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China’s self-identity as a modern civilisation

ucyow3c24 February 2014

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Written by Bobby Xinyue (UCL Greek & Latin)

How can the translation of a single word sum up the cultural history of a nation?

In the inaugural lecture of the Centre for Research into Dynamics of Civilisation (CREDOC) Professor Wang Mingming of Peking University argued that the way in which the word “civilisation” was translated into Chinese and understood in Chinese history is typical of the fluidity of civilisations — the bringing in of the outside.

Thomas Cole, 'The Course of Empire – Destruction' (1836)

Thomas Cole, ‘The Course of Empire – Destruction’ (1836)

Wang Mingming’s illuminating lecture was prefaced by a mission statement from one of the co-directors of CREDOC, Professor Maria Wyke (UCL Greek & Latin), who outlined that the objective of the centre is to bring together colleagues around the world to compare and explore the geographical, material, cultural and ethnic structures of civilisations, and to probe the relationships between all these throughout the history of mankind.

Professor Wang’s lecture, entitled ‘To learn from ancestors or to borrow from the foreigners? China’s self-identity as a modern civilisation’, demonstrated precisely how the centre’s objective could be achieved.

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The politics of image control

Ben Stevens H P Stevens3 July 2013

The Open City Docs Fest did not restrict itself only to film screenings, it also boasted a number of compelling panel discussions. A prime example was the ‘Copyright, Copyleft, Copywrong?’ event, chaired by Roly Keating (Chief Executive of the British Library), explored the thorny issue of copyright law in an age when creativity is increasingly about quotation and juxtaposition.

Paul Gerhardt (Archives for Creativity and Film and Sound Think Tank, JISC) argued that artists make new work of artistic merit even from existing material and cited the example of The Clock by Christian Marclay, a 24-hour audio-visual piece that is entirely composed of clips from Hollywood films that show the time on a clock or a watch.

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Even though Marclay did not contact all the studios for permission, when the Tate bought The Clock, its lawyers came to the same conclusion as Gerhardt and advised that no permission was needed.

Lilian Edwards, Professor of Internet Law at Strathclyde University, explained that copyright is a bargain between creators and users, but could also be seen as a monopoly over knowledge, which is why it’s limited over a term and includes fair use exclusions.

In a similar vein, John Archer, producer of the mammoth Channel 4 documentary series, The Story of Film, explained that it was never practical to clear all the rights for the clips used, so he decided to make the series under the fair use exclusion.

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Subcultures and subterfuge at Open City Docs Fest

news editor3 July 2013

pencil-iconWritten by Ben Stevens, Content Editor at UCL Communications and Claire Roberts, UCL French & Italian 2013

So often, the success of a documentary comes from the level of access that the director has gained to extraordinary people or extraordinary worlds – in the process, offering an audience a perspective that they’ve never seen before.

12 O'Clock Boys

This was certainly what marked out several films at the recent Open City Docs Fest.

Now in it’s third year, the festival filled venues across UCL, Bloomsbury and even further afield in Hackney from 20–23 June.

The Opening Gala, 12 O’Clock Boys, is set in Baltimore – but while the city may be familiar to fans of The Wire, the world it captures – urban dirt bike gangs – is anything but. (more…)

Jared Diamond: The World Until Yesterday

Clare S Ryan15 February 2013

Are you over 65? Intend to live past 65? Have parents or grandparents who are 65 or above? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, this lecture is of interest to you.An elderly couple

Jared Diamond is an anthropologist and best-selling author, perhaps most famous for his book, Guns, Germs and Steel. His latest book, The World Until Yesterday, explores what tribes can teach us about the millions of years of human society that preceded the emergence of government.

The book has been widely reviewed, and attracted praise and criticism – notably from the organisation Survival International.

Diamond has spent much of his career conducting field work with tribes in New Guinea. This lecture took a particular look at how tribes treat older members of their societies and what lessons, if any, we can learn from them. (more…)