Thursday, 28 April 2016

Centre for Political Youth Culture and Communication Launch

Image result for lance bennettTo mark the launch of the Centre for Political Youth Culture & Communication, Professor Lance Bennett (University of Washington) will be giving a public lecture.
Professor Bennett will be discussing the Democratic Interface - how the participatory logics of left and right wing social movements relate to political parties and movements which favour hierarchy and centralised leadership.

For more details and to book your ticket click here

Before I Die Festival 2016 Programme

Image result for before i die festivalFor more information about the Before I Die Festival to be held in York follow the link to see the programme.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Conversation Analysis Workshop in London

Sue Wilkinson, Merran Toerien and Celia Kitzinger (University of York) will be running 'An Introduction to Conversation Analysis' on 24 May 2016 in London.

The one-day workshop is designed for those with little or no previous knowledge of conversation analysis, who would like to find out more about it, and/or are interested in assessing whether the approach may be useful in their own research or practice. The workshop will cover how conversation analytic research is done, some of its key empirical findings, and some of its key applications.

For further details and bookings, see: 

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Before I Die: A festival for the living about dying

Doctoral Student Anais Duong-Pedica writes about the Before I Die festival:

'This year will mark the 7th national Dying Matters Awareness Week.  This week of events, initially founded by the National Council for Palliative Care, is an opportunity to initiate discussions about death, dying and bereavement at a local and national level. The events put in place aim to change public knowledge, attitudes and behaviours towards death and dying as well as making good deaths more accessible to people.
 Image result for Dying Matters Awareness Week
Dying Matter Awareness Week will take place May 9th-15th in England and Wales. For this occasion, the University of York will contribute to the conversation with its own weekend of events: The Before I Die Festival. The festival takes place on the weekend of May 7th-8th and gathers a dozen of events at York, which focus on death. A few members of the department will be contributing to these discussions. Our very own Ruth Penfold-Mounce will be talking about Celebrity Death and Public Grieving – a topic particularly relevant this year since the recent deaths of Alan Rickman, David Bowie, and more recently, Prince. Meanwhile Celia Kitzinger and Sue Wilkinson will be leading a session on the end of life planning tool - Advance Decisions and  I will be holding a discussion on Dying and Grieving in the Age of Social Media.

Image result for anais duong pedica
Anais Duong-Pedica
In this one-hour session, I wish to start a dialogue on what it means to die and grieve online today. This will be a space where personal experiences will be welcomed and encouraged. We will be exploring different aspects of death and grief, specifically on social media, from the perspective of the individual who is dying/dies, but also from the perspective of close friends, family and acquaintances. I hope to raise awareness of crucial discussions that people ought to have about their death or the death of loved ones and social media: What would I like my account(s) to become? What types of grieving am I comfortable with people doing online? How do social media accounts remind us of the dead and how does that impact our grieving? How do we navigate discomfort with the way other people grieve online? And even, how do we experience grieving for people we only know online?

Not only does the Before I Die Festival play a major role in creating conversations around issues related to death, dying and bereavement and normalising good deaths, it also locates itself within an environment of growing interest for death research. The University of York is home to the Centre for Modern’s Studies’ Death Network and Cemetery Research Group led by Julie Rugg (Department of Social Policy and Social Work). Ruth Penfold-Mounce, Jack Denham and myself (Department of Sociology) also organised a well-attended symposium on Marginal Death Research last October and Ruth Penfold-Mounce, Jack Denham and Julie Rugg will be holding the three-day Death and Culture conference in September this year.  

You can support Dying Matters Awareness Week by sharing the programme on Twitter, visiting the Dying Matters website, and by going along to some of the events.  We also encourage everyone to have “the Big Conversation” – talk with friends and family about your own death and the importance of preparing for it.'

Conversation Analysis and Criminal Conviction Support

A new publication by Sue Wilkinson, who recently joined the Department as an Honorary Professor, analyses the work of Unlock - a charity supporting people with criminal convictions to move on with their lives. 

Image result for unlock imageUnlock commissioned Sue to evaluate its peer-run telephone helpline.  She analysed more than 200 recorded calls to the helpline, providing both a ‘snapshot’ of the service (content and thematic analysis) and a more in-depth (conversation analytic) look at the interaction between callers and call-takers.

The typical caller to the helpline is male, with a conviction for violence, theft or motoring offences.  Most are making enquiries about the need to disclose a criminal record, and how much - and under what circumstances – they need to disclose.  Call-takers are generally able to provide clear, appropriate and up-to-date information.

The call-takers are all ‘insiders’ – people who themselves have convictions and experience of the criminal justice system.  They draw on their own experience in interactions with callers, displaying a considerable degree of understanding and empathy:  “Where you find yourself … is quite a lonely place in the world” or “A lot of people … feel a little bit sort of screwed over by the system”.

They regularly offer advice and encouragement, giving up-beat injunctions (“Give it a go”, “Stick to your guns’) and minimising what is needed in order to take the first step into employment or training (“You just need to …”).

Callers to the helpline are very appreciative of the service, and talk about the reassurance and confidence they have gained.  They often say things like “Oh that's a weight off my mind”; “I do feel better now that I’ve had a talk to you”.  This reflects the success of the helpline in offering peer support and empowering callers to overcome the negative effects of their previous convictions.

The Unlock study is one of a series that Sue has been conducting with small charities, using conversation analytic techniques to help them understand and improve their telephone helpline services.  Sue is also co-ordinating a series of courses on conversation analysis in the Department.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Politics and the British Working Class

Tim Jones, one of our recent MA in Social Research graduates has published a piece in Discover Society that was inspired by his dissertation research.
Tim Jones
Tim Jones
Click on the link to read 'Do I really wanna waffle on with people who are waffling on?' Politics and the British Working Class 

Follow Tim on twitter: @T1MJ0N35

Thursday, 7 April 2016

David Beer: Could algorithms be shaping our music tastes?

The 10th anniversary of the music streaming service Spotify, marks a period of significant change in the way that music is consumed. These changes have been widely discussed over the last decade, with questions about the ongoing relevance of CDs and vinyl, the legality of downloading, the damage to the industry and artists of free music and so on. Yet services like those provided by Spotify may not only be changing how we listen to music, they are also active in shaping our actual music tastes.

It is common now for music, TV and film providers to deploy algorithmic systems that attempt to predict and then recommend other cultural forms that we might also enjoy. This is something with which we are now very familiar; recommendations have become a routine part of cultural consumption. Algorithms, which are the parts of code that make decisions, use the data produced by peoples’ cultural consumption to predict tastes and prioritise music, TV, films, games and so on that fit with those tastes. We see this as being a process by which our existing tastes and preferences are anticipated by these apparently intelligent systems.

Given the way that systems are now guiding the culture we encounter, we have to wonder if they are also now actively shaping and possibly even changing the very tastes that they are attempting to predict. The result would be something like a self-fulfilling prophecy, with the recommendations we are made shaping both our consumption and the tastes and preferences that we form. In the case, the power of the algorithm is in its ability to decide on the cultural forms that we encounter. Those encounters are likely to then define our cultural landscape, defining the culture that we become aware of and that becomes visible to us. Naturally the things that pass through our orbit or our consciousness are the things that we are more likely to attach meanings to or to create a connection with. In the current cultural landscape – which is diverse, baffling and fragmented – these algorithms help us to navigate the chaos by enabling culture forms to find us. These algorithms make the unfathomable complexity of culture manageable for us. At the same time though, by making those choices on our behalf they are coming to dictate a good deal of the things we then experience. If we think about the music we listen to – or indeed the books we read, the films we watch, the games we play, and so on – then we might be able to reflect on how much of that has been a product of the activity of algorithms. Some would question the accuracy of those algorithms to predict taste, yet even where those choices might seem odd to us the algorithms are still defining the culture that we encounter.

There has not necessarily been a great deal of agreement in the past about where our cultural tastes and preferences come from. For some they are seen to be innate part of a core personality, for others our tastes are the means by which we are able to construct or build and communicate a more fluid identity. In more sociological terms, it has been argued that our music and cultural tastes are a product of our family and friendship groups, or that they may even be both a product and marker of our social class. But the anniversary of Spotify, which is indicative of the decade or so in which we have lived with the many other algorithmic systems through which we consume culture, might suggest to us that there is something else going on with the formation and maintenance of our cultural tastes. These systems are now so embedded in our cultural consumption that they will inevitably implicate the way in which are tastes are formed. Beyond understandings of cultural tastes as being a product of our personality or our social background, it might be that the active infrastructures in which our cultural lives are lived are also having a bearing on what we like and the tastes we develop. It is not just our listening practices then that may be transformed by Spotify, such services may also be changing the connections and attachments that we have with that music.

The paperback version of Popular Culture and New Media: The Politics of Circulation has just been published by Palgrave Macmillan. For a limited time the book is available with a 30% discount using the discount code PM16THIRTY when you buy the book here

BSA Postgraduate Forum Event: The Promise and Perils of Researching Sensitive Issues

20 November 2018 (09:00-17:00) Call for papers Research concerning sensitive and emotionally demanding issues is vital but challenging...