Archive for October 27th, 2013

All in agreement? pt 2   no comments

Posted at 10:40 pm in Uncategorized

Issue: How to reach a global consensus on the balance to be struck between the right to freedom of expression and content which should be illegal on the web.

Having decided upon Anthropology and Mathematics as my two disciplines, I have spent the past two weeks researching the basics of both and trying to narrow down which specific areas of the disciplines I will be applying to my issue.  The subject of this post will be my current reading in relation to Anthropology …


This week I picked up ‘The Anthropology of Development and Globalization‘ by Marc Edelman and Angelique Haugerud from the library. Because the main crux of my issue is essentially that of assimilating the various views of nation states on where the line of freedom of expression should be drawn, I thought this book may provide an insight to how nation states have dealt with globalization through the eyes of anthropology.

Globalization has led to the increased integration of various places in the world economy and has resulted in improved transportation and communication systems (including the web) on multidirectional cultural flows.

This book is made up of a number of short essays, many of which have been interesting but one in particular has proven rather applicable. ‘Seeing Culture as a Barrier’ by Emma Crewe and Elizabeth Harrison, some points which I found particularly interesting were:

–       The idea of traditions holding people back has a persistence across development industry

–       Traditionalism is partly attributed to economic or ecological conditions, but is often conceived as being linked to a psychological or cultural disposition that is in some sense backward and prevents people from embracing modernity

–       Characterisation of culture implies stasis unless a culture is influenced by ‘modern society’.

–       Barriers to development due to ‘cultural rules’ are seen as much more immovable


In applying the discipline of Anthropology to my issue, the questions I am beginning to consider are:

–       What elements influence nation states views on acceptable online content?

–       What are the different approaches they take and why?

–       Had nation states shown development in the content they allowed to enter circulation prior to the web?


Next post …


Written by Emma Cradock on October 27th, 2013

A consideration of Cameron’s standpoint…scope for investigation.   no comments

Posted at 10:06 pm in Uncategorized

Rather than focus specifically on my disciplines in this blog, I thought I might share with you the basis of the topic that I am exploring in a little more detail. The reason for this is because, as part of my reading and understanding of the web, it raises some interesting points that are shaping the direction of my enquiries into the disciplines in question. It is also important because it has given me specific consideration of avenues for discussion as both disciplines are considerable in scope- to wade in without a clear focus isn’t achievable.

A question: Did you know that 1/3 of children have received a sexually explicit text or email?

The article referenced, actually a speech given by David Cameron, which influenced my decision to follow this particular topic, is available at

If we explore this from a critical stance it opens up a range of issues relevant to both my two disciplines. Notably, however, are the wide range of potential philosophical arguments that relate to moral ethics. There are clear themes regarding virtues, action and moral duty as well as links to categorical imperatives. Further to this, the entire basis of the proposed reform is in fact, philosophical- it is grounded in the idea of taking action, even though it may be unpopular. This is eerily affirmed in the closing remark “That is what is at stake, and I will do whatever it takes to keep our children safe.” This could be interpreted as a strong stance on the importance of protecting individuals, those vulnerable, from harm- moral ethics and action. Likewise it could also be considered a political philosophy, a statement in its own right about the decisions of Governments being made irrespective of the agreements of the many. A number of other systems of Government, especially those on the extremes of the political spectrum, have argued that taking such action is justifiable if its for a specific purpose. Likewise could such a philosophical stance be argued by a Government in order to justify other actions? To where would that lead? Is censorship valid if its for good?

Likewise it opens up a range of interesting debates about the idea of responsibility, a key theme within philosophy as evident in reading so far. At many times, in fact, the speech appears as an attack on the web itself, as an entity beyond the control of society, its leaders and the search providers such as Google. “If there are technical obstacles to acting on this, don’t just stand by and say nothing can be done, use your great brains to overcome them.” The most interesting application of this is with the following argument: “Companies like Google make their living out of trawling and categorising content on the web, so that in a few key strokes you can find what you’re looking for out of unimaginable amounts of information. That’s what they do. They then sell advertising space to companies based on your search patterns. So if I go back to the Post Office analogy, it would be like the Post Office helping someone to identify and then order the illegal material in the first place and then sending it on to them, in which case the Post Office would be held responsible for their actions.”

It is clear, then, that the topic identified has further relevance in terms of philosophical action- in that, who has responsibility to act, why and how should they. This links back to my previous post about the responsibility of parents and just whose moral duty it is to take action. It is also important to recognise that the stance explores two very different issues and this, in itself, creates confusion: child pornography and children accessing pornography. It relates back to the argument of harm, interestingly offering a philosophical argument of which is of greater priority. Distinctions are not drawn in the argument, rightly placing equal emphasis on both. What is clear, however, is the stance of Cameron that not enough is being done and that those of us in a position to shape the web have greater responsibility than we are acting on, apparently. Set your greatest brains to work on this. You’re not separate from our society, you’re part of our society and you must play a responsible role within it. I could offer a point about social shaping and technology here.

The premise of censorship is relatively simple, according to Cameron: “we’ve agreed home network filters that are the best of both worlds. By the end of this year, when someone sets up a new broadband account, the settings to install family friendly filters will be automatically selected; if you just click next or enter, then the filters are automatically on.”. However will it work this simply? How do filters identify what is and isn’t adult material and to what extent can it be affirmed as technologically viable? After all, the speech itself doesn’t appear to make any difference between the web and the internet; in fact, not once, is the word ‘web’ used at all. How then, will such filters work? Are they operating on the ISPs network, or are they instructing the web browsers through the network…and so on.

Written by Michael Day on October 27th, 2013

A Look into Philosophy   no comments

Posted at 8:27 pm in Uncategorized

Over the past couple of weeks I have decided to introduce myself to the wonderful world of philosophy, as this seems as good a place to start as any. From my understanding, philosophy tries to gain an understanding of the more fundamental questions of human existence, with the idea that this will lead to a more thorough understanding of life itself. In this sense some argue that philosophy adds to traditional science by giving answers to questions beyond. However unlike traditional science its methods are very different. As traditional scientific methods are arguably involved in philosophical questions themselves, philosophy does not rely on these but instead it builds up knowledge from its own history using systematic reflection. Further to this some have commented that philosophy cannot necessarily be studied and learnt like other disciplines as it something you learn by doing as opposed to by reading about.

Main theories

As stated before there are three main theories in philosophy (although these themselves arguably interrelate with each other, as well as containing an almost endless supply of sub-theories).

Metaphysics – this is about the study of the ‘ultimate nature of reality’, and attempts to distinguish how we can know whether everyday reality is ‘real’. This area includes topics such as dualism, materialism and realism, the latter of which argues that reality exists independently from the mind.

Epistemology – this explores whether knowledge can be independent and includes topic such as empiricism, rationalism and idealism.

Moral and Political Philosophy – explores how individuals behave within society and includes topics such as consequentalism, utilitarianism and contract theory, the former of which argues that moral reasoning should focus mainly on the consequences of our actions.

Regarding the area of social change on the internet I believe the theory most applicable to the study is Moral and Political Philosophy. Whilst metaphysics and epistemology are clearly important areas of study they are perhaps to abstract to such a specific topic. However moral and political philosophy applies well. For example moral philosophy might explore why people behave differently in an online space to physical space, or ask whether a lack of consistent societal norms might have an impact. Political philosophy might look at whether we should follow governmental rules in the first place, or ask whether liberty online is a freedom citizens should have. Political philosophy particular is an area I hope to explore further as this both applies to the topic and succinctly combines the disciplines of study.

In the next blog post I am going to look at the area of politics specifically to explore whether there are particular themes or theories that are most appropriate to the topic area.


Nutall, J. ‘An Introduction to Philosophy’
Warburton, N. ‘Philosophy the Basics’
Craig, E. ‘Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction’
Sellars, R. ‘The Principles, Perspectives and Problems of Philosophy’
Newtown, I. ‘Giants’
Honderich, T. ‘The Oxford Companion to Philosophy’

Written by Laura Hyrjak on October 27th, 2013

Ethnography 2 – Disciplinary Approach   no comments

Posted at 7:53 pm in Uncategorized

Researcher: Jo Munson
Title: Can there ever be a “Cohesive Global Web”?
Disciplines: Economics, Ethnography (Cultural Anthropology)

7'7" Manute Bol and 5'3" Muggsy Bogues.
Ethnographers concern themselves with studying the
cultural differences and similarities between humans

An Ethnographer’s approach to studying humanity

Remembering then that Ethnography can be thought of as:

the study of contemporary and recent human societies and cultures

and that:

culture is the socially transmitted knowledge and behavioural patterns shared by some group of people

I now consider what makes Ethnogaphers’ approach to the study of humans distinct from that of say, Sociologists. There are three concepts particularly central to Ethnographic study:

  • Holism – the concept that no one aspect of a society can be understood without understanding how it relates to all other aspects of that community.
  • Relativism – the concept that the observer of a community should not judge the observed community with the prejudices and values of their own culture.
  • Comparativism – the concept that for something to be considered “universal” to all humans, the diversity of global human culture must have been considered.

Relativism and Comparitivism together highlight a particular feature observed amonghst Ethnographers – they tend to fall somewhere between two extremes:

  • Relativists – who concentrate on cultural differences between human socities; and
  • Anti-Relatives – who concentrate on the similarities between cultures, or “human universals”.

The approaches and theories of Cultural Anthropologists has evolved over time, with Evolutionary and Functionalist ideas making way for new ideas. In the same way that Ethnographers can be thought of as Relativist or Anti-Relativist, modern Anthropology considers Materialism and Idealism:

  • Materialists – Materialists believe that the material features of a community’s environment are the most important factor affecting its culture.
  • Idealists – Idealists believe that human ideas affect culture more than any material features.

As with all extremes, the reality is more likely a mix of the two opposing schools of thought.

Next time (and beyond)…

The order/form of these may alter, but broadly, I will be covering the following in the proceeding weeks:

  • Can there ever be a “cohesive global web”?
  • Ethnography 1 – Introduction & Definition
  • Ethnography 2 – Disciplinary Approach
  • Ethnography 3 – Theories & Methodologies
  • Economics 1 – Introduction & Definition
  • Economics 2 – Disciplinary Approach
  • Economics 3 – Theories & Methodologies
  • Ethnographic Approach to the “Cohesive Global Web”
  • Economic Approach to the “Cohesive Global Web”
  • Ethno-Economic Approach to the “Cohesive Global Web”


Peoples, J. and Bailey, G. 1997. Humanity. Belmont, CA: West/Wadsworth.

Barnard, A. 2000. Social anthropology. Taunton: Studymates.

Image retrieved from:

Written by Joanna Munson on October 27th, 2013

Tagged with , , , , ,

Looking at psychology through different lenses   no comments

Posted at 5:15 pm in Psychology

After having described the basic definition and research strategies of psychology last week, I want to focus on the different approaches of the discipline this week. To do this in a proper manner, I loaned two books from the library: ‘Approaches to Psychology’ by Glassman and Hadad, and ‘Contemporary Approaches to Psychology’ by Helson and Bevan. After having looked at both books I found that, despite of the title, the latter is outdated, because it was firstly published in 1967. The Glassman and Hadad book, being published first in 2004, gives a more contemporary, clear and concise image of the different approaches that can be used to study the field of psychology. Because of this, it will be more useful for the eventual assignment.

Glassman and Hadad explain that there is a necessity to use different approaches, because of the complexity of behaviour. They argue that there is no single theory that can grasp every aspect of it (Glassman and Hadad, 2004: p. 5). They identify five main approaches that over time have tried to understand psychology at its fullest:

  • The biological approach
  • The behaviourist approach
  • The cognitive approach
  • The psychodynamic approach
  • The humanistic approach

After describing these approaches, the two authors use them to show how one can look at development, social and abnormal psychology.

Glassman and Hadad start with the biological approach, a perspective wherein humans are seen as a biological organism. “What we do, and even what we think, is seen as having its basis in our physical structure”, they argue. Herewith, many biological researchers see behaviour as something that can be fully explained through the physics of the human body (Glassman and Hadad, 2004: p. 44-45). In some ways, the second approach that they look at, is the opposite of the biological approach. Glassman and Hadad namely state that the behaviourist approach sees environmental stimuli as determinative for the way in which humans act. They argue herewith that “human experience can be understood through the interrelations between stimuli and responses.” Everything that cannot be studied empirically, like feelings and thoughts, is not relevant for the behaviourist approach (Glassman and Hadad, 2004: p. 100-104). Only observable events are thus relevant.

The third approach, might be seen as a middle ground between the first two approaches. “The cognitive approach is concerned with understanding the thinking processes that underlie our actions”, Glassman and Hadad explain. According to them, it also “sees events within the person as being at least as important as environmental stimuli in the understanding of behaviour” (Glassman and Hadad, 2004: p. 150, 151). The fourth approach is pioneered by Sigmund Freud. The so-called psychodynamic approach looks at inner processes, which include notions of self and awareness. Herewith, Glassman and Hadad describe it as a “both a theory of motivation and a theory of personality”. The authors contrast it to the cognitive approach, because the psychodynamic approach looks at behaviour within the context of personality and herewith at the whole person, not just at discrete mental processes (Glassman and Hadad, 2004: p. 205). In the words of the authors: “The psychodynamic approach attempts to understand behaviour by analyzing how personality is shaped by past experience and the workings of the mind” (Glassman and Hadad, 2004: p. 247).

The final approach, the humanistic approach, is arguably the most subjective way of looking at behaviour. Glassman and Hadad identify two assumptions: the belief that behaviour can only be understood through the subjective experience of an individual, and that behaviour is not constrained by current circumstances or past experience (Glassman and Hadad, 2004: p. 255).

If one would look at the changing behaviour of individuals because of online surveillance, probably all of the approaches could be used and make an interesting study. The biological approach seems the hardest approach to associate with the subject of online surveillance. Still, when looking at examples that Glassman and Hadad give on social psychology, one could for example look at the innate characteristic of a human being to act differently when being ‘the victim’ of online surveillance (Glassman and Hadad, 2004: p. 339). Is this explainable by heredity? Can the changed behaviour be explained by the characteristic of humans? Does the gender of an individual have an influence on the way online surveillance is affecting him or her? These questions are just some examples of how one can look at the subject. Therefore, I may conclude that the varying approaches in psychology are able to offer many ways of studying the subject of online surveillance.


Glassman, William E. and Marilyn Hadad. Approaches to Psychology. Fourth edition. Berkshire: Open University Press, 2004.

Helson, Harry and William Bevan.  Contemporary Approaches To Psychology. D.Van Nostrand Company Inc., 1967.

Written by Gert Van Hardeveld on October 27th, 2013

Philosophy and Identity – Here I go . . .   no comments

Posted at 5:09 pm in Uncategorized

To start with I am going to look at what Philosophy thinks identity means. This was a slightly naive aspiration as this is a fairly large area of philosophy. Below I have put some notes of the progress I have made so far.

Identity is not a simple question in philosophy. There are several theories surrounding the issue of “who am I?”.

Dualism (Maslin, 2001)

  • Humans are composed of 2 entities: non-physical soul/mind and the physical body
  • The “person” is the consciousness or the entity that experiences and it is identical to the soul but does not include the body

Identity Theories (Reductionism)

Part of philosophy investigates the concept of mind and body, mind-body problem. What is the body? Who does it belong to? What is the mind? Is it the brain or is it something more? (Mullen, 1977).

Mind/Brain Identity Theory (MBIT)

  • MBIT denies Dualism
  • Mind is not separate from the brain
    • everything is physical, including consciousness and thoughts => exemplifies Materialism

MBIT defines a “brain event” as the living brain and the mental events. Identity theorists explain that mental states are brain states. However, this isn’t a bi-directional relationship. I understand it in terms of

Mind = Brain Events BUT NOT Mind  ≡ Brain Events

So to explain this in terms of maths:

x + 3 = 5

In my example:

x = 2

However 2 will NOT always equal to x.

So when identity theorists refer to Mind and Brain events, it is not correct to interchange the terms whilst describing one side of the relationship. These theorists are not proposing an Analytical Reduction relationship like the following statement “All trilateral are identical with three-sided figures”As trilateral means three-sided figure, this statement is always analytically true – it can never be false. (Maslin, 2001)

Identity Theory can be further broken down into the following theories:


Example  – “love and love and love”

Token = 5 “Token” Words

Type = 2 Types

  1. love
  2. and

Types are a broad class which categorises a number of tokens.

Token-token Identity Theory  (Maslin, 2001)

  • mental tokens are just physical events (e.g. occurring in the brain)
  • Every token of mental state  could be identical with token type of physical state but that mental state will not always generate the same brain state, at a different point in time.

Type-type Identity Theory  (Maslin, 2001)

Water = H2O

Lightning = Pattern of Electrical Discharge

The contents on the right explain the hidden nature of the left-hand items. All lightning flashes will always be patterns of electrical charge but not all electrical charges will be lightning.

Mental State  => Brain State

The Brain State for a particular Mental State will have to be observed, can’t just be predicted.


Identity through labels (Mullen, 1977) – haven’t quite figured out the term for this

Someone can be labelled as:

  • a father
  • son of . . .
  • brother of . . .
  • owner of a golden retriever
  • CEO of Google

Is our identity defined by the labels placed on us by those around us? If this is the case, does our identity depend upon those around us?

Do these different labels/roles result in different behaviours and acceptable personas. What does this mean for our identity on the web? Some argue each label/role has an accepted scope of behaviours linked to it. When we accept the label we accept these conditions of behaviour for the period of time that we are still defined by that label.

Semantic Web  – How will all these personas appear in a semantic web where you are represented by one URI? Sometimes different areas of your life shouldn’t interact e.g. photographs of a young working professional out drinking on a Friday night and a primary school head teacher as these are different segments of this persons life.


Maslin, K.T., 2001. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind. Polity ; Blackwell Publishers, Cambridge, UK : Malden, MA.

Mullen, P., 1977. Beginning Philosophy. Edward Arnold, London.

Written by Anna Weston on October 27th, 2013

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