CONTENTS

  • The #Idéo2017 platform: analyzing political textual data in tweets during political campaigns​, J. Longhi et al, CY Cergy Paris Université
  • Improvements in the Survey Quality Predictor (SQP) software: from SQP2 to SQP3​, Melanie Revilla et al., University of Pompeu Fabra 
  • Children as Socialised Goods The Parental Justice Case for Sharing the Costs of Children, S. Olsaretti, University of Pompeu Fabra
  • Life is a journey: residential location and a child’s daily independent travel in Belgium​, K. Kreamer Fults, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Exploring the limits of religious ethos employers with regard to their employment policy, E. Timbermont, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • TRANSGANG. Transnational Gangs as Agents of Mediation: Experiences of Conflict Resolution in Street Youth Organizations in Southern Europe, North Africa and the Americas, C. Feixa et al., University of Pompeu Fabra
  • Just Passing Through? Urban Infrastructures of Transit Migration in the Low Countries, 1780-1870​, M. Schepers, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • The media discourse of commemoration​, A. Boursier et al., CY Cergy Paris Université
  • Good or Evil? You are NOT Free to Choose,  L. Kadri, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Contemporary developments in knowledge and viewpoints on spacetime and gravity, J. Persijn, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

The #Idéo2017 platform​

Julien Longhi, N. Hassine, C. Marinica, B. Borzic, A. Alkhouli.

CY Cergy Paris Université Centre de Recherche AGORA (julien.longhi@cyu.fr)

The # Idéo2017 project, funded by the UCP Foundation, brings together researchers from the AGORA laboratory (EA 7392) and the ETIS laboratory (ENSEA / CY / CNRS UMR 8051), from CY Cergy Paris Université. It is a platform for analyzing political tweets during political campaigns. For the 2017 presidential election, he relies on all the tweets produced by the candidates’ accounts, with an update of the corpus every day. These tweets transcribe the various speeches throughout the campaign (meetings, debates, TV shows, etc.), so the analysis of these textual data gives rich and varied information on their speech. This tool is based on the corpus constitution methodology developed in a previous project (Polititweets corpus) and the implementation of textual statistics tools and data visualization. In parallel, the analyzes produced by researchers on concrete cases are posted on the platform in the “Analysis” section. The analyzes are performed using several languages and tools, including ElasticSearch to store tweets, Iramuteq scripts for some analyzes, distributed under the terms of the GNU GPL (v2) and ElasticUI for the development of the search engine.

Improvements in the Survey Quality Predictor (SQP) software: from SQP2 to SQP3

Wiebke Weber, Melanie Revilla

RECSM- Universitat Pompeu Fabra

There is no measurement without errors. In particular, it is well-known that survey questions suffer from measurement errors. However, survey questions are used in a huge amount of research, across many different disciplines, from social sciences to health science. Nevertheless, most of this research ignores these measurement errors in the analyses. As a consequence, results can be biased. It is thus crucial to develop tools that provide information about the size of measurement errors for survey questions in a way that is accessible to most researchers.

This poster presents such a tool: the Survey Quality Predictor (SQP) software, a survey quality prediction system for questions used in survey research available for free at sqp.upf.edu. SQP is also a database of questions with measurement quality predictions, where measurement quality is defined in the frame of the True Score model (Saris and Andrews, 1991) as the variance in the observed answers explained by the latent concept of interest. Thus, measurement quality is the complement of measurement errors. Said differently, measurement errors = 1 – measurement quality. Measurement quality can be computed as the product of reliability and validity.

Using SQP, researchers can obtain a prediction of the reliability, validity, and measurement quality of survey questions, in different languages and countries. They can consult the database or add new questions of interest. Thus, SQP is a powerful tool both at the stage of questionnaire design (before data collection, in order to improve the questions forms) and at the stage of analysis (after data collection, in order to correct for measurement errors). SQP can also be used to compare the source and translated versions and avoid non necessary deviations in translations when doing cross-cultural research.

The poster also explains what is behind SQP (meta-analysis of thousands of reliability and validity coefficients estimated through Multitrait-Multimethod experiments) and the improvements expected in the forthcoming SQP 3 version compared to the existing SQP 2 version.

Children as Socialised Goods The Parental Justice Case for Sharing the Costs of Children

Serena Olsaretti

ICREA-Universitat Pompeu Fabra

A central question in the normative debate over the welfare state concerns the fair division of the costs of child-rearing between taxpayers and the family. The question at issue is whether families ought to meet a greater share of the costs of child-rearing than they currently do in welfare states, assuming they are able to do so, or whether justice to parents supports generous family policies such as publicly funded parental leave, childcare and child-tax credit. This question is of practical and theoretical significance. Practically, it is important to justify these policies in the face of a “backlash” against them (e.g. Burkett 2000). Theoretically, the justification of these policies meets with difficulties, because while many welfare state policies do not benefit all taxpayers equally, this is typically in order to cater for needs people are not responsible for having (as in the case of most medical needs or involuntary unemployment). By contrast, it seems harder to justify policies which are paid for by all citizens but benefit only some of them as a result of life-plans which only some citizens embrace (not everyone values parenting), and which people can choose whether or not to pursue (parents generally choose to have children). Family policies thus seem to be under pressure from what political philosophers refer to as the challenges of personal responsibility and neutrality and (see Rakowski 1993; Casal and Williams, 1995). 

My research aims to construct a case for supporting family policies that can meet these challenges. The central claim it defends is that some of the benefits parents produce by having and rearing children (the demographic renewal and human capital formation needed for maintaining the welfare state) are deliberately socialised; and that a society which socialises the benefits of children but not their costs is unjust to parents. It exploits them by making them bear costs that do not reflect the social value of the parenthood choice, and which it makes them bear only because parents will continue to perform the socially necessary work that parenting is, even if it is made costlier. This socialised goods argument for family policies draws on and revises the idea that children are public goods defended by Nancy Folbre (1994) and Rolf George (1987); it is shown to avoids critiques raised against the latter (Rakowski 1991; Casal & Williams 1995) and to be an important component of a plausible theory of justice. 

Works cited 

  • Burkett, E (2000). The Baby Boon. How Family-Friendly America Cheats the Childless. Free Press
  • Casal, P & Williams, A (1995). Rights, Equality and Procreation. Analyse & Kritik 17
  • Folbre, N. (1994). Children as Public Goods. American Economic Review 84
  • George, R (1987). Who Should Bear the Costs of Children? Public Affairs Quarterly 1
  • Rakowski, E (1991). Equal Justice. Clarendon Press 

Life is a journey: residential location and a child’s daily independent travel in Belgium

Kandice Kreamer Fults

Cosmopolis Centre for Urban Research, Department of Geography, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.  E-mail: kandice.kreamer.fults@vub.be

Where children grow up has a large impact on how they travel and recreate in their youth. Inequalities in daily household travel choices exist across all types of residential locations, and surprisingly, begin at the earliest stage of life.  Children have more independent mobility, or the ability to travel without an adult, in very urban locations and less independent mobility in suburban areas, where the amount of household automobile trips is the highest. Gender inequality also begins at young age for independence- female children are much less likely to make independent trips regardless of where they live. 

We base our study on the most recent and comprehensive household daily travel survey data from Belgium collected over 2010 (Beldam survey). Using these data, we analyse the influential factors in independent travel for children aged 6-17 years old, including not only sociodemographic factors, but residential location, as well. We utilise generalised linear models to describe the effect of residential location on the level of independent travel for children, while controlling for well-established socioeconomic influences, such as gender and age. 

The results show that, in Belgium, the fewest number of daily automobile trip for children are undertaken in the agglomeration, or urban city centres; while the highest amount of daily automobile trips are undertaken by residents of the commuter zone. Intuitively, the results also show that daily automobile trips for children increase as automobile accessibility increases. Independent travel for children in Belgium is higher for male children than their female counterparts and independent travel increases with age for all children.

Because automobile use has a taxing and harmful effect on the regional environment in terms of air quality and land usage, and children’s physical activity and mobility is steadily declining, it is a reasonable and socially responsible goal to aim to decrease children’s travel by automobile. Independent mobility is important for children, as it is necessarily done without an automobile because they cannot drive and typically increases their physical activity through walking or cycling. These results show there is more to consider than automobile usage and perceived convenience when living in a suburban area, there is also the amount of independence and physical activity a child experiences in personal travel.

This video was made in collaboration with Science Figured Out

Exploring the limits of religious ethos employers with regard to their employment policy

Evelien Timbermont

Vrije Universiteit Brussel

This research focuses on so-called ‘religious ethos organisations’ (Tendenzbetrieb in German or Entreprise de tendance in French) in their capacity as employer.

Religious ethos organisations are based on religion or belief. Some examples are Jewish educational institutions or Catholic hospitals. It is assumed that, compared to other employers, these organisations have a far-reaching opportunity to shape their personnel policy. Thus, they can under certain conditions restrict the fundamental rights of their (future) employees and/or treat them unequally based on their religion or belief.

The analysis is part of a broader study concerning the position of Flemish private educational institutions in their capacity as religious ethos employers. Despite this more comprehensive scope, the research will also be relevant to other countries of the European Union and even worldwide as religious ethos employers occur in many countries. Moreover, the research has a major European component as it addresses the regulatory framework on fundamental rights and equal treatment. In this respect, the relevant provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights on the one hand, and of the Directive 2000/78/EC and the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) on the other hand, will be analysed. As the ECJ has recently ruled for the first time on this topic, a unique opportunity emerges.

It is expected that this research will clarify the possible restrictions that religious ethos employers may impose on e.g. theprivate life or the right to freedom of expression of their (future) employees. And, moreover, the extent to which these employers may treat their (future) personnel differently by imposing specific requirements that are linked to religion or belief.

As institutions based on religion or belief are omnipresent and often play a prominent role in various areas of society, this research has a major impact both from a societal as a scientific point of view. The research will lead to the development of new insights on the relation between European and international law, but also on the relationship between labour law and fundamental rights and/or non-discrimination law and, in a broader sense, the relation between state and religion.

This video was made in collaboration with Science Figured Out

TRANSGANG. Transnational Gangs as Agents of Mediation: Experiences of Conflict Resolution in Street Youth Organizations in Southern Europe, North Africa and the Americas

Carles Feixa, Jose Sánchez-García and María Oliver

Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona

TRANSGANG’s precept is the study of transnational gangs as mediation agents. It aims to respond to the persistence of street youth groups (the so-called ‘gangs’) being seen as ‘problematic’. The central focus of the project is mediation, understood as the set of techniques and procedures for resolving conflicts within the group, between groups, or between the groups and the social environment. Most research studies and policies that deal with gangs are based on the idea that the solution is the suppression of the group. Our perspective is different: studies carried out for more than a century show that gangs do not disappear, but rather transform to continue responding to unmet needs. Therefore, we understand that the way forward means involving gang members themselves in the search for alternatives to violence, based on a harm reduction policy and the promotion of mediation experiences. Young people who have belonged or belong to street youth groups are currently collaborating with the project. Their life stories are examples of resistance and resilience, two types of experiences that we are studying: how to survive in conditions of social exclusion and how to react to adversity with the help of the group.

To research Youth Street Groups, we developed a transnational methodology based on a comparative study in 12 cities in 3 different regions: southern Europe (Barcelona, Madrid, Marseille and Milano), the Maghreb (Casablanca, Djendel, Alger and Tunis) and the Americas (Medellín, San Salvador, Santiago de Cuba and Chicago). Ethnographic work will be carried out in each city, involving interviews, focus groups, participant observation and life stories with members, former members and stakeholders. This project is important for society for three main reasons. First, it responds to a problem that causes social alarm based on a biased view of reality. Second, the transnational dimension of gangs requires developing innovative methodologies for studying them. Third, learning about and sharing successful mediation experiences in different places can be used to rethink public policies aimed at addressing the phenomenon. Therefore, we consider that TRANSGANG will provide a new look at social problems that are difficult to tackle, empowering the young participants, making the protagonists of the problem part of the solution by incorporating them from the beginning as agents of the research.

www.upf.edu/web/transgang. CONTACT: transgang@upf.edu

Just Passing Through? Urban Infrastructures of Transit Migration in the Low Countries, 1780-1870

Marjolein Schepers

Postdoctoral Research Fellow of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) Assistant Professor in Urban History at Vrije Universiteit Brussel.  IAS Fernandes 2020-2021 Research Fellow at the University of Warwick

Migration historians have demonstrated how migration entailed more than movement from A to B, but have had difficulties getting a grasp on all aspects of mobility. Especially quantification and the analysis of changesin patterns over time have proved difficult. This project proposes to approach migration from a transit perspective, focusing on migrants en route. The spatial and qualitative approach on transit migration infrastructure challenges and provides new insights to existing categorisations (defining migrants from more temporary to more permanent) as well as the predominant binary focus on the origin and host societies.

Transit infrastructure is interpreted here as the transport and accommodation structures facilitating migration as well as the administrative scaffolding within which this took place. Focusing on the changes between 1780 and 1870 by means of case studies on Leiden (water), Mechelen (rail) and Liège (road), this project analyses to what extent, how and why transit migration infrastructures changed. It scrutinises the supposed increased state and business intervention in mobility, as well as the continuity and discontinuity between the early modern period and the nineteenth century.

Using GIS mapping methods, this project combines crucial debates of migration, travel and transport history and combines them in a new research agenda.

The media discourse of commemoration

Axel Boursier, Luciana Radut-Gaghi, Isabelle Boyer

CY Cergy Paris Université, Lt2D

There are at least three ways in which media are involved in the commemoration exercise:

  • By recalling historical facts through archives or testimonials
  • By reporting on actions organized by public or private institutions with the same commemorative objectives
  • Through the commemorative speeches by which actors question a reading of the present, or even the future, in connection with events produced as “founders”. The commemoration would then be a place to read the present, current events and economic issues.

Our research questions the discourse of commemoration as a place for the production of meaning.

A production is proper to the event of commemoration.

It is the place where other events are framed. The narrative of commemoration is a framing narrative that allows a return to oneself that should ensure the closure of the narrative of current events and give them a plot and a theme. We wish to understand the weight of the journalistic narrative in this reconfiguration of the event.

The status of the memorial event.

We are dealing with a framing narrative that takes place during the commemoration. We hypothesize that commemoration is a discursive “genre”. More than a repetition, it is a moment of creation and political and journalistic appropriation. A reconfiguration of the narrative by taking into account the present and the future proves to be inescapable in commemorative events.

By succeeding in a description and identification of a genre of commemoration in the media discourse, we can isolate and distinguish it to challenge its political instrumentalization. The media discourse of commemoration is, above all, a discourse of mediation that operates a transfer of symbols from the commemorated period to the present time.

Good or Evil? You are NOT Free to Choose

 Latif Kadri 

Vrije Universiteit Brussel – Arts and Philsophy – ETHU. Supervisor: Sonja Lavaert 

 Good and evil. Reward and punishment. These concepts have been at the heart of ethical systems throughout the western world. A simplified version goes as follows: if you are good, you get rewarded and if you are evil, you get punished. 

However, these types of systems are flawed in a fundamental way. This flaw revolves around the idea that we can possess free will. Current research on such topics, along with past philosophical theories, is bringing to light the idea that free will is just an illusion and evil is a fiction of the mind. 

This research has a great impact on any ethical system that is derived from notions of free will (for example: The Classical Christian perspective). So, if free will is in fact an illusion: how can we create a sound ethical system and rightfully deal with evil? Consider the following: if you are born in hell, can you really be blamed for being a demon? 

My research kicks off by taking examples such as these into consideration. In light of various real world and hypothetical situations, I hope to create a new way of thinking that can deal with the problem of evil and the illusive nature of free will. This will be done by 1) emphasizing educated compassion instead of dismissive moral judgment; this will allow us to understand the root of ‘evil’ actions instead of just brushing them aside as evil, which will in turn permit us to mitigate environments that stimulate such behavior. 2) Encouraging proactive containment rather than punishment. In other words, getting to the issue before it gets out of hand. Examples of this could be: identifying signs of psychosis at an early age; or, the technological interception of malice threats. Thus, my research hopes to propose a much more sound approach to ethics that can replace the archaic ethical systems that are in place today in many countries. 

This video was made in collaboration with Science Figured Out

Contemporary developments in knowledge and viewpoints on spacetime and gravity

Johan Persijn

CLPS VUB, 1050 Elsene, Brussels, Belgium johan.persijn@vub.be

In Book 11 of St. Augustine’s Confessions, he ruminates on the nature of time, asking, “14 […] quid est ergo tempus? si nemo ex me quaerat, scio; si quaerenti explicare velim, nescio […]”

In my thesis I investigate some issues concerning the contemporary developments in knowledge andviewpoints on spacetime and gravity. A successful unification of Quantum Mechanics (QM)/Quantum Field Theory (QFT) and General Relativity (GR) has eluded physicists for nearly a century. GR is the bestformalism we have to describe the geometrical properties of spacetime at large. In spite of its outstanding successes there still remain some unresolved issues, suggesting that GR is not complete. Thebreakdown of GR at singularities suggests that at small length scales one needs to replace the theory with abetter one.

QM has grown and flourished, bringing strong, weak and electromagnetic forces under one roof. But it hasnot succeeded in bringing the other “pillar of modern physics”, GR , on its canvas. As the standardtreatment fails, there have been numerous other approaches to quantize gravity , assuming that quantizinggravity is a useful intermediate step, but still we are missing the quantum origin of gravity.

For around 100 years of constantly branching research, the landscape of Quantum Gravity (QG) has becomevery broad and diverse. Nowadays it contains many scattered building blocks—conceptual dilemmas and conjectures, novel mathematical tools, models at the nascent stage of development and theories that are already quite extended.

Most of the attempts assume the standard axioms of QM as well as those of general coordinate invariance without further question, whereas the demands of locality and even causality are often compromised upon. Background independence (BI) is usually sought for. There are reasons to suspect that this will not yield a comprehensive formalism.

The most extreme possibility is an underlying theory, with neither GR nor QM in its basic equations, both having an “emergent” nature.

Keywords : Quantum Gravity , General Relativity , Quantum Mechanics , Quantum Field Theory, Background (In)dependence , Emergence

December 18, 2020