Tagged / the conversation

How culture influences children’s development

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

By Dr Ching-Yu HuangBournemouth University.

From educational toys to governmental guidelines and detailed nursery progress reports, there are lots of resources available to help parents track and facilitate their children’s development. But while there are tricks we can use to teach children to talk, count, draw or respect others, a surprisingly big part of how they develop is determined by the culture they grow up in.

Child development is a dynamic, interactive process. Every child is unique in interacting with the world around them, and what they invoke and receive from others and the environment also shapes how they think and behave. Children growing up in different cultures receive specific inputs from their environment. For that reason, there’s a vast array of cultural differences in children’s beliefs and behaviour.

Language is one of the many ways through which culture affects development. We know from research on adultsthat languages forge how people think and reason. Moreover, the content and focus of what people talk about in their conversations also vary across cultures. As early as infancy, mothers from different cultures talk to their babies differently. German mothers tend to focus on their infants’ needs, wishes or them as a person. Mothers of the African tribal group Nso, on the other hand, focus more on social context. This can include the child’s interactions with other people and the rules surrounding it.

Masai children. Syndromeda/Shutterock

This early exposure affects the way children attend to themselves or to their relationship with others – forming their self image and identity. For example, in Western European and North American countries, children tend to describe themselves around their unique characteristics – such as “I am smart” or “I am good at drawing”. In Asian, African, Southern European and South American countries, however, children describe themselves more often around their relationship with others and social roles. Examples of this include “I am my parents’ child” or “I am a good student”.

Because children in different cultures differ in how they think about themselves and relate to others, they also memorise events differently. For example, when preschoolers were asked to describe a recent special personal experience, European-American children provided more detailed descriptions, recalled more specific events and stressed their preferences, feelings and opinions about it more than Chinese and Korean children. The Asian children instead focused more on the people they had met and how they related to themselves.

Cultural effects of parenting

Parents in different cultures also play an important role in moulding children’s behaviour and thinking patterns. Typically, parents are the ones who prepare the children to interact with wider society. Children’s interaction with their parents often acts as the archetype of how to behave around others – learning a variety of socio-cultural rules, expectations and taboos. For example, young children typically develop a conversational style resembling their parents’ – and that often depends on culture.

European-American children frequently provide long, elaborative, self-focused narratives emphasising personal preferences and autonomy. Their interaction style also tends to be reciprocal, taking turns in talking. In contrast, Korean and Chinese children’s accounts are usually brief, relation-oriented, and show a great concern with authority. They often take a more passive role in the conversations. The same cultural variations in interaction are also evident when children talk with an independent interviewer.

Children in the Western world question their parents’ authority more. Gargonia/Shutterstock

Cultural differences in interactions between adults and children also influence how a child behaves socially. For instance, in Chinese culture, where parents assume much responsibility and authority over children, parents interact with children in a more authoritative manner and demand obedience from their children. Children growing up in such environments are more likely to comply with their parents’ requests, even when they are reluctant to do so.

By contrast, Chinese immigrant children growing up in England behave more similarly to English children, who are less likely to follow parental demands if unwilling.

From class to court

As the world is getting increasingly globalised, knowledge regarding cultural differences in children’s thinking, memory and how they interact with adults has important practical implications in many areas where you have to understand a child’s psychology. For instance, teachers may need to assess children who come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Knowing how children coming from a different culture think and talk differently can help the teacher better interview them as part of an oral academic test, for example.

Another important area is forensic investigations. Being aware that Chinese children tend to recall details regarding other people and be brief in their initial response to questions may enable the investigator to allow more time for narrative practice to prepare the child to answer open-ended questions and prompt them with follow up questions.

Also, knowing that Chinese children may be more sensitive and compliant to authority figures – and more obedient to a perpetrator within the family – an interviewer may need to spend more time in building rapport to help the child relax and reduce their perceived authority. They should also be prepared to be patient with reluctance in disclosing abuse within families.

While children are unique and develop at their own pace, the cultural influence on their development is clearly considerable. It may even affect how quickly children reach different developmental milestones, but research on this complicated subject is still inconclusive. Importantly, knowledge about cultural differences can also help us pin down what all children have in common: an insatiable curiosity about the world and a love for the people around them.


Dr Ching-Yu Huang, Lecturer in Psychology, Bournemouth University

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

Anthill Podcast 27: Confidence

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By Annabel Bligh, The Conversation; Gemma Ware, The Conversation, and Holly Squire, The Conversation.

Includes interview with BU’s Professor Keith Brown discussing confidence artists in financial scamming. [31:50 – 36:38]

This episode of The Anthill podcast digs into the concept of confidence. We start by finding out how scientists define confidence and how it works in the brain.

Producer Gemma Ware takes a confidence calibration test with the help of psychologist Eva Krockow at the University of Leicester, who also shares some of her research findings on whether expressing confidence about something is a good marker of being right about it. And neuroscientist Dan Bang from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, UCL, helps explain how a person’s brain computes their level of confidence about certain tasks – and why we need to be aware of the variety in people’s levels of confidence when making decisions as a group.

Then we take a look at how confidence can get us ahead in life – and in the workplace especially. Can you really fake it until you make it? Westminster University’s Chantal Gautier shares some of the findings from her book, The Psychology of Work, where she interviewed a number of industry leaders to discover what it is that makes organisations successful. Confidence is important. But that includes the confidence to admit your shortcomings and ask for help when you need it, she says.

With numerous studies suggesting that men show more confidence than women, we also examine the extent that this explains the gender pay gap. Are women just not leaning in enough?

Lean on in. Shutterstock

Recent research by Amanda Goodall at Cass Business School found that women are actually asking for pay rises at the same rate as men. They’re just not getting them. She helps us unpick the idea that you can fake it ‘til you make it and explains why leaders that are real experts in their field are better than those who aren’t.

Lastly, we turn to the dark side of confidence. The Conversation’s Holly Squire delves deep into the murky world of confidence tricksters, to find out what makes a con man (or woman) tick. Professional magician Gustav Kuhn at Goldsmiths University of London, details the deception involved in card trick scams. And Keith Brown from Bournemouth University explains the reality of financial scamming – and the terrible impact it can have on victims.


The Anthill theme music is by Alex Grey for Melody Loops. The song “I Have Confidence” is sung by Julie Andrews from the musical The Sound of Music by Rogers and Hammerstein. Music in the confidence definition segment is Into the Clouds by Nicolai Heidlas Music via YouTube.
Music in the confidence trickster segment is Curtains are Always Drawn by Kai Engel, and Land of Magic by Frank Dorittke from the Free Music Archive.

Click here to listen to more episodes of The Anthill, on themes including Twins, Intuition, and Pain. And browse other podcasts from The Conversation here.

Thank you to City, University of London’s Department of Journalism for letting us use their studios to record The Anthill.


Annabel Bligh, Business + Economy Editor, The Conversation; Gemma Ware, Society Editor, The Conversation, and Holly Squire, Commissioning Editor, The Conversation

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

How farms can help improve the lives of disadvantaged young people

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A visiting farmer tends the animals. Future Roots, Author provided

By Dr Sarah Hambidge (Post-Doctoral Researcher), Bournemouth University.

A couple of years ago, I met Adam (not his real name) at a farm in Dorset. Adam was 14 and had been excluded from mainstream education due to behavioural difficulties and a disruptive home life. He had consequently become involved in regular underage drinking and antisocial behaviour. Adam was being exploited and groomed as a drug runner for a London drug gang infiltrating rural areas. He told me that he had been given a knife by gang members and encouraged to use it to protect himself if necessary against rival gangs or local drug dealers.

The farm where I met him is not a normal farm, but a social one, where the therapeutic use of farming practices and animal assisted therapy is used to provide health, social and educational care services for disadvantaged young people that have become disengaged with mainstream education. Stories such as Adam’s are growing increasingly familiar to staff at the farm he attended, who see other vulnerable young people referred to their service.

Learning new skills. Sarah Hambidge

Many of the young people living in rural Britain who are being exploited by these gangs are, like Adam, those who are disengaged with mainstream education and are at risk of becoming, or currently are, NEET (not in education, employment or training). There are 808,000 young people (aged 16-24) in the UK who are NEET.

Being NEET has a long-term impact on a young person’s life, leaving them vulnerable to substance misuse, offending behaviour, physical and mental health problems, academic underachievement and reduced employment. These young people are subsequently regarded as a concern to the police, health, education and social care professionals.

Yet current interventions are failing to reduce the number of young people becoming NEET. These interventions typically focus on providing the young person with vocational education, despite the fact that the most common vocational qualifications in the UK have very little or no relevance to the labour market.

Interventions that offer a restorative approach, with therapeutic support and a focus on learning, however, are acknowledged to be more successful.

Farm animal therapy. Sarah Hambridge

A green future

Earlier this year, the government launched a 25-year environment plan. The plan acknowledged the importance of connecting children and young people to nature through learning, as well as the benefits of a physical, hands-on experience as a pathway to good health and well-being. The government has pledged £10m to support local strategies which use the natural environment and has further committed to a national expansion of social farming by 2022. This will treble the number of available places to 1.3m per year for children and adults in England.

On social farms, health, social or specialist educational care services for vulnerable people are delivered through structured programmes of farming-related activities. Social farming is established in numerous European countries. Norway currently operates 1,100 social farms, compared to 240 in the UK.

Taking a break on the farm. Sarah Hambidge

Young people participate in a variety of seasonal farming-related activities, including animal husbandry, crop and vegetable production and woodland management. Social farming has been found to have a positive impact on physical and mental health along with the opportunity to develop transferable skills, personal development, social inclusion and rehabilitation.

Social farming

When I met Adam, I was in the midst of a research project evaluating whether a year-long farming intervention can prevent disengaged young people from low-socioeconomic backgrounds becoming NEET. Participants typically attend a four-hour session once a week at the farm.

Future roots, the farm I researched, employs a mix of teachers, youth and social workers and therapists. It offers a different model of learning for those struggling in mainstream education. My research demonstrated that the use of the natural environment as a mechanism for change was effective in reducing the risk of becoming NEET.

The young people learn to care for a variety of animals. Sarah Hambidge

The young people I followed displayed a significant reduction in self-reported mental health risks and behavioural regulation difficulties; improved social relationships and coping; improved life and work skills; and re-engagement with learning. All of the young people were in employment or training six months after their time at the social farm finished.

Indeed, the social farm was the only place where Adam said he felt safe. He was able to develop a sense of belonging and trust which enabled him to talk about the difficulties he was experiencing in his life. Without the social farm intervention, staff said that Adam would likely have proceeded to harm himself or others. The farmer refers to the changes seen in the young people as a “chrysalis butterfly effect”: the positive transformation seen in these young people as they turn their lives around to look to the future are truly inspiring.


Dr Sarah Hambidge, Postdoctoral Researcher, Bournemouth University

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

World Cup online betting is the highest it’s ever been

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The 2018 World Cup inspires new gamblers. Shutterstock

By Dr Raian Ali, Bournemouth University; Dr Emily Arden-Close, Bournemouth University; Dr John McAlaney, Bournemouth University, and Keith Phalp, Bournemouth University.

Sports betting is worth up to £625 billion per year, with 70% of that trade reckoned to come from football. During big sporting competitions, such as the World Cup, even more money is spent gambling than usual. Over the 2018 World Cup, bookmakers are estimated to make a profit of US$36.4 billion (£41.3 billion). And in the UK, the amount of money spent on gambling during the World Cup is expected to more than double from £1 billion in 2014 to £2.5 billion this year.

Sports gambling is being driven by the unlimited availability of online betting and the fact that no physical money is exchanged, making financial transactions seem less real. The vast amount of data that online gambling sites collect also enables them to personalise offers to individual gamblers. Instead, this data should be used to help people gamble responsibly by warning users in real-time that they are exhibiting problematic gambling behaviours.

For many people, gambling isn’t just a fun novelty every four years. About 430,000 citizens in the UK can be identified as problem gamblers. These individuals have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds online, which has impacted not only the gamblers but also their families.

High profile but infrequent betting events such as the Word Cup exacerbate the issues that problem gamblers face. Seeing others engage in betting, coupled with the advertisements from betting firms, leads problem gamblers to attempt to convince themselves that they do not have a problem. Environmental cues can also trigger the urge to gamble in those who have a gambling problem. So, the intensive advertising used by betting firms during the World Cup, along with media coverage of the World Cup in general, may further push problem gamblers towards making harmful decisions.

Watching your habit

Online gambling sites have an infinite memory for bets – when made, for how much, regarding what, and so on. This data is a rich source that websites use for tailoring offers and marketing material to fit a gambler’s potential interests. But this personalisation exploits cognitive biases in gamblers and encourages them to increase risk-taking and by extension, gambling.

There is only a fine line between the legitimate marketing and personalisation of content and offers on the one hand and exploitation and manipulation on the other. For example, the tracking of a gambler’s betting pattern means the gambler can be targeted with offers following heavy losses, encouraging them to chase losses even further.

But this same data could also be used to support reductions in problem gambling, either led by gamblers themselves or with the support of a counsellor or software. Such transparency could enhance the image of the gambling industry and make responsible gambling a shared responsibility between gamblers and bookmakers.

A chance for change

In our EROGamb project, funded by GambleAware and Bournemouth University, we advocate a policy change where gambling sites provide gambling behavioural data to gamblers and their surrogates in real-time.

This data would provide an unprecedented opportunity to tackle problem gambling. For example, the data could lead to the app informing gamblers that they are exhibiting problematic gambling patterns. The real-time collection of information such as “the gambler has reached the monthly spending limit” could trigger a message visualising their past betting behaviour and a reminder of a commitment already made.




Read more:
Fixed-odds betting terminal cap must be just the start of gambling regulation


In our studies, digital addicts, including online gambling addicts, have indicated that having access to such data would act as a wake-up call, raising awareness. Digital media users, in general, like to be in control of their usage through labels and awareness tools.

Similar facilities have started to exist in mainstream digital media. For example, on Google, it is now possible to download your data and on Facebook to download your profile data history of interaction, but not currently as real-time streaming of data as actions happen.

How to retrieve and use gambling-related data for being more in-control of gambling behaviour.
The EROGamb Project

Challenges

We understand the barriers to implementing this vision. Gambling operators may not have such data readily available and may even rely on third parties to offer certain games. Some also fear that gamblers might share the data with competitor gambling sites, giving away information about marketing practices. But the General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR) right to data portability holds that gamblers shall not be prevented from accessing and sharing their data.

Given the advantages, and also the increased demand for transparency, this would eventually become the recommended practice for demonstrating advanced corporate social responsibility and inspiring the trust of the public and clients in the gambling industry. We are preparing a charter for the gambling industry towards a commitment for that.

The rise of online gambling, combined with the record amount of money being spent on gambling at this year’s World Cup makes this the perfect time to discuss what we can do to prevent and combat gambling addiction. Simply by using data to help people be better aware of their gambling habits, rather than hooking them back into their next bet, gambling sites could make a massive difference.


More evidence-based articles related to the World Cup:

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

Why this football tournament should be called the men’s World Cup

By Dr Jayne Caudwell, Bournemouth University

The globalisation of football means it can now be found in most parts of the world. It is celebrated as the national sport in many countries. But, we forget that “football” actually means “men’s football”. It’s the same with other popular sports – our habit is to refer to basketball and women’s basketball, cricket and women’s cricket, ice hockey and women’s ice hockey. This naming places men’s football as the dominant universal and natural norm, while women’s football becomes the “other” version.

If we want a level football playing field, then “football” should be redefined by changing our reference to tournaments, championships and leagues to “men’s football” if that is what is being played. It’s time we started referring to the men’s football World Cup, just as we refer to the women’s football World Cup.

Women and girls have long been treated as second-class citizens in the many worlds of football, including playing, officiating, governing and spectating. And indeed, in the build up to the 2018 men’s World Cup, there was much discussion about racism and homophobia – but practically none about football, gender, sexism and misogyny.

The histories of the development of football in most countries around the world show that women and girls have been denied access to pitches, equipment, coaches, training, stadiums and financial support. These material opportunities are important because they enable and validate participation – and full football citizenship.

Finland takes on Austria in a qualifier for the 2019 Women’s World Cup. EPA

Media sport pages cover men’s sport. During the football season, the coverage is dominated by stories of men’s football. Women footballers seem to not exist. The sport press obliterates them.

But women and girls are playing, officiating, spectating and commentating on the game in ever increasing numbers around the world. The England women’s team outperforms the men’s team on the European and world stage. They are currently ranked ten places higher, in second position. And yet, the gender pay gap in football is atrocious.

Ignoring sexism

While Russia, as host of the men’s football World Cup 2018, has been criticised for its poor record in dealing with homophobic and racist abuse, nothing has been said about gender-based abuse or discrimination.

Instead, ahead of the men’s World Cup, Russian MPs have been arguing over whether Russian women should or should not have sex with visiting (presumably male) football fans. The UK Foreign Office released advice on race and LGBT concerns, but there’s nothing on how sexist chanting can make men’s football a hostile environment for women. You only need to look at the sexism experienced by doctor Eva Carneiro and assistant referee Helen Byrne in the men’s premier league to see how this plays out.

What’s more, many of the concerns about homophobia and racism at the men’s World Cup stem from wider cultural issues in Russia. The same problems are evident with sexism and misogyny, yet they are curiously absent from the discussion when it comes to football. Cultural problems that affect men extend into the sporting arena, but not those that affect women.

In 2017, the Russian parliament passed legislation loosening laws on domestic violence. Russian women who support the #MeToo movement have come up against draconian assembly laws that say only one person is permitted to make a public protest.

There are no campaigns in international men’s football that aim to stop sexism, or call for anti-sexism and an end to gender-based violence.

Meanwhile, the women and girls who have fought hard to play football often encounter negative responses from the general public and from the media. Sport sociologists have found that sportswomen are trivialised, sexualised and experience symbolic annihilation – they simply don’t exist in images of the sport. A recent poster depicting Iranian fans is a prime example. Not a single female face features.

Women’s and girls’ sporting achievements are reduced as a result of ridicule. Their bodies are considered sexual objects rather than for playing sport. Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s comment that women should play in tighter shorts to attract more fans to the game is a classic example of this. More recently, feminist author Laura Bates challenged FIFA for describing player Alex Morgan as “easy on the eye and good looks to match” as well as the FA for tweeting about “lionesses go back to being mothers, partners and daughters” after playing in the women’s World Cup.

It’s easy to imagine that this men’s World Cup in Russia will continue to disregard gender, sexism and misogyny. And yet, sport, specifically football, has potential to incite change, and reform.

Renaming to men’s football is an easy and simple step in the direction towards equality. We may as well start with the men’s World Cup 2018.


Jayne Caudwell, Associate Professor Leisure Cultures, Bournemouth University

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

The secret information hidden in your hair

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Shutterstock

 

By Dr Richard Paul, Bournemouth University.

Your hair can say a lot about you. It doesn’t just give people clues about your personality or your taste in music. It can also record evidence of how much you drink, whether you smoke or take drugs, and perhaps even how stressed you are. My colleagues and I research how hair can be used to provide more accurate testing for these attributes. And a recent court case shows how far the technology has come.

In 2008, a mother who had been struggling with alcohol abuse was asked by a UK court judging a child custody case to abstain from drinking for one year. To assess whether she managed to do this, scientists used a hair analysis that can detect long-term drug or alcohol abuse (or abstinence) over a period of many months, from just one test.

This case turned out to be a landmark moment for toxicological hair analysis. The labs analysing the mother’s hair suggested that she may have been drinking during the time she was supposed to be abstinent. The case ended up in the High Court, where the scientific principles underlying hair testing and, crucially, the way the results are reported were thoroughly debated. The judge was critical of the interpretation of the hair analysis data and disagreed with the scientists, ruling that there was no evidence to support drinking during the defined time-period.

Fast forward to 2017 and hair analysis featured in the High Court again. Yet this time the reliability of hair testing was confirmed. A lot changed in the intervening years between these cases. Technology advanced but, importantly, so did our understanding of what hair analysis data actually means.

The traditional samples for drug and alcohol testing are blood and urine. These provide evidence for cases where we require an indication of exposure to drugs and alcohol in a very recent time frame. These samples have what is referred to as a “window of detection”. This is a timeframe over which that sample can demonstrate exposure to drugs or alcohol. The window of detection for blood is often measured in hours, and urine can show evidence over a few days, possibly a few weeks.

By contrast, hair can show a retrospective history of your drug or alcohol consumption (or abstinence) over many months. This level of information makes hair testing invaluable in a wide variety of legal scenarios. If you need to screen potential employees for a safety-critical role, you can use a hair test to check they are not regular drug users. What if you’re concerned your drink was spiked at a party, but too much time has passed for any drug to still be found in your blood or urine? The drugs can remain trapped in your hair, which gives you a longer window of detection and allows scientists to find traces of the drug long after the actual crime event.

Ready for my close up. Shutterstock

My research group is investigating factors that affect the hair concentration of certain chemicals produced when the body ​processes alcohol (metabolites). This sort of work is important to give confidence to the results of hair testing when presented in court. We need the utmost confidence in the data, when a court judgment may have life-changing consequences.

We recently showed that hair sprays and waxes can greatly increase the level of alcohol metabolites found in hair, giving a false positive result in an alcohol test. In one of our experiments, a volunteer who was strictly teetotal tested negative for fatty acid ethyl esters (metabolites of alcohol) in head hair untreated with hair spray, but tested positive after application of hair spray. Not just a little positive either. The volunteer tested significantly over the threshold for chronic excessive alcohol consumption after using hair spray.

This may sound alarming for a test that is used in court, but now that scientists are aware of these limitations, procedures can be put in place to mitigate against them and guidance can be updated. Ethyl glucuronide (a different alcohol metabolite) is not affected by hair sprays and waxes and so is a better target to test when someone uses cosmetic products.

Other ways of testing

Hair is not the only alternative to blood and urine testing. I’m currently investigating whether fingernails might be a better sample to test in cases where we need to prove abstinence from alcohol. It has been shown that fingernails may incorporate significantly more ethyl glucuronide (an alcohol metabolite) than hair samples. This means fingernails may be more sensitive than hair and could be better at distinguishing low levels of drinking and complete abstinence.

Toxicological hair analysis is not about catching criminals. It’s not about penalty or punishment. It’s about helping people. Results from hair testing can help support people struggling with addiction. In the future I hope we will also be using hair analysis as a diagnostic tool in healthcare.

The research I’m conducting at the moment is evaluating the potential for hair to be used as a diagnostic marker of chronic stress. Stress can lead to very serious healthcare issues. We are examining the stress hormone cortisol to see if we can identify people at risk from future healthcare issues from the concentration of this hormone in hair.

If successful, this work will take hair analysis into a new realm. I’d like to see a future where hair testing is used for a national screening programme for older adults who are most at risk from chronic stress. This could allow scientists to target interventions to lower stress at people who need them the most, which could significantly improve the health and well-being of older people in particular.


Richard Paul, Principal Academic in Biological Chemistry, Bournemouth University

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

Digital addiction: how technology keeps us hooked

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There are a number of reasons why you can’t get away from your screen. shutterstock

By Dr Raian Ali, Bournemouth University; Dr Emily Arden-Close, Bournemouth University, and Dr John McAlaney, Bournemouth University

The World Health Organisation is to include “gaming disorder”, the inability to stop gaming, into the International Classification of Diseases. By doing so, the WHO is recognising the serious and growing problem of digital addiction. The problem has also been acknowledged by Google, which recently announced that it will begin focusing on “Digital Well-being”.

Although there is a growing recognition of the problem, users are still not aware of exactly how digital technology is designed to facilitate addiction. We’re part of a research team that focuses on digital addiction and here are some of the techniques and mechanisms that digital media use to keep you hooked.

Compulsive checking

Digital technologies, such as social networks, online shopping, and games, use a set of persuasive and motivational techniques to keep users returning. These include “scarcity” (a snap or status is only temporarily available, encouraging you to get online quickly); “social proof” (20,000 users retweeted an article so you should go online and read it); “personalisation” (your news feed is designed to filter and display news based on your interest); and “reciprocity” (invite more friends to get extra points, and once your friends are part of the network it becomes much more difficult for you or them to leave).

Some digital platforms use features normally associated with slot machines. Antoine Taveneaux/Wikimedia, CC BY

Technology is designed to utilise the basic human need to feel a sense of belonging and connection with others. So, a fear of missing out, commonly known as FoMO, is at the heart of many features of social media design.

Groups and forums in social media promote active participation. Notifications and “presence features” keep people notified of each others’ availability and activities in real-time so that some start to become compulsive checkers. This includes “two ticks” on instant messaging tools, such as Whatsapp. Users can see whether their message has been delivered and read. This creates pressure on each person to respond quickly to the other.

The concepts of reward and infotainment, material which is both entertaining and informative, are also crucial for “addictive” designs. In social networks, it is said that “no news is not good news”. So, their design strives always to provide content and prevent disappointment. The seconds of anticipation for the “pull to refresh” mechanism on smartphone apps, such as Twitter, is similar to pulling the lever of a slot machine and waiting for the win.

Most of the features mentioned above have roots in our non-tech world. Social networking sites have not created any new or fundamentally different styles of interaction between humans. Instead they have vastly amplified the speed and ease with which these interactions can occur, taking them to a higher speed, and scale.

Addiction and awareness

People using digital media do exhibit symptoms of behavioural addiction. These include salience, conflict, and mood modification when they check their online profiles regularly. Often people feel the need to engage with digital devices even if it is inappropriate or dangerous for them to do so. If disconnected or unable to interact as desired, they become preoccupied with missing opportunities to engage with their online social networks.

According to the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom, 15m UK internet users (around 34% of all internet users) have tried a “digital detox”. After being offline, 33% of participants reported feeling an increase in productivity, 27% felt a sense of liberation, and 25% enjoyed life more. But the report also highlighted that 16% of participants experienced the fear of missing out, 15% felt lost and 14% “cut-off”. These figures suggest that people want to spend less time online, but they may need help to do so.

Gaming disorder is to be recognised by the WHO.

At the moment, tools that enable people to be in control of their online experience, presence and online interaction remain very primitive. There seem to be unwritten expectations for users to adhere to social norms of cyberspace once they accept participation.

But unlike other mediums for addiction, such as alcohol, technology can play a role in making its usage more informed and conscious. It is possible to detect whether someone is using a phone or social network in an anxious, uncontrolled manner. Similar to online gambling, users should have available help if they wish. This could be a self-exclusion and lock-out scheme. Users can allow software to alert them when their usage pattern indicates risk.

The borderline between software which is legitimately immersive and software which can be seen as “exploitation-ware” remains an open question. Transparency of digital persuasion design and education about critical digital literacy could be potential solutions.


Raian Ali, Associate Professor in Computing and Informatics, Bournemouth University; Emily Arden-Close, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Bournemouth University, and John McAlaney, Principal Academic in Psychology, Bournemouth University

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

Autism screening tool may not pick up women with the condition

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Nikodash/Shutterstock.com

By Rachel Moseley, Bournemouth University and Julie Kirkby, Bournemouth University

Diagnosing autism is expensive and time consuming, so a screening tool is used to filter out those people who are unlikely to be diagnosed as autistic. This is all well and good, but our latest research suggests that a widely used screening tool may be biased towards diagnosing more men than women.

Earlier studies have cast doubt on the ability of one of the leading screening tools, called Autism-Spectrum Quotient, to accurately identify people with autism. Our study decided to look at another screening tool that hasn’t yet been investigated: the Ritvo Autism Asperger Diagnostic Scale-Revised (RAADS-R), a widely used questionnaire for assessing autism in adults with average or above average intelligence.

We compiled the RAADS-R scores of over 200 people who had a formal diagnosis of autism. We compared scores between autistic men and autistic women on four different symptom areas: difficulties with social relationships, difficulties with language, unusual sensory experiences or motor problems, and “circumscribed interests” (a tendency to have very strong, fixed interests).

As there are known sex differences in these areas – for example, with women being better at hiding social and communicative difficulties, and men being more likely to show obvious, and hence easier to detect, circumscribed interests – we wanted to know whether RAADS-R was able to pick up these differences.




Read more:
Changing the face of autism: here come the girls


Our analysis showed that it didn’t: we found no sex differences in RAADS-R scores between autistic men and women in social relatedness, language and circumscribed interests.

A possible explanation for this result is that, since RAADS-R depends on people accurately judging and reporting their own symptoms, sex differences may only emerge when behaviour is diagnosed by an experienced clinician. Previous studies have shown that autistic people often lack insight into their own behaviour and find it difficult to report their own symptoms.

Another likely reason for finding no sex difference in autism traits is that this and most other studies only include autistic people who have received a formal diagnosis through assessment with the very tools and tests we are investigating. As diagnostic and screening tools (including RAADS-R) were developed with male samples, they are most likely to identify autistic women with the most male-like profiles.

This might explain why fewer women tend to be diagnosed. It could be, then, that the screening tests filter out all of the autistic women with more female-like autism traits, and the autistic women with more male-like traits go on to be diagnosed. Or it could be that the underlying sample is biased because the formal diagnostic tools select people with more male-like traits, and the screening tool merely reflects this underlying bias.

Our results could show that our sample didn’t represent a diverse range of autistic women, then. And this is a problem that affects all research on sex differences in autism.




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As more males than females have received a diagnosis of autism, many of the theories we have about autism are based on these diagnosed cases, and, as a result, may only apply to males. Likewise, as we base our screening tools and diagnostic tools on males who have been diagnosed, we may only pick up women who show male-like symptoms.

We could be missing the women who have very different, more female presentations of autism, but who still show the core features that are central to the diagnosis. These include problems with social interaction, communication and restricted behaviour and interests.

Because screening and diagnostic tests focus on the most common, male manifestations of these core symptoms, females tend to be overlooked. Circumscribed interests in males, for example, are more likely to be based on unusual topics, whereas girls and women may centre their interests on things like celebrities or fashion, only the intensity of the interest sets them apart from non-autistic females.

One clear difference

There was only one prominent sex difference that emerged in our study: autistic women reported more sensory differences and motor problems than autistic men. Sensory and motor symptoms are common in autism. People may be over or under sensitive to sights, sounds, touches, smells and tastes, and are often clumsy and poorly coordinated.

Some autistic people are sensitive to certain fabrics. Purino/Shutterstock.com

This self-reported finding, that women have more sensory and motor symptoms than men, needs to be investigated more thoroughly. However, it appears to be consistent with a few studies that have found that autistic women do have more sensory and motor symptoms than men.

If these types of symptoms are especially problematic for autistic women, they could be important for providing a diagnosis. Although RAADS-R measures sensory and motor symptoms, they play a very minor role in gold-standard diagnostic tests, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule.

The importance of a diagnosis?

Efforts are now underway to develop screening tools that are better at identifying autism in females.

Diagnosis is important for autistic people for many reasons. For example, it is the only way they can access support services, such as dedicated support workers to help them with activities at home or in daily life. They might also receive financial support if they need it. (Unemployment affects most of the autistic population and may in part be due to high levels of mental illness in this group.)

Other people have spoken about how having a diagnosis has helped them understand the struggles they’ve faced in their lives – that these things weren’t their fault. And it has helped them meet other people who accept them for who they are.


Rachel Moseley, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Bournemouth University and Julie Kirkby, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Bournemouth University

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

Tessa Jowell’s farsighted vision for media literacy was ahead of its time

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Forward thinker: Tessa Jowell in 2007. More Than Gold UK, CC BY-NC

By Dr Richard Wallis, Bournemouth University

The untimely death from cancer of former UK Labour cabinet minister, Dame Tessa Jowell, has triggered a wave of tributes from across the political spectrum. Her vision for securing the 2012 Olympics for London, her formative role in New Labour’s flagship Sure Start scheme, and most recently, her campaign for cancer research, have all been given many column inches.

By contrast, Jowell’s less certain legacy as principal advocate for media literacy is barely given a mention. It seems to have been quietly forgotten that it was Jowell, as secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport, that pushed through parliament the Communications Act 2003 which enshrined media literacy in law, and gave to Ofcom – the (then new) media “super-regulator” – the responsibility to “promote” the idea.

Media literacy existed as a New Labour policy well before Jowell’s turn at the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS). Her predecessor, Chris Smith, believed that the concept was a useful one for “arming the citizen-consumer” of media, to make responsible choices in a period of increasing deregulation.

To the dismay of some of her own policy advisors, Jowell seized the concept, made it her own, and became a fervent advocate at every opportunity. In an address given at BAFTA the year following the Communications Act, she referred to media literacy as “a coming subject” and one that “in five years’ time will be just another given”.

Misplaced optimism

With the benefit of hindsight, Jowell’s optimism seems to have been misplaced. Media literacy, arguably, has never been lower on the political agenda. The plethora of initiatives that sprang up in the wake of the Communications Act have largely withered on the vine – and the process of recent reforms to the popular Media Studies A-level have seen the subject savagely “strangled”.

Yet Jowell’s argument for media education has never been more relevant. “It is important,” she insisted, “that we know when we are watching ‘accurate and impartial’ news coverage and when we are not”. These are prescient comments when you consider that they were made more than a decade before “post-truth” became the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year (in 2016) and when terms such as “fake news” or “Leveson Inquiry” had yet to pass anyone’s lips.

Jowell believed that education in media opened opportunities that could enrich the experience of individuals and society – but she was equally exercised about the role that education had to play in protecting against some of the dangers of modern media. She thought that media were dominated by powerful and potentially harmful commercial and political interests. She believed that children, in particular, should be provided with “critical life skills” to guide their media consumption.

“It is transparently important,” she told a media literacy seminar in 2004, “that they should be helped to get the most from all those screen hours, and be protected from what we know are some of the worst excesses”. She went on to ensure that, from 2006, the BBC Charter also contained requirements to promote media literacy.

Where did it go so wrong?

The key to understanding the marginalisation of media literacy as government policy is the role of the Department for Education – once known as the Department for Education and Skills(DfES). Media education was not seen as a serious curriculum priority at the DfES, and – despite New Labour’s early insistence on “joined-up government” – enthusiasm for media literacy never spread beyond the confines of DCMS.

There was widespread ignorance about media education among civil servants within DfES, many of whom had had highly traditional educational experiences themselves. A preoccupation with “driving up” standards, measurability and international comparison provided little incentive for the promotion of a field of study concerned with recognising and understanding forms of popular (or “low”) culture. This was despite the apparent economic value being attributed to the “creative industries” at the same time.




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The byzantine operation of the DfES also made change of any kind difficult – particularly where it touched on what was actually taught in schools. In this case, there was the added disincentive of a policy being driven by a separate –and junior – department. Ultimately, media literacy was never to be widely embraced as an educational project in the way that Jowell had hoped.

Media literacy remains on the statute book and Ofcom continues to have a responsibility to promote it. But the way it is defined – and the level of resources provided to support it – ensure that it has largely been reduced to a form of market research, an undead policy. Jowell once proclaimed:

I believe that in the modern world, media literacy will become as important a skill as maths or science. Decoding our media will become as important to our lives as citizens as understanding literature is to our cultural lives.

It may be too much to hope that media literacy could yet be reclaimed as one of Tessa Jowell’s essential legacies.


Richard Wallis, Principal Academic in Media Production, Faculty of Media & Communication, Bournemouth University

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

Sunken Nazi U-boat discovered: why archaeologists like me should leave it on the seabed

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Sea War Museum

By Innes McCartney, Bournemouth University.

The collapsing Nazi government ordered all U-boats in German ports to make their way to their bases in Norway on May 2, 1945. Two days later, the recently commissioned U-3523 joined the mission as one of the most advanced boats in the fleet. But to reach their destination, the submarines had to pass through the bottleneck of the Skagerrak – the strait between Norway and Denmark – and the UK’s Royal Air Force was waiting for them. Several U-boats were sunk and U-3523 was destroyed in an air attack by a Liberator bomber.

U-3523 lay undiscovered on the seabed for over 70 years until it was recently located by surveyors from the Sea War Museum in Denmark. Studying the vessel will be of immense interest to professional and amateur historians alike, not least as a way of finally putting to rest the conspiracy theory that the boat was ferrying prominent Nazis to Argentina. But sadly, recovering U-3523 is not a realistic proposition. The main challenges with such wrecks lie in accurately identifying them, assessing their status as naval graves and protecting them for the future.

U-boat wrecks like these from the end of World War II are the hardest to match to historical records. The otherwise meticulous record keeping of the Kriegsmarine (Nazi navy) became progressively sparser, breaking down completely in the last few weeks of the war. But Allied records have helped determine that this newly discovered wreck is indeed U-3523. The sea where this U-boat was located was heavily targeted by the RAF because it knew newly-built boats would flee to Norway this way.

Identification

The detailed sonar scans of the wreck site show that it is without doubt a Type XXI U-boat, of which U-3523 was the only one lost in the Skagerrak and unaccounted for. These were new types of submarines that contained a number of innovations which had the potential to make them dangerous opponents. This was primarily due to enlarged batteries, coupled to a snorkel, which meant they could stay permanently underwater. Part of the RAF’s mission was to prevent any of these new vessels getting to sea to sink Allied ships, and it successfully prevented any Type XXI U-boats from doing so.

The Type XXI U-3008. Wikipedia

With the U-boat’s identity correctly established, we now know that it is the grave site of its crew of 58 German servicemen. As such, the wreck should either be left in peace or, more implausibly, recovered and the men buried on land. Germany lost over 800 submarines at sea during the two world wars and many have been found in recent years. It is hopelessly impractical to recover them all, so leaving them where they are is the only real option.

Under international law all naval wrecks are termed “sovereign immune”, which means they will always be the property of the German state despite lying in Danish waters. But Denmark has a duty to protect the wreck, especially if Germany asks it to do so.

Protection

Hundreds of wartime wreck sites such as U-3523 are under threat around the world from metal thieves and grave robbers. The British cruiser HMS Exeter, which was sunk in the Java Sea on May 1, 1942, has been entirely removed from the seabed for scrap. And wrecks from the 1916 Battle of Jutland that also lie partly in Danish waters have seen industrial levels of metal theft. These examples serve as a warning that organised criminals will target shipwrecks of any age for the metals they contain.

Detailed sonar scans have been taken. Sea War Museum

Germany and the UK are among a number of countries currently pioneering the use of satellite monitoring to detect suspicious activity on shipwrecks thought to be under threat. This kind of monitoring could be a cost-effective way to save underwater cultural heritage from criminal activity and its use is likely to become widespread in the next few years.

Recovery

The recovery cost is only a small fraction of the funds needed to preserve and display an iron object that has been immersed in the sea for many years. So bringing a wreck back to the surface should not be undertaken lightly. In nearly all cases of salvaged U-boats, the results have been financially ruinous. Lifting barges that can raise shipwrecks using large cranes cost tens of thousands of pounds a day to charter. Once recovered, the costs of conservation and presentation mount astronomically as the boat will rapidly start to rust.

The U-boat U-534 was also sunk by the RAF in 1945, close to where U-3523 now lies. Its crew all evacuated that boat, meaning that she was not a grave when recovered from the sea in 1993 by Danish businessman Karsten Ree, allegedly in the somewhat incredible belief that it carried Nazi treasure. At a reported cost of £3m, the operation is thought to have been unprofitable. The boat contained nothing special, just the usual mundane objects carried on a U-boat at war.

U-534 after the rescue. Les Pickstock/Flickr, CC BY

Similar problems were experienced by the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in the UK when it raised the Holland 1 submarine in 1982. In that case, the costs of long-term preservation proved much greater than anticipated after the initial rust-prevention treatment failed to stop the boat corroding. It had to be placed in a sealed tank full of alkali sodium carbonate solution for four years until the corrosive chloride ions had been removed, and was then transferred to a purpose-built exhibition building to protect it further.

The expensive process of raising more sunken submarines will add little to our knowledge of life at sea during World War II. But each time a U-boat is found, it places one more jigsaw piece in its correct place, giving us a clearer picture of the history of the U-boat wars. This is the true purpose of archaeology.


Innes McCartney, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, Department of Archaeology, Anthropology and Forensic Science, Bournemouth University

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

Fit for nothing: where it all went wrong for Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games legacy

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PA, CC BY-SA

By Lynda Challis, Bournemouth University

“Our vision is to host a successful, safe and secure Games that deliver a lasting legacy for the whole of Scotland, and to maximise the opportunities in the run up to, during, and after the Games.”

This was the promise made by the Scottish government to the Commonwealth in 2014. In the 12 days of competition that followed, the city of Glasgow achieved a “hero-like status”, Team Scotland achieved its biggest-ever medal haul of 53 medals, and the games recorded the highest number of tickets sold for a sporting event in Scottish history.

Minister for sport Aileen Campbell hailed the event as a huge success by announcing that Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games was the largest sporting and cultural event ever held in Scotland and had changed the lives of thousands of people.

The message from the host nation was clear: the games were not just about showcasing elite athletes, but about delivering a legacy that would provide a flourishing economy, celebrate cultural diversity, embrace sustainable living, and create a more physically active nation. But four years on, not all those ambitions have been achieved.

Getting a nation off the couch

The games were considered a golden opportunity for Scotland to harness the power of sport to motivate a sedentary nation. A ten-year implementation plan was launched in 2014 to tackle physical inactivity across Scotland as well as myriad other initiatives to support communities in improving the local sporting infrastructure.

Two and a half years after the games, an interim report by the Scottish parliament’s Health and Sport Committee was undertaken to assess the progress made in increasing physical activity levels across Scotland.

The report concluded that there was no evidence of an active legacy being achievable. More alarmingly, any evidence of a relationship between the hosting of a major sporting event and raising the host nation’s physical activity levels was inconclusive.

This raises serious questions as to why such an ambitious legacy aim was included in the first place given the likelihood of failure. It could be that the Scottish government included the aim of increasing participation within its legacy pledge as a desperate attempt to address Scotland’s poor health profile, one of the worst in Europe.

Glasgow’s east end, the main site of the 2014 Commonwealth Games, is considered one of the poorest urban areas in Europe. Chris Perkins/Flickr, CC BY-SA

A final evaluation report on the impact of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games published by the Scottish government days before the opening ceremony of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games highlighted the harsh reality that the active legacy programme had not “resulted in a step change in population levels of physical activity in Scotland”.

In fact, the GoWell East study that tracked participant levels within the surrounding area of Glasgow found that overall rates had actually declined, with just over 53% achieving the recommended physical activity levels in 2016, compared to 62% in 2012.

However, the east end community surrounding the main games site is one of the most deprived areas in Scotland, with some of the worst statistics in Europe for child poverty, health, crime, and alcohol and drug abuse. This could account for the declines in physical activity levels in the east end of Glasgow as the underlying reasons behind social inequalities in sports participation is poverty – not having the income to spend on sport.

Policy fail

But Glasgow is not alone. Other nations hosting major sporting events have failed to capitalise on the perception that a sprinkling of magic over a big sports event will motivate a population to become active. Data that tracked participation levels of Australians before, during and after the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games found they had declined, due – ironically – to Australians spending more time watching sport on TV than taking part themselves.

Undoubtedly, many nations believe that elite sporting success and the hosting of major sporting events on home turf can encourage mass involvement, and in turn create an active nation. An example of this is London’s 2012 Olympic Games, which promised to “do something no other Olympic Games host nation had done before”: inspire a new generation of young people to get involved, get active and take part in sport. This bold statement from the UK government has since been questioned, because in fact, no previous games had even attempted to leverage improved physical activity as a legacy outcome.

Despite their glossy success, London’s Olympics also failed to improve rates of participation in sport. PA, CC BY-SA

It became abundantly clear post-London 2012 that the Olympic Legacy promise had failed to come to fruition with figures showing no more young people taking part in sport than before the games. As has been argued elsewhere, there is still a lack of robust evidence to suggest that the presumed trickle-down effect of hosting a major sporting event can trigger an increase in physical activity.

Big spend but no return

The failure of London 2012 and Glasgow 2014 to create and inspire a nation to get active is not really surprising. For more than 40 years, community sports policy in Britain has been plagued by failings to meet physical activity performance indicators set by governments.

This could be down to a variety of factors including: poor policy analysis to inform future policy-making decisions; overambitious or naïve participation targets; inadequate resources to deliver long-term programmes; and changes in direction leading to ambiguity regarding who is responsible for delivery.

Given these issues, it is understandable that grass-roots sport policies and major sporting events have failed to encourage more people to get active. Future government policy on community sport needs to have an all-party group commitment, that is evidence-based to ensure objectives are realistic. It needs to have a long-term plan and be adequately funded to ensure that there are real and lasting results.

In the end, we have to face a difficult truth: governments continue to invest in costly elite sport and big extravagant sporting events that come at the expense of community sport.


Lynda Challis, Academic in Sports Development, Bournemouth University

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

Hungary elections: it’s the most popular party on Facebook, so why haven’t you heard of the Two-Tailed Dog?

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EPA/Tibor Illyes

By Annamaria Neag, Bournemouth University and Richard Berger, Bournemouth University

With more than 278,000 followers on Facebook, Hungary’s Two-Tailed Dog Party was the the most popular party on social media to stand in the country’s 2018 election. However, its online popularity did not help win seats in the vote which delivered Viktor Orbán a third term as prime minister by a landslide. In an anti-establishment approach, the Dogs’ campaign was carried out entirely by volunteers and official campaign funds were used to support community projects.

Despite only coming away with 1.71% of the votes, however, the party has pushed an important boundary in Hungarian politics.

Puppy training

The Two-Tailed Dog Party was founded in 2006, although formal recognition didn’t come until 2014. It defined itself as a joke party from the start, becoming famous for making fun of other political groups – mainly the mainstream Fidesz, led by Orbán.

Its activities range from street art to graffiti to urban gardening. It even smuggles soap and toilet paper into hospitals in order to highlight the dire state of some healthcare facilities. In 2016, the party crowdfunded €100,000 to cover the country in satirical posters mocking the government’s call to vote against EU refugee quotas in an impending referendum.

Then in 2018, just a couple of weeks before the deadline, the party managed to get enough signatures to be able to participate in the national parliamentary elections. The jokers were getting serious.

A Two-Tailed Dog sticker appears on a Budapest lamp post.

In an election campaign dominated by the supposed “threat” posed by immigration and the perceived influx of migrants to Hungary, the Two-Tailed Dog party used social media to draw attention to a statistic published on the national police website showing that one migrant had been “caught” in the last 30 days. Its satirical response to this shocking figure read: “There is an enormous interest in our country. But we cannot rest assured: The migrant entered our country.”

Domestication

All political parties use emotions to persuade people to vote for them. The Two-Tailed Dog party and its kind are trying to undermine establishment organisations by turning humour into political action.

In a process social scientists call “kynicism”, the Two-Tailed Dog party borrowed and remixed government messages for its own aims. The idea is to mock the government’s rhetoric in order to disperse fear and anxiety.

In Hungary, it’s unclear what the future holds for the Two-Tailed Dog party, or these joke parties more broadly. There is a fundamental mismatch between the way everyday politics works and the vision of the party.

Party leader Gergő Kovács told us:

I can’t really tell how many of our Facebook fans would vote for us … To be honest, for me the parliamentary elections are not important. For me, it’s much more important to see what we can do … I have to confess: my aim is to create something creative and funny, and yet meaningful … I think it is useless to have one more opposition party that has a serious programme. I have no interest to do politics in the traditional way.

If the case of Iceland’s Pirate party shows us anything, it is that parties like the Two-Tailed Dog have a tendency to lose their edge once they gain political influence. In 2016 the pirates topped opinion polls, and seemed to become a real political force by winning ten seats in the parliament. However, in the latest elections, they won only six seats.

Alternative parties, like the Two-Tailed Dog exist to mock from outside the mainstream. But what’s the point of a political party if it doesn’t really want to get elected and to introduce its policies?

For now, that’s not a question the Two-Tailed dogs need to answer, since they failed to make it into parliament.

But the group has nonetheless radically re-energised young people. It has tested the limits of convention in Hungary’s political process. Kovács told us that when it comes to larger campaigns, “two thirds, or three quarters, of our ideas come from the people … For instance, we write an economic programme, post it to Facebook and in a couple of minutes, there are three to four better ideas in the comments, so we take it down and add these ideas. So, in fact it really comes from the people”. The next step is for the group to translate those likes on social media into actual votes.


Annamaria Neag, Marie Curie Research Fellow, Bournemouth University and Richard Berger, Associate Professor, Head of Research and Professional Practice, Department of Media Production, Bournemouth University

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

Just not cricket: why ball tampering is cheating

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In happier times: Cameron Bancroft and Steve Smith talk to the media during the victorious Ashes series. AAP/Darren England

By Keith Parry, Western Sydney University; Emma Kavanagh, Bournemouth University, and Steven Freeland, Western Sydney University

Australian cricket is engulfed in scandal after TV cameras caught Cameron Bancroft attempting to manipulate the condition of the ball during the team’s third Test match against South Africa. Bancroft and the Australian captain, Steve Smith, subsequently admitted to the offence and the collusion of the player leadership group in the decision to do so.

Altering the condition of the match ball is against the rules of the sport, contrary to “the spirit of cricket”, and deemed to be “unfair”. It is a form of cheating.

What is ball tampering?

Cricket is not only controlled by a set of rules but, according to the sport’s laws, it should also be played “within the spirit of cricket”.

Like most sports, cricket is a self-regulating entity. The national associations and, ultimately, the International Cricket Council (ICC) enforce the laws. That said, cricket remains tied to gentlemanly ideals and the myth of “fair play”.

This “spirit” encourages respect for players and officials while advocating for self-discipline. Significantly, it says the:

… major responsibility for ensuring fair play rests with the captains.

Within these rules, law 41.3 identifies changing the condition of the match ball as an offence and “unfair play”. Specifically, law 41.3.2 states:

It is an offence for any player to take any action which changes the condition of the ball.

But why is the condition of the ball so important?

The ability to “swing” a ball is a prized skill in cricket. Altering the condition of one side of the ball can help it to swing, and may provide an advantage to the bowling team.



Read more:
Video explainer: Bowling strategies and decision-making in cricket


Players try regularly try to “rough up” one side of the ball by, for instance, deliberately bouncing it on hard ground or applying sweat or saliva to it in ingenious ways. Such practices are not deemed to be contrary to the laws, even if they may not be within the spirit of cricket. Cricketers can bend the rules but not break them.

However, others have been known to use fingernails to scratch the ball, or have rubbed it on the zip of their trousers. Such measures are against the laws and are punishable under the ICC’s Code of Conduct.

In this case, Smith has been banned for one match and fined his match fee. Bancroft, who was caught with a piece of yellow sticky tape that he was attempting to use to tamper with the ball, has also been fined most of his fee and issued three demerit points.

Risk and reward

When games are evenly matched, small gains from cheating can be enough to swing the result one way. This has occurred in other sports.

Sport is now a commercial product with large rewards for winning. In addition, when players are representing their country, there may be considerable pressure to win at all costs, particularly when sport plays a prominent role in the country’s national identity.

According to Smith, the Australians “saw this game as such an important game”. Here, the significance of the game and the team’s desire to win are used to justify cheating. The spirit of cricket and “fair play” were given little thought.

In his work on match-fixing, investigative journalist Declan Hill identifies several questions that may be considered when players are contemplating cheating. The importance of the game is a key factor. Prospective cheats will also evaluate whether they can win without cheating and the sanctions they risk if they are caught.

The Australian cricketers believed the game was slipping away from them. They either did not think they would be caught, or were not deterred by the possible sanctions.

Leading by example

In several cases of cheating, it has been senior players that have induced their younger teammates to cheat.

Two former cricket captains, South Africa’s Hansie Cronje and Pakistan’s Salman Butt, both recruited younger, less experienced players in their attempts to manipulate cricket matches. Similarly, Bancroft is at the start of his Test career and appears to have been influenced by others in the team.

Rather than ensuring fair play, Smith contrived to break both the game’s laws and spirit. Worryingly, it was not just Smith and Bancroft, but a group of senior players who were initially involved.

The players will have evaluated whether it was morally right to cheat and decided that winning was more important. While not a “crime” in the traditional sense of the word, the premeditated nature of these actions increases the level of deception and subsequent outrage surrounding the decision.

The event calls into question not only the behavioural integrity of those involved but also more broadly the moral integrity of the environment in which they function. This is an environment that leaves players viewing ball-tampering on this scale as a viable match-winning strategy.

Smith’s role, as captain, has often been described as the second-most-important job in Australia (after the prime minister). It is for this reason that the Australian Sports Commission has called for him, along with any members of the leadership group or coaching staff “who had prior awareness of, or involvement in, the plan to tamper with the ball”, to stand down or be sacked.

The plot to tamper with the ball was a clear attempt to cheat and has brought the spirit of cricket into question. The implications of being caught cheating or significance of the action were overruled in favour of an outcome: winning a match.

Such actions demonstrate the short-term focus players can have in the moment, ignoring the magnitude of their decisions. In this case, the fallout will be far greater than any punishment the sport will hand out.


Keith Parry, Senior Lecturer in Sport Management, Western Sydney University; Emma Kavanagh, Senior Lecturer in Sports Psychology and Coaching Sciences, Bournemouth University, and Steven Freeland, Dean, School of Law and Professor of International Law, Western Sydney University

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

Why suicide rates among pregnant women in Nepal are rising

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Shutterstock/By KristinaSophie

By Bibha Simkhada, Liverpool John Moores University and Edwin van Teijlingen, Bournemouth University

Huge numbers of pregnant women and new mothers are taking their own lives in Nepal as they deal with extreme poverty, natural disasters, domestic violence and oppression. Research shows suicide represents 16% of all deaths in women of reproductive age. The rate is higher than previously recorded and there has been a considerable increase over the past few years. But a new project which trained midwives about mental health issues might hold the key to turning this around.

Suicide is primarily associated with unwanted pregnancy or the feeling of being trapped in poverty or situations of sexual and physical abuse. A study of 202 pregnant women (carried out between September and December 2014) found that 91% of them experienced some kind of physical, emotional or sexual abuse – mostly at the hands of their husbands and/or mother-in-laws.

The sad fact is that almost 40% of suicides in the world occur in South-East Asia. And one in three pregnant woman and new mothers are taking their own lives in low-income countries. In Nepal, 21% of the suicides among women aged 15-49 were in girls under 18 due to violence and being powerless in their families and communities.

Pregnancy is a known trigger for mental health problems. But gender discrimination and domestic violence are making matters worse. In addition to these issues, natural disasters are also a huge contributing factor to the spiralling mental health problems of young mothers.

A woman on a collapsed building in Kathmandu after the earthquake in May, 2015. Shutterstock/Somjin Klong-ugkara

Lack of control

In Nepal, making decisions about seeking maternity care is not in the hands of the pregnant woman but usually lies with her mother-in-law or husband. When young women marry they move in with their husbands’ family and their lives are ruled by their in-laws. These women often have little say in seeking health care during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period.

In many poor families, husbands migrate for work leaving their young wives with family. Nepal has a real migrant workers economy with close to 50% of Nepalis relying on financial help from relatives abroad. Mental health problems can worsen for women who have been taken away from their own families. In other cases, young women face domestic violence due to their husbands’ drinking leading to mental health issues and suicide.

There is also a lack of understanding of pregnancy and childbirth-related mental health issues and husbands and mothers-in-law often fail to support these vulnerable young women. They in turn are reluctant to seek help due to the stigma associated with mental illness.

Cultural and social norms

Cultural practices and social norms, like gender inequalities and early marriage, hinder women who have a lack of choice when it comes to their role as mothers. There is also a preference for sons rather than daughters, who are seen as an “economic burden” in many families. If a woman is expecting a daughter, especially for the second or third time, this can also trigger mental health issues.

Depression and anxiety are common and affect ten to 15 out of every 100 pregnant women in the country. Postnatal depression is often reported, but less attention is given to more common and less obvious mental health issues.

Natural disasters and midwives

Recurrent earthquakes and floods exacerbate issues of depression and helplessness as women are forced to live in temporary shelters and have the burden of increased poverty.

For many rural Nepali women, the most qualified birth attendant they can expect to look after them is the Nepali Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs). But a study found that they received little or no formal training on perinatal mental health issues. Although there have been gradual improvements in health care for women during pregnancy, mental health support is leaving many women feeling that suicide is their only option.

As part of a Tropical Health and Education Trust project, funded by DFID, around 80 ANMs were trained on perinatal mental health issues. The project used UK-based volunteers in Nepal over two years.

The training helped raise awareness of mental health well-being and improved access to mental health care for pregnant women and new mothers. This is a vital first step towards improving community-based services for pregnant women in rural Nepal. But to offer hope to more young women there needs to be a significant increase in this type of training and awareness raising.

Bibha Simkhada, Postdoctoral Researcher in School of Nursing and Allied Health, Liverpool John Moores University and Edwin van Teijlingen, Professor of Reproductive Health Research, Bournemouth University

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

Publishing’s Ratner moment: why eBooks are not ‘stupid’

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shandrus via Shutterstock.com

By Bronwen Thomas, Bournemouth University

In the days before social media – and, presumably, media training – Gerald Ratner’s description of some of the products sold in his chain of jewellers as “total crap” became a byword for the corporate gaffe. Recently the chief executive of publisher Hachette Livre, Arnaud Nourry, seems to have suffered his own “Ratner moment” when he described ebooks in an interview with an Indian news site as a “stupid product”.

The interview, which was intended to address the future of digital publishing and specific issues facing the Indian publishing market, was widely misquoted and Nourry’s comments taken out of context. But there is no denying the fact that the publisher criticises his own industry (“We’re not doing very well”) and attacks ebooks for lacking creativity, not enhancing the reading experience in any way and not offering readers a “real” digital experience.

Some commenters on social media welcomed Nourry’s comments for their honesty. They highlight his seeming support for the idea that publishers should be championing writers and artists working to exploit the creative potential of digital formats to provide readers with experiences that may be challenging and disruptive, but also exhilarating and boundary pushing.

But many of the 1,000-plus commenters reacting to coverage of the story on The Guardian’s website spoke out against “fiddling for the sake of it” – claiming they were not interested in enhanced features or “gamified dancing baloney” borrowed from other media. They also listed the many practical enhancements that ebooks and ereaders do offer. The obvious one is the ability to instantly download books in remote locations where there are no bricks and mortar bookstores. But there are other less obvious enhancements, including being able to instantly access dictionary and encyclopedia entries (at least if you have wifi access) and the option to have the book read to you if you have visual impairments.

Elsewhere, Australian researcher Tully Barnett has shown how users of Kindle ereaders adapt features such as Highlights and Public Notes for social networking, demonstrating that even if ebooks are not that intrinsically innovative or creative, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t be made so by imaginative users.

Nourry clearly isn’t averse to the provocative soundbite – in the same interview he went on to say: “I’m not a good swallower” when asked about mergers and conglomeration in the publishing industry. On the other hand, he also seems very aware of the special place of books and reading in “culture, education, democracy” – so his use of the word “stupid” in this context is particularly inflammatory and insensitive.

Dear reader

My research on digital reading has taught me that debating books vs ereaders is always likely to arouse strong passions and emotions. Merely mentioning the word Kindle has led in some instances to my being shouted at – and readers of “dead tree” books are rightly protective and passionate about the sensory and aesthetic qualities of physical books that the digital version possibly can’t compete with.

Mother and daughter Barbara and Jenni Creswell enjoyed Anne of Green Gables in both print and ebook format. Ray Gibson, Author provided

But, equally, my research has shown that enhancements in terms of accessibility and mobility offer a lifeline to readers who might not be able to indulge their passion for reading without the digital.

In my latest project, academics from Bournemouth and Brighton universities, in collaboration with Digitales (a participatory media company), worked with readers to produce digital stories based on their reading lives and histories. A recurring theme, especially among older participants, was the scarcity of books in their homes and the fact that literacy and education couldn’t be taken for granted. Our stories also demonstrated how intimately reading is connected with self-worth and helps transform lives disrupted by physical and mental health issues – making comments about any reading as “stupid” particularly damaging and offensive.

I would like to know if Nourry would still call ebooks stupid products after watching Mary Bish’s story: My Life in Books from our project. A lifelong reader who grew up in a home in industrial South Wales with few books, Mary calls her iPad her “best friend” and reflects how before the digital age her reading life would have been cut short by macular degeneration.

As well as demonstrating that fairly basic digital tools can be used to create powerful stories, our project showed that the digital also makes us appreciate anew those features of the physical book we may take for granted, the touch, smell and feel of paper and the special place that a book handed down from generation to generation has in the context of family life.

Bronwen Thomas, Professor of English and New Media, Bournemouth University

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

Why sport hasn’t made much progress on LGBTI+ rights since the Sochi Olympics

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American skiier Gus Kenworthy is one of many openly gay athletes competing in Pyeongchang. Head & Shoulders

By Keith Parry, Western Sydney University; Emma Kavanagh, Bournemouth University, and Ryan Storr, Western Sydney University.

Athletes from Western nations have various protections, and many now share equal rights in most aspects of the law. But when they travel to compete in countries with regressive human rights records, these protections can be lost.

Australia competed at the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, both of which were held in Russia. It will again send a team to Russia to play in this year’s FIFA World Cup and aims to compete in the 2022 edition in Qatar. Both countries have poor human rights records, particularly on LGBTI+ issues.

Sport is often lauded as a platform to advance human rights. But, for LGBTI+ individuals and athletes, this may not necessarily be true. The continued hosting of mega sporting events in countries with anti-LGBTI+ laws brings the role of sport in campaigns to advance human rights into focus.



Read more:
Australia has finally achieved marriage equality, but there’s a lot more to be done on LGBTI rights


LGBTI+ rights and the Winter Olympics

Sochi became a platform for LGBTI+ rights when Western activists called for a boycott based on several human rights concerns. Their resistance increased in direct response to the implementation of laws in Russia outlawing sexual minorities.

Principle 4 of the Fundamental Principles of Olympism was often referred to amid concerns for the safety of LGBTI+ athletes at Sochi:

The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

Athlete activists have begun to challenge the hosting of mega sporting events in countries like Russia that ignore human rights and reinforce systems of oppression. But what has really changed since Sochi for Olympians?



Read more:
Sport, Sochi and the rising challenge of the activist athlete


This year a country with a questionable stance on LGBTI+ rights is again hosting the Winter Olympics. South Korea scores only 13% on the Rainbow Index, which measures the impacts of a country’s laws and policies on the lives of LGBTI+ people. This is only a marginally better score than Russia’s 8%.

Although homosexuality is legal in South Korea, LGBTI+ rights remain highly volatile. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has courted controversy with comments opposing homosexuality, and sexual minorities continue to face significant stigma in the region.

Australia is taking 51 athletes to compete in South Korea, with two openly gay women on the team. One, Belle Brockhoff, has criticised the anti-LGBTI+ laws in host countries. She joined 26 other athletes who signed a letter opposing Kazakhstan’s bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics due to its anti-LGBTI+ policies.

However, it is not only host nations that can be called to account for their poor LGBTI+ records. Adam Rippon, an openly gay figure skater who has won bronze in Pyeongchang, recently said he did not want to meet Vice President Mike Pence as part of an official reception for the US team. Rippon argued the Trump administration does not “represent the values that [he] was taught growing up”.

A Fox News executive has criticised the inclusion of “African-Americans, Asians and openly gay athletes” in the US team. He claimed that “Darker, Gayer, Different” was now a more suitable Olympic motto than “Faster, Higher, Stronger”.

Current evidence suggests that anti-LGBTI+ discrimination is rising. Stonewall, the UK’s leading LGBTI+ charity, reports hate crimes toward the LGBTI+ community have increased: one in five LGBTI+ people have experienced a hate crime due to their sexual orientation or gender identity in the last year.

In the US, Donald Trump tried to ban transgender people from serving in the military. Several states have attempted to pass laws to restrict access to bathrooms for people who are trans or gender-diverse.

Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff has publicly criticised the anti-LGBTI+ laws in Olympic host countries. Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

With increased visibility comes increased risk

An increasing number of athletes now openly demonstrate their sexual orientation, but many acknowledge it leaves them open to homophobic abuse – especially on social media platforms.

American Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy referred to social media as a space that serves to reinforce the presence of casual and aggressive homophobia. British Olympian Tom Bosworth said he believed fear of abuse on social media could be preventing athletes from coming out.

Mega sporting events can be problematic for LGBTI+ athletes as many may not be “out” and there can be serious implications if they were to do so.

The safety and welfare of LGBTI+ athletes made headlines when a journalist went undercover in the athletes’ village at the 2016 Rio Olympics to identify out or closeted athletes. Several athletes who were identified were from countries where being gay is criminalised or even punishable by death.

Sport is responding at a notably slow pace to the advancement of LGBTI+ human rights.

Major sporting codes have shown they are not ready to tackle trans and gender diversity. For example, the Australian Football League recently banned transgender player Hannah Mouncey from joining its women’s competition.



Read more:
By excluding Hannah Mouncey, the AFL’s inclusion policy has failed a key test


There is still much work to be done around athletes with intersex variations, sex testing in elite-level competition, and transgender and transitioned athletes.

Ice skater Adam Rippon said he did want to meet US Vice President Mike Pence due to the Trump administration’s record on LGBTI+ rights. Matthew Stockman/Getty

Hope for the future?

One particular social inclusion legacy to come from a mega sporting event is Pride House International. This initiative provides a safe space for the LGBTI+ community to engage with a sporting event.

In addition, the Principle 6 campaign, launched in response to Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, led to the expansion of that particular part of the Olympic Charter to include sexual orientation as something sport should be free from discrimination on.

It will be interesting to see whether the 2018 Winter Olympics can contribute to the advancement of LGBTI+ rights within South Korea and beyond. However, more scrutiny must be directed to the human rights records of potential host nations when awarding mega sporting events.

 

Keith Parry, Senior Lecturer in Sport Management, Western Sydney University; Emma Kavanagh, Senior Lecturer in Sports Psychology and Coaching Sciences, Bournemouth University, and Ryan Storr, Lecturer in Sport Development, Western Sydney University

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