Member activities

Dr Fabian Frenzel - Virtual experiences between Rio’s favelas and secondary school pupils and tutors

Dr Fabian Frenzel (Reader in Mobility and Organisations, Oxford Brookes Business School) is working with Bernardo de la Vega Vinola (PhD student) on a research project and collaboration with Brazilian community activists.

The new project explores the use of virtual experiences at the crossroads of community empowerment and education.  

The projects brings together favela community groups engaged in community tourism and heritage projects, with UK secondary school pupils and tutors in the UK. It creates virtual pedagogical experiences that extend audiences for the community groups and create novel educational experiences for UK schools.

 The project is funded by an internal Oxford Brookes Impact grant. Fabian and Bernardo, together with Camila Moraes (Uni Rio), Juliana Maynard-Sardon (Nottingham Trent) and Isabella Rega (Bournemouth) will be rolling out the pilot intervention over four dates between May and July 2024 at Bosworth Academy in Leicestershire. The ultimate aim is to promote the intervention to other schools, including in Oxfordshire.

This work is based on a previous AHRC funded Local Heritage and Sustainability project involving five universities, one ministry office and nine local organisations in Mozambique, Malaysia, Brazil and the UK. 

Brazilian landscape

Dr Adam Bibbey - Colour blindness is a barrier in elite sports performance

Dr Adam Bibbey, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology, spoke on a BBC World Service CrowdScience podcast on 8 March 2024. The podcast investigated the question of how we see colour.

Caroline Steel (podcast presenter) noted, “Around 1 in 200 women and 1 in 12 men experience some kind of colour blindness.” She asked Adam about how colour blindness affects elite sports.

Adam talked about how being colour blind makes it difficult to distinguish between two different teams in a sports match. For example, colour blind viewers may find it difficult to follow a football match where one team wears gear in red and white stripes, and another team has gear in black and white stripes. In addition, the number on the black striped shirt may be red and the number on the red striped shirt might be black.

Adam has screened over 150 elite male sports players in football and found that 1 in 20 players were colour blind. Given the lower prevalence in elite sport compared to the general population, this may indicate that challenges faced by colour blind individuals may prevent them from progressing to the highest level. Additionally these challenges can also lead to drop out from sport across all age and competitive levels.

Caroline noted how world rugby is introducing a new policy to avoid kit colour clashes. This may go some way in addressing obstacles in sport caused by colour blindness.

 The podcast included other contributors from the University of Washington, University of Oxford, University of Leiden and the University of York.  

same image twice showing the difference between non-colour blind and colour blind viewing of a tv broadcast of a football match

Romantic heartbreak and mental health: What does history tell us about healing?

Dr Sally Holloway (Senior Research Fellow in History & History of Art) is the Principal Investigator of a new research project titled ‘After Love: Romantic Heartbreak, Emotions and Embodiment in Britain c. 1750-1900’, which runs until July 2026. The project is funded by an Early Career Research, Development and Engagement Fellowship of £150,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The breakdown of romantic relationships is a key driver of the modern mental health crisis, with the unbearable physical and emotional distress contributing to major crises such as homelessness and suicide, and leading many to seek professional help from mental health charities to restore their health and wellbeing.

The ‘After Love’ research project will analyse what history can tell us about the mental and physical implications of heartbreak, and how we can most effectively heal from it.  

According to Sally’s 'After Love' website, the project “sets a new paradigm for the heartbreak which follows the end of romantic relationships by examining it as an embodied emotional experience, using methods drawn from histories of emotions, gender, medicine, and the body”.

“This research will be used to underpin wider engagement work on romantic heartbreak in the present day”.

The AHRC notes “The project furthers UKRI's strategic goal to improve the nation's health and wellbeing, namely through how we discuss and recover from the grief of a broken heart”.

Sally will partner with the mental health charity Oxfordshire Mind, the Oxford Visual Arts Development Agency (OVADA), the award-winning visual artists Jill Mueller and Julie Light, and the Poetry Pharmacy (“the world’s first service prescribing poetic ‘first aid’ for emotional ailments”).

Sign up for the project’s first event (The Scents of Love and Loss) at the Oxford Brookes Think Human Festival on 20 April 2024.

drawing of a heartbroken person

International Women’s Day: What girls need in order to become the leaders of the future

International Women’s Day is a very good day to reflect on how well we are creating conditions for girls to become the leaders of the future. Interviewing almost 100 girls aged 13-15 around the country as a part of our Girls, Leadership, and Women in the Public Eye project, put us (Oxford Brookes researchers Dr Michele Paule and Dr Hannah Yelin), in an excellent position to do this.

If we want to improve representation of women in leadership roles, it makes sense to talk to girls who are unlikely to see themselves as future leaders, and to find out why this is. Our initial pilot had suggested that girls saw themselves as excluded from decision-making roles, both at community and at national levels, along a range of axes intersecting with gender. These included class, race, disability, and religion. We therefore extended the study to talk to girls across England, Scotland and Wales in different kinds of school settings including SEND, in youth groups, and in Care settings. They had similar stories to tell: they see plenty that is wrong with the world, and they want to be the generation that makes changes. But they report a lack of opportunities to develop as leaders, a lack of skills and knowledge needed to make change. This was especially true for girls from economically struggling regions.

Research tells us that women tend to become leaders at a later age than men, often as a second or third career, which can limit their leadership prospects. This means getting girls involved while they are still girls is key to helping them build the skills and vision to become future leaders.  We also know that women are more likely to develop into leaders from a background of community involvement rather than via professional political routes. Opportunities to get involved in community activities thus provide vital routes to future leadership for young women. But for many girls, those chances are harder to come by. According to a YMCA report, since 2010 more than 760 youth centres have closed, and youth services cut by over a billion pounds. This has had a profound impact on girls’ community engagement. 

Girls told us about their clubs and groups folding because of a lack of volunteer leaders, or of clubs and activities in leisure centres being unaffordable. The less affluent their area or school, the fewer activities they had the chance to participate in.  As well as a lack of opportunity to develop skills, girls also told us that they didn't understand how power and leadership worked. From national government down to local levels, means of effecting change and getting support were shrouded in mystery for them.

With the help of an Oxford Brookes Knowledge Exchange grant, we were able to act on our findings to try and make a difference. We teamed up with Laura Coryton MBE, tampon-tax campaigner and director of the award-winning social justice enterprise, Sex Ed Matters, which works with schools to combat sexism. Drawing on our data, we worked with Laura to create a free online, interactive course for girls. The 5-step course, Tools for Change, provides girls with key skills to identify, plan and campaign to make the changes that they want to see, and to demystify routes to power. All the interactive resources are free to state schools and non-profit groups.

We initially aimed to get 10 schools and youth groups signed up - we have 39 to date and counting. We are holding our first ‘graduation’ event with girls, women activists and MPs later this year. Schools and youth groups can sign up for the Tools For Change campaign course.

grazia view book's back

Modern-day society has internalised eugenics

Professor Marius Turda

For the Race & Health Podcast in January 2024, Professor Marius Turda discussed eugenics, health and racial justice with Dr Ayah Nuriddin (Princeton University) and Angela Saini (award-winning journalist and author).

Despite being scientifically flawed, eugenic thinking is still present in modern-day society as well as politics. 

Professor Turda notes, "In some ways we have internalised this eugenic thinking and then deploy it outwards in a whole host of different ways."

The manifestation of eugenic thinking was evident in the Covid pandemic.

“One of the things we see a lot of in the US context is part of the justification for lifting of mask mandates or removal of vaccine mandates is, ‘Well, this is OK because only these vulnerable populations are at risk’, or, ‘The regular people will be fine’”.

We see eugenic thinking evident in medical settings and resource allocation, for example in the U.S., some medical settings ran out of ventilators. Decisions about who got the ventilator often veered towards rationing such as  “This person is a more productive member of society, so they should get the ventilator” or, “People with XYZ Disabilities will not be eligible because these other people will outrank them”.

The podcast also covers a rich discussion of the origins of eugenics.

A worker wearing a mask and face shield

Policy evidence to combat online hate speech

Chara Bakalis

A Reader in Law from Oxford Brookes, Chara Bakalis, has been part of the policy debate about online safety for almost a decade and sees the legislation of the Online Safety Act as a step in the right direction for the victims of online hate.

Chara Bakalis, Deputy Head for Strategy and Development in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, is a world-leading expert in the study of online hate speech. She focuses on the regulation of online hate and social media company liability.

In the build up to the enactment of the Online Safety Act, she worked to action her research in British and European legal and policy authorities. She has also provided expert commentary to leading media outlets and charity organisations on the topic of online hate.

She has given evidence to Parliamentary inquiries , including oral evidence to the 2021 Inquiry into Tackling Online Abuse conducted by the Parliamentary Petitions Committee.

This was part of the enquiry into the online abuse received by UK media personality Katie Price’s disabled son, Harvey, in 2020.

Chara notes that online hate speech is “an expression of hatred towards a group based on their protected characteristics”. Without regulation, the Internet has been a place where many victims of online hate do not feel safe in a space that is supposed to be democratic. Victims may choose to leave social media as a result of the abuse they face, and then lose their online voice.

The online abuse that occurred during the Euro 2020 was another high profile case, in which Chara was invited to comment about in a BBC podcast about Tackling Online Abuse in Football. Some British football players decided to leave Twitter (now known as ‘X’) and changed their settings from public to private on Instagram - to get away from the online bullying. They were silenced on social media.

Chara notes that the harm caused by the online world can be very different from the harm caused in the offline world. When hate speech is broadcasted online, the harm could be far more devastating.

The distinction between online/offline harm was key in her understanding of how the law should be used to address online hate speech as she explains in a podcast episode about Digitally-Enabled Stalking hosted by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, a leading women’s safety charity. For example, a stalker in the offline world might constantly follow a person home. The victim might identify that someone is stalking them, and may not feel safe to leave the house.

However, if the perpetrator also engages in cyber stalking (which is what most stalkers do), the victim’s life could be destroyed by the stalker in a way that would be more difficult if the crime of stalking is just carried out offline.

The stalker could gather personal online information from the victim’s social media and use this to publish disparaging claims about the victim online. The online post has a seemingly infinite reach, if the post is widely shared on social media.

The perpetrator could remain anonymous online or even live in another continent which means the victim might never know who it is. This makes policing cyber stalking very challenging.

It is vital that the law takes into account these features of online hate speech. Some have thought that the best way to deal with online hate speech is for social media platforms to remove material that is illegal. Unfortunately, social media companies have not been consistent in doing so. They need to be legally compelled to do so. The recently passed Online Safety Act proposes to do just that. A regulator will oversee the conduct of social media platforms and ensure they comply with their duties under the Act, or risk heavy fines. Greater protection will be given to material that can be accessed by children. Whilst it would be naive to believe that the Online Safety Act will solve the problem, it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

Chara’s research about hate crime has been published in journals such as Legal Studies and the Criminal Law review. Her work on hate speech, social media companies and online regulation was recently published in the Studies in Law, Politics and Society journal.

What can we expect from Chara’s research in the future? She is interested in examining algorithms and the proliferation of hate speech from the angle of freedom of thought.

Social media algorithms push extreme forms of content and most of what people see on social media is recommended by the algorithm and is not chosen by them. She would like to explore to what extent this undermines peoples’ fundamental right to freedom of thought.

Chara is a member of the Oxford Brookes Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Network (EDIN) as well as the Artificial Intelligence and Data Analysis Network (AIDAN). 

social media on laptop and smart phone

How art can be used to create more inclusive institutions

As part of her PhD research, EDIN member Sylvia Morgado collaborates with Modern Art Oxford and investigates how art can be used as a transformative experience to create more inclusive institutions. She hosted the event ‘Hear My Voice’ on Sunday 8 October in the Boundary Encounters programme.  

Boundary Encounters also shows 'A Place for We' at the Piper gallery and hosts a discussion evening on the need for more diverse creative spaces and an African Caribbean Cultural centre in Oxford. Emerging from a collaborative project funded by EDIN, the exhibition shows designs by first year Architecture students responding to a brief describing the lack of a centre for diverse communities and the aim to offer accessibility for all. Building on existing initiatives that have advocated for community cultural spaces, the project ‘Diversifying Creative Spaces in Oxford’ seeks to highlight the impact of the lack of permanent space on creative expression and the sense of connection with the city. 

Sylvia Morgado