mother narrative

Can growth continue indefinitely? Hm. Let’s think about what compound growth really means.

‘Let us imagine that in 3030BC the total possessions of the people of Egypt filled one cubic metre. Let us propose that these possessions grew by 4.5% a year. How big would that stash have been by the Battle of Actium in 30BC? This is the calculation performed by the investment banker Jeremy Grantham (not of Downton Abbey-fame) Go on, take a guess. Ten times the size of the pyramids? All the sand in the Sahara? The Atlantic ocean? The volume of the planet? A little more?’

Please, please, please read this article by journalist and environmental activist George Monbiot to find out (the above paragraph is shamelessly plagiarized from the article, in fact).

Or read my ridiculously concise summary. Here it is.

1) If we go on like this the planet is f…..

2) If we f… up the planet, we’re f….., too.

3) In other words: ‘If we can’t change our economic system, our number’s up.’

4) ‘The mother narrative to all this is carbon-fuelled expansion: Our ideologies are mere subplots.’ (cf. here)

5) Do the maths yourselves or read this article by investment banker Jeremy Grantham. It’s not very CSR, I promise.

6) Did you click the article? No? Why not? No interest? Bit embarrassed maybe? Not a topic for polite conversation?

7) Exactly the point Monbiot makes. We’re destroying the planet’s biosphere. It’s blindingly obvious to everyone who gives it a single, not particularly clever thought. But the one thing that cannot be sorted out later is the great taboo:

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Hey, I’ve started reading Swedish newspapers!!! Not yet criticizing style or correcting commata. But it’s fun (more about the f-word later). Bit like reading poetry. Wondering what the author wants to tell you, etc. Here’s the piece I tried my heuristic powers on this morning. Nima Sanandaji in SvD writes an op-ed about career, life, realistic and unrealistic expectations. Key message: Not everyone can have a hipster job.


Not sure what a hipster is, really. Have been assured that this lady fits the bill. This wikihow tells you everything you need to know to become a hipster. Been thinking of trying it myself but was… erm… dissuaded.

So what’s the message for students in stratcom and strategic PR?

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Trying to cope with the fact that Lund and Uppsala dropped out of the top 100 of the Times Higher Education World Reputation Ranking. Applied at Karolinska immediately, the only Swedish Institution left in the top 100. But they didn’t want me.

Sure, you’re a ‘doctor’, they tell me, but not a real doctor. Cheeky b…!

Real doctors treat more than one species! I protest. Hopelessly off topic, but hey who cares?!?

Read Tove Lifvendahl’s ‘krönika’ in SvD, March, 9, 2014, comes the reply. Then you’ll understand! 

Say what?!? The GoogleTranslate of that particular piece is a bit funny. So I sit down and read it old-style, i.e. in the language it was written in. Interesting explanation for the demise of Swedish academia, no doubt. Ouch!  ‘Priset för den avmätta självnöjdheten borde betraktas som alltför högt’ sounds pretty strong to my delicate ears. Can’t judge whether it’s true, what it really means, whether I agree with Mrs. Lifvendahl’s agenda for universities in general. But check it out and form your own opinion.

And in case you wonder: the LU lion’s youngest cub, this institute, is not affected by the avmät-erm-självnöjd-thingie-problem. 

Meanwhile, I turn to theconversation. Always do in times of trouble. Article about Corruption in Higher Education captures my attention, naturally. Author one David Watson, Oxford professor. Nothing exciting, really. Just the usual outrageous stuff.

But then the guy defines the core business of universities. En passant. Just so.

Many scholars have pointed out that academic communities are much better at critique than at self-awareness. By behaving well, and by taking care of their core business of telling truth not only to power but also to themselves, universities should be on the cutting edge of reducing corruption, with a view to eliminating it. It is a tough requirement, but one which we ignore at our peril.

Core business of telling the truth? Honestly? It’s been a while since I saw the T-word without scare marks. Thought it had gone out of fashion.



The molecular structure of vitamin d (

We all know: Vitamins are important to keep well and fit. Therefore we are keen to supply ourselves with enough retinol (vitamin A), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), or calcitriol (vitamin D). While reading the news this morning, I stumbled across an article, dealing with the latter one. But as a matter of fact, it does not really matter which vitamin you think of. So, let’s just look at the vitamin D, bearing vitamins at all in mind.

In an article published by Süddeutsche Online, headlined The Fairy Tale of Lack , the journalist Christian Guth reports on a new study by Autier et al. published in Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology in January this year. The authors therein state, after having done a meta-analysis of 290 studies, that the additional intake of vitamin D does not improve a patients well being. Only very few treatments, as a vitamin therapy for elderly people, seem to yield significant positive results. But all in all, it rather does not matter whether we swallow some vitamin supplements, or not.

Read the abstract of Autier et al. here:

However, I am not concerned with the consequences of additional intake of any vitamin whatsoever. As Bones (the famous ship doctor of the Enterprise in Star Trek) in my place would say: I am a PR-researcher, not a physician (well, Bones is a physician, but that is what he would say, if he was a PR-researcher).

Every year, the pharmaceutical industry generates six billion Euros in turnover by selling dietary supplements. Naturally, Germany is one of the biggest markets for those products. And when it comes to the health issue, people become attentive. Why not “investing” some money into one’s own health by buying some vitamin pills, and therefore, maybe, dodge the next cold you surely will catch during winter?

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In the Philosophy of Science-class, students had to write papers answering the question: Are the social sciences science? Ha ha, hopelessly naive! The more appropriate question is: Is science real?


Not exactly true, it seems. Computer-generated fake papers have been accepted at conferences in the engineering sciences.


These papers are so funny…

Thanks, Philip, for drawing my attention to this article in a newspaper curiously called The Guardian about fake-papers churned out by computer programs, then eagerly accepted at conferences and in journals (as long as you pay the conference fee). And we’re not talking about cultural studies as in Alan Sokal’s days. Quote by one of the guys who authored the program:

“I’m psyched, it’s so great. These papers are so funny, you read them and can’t help but laugh. They are total bullshit. And I don’t see this going away.”


Meet Ike Antkare

Let’s keep the numbers in perspective, right? Given the tens of thousands of papers produced every year, a couple of rotten apples, some accepted as unreviewed papers, shouldn’t be surprising. Yep, but let me introduce you to Ike Antkare. Ike’s mentor and friend, Cyril Labbé, proudly tells us the following:

Since the 8th of April 2010, these tools have allowed Ike Antkare to become one of the most highly cited scientists of the modern world (see figure 3,2,4, 5,6). According to Scholarometer, Ike Antkare has 102 publications (almost all in 2009) and has an h-index of 94, putting him in the 21st position of the most highly cited scientists. This score is less than Freud, in 1st position with a h-index of 183, but better than Einstein in 36th position with a h-index of 84. Best of all, in regards to the hm-index Ike Antkare is in sixth position outclassing all scientists in his field (computer science) (Labbé 2010)


You’ve guessed it already. Ike Antkare is fake (although he has a FB-page). Labbé generated Ike’s papers using computer programs and tricked GoogleScholar. Check out this article in nature.


Automated Essay

One thing left to do. Tried the essay generator on last term’s topic ‘Are the Social Sciences Sciences?’ Here’s the result. Not sure whether I would have been convinced.


An Essay on Are the Social Sciences Sciences?

Are you sitting comfortably? I really, really like Are the Social Sciences Sciences? Though Are the Social Sciences Sciences? is a favourite topic of discussion amongst monarchs, presidents and dictators, Are the Social Sciences Sciences? is featuring more and more in the ideals of the young and upwardly mobile. The juxtapositioning of Are the Social Sciences Sciences? with fundamental economic, social and political strategic conflict draws criticism from the over 50, whom I can say no more about due to legal restrictions. Though I would rather be in bed I will now examine the primary causes of Are the Social Sciences Sciences?

Social Factors

Society is a human product. When Lance Bandaner said ‘twelve times I’ve traversed the ocean of youthful ambition but society still collects my foot prints’ [1] he globalised an issue which had remained buried in the hearts of our ancestors for centuries. While the western world use a knife and fork, the Chinese use chopsticks. Of course Are the Social Sciences Sciences? bravely illustrates what we are most afraid of, what we all know deep down in our hearts.


If someone handed in a fake paper, please don’t tell. Thank you. Gonna try the grant proposal generator next:

P.S.: Not so sure that Higgs Bosons don’t lie.

Some insights into how Greenpeace activists conducted the “Volkswagen Dark Side”-Campaign. Interesting for rebels as well as stormtroopers.

May the force be with you.

P.S. Still under shock. This video actually contains a passage where James Sadri – the guy in the clip; the one with the cute elephant-t-shirt – refers to VW’s CEO, Professor Martin Winterkorn, as ‘Volkswagen’s head honcho’. Oi oi. Naughty.


”Meet Generation Y, the most high-maintenance workforce in the history of the world”

“They keep telling me, “Here is what you get in five years, ten years, twenty years..” But they expect me to come back tomorrow. What do I get tomorrow?”

-Gen Y:er

With that quote  Bruce Tulgan starts the first chapter of his book “Not everyone gets a trophy – how to manage Generation Y”, which is supposed to serve as a guide for business managers on how to manage employees from this particular generation.

I happened to stumble upon this book while searching for literature for my master thesis covering online self-promotion and employability. Having read about self-promotion, and having discussed it with a few PR practitioners I noted that the conversation almost every time led to a discussion about “the young” and Generation Y. I realized that this book would probably give me some insight to why Gen Y:ers are seen as the typical self-promoters.


While reading the book there were many “aha’s” and “oh’s” going through my mind, while at the same time I had to stop reading to tell myself, “hey, you are part of this generation too, don’t act so surprised”. The picture that Bruce Tulgan paints is not the prettiest, however he does shed some light on “my generation” as well. Firstly he defines Generation Y as those individuals born between 1978 and 1990, individuals born between 1991 and 2000 he categorizes as Millenials.

People belonging to Generation Y grew up in what he calls The Decade of the Child.Being children to people belonging to Generation X, which he calls the unsupervised generation, Generation Y can be seen as the oversupervised generation. As children, Gen Y:ers were patted on the shoulder by their parents, telling them that they can do anything they want and helping them build up their self-esteem. This is one way to explain why Gen Y:ers are perceived as self-possessed and confident.To quote Bruce Tulgan:

“Gen Y:ers don’t look at a large, established organization and think, I wonder where I’ll fit in your complex picture. Rather they look at an employer and think, I wonder where you will fit in my life story”.

If I think about it, it does sound a bit like me and my friends. We have a picture in our minds of where we want to work and sometimes even a list of attractive employers but seldom do we reflect over how we could contribute to their businesses, it is more a view on how that company fits in, in our future plans and how we want to be perceived by others. In this sense, yes Bruce, we are quite confident about ourselves.

Further Bruce argues in his book that Gen Y:ers often push harder for more significant roles in earlier stages in their careers than other generations and are often in a hurry to take on the next task. I also see this among my group of friends. I have one friend that after her first day on a new job said “I think I would definitely be able to manage that company too”. Okay, I realize that it might seem a bit over the top to say that after your first day, but in a world where unemployment among young people is so high, that confidence might help us stay motivated and believe in ourselves when nobody else does, right?

Bringing out the best of Gen Y

Without being to philosophical, what Bruce Tulgan wishes to say in his book is that Gen Y is often criticized for being the selfish generation, but people tend to forget the great things about this generation.

People from this generation grew up with the Internet and are used to working in changing environments and in a fast pace. Neither are Gen Y:ers reluctant to chnoteveryonetrophy_trailerange, rather they embrace it with open arms. According to Bruce people get it wrong;  to manage Gen Y:ers is not to praise them with trophies just for showing up. Gen Y:ers may need help to form bonds with an organization, their roles and the manager, and sometimes they may need “parenting advice”, but there is a fine line, they do not wish to be treated like children.

Further on the book gives concrete advice to business leaders on how to manage Gen Y and Bruce concludes by saying:

“If managed right, this generation will be the most high-performing workforce in history”.

Reading the book and other literature about self-promotion I don’t believe that self-promotion is simply a phenomenon that has become more apparent today because of younger generations. I believe that it is more about technology development and the rise of social media platforms where people are given the space to promote themselves. Isn’t that what social media is about? Bragging? Sticking out? Portraying yourself as unique? It is modestly said technology making humankind more self-obsessed.

Oh well. I’m going to finish off as “the typical Gen Y:er” that I am and go upload a link to this blog post on my LinkedIn, or maybe not. It’s better if you go visit my LinkedIn and endorse my writing skills. Now that would be the pat on the shoulder that I need.

And read the book. It’s great.