Category / Research communication

New Research Impact, Engagement and Communications Sharepoint Site!

We are proud to launch our new Research Impact, Engagement and Communications Sharepoint site!  

This is your one stop shop for all things impact, public engagement and research communications within RDS. 

On the site, you will find resources for communicating your research, increasing its impact and engaging the public with your research. 

You’ll find links to RKEDF training sessions, guides to impact, public engagement and research communications along with information about useful contacts within RDS and news about the REF. 

The site is easily navigable and is divided into three sections: 

 Research Impact: 

This section outlines how we can help you to plan, accelerate and evidence the impact of your research and includes resources, contact details of our Impact Advisers and links to useful information on impact pathways, the REF and impact training. 

Public Engagement with Research: 

In this section, we explain how we can help when you want to engage with the public to share your research. The ways to do this are many and varied but ultimately, high quality public engagement has huge benefits for BU, for society and for you – the academic. Here you can find links to advice, training and funding along with the contact details of our Public Engagement team and details of how to join the thriving BU Public Engagement Network.  

Research Communications: 

Here, we offer you support and guidance on the different ways of sharing your research with different audiences. This includes working with the media (including our partnership with The Conversation), writing for the web and using social media. 

The site will be updated regularly and has been designed to be as user friendly as possible. Please make sure you bookmark and keep checking back regularly for updates and news. 

 

 

NIHR’s ‘Your Path in Research’ campaign

The National Institute for Health and Care Research’s (NIHR) Your Path In Research campaign kicks off on Monday 31 October 2022 with a special 2 week focus on research careers in public health and social care.

The campaign will highlight how public health and social care staff can make research part of their career.

They will showcase inspiring case studies from those working in the field and give people the opportunity to chat and connect with researchers online via their Link and Learn matchmaking service.

You can find more information on this here,

Free online course – Improving Healthcare Through Clinical Research

Interested in clinical research and what’s involved? Are you contemplating a career in healthcare or the life sciences, or, do you want to find out more about the role of clinical research in improving healthcare?

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above questions, then why not sign up to FutureLearn’s Improving Healthcare Through Clinical Research course?

The course has been developed by the University of Leeds and is be available now, via this link.

It is completely free and all online, lasting 4 weeks.

This course has been certified by the CPD Certification Service as conforming to continuing professional development principles. By completing the course you will have achieved 16 hours of CPD time.

Remember – support is on offer at BU if you are thinking of introducing your research ideas into the NHS – email the  Clinical Research mailbox, and take a look at the Clinical Governance website.

Conversation article: Weston-super-Mare’s ‘See Monster’ – the good and the bad of pop-up attractions

Dr Tim Gale writes for The Conversation about pop-up attractions and the role they can play in driving visitors…

Weston-super-Mare’s See Monster: the good and the bad of pop-up attractions

The See Monster at Weston-Super-Mare is an art installation built on a decommissioned oil rig.
PA Images/Alamy

Tim Gale, Bournemouth University

This autumn, visitors to Weston-super-Mare on the west coast of England will be confronted by the strangest of sights, a repurposed oil rig and temporary art installation and high-rise garden dubbed the “See Monster”.

Located in a shallow pool at the former Tropicana open-air swimming baths, once home to artist Banksy’s Dismaland, it is one of ten major commissions that comprise Unboxed: Creativity in the UK. A £120 million year-long programme of free events and activities, Unboxed was conceived and funded by the UK government as a post-Brexit celebration with a mission to inspire conversations and future careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

See Monster is a huge, ambitious project. It is one of the UK’s biggest public art works and the first to reuse a structure synonymous with fossil fuels to raise awareness of the climate emergency, renewable energy and sustainability.

But questions have been asked about the project’s impact and legacy. Particularly, critics have mentioned how the decision to tear it down after only six weeks of operation (on November 5) appears wasteful and counter to the environmental message – although this is necessary to avoid any impact on the wading birds that migrate to the area in the winter.

The See Monster has also been caught up in criticism of the Unboxed festival itself, which has been branded “an irresponsible use of public money” at a time of great economic uncertainty and hardship.

Like London’s controversial Marble Arch Mound, an artificial hill designed to attract shoppers to Oxford Street that came in over-budget and which was widely panned, the See Monster calls into question the value of “pop-up” attractions in revitalising our towns and cities, and of culture-led urban regeneration in general.

Pop-up tourism

At 35 metres tall and weighing 450 tonnes, the See Monster is split over four levels with a 10-meter waterfall cascading from the lowest level. It features small trees, plants and grasses. There is a playground slide and animated sculptures, including some 6,000 “scales” attached to the exterior that move in the wind. There are also water atomisers to generate clouds and numerous vantage points offering unrivalled views of the resort and surrounding countryside. It attracts a range of visitors, from curious tourists to organised visits by school groups.

These “here today, gone tomorrow” visitor attractions are the extension of a trend that began in the 1990s with pop-up shops in empty units along high streets and in shopping centres and precincts. The “experience industries”, including tourism, have long been used as a tool of urban regeneration, with former factories, warehouses, harboursides and deep mines rebuilt into museums, bars and restaurants, hotels, and shopping malls.

Structures like the See Monster take this one step further. Instead of a permanent change of use, they temporarily occupy, reuse and adapt existing structures and infrastructure in towns and cities left redundant or in danger of redundancy by economic and financial crises and other triggers of change, such as the pandemic.
These temporary installations are made for the Instagram age, generating countless selfies, positive comments and “likes” on social media.

Examples of what we might call “pop-up tourism” include urban beaches such as Paris Plage, Bavarian-style Christmas markets, linear parks on abandoned rail routes and character arts trails like Gromit Unleashed in Bristol.

Research has shown that pop-ups can attract significant footfall, spending and publicity for the host town or city. They can also help reimagine a run-down or underutilised site, as with the Tropicana, with a view to attracting private investment and a permanent change of use (such as Castlefield Viaduct park in Manchester). More altruistic possibilities include creating open space for communities for recreation, promoting behaviour change (for example taking up exercise or sustainable living) or raising money for good causes.

The ‘cult of the temporary’

Despite the reported benefits, geographers Ella Harris and Mel Nowicki question whether the pop-up phenomenon is good for cities. Temporary urbanism, they argue, promotes short term fixes to complex and enduring urban problems. It can also create precarity (think zero hours jobs and short-notice evictions).

These pop-ups are a distraction from the deeper problems of capitalism and the pathologies of urban life, such as air pollution and grinding poverty. In this, they tend to perpetuate inequalities rather than tackling their root causes.

A lot depends on the pop-up. Ambitious, expensive projects like the See Monster can struggle to live up to the hype and are vulnerable to the criticism that the money would be better spent on schools and hospitals. Smaller, community-led schemes with modest ambitions, or serendipitous events like Dismaland that seem to come out of nowhere, are likely to be better received and to leave a positive legacy.

While pop-ups are themselves transitory in nature, the trend towards ephemera, simulation and event-based tourism in urban areas is here to stay. That means the debate on whether they are good or bad for our towns and cities will carry on, long after the See Monster has retreated from public view.The Conversation

Tim Gale, Principal Academic in Tourism Management, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Free Upcoming Seminars

See below for two opportunities to attend free seminars.

Selling to the NHS

Thursday 3rd November – 13:00-14:30
A Healthcare Innovator’s roadmap. This course will help you address key market access challenges in healthcare.

This 90 minute session is suitable for anyone who is involved in developing new healthcare technologies and products, be it as an entrepreneur, clinician, academic or investor. It will help you to understand key market issues in healthcare markets and how to overcome them, understanding your (NHS) customer and the value of evidence and how to use it to drive adoption.

BOOK YOUR FREE PLACE HERE

Grant Funding Opportunities for MedTech Innovators

Thursday 10th November – 12:30-13:30
This free 60 minute session is suitable for anyone from the NHS, academia or industry looking to learn more about how to prepare robust funding applications to support the development of new medical technologies.

BOOK YOUR FREE PLACE HERE

Call for abstracts | The 14th Annual Postgraduate Research Conference

The 14th Postgraduate Research Conference Call for Abstracts Image

The call for abstracts for The 14th Annual Postgraduate Research Conference is still open.


The conference is a great opportunity for postgraduate researchers to showcase and promote their research to the BU community whether they have just started or are approaching the end of their journey at BU.

Attending the conference is a great opportunity to engage and network with the postgraduate research community and find out more about the exciting and fascinating research that is happening across BU.

Abstracts are invited from postgraduate researchers to take part in the live research exhibition or to present via oral or poster presentation.

For full details on how to apply please visit the Doctoral College Conference Brightspace.

Closing date 09:00 Monday 24 October 2022.

Registration to attend will open in November, all members of BU are welcome!

For any questions, please email pgconference@bournemouth.ac.uk and a member of the Doctoral College conference team will get back to you.

Conversation article: what teachers think of children and young people’s technology use

Dr Sarah Hodge writes for The Conversation about research asking teachers about their experiences of how young people use technology and the effect it has on them…

What teachers think of children and young people’s technology use

nimito/Shutterstock

Sarah Hodge, Bournemouth University

Mobile phones, computers, social media and the internet are part of the daily lives of children and young people, including at school. Concerns over the risks of too much screen time or online activity for children and young people have been tempered by the reality of technology use in education and leisure.

The experience of life during the pandemic, when much schooling and socialising went online, has also changed attitudes to technology use. UK communications regulator Ofcom reported that in 2020 only a minority of children and young people did not go online or have internet access.

Teachers are in a unique position when it comes to assessing how children and young people use technology such as mobile phones and the effect it has on them. They see how children and young people use technology to learn, socialise, and how it affects their relationships with their peers.

Together with colleagues, I carried out in-depth research with eight teachers from different backgrounds, ages, years of professional experience, and type of educational institution from across the UK. We asked the teachers about their experiences of children and young people’s use of technology: how they thought it affected their emotions, behaviour and learning both before and during the pandemic.

The teachers talked about the importance of technology as a tool in the classroom and learning and the opportunities it provides for creativity. As one teacher put it:

It is what the children are used to, and it engages them more – it is a useful tool that can add to our teaching.

Empowered through tech

We also found that teachers were optimistic about the role technology could play in empowering children and young people. One said:

They use social networking sites to learn from one another and to express their beliefs – even children who are quiet in the classroom, they find it easier to express themselves online.

They thought that children and young people could learn to understand and recognise the signs of unhealthy technology use from their own emotions and behaviour when using technology. This included showing empathy and care through noticing how they and others feel. One teacher said children and young people were becoming more compassionate and offering their help to friends who were showing signs of distress through their online posts.

However, some teachers did express concern about how interacting online affected children and young people’s social skills. One teacher said:

They don’t know how to have proper conversations with their friends. They don’t know how to resolve anything because it’s easy to be mean behind a screen and not have to resolve it.

Another questioned how technology use was affecting play. They said:

They don’t know how to play and actually you will see groups of them surrounding a phone.

Teachers also pointed to the problems of disengaging from technology use. One teacher stated:

The parents have ongoing battles trying to pull their children away from screens and the next day they are exhausted, and they find it difficult to get them into school because the children are so tired.

Teachers discussed how they encouraged their pupils to take part in team sports as a way to encourage face-to-face communication and conflict resolution. However, while some online safety and internet use is covered at school, guidance on how to live with technology, be resilient towards challenges and use technology in a balanced could be more explicitly taught.

The PHSE Association – a national body for personal, social, health and economic education – offers guidance on online safety and skills for the curriculum, such as the potential harms of pornography but there is much scope to develop a broader approach to supporting healthy technology use.

Boy looking sad putting phone down
Teachers felt that there should be more discussion of online behaviour in the classroom.
Daisy Daisy/Shutterstock

In class, this could be as simple as working on how to make informed decisions about technology use – such as being more cautious if online activity involves talking with strangers, or recognising if spending time online is a large time commitment. It could include using social media posts as real-world examples to encourage childrenand young people to be informed, critical and resilient towards content they are likely to see and interact with.

Teachers felt that adding online safety to the curriculum would be valuable, as would providing opportunities for children and young people to talk about their experiences and content of technology. One teacher said:

There are predators out there and we do discuss online safety issues with my students, but some stuff should be part of the curriculum as well, and parents should access it too.

The teachers highlighted that they, too, needed support in their knowledge about technology and suggested this should be more incorporated into teacher training. One teacher said:

We need to keep up with the times and if there is something this pandemic taught us, is that not all of us are keeping up… one-off training is not adequate, schools need to invest in continuous professional development activities related to technology.

Children and young people can get significant benefits from technology, but it has risks, too. More attention to how teachers can address this in school can be an invaluable way to help children and young people understand and balance their time online.

The Conversation

Sarah Hodge, Lecturer in Psychology and Cyberpsychology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Cameroon’s exploding lakes – deadly gas release could lead to another tragedy

Dr Henry Ngenyam Bang writes for The Conversation about the potential dangers associated with crater lakes located in a region of volcanic activity in Cameroon…

Cameroon’s ‘exploding’ lakes: disaster expert warns deadly gas release could cause another tragedy

The waters of Lake Nyos, Cameroon, turn a murky brown following a deadly release of toxic gas.
Photo by Thierry Orban/Sygma via Getty Images

Henry Ngenyam Bang, Bournemouth University

A sudden change on 29 August 2022 in the colour and smell of Lake Kuk, in north-west Cameroon, has caused anxiety and panic among the local residents. Fears are driven by an incident that happened 36 years ago at Lake Nyos, just 10km away.

On 21 August 1986, Lake Nyos emitted lethal gases (mainly carbon dioxide) that suffocated 1,746 people and around 8,300 livestock. It wasn’t the first incident like this. Two years earlier, Lake Monoum, about 100km south-west of Lake Nyos, killed 37 people.

Desolation around Lake Nyos on 1 August 1986.
Photo by Eric Bouvet via Getty Images

Research into the cause of the Lake Nyos disaster concluded that carbon dioxide gas – released from the Earth’s mantle – had been accumulating at the bottom of the lake for centuries. A sudden disturbance of the lake’s waters due to a landslide resulted in a sudden release of around 1.24 million tonnes of carbon dioxide gas.

Survivors briefly heard a rumbling sound from Lake Nyos before an invisible gas cloud emerged from its depths. It killed people, animals, insects and birds along its path in the valley before dispersing into the atmosphere where it became harmless.

Both Kuk and Nyos are crater lakes located in a region of volcanic activity known as the Cameroon Volcanic Line. And there are 43 other crater lakes in the region that could contain lethal amounts of gases. Other lakes around the world that pose a similar threat include Lake Kivu at the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lake Ngozi in Tanzania and Lake Monticchio in Italy.

After Lake Nyos erupted, its water turned a deep red colour and survivors reported the smell of rotten eggs. These are the same characteristics to have recently manifested at Lake Kuk. The change in colour of Lake Nyos was only noticed after the gas burst.

In an official press release, heavy rainfall was linked to the odour and change in colour of Lake Kuk. The tens of thousands of people living around the lake were urged to “remain calm while being vigilant to continuously inform the administration of any other incident noted”.

As a geologist and disaster management expert, I believe that not enough is being done to address and manage the potential danger from crater lakes in the region.

Through my experience and research I’ve identified several key steps that policymakers must take to prevent another tragedy from happening.

Preventing disaster

To start with, it’s important to know which lakes are at risk of “exploding”.

Initial checks in some of the lakes were done more than 30 years ago and not thoroughly – it was just one team and on one occasion. Further investigations and regular monitoring are required.

Currently it’s believed that, of the 43 crater lakes on Cameroon’s Volcanic Line, 13 are deep and large enough to contain lethal quantities of gases. Although 11 are considered to be relatively safe, two (Lakes Enep and Oku) are dangerous.

Map showing the Cameroon Volcanic Line and other hazards in Cameroon.

Research has revealed that the thermal profile (how temperature changes with depth), quantity of dissolved gases, surface area or water volume and depth are key indicators of the potential for crater lakes to store large quantities of dangerous gases.

The factors that lead to the greatest risk include: high quantities of dissolved gases, held under high pressures, at great depths, in lakes with large volumes of water. They are at an even greater risk of explosion when the lakes sit in wide or large craters where there are disturbances.

The two lakes that caused fatalities (Nyos and Monoum) are deep and have thermal profiles that increase with depth. Other lakes are too shallow (less than 40 metres) and have uniform thermal profiles, indicating they do not contain large amounts of gases.

Investigating all the crater lakes in Cameroon would be a logistical challenge. It would require significant funding, a diverse scientific team, technical resources and transportation to the lakes. Since most of the crater lakes are in remote areas with poor communication network (no roads, rail or airports), it would take a couple of years for the work to be completed.

Since Cameroon has many potentially dangerous crater lakes, it is unsatisfactory that 36 years after the Lake Nyos disaster, not much has been done to mitigate the risks in other gas-charged hazardous lakes.

Managing dangerous lakes

Lake Kuk was checked shortly after the 1986 Lake Nyos disaster and found not to contain excess carbon dioxide. Its relatively shallow depth and surface area means the risk of gas being trapped in large quantities is low.

Nevertheless, authorities should have immediately restricted access to Lake Kuk pending a thorough onsite investigation. The official press release urging calm was sent just one day after the incident was reported. It’s not possible that a scientist could have carried out a physical examination of the lake. The release said that rainfall was responsible for the changes, but this will be based on assumptions.

Lake Kuk might be considered safe, but due to the dynamic and active nature of the Cameroon Volcanic Line, there is a possibility that volcanic gases can seep into the lake at any moment.

An onsite scientific investigation would determine with certainty the abnormal behaviour of Lake Kuk. Keeping people away from the lake until a swift and credible investigation had been done would be the most rational decision.

An additional step would be for a carbon dioxide detector to be installed near Lake Kuk and other potentially dangerous crater lakes. This would serve as an early warning system for lethal gas releases.

A carbon dioxide early warning system is designed to detect high concentrations of gases in the atmosphere and to produce a warning sound. Upon hearing the sound, people are expected to run away from the lake and onto higher ground. After the Lake Nyos disaster, carbon dioxide detectors and warning systems were installed near Lakes Nyos and Monoum. Nevertheless, no simulation has been conducted to determine their effectiveness.

The Directorate of Civil Protection is the designated agency responsible for coordinating disaster risk management in Cameroon. The agency should liaise with other stakeholders in the government and private sector to ensure the safety of Cameroon’s dangerous lakes. If the authorities are not proactive, the Lake Nyos disaster scenario may repeat where thousands of people and livestock are suddenly killed.The Conversation

Henry Ngenyam Bang, Disaster Management Scholar, Researcher and Educator, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Call for abstracts | The 14th Annual Postgraduate Research Conference

The 14th Postgraduate Research Conference Call for Abstracts Image

The 14th Annual Postgraduate Research Conference 2022 will take place on Wednesday 30 November, 09:00 – 17:00 and the call for abstracts is now open.


The conference is a great opportunity for postgraduate researchers to showcase and promote their research to the BU community whether they have just started or are approaching the end of their journey at BU.

Attending the conference is a great opportunity to engage and network with the postgraduate research community and find out more about the exciting and fascinating research that is happening across BU.

Abstracts are invited from postgraduate researchers to take part in the live research exhibition or to present via oral or poster presentation.

For full details on how to apply please visit the Doctoral College Conference Brightspace.

Closing date 09:00 Monday 24 October 2022.

Registration to attend will open in November, all members of BU are welcome!

For any questions, please email pgconference@bournemouth.ac.uk and a member of the Doctoral College conference team will get back to you.

Conversation article: Online reviews are broken – here’s how to fix them

Professor Vasilis Katos writes for The Conversation about the abuse of online review systems and potential solutions…

Online reviews are broken – here’s how to fix them

Online reviews are not always what they might seem.
Thapana_Studio via Shutterstock

Vasilis Katos, Bournemouth University

It’s a crime story fit for the digital era. It was recently reported that a number of restaurants in New York had been targeted by internet scammers threatening to leave unfavourable “one-star” reviews unless they received gift certificates. The same threats were made to eateries in Chicago and San Francisco and it appears that a vegan restaurant received as many as eight one-star reviews in the space of a week before being approached for money.

It’s surprising this sort of thing hasn’t emerged before. An over-reliance on the “wisdom of the crowd”, whereby many people measure things by the approval of the rest of the community, leaves us vulnerable to this kind of fraud.

It’s all about numbers. Products and companies are measured online by the number of stars they get on a five-star scale, influencers are measured by numbers of followers, posts are measured by the numbers of likes or retweets. The satirical Kardashian index provides a quantitative measure for academics by comparing citations of their research papers with their number of Twitter followers.

But why are these systems considered to be of value and why do we consult them almost blindly? In an age of information overload, feedback and reputation systems enable fast decision-making, providing us with the sense (or illusion) that we are in control as the decision taken is perceived to be informed.

Another idea at play here is the “attention economy paradigm”. Under this way of thinking, human attention is a scarce commodity and – as with all resources that are limited on this planet – it is of high value.

Businesses compete for a high as possible place on the first page of Google’s search results in order to capture this attention. And user feedback is one of the many parameters that influence the search engine’s secret ranking algorithms.

The notable success and acceptance of such reputation systems is grounded in the idea of the wisdom of the crowd comes in. If a sufficiently large sample of the population is asked to estimate something, the average of these estimations is expected to be very close to the actual value. This is because any personal bias becomes insignificant when a considerable amount of opinions is collected.

But all systems that come along with successful business models are open to abuse and can attract opportunistic and malicious actors, to an extent that organised criminal groups may form and systematically exploit such systems. For example, business opportunities that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic were instantly matched by an assortment of criminal activities including shopping scams, disinformation, illegal streaming and even child sexual exploitation.

Fake reviews

There are several reasons and motivations for fake reviews. Business competitors may try to flood a business target with negative reviews in order to harm their competitor. Others may attempt, by creating fake profiles or “bribing” customers with free or discounted products, to engineer positive reviews and misrepresent the quality of their products.

Conceptual picture showing person with a tablet with numerous review words jumping out.
Everyone has an opinion, but some people have a vested interest.
kheira benkada via Shutterstock

But extortion via threats of negative review is particularly insidious. A surge of negative reviews on a business’s Google profile not only affects its search engine ranking, but significantly influences the potential customers’ purchase decisions.

Although these practices are reported to have been streamlined from organised groups in India, variations of this have also been observed from other countries. Amazon recently sued 10,000 Facebook group administrators exceeding 43,000 members who allegedly solicit fake (positive) reviews in exchange for free products.

What can be done?

The abuse of online feedback and reputation systems has grown to epidemic proportion. Countering it will require the coordination of everyone involved.

Google and other feedback and reputation service providers need to invest more resources into the prevention, detection and removal of fake reviews. Machine learning technologies have made impressive leaps in recent years and could help in weeding out fake content.

Tighter rules governing the selection of reviewers enabling their participation under specific conditions. We’ve seen this with verified buyer schemes that aim to provide assurances that the reviewer has had a genuine experience with the business.

The presentation of the feedback and particularly the star scoring system could also have more contextual information, say through additional colour coding to communicate the sentiment mined out of the textual comments. In this case, highly emotional comments based on less factual or useful information could have a different colour from those trying to be impartial and objective.

Businesses also need to embrace the system for reporting problem reviews and use it responsibly. They should not report negative feedback if it is genuine, as this affects the relationship with the feedback platform, which will understandably be more distrustful to the business.

And consumers should be more alert and educated about this rather than following these rankings religiously. There are many telltale signs of a fake review, including simply checking the language to see if they are generic. It’s also instructive to check whether the reviewer produces a lot of negative reviews across many and seemingly unconnected products in a short time.

We, the crowd should be active participants by being always fair with our purchase experiences and acknowledge and support business when they exceed our expectations – but also provide candid negative reviews and recommendations for improvement. Only then the wisdom of the crowd will truly serve us.The Conversation

Vasilis Katos, Professor of Cybersecurity, Head of BU-CERT, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Lord of the Rings – a cheat’s guide to Middle Earth before you watch the new show

Ahead of new TV show, The Rings of Power, Dr Laura Crossley writes for The Conversation about the universe created by J.R.R Tolkien…

Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power – a cheat’s guide to Middle-earth before you watch the new show

Laura Crossley, Bournemouth University

For a newcomer to the wonderful world of Middle-earth, the universe created by the British author and academic J.R.R. Tolkien can seem as large and unwieldy as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (currently in Phase Four with more still to come). And, there is a new addition as Amazon’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?) hits screens.

The series comes eight years after the concluding film of The Hobbit and 19 years after the last Lord of the Rings film. So if you want to watch the series and keep up with inevitable social media debates, here is a guide to this sprawling world to initiate newcomers to Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

A quick catch-up

The Hobbit (1937) and
The Lord of the Rings trilogy (published between July 1954 and October 1955) were Tolkien’s most successful and famous novels.

The Hobbit follows the adventures of the eponymous creature (short of stature, hairy feet), Bilbo Baggins, on a quest with a party of dwarves to reclaim lost treasure. Along the way, he finds a ring that gives him the power of invisibility.


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The Lord of the Rings picks up the story many years later as Bilbo’s ring is revealed to be the One Ring, forged by the evil dark lord Sauron as a source of power. Bilbo’s nephew Frodo embarks on a dangerous journey to destroy the ring and save Middle-earth. He is aided by his gardener Sam Gamgee as well as representatives of the other chief races of Middle-earth: two further hobbits, the dwarf Gimli, elf Legolas and two human men, Boromir and Aragorn.

Tolkien served during the first world war and his experiences on the battle-field shape the numerous conflicts depicted in the stories as well as the various forms of heroism that are displayed. In Tolkien’s world, moral courage is just as important, if not more so, than physical prowess for the enduring heroes of Middle-earth.

The close bonds between serving soldiers also inform the interpersonal relationships that are central to The Lord of the Rings – it is evident in the devotion between the hobbits Frodo and Sam and the enemies-to-friends narrative of Gimli and Legolas.

What is Middle-earth?

Middle-earth is the fictional setting for Tolkien’s invented mythology, which made its debut in The Hobbit. However, the term Middle-earth was not used in that book – that came later with The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien was a professor of English literature and an expert in language, especially in written and oral histories. His mythology for Middle-earth is filled with poems, songs and oral history traditions that help to build the world of different cultures and races (hobbits, elves, dwarves, men) that inhabit his universe. Norse mythology, Anglo-Saxon epic poems, fairy tales and the Finnish mythic poem the Kalevala are all influences on the stories, characters and languages found in Tolkien’s work.

Although The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are the best known stories, they’re not the complete history of Middle-earth. The Silmarillion (1977), which was published after Tolkien’s death and edited by his son Christopher and the fantasy writer Guy Gavriel Kay, outlines the thousands of years of history of Middle-earth.

The book charts the creation of Arda, where the continent of Middle-earth is located, and covers the First and Second Ages of the world (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place in the Third Age). Arda starts as a flat disc and evolves into something more recognisably planet-like over the course of cataclysmic events during repeated battles between forces of good and evil. Further events and characters that shape Arda and Middle-earth feature in Unfinished Tales (1980).

However, as Amazon has only acquired the rights for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, none of the stories from either Unfinished Tales or The Silmarillion will feature in the new series. The extensive appendices to The Lord of the Rings are the source of the material for the new show.

Familiar names

Set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, The Rings of Power takes place thousands of years before either The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings so there will be few recognisable characters. Sauron, who appeared in The Lord of the Rings as a flaming red eye, is still the big bad.

The creator of the corrupting rings of power and of the infamous One Ring that controls the others, Sauron may not be front-and-centre as an antagonist but his actions and desire for control of Middle-earth will drive much of the action.

The other two familiar names are the elves Galadriel and Elrond, here much younger than they appeared in the films. Galadriel is established as a warrior – which is true to her history as Tolkien wrote it – and there is a lot of scope in the series to see how she develops into the wise ruler of the elven realm Lothlorien.

Elrond Half-elven, the ruler of the enclave of Rivendell, is shown as more optimistic than in The Lord of the Rings and with closer links to the human kingdom of Númenor, whose rulers are descended from his twin brother, Elros.

As the brothers were half-elven, they could choose which of their kindred they would identify as. Elros lived as a mortal and eventually aged and died. Elrond chose to live as an immortal elf and the emotional toll of those decisions will be explored in his story arc.

Fans might be concerned that Tolkien might have disliked some of the liberties taken with his works. While his estate is known to be protective (and litigious) over the original works, Tolkien stated that he wanted other hands to add to his universe. In light of that, he would probably have been delighted to see his creation still so beloved and still expanding.The Conversation

Laura Crossley, Programme Leader and Senior Lecturer in Film, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Online training opportunity: Writing for The Conversation

Would you like to build a media profile and take your research to a global audience?

Find out more about writing for The Conversation and have the chance to pitch your article ideas to one of their editors in an online training session on Thursday 15 September.

The Conversation is a news analysis and opinion website with content written by academics working with professional journalists.

The training session will run by one of The Conversation’s Editors and will take place from 2pm – 3pm over Zoom.

It is open to all BU academics and PhD candidates who are interested in finding out more about working with The Conversation.

Learn how to consider the news potential of your expertise, make your writing accessible and engaging to a diverse range of audiences, and pitch your ideas.

The session will be followed by a limited number of one-to-one slots from 3pm – 4pm where you can chat with the editor about working with The Conversation and share your research and article ideas.

Slots are 15 minutes and will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. To request a slot, please email newsdesk@bournemouth.ac.uk

Why write for The Conversation?

The Conversation is a great way to share research and informed comment on topical issues. Academics work with editors to write pieces, which can then be republished via a creative commons license.

Since we first partnered with The Conversation, articles by BU authors have had over 8.5 million reads and been republished by the likes of The i, Metro, and the Washington Post.

Book your place via Eventbrite.