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Privacy paradoxes, digital divides and secure societies

More and more, we are living our lives in the online space. The development of wearable technology, automated vehicles, and the Internet of Things means that our societies are becoming increasingly digitized. Technological advances are helping monitor city life, target resources efficiently, and engage with citizens more effectively in so-called smart cities. But as with all technological developments, these substantial benefits are accompanied by multiple risks and challenges. 

The Wannacry attack. The TalkTalk data breach. The Cambridge Analytica scandal. Phishing emails. Online scams. The list of digital threats reported by the media is seemingly endless. To tackle these growing threats, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) was established in the UK in 2016 with the aim of making ‘the UK the safest place to live and do business online’. But with the increasing complexity of online life, connected appliances, and incessant data collection, how do people navigate these challen…
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Sweet love for planet Earth: An ode to bias and fallacy

Ask for what end the heav'nly bodies shine,  Earth for whose use? Pride answers, "Tis for mine:  For me kind Nature wakes her genial pow'r,  Suckles each herb, and spreads out ev'ry flow'r;  Annual for me, the grape, the rose renew  The juice nectareous, and the balmy dew;  For me, the mine a thousand treasures brings;  For me, health gushes from a thousand springs;  Seas roll to waft me, suns to light me rise;  My foot-stool earth, my canopy the skies." ’
2. A section of the fifth (V) verse in the first epistle of Alexander Pope’s unfinished Essay on Man, (1733-34.)
Alexander Pope, 18th Century moral poet, pioneer in the use of the heroic couplet, second most quoted writer in the Oxford dictionary of quotations behind Shakespeare and shameless copycat. Coleridge suggested this is what held Pope back from true mastery, but It is beyond question that the results of this imitation cultured some of the finest poetry of the era. Yet still, Pope, the bel esprit of the lite…

Under her eye: Communicating climate change more effectively

My name is Adriana Suárez and I’m a 3rd year PhD Student at the School of Geographical Sciences. I am working on community based water management in rural areas in Chile, where I am from.

I came back from fieldwork two months ago and in a way, I am still getting used to being back in Bristol as it is easy to feel a bit lost when you are swimming in a sea of data.  It was an intense fieldwork experience as I spent five months in Chile doing interviews with different participants, collecting documents and texts, and doing participant observation. The method I am using is called Institutional Ethnography, a method of inquiry developed by feminist sociologist Dorothy Smith and which has not been used yet in natural resources management.

My aim is to learn from rural communities who are involved in water management as a way to explore a form of management that is different to the usual way in which water for human consumption and sanitation is provided in urban areas. For example, in most…

From meatless meat to trustless trust – can Blockchain change the way that we work together to create knowledge in smart cities?

Smart Cities apply technology, connectivity and data to the urban experience, but they could easily become Fake Cities. Their factories still produce things – but they are staffed by robots. Their cars still take you where you want to go – but they are driven by autonomous systems. You can hold their digital products in your hands – but only via a smart phone. In the worst case, Smart Cities trade down authentic human experiences for something artificial, virtual and ersatz. But can the Smart City ever trade-up and improve on the original?Take food as an example. Scientists are perfecting cultured cells to grow synthetic meat in laboratories. Far from producing an unpalatable substitute, the result is said to be nutritious and tasty. As the world’s population grows rapidly, meatless meat is seen as a carbon and resource efficient alternative that could represent “the future of food”. In their recent report partners in the UnLoCK consortium considered whether Blockchain and Distributed L…

Rural energy access: A global challenge

Energy affects all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) A statement made at the beginning of a rural energy access session at the Global Challenges Symposium on 12 April 2018.  To give some context for those who aren't aware, the SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity (see UNDP). As the goals are interconnected – tackling affordable and clean energy will mean also tackling the issues associated with the other goals.
During the session led by Dr Sam Williamson, held in Bristol and co-organised by the University of Bristol's Cabot Institute for the Environment, four issues were discussed with Nepal as a case study:
How does a lack of energy access impact rural lives?How can technology enable access to modern sustainable energy?What are the key economic and policy interventions to ensure successful rural energy access projects?What is the social impact of having access to energy in rural communi…

Dadaism in Disaster Risk Reduction: Reflections against method

Reflections and introductions: A volta The volta is a poetic device, closely but not solely, associated with the Shakespearean sonnet, used to enact a dramatic change in thought or emotion. Concomitant with this theme is that March is a month with symbolic links to change and new life. The Romans famously preferred to initiate the most significant socio-political manoeuvres of the empire during the first month of their calendar, mensis Martius. A month that marked the oncoming of spring, the weakening of winter’s grip on the land and a time for new life.
The need for change Having very recently attended the March UKADR conference, organised by the Cabot Institute here in Bristol, I did so with some hope and anticipation. Hope and anticipation for displays and discussions that conscientiously touched upon this volta, this need for change in how we study the dynamics of natural hazards. The conference itself was very agreeable, it had great sandwiches, with much stimulating discussion …

CAP should be replaced by a sustainable land-use policy

Whatever your thoughts about Brexit, one thing most agree on is that it offers an opportunity to rethink how we in the UK look after our agricultural land.  The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has long been a source of resentment. It accounts for 40% of the EU budget yet has systematically failed to address, in some cases even exacerbated, the biggest concerns in European agriculture. Unlike most transnational sectoral market correction schemes, even much of the general public are aware of its shortcomings.

CAP is formed of 2 pillars. Pillar 1, which accounts for the 70% money spent, is simply a payment for land owned. The more land you own, the more money you get. This promotes large-scale mono-cropping, and acts as a rigid barrier to entry for young would-be farmers. Pillar 2 makes up the rest of CAP’s budget and consists of agri-environment schemes. Whilst well intentioned, Pillar 2 promotes an agricultural divide, where some land is responsibly stewarded while other land is inte…