Lectures at the European Studies Centre, ever inspiring…

Lecture at St Antony’s: misuse of media, fear about new media and media addiction are not new…

Ulricke Weckel - Lecture

As we are surrounded by a diverse range of social scientists, we have at least a weekly opportunity to attend a seminar on a colleague’s work.  One of our colleagues, Ulrike Weckel, Professor in Media and History, is Richard von Weizsacker Visiting Fellow at the European Studies Centre. Being a historian, she analysed how ‘new media’ in the previous centuries influenced society.  She covered amongst other media, paintings and illustrations of the 17th Century as ‘new media’.  Her talk comprised reflections regarding manipulation and addiction, and also gender issues.  I learned that fear of addiction is not something new, related to the digital age: it has occurred with every type ‘new’ media throughout history. As Ulrike’s fields of research also include the gender history of sociability in the 19th century, she explained that women becoming addicted to reading had been a worry in the past: what about their tasks in the household? What’s more, I was surprised to see 50-year-old TV footage, making clear that addiction was already a pronounced fear with the introduction of radio and television, not so long ago, although people wanted to be ‘updated’ to be prepared for what everybody would be talking about the next day.  Ulrike – being a historian – did not talk about the 21th Century, but is it clear that history is repeating itself: what we are calling today ‘social’ or ‘new’ media has a similar impact, although the pace and impact are much more significant.
The same issues have always been prevalent regarding fear of misuse of media for propaganda, and of a kind of literacy-divide in society. The use of media to manage emotions, and to mislead society, and for propaganda purposes are not new either, no more than media also focusing on sensation and profit.  New media also could be ‘threatening’, such as with the first ‘moving images’, where people became afraid of becoming part of the scene on the screen.  A nice example of this you can see in the first video in history, and people’s reaction to it.

Statistical cartography: appealing visualisation techniques…

Jan Zielonka - Lecture

Another interesting talk was given by Professor Jan Zielonka. He presented to us the ideas he is putting together in a new book.  He compared the Europe of states to many other concepts, such as a Europe of resources, a Europe of infrastructure.  His slides, which are not yet publicly available, used interesting data cartography tools, produced based upon statistical data, here at the University of Oxford.  As soon as the maps are public, I’ll share them for inspiration with the EPRS colleagues dealing with graphical issues and animated infographics.

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EU visiting fellow at the European Studies Centre, St Antony's College, University of Oxford

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