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Launching SuchThatCast – Philosophers’ podcast

SuchThatCast - Philosophers' podcast (Episode 1, with Luciano Floridi)
SuchThatCast – Philosophers’ podcast (Episode 1, with Luciano Floridi)

I haven’t updated this blog in a while, mostly because of simply being to busy with all kinds of tenure requirements and other stuff. One of the things that have taken much of my time recently is a Podcast I’ve just started, and which I will launch in about a week’s time. The podcast is called SuchThatCast – Philosophers’ podcast, and it’s an idea I’ve been toying around with for quite some time. SuchThatCast is a podcast dedicated to getting to know some of the most influential philosophers (broadly speaking) of today. It seeks to provide an alternative to most other philosophy podcasts (many of which are excellent), by taking the form of a face-to-face conversation (I will never do a phone/skype interview) where the guest is free (and encouraged) to share information about themselves that may not be appropriate in other forums: this includes stories about their unique and often unconventional career paths, seminal events and figures in their lives, undeveloped ideas and generally whatever they are passionate about.

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Call for Papers: Well-being in Contemporary Society

Call for Papers: Well-being in Contemporary Society

International Conference on the Philosophy and Science of Well-being and their Practical Importance

Location:             University of Twente, Enschede, Netherlands
Date:                     July 26-27, 2012

Program Chair:
Philip Brey (University of Twente)

Organising committee:
Johnny Hartz Søraker (University of Twente)
Pak-Hang Wong (University of Twente)
Jan-Willem van der Rijt (University of Amsterdam)
Jelle de Boer (University of Amsterdam)

About the Conference

In recent years, well-being has enjoyed a renaissance in philosophical discussions, as well as in fields like psychology, economics, development studies and sociology. Although these approaches share a common goal – to better understand what well-being is and how it can be enhanced – these developments have led to a great diversity in philosophical and scientific approaches to the analysis of well-being. Despite the increasing amount of research, most of the work on well-being is also performed at a highly abstract level. This is especially true in philosophy, but relatively little work has been devoted to the application of theories of well-being also in other fields, in particular when it comes to an understanding of life in contemporary society. Developments such as globalization, consumerism, and the rapid innovation and use of new and emerging technologies, all exert significant impact on the well-being of people living today, and we need a better understanding of their consequences for well-being.

Contemporary society requires that well-being researchers examine these problems – and, if possible, propose solutions to address them. This international conference aims to bring together researchers from various disciplines, including, but not limited to, psychology, economics, sociology, philosophy and development studies, in order to examine the practical role of well-being in contemporary society.

Potential Topics

We are looking for contributions that examine the notion of well-being in the context of contemporary society. The conference particularly welcomes papers that employ a notion of well-being to address social, political and ethical issues in present-day society. Suggested topics for the workshop include, but are not limited to:

  • Theoretical developments and approaches in the philosophy and science of well-being in relation to contemporary society, culture and life.
  • Well-being in social and political philosophy and/or in policy studies
  • Positive psychology (and related research fields) and its practical applicability
  • New and emerging technologies and well-being
  • Intercultural and interpersonal comparisons of well-being
  • Reliability, validity and applicability of well-being measures
  • Other specific practical issues pertaining to well-being in contemporary society

The workshop will include both invited papers and an open call for papers. For the open call, we invite extended abstracts (1500-2000 words).  Please anonymise the abstract, and include title, name and address in the accompanying email. The abstract, and any questions you may have about the conference, should be sent to Your abstract should be submitted before February 15th 2012, and will be subject to blind peer review.


Following the conference we aim to publish the papers, subject to a blind review process, in either an edited volume or a special issue of a relevant journal. We did so successfully with our previous conference, Good Life In a Technological Age, from which select papers were published as book in the prestigious Routledge Studies in Science, Technology and Society series, and will be available in February 2012.

Important Dates

Abstract Submission Deadline:   February 15. 2012
Notification of Acceptance:         March 1, 2012
Conference Dates:                          July 26-27, 2012



The official web site is under construction. Don’t hesitate to contact us on the email address above if you have any questions about the conference.

Best comedy sketches

So, I came across this listing the other day (can’t find the link right now) about the top ten comedy sketches of all time. It covered pretty much only US comedy (a lof of Saturday Night Live), and missed some of the best sketches ever — the ones that literally made me roll on the floor laughing. So here it is, my collection of the best comedy sketches, from the five best comedy shows of all time:

5. Arrested Development; The Chicken dances

Arrested development must be the best sitcom ever, yet for some idiotic reason got canned. Although I loved it for its intelligent humour and intricate plots, those are difficult to present as a clip. Luckily, good olf fashioned slapstick and body humour was also a major part of it, and nothing made me laugh harder than the Bluth family’s somehwat original takes on the chicken dance, nicely captured in the montage below.

4. The Fast Show: Arse and coughing

Although I simply love The Fast Show and can’t get enough of the recurring characters, it rarely gives me tears in my eyes. This little bit featuring some unfortunatte tourette-like characters did the trick.

3. Monty Python: Tinny words
Well, I could’ve mentioned so many by Monty Python (the fish slapping dance is another one of my favourites), but this one is relatively unknown, yet so darn funny. Graham Chapman at his very best!

2. Saturday Night Live: Chris Rock as rapper with toe fetish
Ok, let’s admit it. SNL is 95% crap, which might be the reason why the 5% times they get it right, it makes it into comedy history. Again, I could’ve mentioned many of the familiar ones (I think “more cow bell” was one the top 10 list I mentioned above), but this is also a rarely seen one, featuring Chris Rock as the most puny rapper ever. When he hits the chorus towards the end, I literally fell of my chair (The vid below is unfortunately the only copy I could find, and the joke is kind of lost in the poor quality).

1. Reeves and Mortimer: Mulligan and O’Hare
Weird is the only word for British duo Jim Reeves and Vic Mortimer. Often it becomes so surreal that you’re left with a smile, albeit a confused and slightly disturbed one (you can see some of this in the intro to Mulligan and O’hare below). Sometimes, they just hit the nail on the head, and there’s just no beating their amazing and surreal portrayel of singers Mulligan and O’Hare. Enjoy!

Please let me know if any of the videoes have been removed.

OpenOffice ups and downs

In starting my PhD dissertation I had to make a difficult choice on what word processor to use. I’ve heard bad things about Microsoft Word’s ability to handle large documents, and I have always disliked it because of the limited ways in which you can format paragraphs. The importance of tweaking different paragraph parameters and using consistent styles is something I really learned in Adobe Framemaker, which still remains my favorite program. I decided against it, however, in part because of problems with portability (converting to/from Word is a nightmare and some times you need to submit documents in .doc), but the thing that tipped the scale was something as simple as not being able to do multiple undos in the framemaker version I’ve got, and my current university not having a license for newer versions. So, I decided to go with Openoffice. I was extremely happy to find out that Openoffice offered many of the same formatting options that Framemaker does, and also heard good things about the way it handles large documents. Some months later, I’m starting to regret the choice, however. As with Framemaker’s achilles heal, the devil is in the details:

  • Openoffice does not allow you to view two pages side by side while editing. This is frustrating as hell.
  • Openoffice does not allow you to cross-reference autonumbered paragraphs. This works like a charm in Framemaker, but in Openoffice you have to manually ‘set reference’ everywhere you want to point a cross-reference to.
  • An imported image was suddenly lost from my document. Might be just a case of “shit happens”but trust is everything in this business, and I thereby lost a big chunk of it.

So, now I’m dreading that I some time in the future have to give up on openoffice and spend a lot of time transferring my document, formatting and all, to whatever I end up with. Oh well. As we say in Norway” “That time, that sorrow”. If anyone have experience with pros and cons of differen word processor when it comes to large documents, I’d be happy to hear about them.

Update, February 21, 2008:
I’m back with Microsoft Word. What did it for me was that I, after so many years of doing manual referencing, finally discovered that Endnote actually is a great program. I think I used to perceive Endnote in the same way that I perceived user manuals from IKEA, but I’m over that now. What makes Endnote great, however, is the seamless integration with Word and that’s what won me over. Strange how it somehow feels bad to “give in” to Microsoft.

Update, April 23, 2008
I somehow knew this was an ongoing process. I’m still with Word, but recently upgraded to Word 2007 and finally I’m starting to feel confident. I’ve seen reviews that its ability to handle large documents is vastly improved, the layout is much better, endnote integration (see above) even more seamless, and, at the end of the day, it just gives provides the reliability I need. Apperently, Microsoft isn’t all bad. Still, as a computer ethicist I somehow feel bad bad about relying on Microsoft (I’m also an avid user of Outlook [!]) — and for thinking that Google is the best thing that has happened to the Web.

Radiohead release their new album — pay what you think it’s worth

Radiohead has always been one of my favourite bands. What I find fascinating is that every single album has been great, ranging from their mainstream, slightly juvenile Pablo Honey to their innovative experimentation on Amnesiac and Kid A. Their upcoming album, entitled In Rainbows, is only available through their Website. What is interesting is that you can pay what you think it’s worth. This is an ingenious idea, and I for one will certainly support it. The reason is that I believe this might be the only solution to piracy. Think about it for a minute. If you could pay, say, 1 USD for an entire album, would you ever go through the hazzle of trying to download it on e-mule, piratebay or any other pirate way? I certainly would not. Moreover, I would hardly bother burning it to a cd and transfer it to my other computers. I would simply buy and download it on every computer I have. 4 USD for having the album ready-to-play on any computer, without the hazzle of downloading a possibly corrupted pirated version and (if applicable) without any feeling of guilt sounds great to me. It’s about time the record companies realize that a digital copy just cannot be priced and treated like a physical copy. Thus, slapping a real-life price tag on a virtual product doesn’t work. Instead, they should focus on exploiting the peculiar characteristics of digital media in the way that Radiohead does. I’m pretty sure the record companies are following this closely, so I urge you to support Radiohead’s vision — even if you’re only paying 1 USD for the album (this still means 1 USD more in revenue with hardly any costs). If we show that this model works, perhaps the rest of the industry will catch up.

Virtual Reality is a big pool

As some of my (very few) readers might know, I’m doing research on the Philosophy of virtual reality. In crawling the Web for others who are trying to define the term, I came across a Chinese posting which looked interesting. I do not know any Chinese, so I tried Google’s translate function. As expected, the result was rather incomrehensible, but it was still an interesting read in a postmodern way:

“The main text of the definition of virtual reality, the first of a number of examples of virtual reality system and the right people previously definition of the concept of virtual reality, a pair of virtual reality that the original meaning of a word in Translation easily lead to misunderstanding. Then the author of virtual reality to the definition of three attributes: the simulation, interactive and imaginary. and that virtual reality system is the real world and the inherent nature of the things the simulation and emulation; Virtual reality system is a result of people moving, depicts a virtual reality system and human relations; Virtual Reality System operators can provide a reasonable room for imagination to operate staff can live virtual environment for effective operation. for more puzzling imagination of a footnote. Finally, virtual reality is a big pool, it is entirely possible as a subject.”

Perhaps most interesting, the finishing statement that VR is a big pool, and that it is entirely possible as a subject. In linguistic terms, I guess the latter could mean that we are legitimate in saying that “Virtual reality is…”. More radical, and not a position I’m willing to adopt, is the statement “virtual reality system is the real world” and it is, in fact, the inherent nature of thing that is a simulation. I guess this underlines the puzzling imagination of a footnote (sic).

PS! The illustration is for illustrative purposes only. I just found it using Google’s image search, and for some very odd reason it is signed with my real life initials O_o