Friday, 16 June 2017

15 things you’ll know if you’ve been to the University of Hertfordshire

At the University of Hertfordshire the student experience is more than just studying, we love our food and our nights out too! Social Street Team member Tamsin breaks down her 15 things you'd know if you've been here...


1. Tickets for the forum sell out faster than you can say “Hertfordshire”.

It’ll be two weeks before the biggest cheeky Wednesday night of the year and the tickets are sold out but there’s always be one geezer trying to sell tickets for £60. www.forumhertfordshire.co.uk

2. Everybody loves the Forum Restaurant chicken.



You can get a massive range of food from all different area of the world from the restaurants, or you can join most students and get the chicken and rice because you can’t beat it really.
www.facebook.com/FoodHerts

3. The shuttle bus journey after a night out is sometimes more fun than the night out itself.


You’d never think a 3am shuttle ride lasting about 5 minutes would be interesting but you experience some weird and wonderful things during that time.
www.unobus.info/service.shtml?serviceid=1728

4. When you meet new people there’s a 99% chance they either do Aerospace engineering or motorsport.













5. When anybody asks, you say go to a University “near London”.

Let’s admit it, it’s just easier and it basically is, right?

6. Everybody wants to come visit you in Hatfield whenever Slam Dunk/J Hus comes to the Forum.

Suddenly everybody has been “wanting to come up to visit” for ages and Hatfield becomes the number 1 destination to be.


7. The guy in the pancake hut from outside the Forum has changed your life.

He’s open after nights out AND he takes card payment, win/win.


8. You meet the weirdest people in the Forum toilets.




9. You’ve literally seen other people wearing Go Herts/AU hoodies in your hometown.


They’re everywhere.

10. Meeting randomers at the MacDonald’s walk-through after a night out is essential.

Nobody else can quiet believe the miracle that is the tiny little window of chicken nugget heaven after a night out.


11. You know you’re in for a good night when the Forum cracks out the fire breathing dancers.  

Seriously, how do they do it?


12. An Oceana/Prysm night out and the bus ride back, is an experience you’ll never forget.  

Don’t forget the detour to “the wall” after the bus journey (if you know, you know).


13. 80% of people you know live “somewhere” behind de Hav. 

We got to admit some of the nicest houses are down there so we can’t blame them.

https://letsu.co.uk

14. See everyone you know in ASDA before a night out.
  


Clearly everybody else has the right idea to get the £12 bottle of vodka while it’s an offer.

http://storelocator.asda.com/store/hatfield

15. The highlight of Hatfield is Harpsfield Hall.  

How did we ever survive without a pitcher of Pornstar Martini at 'Spoons?

www.facebook.com/HarpsfieldHallHatfieldJDWetherspoon


Tamsin




A little bit about me… I’m Tamsin, a member of your new University Social Media Street Team. I currently have a lifestyle and beauty blog, and I am currently a second year Biomedical Science student. I’m a pretty bubbly person, so if you see me around say hi! Visit my blog if you like random posts about anything, from makeup to political matters and everything in between.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

People are going to court over dead family members' Facebook pages – it's time for post-mortem privacy

File 20170602 20575 44ky55      
Edina Harbinja, University of Hertfordshire
The grieving parents of a dead teenager in Germany were recently denied access to their daughter’s Facebook account. They wanted to read the profile page to see if she was being bullied, but the social network argued that doing so would compromise the privacy of her contacts – and a judge agreed. None of this, however, takes into account what the girl would have wanted.


As you share more of your personal information, communications and photographs online, there is a growing risk that one day your sentimental keepsakes could be locked up for ever. Or, on the other hand, that your family, friends or heirs may gain unwanted access to intimate records. It’s time for the law to offer the same protection to our online property as it does to our physical possessions.


In most countries’ legal systems, individuals have the right to decide what happens to their wealth and assets when they die. This is the long-established principle of testamentary freedom – that is, freedom to make a will and bequeath your assets to (arguably) whomever you wish. This principle is underpinned by Western ideas of autonomy and free will, established in works of philosophers such as John Stuart Mill, John Locke, Immanuel Kant or Jeremy Bentham.


In my research, I argue that this same autonomy and freedom should extend online and enable individuals to decide what happens to their online “wealth” (mainly their personal data) when they die. Only 38% of people surveyed in England and Wales in 2015 had a will, meaning most people hadn’t made legal provisions for their deaths. Yet we still think the law should offer this protection. So even if most people don’t care about protecting their online data after they die, in principle there should still be a way for someone to do so.


My colleague Prof Lilian Edwards and I believe there should be a mechanism to address this inconsistency that we would call post-mortem privacy. This refers to the right of a person to preserve and control what becomes of his or her reputation, dignity, integrity, secrets or memory after death.

Current protection

At the moment, this kind of protection varies around the world and, in most jurisdictions’ succession laws, families have a default access to a deceased person’s memories and data. Service providers already permit some of this, too. For instance, this means that families can ask for Facebook accounts to be deleted or for access to some of the content (but not private chats). They can also request the profile be turned into a memorial.
Would you want your parents to see all your messages? Shutterstock

But users might not want their families to have these powers and instead might want control over the very sensitive personal content found on some social media profiles and the digital identity that goes with it. The legal recognition of post-mortem privacy would enable users to decide what happens to their data after death. They could request full or partial deletion, transfer of some of their data to friends or family, or some other option.
 
This concept has so far received little attention in law – especially in common-law systems, such as in England, where legal decisions depend partly on previous judgments. Common-law system have historically been much less inclined to protect personalty and privacy rights than civil law systems. This is particularly true for the post-mortem protection of one’s personality. In fact, the UK law expressly excludes this protection. But there have also been some very exciting recent changes in the US and France.

Legal models

The model law adopted by several states in the US suggests that the user should have a right to choose what happens to their data and assets on death. If people express this wish using technology, for example with something like Google’s Inactive Account Manager tool, then that should override even provisions of their will.


A similar solution has recently been adopted in France in the Digital Republic Act 2016. This would mean that, for the first time in Europe, the law could recognise the use of software tools for the post-mortem transmission of digital assets, such as Google Inactive Account Manager or Facebook Legacy Contact, similar to the American legislation mentioned above.

These tools within the services where we store our data allow users to choose whether they want their accounts entirely deleted after they die or to leave some of their data to chosen beneficiaries (typically their friends or family). Although these tools have been available for a few years with, anecdotally, relatively little uptake, the fact they have been adopted by some of the world’s biggest service providers suggests post-mortem privacy is not seen as obscure, creepy or impossible anymore. There are already some practical and legal mechanisms to recognise and enforce it.
The ConversationBut to further clarify this legally and ensure more people have access to this kind of service, post-mortem privacy should be recognised in other countries’ data protection laws where personal data isn’t currently protected after death, for instance in the EU. Without it, we can expect to see many more battles over our online heirlooms.


Edina Harbinja, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Hertfordshire
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Why Forgiveness Matters

What does it mean to forgive people, and when should we forgive them? When is it right – if ever - to forgive those who are not sorry or repentant? The long tradition of reflection about forgiveness in world religions has been complemented in recent years by a growing interest in the topic from both philosophers and psychologists. Counsellors, clergy and interested members of the public met in St Albans on Saturday 13th May to discuss this topic at a day workshop organized by the University of Hertfordshire Philosophy Department in association with St Albans Cathedral Study Centre. The workshop consisted of three presentations - by a philosopher, a theologian and a psychologist - and a general discussion on the topic of forgiveness.

Professor John Lippitt (Hertfordshire) introduced the day and set the scene with a talk entitled “Philosophical Approaches to Forgiveness; Forgiveness as a ‘work of love’?” The talk introduced some of the key questions raised by philosophers who have written on forgiveness in recent years. After raising the basic question of what forgiveness is (a speech act? a psychological process?), Lippitt introduced some important conceptual distinctions (for instance, between forgiveness, condonation and excuse); considered the question of whether forgiveness at its best should be conditional or unconditional; and began to explore what difference it might make to think of forgiveness as a “work of love” (to borrow a phrase from the Danish thinker Søren Kierkegaard). He stressed the importance of the connection between the disposition to forgive and other virtues or qualities of character such as hope, humility and empathetic understanding.

Building upon this, theologian Professor Anthony Bash (Durham) explored the biblical perspective in a talk entitled “Re-Imagining Biblical Forgiveness”. Through a careful look at key passages on forgiveness, particularly from the New Testament, Bash sought to dispel some common myths (for example regarding Jesus’ reported words on the cross) and to separate what those texts say from some of the other ideas that have grown up around them since they were written. He explored the differences between divine forgiveness and interpersonal forgiveness between fellow humans. Bash stressed that in the biblical context, interpersonal forgiveness is typically about restored relationships, and that it needs to satisfy the demands of justice, as well as of mercy. For this reason, he expressed scepticism about unconditional forgiveness, arguing for the importance of prior repentance.


Psychologist Dr Liz Gulliford (Birmingham) explored “Psychological Approaches to Forgiveness: Practical Means to an Ethical End”. Gulliford focused primarily on psychological processes involved in forgiveness and on therapeutic means of promoting it. After addressing some popular distortions of the meaning of forgiveness that tend to inhibit people’s progress in forgiving others, she turned her attention to various psychological interventions that have been developed to facilitate forgiveness, focusing on those involving reframing the offender and on developing a sense of empathy. Some have criticised psychological approaches as focussing in an unhealthy way on the person seeking to forgive, and as construing forgiveness reductively as a means of maintaining mental equilibrium or improving well-being. Against this, Gulliford argued that while forgiveness is important for our mental health it is also central to the health of our relationships, and aimed to show that psychological insights can be fruitfully integrated with both religious and secular worldviews to offer practical insights to help realise forgiveness as an ethical ideal.


In discussion after each session and in the round-table that closed the day, questions raised included how to judge whether and when to forgive in the context of domestic violence, and the various “risks” of forgiveness. The unusually high quality of the questions suggested that the topic was one that spoke to people, one participant later commenting that “forgiveness is a much more subtle and nuanced area than I'd realised and seems highly relevant to the context of spiritual direction”. As a result of the day, John Lippitt – who is currently working on a book provisionally entitled Love’s Forgiveness – has been invited to give a follow-up session on “Forgiving oneself” as part of the St Albans Cathedral Study Centre’s public lecture series next year. Here he plans to explore conceptual and ethical questions arising from the concept of self-forgiveness.




“Why Forgiveness Matters” is part of Why Philosophy Matters, a series of public events organised by the University’s Philosophy Department in partnership with Bloomsbury Publishing. Events take place in London and St Albans. For further details, see https://en-gb.facebook.com/WhyPhilosophyMatters/.


Professor John Lippitt Philosophy Group School of Humanities

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Each era gets the King Arthur it deserves – and we got Guy Ritchie's

File 20170522 25076 1ys6pn2
Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Sylvie Magerstaedt, University of Hertfordshire
With a certain comforting certainty, a new version of the Arthurian legend seems to hit cinemas about once a decade: think of Camelot (1967), Excalibur (1981), First Knight (1995) and King Arthur (2004). This is not to mention the numerous television versions that have appeared in between. Now we have director Guy Ritchie’s take on the subject, with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The Conversation
Each of the previous iterations had a very different focus – and like all good (vaguely) historical fiction, tell us more about the present than the past. This is particularly true for myths because they always have a “built-in ambiguity that makes them applicable to a variety of times and places”, as the US theologian S. Brent notes.


For example, while Excalibur was emphasising the magical elements of the myth with the wizard Merlin at its centre, both First Knight and King Arthur tried hard to “historicise” the legendary king.
Sean Connery as Arthur and Richard Gere as love rival Lancelot in First Knight (1995).

First Knight presents a traditional Arthur as a benign and ageing king (played by Sean Connery) ruling over Camelot as the most advanced and bustling metropolis of its time. In his old age, he marries the much younger Guinevere (Julia Ormond), who will ultimately betray him with the much younger Lancelot (played by Richard Gere at the height of his career).


It is a tale of a great nation being brought down by individual failure. Religion also plays an important role in the film as it is faith rather than magic from which Arthur draws strength, for example when he publicly prays: “May God grant us the wisdom to discover right, the will to choose it, and the strength to make it endure.”


The 2004 version directed by Antoine Fuqua provides a stark contrast to this theme. Not only does it set the story about 1,000 years before the more common medieval period, it also boldly claims that the myth was “based on a real hero, who lived 1,600 years ago”. It promises its audience the “truth behind the myth” – by creating an entirely new version of it.
King Arthur (2004) attempted to ‘historicise’ the Arthur legend.

Sitting neatly alongside other sword-and-sandal blockbusters of the same year, such as Troy and Alexander, King Arthur moves its subject to late Roman Britain. It presents Arthur (Clive Owen) as a Roman soldier, who is on a last mission to free the Pope’s godson from the savage tribes north of Hadrian’s Wall.


What he discovers, however, is the savagery of the Christian church, ultimately siding with the pagan tribes to free Britannia from Saxon invaders as well as from Roman deprivation. Magic is almost completely absent. Instead, it is Arthur’s skill as a seasoned soldier and clever strategist, rather than a magical sword, which makes him successful.

Man, magic (and David Beckham)

What then, can we learn from the most recent instalment of the myth, claimed to be the first in a series of six? First of all, Guy Ritchie’s version sets the story in a fantasy time that is somewhat hard to pin down. While the chainmail armour and lady’s dresses are loosely medieval, the settings of the Royal palace are hard to define, and the CGI skyline of Londinium (which features more prominently than Camelot) is scattered with Roman ruins, including an enormous Colosseum.

It also returns to a focus on the more magical elements of the story, stating in its opening line that “for centuries, man and magic lived in peace…” The first few minutes of the film establish its apparent attempt at offering a new Lord of the Rings, including giant elephants battling a hilltop city. We even get a close-up shot of a fiery magic eye that is reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s visual rendering of Sauron in Lord of the Rings.
It wouldn’t be a Guy Ritchie movie without a bit of knuckle. Courtesy of Warner Bros.

What then about the myth? In this film, Arthur is a streetwise boy rather than a royal knight or an experienced soldier, a rags-to-riches story fit for a time in which class hierarchies are continuously challenged. He is a thief, driven more by personal revenge than the higher motive of freeing his nation.


Moreover, the film revives and expands the magical and fantastic elements of Excalibur to align itself much more closely with epics such as the already mentioned Lord of the Rings (2001-3), The Hobbit (2012-14) and the enormously popular television saga Game of Thrones, rather than its immediate cinematic predecessors. This in itself is not a problem.


The problem is that Ritchie seems to misunderstand what makes those works successful as myths. Ritchie’s iconoclastic style may have worked well in small crime comedies such as Snatch (2000) and maybe to some extent even in his take on Sherlock Holmes (although I’m sceptical, but that’s another story). Here, it simply undermines the epic grandeur suggested by the visuals.


For example, as Robbie Collin notes in the Telegraph: “The sword-pulling scene … is sabotaged from within by a David Beckham cameo that goes on for line after forehead-slapping line, and saps the moment of its mythic excitement.” Whereas you could argue that myths have always been somewhat of a mash-up of various cultural influences, Ritchie’s film is so eclectic that it fails to develop any coherent mythical realm in which the audience can immerse itself.


Apart from the already mentioned cinematic elements, the film also features magical Egyptian pyramids, a powerful sea monster hiding in a cave reminiscent of Beowulf (2008) and a Kung Fu school – to name but a few. All this makes for an entertaining and visually stunning cinematic spectacle, but it fails to provide what myths can do best – namely offer a coherent and inspiring worldview and ethos. Sadly, it may be exactly this lack of this inspiring vision that makes this film so contemporary.


Sylvie Magerstaedt, Principal Lecturer in Media Cultures, University of Hertfordshire
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

BAFTAs 2017: BBC sweeps the board as Netflix challenge fails to materialise

BAFTAs 2017: BBC sweeps the board as Netflix challenge fails to materialise

Lyndsay Duthie, University of Hertfordshire
The big question of this year’s BAFTAs was how many awards Netflix would romp home with. Most of the industry attention was focused on the way the various subscription video on-demand services have grown to prominence over the past few years and most people expected Netflix’s much-lauded £100m drama, The Crown, to walk away with a hatful of awards – after all, it dominated with five nominations, including best drama, and for three of its actors. The Conversation
But it wasn’t to be. On the night the spoils went to the BBC’s Happy Valley, which was made on a fraction of The Crown’s budget and which walked away with best drama series, while Sarah Lancashire won best actress. Damilola, Our Loved Boy – the BBC true-crime drama, which retold the story of Damilola Taylor’s tragic murder and his family’s fight for justice – also won two two awards. It was part of a dominant night for the public broadcaster which won awards in 18 categories, putting paid to predictions that this would be a trophy year for Netflix and its subscription stablemates.
But these are new big players in blue-chip content and their time will surely come. Gaining millions of new viewers each year and producing ever more of their own award-winning productions, Netflix, the market leader, is now in nearly a quarter of British households. BAFTA’s decision to remove the rule that 50% of all funding for a series and creative control had to come from the UK meant that dramas such as The Crown could compete on a level playing field whereas previously it could only have featured in the international category.

Not all viewers were happy about these changes. After the nominations were announced, many took to Twitter to argue that The Crown and others should be in a new streaming category. But I think the impact these blockbuster series are having is hard to ignore if a contemporary award programme is to stay relevant. The best must compete with the best.

Keeping it nice

Most of the recent controversy had been got out of the way by the night itself. There had been much comment when Tom Hiddleston, who earlier won a Golden Globe for his starring role in The Night Manager, failed to garner even a nomination at the BAFTAs. Similarly there was a deal of head-scratching that the stand-out hit series Line of Duty – which attracted 8m viewers for its final episode – was only up for one gong.
According to the Guardian, some of the seemingly strange nominations were down to the rule that only one piece of material could be submitted by each contender. This meant that, while a one-off TV drama could be entered in its entirety, judges were only allowed to view and assess a single episode of a multi-part drama. This might shed light on why Benedict Cumberbatch was nominated for his title role in Richard III, while Hiddlestone was not – judges had only seen a sixth of his work on The Night Manager.
Anyone hoping for overtly political speeches in this election year would have been disappointed. One wonders whether the reports that BAFTA had emailed nominees asking them to offer “a short anecdote or an interesting detail about the production in their victory speeches” might have had something to do with that. As it turned out, host Sue Perkins – of Great British Bake-Off fame – had the best line of the night, introducing the best leading actress category: “This award represents what so many actresses aspire to – being paid just under the same amount as the leading actor”.

Meanwhile, James Nesbitt – who presented the award – made an impassioned speech to promote the cause of Equal Representation of Actresses and noted that inequality on screen (there are three male leading roles for every female role) “is an inequality that is absorbed by everyone on their screens every day”. He added: “As the father of two children - two girls - this should change.” Hear hear.

Ed Balls, Gangnam-style

Just over a year after BBC3 went online only, it was feared that the channel’s knack for developing such little gems as Gavin & Stacey might have been lost, but a win for its scripted comedy, People Just Do Nothing, will go some way towards proving the doubters wrong.
The other highlight of what was actually a fairly tame night was Virgin TV’s “must-see moment” gong which gave us, among other highlights, Ed Balls dancing in “Gangnam-style” on Strictly Come Dancing as well as Michelle Obama doing Carpool Karaoke with James Corden and the great snake vs iguana chase from Planet Earth II. Great news for iguana fans everywhere as the thrilling death chase carried off the honours.
So it was actually a pretty life-affirming night for those people who consider that the “entertain” part of the BBC’s mission to “inform, educate, entertain” should remain at the centre of the broadcaster’s core values. We will, of course, continue to see the rise and rise of Netflx and video on-demand, there’s simply too much money involved for this not to happen.

But I went to bed happy in the knowledge that the BBC can still create vivid, powerful and popular programmes. And, of course, with the indelible image of Ed Balls dancing Gangnam-style burned on to my eyelids. And that’s going to be hard to shift.
Lyndsay Duthie, Programme Leader for Film & Television, University of Hertfordshire
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The big question of this year’s BAFTAs was how many awards Netflix would romp home with. Most of the industry attention was focused on the way the various subscription video on-demand services have grown to prominence over the past few years and most people expected Netflix’s much-lauded £100m drama, The Crown, to walk away with a hatful of awards – after all, it dominated with five nominations, including best drama, and for three of its actors. The Conversation
But it wasn’t to be. On the night the spoils went to the BBC’s Happy Valley, which was made on a fraction of The Crown’s budget and which walked away with best drama series, while Sarah Lancashire won best actress. Damilola, Our Loved Boy – the BBC true-crime drama, which retold the story of Damilola Taylor’s tragic murder and his family’s fight for justice – also won two two awards. It was part of a dominant night for the public broadcaster which won awards in 18 categories, putting paid to predictions that this would be a trophy year for Netflix and its subscription stablemates.
But these are new big players in blue-chip content and their time will surely come. Gaining millions of new viewers each year and producing ever more of their own award-winning productions, Netflix, the market leader, is now in nearly a quarter of British households. BAFTA’s decision to remove the rule that 50% of all funding for a series and creative control had to come from the UK meant that dramas such as The Crown could compete on a level playing field whereas previously it could only have featured in the international category.

Not all viewers were happy about these changes. After the nominations were announced, many took to Twitter to argue that The Crown and others should be in a new streaming category. But I think the impact these blockbuster series are having is hard to ignore if a contemporary award programme is to stay relevant. The best must compete with the best.

Keeping it nice

Most of the recent controversy had been got out of the way by the night itself. There had been much comment when Tom Hiddleston, who earlier won a Golden Globe for his starring role in The Night Manager, failed to garner even a nomination at the BAFTAs. Similarly there was a deal of head-scratching that the stand-out hit series Line of Duty – which attracted 8m viewers for its final episode – was only up for one gong.
According to the Guardian, some of the seemingly strange nominations were down to the rule that only one piece of material could be submitted by each contender. This meant that, while a one-off TV drama could be entered in its entirety, judges were only allowed to view and assess a single episode of a multi-part drama. This might shed light on why Benedict Cumberbatch was nominated for his title role in Richard III, while Hiddlestone was not – judges had only seen a sixth of his work on The Night Manager.
Anyone hoping for overtly political speeches in this election year would have been disappointed. One wonders whether the reports that BAFTA had emailed nominees asking them to offer “a short anecdote or an interesting detail about the production in their victory speeches” might have had something to do with that. As it turned out, host Sue Perkins – of Great British Bake-Off fame – had the best line of the night, introducing the best leading actress category: “This award represents what so many actresses aspire to – being paid just under the same amount as the leading actor”.

Meanwhile, James Nesbitt – who presented the award – made an impassioned speech to promote the cause of Equal Representation of Actresses and noted that inequality on screen (there are three male leading roles for every female role) “is an inequality that is absorbed by everyone on their screens every day”. He added: “As the father of two children - two girls - this should change.” Hear hear.

Ed Balls, Gangnam-style

Just over a year after BBC3 went online only, it was feared that the channel’s knack for developing such little gems as Gavin & Stacey might have been lost, but a win for its scripted comedy, People Just Do Nothing, will go some way towards proving the doubters wrong.
The other highlight of what was actually a fairly tame night was Virgin TV’s “must-see moment” gong which gave us, among other highlights, Ed Balls dancing in “Gangnam-style” on Strictly Come Dancing as well as Michelle Obama doing Carpool Karaoke with James Corden and the great snake vs iguana chase from Planet Earth II. Great news for iguana fans everywhere as the thrilling death chase carried off the honours.
So it was actually a pretty life-affirming night for those people who consider that the “entertain” part of the BBC’s mission to “inform, educate, entertain” should remain at the centre of the broadcaster’s core values. We will, of course, continue to see the rise and rise of Netflx and video on-demand, there’s simply too much money involved for this not to happen.

But I went to bed happy in the knowledge that the BBC can still create vivid, powerful and popular programmes. And, of course, with the indelible image of Ed Balls dancing Gangnam-style burned on to my eyelids. And that’s going to be hard to shift.
Lyndsay Duthie, Programme Leader for Film & Television, University of Hertfordshire
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Monday, 22 May 2017

True crime: why the Irish counterfeiting wave of the late 18th century was a myth

File 20170516 11937 t9i88y
Satirical Bank Note (1820), highlighting how easy it was to be hanged for spending fake money, despite how prevalent it was. George Cruikshank and William Hone
Adam Crymble, University of Hertfordshire http://www.herts.ac.uk/apply/schools-of-study/humanities

The claim that immigrants or minorities are more criminal than the general population is a common trope. From Donald Trump’s claim that Mexicans in the US were “bringing drugs … bringing crime. They’re rapists”, to the frequent portrayal of African-Americans as having a criminal mentality, to how black men are disproportionately stopped by the police under “stop and search” laws in the UK. Other studies have explored how “driving while black” can increase a drivers’ likelihood of being charged with a traffic offence.
The Conversation
People have long blamed those unlike themselves. Are immigrants and minorities more criminal than locals, or just more likely to get caught – or even just more likely to be blamed? An example of Irish living in London at the beginning of the professional police era shows that who ends up in front of the judge is more dependent on how the crime is policed than on who is responsible. If police tactics unduly target minority groups, then this inflation of the criminal statistics can, and has, been used to paint minority groups in a negative light.

Bank notes not worth the paper

London experienced a massive crime wave between 1797 and 1821, linked almost entirely to counterfeiting and forgery. The problem got so bad that people began to worry if the cash in their pocket was real – aware that they could be executed for knowingly spending bad money. Bank notes had only recently been introduced in England and, as historian Randall McGowen has remarked, they were “scarcely more than a printed form with a number, a date and a clerk’s signature”. Forgers even had the gall to produce the fake bank notes in prison, selling them onward for a fraction of their face value to anyone brave enough to attempt to pass them off in the city’s shops.
A George III gold sovereign from 1817, when coins were made of gold – unless they were fakes. Classical Numismatic Group, CC BY-SA
Even coinage, then comprised of actual silver and gold, was at risk. Talented button makers and engravers turned their attention to the technically similar processes of making false coins, which would be made with a cheaper metal and rubbed with aqua fortis (nitric acid) or aqua regis (a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acids) to make the fake appear either silver or gold respectively.
Soon the city was crawling with fake money, including more than 250,000 forged banknotes. Patrick Colquhoun, a magistrate of the era, estimated 120 sellers were each distributing hundreds of false coins onto the city’s streets. He singled out the Irish as one of the problem groups behind the crime wave.

Justice deserved?

Peter King’s previous research on Irish crime claimed the justice system did not show an anti-Irish prejudice and that the Irish criminals got what was coming to them. Certainly there are records from London’s courtrooms to support this.

For example, Irishmen John Fennell and James Gillington were arrested in 1799 after having allegedly forged more than 600 bank notes with a home-made printing press. But at the other end of the spectrum the records are filled with Irish such as John Brown, who tried to pay for his glass of gin at the pub with a false coin. Looking at the numbers alone the Irish do seem to have been a problem – but these numbers hide the extent to which policing strategy affected who got arrested in the first place.

Initially, the authorities relied almost exclusively on tips from shopkeepers who had been offered false money. It fell to them to detain suspects and call for the watchman who would make the arrest. This meant people spending false money had a far greater chance of getting arrested than those involved in the more profitable aspects of manufacture and wholesale.

The Irish were more involved in the petty but very public act of spending the money – those aspects of the crime most associated with poverty. As new arrivals, the Irish were at a further disadvantage, and cunning locals were only too happy to trick their new “friends” into buying a round at the bar with the false coins they supplied. With the system of policing set up to almost exclusively target these minor players, the courtrooms filled with poor Irish which led to their reputation for criminality.


Enter the detectives

Despite these arrests the problem of forgery worsened. So, in 1812, the Bank of England changed its strategy, encouraging specialist detectives to hunt for the real counterfeiters. With generous rewards as incentives, these detectives soon managed to infiltrate the criminal networks. This often involved using accomplices in the crime to trick the counterfeiters and wholesalers into selling to an undercover agent, in exchange for a reduction in their own sentence.

For the first time the Bank was encouraging local criminals to “out” other local criminals and, as they did so, the ethnic makeup of defendants appearing in the court began to change: the number of English defendants rose 27-fold in the years immediately after the change in policing strategy.
This research highlights what gets missed when policing focuses on crime perpetrated by ethnic minorities. No one at the time noticed the dramatic reduction in Irish defendants but, by the 1810s, the claim that the Irish were behind the forged currency crime wave was unsupportable. This wasn’t because the situation had changed for the criminals, but because the police had changed where they were looking for them – and discovered that the real culprits behind the crime wave were the local English, and probably always had been.

Adam Crymble, Lecturer in digital history, University of Hertfordshire
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Cyber-attacks and Ransomware

In the wake of the recent cyber-attack on the NHS this week Dr. Stilianos Vidalis, Director of Training for the Cyber Security Centre at the University of Hertfordshire, takes a look at ransomware and the vulnerabilities it exploits.

It is my understanding that a number of information environments across the world have been affected by a ransomware called WannaCrypt0r 2.0. This specific ransomware, and all of it variants, is not something new. Previous iterations have been classified as low impact. Ransomeware is a type of malware that encrypts the contents of the secondary storage devices of a computer until a payment is made. In some occasions, like in the recent incident, the ransomware will also propagate to other active nodes of the same environment. Malware is a type of software virus that is specifically designed to cause a detrimental effect to a computer or a network of computers. This detrimental effect can be disruption, physical or logical damage, unauthorised access to data, or any of the above combinations. 



In this occasion, it is believed that the ransomware only caused a disruption by encrypting contents of hard disks using the Advanced Encryption Standard with a 128 bit key, asking for $300 to be paid in bitcoin. Unfortunately, this disruption was caused to a number of hospitals in the UK, telecommunication providers in Europe and other companies overseas. The impact to society was significant. Apropos, it is a daily and rather well documented type of attack that has become very prevalent since the days of cryptocurrencies and anonymising technologies were made available to the public.

It is reported that WannaCrypt0r 2.0 takes advantage of the EternalBlue Windows SMB vulnerability to propagate. SMB stands for Server Message Block. SMB is a network file sharing protocol, mainly implemented in Windows domains. According to Microsoft: 


"The Microsoft SMB Protocol is a client-server implementation and consists of a set of data packets, each containing a request sent by the client or a response sent by the server. These packets can be broadly classified as follows:
• Session control packets—Establishes and discontinues a connection to shared server resources.
• File access packets—Accesses and manipulates files and directories on the remote server.
• General message packets—Sends data to print queues, mailslots, and named pipes, and provides data about the status of print queues."



The particular vulnerability WannaCrypt0r 2.0 takes advantage of, was discovered at the end of 2016. A proof of concept exploit was made available to the public at the beginning of February 2017.



This leaves the question of how the ransomware managed to infiltrate the information environments. There can be a number of potential sources: spearfishing attacks (spam email campaigns), intrusive ads, pop-ups, notifications that come up in internet browsers… The point being that one way or another, users have to allow (without them realising what it is they are actually doing) for the initial infection.

Microsoft addressed the technical issue at the beginning of March 2017. Unfortunately, companies around the world without appropriate risk and threat assessment processes got affected. Immediate solutions are to inform computer users about this specific malware and malware type, and apply the official patch regardless of the business sector you operate in. The long term solution is the identification of the baseline security and the development of a security culture within the organisation. 
This can be broken down to the:

• development and application of a comprehensive vulnerability identification process.

• policy regarding internal and external penetration tests.

• policy regarding a comprehensive risk and threat assessment process

• policy regarding end user training.



The University of Hertfordshire has a number of solutions and products that can assist organisations in developing and establishing a security culture. The School of Computer Science offers technical and non-technical undergraduate and postgraduate programmes of study in cyber security and computer science including a degree apprenticeship. Our Cyber Security Centre can offer advise and consultancy on the aforementioned topics and issues.



Dr. Stilianos Vidalis

Director of Training

Cyber Security Centre

University of Hertfordshire

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Online Proctoring for Remote Examination (OP4RE)

In recent years, open and online education in Europe has grown rapidly, but for many providers, it remains necessary to administer tests and exams under proctored (invigilated) conditions. Traditional forms of testing in a test center or at an institution of higher education are not always efficient, they can be expensive for both the student and the institution and as such may hinder access to, and progress in online education. Technology that facilitates online proctoring (i.e allowing students to take examinations at home) offers a possible solution to this challenge.


In this project, six higher education institutions from across Europe, and a technology service provider, will collaborate to establish guidelines on how online proctoring may be used to support secure remote examinations. The project will focus on, security and privacy, practical procedures, protocols, and the student experience. Through the collaboration of the partner institutions, these areas are studied at a European level, harmonized and confirmed. This will strengthen the transnational acknowledgement of acquired competencies and improve the access to, and flow of European students through higher education.


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is the overall coordinator of this KA2 Strategic Partnership Erasmus+ project. The other parties collaborating include, RISBO of the Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam (Nl), Fontys hogescholen (Nl), Wilhelm Büchner University of Applied Science Darmstadt (Ge), Hertfordshire University (GB), Universiteit Hasselt (Be), Fédération Interuniversitaire de l’Enseignement à Distance (Fr) and ProctorExam (Nl).


A public website of the project is located at: http://onlineproctoring.eu


For more information contact Professor Amanda Jefferies, School of Computer Science



Friday, 17 March 2017

Applying for Student Finance – A Parent's Perspective

If you're a parent of a university applicant and are baffled by the Student Finance System, you're not alone. Head of the Student Centre, and parent herself, Julie Kelly takes a look at what you need to know about the application process.


So you’ve trekked half way across the country attending open days, you read 15 different versions of their personal statement, and you’ve watched in amazement as they’ve received offers for a place at University. It’s now time to start thinking about the next big hurdle, applying for Student Finance.


A couple of basics to get you started:

  • The student finance application process is administered by Student Finance England (or equivalent in Wales, Scotland & NI) and is completely separate from UCAS (although they signpost to quite helpful information). UCAS will not be checking that the application for finance has been made, the responsibility for this sits with the student. Equally their chosen University will have expected the application to have been successfully made before the start of term. Without funding in place your son or daughter will be personally liable for their fees and will have no money to live off, so it’s worth keeping an eye on this!
  • Just like when they applied for University through UCAS, your son or daughter will need to complete the application process themselves. Everyone is eligible to a basic level of funding, but higher level assistance is available based on your household income, so you will also have a part to play. Student Finance eligibility works on a sliding scale, so the more money you earn, the less they will receive and of course the more the bank of mum and dad will need to take the strain. All funding is in the form of loans that have to be repaid (by the student) as the government no longer offers any non-repayable grants although some universities will offer some level of bursaries or scholarships. If this is something you are interested in (and let’s face it who wouldn’t be interested in free money!) then you need to make sure that you don’t “un-tick” the share my information box on the Bursary and Scholarship page. 

Photo of coins, pens, and paper

  • Repayments only kick in after graduation, and then only when earnings are above £21,000 (more information about this). All students can apply to get the maximum loan to cover the cost of the course (tuition fee loan), but the level of living expenses they can apply for (maintenance loan) will depend on a number of factors, e.g. whether they intend to study in London, live at home, and how much you earn. If you want to check how much they will be entitled to borrow you can check this using the Government Student Finance Calculator.

  • Give yourself plenty of time, both in terms of applying for student finance early and putting aside a decent amount of time to complete the actual application process. Student Finance England promises to assess loan applications in 6 weeks, but it’s probably not a good idea to leave applying until the summer. The application process opens in February/March each year so apply early so there is plenty of time to resolve any problems or queries. It’s important to keep checking to make sure that the status of the application changes from “submitted” to “approved”. The last thing anyone wants in September is to find out that their maintenance loan isn’t ready because of some small outstanding query.

  • They don’t need to have decided on a university at the point of application. Although they will be asked to say where they intend to study, this can be updated at a later date; either because they’ve changed their mind or if they don’t get into their first choice university. Having said this it’s vital that the new university details are updated before 1st September via their online portal. If not then the change has to be completed by the University then processed by Student Finance England which can take up to 6 weeks to process and could mean their maintenance monies are not ready for the start of term. 

  • Applying for student finance is an annual activity. Unfortunately their application does not roll forward into the next academic year, so each year your son or daughter will need to reapply for funding and each year you will need to confirm your income.
Photo of pound coins stacked


Ok, so they are about to start the application process, what do they need?

  • National insurance number – don’t be fooled by the guidance notes that suggests this is optional; Student Finance England will not release a penny until they have the national insurance number. Future loan repayments are made through salary deduction so this is critical to them. Equally you will need it when you are asked to confirm your income.

  • University post code and term dates – it’s worth getting this information ready as it will ask you for the university post code and when they intend to start university. 

  • Your email address and that of your spouse – as Student Finance England needs to confirm your household income they will need to contact you by email – if you’re anything like us, my daughter did not know my email address.

  • A rough idea about how much you earn – you might not want to share exactly how much you earn, but they do need to know whether they are eligible to apply for the means tested element, i.e. whether their household income is less than £75k.

  • Access to a printer – although you could apply on a tablet or phone, you are asked at the end of the process to print a declaration form. This is not a show stopper as the declaration will be sent to them to sign (this should arrive within six weeks although ours came through quicker than that) but it would be good to get this out of the way. Again this declaration is an important part of the process and Student Finance England will not pay ANY MONEY until they have received it. It could be worth sending this recorded delivery. 

  • Passport – it would be good to have this handy as they will need to enter their passport number – if they don’t have a passport SFE will not pay any money until their identity has been established and will therefore ask for other evidence.

  • Their bank account number and sort code – details for where their maintenance loan will be paid.

The first step will be to set up an account with Student Finance England. Once completed they will be given a Customer Reference Number “CRN” and will be asked to set up a password and a secret question and answer. It’s important to keep these login details handy as this is how they will be able to check the status of their application. Important to note as a parent you will also be asked to set up an account and will also receive a CRN of your own. They will also be given a Student Support Number a little later in the process which Student Finance England also need if you contact them with a query.

Next apply for both the tuition fees and maintenance loans. It’s all fairly straight forward, but worth just taking your time as you move through the questions. Once completed they will be sent an email to confirm their application has been received and you (and your spouse) will receive an email inviting you to set up your own account so that you can enter your income details. They are looking to confirm your last full tax year so it’s worth having your P60 or Self-Assessment tax return handy. Entering the information was all relatively painless and only took us a few minutes. Again make sure you have your national insurance number to hand as this is how they will independently verify your income details.

Once their student finance has been agreed they will received a letter in the post explaining their entitlement which outlines the amount of tuition and maintenance loans they have been awarded. It’s worth checking the details at this point and getting back in touch with Student Finance England if it looks wrong, i.e. do the loan amounts look correct? If you have any concerns you could either contact Student Finance England or the Student Finance team at their University who will have experts on hand to check assessments and provide advice.

One final hurdle to clear and that is to make sure the Declaration Form gets signed and sent back in the post to Student Finance England. This is why it's worth sending this by recorded delivery, who needs the stress of it going missing…..

That’s it, simple, what was all the fuss about?

Julie Kelly
Head of Student Centre
University of Hertfordshire

Photo Of Julie Kelly