by Victoria Plutshack

Smart technologies, which can communicate and share information, have been hailed as a panacea for a range of our energy problems. The possibilities for energy savings and greater energy efficiency are enormous. The first step in realizing the smart vision of the future is the humble smart meter, which is due to be universally available in British homes by 2020. However, the behavioural science behind the effects of an in-home energy meter is mixed. Pilot tests have returned a range of results, from energy savings to increased consumption and everything in between. Given that there is scientific uncertainty, how should policy makers respond? I argue that the Government must clearly prioritise its reasons for the adoption of smart meters in order to create meters that are most likely to produce a single desired result, instead of solving all the nation’s energy problems.

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by Declan O’Briain

New forms of media, particularly social media, have been hailed as the great new-age tool of democratic participation while simultaneously being derided for facilitating arm chair politicking and ‘slacktivism’. Global movements such as Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring have utilized such technologies in what appears to be innovative and unique ways. Yet day-to-day politics in much of the developed world is met with cynicism, apathy, and voluntary non-participation. Although we recognize the potential of these new technologies, our understanding of the way in which they are shaping the political landscape is incomplete. This article will argue that the conversation needs to move beyond the viewing social media according to the above dichotomy, and instead should see social media as one of many tools that can be utilized in myiad ways. It will then close with some reflections on what this might mean for electoral policy in democratic nations, and how it might be utilized by government’s looking to re-engage their citizenry.

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by Konstantina Georgaki, Emmanuel Giakoumakis, and Alessandro Rollo

In June 2015, the European Court of Human Rights delivered the final judgment in the Delfi case, where it upheld the decision of an Estonian court to fine a news portal for hosting anonymous defamatory comments. This controversial judgment has a chilling effect on freedom of expression in cyberspace and paves the way for a slippery slope leading to online censorship. The key policy issue is striking a balance between freedom of expression and other protected interests, including privacy, reputation and national security. This paper argues that holding Internet Service Providers (ISPs) liable for third-party content places a disproportionate burden on them and destabilises the architecture of Web 2.0 to the detriment of human rights. To this end, we argue that a new regulatory approach is necessary to address the rights of ISPs in the attempt to balance freedom of expression with new developments in the need for protection of personal data.

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by Hannah Smith

Limited water resources, weak states and ethnic tensions across Central Asia lead many analysts to believe that the region will bear witness to the world’s first war over water. Through drawing on fieldwork, this study takes the example of the geographically isolated village of Barak (a Kyrgyz exclave) to demonstrate how water resources are manipulated strategically at a local level. This has profound consequences for communities and presents clear violations of basic human rights. The internationally community must act at a micro level to ensure that water does not become another tool of war.

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by Tim Guilliams

Given the current economic climate it is important to maximise academic impact on society. Measures of academic impact have been dominated by the commercialisation of academic discoveries, thereby failing to capture the complete spectrum of academic activities that lead to societal impact. In fact, universities do not appear to act as a significant source of intellectual property and technology for private companies. It is therefore questionable to use commercialisation of academic discoveries as the main metric to measure impact. This
article highlights the importance of a broader view when assessing knowledge exchange between universities and other sectors and the measurement of academic impact on society, hoping to move beyond commercialisation.

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