Dissertation Research Proposal – Process & Development

Process and Development

My process for this project has been a simple one. I am enthusiastic and interested in the topics I have brought up in my dissertation research proposal, I can’t be considered to have much expertise in any of the relevant topics, I am simply a curious lay person. What I was immediately drawn to doing was drawing from my own knowledge gained through reading articles from publications such as the New Scientist and National Geographic magazines for which my brother has subscriptions. I simply borrow them and skim the articles I find most intriguing.

It is in the nature of these topics that they should hold a human-interest element. After all, they are entirely intertwined with the human experience. Why wouldn’t we want to know more about ourselves? The entirety of scientific endeavour is centred on the motivation to come to understand more about ourselves and our place in the Universe. Now, for this research proposal I stand, almost entirely on the shoulders of scientific visionaries who first determined the nature of aspect of human perception and understanding. What I aim for is simply a glimpse into the world in which they work.

Rather than bury myself in academic literature in order to find a worthy topic of study to focus on. I have begun my search by drawing from incomplete knowledge and factoids collected over the years that have stuck with me due to their fascinating nature. Pop science, as it is called, has allowed me to get my foot in the door with many of these topics. This, then, is my basis for study. The things I have gleamed from shows such as QI, that is where I first came to know about the Rorschach ink blot test for example.

What I found most effective in developing my essay, was to search literature, be that academic articles, books or web pages, that featured they key words I knew of but did not have the full grasp of. I then took it upon myself to delve deeply into these areas of thought and learn from previous works and derive from them a basis for my dissertation research proposal.

This was my rationale for studying Pareidolia in my original essay. The phenomenon is but one of many, but it is so tangible to any person, regardless of their education in the relevant field. If a person was to pause and look around, they are likely to see that at least one object in their field of view, could, no matter how abstract the form, find a pattern within it that could be construed as a face. Not only this, but it is likely that they could describe the expression of the face, it could look haggard and old or friendly and open. These side effects of our evolution are fascinating to me as they show how much of our day to day lives are ruled by unconscious decision making.

This essay, of course, is simply a signal of intention and to some extent a scaffolding which provides the skeleton of my dissertation, so alterations may occur by the time it reaches its final incarnation. It does not define my future work, it simply informs the direction of my inquiry.

Although I have not specifically addressed and researched thoroughly the ideas of the unconscious mind. I would like to delve deeper into the idea that our minds are changed before we even realise it. There are numerous scientific theories and experiments that suggest that we are not in control of our own actions. That, in fact, our minds are made up before we consciously make a decision. Although we do not realise it, the cards are already dealt. To understand further, the way in which our minds work, and this phenomenon operates would be fascinating to me.

I have to admit, the reason I chose this topic, was less to do with its value to my practice, originally, but more of a fascinating topic to me personally. I find it very difficult to write extensively on a topic that does not hold my attention. Happily, however, the topic of human perception and psychology is incredibly broad and its value and relation to the day to day world and more specifically, graphic communication, is very clear.

I doubt there are many people who, when shown a phenomenon such as the Rorschach ink blot test or the various incarnations of the grid illusion, would not recognise them, as they have permeated popular culture quite significantly, or at the very least, to see and comprehend the illusion or the furtherance of perception that they cause in them. That is their value to me as subjects of study and as references supporting my ideas. They are not complex at their core. The explanations as to why they cause us to see what is not necessarily there, or more fully explainable as, why they alter our perception, is more complex. But I aim to draw people into the study of these phenomena slowly, without bombarding them with jargon and overly complex ideas.

One issue I have found while researching this board subject, have been to find scholarly, peer reviewed articles that appear in reputable journals. That is not say that they are not there to find. But often they are so focused and in-depth and shed light on only a very specific set of ideas, that they are little use to me in writing this essay. They are also often so specialised and complex in their proposals, that I almost feel that I cannot justify using them as I do not have a firm grasp on the ideas proposed.

Development of my dissertation research proposal has been hugely informative to me, I have come to learn much and I hope that this accumulated knowledge will serve me well in writing my dissertation.

 

 

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Research – Regeneration Research, Enterprise Education Hub (RREEH)

The Regeneration Research, Enterprise and Education Hub (RREEH) was set
up in 2016 to bring together people with interests in supporting community
regeneration. The Hub’s vision statement is:
To empower local communities to address environmental and economic
regeneration and social inclusion through the co-production of knowledge.

It is an organisation dedicated to integrating itself into the communities it serves to find novel solutions and support their own development.

For this brief I am asked to fulfil a number of key requirements set by the organisation.

  • a memorable name that people will associate with excellence in
    community regeneration;

The current name is very drawn out and could be easily shortened and refined without the message being degraded. Possible examples:

  1. Regeneration Hub
  2. Community Hub
  3. Together for Change
  •  typography which reflects inclusivity – people are welcome in
    this community;

Warmth and closeness in a manner that draws the eye and begins its message with an invitation to participate. The emphasis must be on openness and equality. Emphasising participation of any group in particular may give the impression that they are favoured.

I had considered a ring of some kind, exemplifying the message of togetherness, but this may suggest that there is no room for new participants. Possibly a ring of people or of some other symbol with a space left free for whoever might be interested.

‘We saved you a seat. Come and get involved.’

  •  colour palette which feels welcoming – people belong to this
    community;

Any community project or organisation will of course need to reflect the numerous ethnicities, cultures, religions and concerns of those it serves. Including a spectrum of colours for example would encompass people of all stripes. Any room of people will likely contain old and young, sick and well, liberal and conservative etc. Every effort must be made to avoid showing bias to one group or another, even inadvertently though symbolism.

  •  logo which communicates togetherness – people connect
    together in this community;

An emphasis of the increased power to create change that is afforded by working as a community. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Possibly a reference to a ‘great melting pot’ which would symbolise the mixture of varying personal identities that make up the whole that is the community.

  •  communication spaces – where people gather online as a
    community to share ideas, stories and news – using existing web-spaces, e.g. social media, video-conferencing, collaborative
    workspaces, and CardiffMet microsites.

With regards to this concern, there are numerous social media outlets that can be utilised for free to begin with. As a community organisation I would assume that funding is not infinite and so any use of free space to help the organisation function and reach people is surely a great boost.

There are also applications such as Google Docs which would allow people to collaborate effectively in drawing up plans, illustrating their proposals and editing one another’s work in order to refine it as far as possible.

Message boards that allow people to create groups that are open to all comers who are interested in addressing a particular concern would be vital as they would allow the sharing of ideas to reach the ideal solution to whatever the issue may be.

Everything must be open and accessible to prevent some members of any given community leveraging their collective power against another group or in a way that is against their best interests.

My Thoughts

This is only a preliminary viewing of the project parameters but I am confident that I already have some solid basis for which direction I wish to proceed. I will follow this post with more detailed ones exploring each aspect of the project brief on an individual basis.

 

 

Nudge Theory

Wikipedia/Nudge Theory 

Nudge is a concept in behavioural science, political theory and economics which proposes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behavior and decision making of groups or individuals. Nudging contrasts with other ways to achieve compliance, such as education, legislation or enforcement. The concept has influenced British and American politicians. Several nudge units exist around the world at the federal level (UK, Germany, Japan and others) as well as at the international level (OECD, World Bank, UN).

Nudges are small changes in environment that are easy and inexpensive to implement. Several different techniques exist for nudging, including defaults, social proof heuristics, and increasing the salience of the desired option.

A default option is the option an individual automatically receives if he or she does nothing. People are more likely to choose a particular option if it is the default option.For example, Pichert & Katsikopoulos found that a greater number of consumers chose the renewable energy option for electricity when it was offered as the default option.

A social proof heuristic refers to the tendency for individuals to look at the behaviour of other people to help guide their own behaviour. Studies have found some success in using social proof heuristics to nudge individuals to make healthier food choices.

When an individual’s attention is drawn towards a particular option, that option will become more salient to the individual, and he or she will be more likely to choose to that option. As an example, in snack shops at train stations in the Netherlands, consumers purchased more fruit and healthy snack options when they were relocated next to the cash register.

Examples

US Imprints 

Aim for the Fly

The urinal fly nudge is a well known mind hack that originated at the Amsterdam airport, but can now be seen in urinals all over the globe. By having images of flies etched near the drains of the bathroom urinals, spillage on the bathroom floor was reduced by 80%

A picture of a urinal fly

Dollar a Day

he Dollar a day program is an ambitious program established in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1990, with other cities experimenting with the program since. The program aims to decrease the rate of teenage births by focusing on decreasing the rate of further pregnancies in teenage mothers.

Because the payment is recurring, it serves as constant encouragement for young mothers to take necessary steps to avoid another pregnancy, while also posing the potential to decrease taxpayer spending (the state spent $392 million on teen childbirths in 2008). The state’s peak birth rate in teens is down 55% from what its high in 1991, and part of that is significant decrease can be credited to a program based off of nudging behaviour.

Opt Out Organ Donation 

Wales has recently joined a list of countries which now require citizens to opt out of becoming an organ donor. This small change has led to huge increases in the availability to organs for those who require transplants. The scheme is simple and ingenious as it places only a small demand on those who wish to stay off the organ donor registry, they simply indicate their wish to be removed from the list. But the greatest loss for those who need new organs has always been those who may well be happy to give their organs but have never bothered to opt in. That step has now been removed and countries that have instituted this new system have reported far higher availability of donor organs.

Croatia’s Musical Stairs 

I was made aware of this invention by my lecturers who used it as an example of behaviour change by nudging. The idea is very simple, there is a new incentive to take the stairs (the healthy option) over the escalator (the sedentary option)  and thus, the use of the stairs as a percentage of pedestrian traffic, increases dramatically.

My Thoughts 

These nudges represent a core concept I was to take full advantage of in my project. I’ve learned first hand how unlikely a person is to make a long term lifestyle change if the disruption to them is more than absolutely minimal. I’ve had friends ask for gym training and decide to go four times a week before giving it up in a fortnight because it’s too hard and disruptive to their day to day life. It only remains for me to find a way of implementing this directly into my campaign with my own examples of Nudge Theory.

Lifestyle and Health – research

GOV.UK

Infographic explaining how much physical activity to do

Everyone should be encouraged to reduce the amount of sedentary time by:

  • reducing time spent watching TV, using a computer or playing video games
  • taking regular time not sitting during work
  • breaking up sedentary time, such as swapping a long bus or car journey for walking part of the way

Declining levels of physical activity

People in the UK are around 20% less active now than in the 1960s. If current trends continue, we will be 35% less active by 2030.

Increasing car use is a major contributing factor to lower levels of physical activity in the UK. In 1961, 69% of households did not own a car or van, but by 2012 this had decreased to 25%.

Figures from the Health Survey for England show that 67% of men and 55% of women aged 16 and over do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.

Infographic showing how active we are

Lack of physical activity is costing the UK an estimated £7.4 billion a year, including £0.9 billion to the NHS alone.

Long term conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory disease lead to greater dependency on home, residential and ultimately nursing care. This drain on resources is avoidable, as is the personal strain it puts on families and individuals.

Health Risk Reductions due to exercise 

Infographic showing the health benefits of physical activity

Physical activity is also important for people diagnosed with cancer and cancer survivors. Physical activity after treatment for cancer can help to reduce:

  • the impact of some side effects
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • impaired mobility
  • weight changes

Macmillan has estimated that there are 2 million cancer survivors in the UK and around 1.6 million do not meet the recommended levels of physically active.

Other positive outcomes of physical activity include:

  • a sense of purpose and value
  • a better quality of life
  • improved sleep
  • reduced stress

Infographic showing physical activity rates per region of England

Healthy at work

With 70% of the adult population in employment, there is strong evidence that workplace physical activity programmes are effective. These can include:

  • flexible working policies and incentive schemes
  • policies to encourage employees to walk or cycle
  • information, ongoing advice and support
  • independent health checks focused on physical activity

 

Penguin Book Cover Submission – Animal Farm

As part our our course work we were asked to design a book cover for either or both of two classic books; Animal Farm by George Orwell or Naughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman.

I was immediately drawn to Animal Farm as I find Orwell’s work to be shocking and vivid. Animal Farm is his classic which uses the revolt of farm animals as an allegory for the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The reason it’s influence is so long lasting and pervasive. Is that the topics explored of devious political maneuvering and corruption can be applied to so many administrations including contemporary ones.

While I found myself drawn to this book, it’s popularity was a double edged sword. As a result of its commercial success, numerous book cover designs have been created. To put it simply, a lot of the best ideas have been taken.

 

As you can tell, there is somewhat of a theme in the book. I had to find an effective and visual appealing cover that would not be simply a reworking of existing designs. Basically, make it look nice, be implicitly descriptive of the books themes and don’t just shove a pig in the centre of the page.

After experimenting with numerous ideas and visual style, I elected to go with an effect I have always been interested in. I wanted to build a silhouette of a windmill. After the image of the pig, the windmill is certainly one of the most important themes of the book.

I was very pleased with my early outcomes, the only bumps in the road I was worried about were the over simplicity of my designs, as well as the fact that the line tracing pieces were quite intricate in their own way and so would become very difficult to make out once all the cover copy was applied, the blurb and title would do a lot to obscure the details and diminish the effect.

I decided to stick with the windmill silhouette as i liked the contrast it gave my page and it has a rather gaunt and rustic look as if it was cobbled together by sentient farm animals. What I now needed to do was find a way of bringing more depth and texture to a very flat and sparsely detailed piece.

IMG_20180302_0002.jpgI used a number of acrylic paints to create a textured image somewhat reminiscent of a vibrant skyline. The colour was intended to combine a skyline with the thematically important shade of green. This colour clearly represents the ideology of the early animal farm, symbolising freedom from oppression.

I also painted and edited some of the key text from the book, First, i daubed the words ‘Animal Farm’ and then the most famous quote from the book ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’ These turned out very well.

IMG_20180304_144208.jpg

I used black paint on white paper before inverting the colours and increasing the contrast to allow the type to sit perfectly on my silhouette without losing the rough edges that are so important to the painted texture effect.

Book Cover silloutte.jpg

At this point I started building up my layers. The key concept for this book cover was for the front cover to represent the beginning of the revolt. The infectious atmosphere of optimism and new found freedom. The windmill acting as a centrepiece and a symbol of all of the animals efforts.

The rear cover then, was the downfall of Animal Farm as an idea. The windmill is broken, as were the spirits of the animals and the ideology of Old Major. The sky has also turned red to symbolise the return of the human way of life, as now dictated by the pigs. The broken windmill was created by simply cutting parts from the complete windmill and arranging them in a dishevelled and dilapidated manner. I also wanted to fade the ‘Animal Farm’ text, but I decided to leave some areas lighter that would spell out the word ‘LIAR’ the symbolise the betrayal the the principles of Animalism that occurred.

Final Piece in minion.jpg

Here then, is my final outcome. I was very happy with the finished product especially since it was almost entirely the work of a weekend. Up until very near to the deadline I was tooling around with endless ideas that would not produce anything to the standard I wished to produce. This then is pretty much as good as I could do with the time I had. I’m very happy with it and it’s now simply a case of waiting for feedback from the Penguin Publishing judges.

Changing Direction

In my persuasion module I have been asked to focus on a particular health related cause in which I would like to make a change. In my previous blog post, I laid out my reasoning and research behind a campaign that would seek to educate and bring greater awareness of the issue of voluntary euthanasia.

While I feel that this was a worthy and worth while cause to pursue. It may be a very difficult topic as it is a difficult one to broach and a highly contentious issue. Many have an inherent fear of death and thus the topic of intentionally ending one’s life is one that would require a very fine line to be towed in order not to overstep ones role and cause anguish in people.

In my research I have come to be interested in another health related cause which is one with far more universal and relatable consequences. It has been a topic constantly espoused by the media in recent years and appears to be a growing problem. As we as a society grow more prosperous and have more labour saving technologies. Exercise has become more of a novelty and a voluntary pastime. As a country we are becoming more sedentary and this is the cause of numerous major health problems.

Many organisations, both governmental and charity based, share the goal of trying to persuade people to be more physically active. Not only to engage in exercise and sports. But especially to simply remain still and prone less.

Change4Life (NHS)

According to Change4Life benefits of an active lifestyle include:

  • Improved behaviour, self confidence and social skills
  • Improved attention levels and performance in learning
  • Coordination
  • Strength in muscles and bones
  • Health and Fitness
  • Maintain healthy weight
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved mood

I personally have a very active lifestyle as I have found it gives me all of these benefits. I absolutely struggle to sleep, gain weight and feel less motivated and positive if i go for any period of time without exercising and I notice this in others. Many people I know live sedentary lifestyles and poor diets and it affects their health and well-being.

I would like to take this research further and hopefully create work aimed at targeting these issues in our society.  Poor physical health based entirely on lifestyle cause a great deal of health issues and needlessly put enormous strain on our healthcare system.

According to Health.Gov 

Sitting or lying down, (with the exception of sleeping), are what we call ‘sedentary’ behaviours. You can be sedentary at work, at school, at home, when travelling or during leisure time. Sedentary behaviour requires little energy expenditure. Examples of sedentary behaviour include:

  • Sitting or lying down while watching television or playing electronic games.
  • Sitting while driving a vehicle, or while travelling.
  • Sitting or lying down to read, study, write, or work at a desk or computer.

There is a difference between a person who is sedentary and a person who is physically inactive. Being ‘physically inactive’ means not doing enough physical activity. However, being ‘sedentary’ means sitting or lying down for long periods. So, a person can do enough physical activity to meet the guidelines and still be considered sedentary if they spend a large amount of their day sitting or lying down at work, at home, for study, for travel or during their leisure time.

 

Much of my knowledge comes from TED talks I have listened to in the past. They are a font of information on topics such as physical and mental health.

According to Lifespan Fitness, the website from which I retrieved this video, the possible risks of a sedentary lifestyle are:

  • Physical inactivity may increase the risks of certain cancers.
  • Physical inactivity may contribute to anxiety and depression.
  • Physical inactivity has been shown to be a risk factor for certain cardiovascular diseases.
  • People who engage in more physical activity are less likely to develop coronary heart disease.
  • People who are more active are less likely to be overweight or obese.
  • Sitting too much may cause a decrease in skeletal muscle mass.
  • Physical inactivity is linked to high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels.

Persuasion – Health

Thus assignment is focused on persuasion. The aim is to create an effective and communicative message to persuade audiences to create change or contemplate and learn about issues they may have been unaware or apathetic about.

We were asked to pick broad categories on which to focus in groups, each group member would pick their own specific cause that fit into that category. I chose voluntary euthanasia as my cause.

Voluntary Euthanasia

This topic is, for want of a more appropriate word, rather ‘niche’. It is however, a very important topic for anyone for whom it becomes relevant to. Voluntary euthanasia is a very current moral debate. The reason I felt compelled to focus on this cause was the documentary about one of my favorite authors, Sir Terry Pratchett (1948-2015). In 2007, aged 59, he publicly announced that he had a rare form of early onset Alzheimer’s, called posterior cortical atrophy. He committed himself to raising awareness of the condition and became a strong advocate for voluntary euthanasia, even creating  documentary called ‘Choosing to Die’ where he explored the topic as well as traveling to Dignitas to accompany a patient ending their own life.

“I vowed that rather than let Alzheimer’s take me, I would take it. I would live my life as ever to the full and die, ­before the disease mounted its last ­attack, in my own home, in a chair on the lawn, with a brandy in my hand to wash down whatever modern ­version of the “Brompton cocktail” some ­helpful medic could supply. And with ­Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death.” – Sir Terry Pratchett

Currently the practice is rare. As of November 2017, human euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, Luxembourg and Canada Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Germany, Japan, and in the US states of Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Vermont, Montana, Washington DC, and California.

Currently momentum is slowly building to allow voluntary euthanasia in more countries. I can understand concerns about the process. There are strong arguments on both sides of the isle.

Pro 

  • An important freedom is the right to die. There are those, a very small minority, but nevertheless there are people in very rare circumstances who chose euthanasia. For some, it could be argued that this is the right choice. If a person is suffering unbearable chronic pain or other afflictions that give them a very poor quality of life, Some would like the ability to take control of their fate.
  •  It is a legal right in the UK for an Adult to act as they see fit in private as long as they cause no harm to others. Death is surely a private matter and needs to consent.
  • Regulated, controlled euthanasia gives a far less traumatic way out for someone seeking to end their life. This is true for them and their family and loved ones. Forewarning can allows people to process the fact of death and not be damaged by potentially discovering the individual who has ended their own life by chance.
  • Terminal Illnesses can be painful and immensely traumatic. Whether the symptoms are physical, such as locked in syndrome, where a person is conscious but unable to perform the slightest physical action. Or a degenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s which often leads to senility long before death. Should victims of these afflictions be forced to undergo this trauma unnecessarily?
  • There are numerous instances of carers of terminally ill or heavily disabled people being prosecuted after having helped their loved ones end their lives because the patient was physically incapable. While it must be determined that this is indeed what happened. Those carers are forced to endure further trauma after assisting in suicide. Something they may not be equipped to handle.
  • This is less of an argument than a side effect, But if a terminally ill patient who wishes to die is kept alive despite that then they may incur huge costs in public health resources and finances. This seems cruel as well as wasteful.
  • Those who have the capacity and the will to end their own lives will do so regardless of the law. But they may not be equipped to do it properly or in a way which is as painless as possible. This often brings unnecessary trauma to the deceased and their family.

Con 

  • Many religions have tenants that suicide is a sin and therefore forbidden as your creator is the one who gave you life and therefore the only one allowed to take it away. It wasn’t until the Suicide Act (1961) that suicide ceased to be a criminal offence in the UK.
  • Abuse of the system us potential danger with government sanctioned voluntary euthanasia. It can be hypothesized that an elderly family member with a large estate could be pressured into being euthanized by a family in order to claim inheritance. Or that an elderly or disabled person may feel a burden to their carers.
  • Accepting euthanasia could be seen to be accepting that some lives hold less value than others,
  • Euthanasia is irreversible and may not be the appropriate path for a patient who may be in need of psychological care or other options.
  • Allowing euthanasia may lead to less quality of care for vulnerable groups and less incentive for doctors to keep some patients alive to the best of their abilities.
  • There are those who believe voluntary euthanasia may lead governments to overstep this and move to involuntary euthanasia.

There are powerful arguments on both sides. I was not previously aware of some of the anti-euthanasia arguments. To be clear, should voluntary euthanasia be legalized, there would have to be a huge deal of regulation and checks and balances instituted to prevent nay of the concerns arrayed against voluntary euthanasia coming to fruition.