Tuesday, 27 October 2015

British Library Labs symposium on Monday 2 November

I'm going to be doing the big reveal of Political Meetings Mapper at the British Library Labs symposium on Monday 2 November.

I'll post the slides and link here after the event, so you'll get to find out how I got from this when I started my postgrad research all those years ago:

to this:

(the most exciting video on the internet....)

And the video of our Chartist tour of London pubs:

me doing a 'news reporter in the street in the rain' impression

Friday, 23 October 2015

Utopias! Experiments in perfection conference, 12 November, Letchworth Garden City

The 2015 Conference of the University of Hertfordshire's Social Science, Arts and Humanities Research Institute (SSAHRI)

Spirella Ballroom
Bridge Road, Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire, SG6 4ET
10.30am-5pm, 12th November 2015

followed by a public lecture and reception

This year's SSAHRI conference, organised by colleagues at the University of Hertfordshire and the University of Lincoln, and very kindly supported by the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, is on the theme of utopias.

It is very appropriate that the conference will be taking place in Letchworth, the world's first Garden City – and one of the first practical experiments in Utopianism. The conference is exploring the concept of Utopia – we will be looking at utopias from all sorts of angles: social, economic, educational, environmental, literary, cultural, aesthetic and philosophical to name a few.

The conference Keynote speech will be delivered by distinguished architectural historian of the 20th century, Professor Alan Powers. In other plenary and panel sessions we expect to range across some diverse and fascinating utopian themes including utopian politics, ideas about "The Ideal City"; Utopian visionaries; the way Utopia has been expressed in Garden Cities, New Towns and planned estates in the UK; how Utopianism has sometimes shaded into 'dystopia'; Utopianism as a social and economic vision for the future; and literary visions of Utopia.

Free. All welcome.

BOOK A PLACE HERE: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ssahri-annual-conference-2015-tickets-19014289251

PROGRAMME – 12 November 2015

Tea/coffee/biscuits/fruit from 9.30am

Morning sessions chair: Professor Jonathan Morris

Session 1: Situating utopias
10.30 Welcome - John Lewis LHF
10.40 Introduction to SSAHRI conference - Professor John Senior, UH
10.45 Keynote lecture – Professor Alan Powers - Milton Keynes or Civilia? Real and imagined utopia of the Pop period
11.35 Q and A with speaker

Session 2: Exploring utopian places - design, planning and architecture
11.45 Mr. David Ames, LHF: Letchworth - the first garden city utopia?
12.00 Dr. Daniel Marques Sampaio: Canary Wharf and Greenwich Peninsula: Reflections on the Utopias of Turbo Capitalism
12.15 Dr. Paul Cureton: Garden City Utopias & Everyday Life: exploring the spatial accessibility of Welwyn Garden City
12.30 Eva Sopeoglou: Utopia 'outside': exploring architectural approaches
12.45 Dr. Susan Parham: Utopias, food and the radical tradition
13.00 Dr. Ian Waites: A paradise, what an idea! The postwar council estate and 'Utopia'

13.15 Buffet lunch

Afternoon sessions chair: Dr Steven Adams

Session 3: Considering utopian ideas - health, place, work, gender and beyond
14.00 Dr. Pat Simpson: Prince Peter Kropotkin: Anarchism, eugenics and the utopian ideal of Letchworth Garden City
14.15 Dr. Steve Shelley: Multiple Utopias when exploring the future of work and the environment
14.30 Professor Ursula Huws: When Adam blogs: Cultural work and the gender division of labour in Utopia
14.45 Dr. Marta Rabikowska: Community Utopia and Agonism: The role of multiplicity and embodiment in building community relations in a context of participatory arts in superdiverse community
15.00 Dr. Chamu Kuppuswamy: Urban Commons: Utopian idea or the future?
15.15 Q and A

15.40 Afternoon tea

Session 4: Part A: Investigating the utopian imagination
16.00 Alex Anthony-Lewczuk: Re-evaluating DUNE – Ecological and Theological Dystopias?
16.15 Dr. Neil Maycroft: Never mind my jet-pack, where's my four-legged chicken?

16.30 Part B: Facilitated discussion between panelists and participants

(ranging across ideas from the whole day, facilitated by Steven Adams)

17.15 Drinks and exhibition

Evening session chair: Professor Matthew Cragoe, UL
18.00 Introduction by Matthew Cragoe
18.05 Public lecture - Professor Carenza Lewis
Brave new world or toil and trouble? The long view of new towns
19.00 Q and A

19.30 Close

Monday, 12 October 2015

Does the form of traditional academic journals mean anything to students in the age of online access?

This question was sparked by a twitter conversation around George Gosling's excellent blog post introducing types of academic writing to undergraduates: https://gcgosling.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/reading1/ 

George explains that there are four types of academic writing, from textbooks, monographs, journal articles and edited collections of essays. This is true and correct, but his explanation of what a journal article (and indeed a journal) got me thinking and debating with Barry Doyle, Darryl Leeworthy and Mark Freeman about how students view journals in the age of online access.

I've found that first year undergraduates get really confused about what a journal is, and what the difference is between a journal and a journal article. This is not surprising, as their first weeks at university are 99% the first time they've ever encountered such a specialist type of writing and publication.

In order to explain what a journal is, therefore, I (and it seems the rest of us academics trained in the pre-digital age), bring in a hard copy of a historical journal like Social History or Economic History Review into first-year undergraduate seminars. We explain it's like a magazine, with different articles curated by an editor, usually also with an editorial introduction, and book reviews.

What muddies the waters and continues to confuse students, however, is how they then search for a journal article using the university's online resources.

Before our university changed the system, the simplest way to search for a given article was to type the journal title name into the library catalogue. It would then go to JStor or equivalent, and give a list of issues. You had to click on the issue and date you wanted, and scroll down the list of articles for the one you wanted. i.e. very much like how we found journal articles in hard copy on the library shelves.


Now our university has moved to a more 'user friendly' search facility, which basically uses Google scholar to search for the article and link directly to it. They've made the library search page as clean and minimalist as possible, indeed a single box mimicking a basic google search. You can select advanced search, but as when using google, most of our students won't.

So if you (i.e. I) try the old way, typing in 'Social History' comes up with everything under the sun in relation to the term, rather than the journal title. The main way in which the system makes users search, therefore, deliberately, is by article title, as that is how Google Scholar finds them.

This got me thinking (and hence the debate on twitter). It is possible to find the article without having to look at the rest of the issue, or indeed even noticing the name of the journal.

Will this form of searching for articles reduce or diminish the identity of a journal? What impact will this have on journals that are carefully curated by editors? Does it even matter any more what order articles are in, or what their theme is? It certainly does matter in terms of submitting an article to a journal that is a good 'fit', but the reader's experience is now one step removed from this older form of journal.

The element of curation of individual issues is also diminished by 'early online access' to articles, often months before the 'official' print publication comes out, which are often listed separately on the journal home page (see for e.g. Journal of Historical Geography).