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Conversation article: Documenting the world’s largest prehistoric rock art in South America – new study

Dr Philip Riris co-authors this article for The Conversation about his experiences documenting monumental rock art along the Orinoco River…

Documenting the world’s largest prehistoric rock art in South America – new study

Enhanced image of monumental rock art on Cerro Pintado, Venezuela.
Philip Riris, Author provided

Philip Riris, Bournemouth University; José R. Oliver, UCL, and Natalia Lozada Mendieta, Universidad de los Andes

We weren’t the first to lay eyes on the engraving since it was carved into the hillside any number of centuries or millennia ago, not by a long shot. The Venezuelan archaeologist José Maria Cruxent even recorded it in his diaries in the 1940s – and there were certainly visitors before him.

The site of Cerro Pintado (Painted Hill), in the Venezuelan state of Amazonas, is a local landmark and a well-known fixture on the itinerary of those travelling on the Middle Orinoco River.

Yet viewing the gigantic snake, carved high up on the hillside, immediately ignited both our sense of wonder and our scientific curiosity. Why a snake? Why did its creators climb a towering granite hill to place it there, just so? What about all the other engravings orbiting it – what do they mean?

All these questions and more swirled around our little group as we stood, sticky and mosquito-bitten, in the savanna at the foot of the hill. Its singular status made it all the more intriguing.

While there are other examples of giant prehistoric rock art in other parts of the world, these appear to be the largest. While, as mentioned, some were already known to archaeologists, our team documented others, including over the border in Colombia.

The results reveal a high concentration of these monumental engravings in the region. The subjects of these symbolic works include snakes, humans and centipedes. The animals probably played an important role in the mythologies of the people who made them. The results have been published in the journal Antiquity.

New sites to survey

On our visit to Cerro Pintado in 2015, we supposed that the enormous 42-metre-long snake engraving (probably representing a boa or anaconda, native to the region) stood in splendid isolation. Prior scholars observed that many rock shelters in the surrounding savanna hosted prehistoric paintings, and we had already seen plenty of engravings near our dig sites.

Although often numerous or quite large, none of these sites shared the truly monumental scale of the Cerro Pintado engravings. Its apparent uniqueness led us to dutifully return with a drone to secure better images of the highly inaccessible panel. Already during the first stint in the field, however, we suspected that there was more to be uncovered about the rock art of the region.

Our guide, Juan Carlos García, a local educator and photographer, was well travelled around the area, and had plenty of insights to share. While surveying the islands that separate the calm middle course of the Orinoco River from its turbulent upper reaches, he pointed to the Colombian bank and forthrightly informed us: “Do you see that hill? Over there, behind it, is another snake, as big as Pintado.”

The possibility of another snake was beyond tantalising to us. Did it also have a set of accompanying motifs? Was it truly as big and as visible from far away? For lack of scientific permits in Colombia, or the time to search for a new site even if we had permits, these questions were left unanswered. After four campaigns in Venezuela, our fieldwork funding ended in 2017 and Cerro Pintado remained, as far as archaeology was concerned, a one-and-only location.

Luckily, the project’s principal investigator, José Oliver, at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, secured the means to return to survey the Colombian side in 2018. The results of careful systematic surveys were shared between the team in a flurry of excited text messages and emails, confirming that there was not just one more snake, but several. They were also comparable in size to Pintado and clearly related, yet each with their own twist.

The project’s doctoral candidate, Natalia Lozada Mendieta, from the Universidad de Los Andes, Colombia, now an assistant professor, also returned in 2021 and 2022 to find more snakes. Finally, the entire original team reunited in the field in 2023. Collectively, and with help from local guides, we amassed a database of 13 vast rock art sites with upwards of 150 individual engravings between them.

Striking motifs

To us, the snakes were the most striking motifs, although giant centipedes, humans dancing or playing instruments, and mysterious geometric shapes of unknown intent did not fail to impress. Although not unique, as previously thought, Cerro Pintado is now accompanied by a constellation of related sites – a genuine monumental rock art tradition.

Very large prehistoric petroglyphs, the scientific term for rock engravings, are not unknown. Whales and elk are depicted in the Stone Age art of Norway, and virtually life-size giraffes and camels are known from Niger and Saudi Arabia, respectively.

Highly visible or salient rock art such as this is often presumed to communicate ideas or concepts of importance. While their exact meaning is lost, their impact can be felt through their physicality, meaning their size and placement.

In our cases, we are fortunate to note repeating themes across the indigenous cosmologies of northern South America that allude to gigantic snakes as the creators and protectors of rivers – including the great “river” in the sky, the Milky Way. Yet they are also menacing, predatory and lethal.

This information enriches our understanding of the archaeological record. The snakes were intended to be seen from some distance, reflecting a shared understanding of the world and its inhabitants. What marks the Middle Orinoco out as a unique hotspot, we argue, is the sheer concentration of these enormous works of pre-Columbian art.

They appear to be the largest in the world, and speak to a contested, yet openly communicative cultural landscape during the pre-Columbian period that we are only just beginning to understand.

More importantly, as regional tourism expands year on year, the sites are
increasingly in need of protection, an activity in which indigenous people should have a leading voice. Undoubtedly, there are dozens more sites in this unique monumental tradition to encounter, record and, hopefully, preserve.The Conversation

Philip Riris, Lecturer in Archaeological & Palaeoenvironmental Modelling, Bournemouth University; José R. Oliver, Reader in Latin American Archaeology, Institute of Archaeology, UCL, and Natalia Lozada Mendieta, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, Universidad de los Andes

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

Conversation article: How 2-Tone brought new ideas about race and culture to young people beyond the inner cities

Dr Ian Gwinn writes for The Conversation about his oral history project exploring the impact of 2-Tone music on people from Dorset…

How 2-Tone brought new ideas about race and culture to young people beyond the inner cities

Ian Gwinn, Bournemouth University

This Town, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight’s latest drama for the BBC, brings to life a defining – if short-lived – era in the history of British youth culture and popular music. Set in the West Midlands against the backdrop of industrial decline and social unrest in the early 1980s, the drama unfolds to the syncopated sounds of 2-Tone.

A furious mix of punk and Jamaican ska, 2-Tone became a genuinely national phenomenon, bursting out of a bedsit in Coventry and into the charts and the popular consciousness.

We know a lot about the urban multiracial landscapes of its Midlands origins, out of which its twin ideals of racial unity and musical hybridity sprang. But we know much less about how it resonated with the experience of young people beyond the big towns and cities.

Such considerations are timely. It is now 45 years since the founding of 2-Tone Records by Jerry Dammers, organist and songwriter for ska’s most famous band The Specials, and mastermind of the whole movement.

Of course, 1979 was also a decisive year for politics in the UK. But bands like The Specials did more than just soundtrack the civil strife of the early Thatcher years; they actually inspired political and cultural change.

To understand how they did so is important not only for historical reasons. A deeper sense of how anti-racist and multicultural ideas have shaped less culturally diverse regions may enrich contemporary debates over racism, particularly rural racism, which have become increasingly polarised.

My own ongoing oral history project with people from the Dorset region registers the powerful effect 2-Tone had in less racially mixed areas. Interviewees speak vividly of the energy, excitement and unruliness of attending gigs, as well as the sense of shared community, belonging and togetherness.

Nobody is special

As The Specials’ first single, Gangster, hit the airwaves in the summer of 1979 and the first 2-Tone tour opened in the autumn (with support from fellow labelmates The Selecter and Madness), a growing legion of youth clad in slim-fit mohair “tonic suits”, pork-pie hats, and black-and-white checkerboard greeted the bands as they made their way across the country. By the time all three bands appeared together on Top of the Pops that November, 2-Tone had swept the nation.

The Specials, in particular, built an ethos on the idea that “nobody is special”, refusing the division between band and audience (symbolically represented in the audience joining the band on the stage for the final numbers).

The inaugural tour covered the length and breadth of the country, reaching musical outposts like Aberdeen, Ayr, Blackburn, Bournemouth, Plymouth and Swindon. A seaside tour followed in 1980, winding its way through several English coastal towns, from Blackpool to Worthing.

One interviewee described how 2-Tone bands made a big deal of moving out into the remote areas and bringing the music to the people. That made them more accessible, setting them apart from other bands of the period.

For one fan from Weymouth, travelling up to that first Bournemouth gig was a powerful unifying experience:

You just didn’t realise that you were part of a bigger thing…When you get in there and everyone’s got the same attitude, the same outlook, the same sense of purpose and sense of place – it was really quite an amazing feeling.

Playing venues in far-flung places was part of the 2-Tone mission. For Dammers and others, the anti-racist message was aimed directly and primarily at white youth. These 2-Tone bands sought to reach audiences with a visual and aural display of unity. The symbolism had a profound impact. As another interviewee recalled:

Groups were either all white or all black…2-Tone was the first thing where you actually saw white and black musicians on stage together…That was a massive difference.

But not everyone suddenly became a staunch anti-racist. Some simply went for the music, the dancing and the good times. But for others the unity of politics, style and music cut across divisions among fractious youth cults and against far-right influences. Embracing the spirit of 2-Tone gave rural and small-town youth a way of expressing anti-racist politics in a more local idiom.

Race and racism today

Despite the contribution of 2-Tone – and before it, Rock against Racism – to anti-racist struggles, issues of racism have never gone away. The fight against far-right nationalism and police brutality continues, but increasingly the spotlight has shifted towards the more subtle and unseen ways in which racism is perpetuated. This ranges from everyday microaggressions to the lingering shadow of Britain’s imperial legacy, attracting a strong backlash in some quarters.

Recent evidence of rural racism, for example, has been met with swift dismissals. The former home secretary Suella Braverman was quick to deny others’ experience of racism, stating that the claim the countryside is racist is one of the most ridiculous examples of left-wing identity politics – just because there are more white people than non-white people somewhere does not make it racist.

Recalling the example of 2-Tone and The Specials may encourage a longing for a simpler time, when racists were easy to spot; things are more complicated today. Still, it can help us to understand how racial solidarities are forged, particularly in and through social and geographical differences. For my interviewees, 2-Tone’s ska revival was not a passing fad; it allowed them to reinterpret their own experience of class, race and locality.

If only for a moment, 2-Tone mania ruled Britain, in the words of the music critic Simon Reynolds. But as This Town shows, its rich and complex legacies can still be brought powerfully to life in the present.The Conversation

Ian Gwinn, Senior Lecturer in Politics, Bournemouth University

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

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Conversation article: London Marathon – how visually impaired people run

Ahead of the London Marathon this weekend, Dr Ben Powis co-authors this article for The Conversation which explains the variety of techniques used by visually impaired runners, as well as the societal barriers that stop visually impaired people from getting involved in the sport.

London Marathon: how visually impaired people run

GB parasport athlete Charlotte Ellis (left) finishing the 2019 London Marathon with her guide runner.
Dave Smith/Shutterstock

Jessica Louise Macbeth, University of Central Lancashire and Ben Powis, Bournemouth University

In this weekend’s London Marathon, nearly 50,000 runners will hit the capital’s streets in one of the world’s most iconic races. For the visually impaired (VI) runners on the start line, their approach to this famous route will differ from their sighted counterparts. Just as there are misconceptions about blindness itself, many people are confused about how VI people run.

Some assume that all VI runners are blind with no usable vision, have superhuman compensatory skills and are passively guided around running routes by sighted guides. The reality is that, like all runners, VI runners have diverse experiences, preferences and needs.

In our research, we’ve conducted in-depth interviews with eight blind and partially sighted runners about their running practices. Some navigate routes independently, while others run with a guide – using a tether, holding their elbow or running in close proximity.

VI running can be a rich and creative experience, engaging all the senses. But, as one of our participants stated, this process is not innate: “People say, ‘Oh your smell becomes better, your hearing becomes better’. I don’t think it does, I just think you tune into it a little bit more… it just becomes more of a natural thing.”

As research on the runner-guide partnership shows, it can take practice and trying different strategies for runners to make sense of their surroundings and figure out what works for them.

Through touch, hearing, smell and usable vision, VI runners actively develop unique relationships with the routes they run. Our participants described how they identify landmarks, such as the sound of a river or the feel of changing terrain, to construct maps inside their heads. As one runner explains: “I could subconsciously tell you where every crack on the pavement is.”

Barriers to running

With VI people being one of the most inactive minority groups, running can be inclusive, empowering and provide a range of social and physical benefits.

But there are a number of societal barriers to VI people getting and staying involved in running. Ableist assumptions about who can and cannot run, are frequently internalised by VI people themselves.

One of our participants, who is blind from birth, explained: “I’d never even considered running before really… I just thought I couldn’t do it.” Having acquired sight loss in adulthood, another participant said: “I thought I’d never be able to run again, which was a massive blow when I first started losing my sight.”

To combat these assumptions and spread awareness about opportunities, runners like Kelly Barton and her guides share running content online. A recent video of her 250th parkrun, which she completed without being tethered to a guide, attracted national media coverage.

Our participants reported struggling to find guide runners, who can support VI people to run safely by guiding them along a route using verbal instructions, tethers or physical contact.

One VI runner who owns a guide dog contacted a local running event for a guide and was told they “haven’t found a guide yet, but we’ve got a dog sitter”. While there are local groups connecting VI runners and guides in some areas, such as VI Runners Bristol, this is not consistent across the UK.

The challenge of finding guides was also exacerbated during the pandemic. In the US, an innovative project using guide dogs trained for running has led to positive outcomes for both runners and dogs. But such projects are not yet widespread and require additional training for the guide dogs.

For VI runners who prefer running indoors, the treadmills used in many gyms are inaccessible. The charity Thomas Pocklington Trust and UK Coaching are working to address this through the inclusive facilities toolkit.

How you can get involved

For many VI runners, including our participants, parkrun has become a popular place to get started. The event’s inclusive ethos and specific efforts to encourage VI runners have created a welcoming and accessible environment.

The Great Run Series has introduced VI runners challenges at the Bristol 10K and Manchester Half Marathon, the only dedicated events for severely sight-impaired runners and guides in the UK.

If you are in search of a guide, British Blind Sport and England Athletics operate a database to connect VI runners with guides licensed by England Athletics. And if you are a sighted runner thinking about becoming a guide, you can complete a sight loss awareness and guide running workshop to get listed on the database.

Prospective runners and guides can also connect informally through parkruns, running clubs, local VI organisations or running organisations like Achilles International.The Conversation

Jessica Louise Macbeth, Senior Lecturer in Sports Studies, University of Central Lancashire and Ben Powis, Senior Lecturer in Sport, Bournemouth University

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

Conversation article: Four ways to eat less meat that are better for the planet, your health and your bank balance

Professor Katherine Appleton and Danielle Guy write for The Conversation about the simple food swaps that have the greatest benefits environmentally and for your health…

Four ways to eat less meat that are better for the planet, your health and your bank balance

Making a few simple eco-friendly food choices can be healthy and cost-effective too.
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Katherine Appleton, Bournemouth University and Danielle Guy, Bournemouth University

Do I choose the meat in my local store or drive out of town for tofu instead? Shall I add honey to my winter porridge or would strawberries or mango be better? Should I choose to drink oat milk or organic goat’s milk?

Most people are familiar with the idea that food consumption will affect their health. But food consumption also contributes between 20% and 30% of the environmental footprint from daily life, with impacts from production, processing, transport and retail. For many of us, our diet could be healthier and more sustainable, but it can be hard to know which options will have the biggest positive effect.

As part of our research into healthy and sustainable eating, interviews with predominantly young adults found that UK consumers are willing to make small changes that would improve the health and environmental footprint of their diet, if these changes will have some benefit and are of little cost to them. Small dietary changes tend to be easier to maintain in the longer term than larger changes, but the small changes to make for greatest benefit, for health and the planet, are not well known.

To provide this advice, we compared the health-related, environmental and financial effects of a number of sustainable dietary actions that have previously been proposed. We applied 12 sustainable actions to the dietary data of 1,235 UK adults in the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.

We investigated differences between the new diet and the original diet for six dietary markers (protein, saturated fat, sugars, salt, iron, calcium), three environmental markers (greenhouse gas emissions, freshwater withdrawals, land use), and dietary cost. There were some limitations – we couldn’t quantify the impacts of reducing food waste, for example.

But our research showed that four simple switches resulted in the greatest benefits for your diet, the planet and for your pocket. These changes won’t be small or simple for everyone, but you don’t need to try them all. Every switch will benefit both your health and our home, and lots of small changes will soon add up.

1. Replace meat items with pulses

Beans, chickpeas and lentils are high in protein, fibre and are low in fat. They have low environmental impacts and can even benefit the growth of other crops, plus they are very inexpensive. Barriers that prevent people consuming pulses tend to focus around their taste or texture. And pulses can be perceived as inconvenient, effortful or difficult to cook.

Start with houmous – a tasty pre-prepared chickpea spread or dip. Including more pulses in your diet is made easier and quicker by using pre-prepared and canned pulses or by batch cooking dishes and freezing portions for another day. Try incorporating canned beans into your favourite soups and stews. Add lentils to your bolognese sauce. If you’re feeling more adventurous, experiment with some tasty new recipes from cultures that traditionally use pulses, such as Mexico, the Middle East or India.

Flatlay shot looking down over a dozen or so colourful bowls of different beans, pulses, legumes
Replacing the meat in your diet with a diverse array of pulses is good for your health as well as for the planet.
Nopparat Promtha/Shutterstock

2. Replace meat items with eggs

Eggs, like pulses, are highly nutritious. They provide protein and many micronutrients, have low environmental impacts, and are good value for money. Choose free-range eggs for added animal welfare benefits.

Eggs can be easy to prepare. They are soft and can be easier to eat for those who may have difficulties chewing, swallowing or cutting up foods. Eggs can add taste and flavour to your diet. Eggs can be consumed at any meal. Poached or scrambled, they make a great high-protein breakfast, hard-boiled eggs are a filling on-the-go snack, and sous-vide (slow-cooked) eggs can impress guests at dinner parties.

3. Replace meat items with hard or soft cheeses

Cheese is another nutritious food, full of calcium and other micronutrients, good for strong bones and teeth. Often considered a food with high environmental impacts, cheese typically has a lower environmental footprint than meat, even more so for soft cheeses.

The environmental impact of dairy foods increases with the processing needed, predominantly as a result of the waste created at each stage of manufacture. Milk has the lowest environmental impact, yoghurt slightly higher, soft cheeses, such as cream cheese, slightly higher again, and hard cheeses such as Cheddar are higher still.

Try switching your pepperoni pizza for four cheeses pizza, replace the meat in pasta dishes for soft blue cheese to retain flavour, and use soft cheeses in sandwiches.

4. Reduce meat consumption by 20%

Meat production, particularly for beef and lamb, has high environmental impacts. Consuming a lot can be unhealthy, but meat consumption in small amounts can offer a valuable source of protein and micronutrients, including iron, zinc and B vitamins. Try consuming smaller portions, increase the quality of meat you buy to gain the health benefits while eating less, or aim to have regular vegetarian days, such as meat-free Mondays. Choose the meat option when you’re eating out, make it a treat for special occasions, and eat more plant-based dishes at home.


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Katherine Appleton, Professor of Psychology, Bournemouth University and Danielle Guy, PhD Candidate in Psychology, Bournemouth University

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

Conversation article: The problem with seeing young sportspeople as athletes first, children second

Dr Ellie Jennings and Dr Alice Hunter write for The Conversation about the problems that can occur when young people are treated as athletes rather than children…

The problem with seeing young sportspeople as athletes first, children second

RomanSo/Shutterstock

Ellie Gennings, Bournemouth University and Alice Hunter, Bournemouth University

A recent report commissioned by Swim England, the national governing body for swimming in England, has found evidence of a “culture of fear” in swimming clubs. The report finds that children involved in competitive swimming can be treated like professional athletes, and the importance of sporting performance held above all else.

Sport can be a positive influence on young people’s wellbeing. Children are encouraged to participate in sport, and the aspiration to become an elite athlete is widely seen as an admirable goal.

Many children will find competitive sport enjoyable and rewarding. But problems can occur when the athletic identity of a young person overshadows their identity as a child. There is a risk that clubs, coaches and parents may treat young people as athletes rather than as children. And this can take place at all levels of sport, from children taking part in sports like swimming at local clubs to those who compete at the highest level.

One participant in the Swim England report said that a focus on swimming performance led to their social and academic life suffering, and that they would frequently push themselves in training to the point of vomiting or collapse to please their coach. “The way in which the sport is delivered to children and hiding under the label of ‘high performance athletes’ is driving people away from the sport they once loved,” they said.

“We’re not here to have fun, we’re here to win!” one parent told a researcher for the Swim England report.

A focus on sporting success above all can compromise children’s wellbeing and safety. Young people may be exposed to environments that are highly pressurised, psychologically demanding and often tolerant of abuse.

Certain practices that take place in youth sports, such as coaches and parents screaming on the sidelines, that would be considered unacceptable in other settings. A teacher would be unable to behave like this towards their charges in a school setting, for instance.

In football academies, child athletes are potential future stars – and money spinners. A business mindset shifts the focus from nurturing children to moulding them into “assets” for potential profit.

Treating children like products rather than unique individuals with their own childhood experiences overshadows children’s vital developmental needs.

Accelerated adulthoods

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp recently spoke about the need to protect young football players, including from media attention, as academy youth players made their debut in senior-level games. “But from tomorrow, leave the boys in the corner, please. And don’t ask: ‘Where are they now? Where are they now? Where are they now?’” he told reporters after Liverpool’s FA cup win over Southampton.

Darts player Luke Littler competed in the World Darts Championships and other major darts tournaments at the age of 16. Littler has received intense levels of public scrutiny that extended beyond the reaches of sport: his private life, including his relationship status, has made headlines.

Attention on the personal life of a minor rushes them towards adulthood but also shows a lack of respect for the privacy of young athletes: a significant safeguarding concern.

Children’s names have even been included in reports about doping. Kamila Valieva, a Russian figure skater, experienced the unwelcome publicity of having her positive test revealed at the age of just 15, causing controversy at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

This stands in stark contrast to practices elsewhere, such as in courts of law. Article 16 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child outlines children’s right to privacy.

A balanced approach

Children have the right to be protected from all forms of harm in sport. This extends to their right to participate in sports within a safe and enjoyable environment. There are evidently distinct challenges that arise when young people compete in elite and often adult-dominated sporting spaces.

The abuse of children in sports is a concern at both community and elite levels. It is essential to address these concerns to ensure that the pursuit of athletic excellence does not come at the cost of the fundamental rights and safety of young people.

When children are treated solely as athletes, the excitement around their potential means that the fact that they are still minors may be forgotten. They must be recognised as children first, especially when their performance in elite sports takes place prior to reaching adulthood.

It is the moral obligation of all adults involved in sport to develop an approach that keeps children in sport safe, even when they are classed as elite athletes.The Conversation

Ellie Gennings, Senior Lecturer in Sport Coaching, Bournemouth University and Alice Hunter, Senior Lecturer in Sports Coaching, Bournemouth University

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

Conversation article: Hayek’s Road to Serfdom at 80 – what critics get wrong about the Austrian economist

Dr Conor O’Kane writes for The Conversation about the impact of Friedrich von Hayek’s book 80 years after its publication…

Hayek’s Road to Serfdom at 80: what critics get wrong about the Austrian economist

Conor O’Kane, Bournemouth University

“The most powerful critique of socialist planning and the socialist state”, is how Margaret Thatcher described Friedrich von Hayek’s book, The Road to Serfdom. Published in March 1944 during the Austrian economist’s tenure at the London School of Economics (LSE), the book has been enduringly popular among free-market liberals.

Among its admirers was Winston Churchill, who as prime minister released 1.6 tons of precious war-rationed British government paper to allow additional copies to be printed. More recently Elon Musk tweeted a photo of The Road to Serfdom with the caption “Great Book by Hayek” to his 174 million followers, no doubt bringing Hayek’s work to a new generation.

On the other hand, the Austrian is often seen by the left as an intellectual bogeyman, an enabler of unfettered greed, minimal social responsibility and soaring inequality.

So who was Hayek and why does The Road to Serfdom matter?

How laissez-faire fell out of favour

Born into an upper middle-class Vienna family in 1899, Hayek earned doctorates in law (1921) and political science (1923) at the city’s university. He first made a name for himself in economics in 1928, publishing a report for his research institute employer that predicted the Wall Street crash of 1929 (some critics argue that his achievement gets exaggerated).

Hayek spent 18 years at the LSE (1932-1950), before moving to the University of Chicago (1950-1962). There he worked alongside Milton Friedman, another seminal advocate for free-market principles.

These views were profoundly unfashionable at the time. The social democrat consensus had been shaped by the “robber barron” period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Key industries such as rail and oil had been dominated by cartels and monopolies, leading to massive wealth inequalities.

Then came the Wall Street crash and great depression, prompting a loss of confidence in economists and economic reasoning. Free-market capitalism took much of the blame. Socialism was offered as a realistic and even desirable alternative.

Prominent colleagues of Hayek’s at the LSE, including political scientist Harold Laski and sociologist Karl Mannheim, believed socialist planning was inevitable in the UK. The Labour party explicitly warned in a 1942 pamphlet against a “return to the unplanned competitive world of the inter-war years, in which a privileged few were maintained at the expense of the common good”.

Copy of the Road to Serfdom

Hayek disagreed. He thought this wave of popular “collectivism” would lead to a repressive regime akin to Nazi Germany.

In The Road to Serfdom, he accepted the need to move beyond the laissez-faire approach of classical economics. But he argued in favour of “planning for competition” rather than the socialists’ “planning against competition” approach. He opposed the state being the sole provider of goods and services, but did think it had a role in facilitating a competitive environment.

In a central theme of the book, Hayek described the difficulties that democratic decision-making would face under central planning. He believed it would lead to policy gridlock and present opportunities for unscrupulous characters to become the key decision-makers.

Hayek’s goal was to show that the British intelligentsia was getting it wrong. Socialist planning, he believed, would see citizens returned to the types of limited freedoms endured by serfs under feudalism.

Hayek and conservatism

The Road was especially popular in the US. This was helped by Reader’s Digest publishing a shortened edition in 1945, introducing Hayek to a non-academic audience of some 9 million households. He was seized upon by conservatives opposing Franklin D Roosevelt’s interventionist New Deal, who feared for the loss of personal freedoms and a drift to totalitarianism.

However, Hayek was concerned his ideas had been oversimplified and misinterpreted. He warned of “the very dangerous tendency of using the term ‘socialism’ for almost any kind of state which you think is silly or you do not like”. By the mid-1950s he had distanced himself from American and European conservatives.

Ultimately, though, after the second world war most western countries adopted a more Keynesian approach. Named after Hayek’s greatest intellectual rival, John Maynard Keynes, this involved using government spending to influence things like employment and economic growth.

Hayek’s work, meanwhile, was mostly ignored until the 1970s, a period during which the UK became mired in stagflation and industrial action. He then became the inspiration for Margaret Thatcher’s policy mix of deregulation, privatisation, lower taxes and a bonfire on state controls of the economy. With the US also facing domestic economic challenges, the then US president, Ronald Reagan, followed suit.

What the critics say

If that was perhaps peak Hayek, he has been heavily criticised from some quarters in recent years. The American economist John Komlos, in his 2016 paper, Another Road to Serfdom, convincingly argues:

Hayek failed to see that any concentration of power is a threat to freedom. The free market that he advocated enabled the concentration of power in the hands of a powerful elite.

Such over-concentration had created the “too big to fail” environment in the financial sector in the run-up the global financial crisis of 2008, and many thought Hayekian deregulation was the culprit.

More recently, the tax-cutting economic policies during Liz Truss’s short stint as UK prime minister were incubated by think tanks who regard themselves as the keepers of the Hayekian flame. Similarly, Argentinian president Javier Milei’s libertarian vision of a minimalist state is said to be influenced by Hayek.

Equally, however, it is easy to fall into that trap of oversimplifying Hayek. It is worth noting, for instance, that in the Road, he also envisaged a substantial role for the state. He saw the state providing a basic minimum income for all. He also argued that “an extensive system of social services is fully compatible with the preservation of competition”.

Even Keynes congratulated him on his publication, saying, “morally and philosophically I find myself in agreement with virtually the whole of it”.

In short, while it’s probably fair to say that the world has had to suffer the flaws in Hayek’s ideas, it is important to separate him from his supporters. He was certainly no statist, but his vision for how best to run an economy was not as uncompromising as many would have us believe.The Conversation

Conor O’Kane, Senior Lecturer in Economics, Bournemouth University

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

The Conversation one-to-one training for academics – 19th March

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

As a partner organisation, BU academics can write for The Conversation on your areas of expertise. Conversation journalists are offering 1-2-1 training sessions for you to understand more about The Conversation, or to discuss and pitch an article to them.

A training session for staff is available on Tuesday 19 March from 10.30am – 12.30pm. Slots are available for BU academics to book for a 15-minute session with a journalist through the Eventbrite link below.

Book your slot 

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 licence. Since we first partnered with The Conversation, articles by BU authors have had over 9.5 million reads and been republished by the likes of The iMetro, National Geographic Indonesia and the Washington Post.

You can learn more about working with The Conversation on the Research and Knowledge Exchange Sharepoint site

Conversation article: Why bans on smartphones for teenagers could do more harm than good

Professor Andy Phippen writes for The Conversation about growing calls to stop young people having access to smartphones or social media…

Why bans on smartphones or social media for teenagers could do more harm than good

Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

Andy Phippen, Bournemouth University

There are growing calls for young people under the age of 16 to be banned from having smartphones or access to social media. The Smartphone Free Childhood WhatsApp group aims to normalise young people not having smartphones until “at least” 14 years old. Esther Ghey, mother of the murdered teenager Brianna Ghey, is campaigning for a ban on social media apps for under-16s.

The concerns centre on the sort of content that young people can access (which can be harmful and illegal) and how interactions on these devices could lead to upsetting experiences.

However, as an expert in young people’s use of digital media, I am not convinced that bans at an arbitrary age will make young people safer or happier – or that they are supported by evidence around young people’s use of digital technology.

In general, most young people have a positive relationship with digital technology. I worked with South West Grid for Learning, a charity specialising in education around online harm, to produce a report in 2018 based upon a survey of over 8,000 young people. The results showed that just over two thirds of the respondents had never experienced anything upsetting online.

Large-scale research on the relationship between social media and emotional wellbeing concluded there is little evidence that social media leads to psychological harm.

Sadly, there are times when young people do experience upsetting digital content or harm as a result of interactions online. However, they may also experience upsetting or harmful experiences on the football pitch, at a birthday party or playing Pokémon card games with their peers.

It would be more unusual (although not entirely unheard of) for adults to be making calls to ban children from activities like these. Instead, our default position is “if you are upset by something that has happened, talk to an adult”. Yet when it comes to digital technology, there seems to be a constant return to calls for bans.

We know from attempts at prevention of other areas of social harms, such as underage sex or access to drugs or alcohol, that bans do not eliminate these behaviours. However, we do know that bans will mean young people will not trust adults’ reactions if they are upset by something and want to seek help.

Mother and daughter looking at phone
Teenagers need to know they can talk to adults about their lives online.
Studio Romantic/Shutterstock

I recall delivering an assembly to a group of year six children (aged ten and 11) one Safer Internet Day a few years ago. A boy in the audience told me he had a YouTube channel where he shared video game walkthroughs with his friends.

I asked if he’d ever received nasty comments on his platform and if he’d talked to any staff about it at his school. He said he had, but he would never tell a teacher because “they’ll tell me off for having a YouTube channel”.

This was confirmed after the assembly by the headteacher, who said they told young people not to do things on YouTube because it was dangerous. I suggested that empowering what was generally a positive experience might result in the young man being more confident to talk about negative comments – but was met with confusion and repetition of “they shouldn’t be on there”.

Need for trust

Young people tell us that two particularly important things they need in tackling upsetting experiences online are effective education and adults they can trust to talk to and be confident of receiving support from. A 15 year old experiencing abuse as a result of social media interactions would likely not be confident to disclose if they knew the first response would be, “You shouldn’t be on there, it’s your own fault.”

There is sufficient research to suggest that banning under-16s having mobile phones and using social media would not be successful. Research into widespread youth access to pornography from the Children’s Commissioner for England, for instance, illustrates the failures of years of attempts to stop children accessing this content, despite the legal age to view pornography being 18.

The prevalence of hand-me-down phones and the second hand market makes it extremely difficult to be confident that every mobile phone contract accurately reflects the age of the user. It is a significant enough challenge for retailers selling alcohol to verify age face to face.

The Online Safety Act is bringing in online age verification systems for access to adult content. But it would seem, from the guidance by communications regulator Ofcom, that the goal is to show that platforms have demonstrated a duty of care, rather than being a perfect solution. And we know that age assurance (using algorithms to estimate someone’s age) is less accurate for under-13s than older ages.

By putting up barriers and bans, we erode trust between those who could be harmed and those who can help them. While these suggestions come with the best of intentions, sadly they are doomed to fail. What we should be calling for is better understanding from adults, and better education for young people instead.The Conversation

Andy Phippen, Professor of IT Ethics and Digital Rights, Bournemouth University

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

The Conversation: one-to-one training sessions available

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

As a partner organisation, our academics and researchers can write for The Conversation on their areas of expertise. Conversation journalists are offering one-to-one training sessions for BU academics to understand more about The Conversation, or to discuss and pitch an article to them. 

Two training dates are available, on Wednesday 28 February from 2–4pm or Tuesday 19 March from 10:30am – 12:30pm.

You can book a fifteen minute session with a Conversation journalist using the links below: 

Book your place for 28 February 

Book your place for 19 March 

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 licence. Since we first partnered with The Conversation, articles by BU authors have had over 9.5 million reads and been republished by the likes of The iMetro, National Geographic Indonesia and the Washington Post.

You can learn more about working with The Conversation on the Research and Knowledge Exchange Sharepoint site. 

Conversation article: The Legend of Zelda film – past adaptations have gotten Link’s character wrong

Dr José Blázquez writes for The Conversation about the upcoming live-action film of The Legend of Zelda and some of the potential challenges adapting this beloved videogame…

The Legend of Zelda film: past adaptations have gotten Link’s character wrong

José Blázquez, Bournemouth University

The Legend of Zelda (first produced in 1986) is one of the most beloved videogames around the world, so when Nintendo announced the development of a live-action movie a couple of weeks ago, it inspired a lot of speculation (and fear) about how they might pull off a film.

Despite being haunted by the infamous adaptation made 30 years ago, the recent The Super Mario Bros. Movie was a global family hit. However, for some fans – myself included – it failed to deliver a compelling story about its central characters, which are some of the most iconic in videogame history. If Nintendo’s aim is to put smiles on every fan’s face, then adapting The Legend of Zelda will be a real challenge.

Set in a fantasy medieval world, the game series follows Link, an Hylian elf-like hero, and Zelda, princess of the kingdom of Hyrule. The stories differ from game to game, but often involve Link’s quest to rescue Zelda, defeat Ganon (the main antagonist of the series) and save Hyrule. They also tend to feature stories around the Triforce, a divine artefact formed by three equilateral triangles, each of which represent a virtue (power, wisdom and courage). The triangles can grant a wish to players who possess them all.

There is not a magic formula for a good adaptation and the process is made more complicated by such a vast, narrative-rich source material. Like many other fans, I would like to see a film that echoes what I felt when playing the games and preserves its DNA.

Losing Link

The original game was first released in 1986 and since then, another 19 games have followed (excluding spin-offs, remakes and re-releases). The latest instalment, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, has become one of the most lucrative.

From the vibrant landscapes and welcoming inhabitants of Hyrule to the daunting puzzles in dungeons and caves, feelings and emotions are the essence of Zelda’s storytelling. Recent titles have provided an expanded view of the settings, underpinned by open worlds offering a vast array of side quests, locations, monsters and non-playable characters.

A major part of getting the adaptation “right” will be in how the film chooses to portray Link.

Link is an archetype of a hero. He is brave, pure and communicates non-verbally in the games. His muteness is one of his most recognisable traits and one which helps anyone to identify with the character during the gameplay.

Although we barely know anything about his past, Link is somehow given depth by the players’ actions, who decide if they want to spend hours talking and helping villagers in side quests or embody an introvert hero who simply sticks to the main plan. This approach used in the games is not easily transferable to other media and, unsurprisingly, previous adaptations diverted from this path.

Earlier official adaptations of the game series were deemed non-canonical and distanced themselves from the source material in different aspects and degrees.

Many Zelda games have their own manga adaptations, which follow the original game storylines and add depth and provide backstories to the main characters. In the manga, Link talks, expresses emotions with facial expressions and is given a more rounded personality. We also learn about his past, providing more context about how the hero came to be.

The animated series was released in 1989, alongside Super Mario Bros. Super Show!, and lasted only 13 episodes due to the negative reception. In this adaptation, Link has brown hair and eyes (in contrast to his blonde hair and blue eyes in the games) and is chatty and immature.

While protecting the kingdom and the Triforce of Wisdom from Ganon, he is truly invested in flirting with Zelda, who – far from being a damsel in distress – rejects all his attempts to get a kiss. This diverts from the games, which have never depicted Zelda as Link’s love interest.

In Hollywood’s hands

In 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported that Netflix was preparing a live-action series based on The Legend of Zelda, which was described as “Game of Thrones for a family audience”. This was eventually denied by Nintendo.

Game of Thrones is notoriously dark, bloody and highly sexual, it’s hard to imagine what it looks like re-imagined as family entertainment. The Zelda series does feature more complex stories, which sometimes get quite dark (such as Twilight Princess and Majora’s Mask).

However, it’s difficult to imagine Nintendo moving away from light, family fun – it’s what they do best. Players will also expect them to produce a film with a PG rating. They tried a flirty Link before and it didn’t quite work – here’s hoping they leave that iteration alone.

Nothing has yet been said about the plot of the film adaptation, but Nintendo has confirmed that it will be directed by Wes Ball (The Maze Runner trilogy). It will be produced by Shigeru Miyamoto – co-creator of the game series and one of the most influential and acclaimed game designers of all time – and Avi Arad, chairman of Arad Productions Inc. The company has been involved in a long list of videogame, anime and comic adaptations. Miyamoto has also said that he has been working on the theatrical adaptation for many years.

It seems to be in safe hands and hopefully Nintendo has learnt from past failures. The least we can hope for is that with Miyamoto on board the legendary world of Zelda will be able to inspire similar feelings in viewers as the games have for nearly 40 years.


Looking for something good? Cut through the noise with a carefully curated selection of the latest releases, live events and exhibitions, straight to your inbox every fortnight, on Fridays. Sign up here.The Conversation


José Blázquez, Senior lecturer, Bournemouth University

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

Conversation article: When to give your child their first mobile phone and how to keep them safe

Professor Andy Phippen answers some key questions for The Conversation about giving children mobile devices, based on his research into young people and the internet…

When to give your child their first mobile phone – and how to keep them safe

Pressmaster/Shutterstock

Andy Phippen, Bournemouth University

I spend my career researching young people and the internet: what they do online, what they think about it and how their views differ to those of their parents.

I often get questions from parents about their children’s internet use. One of the most common is when to get their child a mobile phone, as well as how to keep them safe when they have one. Here are my answers to some key questions.

How old should my child be when they get their first phone?

I’m afraid I often disappoint parents in my answer to this question by not giving them a definite number. But the key here is what your child is going to use the phone for – and when might be suitable for that individual child.

According to a 2023 report by UK communications regulator Ofcom, 20% of three year olds now own a mobile phone. But this phone may just be used for taking pictures, playing simple games and supervised video calls with family.

The more pertinent question is when children should have their own fully-connected phone, which they can use unsupervised to contact others online.

When a child is primary school age, it’s highly likely that they will be used to adult supervision in most aspects of their life. They will either be at school, at home, with friends and trusted adults or with other family members.

Their need to contact a distant adult may not be that great – but you will want to think about what the specific needs of your own child might be.

Typically the transition from primary school to secondary is when children might be more distant from home, or be involved in school activities or socialising with friends where being able to contact home becomes more important. I have spoken to plenty of young people who talk about starting secondary school as the point where they first had their own phone.

How do I make sure they use a phone safely?

First of all, it’s important that if your child is going online – at whatever age and regardless of the device they’re using – you have a conversation with them about online safety.

Parents have a role to play in educating their children and making them aware of the risks that come with being online, as well as being mindful that most online experiences are not harmful.

I have carried out extensive research with young people on online harms. As part of this research, I and colleagues developed a number of resources for parents, put together with the help of over 1,000 young people.

What these young people say the most is they want to know who to turn to when they need help. They want to be confident they will receive support, not a telling off or confiscation of their phone. This means that a key first step is to reassure your child that they can come to you with any problems they encounter and you will help them without judgment.

It’s also important to discuss with your child what they can and can’t do with their device. This could mean, for instance, setting ground rules about which apps they can have installed on their phone, and when they should stop using their phone at the end of the day.

You should also explore the privacy settings for the apps that your child uses, in order to ensure that they cannot be contacted by strangers or access inappropriate content. The NSPCC has resources for parents on how to use privacy settings.

Should I check my child’s phone?

Sometimes parents ask me about whether they should be able to check a child’s device – either by physically looking at the phone or by using “safetytech”, software on another device that can access the communications on the child’s phone.

Father and son looking at mobile phone
Open conversations about phone use are key.
Khorzhevska/Shutterstock

I believe it’s important that this is also something you discuss with your child. Trust is important to ensure that your child comes to you with any online issues, so if you want to monitor their phone, talk to them about it rather than doing so covertly.

It seems reasonable parental supervision to be accessing a child’s device when they are of primary age, in the same way a parent would check with another child’s parent before agreeing to let them visit their home.

However, as your child gets older, they might not want their parent to see all of their messages and online interactions. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states that a child does have a right to privacy.

Should I track my child’s location through their phone?

I have spoken to some families that track each other’s devices in an open and transparent manner, and this is a decision for the family. However, I have also spoken to children who find it very creepy that a teenage friend is tracked by their parents.

The question here is whether parents are reassuring themselves that their child is safe – or whether they want to know what they are doing without them knowing. I had a particularly memorable conversation with someone who told me their friend was extremely upset because their daughter had changed device and so they could no longer track her. When I asked how old the daughter was, they said she was 22.

It’s also worth considering whether tech like this actually provides false reassurance. It may allow parents to know where their child is, but not necessarily whether they are safe.

As with monitoring a child’s phone, it is worth reflecting upon whether a surveillance approach creates the ideal conditions for them to come to you with problems, or whether this is more likely to be fostered by open conversations and an environment of mutual trust.The Conversation

Andy Phippen, Professor of IT Ethics and Digital Rights, Bournemouth University

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

Conversation article: Big cats eat more monkeys in a damaged tropical forest – and this could threaten their survival

Aralisa Sheddon writes about her research which found that big cats in southern Mexico are increasingly preying on endangered howler and spider monkeys…

Big cats eat more monkeys in a damaged tropical forest – and this could threaten their survival

A jaguar in the jungle of southern Mexico.
Mardoz/Shutterstock

Aralisa Shedden, Bournemouth University

Monkeys are not usually a popular menu item for big cats. Primates are, after all, hard to catch: living in the canopies of large trees and rarely coming down to the ground. Jaguar and puma have varied diets and will normally hunt the species that are most common where they live, such as deer, peccary (a type of wild pig) and armadillo.

But jaguar and puma living in southern Mexican forests with a high human footprint (where wood and other resources are regularly harvested and there are large clearings for farms or expanding settlements) seem to be changing their feeding preferences to include more monkeys, according to new research.

Other studies have already found that when there is less of their usual prey around, big cats turn to alternatives. The changes in jaguar and puma diets that my colleagues and I recorded may indicate that the populations of these normal prey are shrinking, or that something in the environment has changed to make catching and eating primates easier.

This change in the diet of large cats could make the disappearance of primate populations in tropical forests like this one in southern Mexico more likely. This would, in turn, make the disappearance of large cats themselves more likely due to a lack of food, threatening the stability of an entire ecosystem.

On the trail of big cats

When forests are cut down or altered by loggers and hunters, primates are particularly affected, as many species depend on tall trees for food, shelter and to chart paths through the forest. Globally, more than 60% of primate species are threatened with extinction.

These changes to forests have also put large predators at risk. Understanding what is happening in these areas can inform more effective conservation measures, which may prevent species from disappearing.

The Uxpanapa valley in southeastern Mexico is one of the last relicts of tall evergreen forest in the country, and is classified as one of the most biodiverse areas in both Mexico and the world. It is home to jaguar, puma and many other species, including two endangered primates: howler and spider monkeys.

A black monkey in a tropical forest canopy.
Howler monkeys are native to South and Central American forests.
David Havel/Shutterstock

I led a research team that studied the distribution of primates in the Uxpanapa Valley for the first time. We recorded the number of primates and where they were found, as well as the type of forest they preferred.

Another team looked for large cats with the help of a dog which could detect their faeces, otherwise known as scat. Scat was collected to obtain DNA and determine the species that left it, whether it had any parasites, and what its diet was like. The team found out what prey these large cats were eating by using microscopes to study the hairs left in each scat. Special identification guides can link each kind of animal to its hair – each has a particular colour, pattern and shape.

Large carnivores maintain biodiversity and the functioning of an ecosystem by controlling populations of certain species – for example, herbivores that might otherwise harm trees or prevent forests regrowing. The presence of such predators can indicate an ecosystem’s health. Knowing what top predators are eating can tell us even more about how an ecosystem is functioning.

What we found

When we combined the data and information we collected, we began to understand that something out of the ordinary was happening.

Primates were the most frequent prey found in jaguar and puma scats, making up nearly 35% of the remains. Primate remains were also more likely to be found in scats collected from areas with less forest. Spider monkey remains, for example, were more likely to be found in scats collected in areas with more villages, and in forest that was regrowing after being disturbed.

A possible explanation is that where there are more villages, it is likely that there is more hunting and tree-cutting taking place. Where there is more hunting, the prey that jaguar and puma usually prefer might not be as plentiful. And regrowing forests do not offer primates the same protection as tall, untouched forests. These two factors may explain why large cats are eating spider monkeys more often here.

Jaguar and puma will usually eat the prey that is more abundant. If their preferred prey is scarce, they will hunt the species they encounter most. Similar to what we observed with spider monkeys, in areas where there was less tall forest, howler monkey remains were more likely than non-primate prey to be found in the scats, possibly as big cats found it easier to reach primates.

A pile of logs in a deforested Mexican plain.
Logging robs monkeys of hiding places from predators.
Eduardo Cota/Shutterstock

Less tree cover and overhunting of other prey (combined with general habitat loss) could explain the high rates of primate predation we discovered. Nevertheless, we need to continue monitoring these sites to fully understand these changes in large cat diets.

Our results highlight the importance of maintaining tall forest cover to ensure primates and other forest-dependent species can survive. They also raise the urgent need for conservation, before the negative effects of human activities on both primate and large cat populations become irreversible, and the ecosystems they live in are lost.


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Aralisa Shedden, Postdoctoral Researcher in Conservation, Bournemouth University

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

Conversation article: Many Australian kids abused in sport won’t ever speak up. It’s time we break the silence

Dr Emma Kavanagh co-authors this article for The Conversation about new research exploring how children talk about – or don’t talk about – their experiences of abuse in sport:

Many Australian kids abused in sport won’t ever speak up. It’s time we break the silence

Shutterstock

Mary Woessner, Victoria University; Alexandra Parker, Victoria University; Aurélie Pankowiak, Victoria University, and Emma Kavanagh, Bournemouth University

Sport is supposed to be a safe place for kids to learn and play.

Too often, however, sporting clubs can be places where children are abused psychologically, physically or sexually.

Imagine, then, a child in your life had been abused, but never told an adult about it.

Our new research shows that’s the case for many children who’ve experienced abuse in a community sport club.

Here’s what we found about how children talk about – or don’t talk about – their experiences of abuse in sport.

Survey shows abuse goes undisclosed

Our research is the first to explore how often children tell adults about abuse in community sport.

Before this, we knew very little about how children spoke about their experiences of abuse.

This data builds on our previous study, focusing on the responses of the 800 adults who had all experienced abuse in community sport as children.

In our new study, our survey tool asked about childhood experiences of abuse in sport. These ranged from psychological violence (excessive criticism and humiliation), physical abuse (throwing equipment, striking someone), sexual violence (sexualised comments or acts) and neglect (ignoring a child after a poor performance).

We found more than half said they never spoke to an adult about it.

Three in four children never spoke to an adult about abuse from a coach.

Rates of disclosure were even lower when the abuse was from a parent, with eight in nine children not speaking to another adult about their experiences.

We also found boys disclose peer abuse in sport less frequently than girls, while girls had lower rates of disclosing to an adult within the sport club (coach/club manager) than boys.

The evidence shows delayed disclosures of abuse (or never disclosing) can have severe and long-lasting impacts on a child’s mental health.

This makes these findings highly concerning.

A man yelling from the sidelines of a running race
Even when children are aware and able to say something is wrong, we found they think twice before speaking to an adult.
Shutterstock

Having a policy is important, but not enough

Clubs often try to stamp out abuse by having policies aimed at protecting children.

But we found while policies can provide guidance on who to report abuse to, even getting that far can be difficult.

First, a child victim/survivor (and adults around them) needs to recognise their experience as abuse. In community sporting clubs, a child would then need to talk to an adult (a club member protection officer, for example). Finally, the adult/child would need to formally report the abuse for the policy to be enacted.

In an environment where abuse has become so normalised, children may not even realise they’re experiencing it.

The response system relies on reports of abuse, but participants are often afraid to come forward, or aren’t believed when they do.

Even when children are aware and able to say something is wrong, we found they think twice before speaking to an adult.

The children often questioned whether their experiences were bad enough, especially when they saw other kids going through the same things.

One participant shared bullying was so widespread that:

[…] it’s [violence] a cultural thing in the sport. And so you just learn to live with it, ignore it.

How we respond to children matters

Often children will not have the words to say “I am experiencing abuse”.

In our study children would simply tell their parents they weren’t enjoying sport.

They often didn’t even think they were talking about abuse. One of the people we spoke to said:

I didn’t know I was disclosing […] I just thought I was reiterating what happened during the day.

In most instances, the responses from adults normalised or rationalised the child’s experience of abuse.

A participant shared her parents’ response was:

Sorry you’re experiencing this, but time to just be resilient. Like, just don’t think about it.

Sometimes, the adult offered a supportive and empathetic response, but this was rarely followed up with long-term support or lodging an official report of abuse.

This leaves the experiences of abuse undocumented and unaddressed.

A young girl being comforted by her mother
Believe children when they say they are uncomfortable, not enjoying sport or feel unsafe, and ask them how you can help.
Shutterstock

Taking action against abuse in sport

We need to talk more about abuse in sport.

The issue is gaining some traction, with the launch of international and national campaigns.

Start To Talk encourages people to have conversations about poor behaviours and improving safety in sport.

Our team in Australia is running workshops on abuse with community sporting organisations.

We have passionate volunteers who want to change the culture, but need support to do so.

Abuse thrives in the shadows, and it is time for more significant action to realise real change. Here is what you can do to help:

  • listen to children, really listen to what they say
  • believe them when they say they are uncomfortable, not enjoying sport or feel unsafe, and ask them how you can help
  • seek support for them and yourself
  • when it’s safe to do so, call out poor behaviours.

Sport has so much power for good, but we all must play our part in ensuring it is first and foremost, a safe environment.


If this article has raised issues for you or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.The Conversation

Mary Woessner, Lecturer in Clinical Exercise and Research Fellow, Institute for Health and Sport (iHeS), Victoria University, Victoria University; Alexandra Parker, Executive Director of the Institute for Health and Sport, Professor of Physical Activity and Mental Health, Victoria University; Aurélie Pankowiak, Research Fellow, Institute for Health and Sport, Victoria University, and Emma Kavanagh, Associate Professor in Sport Psychology and Safe Sport, Bournemouth University

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

The Conversation launches new online, on-demand training courses

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

In addition to the training sessions run by Conversation editors throughout the year, they have now created four new asynchronous online courses to help you learn more about working with The Conversation and what they are looking for from pitches and articles.

Four short courses are now available for you to complete online at your leisure:

The courses are open to all BU academics and PhD candidates who are interested in finding out more about working with The Conversation. They will help you to understand how The Conversation works, the editorial support provided, and develop the skills to write for non-academic audiences.

The courses are being mapped to Vitae’s researcher development framework to help further contribute to professional development at all levels.

The courses can be accessed at: https://theconversationuktraining.teachable.com/

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 9.5 million reads and been republished by the likes of The i, Metro, National Geographic Indonesia and the Washington Post.

You can learn more about working with The Conversation on the Research and Knowledge Exchange Sharepoint site

Conversation article: Humans got to America 7,000 years earlier than thought, new research confirms

Professor Matthew Bennett and Dr Sally Reynolds write for The Conversation about their research dating fossil footprints found in New Mexico…

Humans got to America 7,000 years earlier than thought, new research confirms

The footprints come from a group of people of different ages.
National Park Service

Matthew Robert Bennett, Bournemouth University and Sally Christine Reynolds, Bournemouth University

When and how humans first settled in the Americas is a subject of considerable controversy. In the 20th century, archaeologists believed that humans reached the North American interior no earlier than around 14,000 years ago.

But our new research found something different. Our latest study supports the view that people were in America about 23,000 years ago.

The 20th century experts thought the appearance of humans had coincided with the formation of an ice-free corridor between two immense ice sheets straddling what’s now Canada and the northern US. According to this idea, the corridor, caused by melting at the end of the last Ice Age, allowed humans to trek from Alaska into the heart of North America.

Gradually, this orthodoxy crumbled. In recent decades, dates for the earliest evidence of people have crept back from 14,000 years ago to 16,000 years ago. This is still consistent with humans only reaching the Americas as the last Ice Age was ending.

In September 2021, we published a paper in Science that dated fossil footprints uncovered in New Mexico to around 23,000 years ago – the height of the last Ice Age. They were made by a group of people passing by an ancient lake near what’s now White Sands. The discovery added 7,000 years to the record of humans on the continent, rewriting American prehistory.

If humans were in America at the height of the last Ice Age, either the ice posed few barriers to their passage, or humans had been there for much longer. Perhaps they had reached the continent during an earlier period of melting.

Our conclusions were criticised, however we have now published evidence confirming the early dates.

Dating the pollen

For many people, the word pollen conjures up a summer of allergies, sneezing and misery. But fossilised pollen can be a powerful scientific tool.

In our 2021 study, we carried out radiocarbon dating on common ditch grass seeds found in sediment layers above and below where the footprints were found. Radiocarbon dating is based on how a particular form – called an isotope – of carbon (carbon-14) undergoes radioactive decay in organisms that have died within the last 50,000 years.

Some researchers claimed that the radiocarbon dates in our 2021 research were too old because they were subject to something called the “hard water” effect. Water contains carbonate salts and therefore carbon. Hard water is groundwater that has been isolated from the atmosphere for some period of time, meaning that some of its carbon-14 has already undergone radioactive decay.

Common ditch grass is an aquatic plant and the critics said seeds from this plant could have consumed old water, scrambling the dates in a way that made them seem older than they were.

It’s quite right that they raised this issue. This is the way that science should proceed, with claim and counter-claim.

How did we test our claim?

Radiocarbon dating is robust and well understood. You can date any type of organic matter in this way as long as you have enough of it. So two members of our team, Kathleen Springer and Jeff Pigati of the United States Geological Survey set out to date the pollen grains. However, pollen grains are really small, typically about 0.005 millimetres in diameter, so you need lots of them.

This posed a formidable challenge: you need thousands of them to get enough carbon to date something. In fact, you need 70,000 grains or more.

Medical science provided a remarkable solution to our conundrum. We used a technique called flow cytometry, which is more commonly used for counting and sampling individual human cells, to count and isolate fossil pollen for radiocarbon dating.

Flow cytometry uses the fluorescent properties of cells, stimulated by a laser. These cells move through a stream of liquid. Fluorescence causes a gate to open, allowing individual cells in the flow of liquid to be diverted, sampled, and concentrated.

Illustration of pollen grains.
Pollen can be a useful tool for dating evidence of human settlement.
Kateryna Kon / Shutterstock

We have pollen grains in all sediment layers between the footprints at White Sands, which allows us to date them. The key advantage of having so much pollen is that you can pick plants like pine trees that are not affected by old water. Our samples were processed to concentrate the pollen within them using flow cytometry.

After a year or more of labour intensive and expensive laboratory work, we were rewarded with dates based on pine pollen that validated the original chronology of the footprints. They also showed that old water effects were absent at this site.

The pollen also allowed us to reconstruct vegetation that was growing when people made the footprints. We got exactly the kinds of plants we would expect to have been there during the Ice Age in New Mexico.

We also used a different dating technique called optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) as an independent check. OSL relies on the accumulation of energy within buried grains of quartz over time. This energy comes from the background radiation that’s all around us.

The more energy we find, the older we can assume the quartz grains are. This energy is released when the quartz is exposed to light, so what you are dating is the last time the quartz grains saw sunlight.

To sample the buried quartz, you drive metal tubes into the sediment and remove them carefully to avoid exposing them to light. Taking quartz grains from the centre of the tube, you expose them to light in the lab and measure the light emitted by grains. This reveals their age. The dates from OSL supported those we got using other techniques.

The humble pollen grain and some marvellous medical technology helped us confirm the dates the footprints were made, and when people reached the Americas.The Conversation

Matthew Robert Bennett, Professor of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Bournemouth University and Sally Christine Reynolds, Associate Professor in Hominin Palaeoecology, Bournemouth University

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

Conversation article: New species of cobra-like snake discovered – but it may already be extinct

Tom Major co-authors this article for The Conversation about using the latest DNA extraction techniques to study the remains of ancient animals, discovering a new snake species…

New species of cobra-like snake discovered – but it may already be extinct

Hemachatus nyangensis in Nyanga National Park, Zimbabwe.
Donald Broadley, Author provided

Tom Major, Bournemouth University; Axel Barlow, Bangor University, and Wolfgang Wüster, Bangor University

Around the world, natural history museums hold a treasure trove of knowledge about Earth’s animals. But much of the precious information is sealed off to genetic scientists because formalin, the chemical often used to preserve specimens, damages DNA and makes sequences hard to recover.

However, recent advances in DNA extraction techniques mean that biologists can study the genetic code of old museum specimens, which include extremely rare or even recently extinct species. We harnessed this new technology to study a snake from the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe that was run over in 1982, and discovered it was a new species. Our research was recently published in PLOS One.

The Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe, a mountain chain on the border with Mozambique, create a haven of cool and wet habitats surrounded by savannas and dry forest. They are home to many species that are found nowhere else.

Here, a mysterious population of snakes first drew the attention of scientists around 1920. An unusual snake displaying a cobra-like defensive hooding posture was spotted in the grounds of Cecil Rhodes’ (prime minister of the Cape Colony in the late 19th century) Inyanga Estate in Nyanga.

This snake had unusual markings with red skin between its scales, creating the effect of black dots on a red background when its hood is extended. None of the other cobras found in the area match this description.

More snakes like this were reported in the 1950s, but no specimens were collected.

A rare find

The mystery surrounding these sightings piqued the interest of the late Donald G. Broadley, now considered to be the most eminent herpetologist (reptile and amphibian expert) of southern Africa. In 1961, Broadley was given some severed snake heads and identified the mystery snake as a rinkhals (Hemachatus haemachatus), a species otherwise only found in South Africa, Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) and Lesotho.

A handful of specimens were observed and measured in later years, but the landscape has been drastically altered by forestry. The rinkhals from Zimbabwe has not been seen in the wild since 1988 and is feared to be extinct.

This population lives 700km away from other, more southerly populations, which made us suspect it may be a separate species. But the genetic material contained within the specimen from Zimbabwe was degraded, meaning we couldn’t do the DNA studies needed to confirm whether it is a different species from other rinkhals.

New technology

However, the latest DNA extraction and sequencing methods have been developed over the last ten years to help biologists study the remains of ancient animals. We used the new techniques to examine the Zimbabwe rinkhals specimen. Our study showed they represent a long-isolated population, highly distinct from the southern rinkhals populations.

Based on their genetic divergence from the other rinkhals, we estimate that the snakes in Zimbabwe diverged from their southern relatives 7-14 million years ago. Counting a snake’s scales can help identify what species it is. Subtle differences in scale counts, revealed by our analysis of other specimens, provided enough evidence to classify the Zimbabwe rinkhals as a new species, Hemachatus nyangensis, the Nyanga rinkhals.

The scientific name nyangensis means “from Nyanga” in Latin.

Hemachatus nyangensis has fangs modified to spit venom, although the behaviour was not reported from the few recorded interactions with humans. The closely related true cobras (genus Naja), some of which are known to spit venom, do so with the same specialised fangs that allow venom to be forced forwards through narrow slits, spraying it toward animals that are threatening them.

Venom in the eyes causes severe pain, may damage the eye, and can cause blindness if left untreated. Venom spitting appears to have evolved three times within the broader group of cobra-like snakes, once in the rinkhals, and twice in the true cobras in south-east Asia and in Africa.

A connection between human and snake evolution

Scientists think this defence mechanism may have evolved in response to the first hominins (our ancestors). Tool-using apes who walked upright would have posed a serious threat to the snakes, and the evolution of spitting in African cobras roughly coincides with when hominins split from chimpanzees and bonobos 7 million years ago.

Similarly, the venom spitting in Asian cobras is thought to have emerged around 2.5 million years ago, which is around the time the extinct human species Homo erectus would have become a threat to those species. Our study of Nyanga rinkhals suggests that the third time venom spitting evolved independently in snakes may also have coincided with the origin of upright-walking hominins.

If a living population of Nyanga rinkhals was found, fresh DNA samples would help us to more accurately determine the timing of the split between the two species of rinkhals and how this compares to hominin evolution. Technological advances may be giving us incredible insights into ancient animal lineages but they can’t make up for an extinction. We still hope a living population of Nyanga rinkhals will be found.

The possible relationship between venom spitting and our early ancestors is a reminder that we are part of the Earth’s ecosystem. Our own evolution is intertwined with that of other animals. When animals become extinct, we don’t just lose a species – they take part of our history with them.The Conversation

Tom Major, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Bournemouth University; Axel Barlow, Lecturer in Zoology, Bangor University, and Wolfgang Wüster, Reader in Zoology, Bangor University

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

Conversation article: Online safety bill – why making the UK the ‘safest place to go online’ is not as easy as the government claims

Professor Andy Phippen writes for The Conversation about the government’s online safety bill and the challenges of regulating the internet…

Online safety bill: why making the UK the ‘safest place to go online’ is not as easy as the government claims

fizkes/Shutterstock

Andy Phippen, Bournemouth University

The government’s online safety bill, a reform years in the making, will now become law.

Among the bill’s key aims is to ensure it is more difficult for young people (under the age of 18) to access content that is considered harmful – such as pornography and content that promotes suicide or eating disorders. It places a “duty of care” on tech companies to ensure their users, especially children, are safe online. And it aims to provide adults with greater control over the content they interact with, for example if they wish to avoid seeing sexual content.

The legislation puts the onus on service providers (such as social media companies and search engines) to enforce minimum age requirements, publish risk assessments, ensure young people cannot access harmful content (while still granting adults access) and remove illegal content such as self-harm and deepfake intimate images.

The government has said the new law will make the UK the “safest place to be online”, but this isn’t something that can happen overnight. Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, is in charge of turning the legislation into something they can actually regulate. By the regulator’s own calculations, this process will take months.

There are many who view the bill as poorly thought out, with potential overreach that could conflict with fundamental human rights. The Open Rights Group has raised serious concerns around privacy and freedom of expression.

The challenges of regulating the internet

There are also aspects of the bill that are, currently, technically impossible. For example, the expectation that platforms will inspect the content of private, end-to-end encrypted messages to ensure that there is no criminal activity (for example, sexual communication with children) on their platforms – this cannot be done without violating the privacy afforded by these technologies.

If platforms are expected to provide “back doors” to technology designed to ensure that communications are private, they may contradict privacy and human rights law. At present, there is no way to grant some people access to encrypted communications without weakening the security of the communications for everyone. Some platforms have said they will leave the UK if such erosions in encryption are enacted.

There is a rich history of governments wrongly assuming encryption can be accessed that is not being reflected upon in current debates.

Furthermore, age verification and estimation technology is not yet foolproof, or indeed accurate enough to determine someone’s exact age. Yoti, a leading age verification and estimation technology provider has stated that their technology could correctly predict a user aged 13-17 being “under 25” 99.9% of the time. It’s entirely possible that many young adults would be falsely identified as being minors – which might prevent them from accessing legal content. There have been previous attempts to legislate age verification for pornography providers (such as in the 2017 Digital Economy Act), which the UK repealed due to the complexities of implementation.

While technology continues to develop, it seems unlikely there will be perfect implementations anytime soon for these issues.

What is ‘harmful’ content?

The other major argument against the bill is that, even with the best of intentions, the protections designed to keep children safe could have a chilling impact on freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Previous versions of the bill placed expectations on platforms to explicitly tackle “legal but harmful” content for adults. This was defined at the time as content that would be viewed as offensive by a “reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities”. While these provisions are now removed, there is still a great deal of intangibility around what it means to protect children from “harmful” content.

Outside of illegal content, who decides what is harmful?

Platforms will be expected to make rules around content they deem might be harmful to certain users, and censor it before it can be published. As a result, this might also prevent children from accessing information related to gender and sexuality that could be caught up in the filtering and monitoring systems platforms will put in place. Without a clear definition of what harmful content is, it will be down to platforms to guess – and with moving goalposts, depending on the government of the day.

A young girl holding an ipad sits next to her mother on a sofa. The mother has her own laptop but is looking at her daughter's iPad screen.
Young people want adult support in dealing with what they see online – not regulation banning them from seeing it.
Prostock-studio/Shutterstock

What would actually make the internet safe?

As someone who researches the ethics of technology and the habits of young people online, my concern is that this bill will be viewed as the solution to online harms – it clearly is not.

These measures, if effectively implemented, will make it more difficult for young people to stumble across content meant for adults, but they will not prevent the determined teenager. Furthermore, a lot of intimate content shared by young people is shared between peers and not accessed via platforms, so this legislation will do nothing to tackle this.

I often to speak to young people about what help they would like to be safer online. They rarely ask for risk assessments and age verification technologies – they want better education and more informed adults to help them when things go wrong. Far better, young people tell me, to provide people with the knowledge to understand the risks, and how to mitigate them, rather than demanding they are stopped by the platforms.

I am reminded of a quote from the American cybersecurity researcher Marcus Ranum: “You can’t solve social problems with software.”The Conversation

Andy Phippen, Professor of IT Ethics and Digital Rights, Bournemouth University

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