Last year, I listed some of my favourite Christmas music and a re-cap of the books I particularly enjoyed. Well, here we go again. Below is my roundup of my favourite books out of the 30 or so I read for pleasure this year, plus a couple of Christmas albums that I stumbled upon for this season.

Happy Holidays and happy reading 🎄


When the Shooting Stops, the Cutting Begins: A Film Editor’s Story
Ralph Rosenblum & Robert Karen, 1979, Da Capo Press

The Internet is often declared the sole cause of radicalisation and extremism. But there are many factors contributing to both

Is the Internet a radicalizing force? Does it lead to more politically motivated violence? These are questions that flare up again and again after terrorist attacks, especially when it is discovered that the perpetrator(s) have been very active online. Recent examples include the attacks in Hanau, Halle and Christchurch where the respective right-wing attackers are known to have consumed or distributed extremist content on the web.

In the most recent case of the racially motivated attack in the German city of Hanau on 19 February 2020, the attacker published a vitriolic pamphlet on the Internet and it seems likely that…

Film companies are following Netflix by using big data to make big decisions — yet it could cut down on the risk-taking that makes classics

Photo: NurPhoto/Getty Images

“Nobody knows anything,” wrote legendary Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman in 1983. “Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”

Nearly 40 years later, Hollywood studios are still making wild guesses about which movies might break even or make a profit. Films are what economists refer to as experience goods, so viewers don’t know whether they’ve made a good decision until they’ve watched the film. Movie marketing, too, is still costly and inaccurate, averaging $30 million per film but…

A personal ‘Best of’ of festive music, scholarship and other readings

Over on Twitter, I created a little thread (in a bout of festive procrastination) of some of my favourite (academic) books of the year, spiced up with my best-loved jazzy interpretations of various Christmas songs. It was a fun way to waste some time and might be helpful for those of you who are still in need of some X-mas shopping inspiration or would like to get into a festive mood.

Ready to start? Here we go…

Music 🎼

1. A particular gem: This 1953 live recording of Chet Baker and Stan Gets in Los Angeles where they play an uptempo bop…

© Kitty Terwolbeck — CC BY 2.0

The Amazon, parts of Africa and the Arctic were recently burning. Indonesia is planning to relocate its capital because Jakarta is slowly going under. No matter where you look, the signs of the climate crisis are for everyone to see. At the same time, thousands of students around the UK are starting their PhDs this autumn and so do I.

For many of us, it’s an equally exhilarating and intimidating prospect. Exhilarating because it gives us the chance to work on topics and in fields we care about deeply and to which we hope to make, eventually, at least a…

How Instagram is changing political communication — and what that might mean for democracy as we know it.

Livestreams, sticker and Elizabeth Warren drinking beer in her kitchen: Instagram is the latest fad among social media-savvy politicians. But why is the political world suddenly crazy about using the platform — and what consequences does this have for political communication as we know it?

“There is no secret recipe. You just have to be good at…getting things done,” says the young woman into the camera of her smartphone while standing in a kitchen making “Mac N Cheese”. Music runs in the background and she repeatedly breaks out into spontaneous dance movements, while a thunderstorm of various emoji and comments…

“Ibiza-Gate” — the scandal that triggered the collapse of the Austrian government in May — spoke volumes about the way in which Austria’s right-wing populists regard the press and public broadcasters. But they’re not alone — across Europe, the populist right has public media in its sights.

© Ashley Campell, CC BY 2.0

When secretly filmed footage emerged showing Austria’s former vice-chancellor and leader of the right-wing populist Freedom Party (FPÖ), Heinz-Christian Strache, excitedly talking about selling out his country to a woman he believed to be a Russian billionaire, commentators across Europe expressed shock and outrage.

Strache’s comments were scandalous on so many levels: the corrupt intent, the willingness to enter into a conspiracy and use public money to shackle the media and undermine Austrian democracy. …

Can we fix the news? Alan Rusbridger, former editor-in-chief of the Guardian and author of “Breaking News“ is optimistic. An interview about the future of news and the importance of journalism in our modern world.

Alan Rusbridger is one of the best and most successful newspaper editors of our time. At the helm of The Guardian from 1995 to 2015, he saw the newspaper through turbulent times — both economically and politically. Under his watch, the Guardian published investigations into the British phone-hacking scandal and covered the Wikileaks Afghan War documents. He also oversaw the Pulitzer prize-winning reporting of Edward Snowden’s revelations of American and British state surveillance — stories that would see the Guardian rise to a position of international renown. …

Speaker’s Corner has turned into a playground for fanatics — but the bastion of absolute freedom of speech has a lesson in store for the media.

Speaker’s Corner in the 1970s. © CC BY-SA 2.0, Leonard Bentley

Speaker’s Corner is probably one of the most bizarre free attractions that the London has to offer. At the north-eastern end of Hyde Park, just a stone’s throw from Marble Arch, passers-by can enjoy a bizarre spectacle every Sunday.

Leaning against fences or standing on small stepladders and armed with homemade signs that sometimes remind one of bad school presentations, a good dozen men (it’s usually men) cry out for attention. They scream and shout against each other, they shout at their listeners, and sometimes they just shout at the squirrels, who like to visit Speaker’s Corner not because it…

Most journalists want to be famous on Twitter. But research shows fame is hard to come by.

Popularity on social media, especially Twitter, is important for many journalists. This is partly due to the fact that their employers like to see them do well online. A journalist with a strong online presence can, the theory goes, strengthen the reputation of an outlet and help to increase traffic coming from social media.

And journalists themselves like to be popular, too (who wouldn’t?). Apart from the fact that it’s pleasing for one’s ego to be well-known, many journalists are well aware that online popularity does play at least some role when it comes to hiring decisions and promotions.


Felix Simon

Journalist & Researcher. DPhil student Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. Research Assistant Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

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