Statistical Claims

After listening to Sarah O’Connor and Tim Harford’s interview regarding statistical claims, I now have a better understanding of what to do when faced with statistics I am uncertain of. For instance, at the beginning of the podcast, Harford encourages listeners to ‘observe our feelings’ when approaching statistical claims – he continues to say that if you take notice of your emotional reaction before thinking about whether the statistic is accurate you will have a better judgement when it comes to finding out the truth. Harford also encourages his listeners to be curious and to check where the statistics they see have came from, and briefly discusses how easy it is to see ‘facts’ on social media, then share them on without ever finding out where the information and data originated from.

When Harford spoke about causal and non-causal claims in the interview, I found it very interesting because there is so much the public are not aware of regarding statistics. He emphasises the type of information that is left out of a final data / statistic finding, and this could be because the evidence could be gathered from surveys and analysts the public are not aware of – however, since we see it online, we immediately believe it to be true.

The State of the Union – Infographics

When comparing different infographics regarding ‘State of the Union’ speeches from past American Presidents, it is simple to understand what data the publishers are trying to demonstrate.

The first infographic that I looked at was Vox’s 2016 chart on how the words used by Barack Obama in his speeches changed throughout eight years. The infographic is interesting to look at because the publisher has demonstrated their findings through bubble shapes that increase or decrease in size, depending on how often he used that word that year. For instance, from 2012-2013 we can immediately identify that Obama spoke about ‘jobs’ more than in past or future speeches; regardless of whether it was in a positive or negative way.

The second infographic that I looked at was one published in 2019 by the Washington Post, and it is centered around words used in President Trump’s speeches that have never been featured before, however it continues to do the same for all Presidents dating back to Bill Clinton. The infographic is slicker than those featured on the Vox website because the data collection was published on a broadsheet newspapers website. It approaches the data differently to the other infographics that I looked at because it is in simply black and white text, and no images were used.

The final infographic that I looked at was also published on Vox, and was about Barack Obama potentially being one of the ‘wordiest’ presidents in American history. This information was displayed through a bar chart infographic, and was done so as it is one of the simplest ways data can be interpreted. In contrast to the Washington Post infographic, data collections published by Vox are more interesting visually because it isn’t a broadsheet newspapers website. However, the publisher showed no bias in Barack Obama’s favour – this is demonstrated through the difference in Jimmy Carter’s thirty-five-thousand word written opus the day he left the White House. So just because Barack Obama was one of the Presidents whose speeches went on for the longest, it did not mean he was the overall most ‘wordy’.

Accuracies in Hollywood Film

When a film is said to be ‘based on a true story’, it allows its audience to feel a deeper connection to it – this is because they think that all the emotions and hardships shown in the tale have happened to people in the real world.

However, what the public don’t know is that several of these movies that are allegedly factual have only drawn inspiration from the true story. The website ‘information is beautiful‘ has formed a list of (as of now) seventeen films which claim to be accurate, but as demonstrated in the graph through data collection, are not.

For instance, 2014 drama film ‘Selma’ is shown to be 100% accurate through the collection of data from dozens of data sources, whereas ‘The Imitation Game’ (also released in the same year) has only a 42.3% accuracy rating.

Websites like Information is Beautiful are extremely important, especially to journalists. This is because a journalist could see the ‘based on a true story’ tagline and then sell a film to their readers using information from the real plot that is not used in the film – another reason as to why data collection on the website can make a significant difference to a writers work is because it can make a piece more authentic. If a journalist was to write a piece on facts they only thought were true but weren’t verified, they could be accused of getting caught up in the ‘fake news’ frenzy.

Michelle Obama Inspires the Southbank

Michelle Obama in conversation with Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche in London. Image taken by Craig Fergus

Michelle Obama’s highly-anticipated talk at the Royal Festival Hall took place on Monday evening (December 3), and was branded ‘outstanding’ by attendees.

The former First Lady stopped by the Southbank Centre to converse with Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in-front of 2700 lucky ticket holders, 300 of which were local schoolchildren.

Topics discussed throughout the evening included growing up as a black woman in Chicago, her husband Barack’s White House campaign, and how to accept yourself. It was in support of her new memoir ‘Becoming‘, which is now the best selling book of 2018.

Esther Godwins, an employment lawyer from London, expressed her gratitude to the venue for organising the appearance. She said, ‘I queued from 5:30AM in hopes of grabbing a seat, and it was absolutely worth it. Michelle Obama embodies inspiration, and has achieved what so many women dream of doing – the impossible’.

Rosemarie Davidson-Gotobed, who works for the Church of England, said that the night left her feeling ‘connected’ to Michelle, as they have ‘faced similar struggles growing up as black women in the same era’.

Also in attendance was the Duchess of Sussex, who met with Mrs. Obama after the event to discuss girls education. Whilst the event was not live-streamed, clips of the ninety minute spectacle can be found online.

Ellie Youll: Knock Her Down Nine Times, But She’ll Get Up Ten

Ellie Youll in Newcastle Upon Tyne, July 2018. Image taken by Charlie Youll

Ellie Youll is an eighteen year old waitress. Last year, she was caught up in the Manchester Arena bombing. This is her story.

‘When you’re in a terror attack, something inside you switches and your life changes forever’.

At 10:30PM on May 22 2017, Ellie had just attended an Ariana Grande concert, unaware that the show would dramatically alter her life – and in an hour, be the most talked about news story on the planet. Speaking in her bedroom, she recounts the night that twenty-two innocent civilians died in a place typically deemed a ‘safe environment’.

‘I was about to exit the arena with my sister when the bomb detonated – from the vibrations in the floor I knew something strange had happened, but just put it down to overzealous teenagers leaving their first show’.

Ellie rang her brother Charlie as she left the venue, and recalled joking how she initially thought everyone had dramatised a stage speaker exploding following Grande’s encore. However, their conversation was cut short when a woman needed to borrow Ellie’s phone to contact her daughter, and told him she would call again soon.

Charlie explained that his Twitter timeline was suddenly inundated with posts regarding a ‘loud bang’ being heard – but ‘didn’t realise the severity of the attack’ until a breaking news notification referring to it as a ‘serious incident’ interrupted his next conversation with Ellie.

Upon evacuating the venue, reality hit when Ellie turned onto Todd Street – it was ‘carnage’. She mentioned that it ‘all became real’ due to the sight of a girl her age ‘bleeding heavily from her leg, shrapnel hanging out of her wound’ – at that moment, she remembered ‘immediately’ hanging up the phone and ‘running for her life’ back to their hotel.

Speaking about the following day, Ellie looked unnerved as she thought about the ‘hundreds’ who contacted her overnight, leaving her ‘embarrassed’ that so many wanted to know intimate details about an experience she was still attempting to process herself.

‘One hundred people alone responded to a video I’d uploaded to my Snapchat account moments before the explosion, aiming to know anything they could discover. For instance, had I seen any dead bodies? How many injured attendees did I see? Was I coping with the trauma? I don’t think all these apparent ‘friends’ realised that they were making it a lot harder to process than it could have been.’

‘When a young person dies, you always see dozens of tributes online from people you never realised knew them – it’s probably because they didn’t. If I’d been killed that evening, I dread to think how many would’ve been posted about me, and it would have been the same ‘friends’ that haven’t spoken to me since the day after the attack’.

‘Over the last eighteen months, I’ve came to terms with the fact all those people were killed metres away from me, but it never truly gets easier. That night is a part of me, and it always will be’.

Charlie isn’t surprised Ellie came out the other side of the horror, stating that it ‘wasn’t the first time’ he had ‘seen her deal with a big problem head-on’.

‘You can knock her down nine times, but she’ll get up ten’.

Black Cab Protest on London Bridge

Cab protest, as seen from Monument station. Image via mightybarnski/Twitter

‘Cabbies’ in central London have been slammed after wreaking havoc on the roads surrounding London Bridge on Monday night (November 26), as the ongoing war between licensed taxi drivers and Transport for London (TfL) raged on. Drivers are protesting their right to operate on a nearby street.

The first of five wide-scale protests lasted three hours, from 4-7PM, and took place across the entirety of London Bridge, causing huge traffic jams and long delays around the area; this comes from TfL’s proposal of banning any black cabs from entering the bus lanes in Tooley Street, which is situated near the Shard.

Ben Plowden, the director of strategy and network development for TfL, said in a statement to the London Evening Standard newspaper that the reasoning behind their pledge is that they want to improve conditions for the people ‘walking and cycling around the area’.

Five consecutive days of non-stop traffic jams on London Bridge is ‘extremely annoying’ for those who commute via the bridge, like sales assistant Megan Wingfield, who lives near Borough Station and uses the number 48 bus to get to her workplace in Liverpool Street. She said that it she can ‘understand the cab drivers frustration’ at feeling like their voices aren’t being heard, but it is ‘extremely childish that they aren’t considering the impact their daily protests are having on London’s emergency services’.

A final decision on Tooley Street’s taxi-ban is expected to be made in January. In the meantime, local bus routes will continue to avoid London Bridge during rush-hour until Friday (November 30), when the protests are expected to end. More information about this and travel updates can be found here.

 

Ice Skating @ Winter Wonderland – Review

Winter Wonderland’s ice rink in Hyde Park. Image taken by Craig Fergus

Several things come to ones mind when they think of London at Christmas – overzealous shoppers reigning over Oxford Street, Love Actually, and of course, Winter Wonderland.

One thing Hyde Park’s winter extravaganza boasts is the ‘UK’s largest open-air ice rink‘. It may be the biggest, but it certainly lacks the charisma needed for it to be the best. Although its expansive grounds are full of thrill-seekers at any given time, the skating experience itself leaves a lot to be desired. For instance, the ice is unusually watery for a supposed premium rink, and makes it a lot easier for visitors to slip up (and get soaking in the meantime)!

No phones are allowed on the ice rink; the only pictures able to capture the memory of a fun (and rather pricey) family day out are the ones taken by a professional photographer at a further expense. The allure of Winter Wonderland’s skating experience falls short the moment a guest steps on it – from afar, it appears white (as standard), but the closer you get you discover the sad reality that it’s a musky-grey colour, and a slushy slip-and-slide that’s littered with frozen leaves and centered around a Victorian bandstand that never seems to have band members present.

Worlds away from the luxurious ice-y opportunities of Somerset House or the Natural History Museum, ‘overused’ springs to mind when you think of Winter Wonderland’s ice rink; it is open twelve hours every day of the week, there’s never enough time for the rink to re-cooperate after a battering by enthusiastic children and adults alike.

Plus, it’s located in an odd location of the theme park, with the only sights of Hyde Park to see are the LED’s from bigger, better attractions through twigs and bushes that lurk over the ice rink – not exactly giving it a ‘festive feel’.

Admission is free to Winter Wonderland, however if you get through security and expect any form of ‘freebie’ on the other side, you’ll certainly be shocked. Of course, if you have the money to spare on all the attractions, then do as you please. But if your budget is tighter and you’re planning on only visiting one experience in Hyde Park, turn away from the ice rink – great fun can be found in areas like Backyard Cinema, the Magical Ice Kingdom and the Giant Wheel.

However, if you’re still intent on getting that ‘skating in Hyde Park’ Christmas experience, Winter Wonderland is open from 10AM-10PM everyday besides December 25 until January 6 2019. During peak time, an adult ticket is £14.50 for fifty minutes on ice, whereas early or late skates are a subtle £9.50 a head. Concessions are available for students, children and over-sixties. Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online at hydeparkwinterwonderland.com .

Florence + the Machine, Live in London – Review

Florence Welch performing ‘Cosmic Love’ in London. Image taken by Craig Fergus

Hot off the heels of her critically acclaimed fourth album ‘High as Hope’, indie pop icons Florence and the Machine are currently in the midst of a sold out worldwide tour.

‘This is my hometown!’ Florence Welch triumphantly exclaimed to the 3000 strong crowd at the capitals Royal Festival Hall. This wasn’t the songbirds first performance at the iconic venue, and it certainly won’t be her last.

Florence opened the show with ‘June’, a relatively slow song which did little to boost spectators spirits, but all was forgiven within the opening bars of her second track ‘Hunger‘, as the crowd began to warm up for what turned out to be a spectacular show.

As Welch ran through her repertoire of classics (particular crowd-pleasers included ‘Between Two Lungs’ and ‘Dog Days Are Over), many bystanders on the floor were disheartened to realise how little energy the majority of her audience had, almost as if they’d been forced to attend her concert. One woman even shouted ‘lighten up!’ to a group of Londoners that remained immobile during ‘Ship to Wreck’, one of the bands most dance-inspired tracks.

When the groups main set was drawing to a close, Florence knew exactly what to do to ensure her band went out with a bang. She must have asked herself, ‘what can I do to really get the crowd moving?’.

Her answer? Get in it.

Mid-way through ‘Delilah‘, Florence spontaneously jumped off stage barefoot (as always) and proceeded to run to the back of the venue and greet attendees by jumping from the sound desk into the audience, dancing with and embracing her fans as if they were old friends. Bold moves like this set Florence aside from other pop forces like Mariah Carey and Britney Spears, who wouldn’t dare pull such exciting stunts in a non-controlled environment.

Katy Evans, a student at Sheffield University who travelled to London just to attend Welch’s concert, said that the front-woman exceeded all her expectations and that it was one of the best live shows she had ever seen. She said, ‘Florence has a star quality that doesn’t exist in any other artist as big as her in modern music. Everyone refers to her as underrated, but considering she has sold out every UK show on this tour proves she must be doing something right!’.

Finishing the night with an encore of the 2012 mega-hit ‘Shake It Out‘, Florence and the Machine proved once again they have still got it – and they’re going to ‘have it’ for a very long time.

BFI IMAX’s Potential Closure – Reaction

Locals and film students alike were left seething on Wednesday morning (November 21) after it was revealed that Waterloo’s beloved BFI IMAX cinema is being considered for demolition… in order for another skyscraper to be built in its place on London’s Southbank.

Discussions took place on the afternoon at the Waterloo Action Centre, where the Waterloo Community Development Group, with Lambeth Council, updated their planning policy regarding eight suitable areas that skyscrapers can be built upon. According to Lambeth news blog SE1, areas that are considered ‘worthy’ for tall buildings to take their place include the IMAX, Becket House on Lambeth Palace Road and Elizabeth House.

A decision like this could make or break the livelihood of the BFI IMAX and its employees, which has stood proudly opposite Waterloo Station since it opened in May 1999.

Lambeth Council’s idea wouldn’t just affect the local community; film student at London Metropolitan University, Aidan Matthew, said that if the film institute was replaced with ‘yet another skyscraper’ in the borough, it would be like taking ‘one more thing’ from the creative youth of London.

Speaking to cinema-goers as they left the complex, many weren’t even aware that council bosses were contemplating closing down Britain’s largest cinema screen. Sharon Watson, who had just seen the new ‘Fantastic Beasts’ film at the IMAX, raged, ‘why are they shutting down one of London’s best cinemas?’. ‘The more interesting places they continue closing in favour of flashy money-making offices, the less exciting central London is going to get’.

Whilst no plans are set in stone and the council aren’t likely to confirm their proposal for several months, the BFI IMAX is open for movie geeks to enjoy the best new films on the (very) big screen seven days a week – subject to showtimes.

The Knight Foundation – ‘Facing Bias’

As social media has become increasingly significant in our day to day lives over the past decade, we as a society have gotten used to being introduced to exciting new ways of storytelling. Because of this, new platforms like virtual reality and phone applications have shown us different kinds of articles in ways we haven’t seen them before.

One of ‘The Knight Foundations’ eleven sponsored projects, ‘Facing Bias’, was created by ‘The Washington Post’ and is based in D.C. – the project aims to develop a smartphone tool that will ‘use augmented reality to analyse a reader’s facial expression whilst they view images’. A possible bad editorial opportunity for such an ambitious project is that if your device is storing such a vast amount of your personal data on a device, you can never be too sure what it is they’re using that data for. Some may find the process unappealing. A pitfall of the project is that how expensive it would be to produce – for instance, it would cost thirty thousand dollars, making it the most expensive project on the list of The Knight Foundations list of eleven.