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Children Caring on the Move: Website launched for project looking at separated child migrants care of each other

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Sarah Crafter is pleased to announce the launch of the new website for the ESRC funded project which aims to examine how separated children care for each other as they navigate contradictory, complex, and changeable immigration and welfare systems in England.

It is always very exciting to embark on a new research project. At the beginning there are a flurry of important activities to undertake, such as setting up team meetings, submitting the ethics applications and recruiting for new researchers. However, one of the most exciting elements is seeing the new project website ‘go live’! So it is with a great deal of pleasure that I am sharing the launch of our new project website for ‘Children Caring on the Move’ (CCoM) with you. The website tells you about our project and what it involves, the investigative team and our Advisory group, and some of the news items and resources that we have begun to collate. You can also read my first blog for the project. 

The aim of this research project is to investigate how separated child migrants, and those involved in their care, make sense of, value, and take part in care relationships and caring practices within the immigration-welfare nexus in England. Little is known about how separated children’s care for each other as they navigate contradictory, complex, and changeable immigration and welfare systems. Nor do we know how separated children’s care for each other is understood and treated by relevant adult stakeholders, including social workers, foster carers, educators, youth workers, religious leaders, legal professionals, and policy makers. Placing separated children at its heart, this study asks: What are separated child migrants’ experiences of care and caring for others? How do various economic, social and political factors shape the care priorities of relevant stakeholders? What are the theoretical, policy, and practice implications of varying understandings and practices of care?

I think psychology has a curious relationship with the concept of ‘care’. In many ways ‘care’ sits at the heart of our psychological needs - to have a sense of inclusion, belonging, trust, growth, achievement, power and control of our lives. Yet there has been little direct conceptualisation within psychology of what it means to care and so the issue is often associated with other aspects of psychology. A good example is Bowlby’s discussion of the relationship between a mother and their infant, which is described as an ‘attachment’, whereby care is implied but not explicitly theorised. Wendy Hollway, a feminist scholar, provides the exception in her book on the ‘Capacity to Care’  which looks at care as both gendered and ethically subjective. She is interested in the psychological capacities to care, proposing that it is a dynamic set of practices that involves both ‘caring for’ and ‘caring about’. Even so, within this text, there is an emphasis on adults providing care and children receiving it. In our project, separated child migrants travel without their kin, and so we are interested in how children care for each other and how children's care for each other is largely absent from adult narratives and the implications this might have on further support, resources, and recognition for different forms of care.

We hope you enjoy the website and join us in following the progress of our project over the next three years


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Peter Banister: A Tribute

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This week the School of Psychology and Counselling received the sad news of the death of Professor Peter Banister. Peter worked in the Department of Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University and was also an Open University Associate Lecturer for 45 years. Many current and former OU Psychology students will have known him as their tutor and, earlier, as a leader at psychology summer schools. He also supported OU psychology teaching through his involvement with the British Psychological Society. He was President of the Society from 2012-13.

Peter co-edited a key research methods text used by several generations of OU students* and he believed strongly that psychology students should have the opportunity to conduct their own research projects, as on the current module DE300. Since 2017, Peter had been part of the Associate Lecturer team on DD317 Advancing Social Psychology, bringing to this new module his extensive experience of teaching and examining social psychology. (The 2017 module chair for DD317, Stephanie Taylor, had tutored with Peter in the early 1990s – her first employment with the university but he was already an OU veteran.) Typically, Peter undertook the extra responsibility of SISE tutoring for DD317, taking great trouble to assist a student in prison. That is just one small example of his extra contributions as a psychologist and a teacher. 

Peter's AL colleagues have been posting tributes: 'incredibly supportive and kind'; 'the loveliest man, always so calm and such a reliable source of wisdom about all things psychological'; 'a lovely gentleman'; 'I felt privileged to work with someone who brought so much experience in his academic career and BPS work'; 'he will be remembered well'.

The SST Lead for Psychology, Caroline Kelly, describes Peter as a popular and much respected colleague who will be very much missed. Associate Dean Helen Kaye notes that he had an excellent way with students, motivating them and explaining things in a very clear way. Staff Tutor and Senior Lecturer Karen Hagan similarly remembers Peter as very student-focused. She highlights his dedication to supporting each student to achieve their potential and have the best study experience possible. She also recalls his lighter side, citing an occasion when he was attending a meeting remotely and colleagues complained about the amount of background noise during the conference call: Peter admitted, giggling, that he was probably the culprit as he was taking the call while on Brighton beach!

The School sends sympathies to Peter’s family for their loss. They will hold a a private funeral next week, followed by the planting of a tree in Peter’s memory at Indian’s Head Memorial Forest at Dovestone Reservoir, Greenfield, an area that he loved to roam.  There will be a memorial service later in the year to allow us all to join together to celebrate Peter’s life.

  • Peter Banister et al (1997/2011) Qualitative Methods in Psychology: A Research Guide Open University Press

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'They are us': some responses from social psychologists

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Edited by Stephanie Taylor, Friday, 17 May 2019, 14:46

In this week's blog, Stephanie Taylor discusses some social psychological responses to the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Nine weeks after they occurred, the terrorist attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand receive little media attention. There is still horror about what happened, but it is now combined with people's responses to subsequent awful events, including the April attacks in Sri Lanka. However, the Christchurch attacks continue to be discussed on academic sites, including in psychology publications. This week's blog will focus on some social psychological interpretations of what happened and why.

In the March edition of the journal of the British Psychological Society, The Psychologist, Stephen Reicher, Alex Haslam and Jay Van Bavel analyse the 'manifesto' of the Christchurch killer. They conclude that he was following a form of 'toxic leadership' which they associate with some current heads of state around the world. They draw a contrast with the positive, inclusive leadership presented by the New Zealand Prime Minister. You can read the article here

https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/road-christchurch-tale-two-leaderships   

In New Zealand itself, the New Zealand Journal of Psychology produced a Rapid-response issue after the Christchurch terror attacks (The New Zealand Journal of Psychology Vol 48, Issue 1, 2019 (ISSN:1179-7924)). The lead article is by Margaret Wetherell, who worked at the Open University for many years and is an Emerita Professor in our School of Psychology. Professor Wetherell is more cautious than Reicher et al about what social psychology can contribute to our understanding of the attacks. She suggests that many conventional social psychological theories and concepts may be inadequate.

Wetherell's own contribution to the discussion is an exploration of the 'acceptable discourse' and the lines of logic and feeling that appear in public and personal responses. This is more difficult ground for the reader than the previous article because it challenges the ways of thinking, feeling and viewing the world which constitute a shared culture of privilege in the world today: 'the flow of ideology/identity/affect... which authorises and legitimates feelings and actions, and which formulates common sense'. Wetherell's article invites us to consider our own positions in relation to that culture, and the extent to which we either question or support it. You can read the article here https://www.psychology.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/Wetherell-6-9.pdf

Both the articles, by Reicher et al and by Wetherell, refer very positively to the public statements of the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ahern. She received worldwide attention for her inclusive identification with the victims of the attacks: 'They are us'.

Her statements deny any distinction between recent migrants and other New Zealanders, defining the national community, 'us', as united by shared values and aspirations rather than more traditional connections. She emphasised that the newcomers to New Zealand had chosen it as their country.

A similar idea to 'They are us' is repeated in a Facebook post circulated by many New Zealanders: kia kaha This is Not Who We Are! (The Maori words kia kaha mean 'stay strong' and were used by the Maori Battalion during World War 2.) Both Ahern's claim and the kia kaha post are examples of what Michael Billig (1992) called 'banal nationalism': the presentation of a national community to itself. (Previous posts on this blog discuss some British examples.) Billig described this presentation as 'banal' not because it is unimportant but because it reinforces the image of the nation through repeated, everyday acts and references, for instance, to 'we' and 'us' and, here, to New Zealanders as principled, strong and ready to fight for what they believe.

Many of us have felt an intense and positive emotional response to 'They are us' and 'This is Not Who We Are'. Yet it is important to be alert to how similar ideas can be used negatively as well as positively. The same 'common sense' and 'flow of ideology/identity/affect' can be invoked to legitimate very different feelings and actions.

For example, in a world of moving populations, it is obviously good to welcome newcomers. It is good to open the national community to more people than those with 'born and bred' connections of family and history. However, it is perhaps less good to imply that the only people who belong are those with the same values as everyone else, as if living together doesn't require some tolerance of difference. And while 'choice' can be positive, it also suggests that migrants always have alternatives, as if they have shopped selectively for a new country, rather than, in many cases, feeling themselves forced to go wherever they can, for reasons that may or may not be visible to others.

Social psychologists who study citizenship increasingly define it in terms of what citizens do rather than what they are. (This is a topic in the module Advancing Social Psychology DD317, in Block 3 by Rachel Manning, Eleni Andreouli and Debra Gray.) The interest is in the practices which make people part of the national society, rather than the laws which entitle them to passports. Again, this way of thinking is potentially both positive and negative. In the UK, it is invoked positively in campaigns that highlight how immigrants and refugees contribute to British society. However, a more problematic aspect appears in the case of Shamima Begum whose British citizenship was revoked because she joined Islamic State. If good citizenly behaviour should entitle people to official citizenship status (although it doesn't, in many cases), the logical converse is that bad behaviour becomes an excuse to exclude people from the national community. Yet every society has always had its dissenters and lawbreakers, as well as frankly unpleasant people, and sometimes we may find ourselves counted in the 'bad' category.  Our differences will require discussion and an attempt to understand what may at first seem incomprehensible. The negotiation will be laborious, and never completed but it is also necessary, because 'us' and 'them' are never entirely separate.

You can find information about social psychology at the Open University in the website for the Culture and Social Psychology (CuSP) research group http://fass.open.ac.uk/research/groups/cusp

The Level 3 module Advancing Social Psychology (DD317) is introduced here https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=1258641

You might also be interested in the Open Learn short course DD317_1 Social psychology and politics: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/social-psychology-and-politics/content-section-0


 


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Spring as a time of hope, or not?

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In this week's social psychology blog, Stephanie Taylor looks ahead to the UK holiday weekend and considers the meanings of Easter and futures, and reasons to be cheerful, or not.

Today people in the UK will be looking forward to the Easter weekend with various expectations. For some, it is a holiday, although Bank Holidays are perhaps less relevant now that so many workers are self-employed. For them, and for others like OU students, Easter may appear as exactly the opposite, that is, an opportunity to do extra work. For some people, Easter is important as a major Christian festival. But perhaps the strongest associations of this long weekend are with the beginning of spring as a season of fertility and growth, symbolised by all those eggs and rabbits.

These associations offer different possibilities for constructing time, and where we are in relation to it. Think about the UK calendar year, with its attached commercial messages. It begins with a noticeable proliferation of tv programmes and articles about losing weight and abandoning bad habits. January is presented as the month in which to live healthily, perhaps by abstaining from alcohol (Dry January), and giving up meat (Veganuary). Shop displays and advertisements feature sports clothes and special offers on gym membership, so this is all about looking ahead and making an effort now in order to improve ourselves later. Then in February the health priorities are replaced in the lead up to Valentine's Day which is, supposedly, a time not only for love and romance but also chocolate, champagne and meals out. The focus shifts abruptly from the future back to now, to enjoyment of the moment - or perhaps, for people whose experience doesn't fit the shiny image, to a feeling of disappointment and even failure.

Immediately after February 14th, supermarkets replace displays of chocolate hearts with chocolate eggs as we reach the current point in the year, the lead up to Easter. Shopping wise, there is also pressure to buy new clothes, outdoor furniture and seasonal food - the first asparagus and, if you've forgotten about Veganuary, spring lamb. Again, we are positioned in the present, supposedly enjoying ourselves, but we are also looking ahead to future pleasures, including a fantasy of a summer which is based more on other countries than the UK. Directly after the Easter holiday, we can expect the future focus to become stronger, with a renewed emphasis on healthy living as everyone is encouraged to lose weight in preparation for summer holidays at the beach.

All of this is completely familiar and might seem amusingly trivial. However, it indicates how our experience of the supposedly 'natural' passing of time, including seasonal change, is shaped by the society and culture. For social psychologists who utilise analytic approaches like thematic and discursive analysis, one interest in this kind of teasing out of meanings is their link to values and priorities, to what is right and wrong, and what needs to be acted upon. The cycle of months and activities emphasises ongoing life, comforting us with its seemingly reliable repetition. More linear constructions can position us at an endpoint. For example, the current news stories about Brexit present the UK as straggling towards the finish, of membership of the EU or just the attempt to relinquish it, and possibly the collapse of the whole political system which enabled the referendum in the first place.

The most important news story this Easter is probably the current protests initiated by Extinction Rebellion 'against the criminal inaction on the climate and ecological crisis'. As thousands of people demonstrate in London and other cities, we might feel that we occupy several conflicting positions in time, simultaneously. The protesters are challenging the optimism of spring, pointing to ongoing degradation of the environment rather than seasonal renewal. They are not alone in being concerned. For instance, many of the people who are staying at home this weekend to work on their gardens and allotments might also feel that this spring is not the same new beginning as the cycle implies, because of ominous signs like rising temperatures and other strange weather patterns, and the declining numbers of bees and other familiar insects. So where are we all positioned now? Are we winding down to an end, of many aspects of the natural environment, of thousands of species, and of the way we currently occupy the planet, because more and more places are becoming unliveable? These are the threats, quite literally of the end of life as we know it. Yet the climate change protests themselves might be viewed as a new beginning, as action that will produce real responses on a sufficient scale to be effective, by social actors who have previously not engaged with the issue (it is interesting, for example, to see the Governor of the Bank of England warning business of the money losses that climate change involves). So now, in springtime, these protests themselves are perhaps our strongest reason for optimism and the hope of new beginnings. Happy Easter!

This week's blog has links to ideas discussed in the module Advancing social psychology (DD317). For more information about the module, you can watch a video here  https://youtu.be/dbzF4hBeBkk You can also look at the new Open Learn course course DD317_1 Social psychology and politics: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/social-psychology-and-politics/content-section-0

To find out more about social psychology at the Open University http://fass.open.ac.uk/research/groups/cusp  http://fass.open.ac.uk/research/groups/cusp

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The lie of the future?

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A current exhibition, 'The lie of the land', at Milton Keynes Gallery looks at the founding of the city in which the OU is located. Some of the issues raised by the exhibition, about past visions of the future, link to novelty and the classic concept of 'emergence', the focus of a seminar organised by the Culture and Social Psychology group with other social psychologists, from the University of East London. This week's blog for social psychology and DD317 introduces the concept and some related issues.

As the Open University celebrates its 50th anniversary, there is a different kind of commemoration of its location, Milton Keynes, in a new exhibition, 'The lie of the land', at MK Gallery. The exhibition presents changing images of the British landscape, including the development of Milton Keynes as a built environment that was intended to be 'a city greener than the surrounding countryside'. The exhibition includes a short film, co-funded by the Open University, in which the artist Gareth Jones looks back over early plans for the city. He suggests that the optimism which surrounded its original development derived from a combination of two social revolutions, the post-war reforms that established the welfare state as part of a vision of a fairer society, and the events of 1968, including student protests, which are often seen as initiating significant contemporary values and freedoms. Jones shows that many of the original designs for Milton Keynes were never followed through, including a sculpture park, elaborate public playgrounds and a lakeside disco. Other dramatic features that did get built, like an elevated pedestrian tunnel, have subsequently been demolished.

The film prompts reflections on the complex relationship between past and future, such as how earlier futures can disappear or go out of date. (A notable feature of the drawings is the distinctive 70s fashions worn by the 'future' people.) More prosaically, the film reminds us of the difficulty of knowing the future. This is a particular issue for social psychologists because so much of the project of psychology is about attempting to enable prediction, for instance, by tracing cause and effect, modelling processes and outcomes, or examining people and their behaviour in great detail. A major attraction of the discipline is its implied promise to explain us to ourselves and, as a logical extension, offer the possibility of managing the lives ahead of us and reducing our future problems. Yet there are strong arguments, including from some psychologists, that such a project will inevitably fail. Our lives are too complex, there are too many factors in play, any model can only be a simplification.

These issues prompted the Culture and Social Psychology group at the OU, CuSP, to organise a seminar with social psychologists from the University of East London in order to discuss emergence. Emergence was defined by the psychologist G.H.Mead as 'the occurrence of something which is more than the processes which have led up to it and which by its change, continuance or disappearance, adds to later passages a content they would not otherwise have possessed.' Emergence is therefore about novelty, futures and the unpredictable. The specific concerns of the seminar's presenters include emotion, mental health, Brexit and the ways that psychological research can be conducted.

You can find information about CuSP and other events here http://fass.open.ac.uk/research/groups/cusp  http://fass.open.ac.uk/research/groups/cusp

This week's blog has links to ideas discussed in the new module Advancing social psychology (DD317). For more information about the module, you can watch a video here  https://youtu.be/dbzF4hBeBkk You can also look at the new Open Learn course course DD317_1 Social psychology and politics: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/social-psychology-and-politics/content-section-0

You can find information about the exhibition at Milton Keynes Gallery here https://mkgallery.org/


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Commemoration and memory

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The OU is celebrating its 50th birthday! This is of course a big event for everyone involved with the university. As the official message puts it, 'In our anniversary year, we will tell our story and create moments that inspire pride, unity and involvement.' This kind of commemoration is also of interest to psychologists, and especially social psychologists, because of the complex connections between remembering and the telling of memories. In this week's blog for DD317 and social psychology, Stephanie Taylor discusses some of the issues involved.

Most people are aware that remembering doesn't operate as a kind of mental 'video replay' of the past. They may have experienced doubt about their own memory of an event like a family party, wondering if they recall the actual occasion or just what they were told about it subsequently. Discursive psychologists are interested in the construction of memories. This is not an argument that all memories are false but a suggestion that two questions need to be asked about anyone's account of what they remember. The first is 'Why are you talking about this (memory) now?' and the second, 'Why are you talking about it in this way?'.

The point of the first question is that a story about the past fulfils functions in the present, for instance, in the case of a commemoration, to inspire pride and encourage unity. The point of the second question is that a story about the past is always just one possible version. There could be a different telling, if only because memory is inevitably partial. Otherwise, as the psychologist Jens Brockmeier has put it, 'completely recalling one's life would take as long as one's life itself' (2002 p.23). Total memory is impossible, so we should recognise that any account of what is remembered is a selective construction, with a purpose.

Unsurprisingly, the OU's commemoration has already prompted discussions about the best stories to be told. What version of the university's history should be presented? Which events and people should be selected for recall? It is all very enjoyable. One of my own top choices would be a story from the valedictory lecture of Steven Rose, the OU's first Professor of Biology. He recalled the first ever OU biology course. Every student was sent, in the post, a package of study materials which contained a live goldfish, to observe, and a pickled sheep's brain, to dissect.

Some serious issues around commemoration were raised at a recent seminar organised by the Culture and Social Psychology (CuSP) group. The occasion was a presentation by Dr John E. Richardson, on his research on the commemoration of the Holocaust. He discussed how the remembering of these horrific events is changing with the passing of time, especially now that few survivors remain to present their own memories. Richardson analysed accounts presented at the UK's Holocaust Memorial Day, showing how the sombre commemorative speeches by contemporary politicians, although respectful, were carefully crafted to fulfil present purposes in line with government and party priorities.

The presentation and the discussion produced strong responses in the seminar audience. One view was that the contemporary speeches were betraying the commemoration of the Holocaust. The discursive explanation of inevitably selective construction seemed inadequate. The seminar even discussed the extreme argument that the commemoration should be discontinued entirely, to prevent its further exploitation. But there is an alternative, more positive conceptualisation that is also informed by social psychology. This involves considering commemoration in terms of sociocultural actions. According to this, the speeches and even the stage managing have value as social practices that acknowledge the past and engage new generations in marking its significance. Viewed in this way, commemoration has many parallels with religious rituals, so it is not a coincidence that it often borrows language and other details from organised religion. The commemorative event as a whole requires individuals to obey rules and limit any claims for personal attention. This interpretation is linked to process psychology. It also takes us back to discursive psychology, but to the first of the two questions, not the second: 'Why are we talking about these memories now?'. The answer, of course, is that we consider that they continue to be so important and the events that they refer to must never be forgotten.

The OU's commemoration is obviously a different set of actions appropriate to a different purpose, although there are also some connections in the value that is being placed on education and understanding. The OU's 50th birthday is about the past and the future, about changes that have occurred (including in teaching materials) and also the values we want to hold onto. We are expecting to hear some good stories about people's memories.

 

           Jens Brockmeier (2002) Remembering and Forgetting: Narrative as Cultural Memory. Culture & Psychology 8(1): 15-43.

 

You can read about future CuSP events here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/emergence-a-cusp-meeting-in-collaboration-with-uel-psychology-and-social-change-tickets-53432330539

If you are interested in the Level 3 Social Psychology module, you can find more information on OU websites and you can do this short course available on Open Learn: DD317_1 Social psychology and politics: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/social-psychology-and-politics/content-section-0


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Olympic medal winning student finds DD317 a golden experience

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This week we resume the DD317 / social psychology blog with a post about a former DD317 student, the Olympian Etienne Stott. Paul Stenner, Professor of Social Psychology at the Open University and DD317 presentation chair, talked to Etienne about the connections between sport, life and social psychology.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing OU Psychology student and Olympic gold medalist Etienne Stott. One of the great things about working at the OU is that we get students from all kinds of backgrounds and with all kinds of different life experiences, but it is not every day that I get to chat to an Olympian. What made this experience even more interesting is that Etienne had recently completed a Level 3 Social Psychology module with which I am involved, namely DD317. In fact, he was quite fired-up about it! So not only did we talk about his winning (with teammate Time Bailie) of a Gold Medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the two-man Slalom canoe event, but we also got to discuss how his engagement with social psychology has influenced his way of thinking about key social issues, such as the felt responsibilities of athletes as role models.

As a social psychologist, I’m fascinated by questions like how important the support of a crowd is for a sporting performance, and the extent to which the input of a sport psychologist might genuinely enhance abilities. Also, a few years ago I did some research on the concept of ‘being in the zone’ (or ‘BITZ’) which is closely connected to the idea that under certain conditions a performer can enter a flow state which might further enhance their abilities. It was great to get Etienne’s take on that idea, which, in his case, really came from lived experience.

Finally, as you will see if you watch the interview, Etienne Stott is not all about sport. He has some quite inspiring things to say about world politics, including the need for a more active approach to environmental issues. He makes it quite clear that what he learned on DD317 was extremely useful in helping him articulate a sophisticated perspective, and I’m delighted that he now wants to help spread the word of social psychology. If you’re interested in finding out more, have a listen to the interview here:

 https://learn2.open.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=206348&cmid=1252623#omp-id-37296_anchor

You’ll also find at the link above more information about DD317.

If you want to read more about ‘being in the zone’, I thoroughly recommend the following book: https://www.routledge.com/Culture-Identity-and-Intense-Performativity-Being-in-the-Zone/Jordan-McClure-Woodward/p/book/9781138185920

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Wake up! Foucault’s warning on fake news

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Edited by Stephanie Taylor, Saturday, 6 Oct 2018, 07:02

How new is fake news? Is it a feature of a contemporary ‘post truth’ society, or does it have a longer history? A new short film links the phenomenon back to the famous thinker Michel Foucault. In this week’s blog for Advancing social psychology (DD317), Professor Paul Stenner writes about the film, and about the influence of Foucault’s thinking on social psychology.

In partnership with the OU, the BBC have recently been making a series of ‘ideas’ short films. Each is only a few minutes long, and the aim is to get an ‘idea’ across in a quick but effective way. One of the latest of these short films asks how the French polymath Michel Foucault might have responded to the recent phenomenon of ‘fake news’, and to the idea that we now live in a world that is ‘post-truth’. ‘Fake news’ and ‘post-truth’ point to similar things, but the latter is a more academic concept whilst the former is now firmly associated with Donald Trump’s repeated complaint that ‘the media’ is politically motivated to make up negative stories about him. The short film is called Wake up! Foucault’s warning on fake news and it was written and narrated by Angie Hobbs from the University of Sheffield with Paul Stenner (an OU Social Psychologist and current Chair of DD317) and Cristina Chimisso (an OU Philosopher) acting as academic advisors.

Foucault, who died in 1984, is one of the most cited thinkers of the 20th Century. He is difficult to label because his style of thought moved easily across disciplinary boundaries, mixing philosophy, psychology, history and political activism. After his death, his ideas about the relationship between knowledge, power and subjectivity (or sense of self) began to have a big influence on social psychology, and indeed they crop up on various occasions in DD317 Advancing Social Psychology. Instead of assuming that sciences like psychology and economics provide objective truth about the human condition, Foucault created new ways of using historical data to demonstrate that these human sciences emerged under quite specific circumstances as part of new ways of governing and disciplining people. He did not approach these sciences by asking ‘are they true?’ but instead asked ‘what do they do?’ and ‘how do they actually function socially and psychologically?’ If Foucault is right, this means that ‘truth’ cannot easily be separated from ‘power’. Indeed, Foucault thought of them as two sides of the same thing called power/knowledge and he was particularly interested in how power/knowledge shapes people’s sense of self or ‘subjectifies’ them.

Ironically enough, some people are now inclined to blame thinkers like Michel Foucault for eroding the difference between knowledge and power and for ushering in a new world of post-truth in which a new breed of trickster politicians can act as if the truth were whatever they say it is, so long as they repeat it loudly on social media. The short film does entertain this hypothesis, but it also suggests that Foucault, had he lived to witness it, would be highly critical of the notion of the ‘fake news’ of a ‘post-truth’ era, and would assert the truth of the oppressed to those in positions of power, inviting us to ‘wake up’ to the unequal realities of our present moment. To judge for yourself, you can see the short film at https://www.bbc.com/ideas/videos/wake-up-foucaults-warning-on-fake-news/p06gzcn4

Paul Stenner is Professor of Social Psychology at the OU. Find out more about him by clicking the ‘meet the ou experts’ link here: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/tv-radio-events/events/bbc-ideas#meet-the-ou-experts  Paul chairs the new presentation of DD317 Advancing social psychology, starting October 2018. To learn more about DD317, you can look at the new Open Learn course course DD317_1 Social psychology and politics: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/social-psychology-and-politics/content-section-0

 


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Changing our thinking: Process and progress

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Can we break out of established ways of thinking? Are there new ways to understand ourselves in the world? This week's blog for DD317 Advancing social psychology reports on research from psychologists who belong to the Association for Process Thought (APT). As the name suggests, their research begins by looking not at how the world 'is' but at the ongoing processes (actions, movements, change) that make up our social environment. The blog, by Professor Paul Stenner, reports on some of the research presented at the APT's meeting in June 2018.

At this meeting of the Association of Process Thought, there were presentations which all used the concept of process to open up new ways of understanding three very different but important aspects of contemporary life: religion, intimate relationships, and environmental destruction.

The first presentation, by Martin Savransky (Goldsmiths College, University of London), considered how we might understand experiences that are often dismissed as irrational, including religious experiences. The presentation discussed a book by anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann called When God Talks Back, about charismatic evangelists. Rather than focussing on ‘belief’, Luhrmann’s work is consistent with a processual account that concerns the felt reality of religious experience. Through asking her participants how they experience the unseen reality of God, Luhrmann is able to show the relative irrelevance of heady thought in comparison to a slow relationship of feeling, embodied and embedded within practices.  Arguably, this emphasis on process enables a different understanding of religious experience, escaping from the now clichéd and obstructive question of whether God exists.

The second presentation, Process in action: Relational drug use, by Dr Katie Andersen, concerned intimate couple relationships. Again, rather than focussing on what intimacy 'is', the presentation approached intimacy as a set of practices. This opens up possibilities of understanding the significance of movement, space and material objects for relationships. Andersen's research considers how chemical interventions, specifically the use of the drug MDMA, can contribute to the creation of new subjectivities which alter boundaries within the self, between self and other, and between self and world. In a social world where recreational drug use is increasingly prevalent, this possibly contentious research considers how such use might function within contemporary lives.

The third presentation, Bio-semiotics and Integral ecology, was given by Dr John Pickering from the University of Warwick. His concern is the geopolitical reality of our time in which ecological degradation follows the vast and technologically mediated global increase in human numbers, associated with a widening gap between rich and poor, and the ongoing political struggles to control remaining planetary resources, like water. In this context, he suggests, there is a pressing need for new relational and processual modes of thought. He proposes a shift from mechanistic being (mere existence) to organic becoming (productive happening), suggesting that this ushers in a new understanding of the world at all levels, from the workings of the brain and mind, through to the organic interactions animating the minutest portions of life and evolution. His argument is that this kind of radical re-thinking is needed in order to address a problem of such magnitude.

Of course this brief overview of the presentations cannot cover the details of the arguments but it indicates some of the interdisciplinary thinking which is taking forward the field of social psychology.

Our Level 3 module, Advancing social psychology, offers students the opportunity to explore new developments in social psychology, including in their independent study. To learn more about DD317, you can watch a video here  https://youtu.be/dbzF4hBeBkk You can also look at the new Open Learn course course DD317_1 Social psychology and politics: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/social-psychology-and-politics/content-section-0

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Social psychology at the Open University

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The Open University has a long history of innovative work in social psychology, including through its Level 3 social psychology modules. Many of the textbooks from earlier modules have become teaching 'classics', used in universities worldwide. We've called our newest module, DD317, Advancing social psychology because we want to convey the dynamic nature of the discipline, moving into new areas of theory and research, often informed by contributions from other disciplines.

This new module, DD317, is the teaching 'voice' of the large social psychology research group in the OU's School of Psychology. It includes the research of the academics who produced the module – Eleni Andreouli, David Kaposi, Rachel Manning, Paul Stenner and Stephanie Taylor – and also contributions from other social psychologists in the School - Rose Capdevila, Johanna Motzkau, and our Emeritus Professors, Wendy Hollway and Margaret Wetherell. You can look us up on the School of Psychology website http://fass.open.ac.uk/psychology . In addition, of course, the module presents theory and research from academics in many other universities in the UK and elsewhere.

As we move into DD317's first presentation, we'll continue this blog to update you on new developments in social psychology at the OU, including the publications and research activities of the module team and our colleagues. So keep checking the blog. And for all of you who have registered for the new module, good luck and enjoy your studies!

To learn more about the module, you can watch a video here   https://youtu.be/dbzF4hBeBkk You can also look at the new Open Learn course course DD317_1 Social psychology and politics: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/social-psychology-and-politics/content-section-0

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Pride, social psychology and the contested politics of identity

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This week's blog for Advancing social psychology, DD317, by Eleni Andreouli, discusses the politics of Pride and some of the questions that social psychologists bring to LGBTQ issues and contested identities.

Since June, hundreds of Pride events have been taking place across the UK (see Stonewall’s website for information). These events commemorate the Stonewall riots of 1969 in New York City, which were incited by a police raid of Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, and which until today serve as a symbol in the LGBTQ rights movement. This year, Pride also coincides with the 50-year anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Britain.

Pride is a celebration of difference, as is evidenced in the party atmosphere and the colourful rainbow flags of these events. More importantly, Pride is a loud call for social recognition. It makes otherwise minoritized identities (gay, trans, bi etc.) visible and present. The parades in central public spaces and streets (such as London’s Oxford Street) are an example of this increased, albeit brief, visibility.

The politics of Pride are, however, more complicated than what a simple minority/majority schema suggests. While Pride has gone a long way to bring LGBTQ issues to the mainstream, critics argue that it promotes a narrow vision of liberal tolerance and that it commercialises and, ultimately, de-politicises struggles for recognition and equality.

Pride is clearly an example of the contested politics of identity; a politics, that is, of making rights claims on the basis of a shared identity which has been historically oppressed. Identity is of course a central social psychological concept and many social psychologists have studied how identities become the source for political action. Social psychologists have also alerted us to the danger of essentialising identities, that is, approaching identities as fixed, singular and mutually exclusive. Taking what is called an ‘intersectionality’ approach, social psychologists have studied not only how groups act on the basis of a shared identity, but also how identities mutually constitute each other to produce complex subjectivities and intermingling communities.

The concepts discussed in this week's blog are explored in our new module DD317 Advancing Social Psychology. To learn more about the module, you can watch a video here   https://youtu.be/dbzF4hBeBkk You can also look at the new Open Learn course course DD317_1 Social psychology and politics: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/social-psychology-and-politics/content-section-0


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Advancing social psychology - our new module

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Edited by Stephanie Taylor, Friday, 7 Jul 2017, 11:07


It's spring, the time of new beginnings, and appropriately the new module Advancing social psychology (DD317) is about to hatch. The main production team have been OU social psychologists Eleni Andreouli, David Kaposi, Rachel Manning, Paul Stenner and myself, Stephanie Taylor. Our aim was to try to pin down a fluid field, social psychology today. The social world is inevitably in a state of change. (At the moment we could point to the effects of Brexit negotiations, disability benefit changes, wild weather in many locations and new incidents of terrorism, as well as the light relief of new music and tv and spring fashion.) Logically, the psychology of people in their social contexts has to stretch and change to accommodate its subject, or rather its subjects, us, in all our variety. To show how we've approached this, over the next few weeks we'll be posting some short discussions of things that are happening and the connections to the new module. So watch this space!


In the meantime, you might want to look up details of the module itself


 

DD317 Level 3 Open University module Advancing social psychology

Part of the B.Sc Social Psychology and B.Sc Psychology, accredited by the British Psychological Society

60 points

Starting October 2017

 


 


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