Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Diary of a Mature MSc Student - Week 10

The temperature dropped to a few degrees this morning and Christmas lights are springing up across London. The Xmas break has loomed large on my horizon as I have been determined to get my coursework completed before we finish term. My three summative essays are not due in until the 14th January but I want to enjoy the holidays with the family without having to worry about coursework. Time will tell if this was a good strategy as I have been very busy reading and writing over the last few weeks. So much so that I have missed a few lectures and caught up with them using the video recordings.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Political Podcasts: A Growing Form of Political Journalism?

I have previously assumed that it is only political nerds like me that listen to political podcasts. However, last week the most downloaded podcast in the UK for two days in a row was a political podcast: Dial M for Mueller. In the US the New York Times Daily podcast is one of the top ten most downloaded podcasts each week. There also appears to be a growing number of political podcasts, see the political podcasts I listen to and recommend. So who is listening and why?

Podcasting is still a relatively new medium. It generated some initial excitement, with 2005 being called the year of the podcast and ‘‘podcast’’ was chosen that year as the New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year.  Since then it has continued to grow, albeit as a niche medium. In 2013 podcast subscriptions on Apple's iTunes platform passed the one billion mark. Pew Research has identified a considerable increase in podcast listening in recent years. The number of weekly NPR podcast users passed 5m in 2017.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Diary of a Mature MSc Student - Week 8

When the tutor says bring a calculator with a square root function, you know that the class is going to involve more math than you desire. This week we covered Z statistics which was more fun than it sounds. It was the first time I really had to get out my notepad to write down formulas and plug in numbers. It also made me realise I haven't written anything by hand for a long time.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Diary of a Mature MSc Student - Week 7

It was easy to get a space in the student refectory at lunchtime this week. It is normally busy and bustling with students but this week was reading week. One of our tutors had earlier opined that LSE really stood for 'Let's See Europe' and that seems to be the case during reading week. For myself, it meant getting my head down and completing two more formative essays and thinking about my dissertation.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Post-Truth: Useful Concept or Revenge of the Establishment?

This week I have been researching and writing an essay on truth and journalism. On of the things I have reflected on is the concept of Post-Truth. In the last two years alone over 25 books have been published with "Post-Truth" in the title. I should add I have only read three of these. The concept of post-truth really came to prominence following the Brexit referendum and the Trump election.

There were a few hundred articles written in the months after Brexit about "post-truth" but interest in the concept exploded after Trump's election. There were 1,400 articles written with "post-truth in the title in November 2016 alone, as shown below (data from BuzzSumo).

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Diary of a Mature MSc Student - Week 6

This week my daughter set a very high benchmark for my academic studies. She received a grade of 88% for her MSc dissertation. By contrast my work was used as an example of how not to write an essay.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

National Populism: Notes On A Talk By Matthew Goodwin

Emmanuel Macron's current approval rating is 24%, by contrast Matteo Salvini's approval rating in Italy is 60%.  Across Europe we are seeing the rise of national populists. It was therefore interesting to listen to Matthew Goodwin this week, discussing his new book National Populism: The Revolt Against Liberal Democracy, jointly authored with Roger Eatwell. Here are my takeaways from the talk.

Many journalists and politicians argue populists have stolen elections and referendums through dishonesty and underhand tactics. For example the £350m on the side of the Leave campaign bus or Trump's use of Facebook ads. By contrast Goodwin and Eatwell argue that national populism is driven by four long term trends namely distrust, deprivation, destruction and dealignment.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Brexit Identity Trumps Party Identity

The latest report from NatCen shows that people are more likely to identify with Leave or Remain then with a political party. Seventy seven per cent of people in the NatCen survey felt they identified either very strongly or fairly strongly with a Brexit identity.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Diary of a Mature MSc Student - Week 4

This week we were studying ethnographic research. This is where researchers immerse themselves in the lives of the people they are studying,with a view to describing their culture and habits. These studies generally take some time to complete. As I studied the texts I did wonder, whether as an outsider to my fellow university students in terms of age and experience, I might be conducting ethnographic research. I am not keeping detailed field notes but I do jot down and take pictures of what I observe each day. Here are some of my notes so far.

On Friday I headed to the library at 9am and found it to be almost completely empty. I think it is fair to say that many of my fellow students are not early risers.

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Contrasting Fortunes of Print and Online Media

The latest UK newspaper circulation figures (September 2018) highlight the continued decline of print media. The ten year figures from the UK Audit Bureau of Circulations are shown below.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Diary of a Mature MSc Student - Week 3 (Reflections on Moving from Entrepreneur to Student)

As an entrepreneur who founded and ran tech startup companies for the last 18 years, I anticipated my return to full-time education as an MSc student would be a culture shock. To my surprise while there are obviously differences, the cultural differences are not so great. Here are my initial reflections.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Networked Technologies and Political Turbulence

This week we have been studying Jodi Dean's theories of Communicative Capitalism. In essence Dean argues social media is depoliticizing and that notions of political activity online are effectively fantasies that do not change anything fundamental. It is a pessimistic view of the affordances of social media to social and political movements. Tonight I attended a lecture my Helen Margetts of the Oxford Internet Institute who had an alternative view.

What's In A Name? The People's Vote Campaign

Last night at LSE Tom Baldwin made an impassioned plea for remaining in the European Union, he made a positive case saying Europe is 'bloody brilliant'. Tom is the Director of Communications for the People's Vote campaign. In his book on 'how politics and the media crashed democracy' he laments the populist cynicism, lies and half-truths undermining the trust in our democracy. I therefore had a question.

Why have they called the campaign to remain in the European Union, via a second referendum, a 'people's vote'? Is this not an example of the cynical populism he criticises in his book?

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Diary of a Mature MSc Student - Week 2

If you are familiar with the sound of cicadas on a summer evening you will know how it feels to be sat in a lecture room with a hundred students around you tapping into their laptops. The background noise rises and falls as the lecturer pauses, makes key points then moves on to the next slide. Lecture rooms were a lot quieter back when I was studying in the early 1980s.

My biggest discovery this week is the sheer wealth of free events and talks that take place in London. Last week I attended talks by Alan Rusbridger, former editor of The Guardian; Amy Goldstein, the author of Janesville and Amy Mitchell , director of journalism research at Pew Research Center.

Friday, October 05, 2018

A Hybrid Media Strategy Is Key To Modern Political Campaigns: Trump Case Study

A common misconception about the Trump campaign is that he used social media to bypass the mainstream media. In fact, the very opposite is true. Trump developed a hybrid media campaign to drive and frame mainstream media coverage using social media. This strategy relied on the interdependence between new and old media logics which Andrew Chadwick sets out in the revised edition of his book 'The Hybrid Media System'.

In his book Chadwick argues that previous notions of new and old media, and of fragmentation and diversification, fail to pay attention to the importance of the interdependence between media. Heroic ideas of how political movements may bypass mainstream media gatekeepers miss the real opportunity, namely influencing, shaping and integrating mainstream media into the core of your campaign.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Emotions of Political Protest

Commentators reflecting on why people voted for Brexit or Trump often say that emotion got the better of reasoned decision making. Former Prime Minister John Major talked of emotion trumping reality in the Brexit debate.

I have always felt that trying to separate the emotional from the rational in this way is a false dichotomy. So my interest was piqued when I listened to James Jasper talking about 'thinking feeling.' He argues that trying to separate thinking and feeling is unhelpful and says the cognitive development of ideas and decisions is the result of hundreds of processes of thinking feeling. In essence emotion is part of the decision making process.

James Jasper has spent over twenty years researching the emotions of protest and has just published a new book 'The Emotions of Protests'.  I haven't read the book yet but this is what I took away from his recent interview with New Books in Psychology.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Diary of a Mature MSc Student - Week 1

London was bathed in warm autumn sunshine this week, it was just glorious. I defy anyone not to love London when the leaves start to turn. It is a city of constant renewal. People often think of it as a historic city but it is always changing and adapting. Cranes are busy like worker ants and the skyline constantly evolves, with new buildings emerging almost weekly. This process of renewal struck me this week as I walked to LSE to start again as a full-time student.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Lies, Damn Lies and Political Statistics

Ok, this post is a bit of rant. I understand politicians of all parties want to spin stories so they appear favourable to them. However, the continual abuse of statistics is something that really frustrates me.

Today's example is the Conservative government trying to defend the large cuts they have made in education spending. The Conservatives have reversed the additional educational investment made under the Blair and Brown governments. However, rather than acknowledge the deep cuts in real terms spending per pupil that started under the Conservative/Liberal coalition, they have the nerve to try to pretend they are increasing spending.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Young People With Large Social Networks Are More Politically Engaged

A recent research article The Political Significance of Social Media Activity and Social Networks (Political Communication Journal, Feb 2018) by Joseph Kahne and Benjamin Bowyer, reports that young people's online activity increases their engagement with politics. One of the more interesting findings from the research was that those with larger social networks tend to engage in significantly higher levels of political activity.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Labour: The Party of Middle Class Hampstead Not Working Class Hull?

"Strongly working-class parliamentary seats are no longer the Labour party’s heartlands" according to the Fabian Society as reported yesterday by the Guardian.

It has often been said that Labour is a broad church with strong support in both middle class Hampstead and working class Hull. However, there have been increasing tensions between Labour's middle class, southern, younger, educated voters and Labour's working class, less educated, older voters in the north and the midlands.

This cleavage was reflected in the Brexit vote. In Hull 66% voted for Leave. By contrast in Hampstead, north London, 75% voted for Remain

Friday, September 21, 2018

Diary of a Mature MSc Student - Week 0

I finished my undergraduate course and left full-time education in 1983. This was the year seat belts were made mandatory for car drivers, Margaret Thatcher won her second term of office, and Spandau Ballet's 'True' was played constantly on the radio. Today, some thirty five years later, I returned to full-time education at the London School of Economics. This is the first entry in my MSc diary.

Tusk Mocks May on Instagram. Is this the New Normal On Social Media and What are the Consequences?

Yesterday evening Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, posted a picture on Instagram mocking Theresa May, the UK Prime Minister. We are used to Donald Trump using Twitter to mock his opponents, such as his 'rocket man' tweets referring to North Korean president Kim Jong Un. Unfortunately it now appears to be increasingly common for politicians to use social media to mock the opposition and make personal attacks on opponents. What are the consequences of this behaviour for politics?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Review: Uncivil Agreement: Understanding Political Polarisation

Politics is increasingly characterised as "us" versus "them". In her book Uncivil Agreement, Lilliana Mason uses social identity theory to analyse and understand the growing political polarisation in America. She argues changing social identities are changing the nature of politics and political discourse.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Does Democracy Only Work When It Gives Educated People The Results They Want?

"The reason I am beginning to question democracy is that it is producing results I profoundly dislike." Matthew Parris, Spectator, 12 November 2016

John Stuart Mill back in the 1800s argued the educated should have more power in political decision making as they had more knowledge, or at least what he considered the right form of knowledge. He was opposed to equal voting rights for fear the uneducated would outvote the educated. This debate continues today but takes the form that we may have too much democracy. That we need to find better ways to mediate and limit the impact of the uneducated on decision making.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The Diversity of News Sources Shared on Twitter: Immigration Case Study

In January 2018 Pew Research published the results of a study reviewing the sources shared and linked to by 11.5m tweets on the topic of immigration. The study highlights the dominant role of news organisations as news sources, 75% of the tweets linked to content from these organisations.