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Past events

Antisocial media - what is social media doing to our society? for the Festival of Ideas 2018

18 October 2018, West Court, Jesus College, Cambridge.

For the 2018 Festival of Ideas, we came together to discuss how Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and other social media companies have hit the headlines over the last years, with many people concerned about the effects social media are having on our democracy and society. You can hear our expert panel of Dr Nóra Ni Loideain (Director of the Information Law and Policy Centre at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies), Professor John Thompson (Professor of Sociology, Director of Polity Press and Fellow of Jesus College), and Professor Siva Vaidhyanathan (author of 'Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy’) on our Facebook Live video here


The Ballet of the Nations for the Festival of Ideas 2018

16 October 2018, West Court, Jesus College, Cambridge.

Dance, particularly ballet, is often referenced as a medium of art to which the concepts of grace and control are central. Impermanence Dance Theatre’s film adaptation of Vernon Lee’s 1915 pacifist satire The Ballet of the Nations explores the aestheticization of war and beauty, and the terrible corporeal reality of historical events. The film began its distribution with a World Premier at the Intellectual Forum, Jesus College at the beginning of nationwide commemorations observing the 1918 Armistice, and foregrounds pacifist and dissenting voices, at a time when these narratives are more than ever in peril of being ignored. The film is part of a larger project and online exhibition, Theatres of War, curated by Dr Grace Brockington and Dr Claudia Tobin and hosted by British Art Studies (Paul Mellon Centre, London). The film screening was followed by a Q&A with Impermanence, and discussion with Dr Claudia Tobin (University of Cambridge) and Dr Grace Brockington (University of Bristol).

“Against Marriage” with Dr Clare Chambers for the Festival of Ideas 2018

15 October 2018, West Court, Jesus College, Cambridge.

Many states have recently expanded their definition of marriage to allow marriage between same-sex couples: a welcome move towards equality, but does this go far enough? Philosopher Dr Clare Chambers argues for a more extreme position: that the state should not recognise marriage at all. State recognition of marriage, she argued at our event for the Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2018, is a violation of both equality and liberty - no matter how marriage is redefined.

Rustat Conference on Recruitment, Retention, and Diversity

21 September 2018, West Court, Jesus College, Cambridge.

Highly skilled staff are a crucial element of most companies and organisations. Recruiting the right person is a difficult, time-consuming, and expensive task. However, many organisations fail to recruit sufficiently widely, missing out in particular on women, people from ethnic minorities, or people with disabilities. Having recruited people, it is very beneficial to be able to retain them – retraining people is very disruptive. However, again many organisations struggle to be able to retain all the staff they would like to keep. Also, the nature of work is changing. This conference looked at how to find, attract, and keep the best people in light of changing work patterns and places, as well as careers. We brought together experts from a range of backgrounds to discuss how we can reconfigure recruitment, retention, and the career “pipeline”, making sure in the future people can find the places best able to support them. 

Healthcare and Data: How do we get it right?

13 September  2018, West Court, Jesus College, Cambridge.

Sir John Bell said recently that AI could “save the NHS”. At the same time, the Government’s sector deal for the Life emphasises the opportunities for the UK to be at the forefront of innovative new treatments and technologies. However, the promise of such data-driven technologies will only be realised if the public have confidence in how they are developed and used, both for delivering care and for research. We know that one of the biggest concerns people have in this area is about companies having access to patient data and inappropriately exploiting patients or the NHS. With the introduction of GDPR, it will be more important than ever to ensure fairness and transparency about how data is used, including how it is protected and regulated. The Information Commissioner has argued that privacy and innovation can go hand in hand, but how can we achieve this in practice in the health sector? We held a day-long public conference to explore these questions, structured around themed panel discussions with plenty of opportunity to engage, discuss and challenge.

In Conversation with Harry Shearer: The Simpsons and Political Satire

6 July  2018, West Court, Jesus College, Cambridge.

The Intellectual Forum was pleased to host Harry Shearer, the voice of popular characters from The Simpsons including Mr Burns, Smithers, Principal Skinner and Ned Flanders, to share the secrets of the hit satirical cartoon show and to explore the use of political satire in today's fast changing world. Some of the comical plots in The Simpsons have turned out uncannily accurate. The series predicted a Donald Trump presidency, back in the year 2000. The extraordinary impact of the series was demonstrated by a BBC poll in 2013 in which Homer Simpson was voted the most famous American, beating great statesmen such as Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln. Timely events such as this give us an opportunity to think about where we are as a society. Tyler Shores, who formerly taught The Simpsons and Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley and is now based at the University of Cambridge, hosted Shearer in this hour-long conversation, taking questions from the audience.

Rustat Conference on Generations

On 21 June 2018, the Intellectual Forum hosted this Conference on the pressing issue of how we can bridge generational divides. For the first time, the 2017 General Election revealed that age was a stronger determinant of voting patterns than class. In the EU Referendum, polling shows young voters overwhelmingly supported Remain while older people backed Brexit. The data suggests a widening gap between generations, not only politically but also socially and economically. At this Conference, we asked: How will this impact our society in the years ahead? To what extent can we reduce divides through changes in housing, institutions and technology? Does it make sense to lump people together in generational groups anyway? The Rustat Conference drew together experts from a wide range of ages and backgrounds to explore how generations and individuals can work together. The Report and Infographic will be available on the Rustat Conferences page.

Building a Business within the Creative Industries: An Evening with Flora Alexandra Ogilvy

On 2 May 2018, Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, the founder of Arteviste, which helps companies to inspire their audiences by engaging with the contemporary art world, came to the Brewery Room in West Court to discuss building a business in the creative industries. She discussed how Arteviste creates editorial, video, and events-based content with a focus on the younger end of the market for clients such as Soho House, Artnet and Frieze. Her focus was on how she works to empower students with a lack of experience or resources to understand how they can use technology and networking to build a successful business within the creative industries. She explored the need for multiple revenue streams and managing your money effectively as at the core of start-up culture. She offered advice on building an online presence, navigating social media, professional relationships, public speaking, and networking as well as questions like choosing a workspace or developing a routine.

Film Screening and Discussion of The Spider's Web: Britain's Second Empire

On 26 April 2018, the Intellectual Forum with the Cambridge Tax Discussion group hosted a screening of The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire, a documentary film that shows how Britain transformed from a colonial power into a global financial power. Professor Barry Rider (Professorial Fellow, Centre for Development Studies) chaired a panel including John Christensen (Producer, Investigative Economist and Activist), Michael Oswald (Director and Producer) and Professor Jason Sharman (Sir Patrick Sheehy Professor of International Relations in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge) discussed the film after its showing.

"Becoming Lucy": An Evening with Award-Winning Actress Alexis Nichols

On 3 April 2018, Alexis Nichols, a versatile actor, voiceover talent, and model, who is skilled in acting in biopics, visited the Forum. She appeared as Dorothy Pakers in An Evening with Dottie, and now appears as Lucille Ball in Becoming Lucy, a multi-award winning short film. Selected for Cannes Film Festival Court Métrage, the short introduces us to an elderly Lucille Ball who, confronted by probing questions from her biographer, recalls the steps it took for her to realize the iconic television series I Love Lucy. From her early days as a model and radio personality to becoming the 'first lady of television,' Becoming Lucy reminds us that our greatest pain may lead us to our greatest success.

Syria Stories: Narratives from the Frontline

On 23 March 2018, with the Department of Sociology, the Intellectual Forum cohosted author readings and a book launch with Rania Abouzeid and Dr Wendy Pearlman, who were in conversation with The Rt Revd & the Rt Hon Lord Dr Rowan Williams (Master of Magdalene). Rania discussed her new book, No Turning Back: Life, Loss and Hope in wartime Syria, and Wendy her latest, We Crossed a Bridge and it Trembled: Voices from Syria.

Creating the Coolest Objects in the Universe

20 March 2018, Frankopan Hall, West Court, Jesus College.

On 20 March 2018, Dr Ulrich Schneider asked: How cold can you make things in a lab? And how would you do it? Does something interesting happen? And why should we care? For the Cambridge Science Festival, the talk explored how you can make things colder than anything in outer space. He detailed how we, surprisingly, use lasers, and suggested "yes, certainly interesting things happen" as the particles, for instance, can lose their individual identity and form part of one giant matterwave (this is called Bose-Einstein Condensation). Through live demonstrations this event suggested we can learn a lot about what happens in advanced materials, such as superconductors or the magnets in a hard disk.

Using Materials to Think

17 March 2018

Advances in science provide the means to probe matter on increasingly minute and vast scales, expanding human senses and calling into question what it means to know and perceive. As we learn more about the materials and forces which shape our world, we piece together data and thought using a variety of approaches—mathematics, models and metaphors—to develop our understanding and enable us to describe and communicate our ideas. In this interactive workshop for the Cambridge Science Festival, participants created three dimensional drawings using a process of thinking with objects with sculptor Melissa Pierce Murray. Participants explored questions and example relating to how artists and scientists develop conceptual and physical metaphors to make sense of the world. The workshop also included a discussion of Murray’s collaborative work with artists and scientists, showing how her sculptures draw on the disciplines of physics, poetry and art.

Fashion and the Circular Economy: Engineering Biology for Textile Dyeing

17 March 2018

The textile industry is a global environmental disaster. Everything from the production of both natural and synthetic fibres to making finished garments carry a negative environmental impact. Fabric dyeing is a massive contributor to this problem through inefficient use of water and energy. Many of the chemicals used in the process are highly toxic and cannot be retrieved from factory effluent pumped into rivers and canals. For the Cambridge Science Festival, Professor Jim Ajioka explored the current dyeing process and how, through engagement with Fashion houses, he hopes to bring the dyeing industry into the 21st Century by engineering biology to maximize value throughout the dyeing process and circularize what is now a wasteful and toxic linear economy. He explored how processes using engineered microbes to combine the production, deposition, and fixation, of pigments onto fibres and fabrics, hold the promise of virtually eliminating the use of toxic chemicals with a big reduction in water and energy use.

"Hot Topics" in Bioscience I wish I knew more about...

13 March 2018

For the Cambridge Science Festival, a star team of Dr Rachael Bashford-Rogers, Dr Sybil Stacpoole, Dr Jenny Hirst, Dr Emily Camm and Dr Tessa Sinnige, chaired by Dr Julian Huppert, Director of the Intellectual Forum, explored questions like: What is gene editing and why should I care? Can we cure Alzheimer's disease? What can I do with a stem cell? How does what happens when we are in the womb affect our adult health?

How Science Really Works: The Secret Life of Science

12 March 2018

For the Cambridge Science Festival, Professor Jeremy Baumberg FRS explored "Is the scientific enterprise truly as healthy as we tend to think? How does the system itself shape what scientists do?". "The Secret Life of Science" took a clear-eyed and provocative look at the current state of global science, shedding light on a cutthroat and tightly tensioned enterprise that even scientists themselves often don’t fully understand. This dispatch from the front lines of modern science painted a startling picture of a complex scientific ecosystem that has become the most competitive free market environment on the planet. It revealed how big this ecosystem really is, what motivates its participants, and who reaps the rewards. Professor Baumberg explored: Are there too few scientists in the world or too many? Are some fields expanding at the expense of others? What science is shared or published, and who determines what the public gets to hear about? What is the future of science? Answering these and other questions, he explained why globalization is not necessarily good for science, nor is the continued growth in the number of scientists. It portrays a scientific community engaged in a race for limited resources that determines whether careers are lost or won, whose research visions become the mainstream, and whose vested interests end up in control.

The Secret of Kettle's Yard

7 March 2018

In June 2016, film-maker Cary Parker spent twenty-one days in Kettle’s Yard, documenting the house, the gallery, the art, and the people at a moment when everything was about to disappear, while the site closed for major development. What was the secret of a place which seemed to move people so profoundly? On 10 February 2018, the New Kettle’s Yard reopened, with exhibitions of work by contemporary artists including Anna Brownsted, Edmund de Waal, and Cornelia Parker, joining the familiar works by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Ben Nicholson, Alfred Wallis, Elisabeth Vellacott – among others – collected by Kettle’s Yard’s original owner, Jim Ede. This film screening and discussion offered a view of the house as it was alongside a perspective on the house as it is now and might be in future, with the archivist at Kettle’s Yard, Dr Frieda Midgley, the artist Anna Brownsted, and the filmmaker, Cary Parker. The discussion was led by art historian Dr Claudia Tobin, a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in English and Jesus CPDA.

An Evening with Professor Jimmy Choo: Dialogue on the Belt and Road Creative Cultural Industry

1 February 2018

With the Cambridge Oriental Culture Association (COCA), and the kind sponsorship of the Hoii Ltd, we were delighted to host Professor Datuk Jimmy Choo OBE, the world-famous fashion designer. Professor Choo’s beautiful creations have adorned the feet of royalty, celebrities, and pop stars, and since establishing his couture label in 1986, he has been the recipient of many awards and honours. Professor Choo has worked with students the world over and remains a dedicated mentor for many in fashion and design.

Yidan Prize Conference 2018: Educating for the Future

29-30 January 2018

At this two-day conference hosted in conjunction with the Yidan Prize Foundation, we discussed how global economic and social challenges require countries to have increasingly educated and skilled populations. To achieve this, we need forward looking education systems that can adapt to change, as well as a professional body of evidence-informed teachers and practitioners. To mark and discuss the achievements of the Yidan Prize Laureates, Professor Carol S. Dweck and Vicky Colbert, we bought together leading figures from the worlds of education research, education practice, psychology and international development to debate what high quality education looks like and how we might bring it about for all children globally. We heard from Charles Chen Yidan, Founder of Tencent and the Yidan Prize Foundation, as well as from Vicky Colbert of the Escuela Nueva project. Speakers included: Professor Dame Alison Peacock DBE, DL, FRSA; Rae Snape, Head Teacher, the Spinney Primary School, Cambridge; Professor Rebecca Allen, Director of the Centre for Education Improvement Science, Insitute of Education, UCL; David Laws, former Education Minister and Director of the Education Policy Institute; Charles Cotton, Founder and Chairman of Cambridge Phenomenon International Ltd; Lucy Lake, CAMFED; Professor Anna Vignoles, University of Cambridge; Professor Pauline Rose, University of Cambridge; and Professor Usha Goswami, University of Cambridge, amongst others.

Cambridge Station- Its Development and Operation as a Rail Centre

11 January 2018

This reception, illustrated lecture and discussion marked the launch of a new definitive illustrated book by Rob Shorland-Ball about Cambridge Station which explores the opening of the station in 1845; the four principal railway companies which all worked to and from the station in a 'tangle of mutual inconvenience’; the extensive goods traffic which was handled in the several goods yards around the station; and the way the Station operated from early beginnings, to what Abellio Greater Anglia and Network Rail have achieved today. The book contains several pictures never before published, notably 19th century plans from Jesus College Archives. It shows how the Eastern Counties and then the Great Eastern Railway Companies created Cambridge Station and the Engine Sheds, Goods Yards, Signal Boxes and extensive sidings to serve East Anglia. And the book tells people stories too, because the author worked on the station in the 1950s and 1960s and knows Cambridge and East Anglia well.

Rustat Conference on Global Mobility

30 November 2017.

At this Rustat Conference, invited experts from a wide range of backgrounds came together to discuss the possibilities around global mobility in the post-Brexit period. Britain has been an internationally oriented country for many centuries, with Saxons, Hugenots, Indians, Aussies, Poles and many more moving to the UK and engaging with its society. Currently, around 1 in 7 people resident in the UK were born overseas, many playing crucial roles across the NHS, businesses, and society more broadly. Changing attitudes and the Brexit vote may make a huge difference. At this Conference, we asked:  What effect will these have on employers, who often need to tap rare skill sets held by those abroad, and on society at large? Will opportunities for Britons to work overseas be reduced? Will we seek to improve skills for those in the UK, or attract workers from outside of Europe? The infographic and report can be found on the Rustat Conference's page.

The inaugural Lisa Jardine Lecture: Unworldly goods: the roots of consumerism and the Renaissance

27 November 2017

The inaugural Lisa Jardine Lecture was given by Professor Peter Frankopan, reflecting on Lisa Jardine's wonderful book Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance (1996), that has done so much to shape views of the early modern world. It explored the global context for rising levels of spending in Europe and assessed the impact this had - above all in Asia. It considered the link between consumerism, the Renaissance and the age of discovery, and above all how Lisa's extraordinary vision of an inter-connected world provides a series of new avenues to explore in the future.

My Year With Helen - a film by Gaylene Preston, with the Rt Hon Helen Clark

24 November 2017

What does it take to become Secretary General of the United Nations? What are the barriers that women face in taking on the highest offices in the world? At this fascinating discussion with the Rt Hon Helen Clark (former Prime Minister of New Zealand and ex head of the UNDP) and Gaylene Preston, Director of MY YEAR WITH HELEN, we viewed the film and explored just what it takes to be a women in international politics. The event was made possible due to the support of the Cambridge Institute for Public Policy, POLIS, Centre for Gender Studies, POLIS, Intellectual Forum, Jesus College, and the Department of Politics & International Studies (POLIS).

Director's Discussion on Homelessness

16 November 2017

At this discussion, we explored the large recent increase in the number of people who are homeless. As well as those caught by the official statistics, who may be sleeping rough or in a shelter, our panelists detailed that there are many whose homelessness is hidden - those who are in unsuitable or unstable accommodation, such as ‘sofa surfers’. We detailed how the factors driving homelessness and insecure accommodation are numerous and changing, and that the leading cause of homelessness is now the end of short assured tenancies in the private rented sector. Our speakers detailed how failing to prevent homelessness has a devastating impact on the individual and also financial cost implications, costing the taxpayer an annual gross cost of £1 billion. Without a permanent address many find it hard to access services, benefits and practical opportunities to find a job, get advice or vote. Tragically, this results in poorer quality of life and life expectancy. We heard that the average age of death for a street homeless person is only 47 years old. Our panelists discussed: How do we end homelessness in Britain? What must the government must do to tackle homelessness and those facing insecure housing? What is needed to address short-fallings in social care and mental health services? How we can better meet the particular needs of young rough sleepers in Cambridge. With particular thanks to Jimmy's Cambridge for their participating in this event.

The Automation of Consensus: Democracy and the Dark Arts

14 November 2017, Webb Library, Jesus College.

As the role of Mercer and Cambridge Analytica came under scrutiny in the US in the congressional investigations into Russian influence, our panel explored how the utopian promises of the sharing digital economy have turned into a dark dystopian present. We asked: Has the information revolution placed democracy in greater danger than ever before? Enabling the global movement of finance, especially dark money through offshore funds, how can governments regulate the new digital giants like Facebook, Apple, Google or Amazon? Has social media not only corroded truth on old news sources, but replaced Chomsky's 'Manufacture of Consensus' with the 'Automation of Consensus' through algorithms, bots and weaponised propaganda using big data? Hoted with Byline Cambridge, the event involved Oliver Bullough - journalist and author of The Last Man in Russia, Mary Fitzgerald - Editor, Open Democracy, Peter Jukes - CEO Byline, and Professor John Naughton - Emeritus Professor of the Public Understanding of Technology, Open University.


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