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The Big Idea

A new podcast is giving the University an innovative way to share its big ideas with the world.

The Big Idea podcast logo

Building on Edinburgh’s tradition of providing a home for inquisitive minds such as Charles Darwin, David Hume and Peter Higgs, the Big Idea Podcast is a forum for contemporary thinkers to exchange their work and expertise with each other and listeners.

Each month a group of academics from different parts of the University gather to discuss a special theme, ranging from Scotland’s future to the power of perception.

Since its launch the podcast has gained listeners from around the world, from the USA and Australia to China and Saudi Arabia.

Scottish Independence

The first podcast looked at the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence.

Dr Nicola McEwen, director of public policy at the Academy of Government, led the debate on whether the wording of the referendum question can actually change the course of a vote and what the major events for the debate in 2013 would be.

She was joined by Dr Simon Clark, head of the School of Economics, Professor Stephen Tierney, director of the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law, and Professor Ewen Cameron, the Sir William Fraser chair of Scottish History.

Telling Tales

The second podcast was themed around telling tales.

Dr Nick Higgins, programme director for the MSc in Media, Culture and Practice, talked about his film project We Are Northern Lights, which crowd sourced hundreds of hours of video to create a tapestry of contemporary Scotland.

This high-tech way of gathering stories contrasted with the lo-fi work of Donald William Stewart, senior researcher in the Carmichael Watson Project, who is delving into the notebooks of Alexander Carmichael, a Victorian folklorist who travelled the Scottish islands and Highlands collecting tales.

Also on the show was Professor Lesley McAra, head of the School of Law, whose research revealed how school exclusions dramatically increased a person’s chance of imprisonment in later life.

Mirror Mirror

The latest podcast is entitled Mirror Mirror and tackles the nature of image and perception.

Mal Burkinshaw, programme leader in fashion at Edinburgh College of Art, leads the way as he examines the power of fashion.

He is joined by Dr David Carmel, neuroscientist from Psychology, who discusses how our brains construct reality and Richard Williams, professor of contemporary visual cultures, who talks about why he thinks Edinburgh’s self-image is paralysing the city.

Sharing and training

As well as being an accessible way for the public to hear about the University’s work, it is also a forum for academics to meet colleagues from different parts of the institution, share ideas, and gain media training in a studio setting.

Download for free

You can download or subscribe to The Big Idea podcasts for free through iTunes U or our RSS feed.

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College of Humanities and Social Science