Searching for blog posts tagged with 'communication'

Update on 'The Big Picture' & Anna Dumitriu: artist in residence CCNR



It's me again. The Big Picture continues today at InQbate. Lots of things happening and yesterday had some interesting results. Met a lot of people from various departments and had the opportunity to get a good grip on the kinds of things happening with the University in relation to Community engagement and Outreach projects.

There is also a lot of information and guidance on funding opportunities - all will be revealed in the SPLASH tech blog later in the week.

For now though, come and see me and the SPLASH team at InQbate at around 3pm, Tony Hudson (Head of the Web Team) will be illustrating some of the elements of the SPLASH site and particularly it's new functions that have been recently added as part of user engagement over the last few months Tongue out.

Anna Dumitriu will be over at the centre between 1-3pm. Artist in residence - should be exciting, so come on over and get engaged...


Take a peek at some of the captures of the event:

The Big Picture @ InQbate: 3rd & final day



So, already on the first day at the InQbate centre and the event has had a considerable number of participants. One of the yesterdays highlights was Anna Dumitriu, artist in residence, who was here talking about some of her experiences at Brighton & Hove 'WHITE NIGHT' an event in Brighton that marked the end of British Summer Time in October this year.

Anna showed a video that illustrated some of the many diverse events that took place on that evening and also talked about her work and involvement within the local community. There was also a presentation from the Estate and Facilities Division in relation to a current project they are working on: EcoCampus. Great debate and discussion surrounded issues about recycling within office spaces, the collecting of rainwater and problems in relation to the heating of internal spaces.

Many good points and perspectives were hammered out.

John Walker from CCE, Deaf Studies Program gave a presentation on his Research within the deaf community, that was fascintating and gave an insight into his community outreach work and the issues faced by the deaf community. Had a good chat with John - very approachable chap.

Meanwhile, River Jones, organiser of the 'The Big Picture' event, has begun re-examining the space that has been created over the last couple of days, in order to facilitate a specific 'journey'. River will be working with other members of staff to create 'signposts' within the space, to lead visitors.

Amongst all this activity, I also had the chance to catch up with my favourite lecturer, Dr. Lucy Robinson to investigate further into SPLASH  case study we are working with her on with regards to SPLASH and her BA/MA students. However, you won't that in here - that will be in the tech blog of SPLASH later in the week...

Enough of me talking - how about some visual:

communication, technology, and DIY



One of the things I love most about studying early modern literature is how relevant it seems to modern life. My readings lately have been about the print revolution and how it completely changed the face of human existence. That's not an exaggeration, either. Can you imagine a world without printed media? I certainly can't. It's one of the things that Elizabeth Eisenstein says makes it difficult for us to really understand just how much the advent of the printing press changed the world.

I think there are quite a lot of parallels between Gutenberg's invention and the rise of the internet. It's not a perfect comparison by any means, but the similarities are there. Opening up communication to a whole new group of people, the loosening of one particular authority's grip on information, and the addition, for good or ill, of a whole new range of human experience. People slag off the internet-- hell, I slag off the internet-- but I really feel that it has a lot in common with the printing press in that it's a new form of communication that has quickly become ubiquitous. How many young people now can remember life before the internet? I was around then, and I can barely remember it. I definitely recall doing research the hard way, with actual books and paper library catalogues, instead of with the internet. A world of information is at my fingertips. I wonder if this is how some early modern scholar felt, walking around the churchyard of St. Paul's.

The problem we encounter in a culture where everyone gets to speak up is determining which voices are worth listening to. If Authority no longer dictates who gets a say, it falls to us to be our own Authority. And sometimes we're pretty crap at that. Critical thinking skills don't really come naturally to human beings, much as we like to preen about being The Rational Mammal or some such nonsense. When it comes to it, we're pretty much just jumped-up monkeys with bigger, sharper sticks.

I'm going to have to look into this idea and investigate whether anyone else has drawn these parallels between the growth of printing and the growth of the internet. I think there might be a dissertation there. Or at least a term paper.

Communication is the key to managing incidents that involve mass decontamination.



Research into public behaviour during incidents that involve mass decontamination provides long-overdue evidence that consideration of psychosocial factors is essential for the successful management of such incidents. Failure to consider such factors could delay the decontamination process, which could cost lives.

Doctoral student Holly Carter discusses the research that she is conducting for her PhD, supervised by Dr John Drury who is an expert in crowd behaviour.

My research aims to understand how members of the public are likely to behave during incidents involving decontamination, and how social psychological theories can aid this understanding. Decontamination is an intervention used by the emergency services in the event of a CBRN incident (one involving the release of a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear agent). It involves anyone who has potentially been contaminated being asked to remove their clothes and undergo a shower, to remove any potential contaminant from their skin.

As part of the research project, I conducted a review of small-scale incidents involving decontamination. This revealed that communication from emergency responders to members of the public was essential for the smooth-running of the decontamination process; failure to communicate effectively resulted in public non-compliance and anxiety. Non-compliance during an incident involving mass decontamination could have extremely serious consequences; it may result in increased spread of any contaminant (Edwards et al., 2006), and therefore increased numbers of dead and injured.

Yet, decontamination guidance documents for responders do not contain any guidance on communicating with members of the public! Furthermore, emergency responders do not receive any training on how to communicate with members of the public. Instead, a ‘control’ management strategy is often emphasised, based on the idea that members of the public will necessarily ‘panic’, and behave in a ‘disorderly’ way. Many policy makers and emergency responders share the view that: “Scenes of mass contamination are often scenes of collective hysteria, with hundreds of thousands of victims in a state of panic. Therefore, mass decontamination may require police, security, or rescue supervision to help control panic and keep order.” (Wikipedia, 2013).

I applied the social identity approach to develop recommendations for the management of mass decontamination. This approach  highlights that crowd events are typically intergroup encounters, in which the actions of one group can impact on the experiences and behaviour of another group.

My recommendations are the result of a variety of studies including: large scale mass decontamination field exercises; a visualisation experiment; and a mass decontamination field experiment. During the mass decontamination field experiment participants went through the decontamination process, as they would during a real incident.. During the experiment, participants received one of three responder communication strategies: “good” (health-focused information about decontamination, updates about actions responders were taking, sufficient practical information); “standard practice” (no health-focused information, no updates about actions responders were taking, sufficient practical information); and “poor” (no health-focused information, no updates about actions responders were taking, very basic practical information). The decontamination process progressed most efficiently in the good communication condition, and non-compliance and confusion were observed least often in this condition.

The field exercise, visualisation experiment, and field experiment showed that effective communication by emergency response personnel increased public compliance and cooperative behaviour, and that the relationship between effective communication and public compliance and cooperative behaviour could be explained by relevant social identity variables (e.g. perceptions of responder legitimacy, identification with both emergency responders and other members of the public, and collective agency).

Overall, this programme of research provides evidence that a consideration of psychosocial factors is essential for the successful management of incidents involving mass decontamination; failure to consider such factors could delay the decontamination process, which could cost lives.

We suggest four specific recommendations for managing incidents involving decontamination:

1) emergency responders should communicate openly with members of the public about actions they are taking;

2) emergency responders should communicate in a health-focused way about decontamination;

3) emergency responders should provide members of the public with sufficient practical information; and

4) emergency responders should respect public concerns about privacy.

Our findings underline the importance of training for emergency responders on ‘soft skills’ (such as communication, and the need to respect public needs for privacy); this has been neglected until now in favour of technical solutions, and hence technical preparation and training.



Listening to the dance floor noise during waggle dance communication improves the mapping of foraging locations



An interview with the lead author, Dr Roger Schürch, Postdoctoral Researcher at the School of Life Sciences, of a new article which shows how the foraging locations of honey bees can be mapped more accurately.

Why was this piece of research necessary?

Honey bees use a unique, highly ritualised behaviour to communicate where they have foraged. During this “waggle dance” on an upright comb within the hive, they run in a straight line, circle back to where they started, and run the straight line again – they do this over and over again. Because they waggle their bellies back and forth in the straight run, we call this behaviour the waggle dance. Over the past century, researchers have been able to decode the waggle dance, so that we can now observe a dance and know where a bee has been to collect her food: the bees communicate a heading and a distance in the angle and the duration of the straight waggle run.

Understanding where bees have foraged is important if we want to be able to help them. There are two problems with the way this has been previously done. First, most of the studies studying where bees have foraged using the waggle dance have used a calibration curve published by Karl von Frisch in 1946[1]. We noticed that this calibration curve gave wrong results for the bees studied at the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI). Secondly, the calibration curves used up to know were focusing exclusively on the averages of communicated angles and distances. In reality there is a considerable amount of noise in the location communicated by the bees. In other words, the bees are pretty imprecise in their communication. This means that when we observe a single dance, we cannot be sure where the bee has been. Previous studies have ignored this uncertainty.

[1] See von Frisch, K. 1946. Die Tänze der Bienen. Österr. zool. Z. 1:1-148

Honey bee feeding on a flower


What were the main results, and did these results turn out as expected?

First, we were able to show that our bees have a different calibration for distance and duration from those used by von Frisch, but that our calibration curve closely matches one published by Adrian Wenner in 1962[1]. This confirmed our initial suspicions that Karl von Frisch’s curve was not valid for our bees. Secondly, we have been able to quantify the precision with which bees are able to communicate visited locations to their fellow nestmates in both the directional and distance component. In the case of the angular precision, we have been the first to publish a concentration parameter capturing the angular variability among dances. For both vector components the imprecision that we found to be inherent in the waggle dance communication actually matches well the precision of recruitment found in previous studies[2].

[1] See Wenner, A. M. 1962. Sound production during the waggle dance of the honey bee. Anim. Behav. 10:79-95

[2] See Towne, W. F. & Gould, J. L. 1988. The spatial precision of the honey bees' dance communication. J. Insect Behav. 1:129-155.

Honey bee comb by Alex Wild

What has it added to our knowledge to the honey bee dance language?

The noise we found will enable us to make more honest assessments of where the bees have gone: instead of saying 25% of bees have visited that field, we say between 23-24% of bees have visited that field with 95% certainty. The latter statement is less precise, but more honest. But the real benefit lays in the ability to then test hypothesis like whether a colony has visited a particular field or crop more than you would expect by chance.

Does it change the validity of previous work on the waggle dance?

This is very hard to judge. Does the calibration curve of Karl von Frisch differ because he used a different bee, he was in a different location, or because he did not take random samples (see anecdote below)? At this point we simply don’t know, but based on our results we must warn against using Karl von Frisch’s calibration without validating it with the focal bee strain, and in the focal location.

Any fun anecdotes whilst collecting data?

For a very long time, we were brooding over one troubling feature of our data. Karl von Frisch’s data suggested a non-linear response in the distance-duration calibration, whereas ours could just not be accommodated with such a non-linear form. It was not until Lars Chittka came to give a seminar talk here in Sussex that we realised that we should be cautious with interpreting von Frisch’s data. Over lunch, he related to us a story Martin Lindauer, one of von Firsch’s students, had told him. When doing feeder experiments, Karl von Frisch often ordered “bad dancers” to be “executed”[1]. This creates a non-random sample, which made it probably easier for von Frisch to discover the general principle of the dance language. However, this non-random sampling is a bit like asking people who favour the colour red what their favourite colour is. Not surprisingly, the answer will be red.  Such a bias in the data makes it impossible to predict feeding locations from observed dances of a random bee, and presumably led to the non-linear curve von Frisch observed.

[1] This annecdote is also told in Chittka, L. & Dornhaus, A. 1999. Comparisons in physiology and evolution, and why bees can do the things they do. Ciencia al Dia International 2:1-17.



To read more about this research, see the full article in the Journal of Comparative Physiology A

More on the honey bee waggle dance, read Other Nations' blog post

Visit The Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects website 

photo credit: John Kimbler (top) and Alex Wild (