How communicating on EU issues looks from my little corner of the world

I was in Brussels on 16 and 17 October as I had been asked to talk at a workshop on the reputation of the EU institutions at the annual EuroPCom conference, organised by the Committee of the Region. For once I didn’t do a presentation full of zooming and pictures, but just talked. Maybe I’ve been doing too many events with academics… Anyway, if you’re interested, here are my speaking notes.

The panel also had Simona Guerra of Leicester University, who researches Euroscepticism, Melanie McCluskey, a reputation expert, Sixtine Bougues of the European Commission’s DG for Communication and Sjerp Van der Vaart of the European Parliament’s Information Office in Belgium (latter two have not yet submitted their presentations/speaking notes for distribution.) The whole thing was expertly chaired by Rob Heirbaut of the Flemish broadcaster VRT.

In terms of the other workshops, I very much enjoyed watching Andy Williamson talk about online communication. All the videos and presentations that the organisers have collated so far are available on their website.

[Update, 25 November 2013]: The full proceedings are now available as a download: EuroPCom_Proceedings

Using social media to boost your career

I was invited tonight to give a talk to the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy London chapter on using social media for your career. Here’s my presentation (the title was given to me). I think it’s fairly self-explanatory (except for the blank page which had things flying in from the sides). That had one fairly important point, which you’ll have heard from me before, that the paradigm is changing: power is now built as much through knowledge-sharing as through knowledge-hoarding. I also pointed out that doing talks, workshops and training sessions on social media had opened up a totally new field of skills for me.

A big thanks to Louis Hughes, who did a couple of days of work-shadowing with us, for putting together the presentation.

Schroedinger’s cat for the humanities?

A while ago a few of us had a discussion on Twitter about the Schroedinger’s cat thought experiment. One of my friends, @ottocrat said

and then

Although I’m a social science person myself, I was a Science media spokesperson for three years and did get very interested in the subject, including some low level study. I know Niels Bohr said

Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.

but I do think I see what Schroedinger’s cat is trying to say. So I tried to find a way of explaining it that would make sense to a humanities person. This is what I came up with.

Imagine a woman, who has been seeing a man for a while. She feels very strongly about him, has dissected and pored over the relationship with her friends, and is certainly thinking about a future together. But she isn’t sure how he feels. He seems to be into her, but then sometimes she’s not sure. At this point, he is in superposition – it is equally possible that he loves her and that he doesn’t, and she can think about her two alternative futures – living happily ever after together or going their separate ways – with the same amount of certainty. Each is as possible as the other.

However, as some point, maybe after a dinner with those friends and a couple of bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, she realises she needs to find out. She can’t go on with the uncertainty. So she asks. “Do you love me?”. The interesting humanities/quantum physics parallel is that the very act of asking forces a position. The position the question forces him to take in that moment may not be the one he would have taken left to his own devices, or given on a different day. The observer effect has been unleashed.

I shall ask @ottocrat if this makes any more sense to him. And maybe any quantum physicists that stumble across this can point out the glaring holes in the concept?