fawn and chestnut…

 

The conversation never ends: in English, Urdu,

between family and friends.  Dad is telling another story,

and risks holding up the entire party.

Mother-in law is being brisk.  Are we all here?

 

The traffic is jammed: entire clans disembark from people carriers:

it’s Sunday afternoon at Bradgate Park.

 

You can hear the secret language of toddlers on bikes,

stabilisers, brakes and stickers,

a wobbly handlebar and a purple Fruit Shoot

steering straight into the frames of pictures

 

being taken by a flock of photographers,

with tripods and lenses: deer in their sights

and exposure on their minds.  In the gorse and the heather

at all times, in all weathers, right in the thick of it.

 

There’s wellies, inline wheels, silly heels, hiking boots, Nike and Clarks…

Because it’s Sunday afternoon at Bradgate Park.

 

There’s that bloke who cleans the windows,

a Tiger’s fan whose hair is thinning.  A cyclist

with lycra buttocks, spinning his wheels in

a muddy puddle.  More Bradley Walsh than Bradley Wiggins.

 

Here’s the volunteers, getting hot and sweaty, despite the month:

it’s heavy work on the gates and fencing, lots of tea required.

And the rangers put out fires and keep the wildlife fit and healthy.  And a million

other things you don’t know about if you’re not a ranger.

 

And there’s Lady Jane.  She kept that dark.  No ghost-hunters or executions:

not on a Sunday afternoon at Bradgate Park.

 

What do you do when the sun goes down?  Nip out the gates

before they’re closed.  And leave the place to the bats

and the badgers and the beetles living in the bark.

And all the rest.  They’re here all week, at Bradgate Park.

A Poet in the Park

November 2, 2017 Kerry Featherstone

For the next twelve months, I’ll be poet in residence at Bradgate Park, in Leicestershire. I have to admit that I’m delighted with the idea: it’s a fantastic place to visit, with fascinating landscapes, heritage, natural history, geology…

As part of the ‘Bradgate Inspires’ project, I’ll be running workshops for members of the public to join in, and encouraging them to write about their experiences, memories and observations about the park. Because the residency is for a year, we’ll be able to watch, and write about, the changing seasons and the effect that they have on the park.

I’ll also be leading poetry walks, so that we can experience poetry in the landscape itself, and there’ll be a reading at the end of the year too, when people who have attended workshops can share their poems.

Because I’m Lecturer in Creative Writing at Loughborough University, I’ll also be bringing groups of students to the park to do some writing. Can you believe that some of them have never been?

Our adventures, workshop dates – and poems – will be posted on this blog, so please read, enjoy and comment.  If you’d like to follow all of the Bradgate Park Trust’s news, follow their facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/BradgateParkTrust/

Hope to see you at Bradgate!
Kerry.

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November 1, 2017 Matthew Cunningham

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