“Will China overtake the US in the future as a hegemony?” was investigating Varnavas in his master thesis during his Masters in International Political Economy at the King’s College in London. He was so passionate about his research that in 2018 he decided to develop a board game out of it. He called it: Hegemony. As an author of a board game herself, Researchista is a big fun of such projects! Gaming in higher education is a recent trend and is increasingly keeping students in tension. Here is what you can discover about Hegemony.
Developing a game on politics, is like developing a game on taxes. Hard to put in place and even harder to penetrate the market, as just another board game. It is specific, educational and special. The risk is that it can be life-changing. Ambitious scholars and social entrepreneurs at heart like Varnavas Timotheou, a Cypriot visionary who is not easily intimidated by political quests people have on politics made a breakthrough on the board game market and in education.
His board game that is about to leave the protoype/demo phase into board game production. Would that be related to the upcoming US elections? To the corona virus effects on economy and politics? It is difficult to say. However, it is a certain fact that people want to learn more about politics.
It is difficult to not acknowledge the importance of politics and voting and Hegemony provides with answers. It teaches you from academic reliable resources about how political coalitions, clashes and thinking is formed and changes in different scenarios, how YOU as an ordinary citizen can easier and better understand politics… isn’t that a handy a game?!
I will probably repeat this many times, but one of the challenges at Researchista is to keep my excitement down. Since I started this blog and our Facebook page, I met so many interesting people and the things we discuss are sometimes simply mind-blowing (bam) and this is one of these cases… So, from the left to the right we have 1 half musician/Researcher, 1 composer and 1 half Researcher/musician-amateur, who… how should I put it… joined their forces to create music out of the sounds that human body makes. Wait, what? I will stop here and let you discover this on your own…
They created “Microsonic” – an interdisciplinary project based music and on microbial communication, or shortly: music & microbes, how original is that! 😀
The story behind: Both artists and scientists seek to understand aspects of the complex world around us. Despite this common ground, artists and scientists are too often separate in their endeavors. The Academy Honours Programme for Young Artists and Scientists (Netherlands) promotes cross-disciplinary approaches and interactions. The idea is to bridge this gap by bringing together ten artists and ten scientists of diverse backgrounds where they can discuss themes, amongst which: the role of art and science in society.
It was here at this workshop back in 2015 where the three of us met. It was already late, we changed the décor in the meanwhile to a pub, when we got involved into a discussion about communication, its musical aspects and how microbial organisms (e.g. bacterias) are communicating.
The beautiful thing about music is that it is an ultimate abstract art form that is not tied to specific images that connect easily with other disciplines from arts and science. And so, the idea to collaborate on a musical project inspired by microbial communication (aka microbes and bacterias) came into being.
Research about microbial communication via sound signals has only received limited attention due to its technical challenges. Even though electronic devices capable of detecting sounds on microscopic length scales get more advanced every day, the technique is still in its infancy. It is already possible to hear the sound of a large group of microbes – which sounds like white noise – but the devices still need to be developed further to be able to hear the sound of single isolated microbes.Because little is known about this form of communication, Lucas saw a role for himself to play as a composer. Since the communication is inaudible for us human beings, Lucas started to explore how a musical composition out of how this microbial world could possibly sound.
The Opinion article “When microbial conversations get physical”, Gemma Reguera discusses various forms of microbial communication, which formed the basis for the composition. It appears that the microbial microcosm is a rich sound world on its own.Reguera states that “every particle in a cell has a unique natural frequency of vibration and therefore produces a distinctive sound, very much like voice tonality and pitch in humans”.
Sound waves are generated when objects vibrate. Experiments with yeast cells not only demonstrate that intracellular motions were sufficiently strong enough to propagate across the stiff cell wall, but that they could also generate reproducible acoustic signals.
For our project Microsonic, Lucas composed a soft musical piece, as to give the audience the feeling of a hidden sound world. The public is invited to join on a sound journey into the human body. The microbial world slowly fades into their world. A tape with real sounds stemming from the human body is added to the composition to give the translated communication of microbes a real context. The sound journey starts off with a kind of white noise – unclear, almost inaudible and a bit scratchy – and you start wondering what it is. It is the sound of blood streaming through a vein.Then the zooming starts: more and more internal body sounds are heard, including the creaking of human nerves. But also, by further zooming in you will hear the sound produced by millions and millions of microbes. There the musicians come into the picture. The playing instruments symbolize the several sound signals that microbes use to communicate. Slowly, you get introduced into their microscopic world.
More and more pitched signals become distinguished, first only short ones, but as we zoom further, we hear longer ones as well. The microbial sound world becomes richer and richer; higher and lower pitches occur and the dynamic contrasts intensify. When listening carefully, you will hear that microbes make connections and communicate by taking over each other’s signals. So does the musicians – based on live improvisation. It is at this moment that you as human being can get a glimpse of the communication of microbes and maybe even feel part of their conversation. The composed journey ends with a collective ‘vibrational mode’, when a certain group of microbe cells are ‘in tune’.
The challenge for our composer Lucas was that he was used to thinking in terms of melodies and chords. However, microbial communication via sound signals is not a musical process – still produduces patterns and sounds. As a result, he had to change his approach to composing and relinquish control.Instead, he created a number of frameworks in which the musicians had freedom of movement and become part of the creation process. The subject of communication lends itself very well to this way of making music. The musicians improvise while listening and reacting to each other; they have to communicate to let it work.
Our project is an example of how arts and science that both have the urge to understand and express the complex external world can reinforce each other. This demands certain effort, yes, but is even more rewarding. So had our composer Lucas to let go of his usual approach towards composing. And it is exactly this that makes interdisciplinary collaboration extremely interesting – since it questions the usual approach and way of working. But there is more, interdisciplinary collaboration can support inspiration in each other’s work and reinforce the expression of the complex mechanism in our (microbial) world towards a public. All we can say, go out, open your eyes, take the risk to look outside your usual box”.
“The occult beauty of the finite is about that realisation that what is dear to us is also fleeting, and the beauty that lies in such transience. I was inspired to write this piece by the illness and passing away of my mother. As her health worsened, I became increasingly aware of the small pockets of beauty in our lives. Living under the illusion that everything lasts forever, these are easy to miss. But as one faces the loss of something precious, the world is brought into sharper focus”.
Music helps me to focus better. Sometimes when I don’t have motivation for work, I bring my level of concentration by bringing music. It cheers me up.
My PhD research is about the application of statistics in medicine. Last, but not least, I sing and play Iranian traditional music.
Research in music
How research helps you advance with your music? When somebody is working with traditional music, it’s important to know about the history of the instrument and culture of its country. You must know about the specifications and abilities of your instruments if you are going to play with another instruments. It helps you to know with which instrument you can combine it.
Is important to know about the structure of the music and about the instrument itself. It helps you to know more about your instrument and how to mix with other instruments. Knowing more about the history helps you more.
You are a PhD student in statistics while you play professional music, how does that work?
Music and Research
Every day I work till 18.00 at the university and then I go to music school and practice 1 hour singing, it takes a lot of energy but when I go out I feel re-energized. Then I go home and I practice 1 hour for my instrument.
At least 2 hours of practice for me is a kind of meditation, because all I think about are the notes, music, voice and sound. Sometimes I close my eyes, and I feel my body fully present in the music. The only thing I think about is the sound and the word I should pronounce and the lyrics that I sing. Iranian music is mixed with very old poems and which are full of spiritual concepts. When you sing these kind of poems, you without thinking go into this kind of spiritual mood and you don t think about the world that you live in.
Most of the time, Iranian music full of love stories and spiritual concepts and unconsciously when you sing these kind of things you feel it fully with your body and to really sing it best you need to understand what you sing and it helps you to go more deep into spiritual things.
I remember my dad telling me back in the days that during the Soviet Union times, for the cows to be more productive in giving milk, Mozart would be played in the background, while farmers would collect their milk. Maybe this is not the most romantic way to start this post, but if that is true, at least it gives an idea about the power of (classical) music.
Thank you, wonderful musician! This is Research on MUSIC month and invited Researchers and practitioners from this area will discuss in the upcoming Mondays different perspectives of how music affects our busy, intense, contemporary life and how we can make the best out of it!
We can create the ‘sound of music‘ ourselves anywhere we are. I remember when I turned 30 (don’t mention it)), I asked my friends to bring as a present – a performance of whatever they could do, and singing was the most used creative performance we could all enjoy that evening. Learning an instrument might take a while 😀
Speaking of that night… with gratitude to my friend Ina, who let me share this video with you, please have a look at this beautiful piece of classical music by Puccini. It is a spontaneous rendition, with the great assistance of her little blue butterfly girl, Nele.
Who knows, maybe it will inspire your next theme house party, you might be surprised on how creative your friends really are! 😉
…. and now… another round of applause go to our Special Guest of next Monday, a Research fellow on EU law and related topics to living and working as musicians and a musician at the same time! drums…
Every Monday, during a month on Researchista’s Blog you will find a new subject in which we invite one or more Researchers to talk about it. They are called “Special Guests” (because they are special and because they are guests). At the end of every subject (4th week of each month), Researchista is inviting anyone willing to explore how that topic affects their daily life. This section is called “Make-your-own-little-Research” and is encouraging everyone to make their Research (it’s called little, because is our own private investigation 😉 ), by giving an example of how to use different Research concepts and methods to investigate that subject. As a results we hope to help changing our own behaviour about a topic in selected area. This is Research on Food (industry) month on Researchista, so our little Research is going to be on this subject.
Say hello to Irina B. aka Researchista and Diana Z. aka Social activist, i-care-about-the-environment-lets-do-it-together friend! This is our little Research. What would yours be like? m?
Little Research: “How to Read Food Labels”.
How to know which ingredients are not good for your health? Research is your best friend. Let’s start by making it clear: we love food. So much. You can not imagine.
At the same time, we wonder what is healthy to eat and what is not? When we go shopping for food, are we actually buying the healthy food? This is our ‘Research question’ (a r.q. is usually stands for the aim/goal/purpose/objective of a scientific study): to what extent the food we buy is healthy? In other words, how to understand what it says on the package of content we buy.
And here we start our journey, with the help of food blogger to become and corporate activist in this area, Diana and Irina ‘willing-to-learn how to read the labels’. Let’s figure this out.
First, determine what package of food you consume often and wish to know if it contains any chemicals or unhealthy products.
Food labeling is required by law and should be clear, accurate and easy to understand and protect the consumer. It should help the consumers to know what they are buying. It is regulated by different bodies in different countries. Information required to be displayed: ingredients, weight, name of food, storage instructions, use-by-date, clear preparation and cooking instructions, name and address of manufacturer, place of origin, batch number, any genetically modified ingredients, beverages which contain >1.2% alcohol. Nutritional information is only required if there is a nutritional claim made.
Fats and sugars are contents that need extra research. If most of the fat content comes from healthy unsaturated fat, then it is a green light. If the fat is mainly saturated and/or the product has any trans-fat, it is definitely a no. Also watch out for Vegetable Oil.
Vegetable oils are manufactured in a factory, usually from genetically modified crops that have been heavily treated with pesticides. Sugar, another “watch out!”, has many names, 56 to be precise. If we notice these ingredients, besides sugar and if they come as first or second ingredient, better place this product back on the shelf.
Once we are clear on the nutrition facts, we can continue with the individual ingredients research. Unfortunately, majority of manufacturers use various sickening ingredients that we cannot even pronounce their names.I have a general rule regarding this, if I cannot read and understand it, I don’t buy it.Watch out for the sickening ingredients: growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, artificial sweeteners, BPA, artificial flavors and sweeteners, dyes and conditioners, carrageenan and others.
In conclusion, Researching food products’ labels can be an overwhelming task and maybe sometimes we can end up thinking there is nothing safe left to eat, but eventually the label understanding skills become habits and the process of identifying the good food is becoming as easy as ABC.
“As people are becoming more health conscious, the demands for ethical food is on the rise. By ethical we mean not only sustainable, but also ethically grown, processed, packaged and marketed. Unfortunately, we witness that many large corporations are taking ethics for granted and only care about their profit, thus maximizing production, while neglecting the nutritional value of food. Many products already enter the food chain filled with chemicals and substances that can damage our health. Later on they are processed with additives, dyes, preservatives and thickeners, and eventually packaged in materials that are also hazardous for health. But the worst part is that companies spend thousands to promote these products, create beautiful packages, advertisements and incentives. Moreover, many of them go to the extreme to portray these products as healthy and suitable for children. Stopping these companies from producing and marketing products that contain harmful ingredients is not easy. In many countries corporations have a lot of power in the food industry. But there is another way to combat them. Learn to read and understand labels and avoid products that are clearly damaging your health. “
Be it at conferences, seminars or a public x talk, public speaking is not so easy as it seems from aside when the speakers flow their speech, but neither it is so impossible and difficult to succeed, as our Special Guest, Mr. Paul Rulkes suggests, enjoy his tips!
The power of know-feel-do
Some time ago I was asked whether I do motivational speeches. I answered that being motivational is the minimum requirement for any speaker. What really matters, however, is how the audience will be better off after I’m gone.
Your job as a presenter is to improve the condition of the audience. All else is just commentary.
A great presentation is therefore never about you, your ideas or your project. Instead, a great presentation is about the people listening to you. If you really want to present with impact, start your preparation with this one magic question: “how will the audience be better off once I have left the room?”
Then design your talk using the power of know-feel-do:
This is what I want the audience to know.
This is how I want the audience to feel.
This is what I want the audience to do.
If you ignore these objectives, you become just an empty entertainer or a droning bore. Both are equally bad.
Motivation is overrated. It is the conversation afterwards that counts.
by Paul Rulkens, an expert in high performance: the art and science of achieving bold goals with the least amount of effort. More successful ideas, including his popular TEDx talks, can be found on www.agrippaci.com
Intro: When life gives you lemons… It was the last year of my PhD.
I was so exhausted of editing, writing and thinking. My brain was boiling and flowing over its borders. Long hours in front of my laptop were not helping my RSI, neither to find a job. All I had to do in the last phase of my PhD was to: FINISH. I was so tired at that stage that there was hardly room to think of what I wanted to do in the future, but I felt that for me to go on, I needed to distract my attention on something that will make me feel good, something that would give me a perspective of what I was doing. After so much hard work, I did not want my thesis to stay dusty on the shelves and forget about it in a year. So, I thought to make a Board Game out of my PhD thesis.
As if.. as if… that would give me a job or would have made me a better Researcher… But I knew that I had a point of view inside me that I was urging to come out. So I called ‘Leo’. Someone who was divorced and sad, with 2 children whom he could not see and slightly unemployed. While slightly looking for work, he would have had much more free time at hand that I did, and most importantly… he was so good at games.
The story: I don’t know if you have ever tried to develop a work project On-Line, meaning with someone who lives in another country, but in this project, I felt like I was on earth and the other person was on the moon and we were trying to somehow make each other understood with much precision, but there were always some things left out. On top of it, when you finally reached your ‘Online partner in crime’ and have calls like:
” – Irina, I might be going to prison, so let me call you back in the afternoon.
– Oh, to prison! Ok, no problem, call me when you are done”
you understand, you are on probably on the right track… of.. life, full of challenges.
Please welcome to my online partner in crime, Leo (he does not like to be taken pictures, this is his dog). Without his help, I would have never figured out these rules and make a Board Game out of my thesis. He is extremely bright, but was never lucky with his degrees. An inquisitive mind, growing up when Soviet Union collapsed, which made him unlucky for many years. I called Leo to help me because he was good with gaming, he thinks fast and he had time. The only thing he was missing was the ability to be there on Skype appointments or be accessible on the phone, which is pretty much in what an ON-LINE partnership consists of…which made my mission most of the time impossible.
In the last phase, Leo found his Lionette
and the communication went so much smoother and with her help, we managed to test life and online multiple times the game and make it happen.
So, here it is, the game has real countries, real flags, real average wages in that country (average wage is not the minimum wage, is how much money on average people receive in that country), real average taxes for those wages.
Important: it is impossible to have in highest precision all the numbers, because the situation can vary by case and the taxes also. For example, a family can be taxed differently in different countries; but these are as close to reality of 2015 as possible.
These are “MOBILITY ERA. Play your taxes!” points:
Health Social Country points.
So here it is… after more than 2 years of Online and life communication attempts, after few times quitting and thinking it will never happened, it happened. Maybe one day I will tell you on how the entire game was designed in 24 hours…but I let leave that for another time 🙂 .
The first version of the game will be launched and available for you to take home at PAS Maastricht Festival, where Arts meets science! This is where I will reveal what is Researchista actually about and what was that ‘urgent urge urging’ out of me before finishing my PhD.
Browsing through the Fashion Bible – “VOGUE” just like I would do with a book, I was looking for its introduction. It took me 12 pages of pictures with clothes and accessories to find the compass through a book: the introduction. Ah, fashion, are you only about selling? I don’t believe you! 😉
By the way, before the introduction, in a fashion magazine you will always find an Editor’s Note. Yes, just like in a scientific journal (for example, “Science” or “Elsevier“), fashion magazines have an Editor that is in charge of it all. But, who reads a fashion magazine anyway, if you see so many colourful pictures in it? Only joking, the fashionistas will probably prove me wrong. As of today, Researchista invites you to her Fashion & Research Month!
Yet, clothing is the backbone still of the entire fashion industry. Designers create, we buy and we buy, because we want to look and feel good/or to transmit a signal to the rest about ourselves. Ah, finally I understood the “statement bag” expression that I would hear sometimes in Russian, it’s probably about the intention of someone wearing a specific bag to communicate a message to the public about their personality (their character, their seriousness, their coolness, etc.).
Fashion Industry: Behind the fashion curtains, you will find the designers and tailors, who work very hard to create that perfect piece of thing that will match everyone’s tastes.
The Story of Gabriel Chanel, Coco Chanel
Just like in academia and policy, fashion industry has a certain life-cycle (see Figure 1) or more phases from the moment when the clothing exists only as a piece of material (raw material), till the moment the costumer wears it and hopefully takes care of it after it has been used to either reuse or recycling it.
It looks like a perfect cycle, but we are not living during the time of Coco Chanel, now it is much faster to produce and buy more pieces of clothes that look the same. Mass-production of clothes became a norm.
Figure 1. Fashion cycle
Fashion retailers, otherwise known as “fast fashion” or big brands of clothing where most of us go shopping, unfortunately not always respect ethical conditions for their workers and nor do they always create a healthy environment for the clothing production.
Special Guest: This is theFashion Month on Researchista. Our Special Guest Hasmik Matevosyan, whom I had the pleasure to meet at TEDxMaastricht, will enlighten us about the ‘dark sides’ of fashion cycle and how you and me and each of us can individually contribute towards a healthy clothing production, good for our environment, for our skin and for our wallet. Here she is flesh and bones (video) giving useful tips on how to wash your clothes to avoid pollution.
Hasmik did a lot Research during her masters studies and as a result of it, she published a book in which she came up with a business model by which she aims to change the way fashion industry currently works.
“The first time I got in touch with fashion was when I was a little girl. We were living in Armenia and after the Soviet Union feel apart, mom was earning money by knitting clothes. I saw all the hard work and creativity that went into designing and making a garment. I also saw how the clothes made her clients feel happy and confident. Mom taught me how to knit at the age of six and from that point on I wanted to become a fashion designer so that I could design clothes that contribute to people’s lives, make them happy”. Get to know better Hasmik as of next Monday. See how she could help us to help others to us all in reducing the harm caused to nature and people treated unfair in this area.
Researchista goes Fashionista: Instead of conclusion, I want to share with you a sneaky little story.Now, that it’s summer and nobody’s watching, Researchista is doing a little fashion experiment. Oh no, no, I did not start to sew, unfortunately. Neither I want to mass-produce something for you to wear. Instead… I decided to wear some fancy clothes on the street of this fancy town where I live to feel what is like to be someone doing fashion. Internet went viral recently in number of fashion bloggers, so I came up with my own little fashionista experiment…. voila! Are you a Researcher living in Maastricht? Do you want to join me next time? Leave me your letter at email@example.com 🙂
Our group is increasing and maybe is a good idea to summarise what Researchista is about and what have I been up to since the web-site was launched.
So, first things first. Researchista is about bringing Research in the mainstream. This is because at the moment, Research is probably not often seen as very hype or trendy, but without it would be no technological, medical or other type of progress. To pay a tribute to that, Research & Researchers on my web-site start with Capital letters 😉
What is Researchista doing? How is it organised?
1. My Facebook page is the dynamic display of Researchista. It’s updated almost everyday of the week and it’s organised in 4 parts:
One day, I hope to introduce you to my PhD supervisor, whose guidance was so valuable and inspiring, and that I hope you will also have the privilege to share some of it as well. But till then: in July, I would like to introduce you to a more laid-back, yet very topical topic, such as: the importance of fashion in our life. Our Special guests, Hasmik Matevosyan , who wrote the book “Paradigm in Fashion”, based on her previous Research, will share her unique model to deal with clothes mass-production and other-related topics. Attention: photos on the streets of beautiful Maastricht are included!
[PAPER OF THE WEEK] section is coming out every Wednesday (hopefully) and tries to encourage everyone to read academic papers, without fear 🙂
[BOOK OF THE MONTH] is coming out every 1st day of a month and is a recommendation of a book written by Researchers.
[WEEKEND] section is inspired by PhDs life style, who usually work so hard and do not always have a weekend. It tried suggests different ‘feel-good’ ideas, for example:
2. Www.Researchista.com is a web-site that puts you in closer touch with Researchers’ life. Here, you can find out who can be qualified as a Researchers, how many are we in the world, what types of Researchers exist, these sort of more conceptual questions for you to familiarize better with who we are. On another hand, this blog is addressing various PhD related issues and questions, including: writing performance tips, health, life style, etc. Most importantly, it has the goal to put on the table for discussion.
3. My Twitter is another useful source that summarises fast and painless what Researchista is up to weekly.
Voila, this is me and all I had to say this time. Enjoy June, they say – the month of new beginnings! 😉
Writing about happiness in times like this is like in the song on “try sleeping with a broken heart” (‘Brussels attack’). Knowing that we are facing challenging times around the world, does not make us happy, but knowing and choosing to stay calm and kind to each other, might help.