Overuse of first person singular in academic writing: this is how it sounds

I stumbled across this parody of “Trump as academic scholar”. I will use it as an extreme example of overuse of first person in academics writing. Indeed, one of the main weaknesses I find in the undergraduate writing works.


Disadvantages of using powerpoint

In 1993 Rawlins wrote “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember” in reference to the importance of visual aid in public presentations. Can this statement be still in force? PowerPoints make presence in every speech nowadays. Top of that, in the so called information society, we all are bombarded with visual information all over the day. Hence, great part of communication take place via visual data. In this context, it is worth mentioning the communication coach Robin Kermode (2016) and his recent article in The Gurdian. He basically come to contradict Rawlins words by saying that it is precisely hear what make improve one´s communicaiton: “make people feel human”, he wrote. And to do so, he thinks, we must, first of all, get rid of “our PowerPoint voice” (which sound like a bad teacher controlling us with volume); and use our own and natural one. He finishes sayng  “In a world where electronic communication has almost taken over lives, the important thing to remember whenever we speak is that humans still respond best to each other”.


Rawlins, K. (1993). Presentation and communication skills: A handbook for practitioners. Macmillan Magazines.

Kermode, R. (2016). Three ways to improve communication skills at work. Retrieved June 15, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/careers/2016/jun/06/three-ways-improve-communication-skills-work



Four classic ways to start a speech

If you want people to listen to what you have to say, you have to add value. You have to give them a reason to listen to your message. In other words: tell them what’s in it for them. There are four classic ways to start a speech, and the same four ways can be used to start a conversation (and writing the title of a paper or book) These are:

  • Tell them the benefit – what they will get from it. This is how most sales pitches work. For example: “This will get you more customers.”
  • The question – to make them think. For example: “Would you like to get more customers?”
  • The shock – their call to action. Say: “If we don’t get more customers, we’re out of business.”
  • The story – to engage them. Stories work particularly well to illustrate an example. So rather than going straight in with a hard pitch, you could tell a story about how your product helped another customer with a similar issue. Stories often sound better than a hard sell.


Kermode, R. (2016). Three ways to improve communication skills at work. Retrieved June 15, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/careers/2016/jun/06/three-ways-improve-communication-skills-work

This is exactly why academics talks should never look like TED talks

Past week I delivered a lecture on “public presentation”. We were discussing what makes a good presentation: communication skills, body language, power point design etc. In a given moment I raised the question “which are the difference between academics talks and TED talks”. I did it on purpose because, as I reflected once in this blog, TED talks are gaining a lot of acknowledgment among students and I am not sure whether this is good. The question led to a lasting and interesting debate. My point was that academics talks have more to do with knowledge. Nex time, I will reference this talks, they really express the idea I tried to transmit in class. I first paste the most highlightable part of the talk. I like the concept of “politic placebo” and “placebo techno radicalism”. TED talks make us feel that things can work out after all, without facing the complexity of the systems we are embedded in, while impeding a real transformation.

Ted is perhaps a proposition, one that says if we talk about world-changing ideas enough, then the world will change, well this is not true either, and that’s the second problem…TED of course stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. To me, TED stands for: middlebrow megachurch infotainment. The key rhetorical device at any TED talk is a combination of epiphany and personal testimony. The speaker shares some personal story of insights and revelation, its trials and tribulations. What does the TEK audience hope to get from this? What does the TED audience hope to get from this? A vicarious insight? A fleeting moment of wonder? A sense that maybe it´s all going to work out after all? A spiritual buzz? Well, I´m sorry, but this is not up to the challenge of the problems that we are ostensibly here to face. They are complex and difficult and not given to tidy just-so solutions. They don´t care about anyone´s experience of optimism… if we really want transformation, we have to slog through the hard stuff’-the history, economics, philosophy, art, the ambiguities, and contradictions. Because focusing just on technology, or just on innovation (he calls it placebo technoradicalism) actually prevents transformation. We need to raise the level of general understanding to the level of complexity of the systems in which we are embedded and which are embedded in us. And this is not about “personal stories of inspiration” It´s about the hard difficult work of demystification and reconceptualization. More Copernicus, less Tony Robbins. At a societal level, the bottom line is that if we invest in things that make us feel good but which don´t work, and don´t invest in things which don´t make us feel good, but which may solve problems, then our fate is that in the long run it will just get harder and harder to feel good about not solving problems. And in this case, the placebo is not just ineffective- it´s harmful. Because it takes your interest, and energy and outrage, and diverts into this black hole of affectation. “Keep calm and carry on innovating” –is that the real message of TED? To me it´s not inspirational, it´s cynical.

This both are worth watching, more informal, but greatly reflecting how many talks nowadays, in reality, say nothing but just make us feel they do it by body language and visual aids.





Green gentrification in Barcelona: is it fair the disbribution of access to urban natural spaces?

Rosa M. Bosch writes this interesting article (in Spanish) in La Vanguardia on “green gentrification” in Barcelona. The sociologist and geographer Dr. Isabelle Anguelovski has analyzed how has changed the socioeconomic profile of people living near gardens and parks created in Barcelona between 1992 and 2000. The study suggests that the new areas have attracted wealthy neighbors and move away poor ones. Importantly, the article also echo the fact that Amguelovski will conduct a new cross national research, funded by EU (Starting Grant from European Research Council) with 1.5 million euros, in which the situation of 20 cities in Europe will be compared with other US 20. They will “make a ranking of environmentally fairer populations and determine their social impact and health”.

¿La distribución del acceso a los espacios naturales urbanos es justa? ¿La naturaleza beneficia a todos? En algunas zonas del Poblenou o la Barceloneta la respuesta es no. Esa es la conclusión a la que ha llegado un equipo de investigadores del Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA) de la UAB, liderado por la socióloga y geógrafa Isabelle Anguelovski, que ha analizado cómo ha variado el perfil socioeconómico de las personas que residen junto a 18 parques y jardines creados en Barcelona entre 1992 y principios de la década del 2000, en Sant Martí, Sant Andreu, Nou Barris, Ciutat Vella y Horta-Guinardó.

Vecinos de Nueva York, Boston o Portland hace años que batallan contra la “gentrificación verde”, proceso que se produce cuando la población original de un enclave de clase media o media-baja es desplazada por nuevos habitantes con mayor nivel adquisitivo que llegan atraídos por las mejoras que ha experimentado gracias a la implantación de áreas verdes. El precio del alquiler y de venta de inmuebles, ya convenientemente reformados, sube y las clases más vulnerables no tienen otra opción que marchar.

En Evaluando los impactos de la gentrificación ambiental en barrios históricamente vulnerables de Barcelona, Anguelovski utiliza seis indicadores: inquilinos con título universitario; inmigrantes no comunitarios y los procedentes de países ricos; residentes de más de 65 años solos; incremento de la renta de los habitantes, y valor de la vivienda. Hay gentrificación verde cuando confluyen tres de estos parámetros, como ha pasado en los parques del Poblenou y Nova Icària, ambos en Sant Martí, y en los jardines Príncep de Girona, en Horta. “Los cambios demográficos más importantes se han manifestado en el parque del Poblenou donde los vecinos con un mínimo de una licenciatura que viven a 100 metros de la zona verde aumentó en un 689% frente al 139% del conjunto de Sant Martí. También en los parques de las Cascades, Port Olímpic, Nova Icària y Carles I hubo un incremento, del 473%, frente al citado 139% de Sant Martí y el 127% de Ciutat Vella, de 1991 al 2001”, dice Anguelovski. Asimismo, los ingresos de las familias más cercanas al parque del Poblenou subieron en cinco años un 20,53% frente al 2,8% de media del conjunto de Sant Martí, y los extranjeros llegados de países del norte crecieron un 3.791 % en comparación al 228% de todo el distrito.

Sant Martí, y en concreto el Poblenou, es la zona de Barcelona donde se aprecia más este fenómeno. “El reverdecimiento de este ámbito del litoral ha ido acompañado de promociones inmobiliarias. Mientras que en barriadas estigmatizadas de Nou Barris o de Sant Andreu no ha habido gentrificación, sino todo lo contrario, sospechamos que han sido las que han recibido a los ciudadanos pobres expulsados de sus barrios”. Teniendo en cuenta que vivir cerca de una zona verde mejora la salud, tal como ha demostrado el Centre de Recerca en Epidemiologia Ambiental (Creal) de Barcelona en varios estudios, el ICTA pone estos datos al servicio de las administraciones para promover justicia ambiental.

Y para profundizar en este nuevo campo, Anguelovski coordinará desde Barcelona un extenso trabajo, financiado por la UE (Starting Grant del European Research Council) con 1,5 millones de euros, en el que se comparará la situación de 20 ciudades de Europa y otras 20 de EE.UU. “Haremos un ranking de las poblaciones ambientalmente más justas y determinaremos su impacto social y en la salud”, concluye Anguelovski .

Science and politics in Ulrich Beck (in Spanish)

Por último, Beck se ocupa del lugar que la ciencia y la política ocupan en la sociedad del riesgo. En ambos casos Beck observa transformaciones institucionales y cognitivas. Bien puede decirse que con el advenimiento de la modernidad, la ciencia suplantó a la religión como la instancia generadora de certidumbres. Sin embargo, y como se mencionó en la primera tesis, hoy en día la ciencia ha dejado de ser esa fuente de certezas. En la actualidad, más ciencia no significa necesariamente más seguridad. Así, el riesgo característico de nuestra época invade el ámbito mismo de la ciencia. Esto hace que el individuo moderno desconfíe de la ciencia y se vea en la necesidad de movilizarse para poder tomar parte de las decisiones riesgosas que tradicionalmente han estado en manos de los expertos (políticos y científicos). La emergencia de esta “subpolítica” hace que los ámbitos extraparlamentarios adquieran una gran relevancia.


Galindo, J. (2015). El concepto de riesgo en las teorías de Ulrich Beck y Niklas Luhmann. Acta Sociológica, 67, 141-164.