October 02, 2017

CMPS: Our Values

CMPS: Our Values

Philip Blond, Director of ResPublica think tank and an English Political Philosopher has had a lot to say recently about ‘values’. The author of Red Tory (2010) is often in the media explaining the culture wars in the USA (Trump voters versus ‘the rigged system’) and the follow on culture wars in the UK (Brexit voters versus ‘the status quo’), and he has argued that cultural and social values of place, family and identity need to be returned to by politicians. In a recent Radio 4 interview he said:

If you do the values based research that I do now …. you see the beginnings of the culture wars taking place in the UK right now [. . .] producing people with radically different world views’ (BBC Radio 4 2/10/17)

Our own university has also made a clear statement about values, stressing cosmopolitanism and diverse community. We find ourselves then, as a research community, in a space between competing notions of values. Some of us have strong views on place, family, religion and identity in which values of heritage, identity and rootedness are fundamental. Others are exploring disruptions to those values and champion technology, commerce, mobility, plurality and transformation in their thinking and research.

Our Centre lives and breathes these tensions every day. We have courses and students and research projects that grapple with these different and sometimes conflicting epistemologies.

phd photo

We recently worked through some of this at our 2017/2018 Postgraduate Research Day in which staff and PhD students came together for the beginning of a new academic year, to share new research, issues, anxieties, challenges and opportunities. This year we had three PhD students deliver papers, Jufang Wang on Online Content Platforms in China, Deema Sonbol on Female Entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia and Hanzhi Ruan on Chinese National Identity. Colleagues at the Centre could offer valuable feedback and there was a general air of fun, generosity and humour as well as intellectual rigour in the discussions and debates that followed the papers. We all learned from one another, we shared our value systems and we negotiated between competing ideas.

We had a broader discussion about how PhD students can contribute to the research environment of the Centre for Cultural & Media Policy Studies through inviting speakers, organising conferences, reading groups and generally socialising and sharing ideas. This is not always possible if we feel disconnected from one another but we have now created a space at the heart of CMPS in Millburn House for our PhD students where they can feel at home, recognising that a sense of place is just as important as a sense of purpose or project. This led to some discussions about senses of place and identity and we undertook a self-evaluation of our networks, connections, people and projects that keep us busy and active as academic staff and as students. Such networks offer many directions for the future but they also create a sphere within which we operate, and it is the connectedness of those spheres that is key to development.

We also discussed research leadership, what it means to be a leader, how do we like to be led, and how PhD students can consider themselves research leaders: navigating, guiding, making decisions, organising, building consensus and taking control of their research, as well as encouraging those around them.

As part of an on-going renewal of the Centre’s strategy, I invited our PhD students to contribute to our strategy by discussing and agreeing upon the VALUES of the Centre for Cultural & Media Policy Studies. Some had been Masters students with us and so could draw upon a longer period of experience, one had coached Masters students after she completed her own course. Both the academic team and the PhD students agreed on three value statements that we all felt best described the teaching and research in the Centre, as well as all the other activities undertaken:

1) FRIENDSHIP & TOLERANCE – the opportunity to simply ‘hang out’ as well as the feeling of integration and the people-oriented nature of the Centre were highlighted

2) DIALOGUE & SELF-EXPRESSION – the opportunity for Eastern and Western ideas to engage with one another, for Global South and Global North to be in discussion, and the possibility that however idiosyncratic there is space for self-expression

3) INTEGRITY & RESPONSIBILITY – the opportunity to give feedback honestly to one another and for it be acted upon diligently

These represent not only good principles for all scholarly work, and a solid basis for a productive research year ahead for students and supervisors, but they also represent a need to have a wider acknowledgement of the need to bring different value-systems together and agree upon some shared values.

- One comment Not publicly viewable

  1. Jonathan Vickery

    A collective consensus on values is important in a small academic centre like ours, and not just for cooperation and securing our freedom and enjoyment. Values are part of our intellectual inquiry into the nature of human knowledge and the construction of knowledge. How do we construct knowledge of other people, presume to understand them, derive “data” from them, and represent them in our analysis? Values are not simple rules that provide a clear framework; they are ethical commitments that need consistent attention with every new situation, project and collaboration. For example, “friendship and tolerance” are obviously culturally as well as socially determined. In terms of your individual experience, a fuller understanding of friendship and tolerance might only come by exploring the “spaces” of dialogue “between” your traditions.

    It is also worth bearing in mind, that values have an ethical basis, and ethics have a legal dimension. This is certainly true with regards research, which is under increasing pressure to display its methods of validation, as well as transparency and accountability. The University’s work in Research Ethics is interesting, and all incoming research students should familiarise themselves with the various ethical frameworks we work within—and discuss them with your supervisor before any empirical or field work is undertaken. Download the “Research Code of Practice” and have a read:


    03 Oct 2017, 10:41

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