Hacking Plastic – event

We’re very pleased to be part of two events in November, which are run as part of the Being Human festival. Hosted at B-Arts, we’ll be exploring some creative ways we can deal with the problem of plastic waste – which has been in the newspaper headlines recently, with the discovery of a new plastic garbage patch in the Pacific that is the size of Mexico.

hacking plastic

One of the difficulties about dealing with plastic is that we often think we’re disposing of it responsibly when we recycle, but this isn’t necessarily the case. The problem with plastic is that it’s not just harmful when it’s discarded (as with famous images of it harming wildlife, such as the below image), because plastic is equally problematic when it breaks down. Frictions caused by ocean waves make an ideal environment for it to break down into tiny particles, which we might not be able to see but – as Thom van Dooren has described  – can lead to the slow death of species such as albatrosses. These workshops are, we hope, the start of a series of initiatives where we can use a range of creative approaches to re-think our relationship with a material that is simultaneously so everyday and so fraught with problems. More about the project can be found here.



Science in Public: Conference Report

I was at a great conference this week, Science in Public. The conference draws together people from fields such as Science & Technology Studies, Science Communication, and the History of Science & Medicine, amongst others. Its focus also meant I had the rare opportunity to bring together the two main strands of my research: Animals and Social Media! I felt really lucky to have the chance, amongst other things, to be a discussant on a panel about Noortje Marres’s provocative and engaging new book Digital Sociology, co-convene and speak at a panel about post-truth, and present collaborative work (with Greg Hollin) on cultural responses to the resurgence of bedbugs in the US & North Europe.  I also helped to co-organise a stream called Animals in Public that involved fantastic speakers (on topics as varied as the modernist penguin enclosure at London Zoo; attempts to commodify the charisma of giant pandas; different understandings of care in bovine TB controversies; and dilemmas about how to meaningfully communicate veterinary science to people in the face of the rise of dog breeds such as French Bulldogs). A busy, but fantastic, couple of days all-in-all, where I had the chance to catch-up with some great colleagues from different institutions.

I also ended up taking part in this ‘threaded-questions’ video, where I had to answer a colleague’s question then ‘pass one one’…

Threaded Questions from PF-STIS on Vimeo.

The New (Ab)Normal: The Cultural Politics of the New Authoritarianism

27th June, 2017

FREE EVENT, but due to limited space please register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-new-abnormal-the-cultural-politics-of-the-new-authoritarianism-tickets-34906353844 if you’d like to attend as space is limited!  

Keele University, Chancellors Building, CBA1.021

(Though please keep an eye out on here for the venue, as it will change to a different room if attendance rises further)


10am – 10.30am: Coffee

10.30am – 11.00am: Mark Featherstone (Keele University, Sociology) – Introduction: ‘The New (Ab)Normal: Sociology in Extremis’

11.00am – 11.30am: Ronnie Lippens (Keele University, Criminology) – ‘Rothko’s Chapel in Houston, Texas (1970): Luciferian Notes on the Age of Light’

11.30am – 12.00pm: Eva Giraud (Keele University, Media) and Sarah-Nicole Aghassi-Isfahani (Keele University, Sociology) – ‘Has Critique run out of Memes? Interrogating the ‘Post-Truth’ Media Landscape’

12.00pm – 1.00pm: Deborah Frizzell (Art, William Patterson University, USA) – ‘Trajectories of Aesthetics and Ethics in the Chthulucene: A Case Study of “Outcast” Women Artists’

1.00pm – 2.00pm: Lunch

2.00pm – 2.30pm: Kirsten Forkert (Media, Birmingham City University) – ‘Austerity, Right Populism and the Public Mood’

2.30pm -3.00pm: Seb Franklin (Kings College, London) and Penny Newell (Kings College, London) – ‘The Economics of Abnormality’

3.00pm – 4.00pm: Steve Hall (Criminology, Teeside University) – ‘System Reboot: Steve Bannon’s Dream as the Restoration of the Pseudo-Pacification Process’

4.00pm – 4.30pm: Coffee

4.30pm – 5.45pm: Doug Kellner (Education, UCLA, USA) – ‘Donald Trump, Media Spectacle, and Authoritarian Populism’

6.00pm – 7.00pm: Arthur Kroker (Political Science, University of Victoria, Canada) – ‘Fake Futures’


Continue reading

Ethnicities, Counterpublics, Appropriation and Social Media: Registration open!

Dear all

Registration is now open for our one-day symposium on Ethnicities, Counterpublics, Appropriation and Social Media on June 8th 2017  at Keele University.

This symposium aims to explore the dynamics of minority representation and self-representation in social media.

Attendance is free but spaces are limited so please register below at your earliest convenience and by the latest on 25th May 2017 using the link below:


The programme is as follows:

9.00 am: Welcome coffee

9.30 am: Opening remarks

9.45 am: Speakers: Ed de Quincey, Eva Giraud and Elizabeth Poole, Keele University: ‘Who speaks for Muslims? Political frictions and the politics of appropriation in social media’

10.30 am: short break

10.45 am: Panel 1 – Examining Populist and Nationalist discourse on social media

  • Gerwin van Schie, Utrecht University and Iris Muis, Utrecht University, “Liberation Begins with Stating the Facts” Rationalization of Discrimination through Data in Populist Rhetoric on Twitter ‘
  • Nicolás López Coombs, University of Antwerp and Gerwin van Schie, Utrecht Data School ‘Between Epistemic Empowerment and Epistemic Violence: Ethno-racial Categorization in Dutch Governmental Open Data’
  • Munira Cheema, University of Sussex ‘Revisiting patriotism: The rise of liberal Pakistan on social media’

12.15 pm: Lunch (provided)

1.15 – 2.15  Speaker: Pollyanna Ruiz, University of Sussex, ‘Protest, power and social media; The dynamics of masking in offline and online public spaces’.

2:15 -3.45 pm: Panel 2 – Self-representation and counter-discourse online

  • Kaarina Nikunen, University of Tampere, ‘Migrant Tales: counter-voices in digital landscape’
  • Ally McCrow-Young, University of Copenhagen, ‘Protesting terror: Counter-narratives of the ISIS conflict’

.     Beth Johnson, University of Leeds, ‘#MoreInCommon: Empathy, Emotion and Intervention’

3.45 – 4pm short break

4-5pm Speaker 2: Dima Saber, Birmingham City University, ‘Winning the fake news battle amidst chaos: How Arab activists are taking back the narratives of their wars and revolutions’

5-5.15 pm: Concluding remarks

More information is available @ https://www.keele.ac.uk//counterpublics2017/

Please e-mail any further questions to counterpublics2017@keele.ac.uk

We look forward to seeing you there!

Animals in Lund!

Last week I spend 3 fantastic days at Lund University, in Sweden, as part of an Erasmus exchange. I mostly taught on the module Critical Animal Studies: Animals in the Media, Culture & Society, but also had the opportunity for some tutorials with postgraduate students working on fantastic projects about online environmental activism.

The morning session was a more formal research-led lecture and workshop , which was focused on activism surrounding animals (see here for a sense of the subject matter I engaged with specifically). I worked with some fantastic scholar-activists with expertise in areas including animal ethology and the politics of civil disobedience, and a range of issues were covered – from corporate ‘greenwashing’ to theoretical debates surrounding animal ethics.

The afternoon was taken up with a seminar (also open to members of the public, as well as those enrolled on the course) that was focused on the politics of animal research. I presented work along with Nuria Almiron (from Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona). Although I enjoyed the whole day, I found the questions and discussion surrounding the afternoon seminar especially provocative – so many thanks to all who attended. Thanks also needs to go to the Lund University Critical Animal Studies Network – especially the teaching team Tobias, Jana, Kurt and Ally, for making me feel so welcome!

Here are a few photos from the week, more can be found here:

CfP: Science in Public 2017

The 2017 Science in Public conference, which examines the relationships between publics, science and technology, and the media, has just launched its call for papers. The whole list of panels looks really exciting,  and are topics that range from the social status of robots to public participation in environmental science. The full list is here: http://sipsheff17.group.shef.ac.uk/index.php?option=24

I’m involved in two panels, which are currently calling for submissions:

Animals in Public: Care, Charisma and Knowledge (no. 27 on the above list), with Angela Cassidy


Why Has Truth Run out of Steam? – STS After Trump (no. 21), with Des Fitzgerald, Greg Hollin & Andy Balmer.

Our colleague Meritxell in Sociology is also promoting a fantastic sounding panel: (Non)Human Dimensions of STS Research (no. 24)

We’re looking forward to getting some interesting submissions!


Film and television after Brexit

Film and Television Studies after Brexit is a one-day research workshop looking into the impact of the EU referendum vote on this academic field. Gathering together a range of expert speakers from Film and Television Studies, the workshop will explore key questions relating to Brexit and its cultural and academic repercussions:

– In what ways does the EU referendum decision invite us to rethink both the past and present of ‘British’ film and television, and of national film and television histories?

– How has Brexit been narrated in film and television, and what are the implications of this?

– What are the potential implications of Brexit for film and television as UK industries, and for reception abroad?

– How does the decision to leave the EU impact upon Film and Television Studies as an area of study in the UK, and beyond?

All attendees will be invited to participate in a concluding discussion, identifying the significance of Brexit for their own research, and looking at potential directions for future work and collaborative projects.

Invited speakers:

Julian Petley (Brunel University)

Owen Evans (Edge Hill University)

Beth Johnson (University of Leeds)

James Leggott (Northumbria University)

Participation at the workshop, including lunch, is free. Places are limited, however, so please book if you intend to come.

To register please see here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/film-and-television-studies-after-brexit-tickets-32157667449

National Student Survey

Sadly I can’t top the last blog by Daniel, at least not in the interesting stakes, but I do want to flag up a few things that we did last year in response to feedback from the National Student Survey, to give a sense of why your feedback is important.

You said: You especially benefited from work experience opportunities

We: Expanded our Work Experience module and enhanced links with local creative businesses


You said: You enjoyed learning about changes in the contemporary media landscape

We: Made the analysis of online culture central to our core research methods and media theory modules

You said: You wanted further opportunities for feedback and advice in practical modules

We: Incorporated additional workshops and formative projects into our film-making modules

You can take part in this year’s survey here: http://www.thestudentsurvey.com/