University of Cambridge Contemporary Research Group

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‘We Are Hopelessly Hooked’, Jacob Weisberg on our use of digital media

Photograph by Eric Pickersgill from his series ‘Removed,’ in which he shows his subjects’ attachment to their cell phones and other handheld devices by asking them to ‘hold their stare and posture’ as he removes the devices from their hands and then takes their portrait
Eric Pickersgill/

Photograph by Eric Pickersgill from his series ‘Removed,’ in which he shows his subjects’ attachment to their cell phones and other handheld devices by asking them to ‘hold their stare and posture’ as he removes the devices from their hands and then takes their portrait


“As smoking gives us something to do with our hands when we aren’t using them,Time gives us something to do with our minds when we aren’t thinking,” Dwight Macdonald wrote in 1957. With smartphones, the issue never arises. Hands and mind are continuously occupied texting, e-mailing, liking, tweeting, watching YouTube videos, and playing Candy Crush.

Americans spend an average of five and a half hours a day with digital media, more than half of that time on mobile devices, according to the research firm eMarketer. Among some groups, the numbers range much higher. In one recent survey, female students at Baylor University reported using their cell phones an average of ten hours a day. Three quarters of eighteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds say that they reach for their phones immediately upon waking up in the morning. Once out of bed, we check our phones 221 times a day—an average of every 4.3 minutes—according to a UK study. This number actually may be too low, since people tend to underestimate their own mobile usage. In a 2015 Gallup survey, 61 percent of people said they checked their phones less frequently than others they knew.


Read the full article in the New York Review of Books

18 Nov: Pascale Aebischer on Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio


Prof. Pascale Aebischer from the University of Exeter will be speaking
on 'Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio (1978-86)'. All welcome.

There will be a free film showing of 'Caravaggio' on Monday the 16th for
any who have not seen the film (or have and wish to rewatch it!) in
preparation for the seminar. This will be held at 7pm in GR05, in the
English Faculty.

The seminar itself will be on the 18th November, in the English Faculty
Boardroom, 4.30-6.00.

After the seminar, please feel free to join us for drinks and dinner.


Queer Cultures Research Seminar:


23-24 October: ARENA

As part of the Festival of Ideas, a dazzling 24-hour montage of Arena
documentaries made over the past four decades will be shown at various
sites across the City from Friday 23rd October at noon. This can also be
accessed through the following link, should people wish to stream it via
their computers:

A discussion on the subject of public service broadcasting featuring
Arena's Series Producer, Anthony Wall, the BBC's Creative Director, Alan
Yentob, & Professor Georgina Born of Oxford University will be held at
5.00 PM on Saturday 24th October at Lady Mitchell Hall. Everyone is most
welcome to attend.

Further details of both events are available via the Centre for Film and
Screen news page:

Or contact Michael Hrebeniak

24 Oct: Post-Conflict Poetry

*Post-Conflict Poetry: A Cambridge PEN* *event*
/Part of the Festival of Ideas/

Cambridge Student PEN presents poetry out of fractures: post-conflict
writing that has helped to heal the destruction of conflict in Ireland,
the Balkans, Israel and Palestine, and elsewhere. There will be readings
and poems on display. In between readings, audience members will have a
chance to respond to the poems.

Poems will be written on scraps of cloth, on broken plates and stone,
and built together into a mosaic of poems and disparately unified work.

All welcome, feel free to drop in or out.

Saturday 24th October, 4:30
Drama Studio, English Faculty

17th Feb: Drama and Performance: Michael Byrne on ‘Entropy’

Next week's Drama and Performance Seminar takes place in the Judith E
Wilson Studio, English Faculty on Monday 17th Feb at 5pm. The week’s
theme is ‘Entropy’ and Michael Byrne will be kick-starting our
conversation with a presentation titled: Revisiting Helpmann's Lost

The history of classical ballet could be contextualised as a history of
'lost works', enforcing a belief that dance is unlike the other arts
through its inability to leave a record in the form of a tangible object
such as a painting, a script or a musical score. This was evidenced by
the disappearance of Robert Helpmann’s allegorical dance-dramas 'Miracle
in the Gorbals' (1944) and 'Adam Zero' (1946), where the closing
revivals at the Royal Opera House in London rendered the productions’
choreographical imprints traceless. Through an initiative conceived and
championed by David Drew (a long-serving member of the Royal Ballet for
over fifty years) these 1940s productions are being ‘reawakened’ using
the memories of surviving cast members aged between seventy-five and
ninety. This presentation therefore aims to display filmed extracts from
the rehearsal/workshops completed thus far, and encourage further
discussion on how the mature dancer’s transmission of historical and
embodied knowledge provides an opportunity to problematise the
relationships between dance and drama during (re)performance.

Michael Byrne is a PhD student at the University of Cambridge,
investigating the role of the senior performer and creativity in dance,
with a particular focus on the regenerative processes involved in
British narrative ballet. Having completed his undergraduate degree in
South Africa, Michael furthered his work in performance studies at the
Royal Academy of Music, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and King's College
London. He continues to perform as an actor with the Royal Ballet.


The Poetry of Things 24th October

*The Poetry of Things*

24th  October 3:30-6:30pm,
*Museum of Classical Archaeology, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA*

Join us for an afternoon of poetry readings and discussion as Gillian
Clarke, Imtiaz Dharker, Sean Borodale and Jo Shapcott talk about their
recent experiences as poets in residence with the Thresholds project in
the University of Cambridge Museums and collections. The poets will be
in conversation with Professors Isobel Armstrong and Steven Connor.
Drinks afterwards.
The Thresholds project coincides with a growing interest in the way that
fiction represents objects and the physical world. Questions are being
asked about how writing mediates objects, the relationship between the
verbal, visual and material and the social life of things. This event
offers an opportunity hear poets and literary scholars consider these
questions and to join in with the discussion!
To read the four poems that will be discussed during this event visit and search under Gillian Clarke, Imtiaz
Dharker, Sean Borodale and Jo Shapcott.
For more information contact Vicky Mills


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