Volume 1 Issue 2 Hilary 2012
THE CLARENDON CHRONICLE Newsletter of the Clarendon Scholars’ Association
IN THIS ISSUE 1
Who moved my chocolate?
Image of a postnatal brain stem cell-derived tripotential neurosphere Image courtesy of Dr Francis Szele.
Talking Heads A technologically-inclined interdisciplinary conversation.
It is rare to find an area of our lives that technology does not touch. This year’s Talking Heads, which took place on 23 February at the Oxford Internet Institute, celebrated the prominence of technology in society by highlighting innovative scholarship which incorporates notable technological dimensions. We were very lucky to have an incredibly strong line-up of diverse speakers. Representing natural science was Dr Francis Szele (St Anne’s) from the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics. Szele led a discussion around advances in stem cell research in a conversation entitled ‘The Hype and Promise of Brain Stem Cells’. Advances in technology has enabled Szele to visualize neurones by labelling them with different fluorescent molecules. This provides Szele and his team with unprecedented resources to begin to understand how neurons interact and migrate to keep us functioning. From the social sciences we had Daniel Mullins (Linacre), a Clarendon Scholar at the Centre for Anthropology and the Mind. Mullins employs large-scale database sampling techniques, qualitative data analysis software, and digital research methods such as Perlbased web crawlers to study the evolution of political systems. Specifically, he focuses on the role of ritual in the socio-political evolution of complex societies. Finally, Dr James Brusuelas (Corpus Christi) from the Classics Department discussed the innovative role
Screenshot of the Ancient Lives Daniel Mullins project in action.
crowd-sourcing has played in the Ancient Lives project. The Ancient Lives project (ancientlives. org) placed hundreds of thousands of images of Greek papyri fragments online, many of these remain unstudied due to a lack of workers. The project allows lay users to help transcribe these scripts and so boosts the speed of bringing the classical world to the digital age. The event was a great success, providing those who attended with an opportunity to note first-hand some of the advances currently being made across a range of disciplines and the role which technology has played in making those advances possible.
—Cohen Simpson Cohen is a first-year postgraduate student at the Oxford Internet Institute studying Social Science of the Internet. He is especially thankful for the efforts and support of the coordinating team and the Clarendon Scholars’ Council in planning this year’s Talking Heads.
Message from the President Dear Scholars, As I reflect on Hilary Term 2011/2012, there is one particular development within our Clarendon community that really stands out. The past eight weeks represent a consolidation of the enthusiasm and involvement of those Clarendon Scholars who arrived with us in Michaelmas last year. Together with familiar faces and old hands, they have contributed an enormous amount to our community of scholars. Not only did the Clarendon ‘freshers’ turn up to our general meetings in droves, but they put together a brilliant ‘Talking Heads’, helped Darshan, Jen, Rob, Nathan and I to organise day trips, dinners and bar nights, and generally infused the Clarendon community with new ideas and energy. Given that our Association was only established in 2009, being able to draw on the talents of more and more Clarendon Scholars every year is essential if we are to build our identity in Oxford and our alumni network for the future. To those who got involved or just came along to an event, thank you for helping to make Hilary Term a great one. I look forward to seeing you all over the Easter break and into the sunny days of Trinity Term. Best wishes,
Claire Higgins Clarendon Scholars’ President 2011/2012
Who moved my chocolate? Children’s understanding about false beliefs
Numerous ingenious variations of this task have been used to study other aspects of ‘theory of mind’. When given tasks that are are more appropriate for their age, even children younger than three can do well on tasks that involve understanding false beliefs. In fact, Renee Baillargeon and collaborators are now using the non-verbal ‘violation-of-expectation’ paradigm to show that even twelve- to fifteen-month-old infants have some understanding of false beliefs: they would look at an unexpected event for a longer period of time than an expected event. But don’t be too quick to feel smug and think that adults would be much better at understanding other’s false beliefs! In more complicated perspective-taking tasks, adults bore a remarkable resemblance to three-year-old children! The inability to think from another’s perspective is perhaps one of the most significant problems in all kinds of relationships. If only we could understand one another better, the benefits would be far greater than a bar of chocolate.
Ever wondered how and when children begin to understand what other people think? Most of us take this amazing ability for granted—an ability that is crucial for communication and social competence. Peter Mitchell, professor of psychology at Nottingham University, presents the interesting ways in which young children have been studied for what is termed their ‘theory of mind’. One of the earliest and most popular of these is ‘Maxi’s chocolate task’. Here, children hear the story of a child named Maxi: Maxi has a bar of chocolate, and he puts it in the cupboard and goes out to play. While he is out playing, his mum moves his bar of chocolate from the cupboard to the fridge. When Maxi comes back, where will he look for his chocolate? Most four-year-olds correctly answer that he will look in the cupboard—the —Akhila Pydah original location where he left the chocolate. Their explanation shows that they understand that Maxi holds a false belief. In contrast, most three-year- Akhila is an MSc student in child development and olds say that Maxi will look in the the fridge—the education at Lady Margaret Hall. location where the chocolate really is. 2
THE CLARENDON CHRONICLE – Newsletter of the Clarendon Scholars’ Association
Coast-to-Coast: Rami’s Bicycle Journey Across America
Rami dips his wheels into the Pacific Ocean at the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, California, having just finished his solo bicycle journey across America.
Just before coming to Oxford, Ramtin Amin – a first-year DPhil candidate conducting research in the Department of Social Science’s Oxford Internet Institute – embarked upon a cross country road trip across America. Eschewing motorized transport, he pedaled his bicycle 3,537 miles from one ocean to the other on a largely unplanned and spontaneous adventure. After dipping his wheels in the Atlantic Ocean on a cool spring day, he set off west towards the Pacific with little more than a compass, a sleeping bag, and a one-man tent secured with bungee cords to the back of his bike. Riding solo without any maps or GPS devices, he let his compass and the sun guide his way west. He received lots of help from his fellow Americans, who enthusiastically pointed him in the right direction across thousands of miles of rural country roads. After pedaling through thirteen states and up nearly 12,000 feet over the Continental Divide, he finally reached the Pacific, dipping his wheels in the ocean just under the iconic Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, California. Along the way, Rami stopped and explored a number of national parks and historical sites, including the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia,
the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, Monument Valley in Utah, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Mojave Desert in California, and various Native American reservations. His path intersected other famous western routes, including the Old Mormon Trail, the Old Spanish Trail, and the historic Route 66. His days were largely spent coasting at 11 miles per hour, and his nights stealth camping in his tent under the stars, often just a few dozen meters from the roadside. But Rami’s favorite part of the trip was not the remarkable scenery; he was far more intrigued by the people he met along the way, and the interesting and insightful conversations he had about local history and politics with Americans (and non-Americans) from all walks of life. He was also astonished with the incredible amount of hospitality he received. A quick stop in a rural town to ask to fill up his water bottles in a stranger’s kitchen sink often resulted in an invitation to stay for a few hours to rest and have a full meal before leaving. Despite consuming an average of 5,000 calories a day, he still ended up losing 22 pounds. Now at Oxford, Rami spends most of his time working on his doctoral research, while daydreaming about his next adventure. Volume 1 Issue 2 – Hilary Term 2012
Susan Graham, middle, in action on the river. Photograph by Vaughan Dutton.
OxBump We spoke with Susan Graham, Clarendon Scholar and active rower, who has developed the OxBump App targeted at the Oxford community of rowers. OxBump is the first app to emerge from the partnership between Susan Graham and John McManigle, her colleague at Wolfson. Designed to provide important safety, weather, and general regatta information for Oxford Rowers, the app was released in the middle of February, just in time for Torpids, an annual highlight for Oxford Rowers. ‘OxBump took the Oxford rowing community by storm with nearly 500 downloads in the first few weeks after its release. Rowers and spectators alike have been using OxBump to stay up to date with the latest river conditions, regatta results and general rowing information,’ Susan observes. ‘We have had really positive feedback and hope to expand the features to make it more and more useful.’
care Innovations, which has a focus on the Digital Economy. The programme includes training in web design and computer programming. John’s D.Phil. is focusing on image analysis; hence he was able to translate his programming skills into the design of the app. Susan tells us that she has been interested in business for many years. Before coming to Oxford, she studied at University of Sydney where she would frequently attend entrepreneurial events. In Oxford, she has enjoyed attending multiple events organised at the Said Business School, to which she attributes part of her enthusiasm in the area. Together with John, she has also established the business Feather & Square LLP. ‘We hope to develop many ideas under our partnership, and to keep on providing solutions to problems that have previously been overlooked. We intend to improve OxBump by adding new features and making it more versatile for Oxford Rowers. We also hope to develop similar apps for our friends down the road at Cambridge. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit!’
How does a DPhil student in Healthcare Innovations get into app design? Any advice for other Clarendon Scholars who ‘John and I saw the need in the rowing com- dream of designing their own apps? munity and both being iPhone users thought that ‘Just go for it! Decide which platform you’d an Oxford Rowing app would be the perfect solu- like to start with and be prepared to be flexible.’ tion. It really was driven by our requirements as We are certainly excited to follow Susan rowers and coxes to help organise outings, as well and John and will keep our eyes open for any fuas for the fun of following bumps results.’ ture releases. You can follow their developments Both John and Susan are reading for a through their website: www.feathersquare.com, D.Phil. in Biomedical Engineering within the where you can also download OxBump (free!) to Department of Engineering Science. Susan is part see the latest features. of the Centre for Doctoral Training in Health—Lise Loerup 4
THE CLARENDON CHRONICLE – Newsletter of the Clarendon Scholars’ Association
This past year I made a trip to the Beinecke Library at Yale where I consulted the archives of American poet Susan Howe, winner of The Bollingen Prize for Poetry in 2011, and subject of my DPhil thesis. The trip was an exhilarating experience—not only because of the materials I found but because I got to meet and work with Ms. Howe herself. My aims in the archives were mostly to see the artwork she made before transitioning from visual arts to poetry—something that no critic to has yet been able to do as the artworks were only recently made available to the public. These water-colors, or what Howe calls ‘word drawings’, are beautiful collages that illuminate many of the aesthetics in her mature poetry. In both media she presents and reflects on the materiality of historical documents, investigating the possibilities of retrieving unwritten histories and unrecorded voices. On the drive from the train station to her house, along the winding roads nestled between a granitic shore and densely wooded forest, she told me of her very deep sense that places such as these are inhabited by distant voices of the past and that poetry consecrates an acoustic space that ‘almost captures them’. Working on and with a living poet continues to be a richly rewarding experience for which I am very grateful. How many people get to dine with their DPhil subject! But I also feel this comes with a special responsibility. Knowing that my author will see and perhaps be affected by my work makes me conscious of criticism’s potential to bring an impor-
tant vision of an individual to a deserving body of readers. As a poet myself (and one who shares my author’s first name), it is natural for me to see her as a role model as well as an artistic companion. And yet the rapport has necessary and built-in distances. Being slightly estranged from an author allows a critic to give a fuller, more generous response. That leaves us in a constant dance, always a bit on tip-toe. I recognized this clearly while I was unwinding over a hot tea one day at Booktraders, Yale’s local cafe and used bookstore. I was bleary-eyed from ten straight hours of reading through Susan’s drafts and manuscripts when a title from the cinema shelves jumped out at me: Intimate Strangers. Such intellectual connections are rare, and – as with the the lyric poem itself – the final gift is in how they render us both more and less strangers to ourselves.
—Susan Barbour Susan is an American DPhil student at Somerville College. She has published articles on Susan Howe and H.D. and has published poetry in journals including Oxford Poetry and The Paris Review. In 2010 she was chosen by Sir Christopher Ricks for inclusion in the anthology Joining Music with Reason.
Volume 1 Issue 2 – Hilary Term 2012
an exhibition by F. Onyango Oketch
Special thanks to Ramtin Amin, Susan Barbour, Susan Graham, Claire Higgins, F. Onyango Oketch, Akhila Pydah, Patty Sachamitr and Cohen Simpson for contributing to this term's newsletter.
On a sunny weekend in November, members of the Clarendon newsletter team visited the exhibition of F. Onyango Oketch, a third year Clarendon scholar in Fine Art (DPhil). In the hands of Oketch, the rooms of the Kendrew Barn & Gallery of St John’s college became a sculptural environment where items of everyday use, materials from scrapyards, and even pieces of wood and clothing became an integral platform for conversations that explores violence, deprivation, and forms of human degradation. Walking around the exhibition, one cannot help being intrigued and puzzled by the items and sculptures on display. Some of the objects forming sculptures are easily recognisable: a cup from someone's kitchen table, an old workbench, a bowl. But others are so reconfigured, distorted and plucked apart that only imagination can determine what you are looking at – is it an old radio, a control box, or perhaps part of a plane engine? Being brought out of their natural setting and placed in the light and spacious surroundings of the Kendrew Gallery, Oketch’s works engage the mind and curiosity of the viewer. Here, natural wood, stone, large windows and white walls form an aesthetic backdrop for the sculptural environment that brings new life and meanings to the objects. Where did the inspiration for this work come from? Oketch explains that he is driven by political activism, human right issues, the art of rhetoric, stories, and experiences. The history and memories of the discarded objects and debris engage the viewer in visualising contemporary tragedies, triggering our minds to contemplate wars, tribulations, losses, traumas, and memories of our own. The experience of being in the Conversations was truly unique and we congratulate Oketch for this successful event. For more information on upcoming events at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, visit http:// www.ruskin-sch.ox.ac.uk/. —Lise Loerup
The next issue of The Clarendon Chronicle will be the Trinity Term 2012 edition. Have you attended a conference, completed fieldwork, or travelled to interesting places? Submit your photos and stories to the newsletter team via firstname.lastname@example.org The Clarendon Chronicle Team: Coordinator: Thomas Tam | Editors: Ramtin Amin, Hem Borker, Connor Brooks, Ben Sorgiovanni, Hannah Wills | Reporter: Lise Loerup | Graphic Design: Erica Lombard
Newsletter of the Clarendon Scholars' Assoication (Hilary Term 2012)