PPE team most creative policy proposal global Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge
Earlier this year, VU Amsterdam students David Alders, Laura Büttner, Tara Kobetič and Javier Ripa from the Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) program entered the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge. This is a cyber policy and strategy competition developed by the Geneva Center for Security Policy and the Atlantic Council. University students from around the globe produced policy recommendations to solve a fictional cyber catastrophe.
In this competition, the team, aptly named the Cyber Punks, competed against students from bachelor’s, master’s and even PhD programmes related to cyber security. Without being cyber experts and without having had any courses on cyber security, the team managed to get selected from hundreds of applicants for the final round of twenty-eight teams. The Cyber Punks were awarded the ‘most creative policy proposal’ prize for their work. How did they manage to do this?
Architecture as evidence: on the cultural-historical significance of the designed and built environment
Every building and every place we appropriate changes its value and meaning, thereby affecting the wider environment, everything within it and around it. It is not just the intention or appealing design of architecture that matters. Equally important is how the building 'works'; how it comes to life, must prove itself in practice and is adapted to use in order to survive, which only increases its cultural-historical importance. This is stated by Freek Schmidt, professor of History of Architecture and the Living Environment at VU Amsterdam, in his oration.
Schmidt: "We can think of architecture as public art and the living environment as a utilitarian object, but they are inextricably linked. Together they form a complex whole of continuous human activity."
African philosophers on Development in new book
The book Beauty in African Thought: Critical Perspectives on the Western Idea of Development, compiled by scientists Bolaji Bateye, Mahmoud Masaeli, Louise Müller and VU Amsterdam philosopher Angela Roothaan, explores how the concept of beauty in African philosophy and related qualitative social sciences can contribute to a richer intercultural exchange about the idea of development.
This collection explores branches of thought from wisdom, oral traditions to political thought and cultural philosophy. Roothaan: "This book is an urgent reading material for any policymaker, scholar or student who wants to hear the voices of African thinkers looking for alternative approaches to global development questions in a time of climate change and increasing socioeconomic inequality."
Elements of original accumulation: inaugural lecture by Pepijn Brandon
How is capitalist development related to large scale violence, such as dispossession of land, war, or slavery? Pepijn Brandon explored this question in his inaugural lecture as professor of Global Economic and Social History. He uses Marx’s concept of original (or primitive) accumulation but argues that we need to understand this in fundamentally new ways. Traditionally, violence is seen as the alternative for the “normal”, peaceful market development.
Brandon starts from the findings of the “new historians of capitalism” who focus on the intimate connections between markets and violence. In his lecture, he argued that each new cycle of capitalist expansion rests on a fundamental reshuffling of human beings and nature. This makes catastrophic violence an inherent aspect of the history, present and future of capitalism.
Learning how to write with AI
Lecturers Gea Dreschler, Abby Gambrel and Jens Branum are working on a project, honored by the VU BKO-SKO alumni fund, to investigate the role AI tools can play in writing skills education. From the Department of Language, Literature and Communication, they provide English-language writing instruction to students from all faculties in the Academic Language Program (ALP).
Academic writing is known as one of the most challenging activities for adults. Successful writing requires the use a lot of thinking skills, involving reasoning, making creative leaps, remembering a lot and ultimately choosing the right formulation.
The goal of the project is to identify the various skills needed to write an academic text and to examine which of these skills can be performed by AI tools.
VU goes Unesco
Archaeologists from the Faculty of Humanities recently uncovered, amid great public interest, the pavement of the world-famous Via Appia, the most important Roman road. The Via Appia, which connected Rome to southern Italy, was considered the "Queen of Roads" (Regina Viarum) even in ancient times. It has been nominated for the Unesco World Heritage List by 2024.
The pavement now excavated is point-blank preserved over a length of several hundred meters. It runs right through the archaeological park of Muro Tenente, in the heel of the Italian boot, which is managed by VU researchers as a kind of open-air laboratory. This park too, as part of the Via Appia, is on the Unesco World Heritage nomination; fantastic recognition for 30 years of VU Humanities efforts.
magazine for humanities alumni june 2023