Behind The Buzzwords

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
01Moral Panic2020070720201012 (R4)David Cannadine tells the story behind the buzzword Moral Panic.

How do buzzwords become so widely used, and where do they come from?

How do buzzwords like Moral Panic, Nudge and FOMO become so widely used, and where do they come from? In this new series, Professor Sir David Cannadine, President of the British Academy, traces the biographies of some of our most-used buzzwords.

David looks at how these buzzwords have become central to our current conversations and debates and traces their evolution from college campus to kitchen table. He explores how they have come to shape the way we think, the way we act, the way we communicate with each other and the way we see the world around us - often without our even knowing it.

Episode 1: Moral Panic

“Societies appear to be subject, every now and then, to periods of moral panic. A  condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests.”

So wrote the sociologist Stanley Cohen in 1972, in his book entitled Folk Devils and Moral Panics. Since then, the use of the term moral panic has exploded and it has become a buzzword with considerable power. But in doing so, it has also taken on a life of its own and sometimes been given a different meaning to the one Cohen originally intended.

David Cannadine returns to Stanley Cohen’s original case study of moral panic, which explained how the media and British public reacted to the rivalry and confrontations between gangs of Mods and Rockers during the early 1960s. They were depicted as a social disease – an aliment that needed to be cured.

Throughout the 1980s and 90s, one moral panic followed another - the public horror that ensued when Leah Betts died after taking an ecstasy tablet on her 18th birthday, the scare that video nasties rot your brain, and renewed soul searching about the state of Britain’s youth after the murder of Jamie Bulger by two 10-year old boys.

Nowadays, the news has become more diversified and the nature and scale of these outbursts of orchestrated anxiety have changed - instead of one big moral panic at a time, we tend to get smaller moral panics popping up more often and everywhere. But the term is often used - and misused - as a weapon by those who want to dismiss or trivialise the concerns of rival political or different cultural groups. The issues they seek to raise can be waved away and dismissed as merely a "moral panic" - for which read "groundless hysteria".

With Laurie Taylor, Angela McRobbie and Felix Moore.

Researcher: Joe Christmas
Produced by Melissa FitzGerald

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4

The series is made in collaboration with The British Academy, the UK's national body for the humanities and social sciences, www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk

How do buzzwords like Moral Panic, Nudge and FOMO become so widely used, and where do they come from? In this new series, Professor Sir David Cannadine, President of the British Academy, traces the biographies of some of our most-used buzzwords.

David looks at how these buzzwords have become central to our current conversations and debates and traces their evolution from college campus to kitchen table. He explores how they have come to shape the way we think, the way we act, the way we communicate with each other and the way we see the world around us - often without our even knowing it.

Episode 1: Moral Panic

“Societies appear to be subject, every now and then, to periods of moral panic. A  condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests.”

Nowadays, the news has become more diversified and the nature and scale of these outbursts of orchestrated anxiety have changed - instead of one big moral panic at a time, we tend to get smaller moral panics popping up more often and everywhere. But the term is often used - and misused - as a weapon by those who want to dismiss or trivialise the concerns of rival political or different cultural groups. The issues they seek to raise can be waved away and dismissed as merely a "moral panic" - for which read "groundless hysteria".

With Laurie Taylor, Angela McRobbie and Felix Moore.

Produced by Melissa FitzGerald

A Blakeway Production for BBC Radio 4

The series is made in collaboration with The British Academy.

02Nudge2020071420201013 (R4)Professor Sir David Cannadine traces the biographies of some of our most-used buzzwords.

How do buzzwords become so widely used, and where do they come from?

David Cannadine tells the story behind the buzzword Nudge, widely used during the Coronavirus pandemic.

It was first popularised by two Harvard Professors, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, in their best-selling book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness’, published in 2008. They took the less catchy phrase Libertarian Paternalism as their starting point. David talks to Cass Sunstein about the original concept.

Nudge theory was subsequently seized on by politicians dealing with the fall-out from the financial crisis of 2008. They were attracted to the idea of using the findings of psychological research to encourage people to make better behavioural choices without imposing coercive legislation on them. President Barak Obama loved the concept and hired Cass Sunstein to come up with Nudge advice in areas including environmental protection, healthcare and highway safety. Other Nudge units followed and David speaks to David Halpern from the UK’s Nudge Unit, set up by David Cameron in 2010, about applying Nudge theory to public policy.

Critics of Nudge theory argue that Libertarian Paternalism concentrates on the psychological manipulation of citizens, rather than educating them about making better-informed choices, which means the ultimate effect of nudging is to infantilise us.

Nowadays, Nudge has not only been embraced by government but also by businesses - when you are compelled to leave an airport via the duty free shop, you are being Nudged to part with your cash. And while it was once a novelty to be asked to consider reusing the towels in your hotel bathroom, its now commonplace to be greeted with a winsome plea to think about the planet.

The application of Nudge Theory has undoubtedly had some successes. But there remain big question marks over whether it should be used in the first place. And there are also some doubts as to its effectiveness as Magda Osman from Queen Mary, University of London explains.

With Cass Sunstein, David Halpern and Magda Osman.

Researcher: Joe Christmas

Produced by Melissa FitzGerald

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4

The series is made in collaboration with The British Academy.

David Cannadine tells the story behind the buzzword Nudge.

Nowadays, Nudge has not only been embraced by government but also by businesses - when you are compelled to leave an airport via the duty free shop, you are being Nudged to part with your cash. And while it was once a novelty to be asked to consider reusing the towels in your hotel bathroom, its now commonplace to be greeted with a winsome plea to think about the planet.

The application of Nudge Theory has undoubtedly had some successes. But there remain big question marks over whether it should be used in the first place. And there are also some doubts as to its effectiveness as Magda Osman from Queen Mary, University of London explains.

With Cass Sunstein, David Halpern and Magda Osman.

Researcher: Joe Christmas

Produced by Melissa FitzGerald

A Blakeway Production for BBC Radio 4

The series is made in collaboration with The British Academy.

03Disruptors2020072120201014 (R4)David Cannadine tells the story behind the buzzword Disruptors, which is actually an abbreviation of the original phrase Disruptive Technologies.

This stems from an academic article, written in 1995, by two Harvard Business School Professors, Joseph Bower and Clayton Christensen, in which they explained why big, successful, companies often lose out to new start-ups. David speaks to Joseph Bower about concept at the heart of this theory.

Clayton Christensen further evolved the concept into ‘disruptive innovation’ in his best-selling book The Innovator's Dilemma, published in 1997. It became the handbook of generations of entrepreneurs and disruptive innovation has since been called the “most influential business idea of the 21st century”. It could be said that Silicon Valley was built on the concept of disruptive innovation - the vision of disrupting traditional industry with new tech start-ups, perhaps built out of the back of a garage, lies at its very foundations.

With the digital age came a new work culture - disruptive start-ups, led by ambitious young disruptors, introduced a new way of doing business and making money. But as with all Buzzwords, once the word gets buzzy, it can loose its original meaning, and in this case it was used to describe anything new and all entrepreneurs became disruptors.

Today, the use of this buzzword has ranged beyond the field of business, and is even to be found in the world of politics, but how appropriate is the use of this buzzword in the political sphere?

With Joseph Bower, Mark Casson, Ellen Manning and Ashleigh Hinde

Researcher: Joe Christmas

Produced by Melissa FitzGerald

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4

The series is made in collaboration with The British Academy.

David Cannadine tells the story behind the buzzword Disruptors.

How do buzzwords become so widely used, and where do they come from?

This stems from an academic article, written in 1995, by two Harvard Business School Professors, Joseph Bower and Clayton Christensen, in which they explained why big, successful, companies often lose out to new start-ups. David speaks to Joseph Bower about concept at the heart of this theory.

Today, the use of this buzzword has ranged beyond the field of business, and is even to be found in the world of politics, but how appropriate is the use of this buzzword in the political sphere?

With Joseph Bower, Mark Casson, Ellen Manning and Ashleigh Hinde

Researcher: Joe Christmas

Produced by Melissa FitzGerald

A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4

The series is made in collaboration with The British Academy.

04Fomo2020072820201015 (R4)David Cannadine tells the story behind the Buzzword FOMO - fear of missing out.

The term is thought to have originated in the marketing world during the late 1990s, but it was re-coined and made popular at the beginning of the millennium by a young New Yorker named Patrick McGinnis, who tells his story in the programme.

Fear of Missing Out isn’t a new cultural concept, it’s ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ by another name but, as developments in social media and IT enabled us to be more connected than ever before, FOMO became a hallmark of the digital age.

In 2013 the psychologist Andrew Przybylski conducted a major academic study into FOMO, to understand who was most vulnerable to it. He explains how he found a small but significant trend that indicated young men showed the highest levels of anxiety about not being part of the pack. Andrew concluded that the less people felt autonomy, competence and connectedness in their daily lives, the more susceptible they were to FOMO.

Recently we have all been missing out, because of restrictions imposed upon us on account of the coronavirus pandemic. David wonders if this mass moment of missing out might have actually put a stop to feelings of FOMO?

With Patrick McGinnis, Andrew Przbylski, Nirpal Dhaliwal and Hephzibah Anderson.
Researcher: Joe Christmas

Produced by Melissa FitzGerald
A Blakeway production for BBC Radio 4

The series is made in collaboration with The British Academy, the UK's national body for the humanities and social sciences, www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk

David Cannadine tells the story behind the Buzzword FOMO.

How do buzzwords become so widely used, and where do they come from?

With Patrick McGinnis, Andrew Przbylski, Nirpal Dhaliwal and Hephzibah Anderson.

Researcher: Joe Christmas

Produced by Melissa FitzGerald

A Blakeway Production for BBC Radio 4

The series is made in collaboration with The British Academy.

05Big Data2020080420201016 (R4)David Cannadine tells the story behind the buzzword Big Data.

Throughout history, numerical information has been gathered in efforts to understand human behaviour, but the computer revolution changed the ways information can be collected and analysed, opening the gates to the Big Data era.

This deceptively simple buzzword probably originated in Silicon Valley in the 1990s, but the first academic reference to Big Data came in a paper written in 2003 by Francis Diebold, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania. He explains to David how he was inspired by George Orwell’s Big Brother when he first used the term, as the data we now generate is being collected with every click we make.

In 2012, Big Data entered the mainstream when it was discussed at the World Economic Forum in Davos. In March that year, the American government provided $200 million in research programs for Big Data computing. Soon afterwards, the term was included in the Oxford English Dictionary for the first time.

But as David explains, it isn’t so much the data that’s important, it’s what you do with it that counts. With the evolution of Big Data came new buzzwords like Data Science, Big Data Analytics, Machine Learning and AI, which describe new ways of analyzing the new data sets to which we now have access. As a result, Big Data has been hailed for its potential to improve decision-making in fields from business to medicine, allowing judgments and evaluations to be based increasingly on information and analysis rather than intuition and insight.

‘Knowledge is Power’ wrote Sir Francis Bacon; but perhaps the modern day equivalent is ‘Data is Power’. Political scientist Matthew Longo from Leiden University uses the term ‘dataveillance’ to show how the model of statecraft is changing in the Big Data era. Today, surveillance tracks individuals through their data and there is a race for data in the way that there was once a race for oil.

There are so many places where Big Data is changing the way things work, including how we tackle diseases like Coronavirus. Rowland Kao, Professor of Veterinary Epidemiology and Data Science at the University of Edinburgh, who has been working with Public Health Scotland on Coronavirus modelling, explains how Big Data is being used to understand and fight the pandemic.

With Francis Diebold, Hetan Shah, Matthew Longo, Helen Margetts and Rowland Kao.

Researcher: Joe Christmas

Produced by Melissa FitzGerald

A Blakeway roduction for BBC Radio 4

The series is made in collaboration with The British Academy, the UK's national body for the humanities and social sciences.

How do buzzwords become so widely used, and where do they come from?

Professor Sir David Cannadine traces the biographies of some of our most-used buzzwords.

This deceptively simple buzzword probably originated in Silicon Valley in the 1990s, but the first academic reference to Big Data came in a paper written in 2003 by Francis Diebold, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania. He explains to David how he was inspired by George Orwell’s Big Brother when he first used the term, as the data we now generate is being collected with every click we make.

With Francis Diebold, Hetan Shah, Matthew Longo, Helen Margetts and Rowland Kao.

Researcher: Joe Christmas

Produced by Melissa FitzGerald

A Blakeway Production for BBC Radio 4

The series is made in collaboration with The British Academy.