The Big Q

Questions - Ideas - Scholarships - Debates

Project for Media in the Public Interest

Are Our Oceans Under Threat? 🔊

Our fates are tied to the fate of our oceans, which generate half of the world's oxygen, as well as provide water, food, recreation, culture, and some $24 trillion of the global economy. But ocean life is under threat by multiple stressors — climate change, acidification, plastics, pollution, overfishing,...

Will Fake News Affect the New Zealand Election? ▶

Is that really a fact staring you in the face? Or is it fake news…an alternative fact? Is it true simply because you want it to be true?

Fake news and ‘alternative facts’ invaded Northern Hemisphere politics during the U.S. presidential election and Brexit. Social media were the breeding ground for falsehoods driven by cynical manipulation and click-bait revenue potential. Mainstream news organisations became unwitting agents when they spread the messages to wider audiences eager to have their prejudices reinforced.

New Zealand is not immune to this post-truth virus and in September we go to the polls. What will be the shape and effect of fake news in our General Election campaign?

What Is the Future of the University? Academic Capitalism and the Global Knowledge Economy ▶

By Cris Shore - Changes in the political economy of higher education, including cuts in public spending, rising student fees, the privileging of STEM subjects over the arts and humanities, and the proliferation of new regimes of audit and accountability, pose challenges for the social sciences as well as the...

Politics & Society

Understanding the Crisis in Yemen: What Can Be Done? 🔊

After more than two years of civil war, famine, and cholera outbreaks, Yemen is facing what observers are calling the worst humanitarian crisis in history. How did it get to this? And what can be done? Maria Armoudian is joined by Charles Schmitz and Hammoud Salhi to...

Will New Zealand TV News Media Inform or Infotain this Election?

New Zealand television is in a state of flux. News and current affairs have been at the front line of change, with newsrooms being cut back and current affairs shows axed. Over the last three decades, we have seen the commercialisation of news and the evolution of a...

How is Art Used to Counter Oppression? 🔊

Throughout history, art has been used as an act of resistance and as a weapon to counter oppression and violence. Maria Armoudian talks to professor Mark LeVine about the role of art in resistance movements. Mark LeVine is a professor of History at the University of...

What is Media Freedom? 🔊

What is media freedom? How do you know when it’s there? And what role does it play in the political landscape today? Maria Armoudian discusses media freedom with Jennifer Whitten-Woodring and Douglas A. Van Belle. They are co-authors of the book Historical Guide to...

Are We Living in a Post-Truth Era?

While many argue that we are in a post-truth era, fuelled by US President Donald Trump and the phenomenon of fake news, some scholars argue that deception has always been ubiquitous. What is the truth about lying? Maria Armoudian is joined by...

What Lies Behind the Sex Trafficking of Yazidi Women?

By Rima Shenoy Men can co-exist on the condition that they recognise each other as being all equally, though differently, human – but they can also co-exist by denying each other a comparable degree of humanity and thus establishing a system of subordination. - Claude...

Science & Technology

How Have Our Relationships with Animals Changed Humans? 🔊

Human history has been drastically changed by our relationship with animals. Professor Brian Fagan contends that it would be a different world if not for our intimate bonds with animals. How have they changed us and the world we live in? Professor Fagan chats to Maria...

Are Our Oceans Under Threat? 🔊

Our fates are tied to the fate of our oceans, which generate half of the world's oxygen, as well as provide water, food, recreation, culture, and some $24 trillion of the global economy. But ocean life is under threat by multiple stressors — climate change,...

Is Big Money Influencing Science? 🔊

Raising big money is a relatively new phenomenon in academia. How did science, government, and industry become so entwined with one another and what has it meant for scholarly research? Big money has supported cross-institution collaborations researching both medicine...

Can the Bee Colony Collapse be Stopped? 🔊

Throughout much of the world bee populations have been declining, threatening food supplies that rely on the pollinators to reproduce. Their deaths have been tied to insecticides, climate change, and killer mites. What is the latest research on the global health of...

Business & Economics

Is Big Money Influencing Science? 🔊

Raising big money is a relatively new phenomenon in academia. How did science, government, and industry become so entwined with one another and what has it meant for scholarly research? Big money has supported cross-institution collaborations researching both medicine...

Are There Blood Minerals in Your Phone?

What is the relationship between minerals (such as oil, diamonds and gold) and conflict, authoritarianism and poverty? Scholars have spent years studying how the so-called extractive industries - mining and drilling - impact people's lives, their governance, and the...

Is Our Economy Undermining the Green Revolution? 🔊

Are some green solutions unhelpful for the environment or, worse, do they actually harm it? In her book Green Gone Wrong: How Our Economy Is Undermining the Environmental Revolution, journalist Heather Rogers explores whether 'green' products such as carbon offsets,...

Can Cooperatives Transform the Nature of Work? 🔊

Maria Armoudian talks to author Jessica Gordon Nembhard about worker-owned cooperatives and whether they can transform workers' lives and livelihoods. Jessica Gordon Nembhard is an associate professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development in the...

What Are the Challenges of Negotiating Trade Liberalisation?

By Stephen Hoadley Given the number of free trade agreements that New Zealand has concluded during the past decade, from China to Taiwan to the Pacific Islands to the Middle East, one might suppose negotiating new ones will get easier. Not so. I have just published a...

Arts & Culture

How is Art Used to Counter Oppression? 🔊

Throughout history, art has been used as an act of resistance and as a weapon to counter oppression and violence. Maria Armoudian talks to professor Mark LeVine about the role of art in resistance movements. Mark LeVine is a professor of History at the University of...

I, Donald? A Classic View of Trump

By Marcus Wilson - How Suetonius would have loved Mr. Trump! As biographer of the Roman emperors, Suetonius had a sharp eye for the matching and mismatching of personal character with the exercise of supreme political power. Many of us today, both inside and outside...

Can Music Effect Social and Political Change? 🔊

All over the world, and throughout history, music has been a vital part of effecting social and political change. At times the powers-that-be resist that change by oppressing the arts and the artists. Can music bring about social and political change? How has music...

Abusing power? The Cartoonist in a Post-Truth World

By Steve Bell - Image is all-important in politics, and image making especially so. Politicians are supposed to create their own images, yet very often exploit negative and derogatory imagery in order to get noticed. Hitler deliberately borrowed Charlie Chaplin’s...

What Are the Politics of Humour? 🔊

Humour affects our health, disposition, relationships and organisations. Can it also help change politics in society? Amber Day, John Morreall and Peter McGraw discuss the origins, philosophy and politics of humour with Maria Armoudian.