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Nine criticisms of the theory that school exclusions are to blame for knife crime

Last week, senior police chiefs wrote to Theresa May arguing that there was a link between the increase in the number of formal school exclusions and ‘off-rolling’ (where heads informally get parents to withdraw their children, without them being formally recorded as ‘permanently excluded’) and an increase in knife crime.

The theory is that those excluded or off-rolled are more likely to ‘drift’ because they are less effectively cared for and monitored in alternative provision institutions. The problem is believed to be especially bad for those who are off-rolled. When a pupil is off-rolled, the parents are responsible for finding alternative provision, and it is their kids who are much more likely to end up out of education altogether.

If we look at the stats, there does seem to be a correlation between the increase in school exclusions and the increase in knife crime:

School exclusions have been increasing since 2013

Knife crime has been increasing since 2015

And regionally:

HOWEVER, it is a well-known mantra in sociology that correlation doesn’t mean causation, and there is very good reason to think that this is the case here.

Numerous commentators (see below for links) have criticised the police for suggesting there is a causal link between the increase in exclusions and the increase in knife crime, and here’s a summary of why we should be critical…

Nine criticisms of the ‘school exclusions cause knife crime’ theory

  1. For starters, even with the above crude statistics there isn’t a perfect correlation – it’s true that London has a higher exclusion rate and knife crime rate than any other city, but then the West Midlands has a higher knife crime rate than Yorkshire and Humber, but a lower exclusion rate.
  2. The above data only includes formal exclusions, not off-rolling, so we don’t get a full picture (there are validity issues) – true, it might be more likely that someone who is off-rolled turns to knife crime compared to someone who is formally excluded, but I these figures don’t show us the off-rolling.
  3. This government report from June 2018 which examined the relationship between educational background and knife crime found that ‘knife possession rarely followed exclusion’.
  4. There may be another cause behind both ‘being excluded from school’ and ‘being convicted of knife crime’ – possibly rooted further in the past of these individuals, such as their having come from a troubled family and/ or having experienced neglect or abuse during their childhood.
  5. It is unfair to blame schools for excluding children in greater numbers as they have been hit by 10 years of Tory funding cuts – schools actively educate about not getting involved in knife crime, but have become less effective at dealing with ‘troubled kids’ because they now have fewer resources to help them do so.
  6. The fact that someone has previously been excluded from school may make it more likely that they are going to get a knife-crime conviction – being excluded from school puts you on the police radar and doesn’t sit well with judges and juries. It could be that there are proportionally just as many people who have not been excluded from school who commit knife crime, but they just don’t appear in the official statistics because they are less likely to get caught and convicted.
  7. Back to underlying causes, it’s possible that a ‘deeper’ reason lying behind why people who are excluded from school are also more likely to appear in the knife crime conviction figures is because they are victims of discrimination by the system – males, the poor, and African Caribbean children are more likely to appear in both the exclusion figures and the knife rime conviction figures – it could be that both are caused by a sense of injustice at being excluded in the first place.
  8. The stats available to us tell us nothing about the life-histories, or the journies people take from being excluded (or not) to knife-crime. This could be a more complex few years than we imagine, and these possibly diverse journies are simply not going to be unveiled by crude statistical analysis. The data simply isn’t there!
  9. Finally, there are number of other variables that cause knife crime to increase – the changing nature of drug-dealing (county lines), and cuts to police funding come to mind as being two of the most obvious. These would somehow need to be factored in to any ‘causal’ equation.

In conclusion it’s a well-known mantra in sociology that correlation does not mean causation, and this particular topic is a great one to use to illustrate this.

To my mind there are so many problems with maintaining the causality argument here that the only possible reason anyone would try to make it in the first place is to distract attention away from all the other social problems that correlate with the increase in knife crime – the kind of problems government policies either exacerbate or can do little to combat.

Relevance to A-level Sociology: this is a great topic that bridges education, methods and crime!

Sources not already linked above

Huffington Post – Don’t blame school exclusions for rise in knife crime

The Guardian – Knife crime and exclusions are a symptom of wider malaise.

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Why do some children get excluded from school?

In this post I’m going to reviewing a range quantitative and qualitative evidence (from official statistics to case study evidence) on permanent exclusions, consider the strengths and limitations of this evidence and think about what different data sources tell us about why some pupils get excluded from school.

While exclusions aren’t explicitly on the A-level sociology spec, this topic is obviously relevant to the sociology of education, as well as the sociology of crime and deviance.

Starting Definitions

  • A permanent exclusion refers to a pupil who is excluded and who will not come back to that school.
  • A fixed period exclusion refers to a pupil who is excluded from a school for a set period of time. A pupil may receive more than one fixed period exclusion, so the fixed period exclusion rate isn’t actually measuring the number of pupils excluded!
  • Off-rolling – where a school and parent agree to withdraw the child from a school and the parent agrees to enrol them another, typically specialist institutions such as a Pupil Referral Unit. Although around 1/3rd of off-rolled students just disappear from formal records.

A. Official statistics on exclusions

The Department for Education publishes an annual report on exclusions, the latest edition published in August 2018 being ‘Permanent and fixed-period exclusions in England: 2016 to 2017.

2018 data on exclusions

  • The overall rate of permanent exclusions was 0.08 per cent of pupil enrolments in 2016/17. The number of exclusions was 7,720
  • The vast majority of exclusions were from secondary schools >85% of exclusions.
  • The three main reasons for permanent exclusions were
    • Persistent disruptive behaviour
    • Physical assault against a pupil
    • Physical assault against an adult.

Certain groups of students are far more likely to be permanently excluded:

  • Free School Meals (FSM) pupils had a permanent exclusion rate four times higher than non-FSM pupils
  • FSM pupils accounted for 40.0% of all permanent exclusions
  • The permanent exclusion rate for boys was over three times higher than that for girls
  • Over half of all permanent exclusions occur in national curriculum year 9 or above. A quarter of all permanent exclusions were for pupils aged 14
  • Black Caribbean pupils had a permanent exclusion rate nearly three times higher than the school population as a whole.
  • Pupils with identified special educational needs (SEN) accounted for around half of all permanent exclusions

What do these official stats suggest about why certain students get excluded?

There are some very stark trends which stand out from these stats – in terms of reasons for permanent exclusions it’s clear that students typically have to do something very serious to get excluded, such as assault.

These stats also suggest that getting exclusion rates are strongly correlated with certain types of student – older teenagers, poor, black Caribbean and male students and those with SEN are much more likely to be excluded, so perhaps we should be looking at what it is about these types of students that makes them engage in the type of behaviours that get them excluded? Laddishness, for example may have something to do with it? 

B: Longitudinal statistical research on permanent exclusions and ‘off-rolling’

According to this Guardian article, permanent exclusion figures do not take into account ‘informal exclusions’ or ‘off-rolling’ – where schools convince parents to withdraw their children without making a formal exclusion order – technically it’s then down to the parents to enrol their child at another institution or home-educate them, but in many cases this doesn’t happen.

According to longitudinal research conducted by FFT Education Datalab up to 7, 700 students go missing from the school role between year 7 and year 11 when they are  supposed to sit their GCSEs…. Equivalent to a 1.4% drop out rate across from first enrolment at secondary school to GCSEs.

Datalabs took their figures from the annual school census and the DfE’s national pupil database. The cohort’s numbers were traced from year seven, the first year of secondary school, up until taking their GCSEs in 2017.

The entire cohort enrolled in year 7 in state schools in England in 2013 was 550,000 children

By time of sitting GCSEs:

  • 8,700 pupils were in alternative provision or pupil referral units,
  • nearly 2,500 had moved to special schools
  • 22,000 had left the state sector (an increase from 20,000 in 2014) Of the 22,000,
    • 3,000 had moved to mainstream private schools
    • Just under 4,000 were enrolled or sat their GCSEs at a variety of other education institutions.
    • 60% of the remaining 15,000 children were likely to have moved away from England, in some case to other parts of the UK such as Wales (used emigration data by age and internal migration data to estimate that around)
    • Leaves between 6,000 to 7,700 former pupils unaccounted for, who appear not to have sat any GCSE or equivalent qualifications or been counted in school data.

Working out the percentages this means that…..

  • 4%, or 22K left the mainstream state sector altogether (presumably due to exclusion or ‘coerced withdrawal’ (i.e. off rolling), of which
  • 4%, or 7, 700 cannot be found in any educational records!

What does this data add to our understanding of why pupils get excluded?

This data suggests that the number of pupils actually excluded from school during the life of a cohort is much greater than the annual 1% suggested in the official statistics… it’s now 4%, which is much more significant.

This study thus suggests that the official exclusion stats are the tip of the iceberg and that schools make underhand efforts to get rid of disruptive students, just without formally recording them as excluded!

C: Statistical Analysis of Exclusion Data by The Guardian (LINK), 2018

Education Guardian looked at England’s 50 largest academy trusts and 50 largest local education authorities and compared the number of pupils in year 11 in 2017-18 – the students counted when GCSE results are published – to the number in year 10, a year earlier.

Nationally, there has been a huge rise in recent years in the number of young people leaving their school in the run-up to GCSEs. The average year 10/11 shrinkage rate in England was 2% in 2018 seven years ago the rate was less than 0.1%.

The trend of disappearing pupils appears to be happening at a higher rate in the academies sector.

The Harris Federation is one of Britain’s largest academy chains. In one of their schools, The Harris Girls’ Academy Bromley, lost 11% of its pupils (14 girls) between January 2016 of their year 10 and their GCSE year in 2017, a situation repeated with its 2018 GCSE year group.

Many of these teenagers will go to pupil referral units or will be educated at home. This means their grades will not be counted in their school’s exam results.

Anne Longfield, children’s commissioner for England, says: “Some schools are gaming the system by off-rolling some of the most vulnerable children, including some with special education needs and disabilities, in an attempt to improve the school’s exam results.

D: Case study: Outwood Academy (Link)

Outwood Academy in Middlesbrough has the highest rate of fixed-term exclusions of any school in the UK. According to this 2018 Guardian article it excluded 41% of its pupils in 2016-17.

Outwood school is part of the Outwood Grange Academies Trust, and nine other schools within the trust are in the top 50 schools in England and Wales for suspensions.

This could well be due to the Trust’s strict behaviour policy which states that pupils can be suspended for failing to respond appropriately to “a reasonable request from a senior member of staff”, which includes failing to wear the correct uniform and wearing makeup.

According to the above article some of the reasons why pupils have been suspended from the trust’s schools include:

  • Forgetting pens and year planners
  • Wearing the wrong kind of buckle on shoes
  • Refusing to take off a cancer research badge.
  • Taking a toilet break deemed to be too long.

The Trust says they are simply trying to instil a culture of aspiration by enforcing high standards of conduct, but parents are not happy, and have formed a Facebook group called ‘Outwood Academy – Unhappy Parents of Pupils.’

What do items C and D suggest about why pupils are excluded?

Taken together items C and D (like item A) put more of the blame for off-rolling and exclusions on the schools – they use such practices to get rid of kids who are going to harm their results statistics. Academies seem to do this more than LEA schools.

These pieces of research suggests it’s less about the kids, and more about the schools, and also more to do with government policy putting pressure on schools to look good in league tables!

E: Case studies of Pupil Referral Units

In 2015-16 the BBC conducted a three-part documentary series over the course of an academic year in The Bridge AP Academy, a Pupil Referral Unit in West London where most of the kids have ended up because of being excluded for behavioural issues from mainstream schools.

This is a Link to the programme website, a link to the Open University site which discusses the documentary, and a link to the documentary on YouTube. In case the above disappear, this Independent Article covers similar ground.

Although technically now a ‘secondary’ source, when conducted this documentary consisted of at least two main qualitative methods: non-participant observation of the children’s behaviour (after they had been excluded) and unstructured interviews with a number of the children about their life-experiences, most of which touch on the reasons for their exclusion from school.

What do case-studies suggest about why pupils are excluded?

These give us a completely different, more interpretivist feel for exclusions… even just one hour long documentary, or one 1500 word article touches on several individual students’ back stories – many kids that get excluded come from broken families, abusive backgrounds, and have chaotic lives – many of them have to deal with more emotional turmoil as children than most of will have to deal with in our whole lives.

Such sources make you feel much sympathetic with the kids, unlike the official stats at the beginning of this post!

Concluding Thoughts:

I wrote this post to try and illustrate the importance of taking a mixed methods approach to develop a deeper understanding of just one issue within education. Hopefully it’s done that!

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A Useful Example of a ‘State Crime’ – The British Government’s Illegal Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia

The British government has been accused of breaking international law by selling weapons to Saudi Arabia.

A recent report by the International Relations Committee (made up of members of the House of Lords) has concluded that it’s highly likely that British Weapons are the cause of significant civilian casualties’ in Yemen, where Saudi-backed forces are fighting Houthi rebels.

A few stats on the Saudi-Yemen conflict and Britain’s role in it…

  • Britain has sold £4.5 billion of arms to Saudi Arabia since the conflict in Yemen began in 2015.
  • Independent experts have estimated that around 150 civilians died every month in autumn 2018 as a result of Saudi airstrikes.
  • 85 000 children have died of famine or disease since the conflict began, and a further 14 million people are at risk of famine.

The report concluded that the UK government is just on the wrong side of international humanitarian law, because on balance of evidence it believes that the Saudis are using British weapons to kill civilians.

The report recommends that the UK government should be making independent checks to see if UK- arms are being used illegally by the Saudis, instead relying on ‘inadequate’ investigations by the Saudis themselves.

Germany and Norway have already banned arms sales to Saudi Arabia, based on their own independent assessments of the Saudi’s killing of civilians in Yemen.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is a contemporary example of a state crime – the UK government selling arms to a country which then uses them to kill non-combatant civilians, which is in breach of international humanitarian law.

It’s also a good example of how ‘money trumps human rights’, or at least how it trumps the human rights of the 100s of civilians being killed each month in Yemen. £1 billion a year in arms sales is a LOT of money, it represents a lot of UK jobs, and a lot of tax revenue for the UK government.

It’s also a good example of selection-bias on the part of the UK government – they choose not to listen to certain independent reports of Saudi Arabia’s illegal use of UK weapons, because then it makes it possible to carry on profiting from selling them arms.

It’s also worth pointing out how agenda setting in the media works to keep the Yemen tragedy out of the news – this is largely a conflict which is hidden from view. To give you some idea of how long this has been going on for, Dianne Abbot pointed the illegality of the conflict back in 2016!

Finally, it’s evidence of the continued importance of nation states in our globalised world… Saudi Arabia depends on the UK government to legitimise its war in Yemen.

 

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What to do about Shamima Begum?

Shamima Begum was just 15 years old when she left her home in Bethnal Green, London, to join Islamic State in Syria. Now, four years later, she has witnessed two of her children die of illness and malnutrition, and fears for the life of her third child, born in a refugee camp in Eastern Syria, from where she’s requested to return to the UK, having shown no remorse for her dealings with ISIS.

The ‘punishment’, if we can call it that, is to strip of her of UK citizenship, which the Home Secretary can only do in this case because he believes Begum has the right to apply for Bangladeshi citizenship, even though she has never visited Bangladesh.

Interestingly, the UK government isn’t simply allowed to strip an individual of their citizenship and render them stateless, they are only allowed to do so in begum’s case because her Bangladeshi heritage allows her to apply for citizenship there. However, the Bangladeshi authorities say she won’t be allowed in. 

This article in The Conversation provides an accessible insight into the legality of revoking citizenship.

Even if the UK government is legally allowed to strip Begum of citizenship, this still feels like the UK government is somehow denying responsibility for Begum – surely it would be more appropriate to bring her back to the UK, put her on trial, and actually punish her as the UK citizen she really is, rather than trying to revoke it.

The argument that she’s ‘our responsibility’ is rooted in the fact that she was radicalised in the UK and managed to leave without any effective ‘safeguarding intervention’.

What the UK government’s response shows is just how difficult it is for nation states to deal with such international criminals…. Maybe it’s because we’ve got no long-term solutions? Maybe the government doesn’t want to bring her back because the population would be so against it, as 78% of the population believe she should have had her citizenship revoked.

Shamima Begum

This could very well (probably is) an example of popular punitiveness, despite the fact that she’s not really being punished as such!

However, just passing the buck onto another country because of a legal technicality doesn’t seem right, and what kind of message does this send out about how to deal with international criminals more generally?

Whatever your opinion on the Shamima Begum case, it certainly illustrates a the problems of dealing out justice where international crimes which cross boarders are concerned, and maybe suggests that nation states are too small to deal with such criminals?

Maybe we need to take a lesson from Escape to LA? Rather than nation states dealing with them in country of origin, we just put by stateless regions on earth, and build a wall round them, and see how they get on…?

We could also film it with drones and turn it into a form of entertainment….. the scary thing is this doesn’t actually sound that far-fetched, I can actually see most people getting on board with the idea!

 

 

 

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Are schools meritocratic?

In this post I apply some sociological concepts to develop arguments for and against the view that schools are meritocratic.

This post is really designed to show students how they can apply concepts to this question from across the sociology of education topic within A-level sociology.

applying sociology concepts education.png

Arguments for the view that education is meritocratic 

Particularistic values

Functionalists argue that at in school students are judged by universalistic values, so it is more meritocratic than at home where children are judged by different particularistic values.

Cultural deprivation

Schools offer children equality of opportunity and so are fair, it’s the inferior values of working-class parents such as immediate gratification that stops them achieving.

School ethos

Nearly all schools today, especially academies have a high ethos of achievement.

Pupil Premium

Introduced under The Coalition government, this encourages schools to accept more students from poor backgrounds, helping to combat selection by mortgage, which is not meritocratic.

Other supporting concepts and evidence

Life-long learning, parity of esteem, expansion of modern apprenticeships, compensatory education.

Arguments and evidence against the view that education is meritocratic 

Correspondence principle

In state school children are taught to obey authority and accept hierarchy rather than to use their talents to achieve.

Cultural capital

Middle class parents have always been more able than working class parents to use their skills to get their kids into the best schools, thus there is not real equality of opportunity

Teacher labelling

Teachers are more likely to negatively label boys, working class and Black Caribbean children as problem students, meaning they are held back through being put in lower bands.

1988 Education Act

Unfairly benefitted middle class parents through selection by mortgage and the school-parent alliance.

Other criticising concepts and evidence

Banding and streaming, myth of meritocracy, hidden curriculum, ethnocentric curriculum.

Sociology Teaching Resources for Sale

If you’re a sociology teacher and you like this sort of thing, and you want to support my resource development work, then you might like these teaching resources for the sociology of education. They are specifically designed for A-level sociology students and consist of three documents:

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Sociological Perspectives on ‘Renting a Womb’  

Kim Kardashian and Kayne West are apparently expecting a fourth child, employing a surrogate mother to carry their fertilised eggs. This will be the second surrogate child, following the birth of their first surrogate child, ‘Chicago’, born in January 2018.

Paying someone to be a surrogate mother, or ‘renting a womb’ is legal in the United States, but in the United Kingdom, surrogacy is legal, but parents are only allowed to pay the surrogate expenses related to the pregnancy, rather than paying them a fee for actually carrying the child.

The reason Kim Kardashian and Kayne West have opted for surrogates recently is because Kim has a medical condition which means that becoming pregnant again carries a higher than usual risk of her dying, so this isn’t just a lifestyle choice, but an interesting ethical/ sociological question is whether or not paid for surrogacy should be legal in the U.K. (NB – there’s a chance that it will be, as the surrogacy law is currently under review.

This topic is clearly relevant to families and households and especially social policy, and it’s quite useful to use it to explore different Feminist perspectives on the family….

Liberal Feminism

From a liberal feminist point of view, renting a womb should be acceptable because it would enable career-women to avoid taking time off work to pregnancy and child birth, and thus prevent the kind of career-breaks which put them at a disadvantage to men.

In fact, as far as the couple hiring the surrogate are concerned, this puts them on an entirely equal footing in relation to the new baby, meaning that it would be practically possible for them to share maternity/ paternity leave equally, rather than it ‘making sense’ for the woman to carry on taking time off after she’s done so in order to give birth.

Paid for surrogacy also provides an economic opportunity for the surrogate mothers, an opportunity only available to women.

Marxist Feminism

From a marxist feminist point of view renting a womb is kind of paying women for their labour in one sense, however it’s a long way off providing women a wage for ‘traditionally women’s work’ within the family, such as child care and domestic labour.

Ultimately renting a womb does little to address economic inequality between men and women because it’s only available to wealthier couples, meanwhile on the supply side of the rent a womb industry the only women likely to enter into a surrogacy contract are those that are financially desperate, i.e. they have no other means to make money.

Radical Feminism

From a radical feminist perspective renting a womb does nothing to combat patriarchy more generally. If paid for surrogacy was made legal in the UK, the only consequence would be to give wealthy couples the freedom to pay poor women to carry their children for 9 months.

This does nothing to combat more serious issues such as violence against women.

In conclusion…

While it’s an interesting phenomenon, renting a womb, rather than just voluntary surrogacy, will probably do very little to further the goal of female empowerment. However, it will obviously be of benefit to potentially millions of couples (in the long term) who are unable to have children.

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A Brief Sociological Analysis of The 2018 Climate Change Agreement

sociology environment climate change.png

The 2018 United Nations climate summit ended with a new pact among 196 countries to curb global warming which included the following:

  • A new ‘rulebook’ which provides a framework for how to implement the pledges from the last 2015 climate summit
  • A commitment to restrict average temperature rises in the 21st century to well below 2 degrees.
  • An agreement on how countries should measure greenhouse gas emissions and how they should account for meeting them.

The agreement was even approved by the United States, and despite the fact that irrational climate change denier and puppet of the oil companies Donald Trump called it ridiculous, he can’t withdraw from the deal until the day after the next presidential election.

Sociological analysis 

This seems to be a rare example of nation states agreeing on joint action to tackle a shared global problem…. which you could say offers broad support for the Functionalist point of view at a global level, because we have (near enough) value consensus.

HOWEVER, this may all be a bit of a sham, as Leslie Hood, writing in The Financial Times points out…

  • Nation states are still free to set their CO2 emissions at whatever level they like.
  • There is no agreement on the best way to actually reduce emissions.
  • There is no regime of sanctions in place to penalise nations who don’t meet their targets.

Ultimately, the success of climate accord largely depends on the top five polluters playing ball, and these are China, the US, Russia, India and the EU. Together these account for 50% of global CO2 emissions, but the first two of these, China and The USA don’t seem to be that committed…. China is still building coal burning power plants and Trump wants to pull out of the deal asap.

Fingers crossed Trump will be elected out and someone who cares about the future of the next generation will be elected into power in November 2020 and the US will be on board. However, even if this does happen, there’s enough evidence of this being a weak deal to say that, where climate change is concerned, nation states still have the power to not commit effectively to reducing it!

 

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What is New Media?

New media refers to “those digital media that are interactive, incorporate two-way communication and involve some form of computing,” (R. Logan Understanding New Media.)

According to Professor Lev Manovich, examples of new media include:

  • websites
  • virtual worlds and virtual reality,
  • multimedia
  • computer games.

New Media is something most of use and largely take for granted today. The best known specific examples of new media are probably Google, Wikipedia, Amazon and social media applications such as Facebook.

New media is (obviously?) a relative term, and has been used since the 1990s to distinguish interactive media technologies based on computing from ‘old media’ forms – namely print media such as newspapers, radio and television, which were traditionally consisted of one way broadcasts to mass populations.

New Media really started to emerge in the 1990s with mass adoption of computer technologies, and really took off in the mid 2000s with the mass adoption of mobile technologies, especially smart phones.

The distinction between old and new media is somewhat artificial, as ‘old media’ technologies have today reinvented themselves so they are now also forms of ‘new media: newspapers are online and allow comments, and radio and T.V. are similar online and allow for greater levels of interactivity with the audience.

 

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Main characteristics of New Media

New Media are Digital, interactive, hypertextual, globally networked, virtual and sometimes based on simulation. 

This post provides further information and elaboration on these six key features of New Media.  Main Characteristics of New Media_1.png

Digital

With the growth of digital technology in the 1990s, the vast majority of information is now converted, stored and transmitted as binary code (a series of 1s and 0s.). Qualitative information has today become ‘digitalised’.

Digitalisation what allows so much information to be stored in compact hard disks or micro memory cards and it is also what allows for the near instantaneous transmission of information via cable and satellite.

Digitalisation has also resulted in ‘technological convergence’, or the convergence of different forms of information (text, audio and visual) into one single ‘system’ – most web sites today offer a fusion of text and audio-visual information, and our mobile devices allow us to perform a variety of functions – not only reading text and watching/ listening to videos, but also searching for information, sending messages, shopping and using GPS functions.

Analogue is the opposite of digital.  It is stored in physical form and examples include print newspapers, records, and old films and T.V. programmes stored on tape.

Interactivity

‘Old media’ tended to be very much a ‘one way’ affair, with audiences on the receiving end of broadcasts, for the most part able to do little else that just passively watch media content.

New Media however is much more of a two way affair and it allows consumers and users to get more involved. It is much more of a two way form of communication than old media. 

Increased interactivity can be seen in simple acts such as liking a Facebook post or commenting on news piece or blog. However some users get much more involved and create their own blogs and videos and actively upload their own content as ‘prosumers’.

New Media seem to have fostered a more participatory culture, with more people involved and the roles between consumer and producer of media content becoming ever more blurred!

Hypertextual

Hypertext, or ‘links’ are a common feature of new media, which allows users more freedom of choice over how they navigate the different sources of information available to them.

In more technical terms, links in web sites offer non-sequential connections between all kinds of data facilitated by the computer.

Optimists tend to see this feature as allowing for more individualised lifestyle choices, giving users the chance to act more independently, and to make the most of the opportunities new media markets make available to them.

Global Networks

Digital Media has also facilitated cultural globalisation – we now interact much more globally and via virtual networks of people rather than locally.

These networks allow for ‘collective intelligence’ to increase – they allow us to pool our resources much more easily and to draw on a wider range of talents and sources of information (depending on our needs) than ever before.

NB one question to ask about networks is what the main hubs are, through which information flows. This has implications for power.

Virtual Worlds

New Media presents to us a very different reality from face to face to ‘lived reality’ – for most of us this means a very fast paced flow of information with numerous products and people screaming for our attention.

However, this situation has only existed since the mid 2000s, and it must be remembered that New Media reality is virtual reality.

This is especially true when it comes to social media sites  which give users the opportunity to present themselves in any way they see fit, and while most users don’t go full Cat Fish, most people choose to present only one aspect of themselves.

Simulation

Simulation goes a step beyond the ‘virtual’ nature of New Media as usual. Simulation is most obviously experienced computer games which provide an immersive experience for users into a “virtual life” that is simulated through digital technology.

These virtual worlds are synthetic creations that ultimately rely on algorithms which set the parameters through which events in the gaming environment unfold.

Examples today include not only online RPG games, but also driving and flight simulations.

Sources 

Adapted from  Martin Lister et al – New Media: A critical Introduction (Second Edition).

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What are the most valuable degrees?

The most valuable degree you can do is economics, and the least valuable is health and social care. 

At least according to the latest research by the IFS on the impact of Higher Education on future earnings

The table below compares earnings at age 29 of female graduates compared to non graduates for different subject areas.

highest earning degree subjects.pngAs you can see, female economics graduates earn 150% more than non graduates, with medicine not far behind and most of the rest of the STEM subject graduates earning 100% more. 

Meanwhile at the other end of the scale social care and create arts degree graduates only earn about 20-25% more than non-graduates, making these degrees a lot less valuable in terms of purely financial returns. 

The significance of these statistics 

Fair enough I guess that medicine yields a decent return, I don’t think there’s much scope to criticise that, and given the innovation within science and engineering, the fact that these degrees result in 100% higher earnings at age 29 isn’t surprising either. 

HOWEVER, I have a problem with economics graduates earning so much more. It’s very unlikely that these people are earning so much money because of the social good they are doing. It’s probably more likely that they’re sucking money upwards to the already rich working for corporations and hedge funds, or doing crude econometric (read ‘guess work’) analysis for large institutions like the World Bank. They’re reward is probably making the rich richer, or at least keeping them rich. 

Meanwhile down at the bottom, I’m not so sure whether the low return on the caring degrees shows how little we value this qualitative side of life, rather than the fact that degrees in such subjects maybe can’t teach you that much?!? I mean with caring, how much is there that you can’t learn on the job, honestly, or just learn at level 3. 

Don’t get me wrong though, I think caring professions are very much underpaid. 

As to creative arts… I’m not sure whether these are undervalued, difficult for me to say with any level of objectivity, although if these stats are anything to go by, it shows us that ‘society’ doesn’t value art very highly! 

NB – The figures for men are a little different, check out the above study if yer interested!