Category Archives: Links

What does the government’s open access announcement mean for researchers? A round up of coverage and reaction…

An Alternative to the White Paper

At the end of June the Government released its controversial Higher Education White Paper. For a critical perspective on the paper, produced by a variety of campaign groups, take a look at Putting Vision Back into Higher Education: A Response to the Government White Paper on the Campaign for the Public University website.

£9k fees from a practical student perspective

Interesting analysis here from Martin Lewis, the Money Saving Expert, about the practical impact of the new student fees regime.

Steve Fuller interviewed about Transhumanism

An interesting interview with Steve Fuller in h+, a magazine exploring the ramifications of technology for human nature:

Fuller’s research documents historical events in the advancement of scientific and social studies. He is very much aware that political enthusiasm for certain movements which predate the transhumanist agenda (such as, to be blunt, eugenics) frequently became associated with diabolical and destructive ideologies and regimes. It is partly because of that, Fuller argues, that present day politicians are very wary of getting involved with the transhumanist debate. They are seemingly uncomfortable with wading into a discussion whose ramifications and frontiers remain unclear, and whose most visible proponents or detractors can sometimes be unsavoury (the orthodox religious critics of transhumanist ‘tampering’ with nature versus the right-wing libertarian strain who fail to present cogent, moderate arguments in socially democratic contexts). Fuller is adamant that mainstream understanding of the transhumanist agenda is essential in order for lasting impact and awareness to become established.

“Nobody wants to initiate this kind of discussion,” claims Fuller, “but if you don’t, then it’s all going to be left to the free market. People who can afford it will do it, those who can’t won’t – everybody ends up fending for themselves.”

In giving an example of how ethical and practical problems can arise out of such scenarios, Fuller cites contemporary concerns over cosmetic surgery. The perceived exploitation of female bodies in the light of male anatomical standards, the continuing anxiety regarding certain unregulated procedures and the only partly understood psychological implications of plastic surgery all contribute to a sense of the practice as unfortunately positioned in an image-obsessed culture. Could the same thing happen with cosmetic neurology? Fuller pointed me in the direction of an article by neurologist Anjan Chatterjee, “Cosmetic Neurology and Cosmetic Surgery: Parallels, Predictions and Challenges”, in which he recounts how bioethicists were worryingly slow to take cosmetic surgeons to task over certain methods and applications of their work. In a world where ‘synapse tuning’ becomes readily available and human culture begins to demand neurological ‘re-wiring’ for new tasks, occupations and experiences, brain augmentation (as well as creating chasms in a neurologically stratified society) could severely damage the integrity of practitioners:

An Ethnography of Academia?

A fascinating article from Warwick’s Vice-Chancellor Nigel Thrift (in his regular column for the Chronicle of Higher Education) about the striking lack of ethnographic inquiry into contemporary academic life:

Ethnography is one of the standard research tools used by academics in the social sciences and humanities nowadays. Surprising then that academia often seems remarkably under-studied in ethnographic terms. One would have thought that universities would be fertile ground for ethnographers but there are surprisingly few studies available that I know of.

When I was at Oxford, I could never fully understand why there was no concentrated ethnographic study of an Oxford college. The nearest seemed to be various college memoirs and a few student exposes. But it isn’t just Oxford or Cambridge: you would be hard pressed to find ethnographies of academic life, even though there is a thriving field of educational ethnography.

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