Archive for November 1st, 2011

Criminology: Overview and Brief History.   no comments

Posted at 3:50 pm in Criminology

I have decided to start by learning the principles which underlie criminology and philosophy. I start by asking, what is criminology? Then I go on to give a brief history of criminology.
After trawling the net for some time, paying particular attention to university websites, I decided to use “The Oxford Handbook of Criminology” by Mike Maguire, Rod Morgan and Robert Reiner as my core textbook, almost everything below is indebted to them.
What is Criminology?

Criminology draws from an amalgam of subjects such as law, sociology, phycology, psychiatry, history and anthropology in order to answer questions like, what are the causes of crime? What are the ethnographic s of certain deviant groups? What can we learn from case studies of individual criminals? Can we predict future crimes and future perpetrators of crime? Why are some people criminals and others not?

This begs the question, why did Criminology become a discipline in its own right? Maguire, Morgan and Reiner suggest that it was contingent upon the exertions of discipline forming institutions and dominant individuals.
They then go on to discuss the emergence of criminology as a discipline. It is suggested that criminology is the synthesis of two schools of thought. The first is government – who want to know how to best create laws and govern with respect to crime and criminals. The other school of thought comes from an Italian anthropologist Cesare Lombroso(1835-1909) who thought that people could be divided into two category, criminals and non-criminals, Lombroso went so far as to claim that there is a biological difference between criminals and non-criminals.

With a hard science a scientist or group of scientists produces a theory and evidence to back it up. Then they write it down in the form of a paper which is peer reviewed and then either accepted or not accepted into the scientific community. If a theory is accepted within the scientific community it is then accepted in the general public for example the theory of Black Holes. On the other hand a scientific theory accepted in the criminology community is not always accepted by the general public. The “common sense” view of the world is often much more powerful.
In order to understand the principles of Criminology it is useful to detour into some History.

A Brief History of Criminology

The history of criminology turns out to be a fiercely contested, vague and ugly. In fact the word criminology was only coined in the 1890’s and what we think of as criminology today (the current paradigm if you like) only crystallised in the 1960s and 70s, and even that’s debateable. The history of criminology is further confused, because what was thought of as “criminology” differed in France, Germany, England, Italy and the U.S.

To illustrate the history of criminology I have created a timeline with significant events and the socio-economic backdrop for these events. My apologies, especially to Paul and Javier that it’s not fantastically beautiful! Hopefully the timeline helps to elucidate the history of criminology, which is contingent upon sociological events. For example, criminology, it is argued by Maguire, Morgan and Reiner, really started in the 18th century, which was also the time when a network of insane asylums and doctors attending these asylums emerged in Europe. Maguire, Morgan and Reiner further argue that since a significant proportion of inmates in the asylums were also criminals, for the first time doctors were concerned with understanding the criminal mind.

Then throughout the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th prisons were invented and governments became stronger. As a result governments, especially in the UK, became interested in how to control their citizens and demanded reports about criminal behaviour, crime rates prisons and laws. As a result most of the work done in the UK was modest and respected legal principles.

Then WW2 happened and shortly afterwards the modern British welfare state was created. There was a political move towards greater social and economic equality. Coupled with this many great crime researchers came to Britain from Germany where ideas about social demographics and crime were far more advanced. Add into the mixing pot a government and public fear about juvenile delinquents in the 50s and it should come as no surprise that criminology entered the academic arena in 1961 in Cambridge.

Since then criminology has pulled away from a study into how to cure/correct a criminal towards a more interdisciplinary subject concerned with social, philosophical and psychological aspects of crime.

Written by dm1x07 on November 1st, 2011

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Legal theory and IP on the web   no comments

Posted at 2:10 pm in Law

I’m currently reading ‘Information Technology Law: The law and society’ by Andrew Murray. Interestingly, the author proposes that this area of Law differs from others in one important way.

“The question at the heart of most legal textbooks is: ‘how does the rule of law affect individuals within the environment over which this law is effective?’”. However IT Law is, by necessity, the other way around. Namely, it asks ‘How does the web affect the law?’, rather than how the law effects the web. This is because technology changes so quickly that the rule of law cannot keep up. Instead, old laws must be interpreted to deal with new situations.

This presents a small challenge for me as a novice trying to understand the basics of Law through it’s application to the web. If Murray is right, and IT law is an inherently atypical topic within Law, it won’t generalise to other topics and so I’m bound to get a warped idea of what Law is. However, by reading up on some of the basic concepts, terminology and key statutes etc., I should be able to develop an understanding of how my topic can be approached from a legal standpoint – even if that approach is slightly different to that taken by legal scholars working in other areas.

With that in mind I’ve also been trying to familiarise myself with the basics of Jurisprudence, the theory or philosophy of Law. I’ve chosen to look at this first for two reasons. The first is partly down to intellectual cowardice: given my philosophical background, it should be less of a challenge than other aspects of Law. Second, and more importantly, I think Jurisprudence will be an important aspect of understanding my topic. The Wikipedia entry for Jurisprudence divides it into two areas:

1.) Problems internal to law and legal systems as such.

2.) Problems of law as a particular social institution as it relates to the larger political and social situation in which it exists.

Because my topic is about the way an aspect of law (intellectual property) relates to a social phenomenon (information goods on the web), the second area is particularly relevant to me.

Within this area, there are several approaches to understanding what drives the law. The oldest tradition is ‘Natural Law theory’, the dominant position for much of the history of jurisprudence. According to its proponents, man-made laws are attempts to reflect or approximate natural moral laws. These are moral truths which exist independently of human judgement or reasoning. They could be understood by theists as derived from a deity, or by atheists as simply a feature of reality. The important point is that our man-made laws should reflect these pre-institutional moral realities. Indeed, if they do not, they aren’t real laws at all. A common maxim of natural law theory is ‘lex injusta non est lex’; an unjust law is not a (real) law.

An example of natural law theory in action today can be seen in the idea of universal human rights. According to their proponents, human rights exist independently whether or not there are man-made laws protecting them; indeed, they are most important where such laws are absent. There is also an understanding amongst human rights advocates that man-made laws should approximate these independently existing moral rights.

Legal Positivism is now the dominant position amongst legal theorists. Unlike Natural Law theory, it does not assume that man-made laws must approximate independent moral laws. Rather, it splits the question in two. Whether or not a law is valid depends on how it was formulated, whether it went through the socially sanctioned systems and processes put in place to create laws. This is not the same as the question of whether or not, morally speaking, it is a just law. A law might be valid, having gone through the appropriate formulation, but we might judge it to be unjust according to some non-legal moral standard. For instance, homophobic or racist laws may be valid in the context of a particularly time and place, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t wrong, morally speaking. Conversely a law might be invalid because, for instance, it contradicts a state’s constitution, but this doesn’t mean it is not a good law, morally speaking.

This distinction between the institutional validity and moral worth of a law may prove important in debates about content on the web. Online ‘piracy’ may be morally wrong, or it may simply be illegal. Likewise, certain uses of information goods on the web may not be illegal, but nevertheless morally wrong. Parties on different sides of the piracy debate frequently allude to both moral and legal considerations – usually adopting whichever is strongest in a particular context. And since most legal theorists adopt some kind of positivist approach, and few adopt the natural law approach, assessments of intellectual property on the web do not usually take the form of moral arguments.

Written by rb5g11 on November 1st, 2011

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Different values and approaches between disciplines and   no comments

Posted at 12:04 pm in Psychology


During the last week, I have continued reading the book “principles of cognitive psychology”. More specifically, I have focused on the chapters dealing with long and short-term memory including the study of forgetting. The theories themselves were quite interesting to read. However, since the book traces the different theories that were developed over time, I have found myself constantly struggling with new ideas and new theories all the time. This shift in believe of what is going on in our brain reminds me of our lectures on paradigms shift. Therefore, in this blog I will first of all summarise what I have read so far, and then discuss what I think of paradigms shift in the context of what I have read, followed by comparison with my own personal experience in the field of engineering. I will then conclude with a reflection on multidisciplinary research methods followed by plans for future reading.

Summary of cognitive psychology — long and short-term memory

Theories of short-term memory

One of the earlier models for short-term memory is called multi-store model. According to this model there are three types of memory store. They are sensory stores, short-term store, and long-term store. The sensory stores are modality specific, and hold information very briefly. The short-term store has very limited capacity. Information is lost from the store because of interference, diversion of attention, and decay. Evidence from brain-damaged patients supports the distinction between short-term and long-term memory stores. The memory stores differ with respect to temporal duration, storage capacity, and forgetting mechanism.

However, this model is thought to be oversimplified in its account of the unitary short-term and long-term stores, and the notion that access to long-term memory occurs only after information is processed in the short-term store. In addition, the role of rehearsal is also exaggerated.

In view of the shortcomings, a new theory was proposed — working memory. The working memory system consists of a central executive, a phonological loop, and a visuospatial sketchpad. Two tasks can be performed successfully together only when they use different components of the working memory system. A phonological loop consists of a passive phonological store and an articulatory process. Its primary function is to assist in the learning of new words. The visuospatial sketchpad consists of a visual cache and an inner scribe. It is possible that there are separate visual and spatial system rather than a single sketchpad. The central executive is involved in various functions such as switching of which revealed plans, time-sharing, selective attention, and temporary activation of long-term memory. There may be relatively separate verbal and spatial working memory systems. The working memory approach has the advantage over the multi-store model that it can be applied to most cognitive activities rather than only being of relevance to memory tasks.

Another interesting theory is the theory of levels of processing. According to this theory, long-term memory is better remembered when information is processed deeply or semantically at the time of learning. In addition, elaborate on this rehearsal improves long-term memory and maintenance rehearsal does not. Some evidence supports these theoretical assumptions. However, long-term memory depends on collaboration and distinctiveness of processing as well as on depth of processing. Long-term memory depends on the relevance of the stored information to the requirements of the memory test. The theory is more applicable to tests of explicit memory than to those of implicit memory. Finally, the theory provides a description rather than an explanation of certain memory phenomena. In an updated account of levels of processing theory, it was argued that depth of processing and transfer appropriate processing jointly determine long-term memory performance.

Theories of long-term memory

It has been argued that there is an important distinction between episodic and semantic memory. There is evidence from PET studies that Steve prefrontal cortex is much more involved in episodic memory and then in cemented memory. It remains unclear whether there is a fundamental distinction between episodic and cemented memory, in part because there are several similarities and interconnections between them. There is a major distinction between explicit and implicit memory. PET studies have reviewed that a rather different areas of the brain are activated in explicit and implicit memory tasks. There is increasing evidence that there are different types of implicit memory.

Theories of forgetting

The forgetting function is generally logarithmic with a few exceptions. The is evidence of a repression like repressors, and controversial evidence concerning recovered memories of childhood abuse. There is convincing evidence of the existence of proactive and retroactive interference. However, special conditions required for substantial interference effects to occur, and interference theory is relatively uninformative about the process involved in forgetting. Most of forgetting seems to be due to dependence, and is greater when the contextual information present at retrieval differs from the contextual information stored in memory.

Multidisciplinary issues: Paradigms shift

Overall, I have seen how one theory was proposed based on certain observations or experimentation results. It would appear that this theory stands as long as there are no contradictory observations proposed. That theory represents in the latest knowledge in the area of study. For example with short-term memory, the multi-store theory stood for a long time. However, with new information presented, new theories were proposed and the old ones replaced.

This cycle has happened quite a few times during my reading of this book. It is beginning to dawn on me that the nature of cognitive psychology is such that proposed theories can only be as it is theories. In other words, because we cannot open up the brain and start probing, we cannot be hundred percent sure how things work inside. Because of this very nature, we are forced to accept the theory that best represent our current knowledge and observations. Until such a time when a better model or theory is proposed, the older theory stands true.

This idea of paradigms shift just does not happen in the field of engineering. Therefore, this is a multidisciplinary issue. In engineering, we are predominantly concerned with creating a solution to a problem. It may be creating a new product, or improving the efficiency of a certain procedure. Whatever it may be, there will always be a final answer of right or wrong. For this reason, there is no such thing as paradigms shift.

For instance, the good old television may be using CRT whereas modern day TVs are probably LCD flatscreen. Just because there is a shift of consumer preference, designer preference and so on, the older theory still stands true. It is a case of preference, the old theory does not become wrong because of a preference shift. In the case of at least the part I have read in cognitive psychology, when the new theory replaces the old, the old is considered wrong, incomplete or un-usable. This is more than just a case of preference which is quite different to the field of engineering.

Moving on

Having read that much of the book I have tried to scan read what is left. Since I realise that detailed information therein is not of interest, and the original purpose of reading this book to understand the typical research methods in cognitive psychology has been fulfilled, I have decided not to continue with this book.

Instead, I have picked up from one of the guest lecturers and interesting sub branch of cognitive psychology called social cognition. I am not too sure exactly what it is about yet. However, a glance through of the table of contents seems interesting. It covers theoretical foundations of the subject including social perception, attitudes, attributions, self and identity, prejudice, and ideology.

Since I am interested in the web and education, I think this book will help me to identify how and why people behave on the online education environment.

Written by Mandy Lo on November 1st, 2011

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02 – Museum collaboration (bibliography)   no comments

Posted at 8:46 am in Uncategorized

Museum collaboration // Essential bibliography

In this post I will start to list some of the bibliography to be used to get familiarized with essential concepts and ideas that will allow the project to be carried in the most optimal manner.  The bibliography was chosen from the BSc Information Technology in Organizations fron University of Southampton and readings from Museum Studies and Museology.

Due to my visual communication background the Museum Studies readings I will be focusing on the more challenging theories instead on the basic methodology.  On the other hand, IT in Organizations I will be focusing on basic readings to be able to get familiarized with basic concepts.

Information Technologies in Organizations

Tools and Techniques for IT Modeling

  • Peter Harris. Designing and Reporting Experiments in Psychology (2nd ed). OU Press
  • Steve McKillup. Statics Explained. Cambridge

Collaborative Projects

  • Brooks, FP, The Mythical Man-Month, Addison-Wesley, 1982.
  • Checkland, P, and Scholes, J, Soft Systems Methodology, Wiley

Human Computer Interaction

  • Dix A, Finlay J, Abowd G and Beale R, Human-Computer Interaction, 3rd Edition. Prentice Hall, 2003
  • Norman DA, The Design of Everyday Things, Basic Books, 2002 new edition

Information Systems Strategy

  • Bocij, P. et al. (2005) Business Information Systems Technology, Development and Management in E-business. Pearson Higher Education FT Prentice Hall.
  • Turban, E., Rainer, R.K. and Potter, R.E. 3rd editon (2004) Introduction to Information Technology: John Wiley and Sons
  • Brown, J.S. and Duguid, P. (2002) The Social Life of Information. Harvard Business School
  • Simon, J.C. (2000) Introduction to Information Systems. New York: Wiley

Museology and Museum Studies

  • Sharon Macdonald. A Companion to Museum Studies, Malden, MA ; Oxford : Blackwell Pub., 2006
  • Pearce, Susan. Interpreting Objects and Collections. Andover:Routledge, 2001
  • Hein, George E. Learning in the Museum (Museum Meanings) Boulder, Co. netLibrary c2001-c2003
  • Poli, C. Mobility and Environment: Humanists versus Engineers in Urban Policy and Professional Education. Dordrecht; New York, Springer c2011

Image Collaboration

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