Monday, 19 September 2011

Turn it up to 11

BBC online media player services have a whimsical touch; the volume can be turned up to eleven. Professionally delivered user experiences don't have to be bland or humourless.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Study skills

Writing a summary of discussion of a paper is for me a very effective study skill, making me engage with the material and having to think about it in detail. It also requires me to reexamine a text, particularly focusing on what I considered to be important during the first read through. It also provides me with ready made notes and reminders for when I need to draw on the material again.

I've fallen off the wagon over the past few weeks due to various factors. I've found my previous blog posts to be hugely helpful for my current essay, so once the current coursework crunch is out of the way I intend to be more disciplined in making a post covering a paper I have just read.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Blackmail from the liberal democrats?

This seems a bit strange. Nadine Dorries, following losing a vote in the House of Commons, has this to say on her blog:
"...the difficult situation we had been put in by the Liberal Democrats. Some obviously disagreed, but politics yesterday was certainly at its dirtiest and most complex. I would never have thought that the Liberal Democrats would have applied so much pressure..."
The BBC sheds some light on what this dirty politics might be:

"[Dorries] blamed Deputy PM Nick Clegg for Mr Cameron's coolness towards her amendment - claiming he had "blackmailed" the prime minister by saying that Lib Dem MPs would not vote for the health bill if her amendment was carried."
So, the Liberal Democrats are against a proposed amendment to a bill to the extent that they're willing to (or threaten to) vote against the bill if the amendment is included. Whether you agree with them or not, this would seem to be a case of standing up for their principles. Perhaps Dorries complaint is that this, if it occurred, wasn't done publicly enough? (Though one would have thought it obvious that the LD would be against it). Either way, if this is dirty politics can we have more of it please? Consistent backing of principles in politics gets my vote.


A mildly interesting week for deliberative democracy in the UK. An attempt was made to change abortion laws, requiring that advice given to women considering abortion is provided by an 'independent' organisation, i.e. one that does not itself provide abortion services.

Much was made of the importance of the advice services being independent. Independence is one of those push button words, if something is independent it has to be positive, right? Well no, not really. What is wanted from an advice service is that it is impartial, objective, unbiased, informed, and that the advice is provided professionally and appropriately. Independence isn't something that is desirable in itself, though clearly by being independent there are potentially fewer constraints that might inhibit the provision of unbiased and impartial advice. It does not follow that an independent advice service will be better than a non-independent service. This complaint about the independence of the organisations is somewhat akin to complaining that your NHS doctor only wants you to take X / have procedure Y, because she wants to perpetuate the NHS.

Also of particular interest is that a broad sweep of public commentators seem to think that the MP behind the proposed changes is, despite her public statements to the contrary, generally against abortion. Certainly the MPs voting record suggests that she is very much against abortion in its current form; having previously voted to cut the time limit in half (by 12 weeks).

On the public reason front it is enlightening and disappointing to repeatedly see those in the anti-choice camp using rhetoric about murder and the like. This is either only a self-reinforcing flag to their own side, or a complete failure to engage with the subject matter. It certainly doesn't move forward or explore the (highly sensitive and emotional) topic in any way. The crux of the whole debate is whether an early termination counts as murder. This is the point that needs to be discussed and debated. Refusing to enter into reasoned public debate on the point of contention and levelling severe and emotive accusations at the other side isn't far removed from being on the playground and sticking your fingers in your ears.

Other worries on the public discourse front:

- The 'Right to Know' campaign doesn't seem to think that we have a right to know who is behind it
- Another of those buzz words 'choice' has been trotted out and dressed up in a frock this week. Choice is of course important, an important part of a liberal society and all that, but choice for the sake of choice isn't positive. Generally psychological studies find that a lot choice is not beneficial. And of course, if one has a serious ailment and has the option of getting it treated by qualified doctors, it isn't an improvement if one gains the choice of letting quacks have a crack at it.