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Latest Intercultural Interaction News

Professor Henrietta Moore

Prominent social theorist to head new UCL Institute for Global Prosperity

Published: May 15, 2014 10:13:42 AM

Small Grant Activities

Apply for a 2014-15 Grand Challenges Small Grant

Grand Challenges Small Grants offer:

  • up to £4,000 available for applications led by UCL staff
  • support for a wide range of societally relevant cross-disciplinary activities
  • funding for activities undertaken from 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015

Application deadline: midnight, Monday 16 June 2014. All applications must be submitted using the online form
Guidance notes and application form

The Grand Challenges Small Grants Scheme supports a wide range of societally relevant, cross-disciplinary activities across UCL.  Below you can find out more about the various collaborations that have been made possible following the award of a Small Grant from the Grand Challenge of Intercultural Interaction.


The Dawning of Empires in the Ancient Near East: A Dynamical Systems Approach

  • Lead Applicant: Dr. Mark Altaweel (Institute of Archaeology)
  • Main Collaborator: Professor Alan Wilson (Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis)
  • Additional Collaborator: Professor Karen Radner (UCL History)

The emergence of empires and the spread of languages and ideas have led to major innovations, shaping much of the modern world. This is particularly evident in regions such as the Near East, where, as an example, the rise of the Islamic Empire spread Arabic and eventually helped enable the Renaissance in Europe. However, such occurrences and major cultural influences have been occurring and shaping much of the Old World for millennia, where often political actions are initiated by one or more political entities making strategic decisions relative to surrounding states and political actors that may compete, ally, or become subservient to expanding states. Despite major cultural influences that empires have had, what often is not clear is how decision-making, as seen from the political entities and leaders themselves, leads to a process where states decide to embark on what might seem as relatively costly and risky empire building. Often, researchers find it difficult to foresee the set of circumstances and events that create conditions for armed conflict between states to initiate. Analysis into decision-making by historical states and leaders is often cursory and does not apply strategic decision-making analyses that incorporate spatiotemporal dynamics.

Based on the research gap identified, an interdisciplinary methodology, over the space of twelve months, will be integrated with computational, spatial, and mathematical methods to better understand how empires emerge and politically shape large spatial regions spanning thousands of kilometres. This proposal draws together expertise from Archaeology (Dr. Mark Altaweel), History (Professor Karen Radner) and computer modelling (through the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, CASA; Professor Sir Alan Wilson) to enhance our understanding of the emergence of empires in the ancient Near East. This collaboration is strengthened by the fact that these three experts have worked together on a collaborative effort since 2012, with one publication in review and another in press based on this collaboration.

This interdisciplinary project will combine the deployment of historical sources and archaeological evidence with modified Richardson-Lotka-Volterra models in order to understand strategic decisions taken by empires. The research goal is to determine the process whereby states make strategic decisions that lead to empire building and if the emergence of when a specific empire emerges can be forecasted. In the first three months, historical and archaeological data will be gathered and these include royal inscriptions and correspondences between states and actors and settlement patterns and cultural remains (e.g., ceramics and other material culture). The modelling methodology will be applied to the Neo-Assyrian (934-609 BC) and Neo-Babylonian empires (626-539 BC); the modelling will be conducted between months 3-6. The modelling of the two case studies will allow us to assess each case individually but also together, as the Neo-Babylonian Empire succeeded the Neo-Assyrian. In months 6-9, we will assess results and revise the model as needed to best address the case study and create a more general model that can assess other cases. In the final three moths, we will document and publically release the model using UCL’s IRIS repository. 

Human creativity: Do East and West really differ?

  • Lead Applicant: Professor Paul Burgess (Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience)
  • Main Collaborator: Professor Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (UCL Clinical, Educational &Health Psychology)

‘Creativity’ is the ability to come up with a solution that is both novel and useful. There is a common perception that Eastern and Western cultures differ in creativity. Much of the difference across cultures seems to be the weight placed more on either its novelty or usefulness. The Western creativity emphasis more on originality-based phenomenon due to individualism, whereas the Eastern creativity is more focussed on a connection to the practical realm in order to maintain interpersonal harmony (Villalba, 2008). Our proposed study will measure creativity in two different cultures, using Taiwan as the sample Eastern country and the UK as the sample Western country. We hypothesise that the reason that creativity differs between Eastern and Western cultures can be explained by two distinct dimensions of self-construal styles, interdependence and independence, which correspond to two main cultural values: collectivism and individualism, respectively.

We will use an adapted version of the flexible thinking task (FTT) administered by Chrysikou & Thompson-Schill (2011) and prepare both English and Chinese versions for cross-cultural studies. We will also administer Cattell’s Culture-Fair IQ test (a non-verbal test of intelligence specifically designed for cross-cultural comparisons) in order to control for IQ mediators. In order to measure if construal style differs between Taiwan and the UK, participants will be required to complete a version of the Self-Construal Scale (SCS) (Singelis, 1994) adapted for the purpose. Participants will be asked to complete these scales for themselves, and also on behalf of imaginary “typical” students from both their culture and the other culture. This procedure allows consideration of difference scores which can ameliorate the psychometric instability of some scales of this type when used only at the individual level (Levine et al, 2003). In addition, participants from both countries will blind rate the ideas generated by their own cultural group and those of the other culture that were produced during FTT task performance. We will also investigate cross-cultural ideas by use of questionnaires focusing on two approaches of creativity: novelty and usefulness.

Data collection: First, a group of UCL undergraduates will be recruited in the UK (Time 1), and the psychometry will be administered. The second stage will require travel to Taiwan by a Taiwanese PhD student studying at UCL to recruit Taiwanese undergraduates and the equivalent psychometry will be administered to them. It is necessary to recruit students in Taiwan because (a) Taiwanese students in the UK will be a self-selecting sample, and (b) they will have already been exposed to Western behavioural and cognitive norms. The objective measures of creativity will focus on the completion rate and the averaged reaction time of the FTT between two groups. The analysis of the SCS and questionnaires will focus on investigating if there is a systematic difference in individuals between cultures, and the level of agreement of the stereotypes that each culture has about the other. 

The Impact of Cross Disciplinary Conservation Practices on Social Development

  • Lead Applicant: Ms Renata Peters (Institute of Archaeology)
  • Main Collaborator: Ms Susi Pancaldo (Museums and Public Engagement)
  • Additional Collaborators: Dr Anne-Marie Deisser (Department of History and Archaeology, University of Nairobi) and Jessica Johnson (University of Delaware, Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage)

The grant will be used to support ‘The Impact of Cross Disciplinary Conservation Practices on Social Development’, a two-day conference to take place at the UCL Institute of Archaeology in May 2014.

The main purpose of this conference is to stimulate lasting discussion (within heritage conservation, the broader field of heritage, and nature conservation) on how the practice of heritage conservation can support conflict or disaster recovery, promote economic prosperity, cultural identity, human wellbeing, and foster social cohesion.

For this, the conference will explore the impact of heritage conservation ethics and practices on socio-cultural, economic and ecological contexts in need for development, areas of post-conflict recovery and reconstruction due to natural disasters. Submissions will be invited in the following areas:

- The impact of the practice of heritage conservation on society.
- Engagement of local groups in re-construction and/or development through the practice of conservation.
- Cross-disciplinary collaborations between professionals involved in heritage and nature conservation (in both practical and theoretical levels).
- Research on and use of locally produced resources to replace scarce and expensive imported treatment materials.
- Practical issues of conservation in the field.
- Theoretical and practical approaches that make the practice of conservation sustainable.

Post-colonial conversations - UK-India: Built environment and spatial knowledge production, dissemination and discourse

  • Lead Applicant: Dr. Tania Sengupta (UCL Architecture)
  • Main Applicant: Dr. Pushpa Arabindoo (UCL Geography)
  • Additional Collaborator: Dr. Jaideep Chatterjee (Dept. for the Study of Visual and Material Cultures, School of Art, Shiv Nadar University, India)

The proposed activity, a day-long curated symposium, will be the first concrete event marking the starting point of what is seen as a longer term exchange between UK (UCL) and India in the field of architectural – and more broadly built environment and spatial – knowledge production, dissemination and discourse. It will also be the inaugural event of the research-node for modern post-colonial architectural and spatial studies that I am in the process of forming at the Bartlett School of Architecture. The symposium will initiate a conversation between Indian and UK academics or academic-practitioners to deliberate on the nature of architectural, spatial and built environment knowledge in the two contexts. We will be reflecting on what constitutes such knowledge, how it is produced, disseminated and the discourse surrounding it. The symposium will involve setting up targeted presentations and exchange on a range of topical issues in the field. The conception of the project is rooted in my realization that there is an increasing curiosity, interest and in some cases substantial pre-existing engagement within the Bartlett School of Architecture, other parts of the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment (such as the Development Planning Unit) and elsewhere within UCL (such as the department of Geography) in the state of the built environment in India, the actors, agencies and processes involved, and the discourses emerging from it. Based on my own experience in and contact with India, I am aware that critically minded academics and practitioners there have been deliberating on such issues in one form or another over the years. On the other hand, much of these also flow through certain key thematic threads which, interestingly, have clearly also been of interest and concern within academic and practice discourse within the UK built-environment context itself. In that sense, there are evidently shared domains of interest and concern in the contemporary context as well as possible linkages to be unearthed, traced back in history and/ or forged in the future. The colonial past shared between Britain and India presents the potential of excavating some of these links and considering them under new terms of reference within the post-colonial context. This opens up the possibility of a two-way conversation along certain discursive themes between UK and India, being fundamentally premised on the fact that the post-colonial condition warrants newer and more equal exchange of history and practice of architectural and spatial thought. Equally, we see the symposium as a fertile ground to bring together pre-existing and potential research and more general interest in the subject area within different parts of UCL to give it a critical mass and nurture inter-departmental exchange.

It is key to emphasise here that we, the collaborators, feel that this first event within a longer and larger dialogue, needs to be discursive in character to begin with. The idea will be to explore the knowledge field through sharing experiences and practices, which generates a creative discursive ground from which more specific and substantial collaborations with Indian institutions can then ensue in the near future, rather than the other way round. Keeping this in mind, we propose including a range of architectural, spatial design and built environment related academics and academic-practitioners from a variety of institutions or in autonomous capacities.

The symposium will have four key thematic strands: 1. Architectural/ spatial design pedagogy and practice, the ‘design-studio’ culture and design as a form of research. 2. Space, politics and activism; architecture and built environment as critical creative practice. 3. Translations I: Global-local, education-practice, design-history, trans-national, trans-local. 4. Translations II: Communities, ecologies and the built environment. Each of the sessions will have three paper presentations from specifically invited speakers (two Indian and one UK based but this may be somewhat malleable depending on who can bring the specific expertise for a particular panel), an invited respondent’s comments and Q&A, other than the overall introductory and concluding remarks. The event will be complemented by a lecture drawn from the Bartlett School of Architecture International Lecture Series for which a significant Indian architectural - or more generally spatial - practitioner or academic will be invited, timing it on the previous/ following day of the symposium (this has already been agreed with the Director of the school). 

Rapid cultural change in Ethiopia: Testing the potential of new technology for mapping community responses

  • Lead Applicant: Dr Edward Stevenson (UCL Anthrpology)
  • Main Collaborator: Dr Matthias Stevens (Civil, Environmental, and Geomatic Engineering)

This activity will bring together the expertise of UCL research groups in Anthropology and CEGE to apply and evaluate bespoke portable logging technology as a tool for studying rapid cultural change. The backdrop to this study is the Gibe-III hydroelectric dam and associated sugar cane plantations currently under construction in Omo Valley of Ethiopia. These developments are forcing agro-pastoralists, who have long used the area for herding and farming, to abandon their traditional way of life. Their predicament has been documented by international observers (e.g. Human Rights Watch, International Rivers) and attracted media attention, but little objective academic research has yet been carried out. Technology developed at UCL has the potential to help assess the ways in which people are responding to the new conditions. This could inform efforts to help affected communities to adapt; and, recursively, the information could motivate changes to the planned interventions.

The UCL Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) group has been working with hunter-gatherers in the Congo to introduce bespoke ICT tools that enable them to collect data on socio-economic and environmental challenges such as illegal logging. Building on these efforts, this grant will support the adaptation of ExCiteS technology for application to pastoralist communities in Ethiopia, namely the geolocation of activities recorded and land areas used by means of GPS tracking. We expect that communities will be forced to use a drastically circumscribed area and employ a smaller suite of livelihood activities after the dam and plantations are in place, but the precise manner in which they will respond to these constraints is an open question.

The project will have a two-stage design, with the first stage in August 2013 being initial preparation and pilot-testing of a prototype, and the second stage being data collection. The grant we are applying for would support the piloting stage. The outcomes of this pilot will influence not just the protocol but also the scale of the data collection phase, which will require additional funding (estimated at £15-25k). The UCL Challenges grant would therefore allow us to lay the groundwork for a longer collaboration with minimised risk.

During preparation and piloting, key questions to answer include whether cellular network and mains power is available in the new settlements, whether icons used in the application interface (images representing activities such as “herding cattle,” “fetching water”, and “selling produce at market”) are recognizable, and which other activities are most relevant to add. Broader questions about protocol would also be addressed: how to compensate people appropriately, how to create a sense of ownership, and what tempo of data-logging would be feasible (a trade-off between data resolution and participant burden).

Independent funding from the National Science Foundation will support travel to Ethiopia for the lead applicant, and a household survey (covering wealth, education, and food security). This will provide valuable background information for incorporation in reports and future grant applications.


Transnational Slade

Transnational Slade: mapping the diaspora of an art school (Pakistan/Sudan) (£4,932)

Dr Amina Yaquin, Department of Urdu Literature and founding member of Centre for the Study of Contemporary Pakistan, SOAS

Dr Tania Tribe, expert on diaspora studies, Department of Art History, SOAS

Dr Caroline Bressey Lecturer in Geography, UCL and PI on the AHRC funded project Drawing Across the Colour Line

David Beavan, Research Manager, Centre for Digital Humanities

Liz Bruchet, Research Assistant, Slade Archive Project

Susan Collins, Professor of Fine Art, Slade Director, PI on Slade Archive Project

Brighid Lowe, Lecturer, Fine Art Media, Slade School of Fine Art, member of the Slade Archive Project: film history

This project will address current themes within GCII: Transnational History and Migration, by expanding our knowledge of the work artists and Slade alumni, Ibrahim El Salahi (b. 1932 Sudan) and Khalid Iqbal (1929-2012 Pakistan), through new research, digitization and publication of materials held in the Slade Archive and related archives, and the solicitation of new information and accounts gathered through crowdsourcing.

Iqbal studied at the Slade between 1952-1955 and El Salahi between 1956-1959 and both then went on to pioneering roles in the development of art and art education in their respective countries, an aspect of the international impact of the Slade that has yet to be mapped. Influenced by Slade Professor William Coldstream, Iqbal went on to be a founder of the Dept of Fine Art, Punjab University, in Lahore, Pakistan. He is considered a pioneer of a popular realist tradition in Pakistan.

El Salahi founded the Khartoum School of art, he is a pioneer of ‘calligraphic modernism’ in Sudan, belatedly recognised in the US in a touring retrospective exhibition ‘A Visionary Modernist’, curated by the art historian Salah Hassan (Cornell University) to be shown at Tate Modern (July-Sept 2013).

Ideas of African sculpture in archaeology and art in modern Britain: Jacob Esptein, Flinders Petrie, Ronald Moody and Edna Manley

Lead applicant: Gemma Romain (UCL Geography)

Main collaborator: Dr Debbie Challis (UCL Petrie Museum)

Additional Collaborators: Nwakaego Ahaiwe, UCL MA Archives and Records Management student and cultural and community archivist (as named researcher)

Dr Sally-Ann Ashton, Senior Assistant Keeper, Department of Antiquities, the Fitzwilliam Museum

Dr. Caroline Bressey, Lecturer and Director of The Equiano Centre, Department of Geography, UCL

Robert Eagle, Multimedia Producer, UCL Communications and Marketing

This project explores responses to and representations of African and Asian visual culture in modern British society. It focuses on the period of 1907 to 1939, during which visual representations by British artists of African and Asian cultures and peoples were racially constructed in an environment of imperialism and ideas of race difference and also in relation to exoticisation and 'negrophilia'. The start date of the project, 1907, marks the creation of Pablo Picasso's 'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon,' said to be the first cubist artwork and heavily inspired by African material cultures. 1907 also marks the Jacob Epstein's first major sculpture in Britain, that of 18 sculptures representing the

'Cycle of Life' and created for the exterior of the British Medical Association building.

The project will investigate these individuals in relation to one another, exploring the various interpretations and artistic responses to Egyptian material culture, with a particular emphasis on the work and worldviews of Flinders Petrie, Jacob Epstein, Ronald Moody and Edna Manley in their interpretations and responses to ancient and modern African sculpture. The project will collaborate with UCL student archivist and community heritage worker Nwakaego Ahaiwe, who will run, in conjunction with the lead collaborators, two research workshops with a group of community artists and archivists, investigating the Egyptian sculptures of the Petrie Museum and the British Museum, the special collections of UCL, the holdings of Tate Archives and Library, and public art created by Epstein such as Night and Day. The group will work with the co-collaborators in creating an exhibition based on their research to be displayed at the Petrie Museum during Spring 2014.

John Donne’s Conversions, 1613–2013

  • Lead applicant: Daniel Smith (UCL English)
  • Main collaborator: Jason Peacey (UCL History)
  • Additional collaborators:

    The proposed events would draw on UCL’s strong core of humanities graduate students researching the early modern period. It would enable them to gain important experience taking responsibility for certain organisational aspects of each event. Additionally, the events would be run in conjunction with the Centre for Early Modern Exchanges, and would draw on the expertise and academic networks of the Centre’s cross-faculty steering committee. The committee includes Professor Helen Hackett (English, co-Director), Dr Alexander Samson (Spanish, co-Director), and the Centre as a whole is represented by member of eighteen UCL departments.

The grant from UCL Grand Challenges will enable a seminar series exploring the poetry, letters, and sermons of John Donne, one of the seventeenth century’s most outstandingly significant literary and religious figures. This year marks 400 years since the composition of one of Donne’s most important poems, ‘Goodfriday, 1613. Riding Westwards’, which explores the author’s intensely intellectual religious meditations at a crucial period in his life. UCL’s Centre for Early Modern Exchanges will celebrate the occasion with three seminars on Donne’s life and writing around 1613. These events will promote Intercultural Interaction by bringing together scholars from different countries, investigating the ways that intellectual cultures interacted in the early modern period, and promoting dialogue across different present-day research cultures.

Because Donne is such a pivotal figure in the interchange between Catholic and Protestant aesthetics in the turbulent post-Reformation period, this proposal appeals to the Grand Challenge of Intercultural Interaction, particularly ‘Early Modern Exchanges’ and ‘Religion and Society’. In 2011-12, GCII supported a programme of events entitled ‘Negotiating Religion’. Our proposed seminar series will develop these events’ aim to ‘stimulate debate about the complex relationship between religion and society’ – this time with a particularly timely literary and historical focus. A GCII grant for ‘John Donne’s Conversions, 1613–2013’ would enable a cross-disciplinary seminar series drawing on UCL’s existing expertise and a particularly vibrant international community, which would appeal beyond the academy: a one-off historical celebration.

Coordination and Collaboration

When two people collaborate, they become more like each other. They sway their bodies, chose their words, wave their hands and move their eyes in concert. This is termed this ‘behavioural coordination’, but there is no clear understanding of why it happens or what it produces. In this project, we intended to use state of the art technology, firstly, to quantify multiple channels of coordination in a natural social interaction, and secondly, to control the behavioural coordination experienced by people in virtual reality interaction.We will investigate participants of European, Asian and African origin to capture 'rules' during face to face interaction including eye contact, nodding, and amount of facial mimicry.

We will quantify how people of different cultures move their faces, and what effect this has on intercultural communication and the impressions people form of each other. By replaying and manipulating these recorded interactions in virtual reality, we can then test experimental predictions: for example we can generate an avatar representing a Chinese participant, but animate it in a more 'western' manner, thereby increasing or decreasing certain facial motions so that a speaker conforms to cultural norms of the listener. In this way, we can develop tools to foster intercultural communication.

Trust and Distrust in the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union, 1956-1991

This international and interdisciplinary conference will apply the concept of trust and distrust to the history of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc, which, it is generally agreed, were a markedly low-trust societies. We treat trust and distrust as hugely influential factors in explaining how dictatorships operate and how closed societies work. Our starting point is that post-war socialist societies in Europe had their own “habitus of trust” and developed their own “culture of trust” which affected their stability, success and failure.

Contact: a.tikhomirov@ucl.ac.uk

Increasing Awareness of Organ Donation in Black and Minority Ethnic Groups

  • Lead applicant: Dr Cecil Thompson (Chair, UCL’s Race Equality Group, UCL General Surgery)
  • Main collaborator: Bimbi Fernando (Renal Transplant Unit, Royal Free Hospital)
  • Additional collaborators:

    Jayne Kavanagh and Katherine Woolf, Department of Medical Education, UCL

    Amir Gander, Department of Surgery, UCL

    Jessica Sims, Department of Primary Care Research, King's College London

It is well known that organ donation and transplantation are important issues for people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups. They are overrepresented on the active transplant waiting list due to prevalence of particular conditions (e.g. diabetes, hypertension and hepatitis), underrepresented as deceased donors and nearly twice as likely as people from white backgrounds to refuse organ donationfor their deceased relatives. The problem is due, at least in part, to a lack of awareness by these groups of the Organ Donor Register (ODR) and the need for organs for transplants, because of faith and cultural stances toward organ donation, and because of a perceived lack of trust in doctors and the healthcare profession. We propose to address these problems with an educational campaign targeted at key stakeholders: patients, researchers, clinicians, BME community groups, medical, potential medical, primary & secondary school students.

The campaign will consist of a main one day conference for key stakeholders, with workshops before, during and after. Some of the workshop findings will be discussed at the conference.


Archaeology, Heritage and Civilisation in Iraqi Kurdistan

GCII Theme: Civilisations

Lead: Dr David Wengrow (UCL Institute of Archaeology)

Main collaborator: Prof Karen Radner (UCL History)

Additional collaborators: Dr Mark Altaweel (UCL Institute of Archaeology); Prof Mike Rowlands (UCL Anthropology)


Project: UCL has an unprecedented opportunity to conduct archaeological and anthropological fieldwork in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Following decades of conflict and a genocidal campaign against its inhabitants in the 1980s, the region is now a focus of major investment and is rapidly becoming a hub of international research. Environmental and cultural regeneration are high on the agenda of local authorities, as is the investigation of the area’s rich, but surprisingly unexplored, archaeological and cultural heritage, and the parallel development of museums and tourism.

The Shahrizor Plain, where UCL has been permitted to work, lies in the province of Suleimaniya, within the heartlands of what was once referred to as the ‘Cradle of Civilisation’; the region in which farming, urban life and literacy began. The current project is in early stages of development, but already involves staff from three UCL departments as well as the newly established department at UCL Qatar, with its focus upon archaeology, museums, heritage and the fostering of intercultural relations in the Middle East. Over the longer term, this project will provide a major vehicle for linking UCL’s expertise across these fields and applying them in an area where they are badly needed.

Negotiating Religion: Inquiries into the history and present of religious accommodation

GCII Theme: Religion & Society

Lead: Dr François Guesnet (UCL Hebrew & Jewish Studies)

Main collaborator: Dr Uta Staiger (UCL European Institute)

Additional collaborators: Dr Claire Dwyer (UCL Geography); Dr Myriam Hunter-Henin (UCL Laws); Prof Cécile Laborde (UCL Political Sciences); Dr Robert Morris (UCL Constitution Unit)


Project: This series of four workshops will discuss the complex processes through which religious communities create or defend their place in a given commonwealth, both in history and in our world today. The focus is on communities' ability to formulate and present their claims, to identify potential spokespeople and their addressees, to secure their institutions and assert their physical and political presence, as well as on the epistemological, political and social conditions facilitating or complicating processes of negotiation.

The four workshops are:

  • Negotiating Religion: European legacies, European challenges
  • Accommodating Religious Communities in Contemporary Europe: Constitutional and philosophical dimensions
  • Negotiating Religion in Urban Space
  • Legal Frameworks: Schools and religious freedom

Grey Areas: Between art and the law

GCII Theme: Human Rights

Lead: Ms Carey Young (UCL Slade School of Fine Art)

Main collaborator: Dr Ralph Wilde (UCL Laws)

Project: The field of human rights is a new vein of research for me, but is highly appropriate given my ongoing artistic research interests in the growing influence of corporations and the legal sphere on to individual and collective subjectivity, and the relationship between law and ideas of ‘reality’. The small grant would provide seed funding for the research, development and production of a small body of artwork which could be exhibited within public exhibitions commencing in 2012–2013.

I would like to engage with Dr Wilde’s research into legal ‘black holes’ (otherwise termed ‘legal vacuums’ or ‘extra-legal zones’) – the often-used term for extraterritorial situations such as military ‘black sites’ or the US detention centre at Guantanamo. I am particularly interested in Dr Wilde’s writings, which problematise and critique the idea of ‘legal black holes’. Particularly interesting to me is Dr Wilde’s view that law is not ‘missing’ from such zones, contrary to much of the literature, and that the application of human rights law may not be the universal salve it is commonly expected to be.

I also envisage using the research phase to look into other human rights issues which also extend my previous research interests, with the idea to develop a major solo exhibition proposal on a human rights theme. I am also interested in the emerging field of human rights law which deals with transnational corporations, as ‘non-state actors’, with regard to human rights, in particular looking at complicity between states and transnational corporations with regard to slippages in human rights protections. Whilst seeing human rights as a contested field, I would like to interrogate the neoliberal idea that we should leave it to the marketplace to regulate corporate behaviour around human rights. I envisage this will lead to ideas for other artistic works.

Where Next for Social Media: How do we bring together theory and practice?

Lead: Dr Simon Lock (UCL Science & Technology Studies)

Main collaborator: Professor Claire Warwick (UCL Information Studies)

Additional collaborators: Dr Jon Agar (UCL Science & Technology Studies); Dr Anthony Watkinson (UCL Information Studies); Dr Steve Cross, UCL Public Engagement


Project: In a very short space of time online social media platforms have become pre-eminent tools of intercultural interaction, supplementing and even displacing many older systems and customs. This project brings together dispersed communities within UCL who research social media platforms. The aim is to share expertise, transfer theory and practice, and pool our intellectual resources in ways that lead to fruitful new collaborations across the university and new ways of using social media for research interactions with stakeholders outside of the academy.

The problem to be solved involves silos. Academics work in disciplinary silos. In those silos, wheels regularly get re-invented and customised jargon and practices thicken the walls. From the outside UCL itself can be viewed as a silo. We know with certainty that research is being conducted on social media and political and social engagement, ideas of privacy, identity, personalization of information, methods of surveillance, notions of public sphere, and corporate control and storage of data. We also know a great many colleagues are investigating new technologies as tools for dissemination and engagement.

With so much going on in the subject area, a clear opportunity exists for opening up the silos and sharing expertise to develop.

This project uses the 'town meeting' model to get our network started. At the same time, we will initiate some desk-based research to pool together scholarship and identify common themes. Finally, we run some workshops so the network can digest the results and identify avenues for further work. Throughout, we’ll use our understanding of these tools to disseminate and engage.

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