Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference: ‘Age of Distraction’

Age of Distraction

Graduate Conference

8 + 9 June 2018

This conference explores distraction and all its meanings and implications. Distraction is commonly thought of as a growing concern or even a sickness of modern society and digital culture. From mindless scrolling to heavy consumerism, the pursuit for entertainment and satisfaction is insatiable, leaving us vulnerable to ruling corporations. Does our lack of control transform us into a conformed mass that is susceptible to tabloid media and the rise of populism? On the other hand, distraction is not necessarily steeped in negativity. In fact, it has had a long and fascinating history. Its German equivalent, ‘Zerstreuung’, comes from the idea of dispersion. At the start of the twentieth-century, Walter Benjamin defined the term as ‘floating attention’, where experience is caused by chance rather than concentration. Does lack of focus in fact allow a sense of freedom and inspiration?

Confirmed speakers include:

Food and refreshments will be available.

Call for papers (extended deadline 7 May)

Please send a 200 word abstract for papers of 15 minutes and a 50 word biography to bisr@bbk.ac.uk

Topics may include:

  • History of distraction
  • Distraction and its oppositions
  • Distraction and/in Education
  • Distraction and madness
  • Modes of Extremism: online or in reality?
  • Democracy, populism, and online social networking
  • Freedom of speech v. government and/or regulatory control
  • Misinformation and fake news
  • Dystopia/ an Orwellian society
  • Distraction and creativity
  • Escapism, dream and day-dream
  • Feigned ignorance or ‘Turning a blind eye’
  • Emotional responses
  • Procrastination, boredom and solitude
  • Wandering and ‘killing time’
  • Inspiration, chance and serendipity

Free tickets for Birkbeck Arts and Humanities PhD students: Frames of Representation 2018 @ The ICA, 20-28th April

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CHASE is delighted to be academic partner with The ICA for Frames of Representation 2018, a global documentary cinema festival. As part of this partnership, we have arranged two exciting seminars featuring CHASE academics in conversation with film-makers whose work is showing at the festival.

We also have tickets for a one day symposium on April 28th featuring, amongst others, Oscar winning sound editor Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now).

CHASE has been given a number of free tickets for the week of events and screenings. These tickets are open to all arts and humanities PhD students at CHASE institutions and will allocated on a first come, first served basis. Have a look at the programme here and request your free tickets here.

Now in its third year, FoR is a global documentary cinema festival. The theme this year is landscape and the festival features a number of UK and European premieres, as well as masterclasses with film-makers. We have also arranged two CHASE seminars that will feature CHASE academics in conversation with film-makers whose work is screening at the festival.

Free tickets are available for ALL film screenings and masterclasses throughout the festival as well, of course, as the CHASE seminars and a half day symposium on the theme of landscape on the closing weekend of the festival. Regardless of your research interests, you are bound to find something, if not many things, of interest.

Any queries, please email enquiries@chase.ac.uk

Astrobiology and Planetary Exploration (APEX) Meeting Programme

Astrobiology and Planetary Exploration (APEX) Meeting Programme

All research students are welcome to attend the Interdisciplinary Astrobiology and Planetary Exploration (APEX) seminars, held on Thursdays during the Spring Term.

These events begin at 13:00 in the Garwood Lecture Theatre (1st floor, UCL South Wing).

25 Jan 2018

Magnetic measurements of Saturn by Cassini
Prof Nick Achilleos (UCL)

01 Feb 2018

Searching for organic signatures on the Martian south pole
Jacqueline Campbell (MSSL)
Why we should build a Moon Village
Prof Ian Crawford (BBK)

08 Feb 2018

Observing the Solar System with Twinkle
Billy Edwards (UCL)
X-ray explorations of planets and moons
Dr William Dunn (UCL/MSSL/CfA/ESA)

15 Feb 2018

SMILE: A novel and global way to explore solar-terrestrial relationships
Prof Graziella Branduardi Raymont (MSSL)

22 Feb 2018

The first cell membranes
Sean Jordan (UCL)
Black diamond (carbonardo) and the core of a Neptune?
Dr Adrian Jones (UCL)

01 Mar 2018  

Martian oceans: The evidence and issues
Zach Dickeson (NHM)
ExoMars PanCam
Roger Stabbins (MSSL)

08 Mar 2018

The ExoMars Mission
Prof Andrew Coates (MSSL)

15 Mar 2018

The Cosmic Zoo: Complex life on many worlds
Dr William Baines

BGRS Training in Autumn 2017

Review of Autumn term BGRS training opportunities

This brief review highlights BGRS training and development opportunities organised in the 2017/18 Autumn term. These opportunities are part of a wider landscape of training and development resources available to PhD students at Birkbeck and which are summarised on the BGRS Moodle site. Birkbeck is in the process of establishing Training Needs Analysis for PhD researchers to identify their training priorities and navigate their way through the wide range of opportunities which are available at Birkbeck and beyond.

Autumn term highlights

  • PhD students who began recently were invited to attend a workshop titled ‘Making a success of your doctorate’. This all day event led by Professor John Wakeford of the Missenden Centre, provided expert advice and hints covering the organisation and management of PhD research and how best to complete PhD studies.
  • Students who were already underway with their PhDs were able to attend a ‘Surviving your Viva, and Beyond’ workshop led by Dr Jennifer Fraser, formerly from the Centre for Transformative Practice in Learning and Teaching at Birkbeck. This interactive workshop helped prepare students for their PhD viva and decisions about what to do afterwards.
    Several new sessions have been organised for postgraduate research students.
  • Birkbeck’s Equality and Diversity Lead, Ammara Khan, ran the first Unconscious Bias Training session for postgraduate research students exploring the concept of unconscious bias and how it could impact on life as a PhD student.
  • An Introduction to Public Engagement for Research Students, led by Birkbeck Public Engagement Officer Mary-Clare Hallsworth, provided the tools students need to begin engaging the public with their research.
  • In order to supplement existing resources for all Birkbeck researchers a Research Integrity and Ethics Session specifically for PhD students was held by Dr Sarah Lee, Head of Research Strategy Support, in order to provide a better understanding of personal, pragmatic and policy factors and to help attendees apply this in their PhD.
  • The Birkbeck Library ran a new Library Support for Researchers workshop highlighting support available to PhD students throughout their research journey.

Drawing on departmental expertise a range of BGRS events were delivered through the College’s generic skills funding awards including:

  • A series of sessions led by Dr Lily Ford on the theme of Fair Dealing relating to: use of images in research; film; and art history and culminating in a fair dealing conference.
  • Dr Dermot Hodson organised a workshop titled No Trespassing: The Risks and Rewards of Interdisciplinary Research. Antonella Paterri, a Birkbeck MPhil student from the Department of Politics has described some of the benefits of this session on the BGRS blog.
  • Other workshops provided training for: impact and communication skills; for how to make calls for papers at academic conferences; good prose writing for PhD Students; and an historical methodological masterclass with Professor Julian Swann.

The BGRS Moodle site will be used to establish digital objects (e.g. handouts or lecture capture) for those who wish to re-visit course material or who were unable to attend on the day. We have begun to make such resources available and will continue to develop this over the coming year.

Opportunities for Birkbeck PhD students to meet

During the Autumn term there have been two opportunities for the wider community of PhD students to gather and meet. The BGRS induction session welcomed new PhD students to Birkbeck and invited returning students to meet at the start of term, with around 70 attendees. Later in the Autumn term the BGRS Winter party provided another opportunity for students to meet with around 50 postgraduate researchers attending.

Shut up and write

We have continued to organise Shut Up and Write sessions, with more than 220 registrations to attend since we began running them in July/ August. During the Autumn term we organised 2 to 3 session every 2 weeks. Attendees have continued to give positive feedback about these writing sessions which provide opportunities to concentrate on writing alongside other PhD researchers and to build connections with those who take part. The BGRS intends to continue these shut up and write sessions throughout the year and registrations are now open for the Spring Term. During the Spring Term we hope to offer a concentrated all day writing event based on the same format as these sessions – this will be announced in due course and listed on the BGRS Eventbrite page.

Interdisciplinary Research: How Birkbeck PhD students are informally trespassing disciplinary boundaries

Antonella Patteri

On the 4th of November 2017 Birkbeck’s Graduate Research School hosted ‘No Trespassing: The Risks and Rewards of Interdisciplinary Research’, a half-day workshop organised by Dr Dermot Hodson from the Department of Politics. Inspired by Albert O. Hirschman’s concept of trespassing, this workshop, primarily taught by members of staff from across the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy (SSHP), brought together a wide range of expertise and personal perspectives on the intellectual benefits and dangers of interdisciplinarity. Understood as studies that deploy methods and insights from several traditional fields with the aim of integrating and combining multiple forms of knowledge, interdisciplinary research aims to make connections between concepts and to reassemble them in a circular way. Recognising the value of interdisciplinarity, the workshop stressed that interdisciplinary training should be integrated into academic careers. At the same time, it warned about the risks of superficiality associated with interdisciplinary research and the dangers of being excluded by disciplinary politics. In this sense, collaborating across disciplines involves a serious and careful rethinking of well-established academic borders that give meaning to specific fields of knowledge. Taking research beyond its comfort zone involves a creative crossing of a range of subject boundaries. Even though not all research should be interdisciplinary, the increasing complexity of issues with which we are faced as scholars compels us to look beyond single subject areas by stepping over the borders that contain our academic reality.

As Birkbeck students, we think that such boundaries are crossed in libraries, mediated exclusively on search engines and during formal academic meetings. What if we also attempt to trespass such delimiting lines of knowledge in other ways? While my first year as MPhil/PhD student in the Department of Politics was rewarding, I initially struggled to connect with many of my fellow students. Since last year I started organising monthly meetings with Politics PhD students and this year we have a WhatsApp group with more than 30 members. November’s workshop was also a fantastic opportunity to reflect upon our links with PhD students from different schools and departments at Birkbeck. At the event, we had the opportunity to discuss ways of increasing our interdisciplinary ambitions on a human level. Thanks to the efforts of Janice Lazarus, from the Department of Geography, PhD students from across the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy are now meeting weekly. This new intellectual network is helping us to step over our own disciplines by generating relevant ideas and arguments that go beyond departmental affiliations. Why is it working? Because it is an informal, real and direct way to avoid more ‘structured’ conversations that allow us to reflect upon personal experiences and projects with the potential to enrich our work.

Law, History, Geography, Politics, Art, Biology and Archaeology at times seem incommensurable but we are linking them through methods of analysis that are discursive in theory but practical in scope. By sharing research goals, we are becoming more aware of the fact that there are different paths of knowledge. Qualitative and quantitative methods, immersive fieldwork, archives and discourse analysis are being shared as a way to trespass rigid theorization. In so doing, generating new knowledge becomes a social activity of discovery that gets more and more exciting each week. Such meetings can also offer a possibility to ‘humanise’ the unpredictability of our research, both in premises and intentions. This is not necessarily something that can be grasped easily from our laughs, personal biographies or individual storytelling or from our most awkward and funny moments. Interdisciplinarity is not just a matter of addressing complex questions through a multiplicity of perspectives. Interdisciplinary research should be about reflexive rethinking and informal interaction that trespasses disciplinary boundaries.

This BGRS Blog post was authored by Antonella Patteri, an MPhil student in Birkbeck’s Department of Politics and Research Student Representative for the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy.

New CHASE training opportunities

History and Theatre

12, 14 & 15 December 2017 
Theatre Royal Stratford East

The following training opportunity is open to all Arts and Humanities PhD students at Birkbeck.

This training programme will explore dramatising research, the use of fiction in research and the position of the playwright/author/composer in historical contexts.

If you attended the CHASE Encounters conference on Saturday 1st December, you will have heard course leader Dr Jeremy Krikler (University of Essex) introduce the themes to be explored in this training programme during his keynote lecture.

Arts and Humanities in the Digital Age

Various dates in 2018 starting with Winter School 15-17 January
at the Open University

The CHASE Arts and Humanities in the Digital Age programme will engage you with the concepts and practices that form the field of Digital Humanities, preparing you for the challenges of doing research in an increasingly digital world.

After completing the course, you will be able to analyse, understand and use digital data, to assess information technologies critically, and to integrate discipline-specific enquiry with digitally-driven methodologies and media to develop your own research. You will learn through workshops that combine methodological reflection with hands-on exercises and by developing a Digital Humanities project together with other students.

Deadline to apply – Wednesday 13 December

Understanding the Origin of Sex Differences in Cognition: Rethinking Research Methods

Thursday 2nd November
3-4 pm, with networking from 4–5 pm
Venue: Birkbeck, MAL B04

About the event

The event is organised by the TRIGGER research team in partnership with Birkbeck’s Department of Psychological Sciences and includes 2 speakers who are Birkbeck research students.

The seminar will take the form of a conversation between:

  • Teodora Gliga (Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, Birkbeck)
  • Lucy Tallentire (School of Business, Economics and Informatics, Birkbeck)
  • Yanique Stanford (School of Business, Economics and Informatics, Birkbeck)

In this conversation, Dr Teodora Gliga will reflect on the tools she has developed to include gender in her research procedures at Babylab, a research centre in the School of Science which focuses on the study of infants’ cognitive development. The conversation will range over the innovative ways in which gender perspectives can be integrated into research processes, and how researchers might consider disseminating their work.

The event is free and open to everyone, but please book via Eventbrite here

Who is this event for?

Early-career researchers, PhD students and post-graduate students are particularly encouraged to attend.

About the speakers

Teodora Gliga

Teodora is the Programme Leader on the Infant Siblings Study at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development, based in Birkbeck’s School of Psychological Sciences. Her research focuses on developmental pathways to autism and ADHD; the developmental origin of epistemic curiosity; the effects “social touch” has on attention and learning; and how acquiring language affects the way we represent and remember the world. She also led the ‘Rethinking Research Methods’ strand of the TRIGGER project.

Lucy Tallentire

Lucy joined Birkbeck in Summer 2016 to work as the Events and Content Officer for the School of Business, Economics and Informatics. She works closely with academics to consider the impact of their research, and innovative ways in which their findings can be disseminated to a diverse range of specialist, professional and general audience bases.

Prior to joining Birkbeck, Lucy studied BA Germanic and Slavonic Studies at the University of Sheffield (2011-2015) and MPhil European Comparative Literature at the University of Cambridge (2015-16). She has just last month begun a part-time PhD at Birkbeck, with a focus on the representation of dementia and the loss of first-hand testimony of WWII in contemporary German literature.

Yanique Stanford

Yanique has recently completed a M.Sc.in Bio Business, a collaboration between the Biological Sciences Department and the Department of Management. She has since transferred full time over to the latter department where she has started the PhD programme. Her undergraduate degrees are a B.Sc. in Biomedicine and a BA in Literatures in English. Additionally, she recently completed a three month internship within the bio-science sector at Consilium Strategic Communications, a specialist Healthcare Investment and Public Relations firm. Prior to the internship she spent approximately fourteen years working within the Retail Industry.

New highlighted CHASE training opportunities for Arts and Humanities students at Birkbeck

Scholarly Editing Unpacked

17 November 2017, 10.30-18.30, followed by drinks reception

Keynes room (114) Birkbeck, University of London

While most of us acknowledge that scholarly editing underpins a wide range of our literary research many of us know very little about its processes. Editing can seem arcane, and something that happens only in specialist domains. The environments in which editing takes place, however, are quickly changing. Digital innovation is transforming text and object, making questions of textual manipulation and presentation newly urgent.

This day-long workshop brings together leading scholars to explore why editing matters and to exchange and develop practical advice and experience. It will challenge preconceptions of the relative unimportance or invisibility of scholarly editorial skills, and will equip its delegates with nomenclature and a roadmap for navigating the field.

Whether you are embarking on an editorial project, harbouring thoughts of doing so in the future, or are simply keen to know more – and to know more accurately – about the literary objects you study this workshop will be of value and use.

Bursaries are available for students at CHASE institutions.

Read the full programme here

On the Social in Architecture

24 November, 9 March & 21 June

ICA, London

These three CHASE training days, co-organised by the Institute of Contemporary Arts and the ASSC (Architecture, Space and Society Centre, Birkbeck) will collaboratively consider a question fundamental to PhD students in architecture and other disciplines, particularly in relation to public institutions, social housing, and resettlement: ‘What is the social in architecture?’

Each training day will be comprised of a participatory training/skills session and a more public presentation of exemplary work in this area. Students will be expected to take on active roles in chairing discussions, acting as discussants, recording events, conducting and transcribing interviews, writing posts for the ICA/CHASE blogs, and thinking about the ethical, political and social structures in which their own research is situated.

Besides architecture and urban planning, the sessions will touch upon themes of ethics and equality, cultural geography, environmental psychology and performativity, community practice and documentary film or photography.

The aim is for these sessions to be generative events, shaping new ways of working together and involving different perspectives and stakeholders in the nature of the public institution/space.

Read full programme here