Archive for October 26th, 2010

Organisation   no comments

Posted at 8:18 pm in Discipline,Linguistics,Sociology

As this module encourages a basic and comprehensive approach to a topic, I’ve tried to go as far back to basics as possible. My topic of interest regarding the research is simply ‘Organisation’. Organisation, in my opinion, is the backbone of everything (life and the universe included!), so it makes sense to me to try and understand some basic, but I suspect difficult, questions regarding organisation, such as how it occurs and why it seems neccessary for development. Of course I am limiting my research to the role of organisation in human society, as I don’t possess the required physics or philosophy degrees to tackle the broader implications of organisation!

I think this topic is important given the context of this MSc, and also given the buzzwords of our generation:  “Network” “Interconnected” and “Global” all have their roots in the term ‘organisation’. It’s important, therefore, to look at organisation in its basic form, and I’ll be looking at organisation through the lenses of two disciplines; Linguistics and Sociology.

Linguistics was chosen because it seems likely that the roots of human social organisation lie in the construction of language and communication. I know very little about linguistics, so it will be interesting to develop this hunch through an understanding of the core principles of the topic. The development of language and speech has surely played a key role in our development to the highly connected society we see today, and perhaps this approach will let me go far back in time and evolution to find the roots of organisation.

Sociology was chosen because a brief look at sociology shows it to be full of interesting ideas and theories regarding the dynamics, structures and meanings behind organisation. Humans have organised for various reasons over the centuries, sometimes unknowingly, sometimes deliberately, sometimes against their will. It will be interesting to see what sociology has to say about the motivations behind these cultural, political and economic forces that lead to organisation. Again, this is all uncharted territory for me, but the foundation texts seem promising. In sociology I may also find some philosophy, which again I have little experience with, but which may evolve into a sub category of my research. It seems you can never get away from the connections!

I know that there will be a fair amount of crossover between these two disciplines, but I hope that they will remain distinct enough to allow for a conclusion that shows what each discipline has to say about the topic ‘Organisation’.

My current reading list:

Wardhaugh, R (2006): An Introduction to Sociolinguistics: 5th Edition. Oxford: Blackwell

Giddens, A (2006): Sociology: 5th Edition.Cambridge: Polity.

Thomas, L & Wareing, S (1999): Language, Society and Power; An Introduction. London: Routledge

Aitchison, J (1972): Lingusitics, An Introduction. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Trudgill, P (1983): Sociolinguistics: An Introduction to Language and Society. London: Penguin.

Written by Phil Waddell on October 26th, 2010

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Initial Reading List – Gender from Sociological and Biological perspectives   no comments

Posted at 8:00 pm in Sociology

So I have been thinking alot about how to tackle the reading for this topic, and have identified some key texts for biology and sociology.  These are, as suggested, first year recommended reading ‘essential primers’.  They are heavy, and thick, and nice easy reads.  So I am going to work my way through them initially to get some ideas on what the main approaches to gender are from biologists’ and sociologists’ perspectives.  This is a massive oversimplification I know, but I think it is the best way to begin.  So this week and next week I am going to be reading:


Longenbaker, Susannah Nelson. (2008) Mader’s understanding human anatomy & physiology. 6th Edition. McGraw-Hill: London

Mader, Silvia S. (2009) Human Biology. 10th edition. McGraw Hill: London

Smith, Stephen W. and Ronan Deazley (eds.) (2009) The legal, medical and cultural regulation of the body : transformation and transgression. Ashgate Publishing: Farnham


Abbott, Pamela, Claire Wallace and Melissa Tyler (2005) An introduction to Sociology. Feminist Perspectives. Third edition. Routledge: London

Haralambos, Michael and Martin Holborn (2008) Sociology. Themes and Perspectives. Seventh edition. Collins: London

Marsh, Ian, Mike Keating, Samantha Punch and Jeni Harden (2009) Sociology: making Sense of Society. Fourth edition. Pearson Education: London

Not the whole books of course; just the most relevant bits.  Then I am going to pull out of those books, some ideas for key approaches, and therefore key texts, around gender from those disciplines’ perspectives.  I have a list in my head already of books that I think look relevant (from Google searches and a couple of visits to the university library), but this may change as I work through the introductory texts.  In fact one would hope that it will, as that is in a way the whole point of this task, to develop our understandings of these disciplines.

So at the moment, I think that I am going to be reading something like this when I start to look at the disciplines when applied broadly to the topic of Gender:


Baron-Cohen, Simon (2004) The Essential Difference. Penguin: London

Fausto-Sterling, Anne (2001) Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. Basic Books: London

Keller, Evelyn Fox (2000) The Century of the Gene. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA

Schiebinger, Londa (1995) Nature’s Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science. Beacon Press: Boston and London


Archer, John and Barbara Lloyd (2002) Sex and Gender, Second Edition. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge

Backett-Milburn and Linda McKie (2001) Constructing Gendered Bodies. Palgrave: Basingstoke.

Butler, Judith (1993) Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of ‘Sex’.Routledge: London

Mills, Sara (ed.) (1994) Gendering the Reader. Harvester: London

But who knows.  This is an exciting experiment in learning something completely new and anything could happen…

Written by Nicole on October 26th, 2010

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Collective Problem Solving   no comments

Posted at 12:25 pm in Uncategorized

I’m interested in how the web could offer more effective ways for people to come together to solve tricky problems.

This is a pretty broad concept, but as such it should offer a lot of contact points to explore the basics of the two nominated subjects.

My first subject will be complexity science (CS). A fair bit of CS is about how systems composed of independent agents (e.g. real ants, or simulated people) adapt to challenges presented by their environment.

My primary source of info on this are the “Introduction to CS” lectures I am attending.

The identity of my second subject hangs on a final chat with our “ambassadors” from each: sociology, psychology, economics or innovation studies.

On the topic itself, I’m starting here:

Written by Jack on October 26th, 2010

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Code of Conduct of Cyber Warfare   no comments

Posted at 11:49 am in Politics,Sociology,Uncategorized

Cyber Warfare, known as the fifth domain, has developed in scale and sophistication. The new US Air Force manual describes it as a “shadowy, fast-changing world where anonymous enemies can carry out devastating attacks in seconds and where conventional ideas about time and space do not apply” (Telegraph, 2010). As never before has the World Wide Web created so much prosperity and opportunity from all echelons of society, but never before have we been exposed to so much risk from anyone, anywhere in the world. 

According to Michael Chertoff, former head of the US Department of Homeland Security, he mentions how it is the least understood threat and the one where our doctrine is least developed”. Therefore, we have only just touched the surface from what is known now, into what is possible. The threat is a real one. Hospitals can be shut down, Power Grids closed and Children targeted. It raises the notion of what is sociologically acceptable within the 21st Century of Cyber Warfare.

Therefore, I hope to find individual ethical stances from governments and societies from different cultures across the world. For example, targeting children at Schools could be deemed unanimously unethical. Similarly, there will be different national stances of perceived legitimacy. Subsequently, this information could be used to help nations understand the repercussions of going against another nations ethical stance, which may be enough to deter the oppressor.

In conclusion, the 21st Century calls for a new multi-lateral agreement, with the unanimous codes of conduct between international communities ratified; similarly, the code of conducts between individual nations could be used as a deterrent if met by a Tit-for-Tat response. Therefore, I plan to understand these existential threats and incorporate them into my study of Moral Philosophy, touching other disciplines such as Sociology and International Relations.


Tanenbaum, A. (1985) Computer Networks, 4th Ed. US: Prentice Hall.

Clarke, R. (2010) Cyber War: The next threat to national security and what to do about it.  US: Ecco.

Singer, P. A. (1993) Companion to Ethics. US: Wiley- Blackwell

Williams, B. (1993) Morality: An introduction to Ethics. UK: University Press.

Written by cmh206 on October 26th, 2010

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Cyberwarfare…   no comments

Posted at 11:41 am in Economics,Politics

The issue of cyber-warfare is an increasingly topical one, as indicated by its high profile presence in the news the morning of our first COMP6044 lecture, hence my choosing of it as the issue to focus on for the interdisciplinary learning. The news that morning was focused on the Stuxnet virus, a complex and inherently suspicious virus, designed to target systems not connected to the Internet, and its effects on the Iranian civil nuclear programme (Radio 4 Today article). As this issue emerges from the realms of science fiction to reality, I intend to look into the effects it may have have on society, through the disciplines of Economics and Politics.

The first subject, Economics, can be viewed from two viewpoints. Both the Economics from the aggressors point of view and the victim’s. Wtih cyber-ware being conducted in virtual worlds, does this make warfare much cheaper to conduct than the more conventional methods and what effects might this have? Will conducting warfare become something that is much more readily pursued than traditional warfare if the costs of starting a war are much lower? Also will this have an effect on the structure and focus of a nation’s economy as a whole with less money being spent on conventional forces and more being redirected to research into cyber-warfare and cyber terrorism? From the victim’s point of view, what effects can a cyber-attack have on an economy? With infrastructure such as power stations and possibly airports being targeted, how might this damage an economy and what lasting effects may it leave in its wake?

Politics also comes into play, in particular the area of International Relations. Cyber-warfare gives politicians new avenues of attacking or maybe even controlling external powers. Cyber-warfare also allows for a certain degree of anonymity allowing one nation to effect another without the source of the attack being known. How might this affect international relations both with allies and enemies? Will the new and potential future developments lead to relations changing in unforeseen and unpredictable manners? Also cyber-warfare may allow for many such developments to remain hidden from the general public, allowing politicians to keep (more) secrets from those that elected them into power.

What’s evident from the range of questions brought up here (and there are many more not covered in this blog post) is that cyber-warfare covers an awful lot of areas in these two disciplines alone (not to mention many other disciplines that could also be looked at). In the hope of possibly answering some of these questions however I aim to look into some books covering the basics of Economics and economic infrastructure as well as the economic motives behind international relationships. From a Politics perspective I shall aim to read into the world of International Relations and the scientific theories that help to explain them.


Written by William Fyson on October 26th, 2010

Privacy from political and psychological perspectives and how this concept has been affected by the development of the Web   no comments

Posted at 11:40 am in Politics,Psychology

Privacy from political and psychological perspectives and how this concept has been affected by the development of the Web

I am attempting to ascertain the psychological and political concepts and epistemological principles relating to the issue of privacy and in accordance how they can be applied to conceptions of privacy matters on the web. My aim will be to determine whether or not these disciplines compliment or contradict each other in relation to this issue.

For the psychology part of my study I am largely going to undertake my research in the area of ‘The Self’ which is an established psychological school of thought, specifically the notion of the ‘Private Vs Public Self’. There could be a contrast between the two perceptions of individuals characters which the web could be helping to masquerade. For e.g. A person could have a hectic ‘online’ life and appear popular with lots of friends on Facebook or Myspace and not be concerned about their personal and sensitive information being apparent for all to see but in the real world be a closed and private person. On the other hand someone may utilize the web to conceal the parts of their self that they don’t want to share, thus they would be more anxious about themselves being afforded adequate privacy on the web.

Core textbooks –

  • Leary, R. & Tangney, J.P. (2003),Handbook of Self and Identity, The Guildford Press: New York.

  • Sedikides, C. The Self

For the political part of my studies I am focusing on core undergraduate textbooks in order to obtain a basic understanding of the main principles relating to political matters which can be applied or linked to privacy issues. I am making a start in the area of security networks and I have a particular interest in establishing the fundamental principles and ideas that influence the development of these networks. What are there priorities and what are there goals? Also with all the current furore of Governments ‘snooping’ on its citizens via technological means is it possible to determine whether national security is paramount over individual privacy?

  • Boucher, D. & Kelly, P. (2003), Political Thinkers – From Socrates to the Present’, Oxford University Press.

  • Collins, A. (2007), Contemporary Security Studies, Oxford University Press.

I am also conducting some reading of books which deal with establishing the notion of privacy and how this concept has differed in light of growing technological advances. The two books which I am currently reading are:

  • Kieron O’Hara and Nigel Shadbolt,

    The Spy in the Coffee Machine – The end of privacy as we know it.

  • Hal Abelson, Ken Ledeen and Harry Lewis, Blown to bits –

    Your life liberty and happiness after the digital explosion.

Written by Lisa Sugiura on October 26th, 2010

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Cognitive Extension   no comments

Posted at 11:25 am in Discipline,Psychology

It won’t be a surprise to anyone who sat in that class when we discussed our chosen topic that I found choosing really difficult. My problem fundamentally stemmed from one basic question: How can I examine A (the topic) through B and C (Disciplines 1 and 2) when I have no prior knowledge on any of them?  Add then to that the fact you’d hope the topics or disciplines had at least some relevance to something you might want to do in the future, or even just tickle your fancy…at least long enough for you not to immediately lose interest in all three. I was also afraid of my topic being too (for lack of a better word) ambitious, that the perspectives I was hoping to look at the topic from where too specialist or too wide, and I wouldn’t get a clear idea of anything. Yes, yes, that’s right, in other words, I was afraid of failing spectacularly.

After not-so-much brainstorming and much more just blurting out half-baked ideas, I have made the decision to go with a topic that I am very excited about. The two disciplines that I’m going to dip into are Psychology and AI. I’ve started doing some preliminary reading but nothing that I would confidently add to the bibliography as of yet…The most promising leads are from the seminar on Cognition and the Semantic Web I attended at before term started, as well as some of the material we covered with Craig in his “Psychology 101” session last week in the coffee room. Having read some of the other blog posts as well, I’m hoping to chat to some of you in the next couple of days.

Written by Terhi on October 26th, 2010

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Identity   no comments

Posted at 10:41 am in Psychology

I have chosen Identity as my issue to study, and will examine this from a psychological and (socio-cultural) anthropological perspective. I am interested in the effect that the Web can have on different cultures and different people, so I think these two disciplines fit nicely with that interest and will hopefully build up a solid background in part of a wide area that I am keen on studying for my dissertation. The two disciplines should allow me to contrast what psychology says about the identity of the individual, with the theories of anthropology regarding the formation of cultural identity.

I will begin by reading the basic textbooks in each area:

  • Handbook of Self and Identity by Leary, M and Tangney, P
  • The Self by Sedikides, C
  • Cultural Anthropology A Contemporary Perspective by Keesing, R and Strathern, A
  • Small places, large issues : an introduction to social and cultural anthropology by Eriksen, T

Hopefully these will be a good start and direct me to other important books in this area!

Written by Chris P on October 26th, 2010

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The Web and the Consumer   1 comment

Posted at 10:28 am in Economics,Sociology

The growth of the web has empowered consumer, irreversibly changing the way society conducts economic transactions. Individuals can now source goods from across the globe, rather than simply relying on local suppliers, escaping what some have labelled the tyranny of location. Consumers increased search ability has inevitably allowed consumers to source better value, and hence gain more for their money, in turn allowing for increased investment.

I plan to investigate the changes in consumer behaviour and a shift towards a more open economy which have been facilitated by the web. I plan to look at this from the perspective of both the consumer and the producer/ retailer, possibly going towards discussing the growth of the prosumer, for example within the entertainment industry. I also intend to look at the growth of online auction sites, such as eBay and consider whether the growth of such sites it solely due to them allow the consumer to access specific goods, at generally lower price, or whether being a member of such community has its own non tangible benefits, possibly talking a slight detour discussing whether or not such sites allow for the development of a social identity, and rank, and whether or not this can be considered a unique selling point, and benefit of using such a service.

One of the disciplines I plan to use to discuss this with is sociology, discussing how a change in social norms and attitude has facilitated the changes. I intend to look at both large scale macro theories, such as functionalism and Marxism but also looking at more specific and detailed micro theories, such as the development of social norms within online communities. It would also be interesting to look at whether there is a global shift or whether the changes are limited to key small populations or demographics, it may be that many lack the skills, time or equipment required to take advantage of the cheaper prices available online, and as such are still locale bound. If many are not taking advantage, it would be prudent to look at why not.   

The discipline I plan to contrast this with is economics, discussing the models that are available to illustrate the paradigm shift. For example discussing how the growth of the web has allowed suppliers to outsource parts of their business, allowing for lower prices, which could be passed to the consumer or held as greater profit margins, alternatively how companies do not need to rent shop spare or hire large teams of retail staff if they are primarily operating online, this further reduces company cost, allowing for them to retail such goods at lower prices, allowing to consumer to purchase more. As I currently know very little regarding academic economics, I hope this will provide a far more mathematical reasoning and will hopefully contrast well with the methodology and theories of sociology. It would also be interesting to do some future gazing, we all know that due to the recession businesses are facing increasing hard times, with consumers having considerably less disposable income, and expenses such as rent/ mortgages growing, is it inevitable that the vast majority of transactions will migrate to being online in the coming decades?

Upon deciding which disciplines to investigate I started to read through Sociology, Themes and perspectives, by Haralambos and Holborn, which focuses on the main macro theories of sociology and applies them to a variety of variant topic areas, I needed to look at this type of work as I have not looked at this topic area before, I intend to look at more specific works once I have established a grounding. I have made considerably less progress with my reading regarding foundations economics, progressing little further than reading the Wikipedia entries for both economics and game theory. This week I intend to build my economics foundation to allow to start to look at more specific texts.

Written by ca306 on October 26th, 2010