11/2023: Artificial Intelligence: Revolutionising Design and Journalism?

Tuesday 21st November 2023 from 19:00 for 19:30
Abingdon United Football Club (Northcourt Rd, OX14 1PL, Abingdon)

Please note our move to the third Tuesday of the month for 2023

Note: This talk will be preceded by a short AGM.

(Generative) AI such as ChatGPT and DALL:E promise to radically alter how “the news gets made” and how modern journalism works – with unknown effects for the public sphere and democracy. What are we to make of these claims and promises? And what will the journalism of the future look like? This talk will provide some tentative answers to these questions, based on four years’ worth of research at international news organisations.

Speakers: Maggie Mustaklem & Felix M. Simon

Maggie Mustaklem

Maggie Mustaklem is a design lead and doctoral researcher focusing on the implications of AI in design. Maggie’s research project, Design Interrupted, centres on the “everyday AI” in platforms like Pinterest, Instagram (and increasingly generative tools) that designers and architects use to search for inspiration. She is interested in how these tools may be flattening what designers see for inspiration, influencing what they ultimately produce. Maggie holds a Master of Arts in History of Design from the Royal College of Art and Victoria & Albert Museum and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Michigan.


Felix M. Simon

Felix M. Simon

Felix M. Simon is a communication researcher and doctoral student at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), where he has been researching the effects of AI in journalism and the news industry for the last four years.  Felix has published and presented at a number of leading journals and conferences and has co-authored various research reports and papers on topics ranging from innovation in the media to COVID-19 misinformation. His research and commentary has appeared, among others, in The Guardian, The Washington Post, Politico, and the Financial Times and he has given evidence to inquiries of the UK House of Lords and House of Commons, press regulator IMPRESS, and the United Nations. In May 2023, he was awarded the Hans Bausch Media Prize by German public broadcaster SWR in cooperation with the Institute for Media Studies at the University of Tübingen for his work on AI, news, and platform companies. Felix is a Knight News Innovation Fellow at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, and an affiliate at the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also works as a research assistant at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ). He graduated with a BA in Film and Media Studies as well as English Studies (Distinction) from Goethe-University Frankfurt, and he holds an MSc in Social Science of the Internet from the OII. He is currently a fellow at the Salzburg Global Seminar and an Associate Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy and sits on the AI and Local News Steering Committee of Partnership on AI.


10/2023: Motor Neuron Disease – Is There a Cure? – Professor Kevin Talbot

Tuesday 17th October 2023 from 19:00 for 19:30
Abingdon United Football Club (Northcourt Rd, OX14 1PL, Abingdon)

Please note our move to the third Tuesday of the month for 2023.

A motor neuron in culture

Humans seem distinct in being vulnerable to a form of cellular degeneration, distinct from normal aging, which specifically affects the nervous system. This is manifest as a group of specific diseases, of which Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are the most prominent. Motor neuron disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is a relentlessly progressive and uniformly fatal neurodegenerative disease which leads to paralysis of voluntary movement. This talk will explore the nature of neurodegeneration, using the example of ALS, and explain how recent research provides a roadmap to improving the prospects for treatment and to ultimately make ALS preventable.

Speaker: Professor Kevin Talbot MBBS, DPhil, FRCP

Kevin Talbot is a clinician scientist, specialising in neurodegenerative disease, principally amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He is a clinically active specialist in neurological diseases and co-leads the Oxford Motor Neuron Disease Centre, which provides diagnosis and care for approximately 1

Professor Kevin Talbot

0% of the UK population. He is Head of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford, and also leads the Neurodegeneration and Cerebrovascular Theme of the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre. The main focus of his laboratory research is to improve pre-clinical models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, focussing on early stage disease. Using these tools his laboratory has identified disease-specific phenotypes in motor neurons which provide the tools for screening drugs of potential therapeutic benefit in ALS. This is closely linked to work with Oxford colleagues on biomarkers with application to experimental medicine studies to accelerate translation of promising drugs.

09/2023: Wildlife Conservation – Professor David McDonald

Tuesday 19th September 2023 from 19:00 for 19:30
Abingdon United Football Club (Northcourt Rd, OX14 1PL, Abingdon)

Professor David Macdonald, founder of Oxford University’s WildCRU (the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit) began working on lions, in and around Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, in the late 1990s. The project has grown to involve a large team, and covered a wide array of discoveries about lion ecology and behaviour, and their relevance to wider lion conservation. David, working with his long-term colleague, Andrew Loveridge, has published widely on topics such as landscape planning (the identification of refuges for lion and corridors linking them), ways of resolving conflict between farmers and lions, and the thorny issue of lion trophy hunting. The latter leapt to international prominence with the killing, by a Minnesotan cross-bow hunter, of the projects study-lion nicknamed Cecil. The resulting global media explosion and its aftermath is probably the biggest wildlife media story in history, and David was at the eye of the storm.

08/2023: Quantum Technologies: Principles and Applications – Dr Rhys Lewis

Tuesday 15th August 2023 from 19:00 for 19:30
Abingdon United Football Club (Northcourt Rd, OX14 1PL, Abingdon)

Please note our move to the third Tuesday of the month for 2023.

This talk will describe the range of new technologies being developed based on the physics of quantum mechanics involving interactions at the fundamental level of single photons, atoms, ions and superconductivity. These developments are part of a large government investment in quantum technologies with the objective of growing new companies and enhancing national security.

Speaker: Dr Rhys Lewis

Dr Rhys Lewis is the Head of the Quantum Metrology Institute at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) a government-owned laboratory applying science in support of UK industry. He is responsible for NPL’s strategic direction in quantum and for leading NPL’s programme as a partner in the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme. The NPL Quantum Programme involves establishing test and evaluation capabilities for quantum timing, quantum communications, quantum sensors, quantum materials and quantum computing. NPL also delivers projects in collaboration with the Quantum Technology university hubs, and with many industry partners. Dr Lewis joined NPL in 2007 as an operational Division Head. Prior to NPL his career was in leading new product development in manufacturing companies in the Oxford and Abingdon area.

07/2023: Domestic Robots – The End of Housework? – Associate Professor Dr Ekaterina Hertog

Tuesday 18th July 2023 from 19:00 for 19:30
Abingdon United Football Club (Northcourt Rd, OX14 1PL, Abingdon)

Please note our move to the third Tuesday of the month for 2023.

Domestic work is critical to health and well-being. Societies cannot function without regular meals cooked, clothes and homes cleaned, and people cared for.

It is also very time consuming and generally shared unequally within and between households.

Women continue to do more unpaid domestic work than men in the majority of households, though the extent of gender inequality when it comes to domestic work varies between societies.

Historically, technological advances – such as the rise of domestic appliances  in the 1950s – have been associated with women’s increased participation in the labour market. The rising female employment and intensification of family (especially parenting) responsibilities for both men and women means there remains a large unmet demand for help with domestic work. Household robots (vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers, etc.) outnumbered all other types of robots in terms of units sold from as early as 2010. Sales of household robots have since accelerated dramatically.

In this talk Dr Hertog will explore the potential for a further transformation of unpaid domestic work with the rise of AI-powered technologies, expert predictions about the future of housework and care work, individual attitudes to using smart digital technologies to replace their own domestic work, and how this varies cross-culturally.

Speaker: Associate Professor Dr Ekaterina Hertog