Book Event: L-PEG Seminar

I am very excited for my upcoming seminar with the Leiden Political Economy Group. I will be presenting the introductory chapter of the Routledge International Handbook of Financialization. It’s the first of hopefully many book events in the coming months!

L-PEG poster

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Live Transcription

While I enjoy doing interviews, there are few research chores I dislike more than transcribing. Everything about it I find awful: never being able to type as fast I want to, having to listen to the same sentences over and over again, hearing my voice on the audio, you name it. It’s just such a drag.

My profound dislike of transcribing leaves me with dilemma, when teaching interviewing skills. On the one hand, I do find transcription an important step in the research process. Writing down the spoken words creates familiarity with the data and stimulates initial analysis. Even though transcribing is incredibly boring, it does have a way of getting the creativity flowing. On the other hand, I feel that I should not downplay these negatives to my students and I strongly emphasize the time investment that transcription requires. Students should know what they are getting themselves into, before deciding on interviewing as their method of choice.

Needless to say, when a colleague mentions new tools to make our lives as interviewers a bit easier, I am all ears. Now of course, for me it is possible to hire someone (a student assistant or a professional company) for this part of the research process. My students, however, do not have the resources available to do so. So I am always on the lookout for short cuts that are not just functional, but also accessible.

I recently stumbled on this thread that outlined a number of useful alternatives to professional transcription services. As it happens, I was just preparing my interviewing workshop for the following day, so I decided to make my experimentation with these transcription methods part of my lesson plan. When students were doing mock interviews as part of the workshop, they recorded the first few minutes on my cell phone. I then e-mailed the audio file to myself and downloaded the file on the classroom computer. I projected my computer screen onto the white board, so students could see what I was doing.

I decided to try out two recommendations from the online thread. [Sidenote: at home, I also tried the voice type option in Google Docs. This seemed to work, when I clearly spoke into my computer’s microphone. Unfortunately, when I played an interview recording from my laptop or cell phone, the software did not pick up on the spoken words. So I decided not to recommend this method to my students].

The first was to upload our audio file onto YouTube and to turn on the transcription option. You can find this option, when you click the three dots and select ‘open transcription’  (see also image below > small yellow circle). YouTube then automatically transcribes the audio and provides time stamps as well. You can copy-paste the text and enter it into a word file (see image > large yellow circle). The big advantage of this option is that it’s entirely free to use. You only need to create a YouTube channel. You can keep your channel private, so other people do not have access to your audio files. A downside is that YouTube does not make a distinction between different speakers, so you still need to specify who is saying what, after you copy-paste the transcription in your own text file.

YouTube plaatje

The second option we tried was AmberScript. AmberScript is an online transcription service. It’s incredibly easy to use: you simply create an account, upload your audio file, you wait a few minutes and… voilà! There’s your transcript. Even though the transcript was not flawless in our classroom experiment, my students and I all agreed that the quality of the transcript still exceeded expectations. Since we only uploaded a few minutes of audio, AmberScript also worked incredibly fast. It did not take more than 5 minutes! Unfortunately, the service does come at a price. Users pay a fee per minute of uploaded audio. The first 30 minutes are free, but it can become expensive very quickly: Amber Script charges 90 euros for 10 hours of audio via Surfspot.nl (website that sells software at a discount to students at Dutch universities) and 15 euros per hour of audio via its own website. I asked my students if these prices would prevent them from using this service and their responses were mixed: some would, some wouldn’t.

All in all, I found this to be was a very useful classroom activity to introduce students to online solutions for transcribing interviewing. Transcribing parts of a practice interview that students had carried out only a few minutes prior was not just educational. It also added a bit of fun and suspense to the class, because nobody (myself included!) was sure how the experiment would play out. It was exhilarating to see how both online platforms created pretty decent texts in real time. Of course, both texts would still need to be improved before being able to use them for further analysis. However, even when taking editing time into account, this would still save you quite some time ,when compared to manual transcription.

A final word of caution: my colleague rightfully pointed out that uploading audio to online platforms such as YouTube and AmberScript might be problematic in light of the EU GDPR. On GDPR compliance by AmberScript, see this webpage. I’m going to ask our privacy officer at the university for additional feedback. To be continued…

 

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Filed under Flipped Classroom, Institute of Public Administration, Open Education, Research Methods

Senior Kwalificatie Onderwijs

I’m very pleased to be one of the five faculty members of the Faculty of Governance of Global Affairs – and the first at the Institute of Public Administration! – to have been awarded the Senior Kwalificatie Onderwijs (senior teaching qualification, SKO) by Leiden University’s Executive Board. The SKO is the highest teaching qualification for academic educators in the Netherlands. It is awarded to academics, who ” play a role in the development and innovation of education at a higher level than that of their own discipline.”  According to the SKO selection committee:

SKO“Natascha van der Zwan pays a lot of attention to activating teaching methods in her courses. In recent years, she has been making frequent use of blended learning and flipped classrooms (clips)… She finds it is important that students dare to make mistakes and have the opportunity to do so. Students have freedom of choice in which methodological tools they use. This makes both broadening and deepening [of the course content] possible…”

“She also tries to enthuse other teachers for the forms of education that she experiments with and publishes on… She has developed her own online environment to promote transfer to other teachers.”

To read more about my teaching projects, see here.

 

 

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Filed under Flipped Classroom, Institute of Public Administration, Research Methods

Join Our SASE Mini-Conference!

 

IMG_20180914_115959_935Together with Jeanne Lazarus and Daniel Mertens, I am organizing a mini-conference on The Welfare State in Financial Times for the 2020 SASE conference in Amsterdam (July 18-20). Paper abstracts can be submitted from November 25, 2019 until January 10, 2020.

In this mini-conference, we hope to explore the complicated new ways in which social and financial policies have become entangled in contemporary welfare states. Particularly, we are interested in the question of how processes of financialization are shaping welfare state development. On the one hand, the contributions to the mini-conference would map the ongoing financialization of the welfare state in contemporary political economies, both historically and comparatively, by focusing on the introduction and expansion of financial tools and mechanisms in public and private welfare provision. On the other hand, we welcome contributions that study how welfare states and other social groupings have debated and introduced new public policies and financial tools that promise to protect against growing financial risks in everyday life. Looking at these promises of protections through the market requires a fundamentally different understanding of the nature of the welfare state than the scholarship’s traditional focus on decommodification.

This mini-conference has several aims. First, we hope to reintegrate scholarship on welfare and finance to come to a better understanding of how the welfare state and the financial system are mutually intertwined, both historically and comparatively. Second, we hope to approach the mini-conference theme using a broader conception of finance: to include not just financial actors and their interest organizations, but also financial ideas and narratives, norms and practices that interact at different scales of the modern polity. Third, we would like to reflect on how the use of financial tools can be considered as a tool to protect household living standards and economic stability. Finally, we hope our mini-conference forms the basis of new conceptualization of welfare state development under financialized capitalism.

We welcome papers with varied disciplinary backgrounds discussing the following issues:

  • Variations of finance-welfare interactions across political economies and over time;
  • Lineages and linkages of institutional/ideational change in social policy areas and financial systems;
  • State experiments with financial and technological innovations to fund and manage welfare programs;
  • Political coalitions undergirding or confronting the welfare-finance nexus;
  • The distributional and political effects of financial market-based social policies, particularly on class, gender, and race;
  • The relationship between financialization and contemporary paradigms of social policy analysis such as marketization, privatization and social investment;
  • Histories and narratives on the mutually constitutive nature of the financial system and the welfare state;
  • Conceptual and methodological discussions that offer new research strategies to study financialization within the welfare state.

More details can be found on the SASE website (scroll all the way down for our mini-conference).

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Filed under Events, Financialization, Netherlands

Forthcoming January 2020

Handbook Cover

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November 11, 2019 · 2:54 pm

Out Now: Activating the Research Methods Curriculum

Article screenshot

For our course on social science research methods at the Institute of Public Administration (Leiden University), Alexandre Afonso and I have created a flipped classroom with blended learning, in which we reversed the traditional set-up of a university course. Basic knowledge transfer takes place via an online environment, where knowledge clips, reading materials and exercises are located. This has freed up class time for active learning exercises, through which students practice with new research methods and techniques. We have found that this course design improves students’ performance, because they gain a better experience of what it is like to do research.

We have described our experiences in the article “Activating the Research Methods Curriculum: The Blended Flipped Classroom,” which has now appeared in Vol. 52, No. 4 of PS: Political Science & Politics. When we designed this course four years ago, we were purposively looking for a form of education that was in line with our own experiences of the research process. And that was not the traditional way of teaching: listening to lectures, reading from a textbook. Our own experience as students-turned-scholars was that real-life learning is a matter of doing, which usually means muddling through, making mistakes along the way, and sharpening your skills accordingly. So we decided to design a course in which this type of learning-by-doing research is central, facilitated by the new possibilities that online educational resources bring to the university classroom: the blended flipped classroom.

We hope that our experience might inspire others to undertake similar projects, while also offering guidance on how to do this effectively and efficiently. Setting up a blended flipped classroom takes time, technical skills, and at times a thick skin when encountering resistance from students and colleagues. We describe how designed and implemented our blended flipped classroom, including the mistakes we have made along the way. We also share a few active learning exercises that we have used in our course and that other teachers may find useful as well.  

Click here to learn more about our article, to receive extra information on how we experienced designing and teaching a blended flipped classroom, and to find some active-learning exercises that we have used in this course. 

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Filed under Flipped Classroom, Institute of Public Administration, Open Education, Research Methods

CES Political Economy and Welfare Research Network

I’m currently one of three candidates nominated to replace Julia Moses as co-chair of the CES Political Economy and Welfare Research Network. As requested, I had written a few words on my vision for the network, when offering my candidacy. If you’re a member of this network and the ideas below appeal to you, please vote for me! Voting is possible until Wednesday, October 23.

“The strengths of our network are its openness to theoretical and methodological pluralism as well as its broad comparative approach to the study of political economy and the welfare state. If elected co-chair of the Network, I would like to strengthen ongoing activities in the three focus areas of this network (education and social policies; the comparative political economy of regime formation and change; cross-border connections). At the same time, my own interdisciplinary research interests make me particularly well-suited to appeal to colleagues working on new approaches to political economy, including junior and emerging scholars. As our profession is rethinking its strong reliance on face-to-face meetings for scholarly exchanges, I’m interested in developing new and inclusive ways in which our members can engage with or participate in this network, such as through social media. I would also like to continue ongoing collaborations with other CES research networks, including those currently in formation. Having divided my professional life between the United States and the European continent, I feel particularly well-suited to foster the ongoing dialogue between our network’s members on both sides of the Atlantic.”

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