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UCL events news and reviews


How to have visions and influence people

uclektm18 March 2014

“My central enquiry is how people in different social groups use persuasion to achieve what they want, and what this suggests about different people.”

It could be the opening of a new age psychology book, but it’s actually the basis of Dr Antonio Sennis’s (UCL History) research into the Middle Ages, amiably shared with us in a 13 March Lunch Hour Lecture, titled “Medieval Languages of Persuasion”.

So, what exactly can we learn about medieval Italian society based on the methods people used to influence each other?

The Abbey of Farfa today

The Abbey of Farfa today

A world of persuasion
Dr Sennis illustrated some of the key features of persuasion in this period through a topical example.

At UCL, we are persuaded to attend the Lunch Hour Lectures through a relatively gentle advertising campaign involving some unobtrusive posters and emails.

Perhaps we might feel somewhat dumber for our non-attendance, but the campaign seems underpinned by the kind of do-as-you-like liberalism that we expect from our democracy. Right? (more…)

Gender equality in Latin America: creating policy environments that achieve success

zclef7812 March 2014

“The message of gender equality still resonates over a century after it was first proposed by the revolutionary Clara Zetkin.”

One of the opening statements of Professor Maxine Molyneux’s Lunch Hour Lecture reminded us that with International Women’s Day on 8 March, it was the perfect time to consider what has been achieved by the UN Millennium Development Goal to “promote gender equality and empower women” since the year 2000.

Brazilian woman

Brazilian woman holding ‘equal?’ sign

Few people in the UK have heard of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and only about a third of the audience today.

This was a good proportion according to Professor Molyneux (Institute of the Americas), despite our very own David Cameron co-chairing the UN panel responsible for the post-2015 agenda for development goals – a fact that amused some members of the audience (perhaps thinking of recent criticisms about the all-male Tory front bench).

But with the democratic representation of women in the UK at only 22% compared with Latin America’s average of 25%, and our mediocre ranking of 26 on the Gender Inequality Index, perhaps we should be paying a bit more attention.


Greening the recovery: the report of the UCL Green Economy Policy Commission

ucyohru27 February 2014


“We need to recognise the fierce urgency of now,” declared Professor Paul Ekins at the opening of the launch of the UCL Green Economy Policy Commission’s Greening the recovery report, in what appeared to be the beginning of an impassioned rallying cry for a radical overhaul of the UK’s economy.

Instead, Professor Ekins pointed out that this was a soundbite uttered by the Chancellor George Osborne five years ago.

By repeating it, his aim was to sound a note of caution about the likelihood that the recommendations by UCL’s Green Economy Policy Commission – comprising a range of UCL, visiting, and external academics – would be adopted.

This was despite the fact that the panel of experts brought together to discuss the report all broadly agreed that its objective of a greener economy was laudable, even if they didn’t agree on how to get there.


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.


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.