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Searching for Transcendence: Research into Music and Religion

by YPU Admin on September 29, 2016, Comments. Tags: Humanities, music, Religion, Research, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Hannah Burton and I’m currently studying for a PhD in theology and music. As an undergraduate I studied Music at the University of Liverpool, and then moved back to Manchester where I completed a Masters in Religions and Theology. I enjoy the diversity of this subject – especially in a city such as Manchester where a people from a wide variety of religious backgrounds live, work, and have an impact upon the city’s culture. I’m particularly interested in the ways in which people feel they experience religion, or God, in their lives, and my research tries to understand how music can enable this experience for individuals.


In Depth

Music plays a prominent and important role in many religions as part of prayer and worship, and so it seems reasonable to explore how it might create an experience of and a direct connection with something transcendent, or God. To do this, it is useful to have a case study of attitudes toward both religion and music, and examine the similarities and differences therein. Therefore, my research analyses the writings of several early nineteenth-century scholars from the fields of theology, philosophy, and music criticism. Most prominent are FDE Schleiermacher and ETA Hoffmann.


Schleiermacher was a theologian writing at the turn of the nineteenth century. His ideas about religion were radically new at that time – he encouraged his readers to concentrate less on religion’s rituals and doctrine (the in-depth beliefs and ‘rules’ of religion) and to focus instead on having a religious intuition and feeling. He rejected the idea that having a great knowledge of religion was key, and argued, on the other hand, that the essence of religion is being able to perceive, recognise, and feel and presence of the transcendent (or God) in the world around us. However, because the transcendent is not of our world, we can never fully reach or understand it. Nevertheless, Schleiermacher maintains that we must continue to strive to intuit and feel transcendence by engaging closely with everyday objects and experience in our lives.


ETA Hoffmann was a theatre director, composer, and music critic writing at around the same time as Schleiermacher. Some of his best-known writing about music includes interesting ideas about how music reveals an ‘unknown realm’ of ‘spirits’ that is outside of our world. Though music creates a glimpse of this realm, Hoffmann claims that it does not reveal it completely, and so music’s listeners often feel a sense of ‘yearning’ for what Hoffmann notably calls ‘transcendence.’

So there are certainly parallels between these two theories of religion and music! I hope to be able to show, through my research and by looking at some musical examples, that there are particular features in music that enable us to experience, intuit, feel, and yearn from, transcendence. I also hope that this case study might shed some light on how music might continue to evoke an experience of God and transcendence today, particularly across different genres and contexts.


Going Further

Some faith communities and organisations blog about their perspective on the place of music within religion and theology, such as these examples:

https://www.rca.org/resources/theology-and-place-music-worship

http://www.theworshipcommunity.com/theology-of-music-part-one/

To find out more about how music affects us, have a look at this blog post written by a neuroscientist: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-graziano/why-is-mozart-a-religious_b_875352.html

If you want to know more about studying Religions and Theology at the University of Manchester, have a look at our department’s webpage: http://www.alc.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/religionstheology

 

Turn that FoMO upside down

by YPU Admin on August 25, 2016, Comments. Tags: Humanities, psychology, Smartphones, social media, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Em Webster and I'm graduating this year from the University of Manchester with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and 1st Class Honours! I was born and raised in Singapore where I completed all of my education at an International School. In sixth form, I did the International Baccalaureate (IB) where I studied Psychology, Economics and English as my 3 Higher Level Subjects. Coming from a humanities background, when I first started my BSc in Manchester I didn't really know what I had myself in for! Now that I've come to the end of my degree, I can say that Psychology has been a challenging but extremely rewarding course, particularly in this last year. My Final Year Project enabled me to focus on my personal interests - our motivations for engaging with social media and the social connectedness that we perceive as a result. My research also inspired me to pursue my love for writing and enter the School's Science Writing Competition, specifically focusing on how the social phenomenon, the "Fear of Missing Out" (FoMO), influences our online behaviours. I hope you enjoy reading it! 

In Depth

It’s the digital equivalent to the Swiss Army Knife – a personal computer, telephone, camera, GPS, music player, alarm clock, TV, newspaper. It has revolutionized your social life and keeps you in touch with everyone you know. Your Smartphone.

No other device gives you a connection as easy, as powerful or as real-time. A connection that’s mobile and offers you unlimited social opportunities on the go. Facebook tells you everything that your friends are doing. Instagram shows you the world through pictures. Snapchat records events as and when they are happening. Push notifications constantly invite you back to your phone to check what others are doing.

According to Needs Psychology,you and I have six fundamental needs that we seek to satisfy. Our Smartphones help us to do so – they give us a sense of certainty and variety, they make us feel significant, they facilitate our growth and our contribution. But above all, they help us to experience love and connection. Our Smartphones have become our companions – they live in our pockets and they help us meet our social needs wherever we are.

Unsurprisingly, Psychologists are becoming increasingly interested in our online behaviours. Back in 2009, a team of researchers at Georgetown University found that students use Facebook to strengthen pre-existing relationships. They suggest social media helps users create an online identity that feeds their self-esteem. Another study in the Computers of Human Behaviour Journal associates social connectedness with positive psychological outcomes including greater life satisfaction and happiness.

But it’s not all good – Smartphones and mobile social networks mean we often struggle to escape from the constant presence of social information. In fact, knowing what everyone is doing all of the time leads to the pervasive apprehension that others are doing more exciting things than we are. Sound familiar? Jenna Wortham first wrote about the phenomenon known as “FoMO – the Fear of Missing Out” in a New York Times Article. Her quiet evening spent in quickly turned into a night riddled with anxiety, irritation and even jealousy that her friends were out at gigs or at fancy cocktail bars instead.

We are social creatures, we like to feel included by others and we feel anxious when we are not – so FoMO is nothing new. But as Ann Mack discussed at the 2012 SXSW Conference, our Smartphones are amplifying our fears of missing out and have brought the phenomenon to light. Though previous empirical research suggests high social media engagement is associated with positive well being, the first study to add FoMO into the mix revealed something interesting.

Andy Przybylski and colleagues developed a scale for FoMO in 2013 (ratemyfomo.com) and used it to determine whether Uni students fear missing out on what their friends are doing. Their pilot research revealed a number of things – firstly that the people experiencing the highest levels of FoMO were also the ones engaging most frequently with social media. Secondly and perhaps more alarmingly, these people were more likely to text whilst driving and to be distracted during lectures. Turning their attention to the wider impact of FoMO on people’s lives, they found that the desire to stay continually connected was linked with lower life satisfaction.

One explanation for low satisfaction falls in line with Festinger’s Social Comparison Theory. As Ann Mack suggests, we compare ourselves to others in similar situations doing seemingly enviable activities. Although an edge of competitiveness is a good thing, it becomes a problem when we start to feel bad about our own lives simply because our Smartphones are a window into everyone else’s.

Sherry Turkle, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology touches on something important – our relationship with technology is still relatively immature. We are still adjusting to the constant presence of social media in our lives and still learning how to limit its influence. As Dr. Przybylski looks at it – social media is a double-edge sword.

In order to reap the benefits and forget FoMO, we need to learn how to manage our use of social media. So how can you turn your FoMO upside down?

  1. Remember that social media shows all the good stuff. Life isn’t always full of amazing adventures, relationships and job offers – so don’t be fooled by people leaving the boring or embarrassing things out.

  2. Enjoy being out of the loop. Social media is a circus of sorts and you’ll probably find that even a day spent away from it makes you happier in what you’re doing.

  3. Go on adventures. Stop wishing you were doing what everyone else is doing and go and do it.

You might not experience FoMO often or you might be too reluctant to admit that you experience it at all – but I can almost guarantee that at some point you have had pangs of it. So when it happens again, remember how it all works and turn it upside down!

References

  1. Grieve, R., Indian, M., Witteveen, K., Tolan, G. A., & Marrington, J. (2013). Face-to-Face Or Facebook: Can Social Connectedness Be Derived Online? Computers in Human Behavior29(3), 604-609.

  2. Mack, A. (2012). FOMO: How Can Brands Tap Into Fears Of Missing Out. Retrieved April 14, 2016 from http://schedule.sxsw.com/2012/events/event_IAP10651

  3. Pempek, T. A., Yermolayeva, Y. A., & Calvert, S. L. (2009). College Students' Social Networking Experiences On Facebook. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology30(3), 227-238.

  4. Przybylski, A. K., Murayama, K., DeHaan, C. R., & Gladwell, V. (2013). Motivational, Emotional, and Behavioral Correlates of Fear of Missing Out. Computers in Human Behavior29(4), 1841-1848.

  5. Turkle, S. (2012). The Flight From Conversation, The New York Times. Retrieved April 14, 2016 from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/opinion/sunday/the-flight-from-conversation.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1

  6. Wortham, J. (2011). Feel like a wallflower? Maybe it’s your facebook wall. The New York Times. Retrieved Online April 14, 2016 from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/10/business/10ping.html

 

People are the Ultimate Assets

by YPU Admin on August 18, 2016, Comments. Tags: Humanities, Human Resource Management, PhD, Research, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Ning Kang and I am currently a first year PhD student in Development Policy and Management with the Global Development Institute (GDI), which was officially launched not long ago. But actually, this institute is not new. It united the strengths of the Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM) and the Brooks World Poverty Institute (BWPI). I was originally from IDPM, where I finished my master degree in 2013-2014.

It was actually quite interesting that I almost slipped with Manchester three years ago when I firstly got the offer for my Masters degree. I applied for the Human Resource Management programme without realising there were two similar programmes, one was with MBS (Manchester Business School), and the other was with IDPM. So when I realised that my offer was with IDPM instead of MBS, I actually thought about giving up the offer as I wanted to go to MBS. But fortunately, I didn’t refuse the offer and still came eventually. And the moment I started my study, I fell in love with my school. The lecturers have various backgrounds in terms of nationalities and research interests, which make the whole study environment diverse and interesting. They are also caring, encouraging and inspiring, which became part of the reasons for me coming back for my PhD. Now, I am enjoying my PhD life with colleagues coming from more than 12 different countries!

In Depth

I did have a chance to choose another university or even another country to do a PhD, but I chose to stay with IDPM (which is GDI now) as I found organizations in developing countries are worth studying; their HRM is also a fascinating topic owing to its immaturity. Being a Chinese, I have witnessed the changes happening every day. It is not only about the changes of the whole environment, but also about people. As people are considered as the ultimate assets, how to manage them properly has becoming challenging, hereby HRM has become more and more significant.

When HRM was first introduced in the 20th century, it was considered as a comprehensive and coherent approach for better management and development of people in the workplace. Early in the development of HR field the emphasis was often focused on ensuring that employees had the ability and motivation to accomplish certain work allocated by the organization. However, to meet challenges, researchers and practitioners alike have begun to explore the linkages between HRM and strategic management, hereby strategic human resource management (SHRM) is labelled. With the introduction of SHRM, the focus of HR has shifted from simply managing people and allocating jobs towards exploring how human resource can contribute to organization’s goals by utilising their strategic capabilities.

In recognition of its significance, innovation with regard to HRM is currently happening in many places and more recently in China. The open-up policy in China allows knowledge emanating from outside the country to be embraced, which allows innovation and implementation of SHRM gradually taking place within the country. Also, having increasing involvement with international business since the entrance of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the past few decades have not only seen Chinese attracting foreign direct investment into the country, but also have witnessed Chinese multi-national enterprises (MNEs) expansion to overseas owing to the “going out” (Zouchuqu) policy. My study aims at exploring the opportunities and challenges generated by Chinese policy and culture to Chinese MNEs. The examination will be conducted both in the head office in China and the subsidiaries abroad. Hopefully through this study, there can be a better understanding for Chinese MNEs regarding HRM when they expanding to other countries. Meanwhile, it may also be interesting and helpful for other organizations which share similarities with Chinese MNEs.

 

Following Social Change in Beirut

by YPU on July 7, 2016, Comments. Tags: Humanities, Research, Social Anthropology, and UoM

INTRODUCTION

My name is Alice Stefanelli and I am a third-year PhD student in Social Anthropology. I received my Bachelor degree in Ethno-Anthropological Sciences from the University of Bologna, Italy, which is my country of origin. In my third year I came to Britain as an exchange student and I studied for a year at Brunel University, in West London. I loved the experience and I highly recommend it! Spending a term or a full year abroad is a very valuable and enriching experience that you will not regret. Later I was accepted into Goldmiths College, University of London, to do a Master in Social Anthropology, which I did part-time while I worked in a bookshop. Three years ago, I joined the University of Manchester to research the connections between civil society and pro-public space campaigning in Beirut, Lebanon. What I ask myself is: what kind of change do people in Beirut seek? How are they trying to achieve it?


IN DEPTH

In my thesis I try to explore social change in Beirut. I have chosen to look at a group of civil society organisations that campaign against the privatisation of public parks and beaches in the city. These are associations of citizens who do not want their few green public spaces to be sold to real estate developers and turned into expensive resorts that the majority of the population will never be able to afford.

As all anthropologists do, I spent a year in Beirut conducting fieldwork and collecting first-hand data. This meant that I spent time with campaigners: I went to their meetings, I joined them at the protests and other events that they organised, trying to help them out but also listening carefully to what they had to say and trying to understand what kind of social change they desired. In anthropology, this is called “participant observation”. I also conducted a number of interviews with them in order to ask them direct questions about their work and clarify some of my doubts.

To complement my thesis, I am collecting material such as newspaper articles from the local press that discusses these campaigns as well as the history of civil society campaigning in Lebanon, so that I can have a better idea of how things have changed in time.

My thesis is that citizens in Beirut disagree with the local authorities over what the future of the city and its population should be. The local council, backed by the government, seems to give priority to the private interests of big businesses and real estate companies. Campaigners seem to rather think that the interest of the majority of the citizenry of Beirut should be rather privileged. For this reason, they are fighting against the closure of public beaches and parks.

GOING FURTHER

You can watch this great video made by some campaigners on how the Beirut seafront has changed over the decades: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwu49DxVsZk

For a general introduction to anthropology, visit the Anthropology Day’s website: https://londonanthropologyday.co.uk/

And as for Social Anthropology in Manchester: http://www.socialsciences.manchester.ac.uk/subjects/social-anthropology/

 

Money Money Money: How do banks do it?

by YPU Admin on March 31, 2016, Comments. Tags: Banking, finance, Humanities, Law, Money, PhD, Research, and UoM

Introduction

Hi, my name is Max and I am a PhD student at the University of Manchester School of Law. I have been a university student for the past 6 years now and I have really enjoyed my experience. University provides you with the opportunity of learning new things, meeting new people, experiencing a new environment, and finding what it is you want to do in life. For me, particularly the last question has always been difficult: it took me a long time to realise what I wanted to do in life, but pursuing a masters degree after my undergraduate degree gave me an idea. I decided to do research in financial services regulation. I will give you an idea of what this entails. It’s all about money.



In Depth

Financial services significantly affect all members of society. You all use money to pay for different things, such as clothes, shoes, sweets, books etc. If it wasn’t for the financial services industry, money wouldn’t be readily available in the form that we use it today. Let me give you an example:

I imagine that some of you have bank accounts in which you can place your money. You can save money in your bank account and later withdraw it if you decide to spend it. This is referred to as a ‘deposit’, as you deposit your money in your bank account. Your bank can then use this money to create loans to give out to different people. A loan is simply an agreement between a bank and an individual or a company. The bank gives the individual a sum of money and the individual agrees to pay the money back over a certain period of time. For the bank to benefit from this transaction, the individual is required to pay an additional sum of money over the time period. It is up to the individual to decide what to do with the money they receive. They can spend it on clothes, shoes, sweets, books, or something substantially bigger like a car or a house. This bank, therefore, made money readily available to the individual. The money that you deposited is also still available to you. You can withdraw it at any time. All banks put together make up the financial services industry. They are an important part of the money available to us. They significantly influence how money is readily available to all members of society.


This seems like a good thing doesn’t it? Sadly, however, this system comes with its problems. Consider this: what if the individual is unable to repay their loan within the time period agreed upon? What if the bank gives out so many loans that there is no money left for you to withdraw when you want to? How does the bank decide who is suitable to receive a loan? Does the bank use any other means to finance its loans? All of these questions are addressed in financial services regulation. Research in this area essentially tries to make the financial services industry reliable and stable so that money is as readily available as described above. Many of the issues get very complex. It can be very difficult for researchers to keep up with everything that happens in the financial services industry. This is precisely why I believe this to be an interesting research area. New developments arise constantly that require addressing. Different researchers come up with different ways of addressing these issues. I have found myself able to add my own thoughts to this interesting area. It is a very rewarding experience.

Going further

Here is a YouTube link to an interesting explanation of banking – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqD3hnjZBTM