Or

Today I’m asking the big questions with Daphne Loads! No not the meaning of life, think more tea or coffee. 

To hear more from Daphne join her at her show ‘Stop Making Sense’ on the 10th August at the New Town Theatre.

Cats or dogs?

Cats!

Coffee or tea?

Tea

Do you take the temperature or feel the heat?

I do both or either depending on the situation. But I’m more likely to feel the heat.

Do you like graphs and charts or do you prefer Picasso?

Picasso every time

Why do we need to stop being so rational? Why do we need to feel the heat?

Because there’s so much more to life than logic and facts

Are universities harbouring the ‘abnormally high levels of rationality’ you mention?

Yes

Why is this a problem?

Because some things that students need to understand can’t be taught through logical argument.

How can we change things?

Some of the ways I know are: reading poems, growing flowers, having a laugh, examining assumptions, learning from cats….

The Notorious F.L.U.O.R.E.S.C.E.N.C.E

Today I’m talking to Amy Davies about FAME (but I needed an ‘N’ so I went with notorious…) To hear more from Amy and why fluorescence really should be as big as Biggie join her for her show ‘The Dark Side Of Fluorescence’ on the 21st August at the New Town Theatre. 

What would you want to be famous for?

I’m passionate about talking about science with anyone, children, adults, friends, colleagues, family and even strangers on a train. I’ve designed and run activities for schools and science festivals, and even been on radio programmes. So in deciding to put on a show in this year’s Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas, my friends and family joke that I’m aiming to be a famous scientist; the next Brian Cox or Alice Roberts for example, and have my own science show on TV. That is not true. Although I enjoy talking with people about my research or science in general, I’d like to be known for my contribution to science. I’m at en early stage in my career and still searching for my niche but I hope that my work is well done, useful and can be built upon to discover something beneficial.

So would I like to be famous for something? Not really. But it would be nice to be known as someone who did good work and was able to talk with anyone about it.

What is fluorescence most notable for?

My first encounter with fluorescence was as a child watching nature documentaries with amazing videos of glowing fish in the sea or bioluminescent insects on land and enchantingly narrated by David Attenborough. I think that is still the case today: with the impressive improvement in camera and submersible technologies, even more fluorescent and bioluminescent creatures are shown in all their glory in programmes such as BBC’s Blue Planet.

I think the genetically modified “glow-in-the-dark” animals, such as cats or mice, are also a common talking point for fluorescence. They make for quite striking images and newspaper headlines so are quite memorable.

What do you think it should be famous for?

Fluorescent proteins and bioluminescence have completely revolutionised our understanding of biology. Fluorescent proteins, such as those found in jellyfish, are able to absorb light and re-emit it as a different colour light. While in bioluminescence, as seen in firefly, light is produced by a chemical reaction. We can now get cells or even whole animals to make these fluorescent proteins which allows researchers to see previously invisible proteins in live cells.

In “live cells” is the really important part. Previously, we could see these proteins in cells at a fixed time point. Drawing conclusions from those images is like taking a photo of a motorway and then claiming that there are always 20 cars driving south and 30 cars driving north while in real life that number changes constantly. Therefore, by using fluorescent proteins, in live cells, we are able learn about a particular protein: their numbers, their locations, their behaviours and importantly what happens to them in diseases (e.g. cancer) or when treated with a drug. This can be expanded beyond just one cell to help understand how whole organs work too.

I think that it’s great that fluorescence is known for glowing animals and pretty pictures of cells but I would like it to be also famous for helping to discover what is going on in the invisible, complex and busy world of cells.

 Why do people not know about these aspects of fluorescence?

While many people will have seen images of fluorescently labelled cells or green glowing animals, the significance of the scientific research behind those images is not immediately obvious. Questions about what the images show, what is glowing and why this is important are not often communicated outside of research. This is a shame and researchers, like myself, need to do more to talk about our work and engage in conversations about it with the public. I think programmes such as CODI are a great way for us to do just that.

Media

Today I’m talking to Kat Rezai all about the media and its at times scary impact. To her more from Kat head to her show ‘What Does Sex Sell?’ on Friday 3rd August. 

What’s your favourite women’s magazine?

Goodness, what a question! When I was around the ages of 12-16 admittedly I used to read Cosmopolitan a lot. Even though I used to read them, I was always critical of the ways in which they would communicate to women. Page 1: love yourself for your body; page 2: how to lose 6 lbs in two weeks or ‘how to make your man happy in bed!’. Such an oxymoron. No wonder why so many women have so much pressure in society. We are told one minute to love who we are, and then next minute, told how to improve ourselves! I only buy Cosmo these days to show to students in my Gender Stereotypes in Advertising and Marketing Ethics: Feminism classes as contemporary examples of magazine marketing messages.

But my favourite used to be a magazine and since has become a blog – Parallel magazine. I subscribed a while back and enjoyed all the cool intersectional feminist issues they were discussing, and I look forward to seeing more about what they do. What we need today is more ‘empowering’ magazines – magazines which inspire women to do what THEY want – not what society wants. Sounds rather stereotypical being a feminist, but I like what they stand for – different.

Do you have a favourite ad?

It’s got to be the ‘Like a Girl’ advert from Always https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjJQBjWYDTs . It highlighted those awful stereotypes of women acting ‘like a girl’ (being decorative, flimsy, caring about their looks over action) and the overarching message beautifully presented by those young women really highlighted how much we can change stereotypes if we focus on stopping promoting these barriers for people due to their socially constructed genders. You can be who you want to be – masculine, feminine, or anywhere in-between, just never feel under pressure to be something else. Never feel like you are any less due to social standards of sex and gender.

How do the media and the images we see in these magazines and these ads affect body image?

As a qualitative researcher I can never ‘prove’ anything. But what I can say is if we constantly see images across mainstream media depicting an idyllic body image in outlets from reality TV, to social media and billboard ads – it normalises a particular ideal of what beauty and body images [supposedly] should be. So, with this argument I would say that these images that have a continuous theme of specific images do have some impact on the ways in which we view ourselves in terms of our bodies and our concept of self-image. A personal example was recently when I was watching Love Island. I don’t watch it that often, but after a week of watching it nightly, I remember looking at my body in the mirror with a sense of misery that I had the odd lump and bump. And this is someone who read The Beauty Myth (a highly recommended read from Naomi Wolf!). Why do we do this to ourselves? The more we see depictions of perfection, the less we accept ourselves as beings.

Do they also affect behaviours?

Again, this is something that I can never prove. The more we see images and messages that encourage us to ‘improve’ our bodies through projects of diets, commodity purchases and other body-changing practices, it does indeed encourage people to partake in these activities. Waist-trainers are a perfect example – people are using them to create a slimmer waist when medical professionals have argued the medical implications of wearing them as it squeezes in their organs! I wonder if anyone can really honestly say that they have never been ‘on a diet’ or tried some trend to improve their self-image.

How can we change these behaviours?

It comes down to the social standards. These social standards are implicated from the repetitive images that we see in society. People tell me ‘advertising doesn’t affect me!’ but I think It’s a load of BULL. The reason why we feel this way is because we see so many of these images that it affects the sub-conscious mind. It’s not until we are told to stop, look and analyse these messages that we then question the ways in which our identities are communicated and portrayed. We need to change mainstream media of all outlets. Advertising is no longer a standard bill-board ad of Heinz Beans – it is pasted everywhere. Due to the boom of Internet-based advertising – such as social media – ads have become instantly communicated to our social media apps and they track us everywhere. It is inescapable and shapes the ways in which we view others. So considerable review of depictions of identities of mainstream media is crucial towards changing the ways in which we behave with others and ourselves.

Will changing the media and advertising really have an impact on behaviours in society?

OOFT you got me there. I’m not even sure if the ‘gods’ of my field could answer that. In a utopia I’d like to think so. This is why I am trying these new methods of public engagement with CoDI. The only way we are going to challenge these gendered notions of sex in advertising is to bring it out to the public. Gaining voice from the public is important towards our understanding towards such topical issues. With my show, I aim to raise the conscious mind – get the audience to reflect on these sexualised images to ask themselves: what does sex really sell? Like I said, there are so many images pasted in mainstream media – such as sexualisation in a specific form that we don’t question it. The only way to improve or enhance society is to focus on the people as well as the images and messages in mainstream media. It is a huge task and I for one second do not take this on alone. I definitely don’t think I can do it alone either. It takes a huge crowd of people and this topic has been discussed for years. I recommend Jean Kilbourne’s TedXtalks https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uy8yLaoWybk&vl=en on the ways in which women are portrayed in advertising. Jean has been researching and voicing these issues for over four decades and even she says more needs to be done!

Living

We’re back on track with L today! I’m talking to Antonella Sorace about her favourite places to live, different attitudes to languages and monolingualism. To hear more head to Antonella’s show ‘Monolinguals, Where Are You?’ on the 8th and the 19th of August. 

Where is your favourite place to live?

I’m a citizen of the world! I love Edinburgh, which is the place where I live and I’ve lived the longest in my life. I love Sardinia, which is where my roots are and where I spend my summers.

Where is your favourite place to visit?

See above. I travel all the time, all over the world, and I like both visiting new places and revisiting old ones.

How do attitudes to languages differ from country to country?

Attitudes to languages are particularly narrow in the UK: language learning is not a priority either for individuals or for governments because of the international status of English as a lingua franca, so people are not motivated to learn other languages. And they don’t know what the miss: not just the ability to speak with other people in their language, but also all the benefits that come with having more than one language in the brain.

In the UK there often seems to be an acceptance of being monolingual and a sense that “languages aren’t for me”, why is this?

See above. I’ve heard more people saying “I’m hopeless at languages” in the UK than anywhere else. This is often not true: in most cases they haven’t really tried, or they’ve been badly taught a tiny bit of French at school. When Brits really want to learn a new language, they can be very good at it.

Is it a problem?

Yes, it is a problem. Lack of language skills means not only being unable to communicate with people in other countries unless they speak English, but also missing out on the many benefits of multilingualism, such as the ability to see other people’s perspectives, the ability to focus attention in a more focused way, and the ability to adapt to change more quickly. Ultimately, not speaking other languages goes together with more self-centred attitudes and isolationism – as Brexit shows.

How is monolingualism changing?

The potentially good news is that even Brits hear other languages more and more often, whether by choice or not. Foreign languages are now taught earlier in elementary schools, and people are constantly exposed to other languages spoken by migrants, or to different dialects or varieties of their own language. This means that they may even learn some aspects of other languages without knowing it’s happening. So, the complete monolingual is becoming rarer and rarer, and may soon be a thing of the past. There are all kinds of implications of this simple fact, for languages and for individual speakers. If you want to know more, come to my talk!

Job

Would you look at that there is a post for J! And for the first part of our interview we’re even time travelling to the year 2030- I think t

hat more than makes up for the confusion!

Today I’m talking to Dr Google (a.k.a Mhairi Aitken) about both her jobs. Come

along on Monday 6th August for her show ‘Dr Google Will See You Now’ at the New Town Theatre. 

The year is 2030…

As Dr Google, What’s your job title?

I’m a Senior Data Consultant at the Google Health Service specialising in precision medicine. I am one of three human consultants working with a team of 87 artificial intelligence bots. We process the data of 97.2 per cent of the U.K. population to identify which conditions people are likely to develop and offer precisely the right intervention before anyone ever even experiences the first symptoms. I am proud to be part of a team that has truly revolutionised healthcare.

How did you get your job?

I began working with the Google Health Service shortly after it was established in 2025. Prior to that I had been working in data analytics with the NHS. I had collaborated with Google’s Deep Mind in a few big projects developing artificial intelligence programmes which processed NHS patient data, so I – like a lot of my colleagues – already had very good connections at Google so it really felt like a natural career move. In the five years since the Google Health Service was set up things have moved forward at such a rapid pace and the NHS is pretty much obsolete so I’m happy it was the right move to make.

Why should the public care about Dr Google?

The public should be very grateful to Dr Google and the Google Health Service: we have changed their lives and we’ve changed their worlds! Nobody needs to queue up at doctors’ surgeries or even ask for a doctors’ appointment: we tell you when you need an appointment! And nobody needs to be able to describe their symptoms anymore either:  we know what your symptoms are before you tell us – we’ve seen the data from your apps. And we know all about your lifestyle already: we’ve seen what food and drink you’ve been buying, your smart kitchen tells which ones you’ve actually eaten, we’re grateful for the information you share on social media and if it ever reaches the stage that you feel unwell we’ve seen which symptoms you type into our search engine. Being a patient in the Google Health Service is easy, we just need you to live your life and we process the data trails you leave behind.

And back in 2018…

As Mhairi, what is your job title?

In reality I am a Research Fellow in the Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics in the Medical School at the University of Edinburgh.

How do you feel about Dr Google?

I’m still quite undecided about Dr Google. While on the one hand it might seem like an extreme vision of the future, everything I am suggesting is possible and doesn’t require a huge stretch of the imagination. I think there are some truly amazing possibilities around the ways that data can be used now and in the future. Incredible health research is already being conducted using NHS patient data and linking this to other public sector data including from welfare, education, social services or crime. In the private sector our data is routinely used for market research, targeted advertising or tailoring of services. Increasingly there is a blurring of lines between the public and private sector and there are big questions to ask around the ways that commercial organisations – such as Google – might use public sector data as well as the ways that the public sector – which might mean the NHS or the government – could make use of private sector data about our lives. The important questions aren’t about what can be done with this data, but rather what should, and should not be done.

Should Dr Google be a reality?

Dr Google already is a reality – though not exactly in the way I have set out so far. Google already conduct health research. They have done this to predict and identify outbreaks of pandemics based on search terms inputted to Google. Google’s DeepMind have already been involved in research processing NHS patient data to develop new diagnostic tools and in 2017 they were in hot water for processing real-time identifiable data of 1.6 million patients at the Royal Free Hospital in London. When people are feeling unwell or have concerns about their health the first place they go is usually not their doctor but their internet search engine, so increasingly Dr Google already knows more about us than our NHS doctor and more and more we are relying on Dr Google for advice. So I believe Dr Google is very much a reality, the question is how much of a role we want Dr Google to play in the future.

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.

More Food

 

The only thing I like better than food is MORE food! Today that’s exactly what I’m talking to Orla Shortall about. Join her again on the 14th of August for her show ‘Cows Eat Grass Don’t They?’

What’s your favourite food?

This is ridiculously hipstery but the first thing that came to mind was tahini paste. It’s a nut butter made out of sesame seeds. It’s used in Middle Eastern cooking. I love the nutty, roasty flavour, I have it with honey on my porridge. Also, cheese on toast as comfort food.

Why is food (and drink) production changing?

The main driving force behind change in agriculture has always been the aim to produce more food. Social scientists call this ‘productivism’. Producing more food to feed more people is seen as an undeniably good thing. This has been brought about by scientific and technological innovation; globalised trade; concentration of market power in the hands of fewer large retailers.

Although at the same time there’s forces that stop agriculture changing. Some people say government subsidies may stop farmers from responding to market forces. It’s also said some farmers are risk averse and value tradition and so are reluctant to change practices that have worked in the past. Farming is a lifestyle as well as a business and some farmers will keep going because they love farming even if it doesn’t seem economically rational.

How is it changing?

There are global supply chains that mean we eat food produced all around the word and our diet isn’t limited by seasonality. Science and technology has had a profound impact on agriculture. Agriculture in the UK is higher tech, more productive and often on a large scale than it used to be. Fewer people involved and more machines. And the agriculture industry is more consolidated with fewer and large companies selling inputs and trading produce.

There’s also counter movements against industrial agriculture and large scale supply chains through shorter supply chains like farmers markets that aim to reconnect consumers and producers, and alternative production methods like organic and biodynamic that aim to be more environmentally friendly.

Is this a good thing?

I’m interested in agriculture because you can see it as a high tech, efficient industry, or you can see it as the site of our most important connection with the natural world around us that has heritage, traditional and spiritual value. It’s both and I’m interested in the tension between those two ways of viewing it. Industrial, productive agriculture that’s evolved seen since the middle of the 20th century has definitely brought about environmental impacts: more greenhouse gas emissions, more pollution, soil erosion, loss of wildlife. But others argue the benefits are we have more food in developed countries than ever before and a far wider variety.

Where would you like to see dairy farming in 10 years?

I’d like to see farmers being paid more. I think that would give them more freedom and security in making changes on their farm. And farm systems decisions and expansion being discussed in terms of farmers’ lifestyle and values as well as economic calculations. I’d like to see younger farmers and new entrants being mentored and valued, the role of women in agriculture being recognised more: more women in positions of power within the industry and owning and managing more land. I’d like to see the role of migrant workers values and recognised as well. I’d like to see consumers asking more questions about how their milk is produced. The UK industry is very engaged on animal welfare – with different schemes in operation and research being carried out. More conversation between consumers and industry will help clarify the role of indoor dairy farming within the UK sector in the future.

The first question isn’t super focussed on your research I realise, they’re just structured this way to make them more fun and maybe make the topic more accessible who aren’t as knowledgeable on your topic.