Ken

Today’s blog post is full of more dangerous ideas than usual…

  1. K in fact comes after I in the alphabet
  2. I am Scottish and in no way an insecure English girl using local lingo as a feeble gimmick
  3. We might not need copyright?

To hear more about the last one, join Smita Kheria for her show ‘No Copyright, No Problem?‘ on the 19th August.

Who should ken about copyright?

Anyone who pursues creative endeavours or is a patron or consumer of art. Creators and consumers, professionals and amateurs, rights holders and pirates, are all invited!

At the largest arts festival in the world, the Edinburgh Fringe-goer will see many artists and enjoy lots of creativity. But it also presents an opportune moment for them to ‘go boldly’ where Fringe-goers haven’t gone before and find out whether copyright matters to artists, creativity, and society, or could we live without it.

What do you ken about copyright? 

I have been studying the role of copyright for several years now as a socio-legal scholar, and have been investigating whether copyright continues to play a useful role in creative practices in the ‘real world’. But I have been thinking about the role of copyright for an even longer time, actually since I was a student full time, and moonlighting as an amateur DJ – which involved listening to lots of music and also ripping music off my friends’ CDs (ie infringing copyright).

Over various research projects, I have interviewed writers, illustrators, comic book artists, visual artists, performers, researchers, and participants in online communities. I have also carried out ethnographic work at art and literary festivals. In fact, my CoDI show is inspired by fieldwork I conducted at the Edinburgh Festivals in 2014 and 2015. In these projects, I have been examining if copyright can, or in fact does, play an important role in the lives of creative practitioners and assessing the nature of the various controversies, myths, and misunderstandings that have built around copyright.

Why should people ken about copyright (would it be no problem if there was no copyright)?

Although we mightn’t often think about it, copyright is ubiquitous. In fact, it intersects with our lives on a daily basis. Copyright protected materials are everywhere. We are constantly creating and consuming copyright protected content.

Whether or not you are a professional content creator or producer, you are still likely to be regularly engaging with copyright protected content: listening to songs on Spotify, watching videos on Youtube, taking photographs to share on Instagram, reposting a funny cartoon or meme you found online on Facebook.

Sometimes, copyright might also be the reason why you are unable to access content – think of the last time you were on Youtube and were informed that the video you wanted to watch is blocked on copyright grounds. The examples are endless (and they are not limited to the digital environment).

If you are a professional content creator or producer then you will be routinely dealing with copyright in the various contracts and agreements you enter into (not as simple as it sounds); and might also be trying to enforce your copyright when you find that your work is being copied or exploited without your permission (this is challenging and complex too); and doing all this while you are still trying to earn a living, and turning down offers to work for free (or even better, exposure).

While copyright is everywhere, it is also more controversial today than it has ever been. The very ability to easily create, edit, and share copyright content has raised questions about the role of copyright: Do we need copyright when it poses restrictions on this process of creation and sharing? Do content creators really benefit from copyright? Is copyright just for large corporations? Is it an unjust monopoly?

Can you make me ken why your idea is dangerous?

A cursory look at popular media demonstrates that not only is copyright protection highly controversial, but also an issue that sometimes polarises opinion – almost like Marmite, some people love copyright or hate copyright!

My idea is dangerous because it delves into the question of what would happen if there was no copyright, and relatedly, whether or not copyright currently has a positive role in today’s post-digital society.

Let’s imagine a society where we have gotten rid of copyright, with all its complexities and controversies. Dumping copyright might, on the surface, sound like a good idea, but the idea actually carries dangers with it because copyright protects both creative works and underpins the livelihoods that many creators successfully derive from their works.

If copyright disappeared, would we all really be able to ‘freely’ download and share all the content we like (e.g. Game of Thrones episodes, Harry Potter books, and Ed Sheeran songs)? Or, would other restrictions perhaps replace said copyright law and be even less desirable? What would such restrictions look like? Additionally, without copyright, would artists continue to create content and pursue financially sustainable creative lives? Would a sufficient number of artists continue to create so that we can continue enjoying reading, watching, listening to new creative content? And if so, what kind of artists will they be?

Perhaps most dangerously of all, without copyright protecting creators and their works, will large corporations like Google benefit more as they will be able to scoop up mountains of “free” content that they can then monetise?

Illness

Today I’m talking to Matthias Schwannauer about why the first things which spring to mind when we hear the word ‘illness’ are chicken pox and flu rather than depression or schizophrenia, and how we should be talking about mental health. 

To hear more from Matthias head to his show ‘We’re All Mental!’ on the 10th and the 26th of August.

Why are mental illness and physical illnesses not perceived in the same way?

I think there are three main dimensions to this question.

Firstly, responsibility and autonomy; we often make an assumption that we are less responsible for our physical health than our mental health and there are more essentialist assumptions about our mental health than physical health.  Physical health conditions mostly – and erroneously – are attributed to an external cause, an accident, circumstance, or if internal (like metabolism, organ failure, weakness of the heart) than they are often attributed to something unavoidable. The language is also mostly passive, something that has happened to you!  Mental health on the other hand is seen as being more closely associated with our character and personality and is often seen as a weakness, lack of resilience to cope with life’s perils.  Correspondingly the language is more active, someone going mad, etc.

Secondly, there is a scientific and philosophical reason, mental health and illness is more complex, located in the brain, and our neural systems, and less likely to be able to be directly observed.  One of the main reasons why neuroscience and other biological models of our minds offer such a great attraction.

Thirdly, societal stigma in relation to mental health and illness is significant.  This applies to both perception by others and by ourselves when suffering from mental illness – the effects and consequences of mental health stigma can be as significant as the effects of a mental illness itself and are wide reaching, affecting education, work, personal and family life.

How does this affect the way they are talked about and dealt with?

There is a lack of parity of esteem in relation to mental health, as said above it is almost seen as something very personal and weak that is not talked about easily.  So rather than talking about certain conditions we tend to talk about individuals.  Marked by misinformation and prejudice it is difficult to admit to and seek help for mental health problems and most find it difficult to share with others that they may be suffering from such difficulties.  Lack of effective treatments and supportive infra structures also make it difficult for health and social care professionals to offer appropriate support and there is an air of neglect around the available provisions.

How should we be talking about mental illness?

I suggest that we largely get rid of the mental illness label but focus on coping and responding to stressors and challenges in our lives and environments – as the title suggests all of us are familiar with emotional difficulties and problems, most transient, but occasionally affecting the way we progress and deal with life. It seems like societal acceptance and normalisation of most mental health difficulties would go a long way to remedy its key problems.  Where we can reliably isolate treatable conditions or symptoms we may focus on these rather than making wider assumptions about their implications or future outlook.  E.g. individuals can learn to cope with and adapt to even severe so called symptoms like hearing voices etc. without that necessarily getting in the way of heir lives.

How will this lead to improvements for patients?

Reduced societal stigma and parity of esteem within health and social care services would reduce most so called secondary problems of mental health problems. If we could seek help without the fear of stigmatisation or discrimination if treatments were generally acceptable without huge personal cost of harm and impairments and if places of work and education would be set up to cater for the variations in emotional lives and expressions mental health we would find ourselves in a fairer and more just society.

Health

Today I’m learning all about how pigs can save our lives.

Find out more with James Lowe at his show ‘Will Pigs Save Our Bacon?’ on the 22nd August. 

Why do we even need to consider xenotransplantation?

Xenotransplantation is the transplantation of organs and other bodily tissues from non-human animals like pigs into humans. It has been pursued for decades as the supply of organs that ill people need to replace their own faulty or diseased organs does not meet supply. Hundreds of people die in the UK alone every year through not getting healthy organs in time. Many more suffer from the delay, for example being on kidney dialysis for years.

Why is xenotransplantation not just a health issue, e.g. it’s also a moral issue?

It’s difficult to imagine a health issue that does not also have moral and ethical dimensions. There are indeed a number of potentially thorny ethical, social and political issues associated with xenotransplantation. One is that the promise of its quick implementation may undermine efforts to improve the supply of human organs. Another is that it is exploiting animals for human benefit, treating them as means to our ends. Of course, if you eat animals then you are doing the same, but if you have an objection to that on ethical grounds, it makes sense to extend that to xenotransplantation as well. There are cultures and religions where pig meat is considered forbidden, raising the possibility that they may not have the same access to treatments using pig organs, but there is intriguing evidence that it may not be so clear cut. There are multiple other issues that xenotransplantation touches on, for example the role of genome editing and modification, and the creation of ‘humanised pigs’, that reanimate many debates that arose with particular fervour in the 1990s.

Is xenotransplantation really the healthiest option

The healthiest option would be prevention of damage to organs in the first place. If this is unavoidable, then ideally, people should be able to receive organs from other humans. Alongside campaigns to encourage people to register as an organ donor and tell their families about their decision, there have been moves to change the law to ensure that the onus is on people to say they don’t want to donate organs, rather than having to volunteer. This is the so-called ‘opt-out’ approach, and it forms part of a bill currently before the Scottish Parliament.

In the absence of appropriate human organs, xenotransplantation can be an option, though for most organs this will not be the case for several years at least.

Goals

Today I’m talking to Sarah Keer-Keer and David Finnegan about their goals.

Hear more from Sarah and David at their show ‘All News is Fake News’ on the 15th August at the New Town Theatre. 

What is your no. 1 personal goal?

To get to the end of this year in one piece – I had a head injury in December 2017 and it has turned my life upside down.

What goals do you have for decision making by people more generally?

To help people to spot signs that people are trying to use emotion in a negative way to sway their judgment. I think we can all be better judges of information, but we are naturally lazy.

How do you aim to influence the media and/or public perception of the media?

‘The media’ meant something very different 8 years ago, to what it means now: we are living through a massive change in how we get information. I don’t want to encourage fear, but scepticism would be healthy! I would like people to work together to feel more confident about assessing information and asking for evidence. Scientists have long been sceptics, and evidence-based decision makers, it’s a good discipline.

How can I aim to better separate facts from fiction in the media?

Always be aware of your own and other people’s fallibility. Try to be aware of who the person creating information works for and any hidden motives they may have.

If you have the time, look at a headline, an article or Facebook post. Look at the text critically, and underline statements that are opinion, emotional or judgemental. Then using another colour underline any factual statements. Then find an article from another source, and do the same. Compare what you see.

Food

Now this is one of my favourite topics, and Matjaz Vidmar is here to combine it with possibly the second coolest topic… space!

To learn more about space food come watch Matjaz’s show on the 20th August.

What’s your favourite food?

Hmmm… Tough one this! I am quite into food and I love cooking. I definitely can’t really live without cheese (and other dairy) – it is the one thing stopping me from becoming a vegan! Which leads me to my other favourite food: pretty much any kind of vegetables, preferably mixed with cheese! So, I am a big fan of pizza (who isn’t?!), curry (with paneer) and salad (with sour cream dressing). But I am not a fussy eater and like to experiment and be surprised by new flavours.

Why is food changing?

The main change in the agri-food sector is in the advancement of scientific thinking and emergence of new innovative practices – the food is becoming high-tech! The reasons for that are manifold. To begin with, we live in an era of hyper-technologisation, where technology is aiding (and controlling) more and more of our lives. The planet is also entering a period of possibly largest human-made ecological crisis, in a double-whammy of climate change and over-population, and technology has been seen as a possible solution. But technology is always only an enabler, our problems, and solutions for them, are based on the society and its changing structures and behaviour.

How is food changing?

Well, food is changing in different ways. On one hand, the way food is produced and what it is like is changing with new farming processes and techniques inspired by science and engineering, including interesting bits of research done by and for space exploration programmes. This in particular relates to nutrition science and increasing in how to grow food in artificial (controlled) environment. On the other hand, technologies developed for Earth observation and environmental monitoring are changing the way we thing about food globally, as a species. We are getting towards a point when we will have a “mission control Earth” capability, where global oversight of most of our natural environment, including food production, can be developed based on data (images) captured by satellites in space.

Does that mean you won’t be able to eat your favourite foods anymore?

No, I really hope we will! I like my cheese way too much! But two features of this new system can emerge that can become a bit “dangerous”. First, with new tech we can produce more/”better quality” food, but does it taste the same? Secondly, with global oversight of food systems the promise is to finally eradicate hunger and improve food safety standards, but could that same technology be manipulated to deepen inequality and maximise profits for a few people and corporations? Which leads me to the questions about: What should scientists/engineers priorities be in food research? How can the public get involved in the development of these high-tech foods and the monitoring systems to make sure they are not abused? We will try to answers some of these questions as part of the “Is Astronaut Food the Future?” event!

Does space cheese taste the same as real cheese?

Well, I think it does, as at least for now, since I think “space cheese” at the moment is just “normal” cheese from the Earth sent to space… But that might change in the future, so would really like to try one made “out-there” once it is ready! Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) the astronauts on International Space Station can’t really taste food properly at all, as their noses get blocked due to micro-gravity (weightlessness) – the snot doesn’t drip out like on Earth! Not great to enjoy subtler matured aromas of vintage cheeses, but very handy since washing opportunities are limited!

End of the Earth

Today Matthew Partridge tries to convince me that I might not die in a horrible disaster movie style way… thanks to fibre optics?

Learn more about how great fibre optics really are at Matthew’s Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas shows on the 11th and 13th August. 

Can fibre optics save me in a zombie apocalypse?

If there is one thing my childhood prepared me for it’s what to do in a zombie apocalypse. Zombie apocalypses were so common in movies that it was very hard not to grow up as someone that is always looking for how they could fight zombies using simple every day objects I happened to have lying around my high tech fibre optics lab.

Now almost every zombie apocalypse involves losing power (apparently zombies have a thirst for electrical fuses more than brains) so I think we need to rule out any use of the fibres and lasers or light sources. But even without these fibre optics still have two vital uses in a zombie apocalypse, as a weapon and as a way of pooping safely. Firstly weaponizing fibre optics is relatively simple, they are after all glass and their tips are so small that they can quite easily break the skin. You can even ‘sharpen’ them by simpley heating them and stretching them out into tapered ends. These tapers can be so small that they don’t so much cut as push between skin cells. Making a bundle of these into a spear is going to be a formidable zombie brain stabbing weapon and one that is very durable thank to their strength. Secondly, pooping in zombie movies is practically an extreme sport given the number of protagonists that die from zombies sneaking up on them in the toilet. This is where you can use fibre optics in one of the oldest applications, as a bendy flexible scope. Using a long length of fibre optic as something called an endoscope you can sit in comfort on the toilet while keeping an eye under the cubical for any sneak zombie trying to interrupt.

Can fibre optics save me from a pandemic?

This is a tricky one to answer because there are so many different types of pandemics. A pandemic is a fast spreading infection which sounds simple but encompasses lots of different things including fungal, parasitic, viral and the most infectious agent of all, glitter. But one thing they all have in common is that you are a big squishy bag of biology and there is a very small thing that wants to get inside and multiply like crazy and in the process probably make you cough in that special movie way that means that you are now going to die in about 2 scenes time. The best way to survive a pandemic is to not get infected in the first place, simple. Now obviously you can just make yourself a giant hamster ball and bury yourself under the ground in a bunker wrapped in clingfilm (which my Mum assures me keeps everything out) but with fibre optics you can continue to live a semi normal life and remain infection free. One particular type of fiber optics is something called Hollowcore fibre optics. Unlike their solid counterparts hollowcore fibre optics are hollow (the clue is in the name). The property has many different applications but one that is already in use in various places is filtration. As a liquid is passed through a large bundle of fibre optics the larger components like cells (which on a micro scale are big and fat) get ‘stuck’ and the liquid passes through without them. You can even coat the insides of the tubes so they don’t just passively stop all cells but actively grab the right cells, viruses or glitter and stop them flowing through. So by making a straw made up of a bundle of hollow core fibers you could happily enjoy your Starbucks Frappuccino safe in the knowledge that each sip is pandemic free.

Can fibre optics save me from robot ascension?

Robot ascension isn’t just hypothetical. Ever since Boston Dynamics posted that video of a robot being kicked it has been inevitable that one day the robots will rise up against us and begin their enslavement of humankind. How exactly robots will ascend is a bit harder to predict. Developments in robotics is moving so fast it’s hard to keep track. Somewhat embarrassingly for this question one of the reasons for this rapid development is that fibre optics being so much lower power and smaller than regular electrical connections are helping with this rise of the machines. The use of fibre optics as shape sensors and pressure sensors are even helping to make machines that can feel themselves, their surroundings and the neck of the researcher they forcing to release the safety locks. Luckily some of this technology is even being used to enhance humans so that we have a fighting chance. Fibre optic artificial nerves are helping people missing limbs to interface with their prosthesis and control them more naturally. Some of these nerve connections are so responsive they out perform their biological version. If we are to survive against our robot overlords we should start an immediate enhancement program giving humans new stronger limbs with better nerves slowly replacing all of them with better synthetic components…. join us human, become better, become a robot.

How else can fibre optics save our lives/make our lives better?

One piece of advice I was once given by a fellow scientist about being interviewed is to not answer the question being asked, answer the question that you want to answer. I’m not entirely sure it was good advice and it certainly didn’t answer the question “when is my paper deadline” which is what I’d asked them, but I’m going to follow this advice now.

The question isn’t how else ‘can’ fibre optics save our lives? It’s how else DO fiber optics save our lives. Fiber optics are everywhere doing all kinds of amazing jobs. They floating in the ocean listening for leaks in pipes or sensing pressure waves from earthquakes. They are in hospitals sensing minuet amounts of proteins or the insides of tumors to help treat them better. They are in prototype fusion reactors directing impossibly powerful lasers. They are in a million places doing a million amazing things making our lives better.

Why does no one know how great they are?

Fiber optics are a technology that is old and new at the same time. It’s technology that has existed since the late 1800s it has been a corner stone of communications since the late 1900s and it’s only recently that new applications have been discovered which allow them to do yet more amazing things like kill zombies, filter out diseases or work as artificial nerves. They are developing so fast and doing so many things it’s hard to keep up with all the publications and new stories. What people need is a fun 1 hour format show that helps explain these developments and links them to problems in their daily lives. If a show like that existed then in no time at all everyone would know all the amazing ways fibre optics could save the world.

Direction (2)

Because you can never have too many directions…

Nicola Osborne explains data protection and GDPR to me (we should all understand it by now I know!)

For more from Nicola come watch her shows on the 4th and the 15th August.

We’re all worried about data protection rights, but what direction are they really going in?

Well since we are loosely in World Cup season I’m going to say it’s a game of two halves…

If you look at the amount of data we’ve gotten used to sharing on Facebook, Google, etc. and the way we use phone apps and home voice control systems like Alexa then it looks pretty bad. We are totally used to sharing our name, date of birth, our pictures, our emotional state, our current real world location, tracking our weight, our runs, our lives… And never really reading the terms of service.

At the same time, I think most people are getting much more thoughtful about how they share data, and who that data is shared with – even as we are adopting more potentially-privacy invading technologies, I think we are becoming more demanding about our data and much more aware of the impact that sharing data can have.

Where will data protection be in 5 years?

Well, we could be in a great place with data protection…

At the University of Edinburgh and EDINA we’ve been undertaking research on how people manage their digital footprint – tracks and traces that are left behind online whether on purpose or by accident – for the last five years. When people start to think deeply about how they would want to present themselves online you hear questions like “but how do I get rid of something I posted that I now regret” or “what if someone else posts something about me” or “how do I know how my data is being shared across sites and apps?”. We’ve had lots of suggestions of course, but as of 25th May 2018 we have a whole new set of ways of exercising our rights…

The new General Data Protection Regulations (or GDPR) might sound like the least exciting piece of legislation but I think they could be the new superhero powers to help us make those demands, exercise our rights over our own data, and really start questioning how our personal data is used and shared. They cover all kinds of data – including “metadata” like our location, ip address, etc. so a really broad and inclusive sense of “personal” data. And the regulations require real transparency over how data is used, stored, retained, shared, and bulks up consumer rights to understand what data others have about them, how its stored, how it is used, who it is shared with, and also how they can request its removal.

Is that good?

It’s brilliant! It gives us a chance to step back and curate our digital footprint more thoughtfully. Although GDPR includes lots of protections that were already in the Data Protection act, they now come with much sharper teeth. A really good example of this is that the Information Commissioner’s Officer has recently announced an intention to fine Facebook £500k for two data breaches associated with the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook makes that much money every 2.5 minutes. Under GDPR – so anything that happened after 25th May – they could be fined 4% of their global turnover – which would be £1.4bn; or responsible individuals could face a (max) 2 year prison term. That’s quite a ramp up in super powers!

Can/should we change the direction of data protection rights?

Yes! And the best way to do that is to question what data we want out there about ourselves, how we want that data used, and then really take advantage of these new rights and legal obligations. If we use them, we could really reshape how our data is used, and the kind of privacy we want in the future. If we don’t use those rights and make it clear that how our data is used matters, we make it harder to have conscious choices about our data and the way it is used. That isn’t just about having a great online presence for potential employers, or looking really cool for our personal social media audiences – though that’s part of it – it can be much more serious than that.

Personal data, including social media postings and location data, on phones is already being used in refugee validation/deportation processes already; leaked personal data and “doxxing” can have serious consequences for employment, mental health and physical safety; health tracking data can have significant influence on insurance prices or availability (for good and bad); there is some evidence that pregnancy apps have been selling data to political campaigns (the ICO is looking at that one at the moment); and in China a “social credit system” which is in trial combines bill-paying, spending patterns, their social interactions, their “compliance”, etc. to give a score that influences access to jobs, schools, mortgages.

Where do you want to see data protection rights end up?

Most of the businesses using data in lets say sketchy ways didn’t mean to do anything evil, they just a cool idea they wanted to build, but data selling and data analytics are a really easy way to finance and tailor products, especially if privacy doesn’t matter too much to you (more likely when you are young, privileged, undiverse). The result is that our personal data is now big business, but taking a more informed and proactive role gives us much more opportunity to rethink how and why we use the digital tools we do, to challenge potential inequalities, to avoid some of those risks to our right to a private life, and to really tell our own stories.

We are at a pivotal moment for personal data: we are all just about used to pervasive access to the internet and smart phones but a lot of the business models that support social media, online content, etc. aren’t mature yet, and some of the most exciting and potentially most privacy invading technologies around big data have a long way to go. Now is the time to really engage and start shaping our own futures before someone does it for us!

So come join me at CODI to hear some more scare stories, and plot some of the ways to start demanding your data and your data rights!

Vive la personal data revolution!

Direction

Today I’m talking to Dr Stephen Darling about science and where it’s going.

Hear more from Stephen at his shows on the 9th and 18th August at the New Town Theatre.  

You say science is fucked, what do you mean by that? What direction is science going in?

It might be going downhill.

There are two problems that I see – the first is an increased political willingness to ignore scientific research when it is inconvenient – the most glaring example being the whole climate change area, where a vociferous political movement has engaged – depressingly successfully – with attempting to discredit the scientific evidence for human influenced climate change. Scientific explanations have been attacked in favour of dogmatic (often political or religious) positions. Of course, this kind of thing has been going on since time immemorial but it has increased recently.

And it arrives at a time when science itself has become a little more self-critical. An important paper has claimed that ‘most research findings are false’, and while the title is – perhaps – a little more eye catching than the contents, there is unease in the scientific community that there may be some aspects of the way science works that introduces bias and error. Although this concern, from scientists, tends to be targeted at developing new, better, less error-prone ways to do science, it represents fuel to fan the flames of the dogmatists and demagogues, who can claim that even scientists don’t have faith in their findings.

Scientists have already begun to popularise methods and approaches to counteract these problems, but it remains to be seen if enough scientists will recognise that there is a problem and adopt such methods, or whether science will continue to whither as it becomes seen as more and more flawed.

Where will science be in 5 years?

Hopefully having countered some of the more persuasive criticisms made of it. I am, by nature, an optimist.

Is that good?

Of course!

Can we change the direction of science and people’s confidence in it?

I think so, but only by being open about the problems and the solutions, and engaging the public about the idea of science as a diverse knowledge-finding process rather than a canon of facts. It would help if science tried to address its elitist image – after all, a good scientist is someone for whom answering a question ‘I don’t know’ should lead to musing ‘I wonder why…’ – which seems to me to be hugely liberating and far from an elite perspective.

Governments could help as well, by changing the incentive structure around scientific funding.

What are you doing to un-fuck science?

Trying to practice it in as open and responsible a way as possible – but I’m just getting started on that road.

Celebrity Crush

Today we’re finding out all about Chris Blumzon’s celebrity crush!

Chris’s show ‘School of Batman- Live!’ is on Sunday 12th August. His

show, based on podcast ‘School of Batman’, also features Megan Hardeman of Figshare and Matthew Partridge of Southampton University. 

Who’s your celebrity crush?

CB: Poison Ivy! Poison Ivy is one of the many great Batman villains and had quite the impact as a child which has carried on to adulthood. Uma Thurman did a good job in the movies but it was always the Poison Ivy of the comics for me.

Which celebrity provided the inspiration for your show?

CB: Surprisingly, Batman. As one of the few superheroes without powers, I was enthralled with how Batman used science, technology and intellect to overcome the many challenges that he faced. Working in scientific software, this same enthrallment is substituted perfectly for the admiration and esteem I hold for the academic community and I wanted to use the framing device of Batman to tell their stories. They are my real superheroes!

At what age did you become interested by batman?

CB: Batman was such a persistent part of culture growing up that I can’t ever really remember a time when Batman was not a part of life. It was absolutely the Tim Burton Batman film of 1989 that kicked it all off and by the time the animated series rolled around and I had enough pocket money for comics, I was hooked.

What is it that makes him more than a kids character for you?

CB: One of the great things about Batman is that with so many incredible artists and writers over the years using the character to tell the stories they want to tell, there is truly a Batman for everyone. If you want a Batman for kids, he’s there and there’s stories that explore complex themes without patronising that I think is a key reason he resonates so much with younger people. You want pulpy crime dramas? Gothic noir? Futurology? Sci fi? Explorations on madness and the human condition? I truly believe that no other character has such a breadth of scope and that’s why I love him.

Is your show only for batman fans?

CB: Absolutely not. If you’re a big batman fan, you’re certain to get a kick out of the science behind the Shark Repellent Bat Spray but ultimately it is a fun celebration of humanity’s search for knowledge with relatable stories that will help you get to grips with complex topics.

Back to the Future

Today I’m talking to Rachel Hosker all about the past, and the silences we have to deal with when exploring it. Her show ‘Silence in the Archive’ will be on in The NewTown Theatre on the 5th and the 22nd of August!

Which period/ moment in the past would you return to?

Wow, that’s a tricky one. I totally loved growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, but would never want to relive teenage years again! Perhaps the 1970s,

Why?

Partly because Women’s liberation and the equal pay act came in, so it would be an interesting time.  And because of flares and music!

Who would you speak to and what about?

I’d love to speak to students at the University I work for, so I could see the changes through their eyes, here their views on politics and equality. It was a time when students did undertake sit-ins and actively protest.

Why would you need to time travel to find this information?

The technology of the 1970s such as photographs and with the dawn of computing in a more widespread way, we know that much has been lost in terms of archives and documentary evidence. People didn’t wander around with cameras in the way we do now on our mobile phones, and if they did take photographs or film the quality of the printing could be poor that it has now disintegrated.

What are some of the other reasons for silences in the archives?

There are so many. Willful destruction for politics, power, embarrassment, public image, discrimination, the law such as data protection, suppression, lack of realising the value of events or decisions at the time, information overload, cultural and societal bias or view, accident or act of nature, war, terrorism and violence, personal choice not to be documented.  The list could go on and on.

How should we be changing these issues of silences in history?

Archivists as a profession are very much about the democratisation of this form of evidence. Thinking about and challenging bias’ and reflecting on who’s voice is being heard or who is being affected, when records are being created or decisions being made is important. Everyone has a role, from your family archives, to creating documentary evidence in work it is interesting to reflect if a silence is there.