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  • Do voluntary disclosures have an impact on sustainable company performance? evidence from top Nigerian oil companies

    Dembo, Abubakar Mahmud (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2021-01)
    This study contains four interrelated stages of a more comprehensive study of whether voluntary disclosures have an impact on company performance of top Nigerian oil companies. The study uses multiple data to improve the understanding of the underlying process. The main aim of this study is to explore the relationship between corporate governance, sustainability practice, and corporate performance. The sample period covers ten years after the first Nigerian code was published in 2003; that is from 2004 to 2013. The first stage analyses were the compliance level over two periods; when the first code was published (2004-2009) and when the second code was made public (2010-2013). The second stage investigates the relationship between corporate governance mechanisms and performance. The impact of sustainability practice on corporate performance is examined at stage three, whether on average, well-governed companies are likely to follow a more socially responsible program through improved sustainable practices. The study found that a combination of sustainable and governance practices has a positive influence on performance than sustainability practices alone; this suggests that governance practice positively impacts the sustainability practices-performance association. This study provides four main contributions to the existing literature. Notably, this is the first study which explores the compliance with Nigerian code and examines the relationship of best practice with the performance of the top Nigerian companies. Secondly, this study provides evidence that governance mechanisms have enhanced the impact of sustainability practice and performance of companies, thus addressing the literature gap for Nigerian companies. Thirdly, the qualitative analysis of the managers’ view on the relationship between sustainability and corporate governance practices within top Nigerian companies represents an addition to the existing literature. Finally, the study also adds to the body of knowledge on the relationship between corporate governance, sustainability practices, and performance from a developing nation. The results have significant insinuations for corporate managers and policy-makers for them to develop a plan that mutually pursue governance and sustainability practice developments together, instead of considering the social practice as a peripheral. These results provide the foundation for Nigerian companies to incorporate good governance and social responsibility as part of their business strategy aimed at improving corporate performance.
  • Operationalising physical literacy within physical education teaching practice through professional development

    Durden-Myers, Elizabeth Jayne (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2020-09)
    Introduction - Physical literacy has been described as a longed-for concept and has gained widespread global interest. This interest has also given rise to calls for physical literacy to be operationalised, providing clarity and guidance on developing physical literacy informed teaching practice. Operationalising physical literacy is crucial in moving the concept forwards by providing substance to the claims made by physical literacy advocates. The purpose of this research was to explore how physical literacy could be operationalised within physical education teaching practice. In particular, this thesis investigates how professional development can support physical literacy informed physical education practice. Methodology - This research utilised professional development sessions alongside participatory action research to develop the practice of fourteen teachers of physical education in both primary and secondary school contexts. Semi-structured interviews were used to capture the professional development journey of each teacher. This information was supplemented by extensive supporting data including field diaries, emails, video recordings, lesson observations, lesson plans and lesson reflections. Thematic analysis and narrative representation were used to analyse and present the findings of the semi-structured interviews. Findings - This research proposes that physical literacy professional development can be effective in operationalising physical literacy within physical education teaching practice. It argues that the factors that mediate the effectiveness of professional development include the professional development process, the use of a credible expert, and participant and context engagement. This research also argues that as a result of professional development teachers are better able to describe the why, what and how of physical literacy and are able to better articulate how it informs their teaching practice. Finally, a number of barriers to operationalising physical literacy within physical education teaching practice were identified and categorised as either leadership and governance, management and institutional or individual barriers. Solutions to support the operationalisation of physical literacy in physical education teaching practice centred around two key themes. Firstly, raising the status and value of physical education and secondly, by improving professional development opportunities for teachers. Conclusion - This research contributes to knowledge firstly, by extending the theoretical and conceptual rationale and understanding around unpacking physical literacy for use within educational professional development and physical education teaching practice. And secondly, in the development of a physical literacy professional development framework and intervention. This research provides an effective process (action research and professional development sessions) alongside a range of supporting tools (lesson planning, observation and reflection tools) and resources (website, folder, handouts) that can assist the operationalisation of physical literacy. This research recommends that more opportunities for meaningful physical literacy professional development, including the development of whole school approaches are required. It also argues that more needs to be done in order to elevate and align the value, role and purpose of physical education across the education profession as a whole. Finally, this research argues that in order to scale and create sustainable impact the creation of in-situ physical literacy experts or champions are required to sustain and advocate the value of and develop physical literacy informed practice more widely and sustainably.
  • The representation of women in Egyptian newspapers during the 2011 – 2014 uprisings in Egypt

    Al-Nuaimi, Namir (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2020-09)
    The Arab Spring, which swept across North Africa and parts of the Middle East in 2011 was viewed by many observers, commentators and activists in the West and throughout the region as a beacon of hope. The world rejoiced that the autocratic regimes of leaders such as Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia were toppled, and it was hoped that these regimes would be replaced by fair and democratic governments. Unfortunately, the post-revolutionary reality has not met the expectations of many ordinary people. Instead, Libya and Syria have descended into factional clashes between local militias and civil war respectively. In Egypt, the progress that women activists and campaigners were achieving with respect to improving the rights and representation of women across society has regressed. Consequently, the social position of women has become marginalised in the face of masculine institutions such as the Egyptian military. In order to assess the impact that gender discourses held within Egyptian society, this research project has analysed articles from two of the most popular newspapers in the country – Al Ahram and Al-Masry Al-Youm. Specifically, the study assesses how both these papers have reported incidents featuring prominent protests and campaigns by women in the aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution and within the context of dominant patriarchal discourses and discursive practices. I argue that these discourses served to normalise an inferior position for women in society. Using critical discourse analysis (CDA) and qualitative interviews involving women who have first-hand experiences of the workings of newspapers in Egypt, this study discovers that there are similarities and deviations in the way that language is used in articles that feature campaigns and protests by women: in particular, the court case pertaining to Samira Ibrahim and the virginity test case; the presidential bid by Bothaina Kamel; and the campaign by women’s groups to allow female recruitment by the Egyptian military. This study finds that some language in the newspapers does counter hegemonic masculinity. I argue in this study that Egyptian newspapers are responsible for disseminating an ideological discourse that serves to support the patriarchal institutions of the State. Through the lens of hegemonic masculinity, it finds that the dominance and normalising of the male voice within the selected Egyptian newspapers, serves to reinforce certain preferences within social opinion through discursive practices. The study ascertains that Egyptian newspapers offer an example of institutionalised hegemonic masculinity which strives systematically to silence women despite valiant attempts by certain women activists to interrogate both the workings and institutions of hegemonic masculinity by way of their voice. By analysing the voices of Egyptian women as captured in Western sources and through the lens of Islamic Feminism, this study also demonstrates how women contest dominant discourses in mainstream Egyptian newspapers.
  • Loneliness and depression among informal caregivers of children with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria

    Amaugo, Lucky Gospel (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2020-07)
    This research explores the experience of loneliness and depression among informal caregivers of children with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. The study utilised semi-structured interviews involving eleven informal caregivers of children with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. Using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to analyse the account of participants, five superordinate themes were identified which are: ‘caregiving – a challenging experience’, ‘HIV medication – a solution and a problem’, ‘struggle with negative emotions’, ‘keeping it secret’ and ‘positive coping with caregiving’. These themes provided an overall account of the experience of caregiving among informal caregivers of children with HIV/AIDS in Nigeria. The study findings revealed there could be a relationship between informal caregiving and the experience of loneliness and depression. Participants described caregiving as emotionally distressing due to the challenges involved with their care recipient’s health condition, the management of HIV medication, the attitude of care recipients towards their medication, and perceived stigma and discrimination associated to HIV/AIDS. HIV medication was an important element that influenced informal caregivers’ approaches to coping with HIV caregiving, such as non-disclosure and secrecy, which limited their access to social support and intensified the feeling of loneliness. Furthermore, religious resources were highlighted as important part of participants’ coping strategies. Participants were also optimistic and hopeful for a lasting solution to HIV infection and its related problems. Based on the findings of the study, a new theoretical framework which explains the experience of informal caregivers in the context of paediatric HIV/AIDS, is proposed. The study makes recommendations for policy and practice and for future research.
  • L2 writers' revisions in a computer-based academic English writing test task: a keystroke logging study

    Anbreen, Tanzeela (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2020)
    This study investigated the revision patterns and purposes of forty native Urdu speaking English L2 writers in a computer-based academic English writing test task. The chosen writers were divided into a more successful and less successful group based on the score obtained in the given IELTS academic writing task 2. A keystroke logging program Inputlog recorded each writing session including all revisions, and it could be re-played after the session. From the recorded sessions, idea or meaning related revisions were further investigated. The writers were shown these revisions immediately after the session as a stimulus, and verbal protocols were obtained to investigate their revision purposes. The revisions obtained from keystroke logging program were analysed using a revision taxonomy based on Stevenson, Schoonen and Glopper (2006) and Lindgren and Sullivan (2006) studies. Findings suggested that in general, both groups focused on form revisions more than the concept revisions. But, more successful writers made conceptual revisions more than form revisions. Also, more successful writers revised larger text chunks, such as clause, sentence and paragraph. Both the groups reported seven revision purposes; however, eighth category 'writers did not remember' also emerged from the data. The seven revision purposes included clarity, explicitness or emphasis, coherence, hedging, modify an idea, eliminate an idea, creating a new global content unit and making text reader-friendly. However, more successful writers expressed more awareness of their revision purposes than less successful writers. The findings of this study have theoretical, pedagogical and methodological implications, particularly in the Urdu L1 context. These findings provide empirical evidence about the revision patterns and purposes of L2 writers which may be useful for the teachers or instructors teaching English writing to L2 writers, particularly to the Urdu speaking English L2 writers. They can use these findings to help them improve their writing skills by focusing on the revisions. However, future research in this area is suggested.
  • SME decision making in using bank loans: applying an adapted model with attitudinal variables of the theory of planned behaviour in Nigeria

    Clement, Seyefar (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2019)
    The financial constraints that exist for SME has received increased attention in recent years. Intervention programmes by governments to improve access to finance for businesses has mainly focused on supply side measures, through seeking to stimulate supply, by creating new financing channels and easing regulatory barriers in the supply of finance. This is based on general assumption that the issue of access to finance is as a result of insufficient supply of external finance for businesses; however, there is increasing recognition that demand side issues also hinder access to finance, and these demand side deficiencies impede the effectiveness of supply side interventions. This study focuses on the demand side perspective, it builds on the Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) and proposes and validates an adapted model that examines the relationship between attitudinal factors and the intention of SMEs to use bank loans in Nigeria. The adapted TPB model used attitudinal variables (perceived trust, attitude, perceived social norm, and perceived behavioural control) to understand SME financial decision (intention use bank loans), and captures various antecedent variables that influence these attitudinal factors. The cross-sectional survey study was conducted in Nigeria. The study used Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) to analyse the data. PLS SEM was used to test the hypothesized relationships between the antecedents, attitudinal factors, and intention to use bank loans. The findings indicate that attitudinal factors which consist of attitude, perceived behavioural control, perceived social norm, and perceived trust predicts SME intention to use bank loans in Nigeria. The result also showed that key antecedent factors such as financial literacy, perceived risk, normative beliefs, self-efficacy, perceived quality of loan information are antecedents to these attitudinal factors. The study successfully implemented a psychology-based theory in SME financing decision context. It highlights the importance of incorporating psychology theories to gain further understanding on noneconomic factors that impact decision making of SMEs. Traditionally, capital structure research adopts capital structure theories to understand and explain the determinant of SME financial decision making. However, this study argues that psychology based theories provide a more robust understanding of the judgement and behaviours of these actors (SMEs) especially in developing countries, because these theories examine causal influences and explain relationships. The study also makes empirical contribution by providing empirical evidence on the noneconomic determinant to SME financial decision making, demand side perspective, and emerging country context. The implication of the result for practise and policy is that local and international intervention agencies tasked with the responsibility of easing access to finance for small businesses in Nigeria can use these findings to develop more robust and effective intervention programs. In addition, the findings can inform policy direction at government level, government policies can benefit from this study by incorporating the results to inform long term policies that can address the institutional and structural factors that creates barriers SMEs financing in Nigeria. The study can also be used to formulate policies that can assist in modifying the behaviour of discouraged finance seekers and stimulate demand for external finance with the aim of reducing the financing gap and enhancing growth of small businesses in particular and economic growth in general in Nigeria.
  • An investigation into the use and development of essential oils and natural fibres for health and wellbeing

    Da Costa Lopes, Ana (University of Bedfordshire, 2020-05)
    This research considers how essential oils might be impregnated in a variety of materials towards the development of clothing and substrates that may promote wellbeing. Towards this end, it was necessary to gain an understanding of the importance of essential oils in health and wellbeing, to ascertain how much impact it may have when embedded within fabrics used for fashion. Therefore it was necessary to understand a variety of components and properties of essential oils in historical and contemporary use, to understand how these might impact aspects of people‘s health in today's lifestyle. For instance, could essential oils within a given material enhance mood and physical health and wellbeing? It should be noted that within today's society, there is evidence of negativity on the use of natural herbal remedies used medicinally. This research does not wish to ascertain that essential oils are a cure-all, rather than essential oils may be viewed as palliative and used as supportive remedies when captured within a material or piece of clothing. However, this research does give value to the effectiveness of traditional applications, and ancient remedies in studies and testimonies of its efficacy, the psychological effects of smell and how different aromas have importance in people's life. This research seeks to find a solution and problem-solve methods and techniques to create a potential for developing, palliative clothing with embedded essential oils to improve and enhance life quality. The methods used for fabric and essential oil experiments progressed using the creative processes of design in a particular fashion, where experiments include playful prototyping, of clothes and accessories as wellness tools to promote health and wellbeing. Exploring a wide range of fabrics and materials from 'manmade' to sustainable and natural fibres, there were some innovative findings. Final experiments revealed composites of latex with natural materials; one main ingredient being eggshells; these were seen to have a pronounced potential to be the perfect carrier for essential oils, maintaining odour and longevity. Through the tests, this new material has shown various properties that include flexibility, porosity, breathability, resistant and consistent extension of odour.
  • An ethnographic study of a group photography and digital storytelling project for young people accessing a child sexual exploitation service

    Cody, Claire (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2020-04)
    This thesis is based on a case study of a group photography and digital storytelling project for young people accessing a specialist child sexual exploitation (CSE) service in the UK. The research aimed to fill current gaps in the evidence base by exploring how young people accessing specialist CSE services experienced working in a group setting and utilised arts-based methods to share their experiences. The study explored the benefits and challenges associated with such projects, and the similarities and differences between group arts-based projects and traditional forms of support, which predominantly involve one-to-one support with a key worker. In striving to understand the potential power and purpose of ‘the group’, the study was informed by theories of feminism, trauma and empowerment. The primary research method was participant observation of the group sessions and this was supplemented by interviews with those involved; young people, project facilitators and CSE support workers. A thematic analysis of the data, informed by Braun and Clarke’s (2006) methodology, was undertaken. As the first study exploring a group arts-based project with young people accessing a specialist CSE service in the UK, this research provides new insights into a number of areas. This study highlights the benefits, practical challenges and considerations required in developing group work with this population. In exploring these complexities, the findings offer a new perspective on the current dominant narrative that group work may exacerbate young people’s risk to CSE. The findings instead highlight important factors to consider in creating a safe space. This includes reflecting on: the diversity of service-users; where ‘common ground’ may be established; the criteria and selection of young people; and what, and how, information about young people is shared with project facilitators. The study illustrates how the structure of a group can enhance a sense of normality for young people. This offers a new perspective to the literature on therapeutic group work which focusses on how the group can normalise specific ‘symptoms’ of trauma rather than how it can promote a general sense of normality for young people. In this study, the structure of the project and the use of photography and digital storytelling appeared to add value in a number of ways. Arts-based methods: helped young people engage in the project; supported group members to get to know each other; allowed others to ‘see’ young people’s identities that went beyond that of victim-survivor; and provided a sense of control and achievement for young people. From the data, I argue that given how past experiences of talking about one’s experience may impact on a young person’s confidence and comfort in sharing information related to their experiences, photography and digital storytelling play an important role in supporting young people to reflect, explore and communicate their emotions and experiences in a different way. This is significant, as the majority of literature on the use of photography in research has focussed on it as a method of inquiry rather than as a supportive tool for the individuals involved. Such methods can provide a mechanism to respond to young people in a strengths-based, trauma-informed way, and add value to traditional forms of support. However, the study also identified a number of challenges and risks that are inherent in working in this way that also need to be acknowledged and considered.
  • Managing Tourism Destination Reputation in the Era of Online Marketing: A Case Study of Egypt

    Darwish, Alyaa (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2021)
    Tourism destination marketing has been significantly influenced by the developments in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Online marketing has been a focus of most destinations since the Internet became the primary information source for travel marketing and purchasing. Tourism is a reputation-dependent sector. An accurate perception of the destination’s reputation helps minimize the risk of unsatisfactory experiences of travellers. A favourable tourist destination reputation also enhances the destination’s competitive advantage. Despite the importance of tourism destination reputation, attempts at developing a better understanding through defining and assessing it have been limited due to an over-reliance on theories of corporate reputation. To address this research gap, this study aims to understand the concept of tourism destination reputation, and explore how to manage destination reputation using online marketing channels through achieving a number of specific objectives: 1. To improve the current understanding of the tourism destination reputation by developing a comprehensive definition of tourism destination reputation, 2. To develop a framework to assess the tourism destination reputation, 3. To assess the effectiveness of tourism destination approaches towards online marketing channels, 4. To understand the mechanisms of the online marketing channels, and to assess the potential for using online marketing channels to manage the destination’s online reputation, 5. To develop a conceptual framework that enables the destination marketers to better understand the tourism destination reputation concept, effective online marketing strategies, channels and online reputation management. To achieve the research objectives, a qualitative research methodology is employed. The methodology includes three main data collection methods: the Delphi technique, focus groups, and interviews. Two rounds of Delphi were used among reputation and tourism experts to define the destination reputation and identify the main drivers which contribute to forming the tourism destination reputation. Four focus groups were used to identify the respondents’ points of view about the main drivers that contribute to forming destination reputation. The results of Delphi technique and the focus groups were integrated to develop the Tourism Destination Reputation Framework (TDRF). While two sets of interviews were applied among two different groups; the first in-depth interviews were carried out in Egypt, with the online marketers at the Egyptian Tourism Authority (ETA) who are responsible for the marketing of the Egyptian destination. The second in-depth interviews set were applied with a sample of marketers from different digital marketing agencies to provide an understanding of the mechanisms of online marketing channels; their impact on the reputation and the possibility of using these channels to manage the online reputation. The main outcomes, and the original contribution of this research include 1. A new empirically based definition for the tourism destination reputation concept. 2. A framework to assess the tourism destination reputation. The framework includes ten themes: products and services, culture, people, destination management, environment, safety and security, competitiveness, country stability, place identity, media, marketing and communication. 3. Insights into the ETA online performance and the Egyptian tourism destination reputation. 4. A strategy to manage the destination online reputation. The research proposes a strategy to manage the online tourism destination reputation. This strategy includes two different pathways: handling normal situations, and detecting reputation crises. Finally, the research suggests a comprehensive framework to have a favourable tourist destination reputation. This framework consists of three main stages: building reputation, marketing reputation, and finally, managing reputation.
  • Moving stories: creating a dialogical space for reflexive storytelling about family

    Böhme, Helen (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2020-10)
    This inquiry is set in and against the backdrop of my personal and professional experience as a family member, as a social worker in adoption, as a relationship therapist in independent practice, and as a family therapist in a licenced fertility clinic. Over the years, I have practised from within a number of different therapeutic approaches and I have come to value a collaborative way of working that positions the people with whom I am working as the narrator of their own lives. My position as therapist then is to co-create the conditions in the therapeutic arena for people to tell and reflect on stories about their lived experience in families. The invitation to tell stories about family, the storytelling itself, the witnessing and the process of sense-making enables reflexive and collaborative conversation that is designed to extend people’s stories about the possibilities of what a family can be like and become. In this thesis I offer stories about family from my personal and professional lives. These are mostly constructed as conversational narratives and are intended to mirror what I am calling the collaborative, co-creative and reflexive etho-methodology of narrative social constructionist therapeutic conversation. I discuss how the stories we tell about our lives are generative of narratives which influence the meanings of our past, current and future relationships. I discuss how storytelling is not only a description of relational matters but also opens relational possibilities. This study focuses on the creating of dialogical and reflexive space for generative storytelling. I show how we weave our personal lives from skeins of imagination, memories and stories provided by our family history, the time in which we live and the culture that we live in. I discuss the ethical implications of storytelling practices from within the living moment of them occurring - in professional practice, in everyday life, in research writing and in terms of making this material publicly available. In both this research study and my professional practice, I combine social constructionist and narrative theory with an ethnographical methodology. The influence of social construction on narrative practice proposes that we and our ideas about relationships are co-created and re-created within relationships. The professional practice and the research processes are driven by an onto-epistemological ethos where becoming and learning are understood as intertwined, emergent and mutually shaping. As a method of inquiry autoethnography acknowledges and accommodates subjectivity, emotionality and the researchers influence on the research. I often say to people with whom I am working therapeutically that we are engaged in a kind of collaborative research process. In my professional practice, reflexive conversations and reflexive writing open up possibilities for people to change the relationship with their own history. The writing stories from my own life as part of my research practice has mirrored what I do in my everyday professional practice with similar outcomes.
  • The impact of time allowances in an EAP reading-to-write argumentative essay assessment

    Bruce, Emma Louise (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2020-03)
    The aim of this study is to investigate the impact of time allowances on students’ source use, composing behaviour and performance, in a second language reading-to-write assessment context. Set within a language centre in a large Hong Kong university, this mixed-methods study incorporates quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative aspect focuses on an analysis of essay scores and lengths as well as reference types and uses, while the qualitative aspect incorporates retrospective questionnaires and discourse-based interviews to gain an understanding of students’ intentions, views and approach to composing. The synthesis of the countable data with students’ personal insights facilitated an understanding of the ways in which differences in source use and composing behaviour in the timed and extended conditions affected performance. The findings show that the majority of students preferred the extended condition as they valued the time to read the sources, think and reflect in a relaxed environment. Conversely, some students felt the time pressure elicited a heightened cognitive state, which enhanced their performance. Students tended to write over multiple sessions, engage more with the source texts and adopt a more recursive approach in the extended condition. In contrast, when composing under time pressure, students tended to reduce their engagement with the source texts in order to complete their essay. This rush to write the essay resulted in different reading strategies and a more knowledge-telling approach to composing. When students were given more time to write, mean word counts and mean essay scores were significantly higher. The top-performing students seemed to benefit most from the extra time. These writers experienced the biggest positive difference in essay length and scores, and displayed more instances of source-text use, but perhaps surprisingly they were more likely to embed their understanding of what they read into their own text without referencing the source material. The data suggest that, for higher-achieving students, the extra time resulted in an increased interaction with the source texts, which allowed them to take a more expert persona in their writing, impressing raters and leading to higher overall scores. The results have important implications for language teachers and test developers in EAP programmes. In particular, they demonstrate the paradox of implementing reading-to-write task types in an attempt to simulate the target language use context while failing to take account of the time required to engage in the appropriate academic literacy skills. Importantly, EAP curriculum and assessment designers should recognise that genuine academic writing requires time for students to engage with sources, to reflect and to construct new knowledge. This study suggests that essays produced in timed and extended conditions are two different manifestations of the dynamic reading-to-write construct and that, if both types of writing are indeed demanded in the wider university, EAP programmes should support students in acquiring the most appropriate and effective skills for achieving success in both contexts.
  • Evaluating approaches to improve upon a Leap Motion-based hand-gesture recognition system

    Chase, Stephen Ricardo (University of Bedfordshire, 2020-09)
    The research proposed in this thesis aims to utilise feedback gained from user testing to evaluate and present viable approaches to improve the self-made Marionette Project while maintaining its core principles. These improvements should primarily allow for users to identify hand gestures efficiently while minimising the number of incorrect hand gestures performed. Analysing various studies throughout the period of the initial Marionette Projects conception and implementation. It was noted that research in human machine and human computer interaction focused on a few prevalent topics, the most common being sign language, and generic gesture recognition. The implementation of these predominate topics focused typically on one of two implementation types; vision or image-based approaches as seen in Cho et al.’s research which looked into implementing a low-cost vision-based gesture recognition system based on the FPGA approach (Cho et al. 2012) or the device-based approaches utilised in Khambaty et al.’s conference paper into “Cost Effective portable system for sign language gesture recognition”. While both studies look at implementing “low-cost” or “cost-effective” solutions they both tackle it from different standpoints. Khambaty et al.’s study looks at it from a monetary perspective presenting the developed system as a cheaper means of providing daily communication as opposed to the cost of hiring an interpreter (Khambaty et al. 2008), which while successful, still puts the product out of range of the general consumer. While Cho et al.’s study focuses on the reduction of computation costs by process the recognition of gestures through the use of the FPGA approach (Cho et al. 2012). This focus on one section of “cost” lowering in implementations has left room for research that provides both a monetary reduction allowing for the implementation to be consumer-friendly and a computational reduction allowing for faster and quicker recognition while still maintain accuracy. Additionally, with a larger focus being placed on visual based implementation, but solely in the realms of sign language and generic gesture recognition as a means for human to human communication it provides a gap in the field to test the plausibility of these implementation types for other uses, like machine control. As such, the initial Marionette Project aimed to find a cost-effective means of producing firstly, an effective but innovate hand gesture recognition system that could be utilised to control a range of robotics but in particular a mechatronic hand. The Leap Motion controller was implemented into the project, to test the viability of a low-cost consumer-grade product as a means to manipulate robotics. Utilising the Leap Motion controller also provided notable innovation as most published studies incorporating the Leap Motion Controller focused almost exclusively on the identification of various forms of sign language. In the thesis, three crucial feedback points garnered from the external testing process in the original Marionette Project, and are presented and utilised to shape the work implemented throughout this research in the form of minimum viable requirements listed below: 1) improving upon the accuracy of the hand gestures recognised by users through the use of real-time gesture confirmation system. 2) mitigating the amount of incorrect hand gestures performed when stopping the system. 3) Allowing for the support of more dexterous robotics though more complexed gestures In the thesis four approaches main approaches are presented, the first of which looks into the first minimum viable required, while the second, third and fourth approaches are created and evaluated as a means to fulfill the second and third minimum requirement points. By utilising the Spiral methodology, the implementation of each approach primarily followed the pattern of: Planning, Risk Analysis, Engineering and finally an Evaluation phase. The planning phase looked at the original feedback provided by the user as well as any relevant iterations implemented prior, to detail aims and requirements for the current iteration/spiral. After which, additional research was then carried out into hardware, software components as well as, additional published research papers. After this stage, the implementation or engineering phase would then be carried out. This primarily would look to implement each identified requirement for the iteration. Once these requirements were implemented the evaluation step would then be performed. The evaluation process consisted of two parts; an internal evaluation and then an external evaluation. Internal evaluations focused on developer testing, and consisted of standard logic, user flow and selected edge case testing. If no issues were found in this testing process the second stage of evaluations, external evaluations would then take place. External evaluations saw the implemented work tested by volunteer users under given scenarios, to generate more user results and feedback. However, in the event that problems were found during the internal evaluation process depending on the severity of the problem an additional mini-iteration could be added to an existing iteration as seen in section 4.3.4 or in the case were larger problems are identified and the approach needs to be altered an entirely new iteration with the listed spiral approach steps would be carried out as seen with approaches, three and four in the thesis. From the approaches detailed in the thesis, the first approach provided a viable means to improve upon the accuracy of hand gestures recognised by users, though the incorporation of real-time textual confirmation appearing onscreen while the user interacts with the system. The incorporation of this implementation showed an average increase of 28% in gestures recognised and identified by the user. Additionally, the fourth approach detailed in the thesis provided a means to improve upon limiting the amount of incorrect gestures performed by the user showing an overall 20% decrease in the number of incorrect reported hand gestures. It was concluded that the first approach presented an ideal implementation for clear improvements for the recognition of performed hand gestures and showed a 28% average increase in hand gesture recognised and identified by users. Additionally, the fourth approach was seemingly well-received by testing participants as a means to limit the number of incorrect gestures being performed when users removed their hand from the Leap Motions field of vision lowering reports of incorrect gesturing cause by the system by 20%. However, while both approaches implemented within this research was viable for the completion of the first two feedback points provided by users from initial testing, the third point was not achieved. As such, it would be ideal to provide extra research to find a plausible and novel solution.
  • A conceptual framework to support cross-cultural user experience design for web search

    Chessum, Karen Barbara (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2021-01)
    There has been a great deal of research carried out regarding the need for websites and applications to be localised, in order to meet cross cultural requirements. The term localisation in this case, refers to tailoring the user experience (UX), mainly by, but not exclusively limited to, the user experience both affective and cognitively. This research critically examines the gap between cross cultural website design on one hand and search engine user interface design on the other. With the main purpose and motivation of the research being to integrate existing cultural models and taxonomies, such as the cultural model by the Dutch Anthropologist, Geert Hofstede, with semiotics in order to offer a conceptual framework. This conceptual framework, coined as the Cross Cultural Semiotic Framework (CCSF), represents the major contribution of this Thesis to the extant literature. The CCSF is intended for use in the design of cross cultural web search engine user interfaces. The three extensive user studies carried out herein, serve to validate the Cross Cultural Semiotic Framework. The user studies are conducted via an on-line survey platform comprising multiple part questionnaires. A minor supportive empirical contribution offered herein comprises an analysis of E-portal surface level iconography. This has been systematically de-constructed using a cross cultural analytic paradigm. The derived taxonomy of signs seeks to extend Geert Hofstede’s (2010) cultural models and the conception of his six cultural dimensions, so offers a novel minor contribution to both the user experience and existing cross cultural literature. The questionnaires when analysed, offer an interesting insight into the application of Hofstede’s (2010), six cultural dimensions and shows adequate evidence has been found to indicate Hofstede’s cultural model, together with the semiotic insights of Peirce (1960), can be used to inform the design of web search engine user interfaces and therefore, the proof of concept for this conceptual framework.
  • Thinking about gangs

    Andell, Paul (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2015)
    It can be argued that policy formations in the UK to address street gangs has encompassed positions of both gang denial and gang blame. These policy positions precede and succeed the English riots of 2011. The policy pendulum of denial and blame raises questions about what is actually going on with regard to UK gangs and what are the ideas and influences that have framed our responses to this issue? This thesis explores these concerns by an analysis of empirical evidence from 3 sites in 2 English regions from a time line, which encompasses periods of both gang denial and gang blame. An examination of some of the drivers and contingencies involved in policy making are examined with respect to UK gangs and discrepancies between empirical evidence, how this is understood and represented is highlighted. In short the thesis is an examination of the relationship between theory, policy and practice in the context of the current UK gangs debate. The thesis argues that there is a need to formulate a less partial analysis of gangs and to recapture the debate from analyses and responses which either under play or over play the gang problem. It is contended that in order to do so a realist approach is needed which defines what constitutes social reality and overcomes theoretical and methodological difficulties in order to critique present formulations of gangs. The thesis provides this critique and makes suggestions for a more comprehensive and democratic approach to gang policy in what can be termed a Critical Realist approach to gangs.
  • Understanding the nature and extent of an identifiable ‘mixed race’ [self] identity in Bedford: an exploratory study

    Balach-Ali, Michelle (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2020-09)
    This empirical study focused on whether people of ‘mixed race’, White European and Black Caribbean heritage (and not the entire mixed race group), had a distinct cultural identity, and if so, how this identity was constructed. It explored two generations in Bedford, aiming to consider whether this Bedfordian sub-group possessed any form of recognisable cultural [self] identity, whether and how they identified themselves and each other, whilst considering how ‘others’ (Said, 2003) might relate to them. Theoretically, this study principally applied the philosophies of Stuart Hall (1996), and some of the work of Judith Butler’s (1990), to explore contrasting ideas regarding identity. Hall’s argument regarding cultural identities being constructed and controlled by the state has been especially important. This was allied with Butler’s (1990) adapted gender theory which suggests the subject has more autonomy over their choice of identity, specifying their gender (or in this case, their cultural identity) is not something one is born with, rather one becomes their gender. Various other theories were consulted, with considerable use of Tajfel’s Social Identity Theory (1969), which focuses on social grouping; it momentarily refers to Homi Bhabha’s (1994) ‘third space’ theory. The merging of Butler and Hall’s ideas, to create a lens to analyse mixed race and ‘mixed race’ identity, has also been deployed by Bettez (2010) although in a slightly different way. This study replaced Butler’s focus on gender, with ‘race’, considering whether a ‘mixed race’ individual can create, define or become their chosen racial identity in any way. The sample group, containing participants from two separate generations with various socio-economic life-styles, participated in qualitative semistructured interviews which aimed to consider if they shared behaviours and experiences that could be regarded as a shared cultural identity. The study focused on Bedford, as it is a cosmopolitan town with a significant population of Caribbean Windrush immigrants (ONS, 2011) and the third largest ‘mixed race’ (European/Caribbean) town population in the UK. It involved collecting qualitative data, by interviewing thirty individuals, from two sample groups, comprising of two different generations. This study specifically focussed on the ‘mixed race’ descendants of the Windrush migrants, to see if a ‘mixed race’ culture existed. The information was then analysed using inductive methods, in order to allow fluidity to answer the research questions. The study concluded that the ‘mixed race’ individuals sampled shared various life experiences, made some similar choices regarding identity and recurrently articulated their preferences regarding their personal identification and self-classification. Both samples consistently expressed themselves using positive language regarding their identity and lives in Bedford. The data demonstrated that they shared a range of behaviours, experiences and opinions regarding their cultural identities and all demonstrated interest in their personal ethnic diversity. The data also showed that the generational differences did not produce significantly different perspectives regarding identity. Based upon responses and accounts of integration and assimilation, the ‘mixed race’ participants seemed settled within, and ascribed a 'tolerant' outlook towards those ‘racially’ different to themselves and others. Overall, the samples predominantly thought that a ‘mixed race’ culture did exist, but found it difficult to articulate what it resembled or what it meant. This study brings an original contribution to knowledge based on the insight it provides regarding the third largest UK town (Bedford) population of ‘mixed race’ individuals and therefore a specific place and context for the ‘mixed race’ experience’. Firstly, it consulted ‘ordinary people’, outside of a university setting, during data collection. Secondly, it produced information that has challenged previous stereotypes and cultural assumptions related to ‘mixed race’ personal life choices, specifically related to the assumption that they automatically assimilate and experience ‘belonging’ in their Black community. The Bedford location also contests the negative stereotypes of ‘mixed race’ individuals being located in deprived areas, because unlike Hackney – which has the largest UK ‘mixed race’ population – and rated the lowest economic status in the UK, Bedford is roughly mid-way in the country in terms of economic status (ONS, 2019). Finally, the most interesting insight this research found was evidence to suggest that instead of turning towards one side of their heritage or the other, the ‘mixed race’ individuals interviewed were able to navigate amongst and assimilate into and between, the various cultures that they encountered competently, an action I have termed, ‘Cultural Negotiators’. This refers to their ability to weather various layers of racism, prejudices and colourism from the Black, White and other ethnicities – within their own homes, work places, communities and society in general - proficiently and successfully, making them avid ‘Cultural Negotiators’ – further explained later.
  • The impact of gendered content in printed health advertisements on attitudes and behavioural intentions: a mixed methods study in a social marketing campaign

    Baxter, Katherine (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2020-06)
    The aim of this study is to contribute to the Marketing field examining whether the use of gendered content in leaflets promoting physical activity has an impact on attitudes and behavioural intentions of the UK general public. Drawing on elements of social role theory and homophily theory for its theoretical background, this study adopts an explanatory mixed methods approach for the data collection. Firstly, through a quantitative phase and quasi-experimental research design, 247 individuals from the general public were surveyed to examine the impact of the use of communal (i.e. feminine) and masculine (i.e. agentic) wording and endorser gender in a marketing campaign. This was followed up through qualitative semi-structured face-to-face interviews with 20 participants from the general public to gain further insights on the communicative elements of the leaflets and some insights into the participants’ existing behaviour and attitudes. The study indicates that gendered wording is effective in combination with certain gendered content when targeted at a specific sex. This work adds to the knowledge in the field of health marketing communications originally combining in an integrated framework of social role theory and homophily theory. Results from this study suggest that the theory is still relevant for males, as agentic communications and a male endorser showed a significant result for males. On the other hand, the results for females were more complex regarding social role theory and homophily theory, as neither communal nor agentic communications nor male or female endorser were significant, therefore other theories may be more useful for communications. The implications for knowledge and practice from this study provide a contribution as to which gendered combinations should and should not be used in the context of health promotion. This has not been considered previously, giving significant findings for future research directions and practical implementation in health communications.
  • Adolescent-to-parent violence and abuse: abused parents' accounts

    Bell, Rebecca (University of Bedfordshire, 2018-09)
    Adolescent-to-parent violence and abuse (APVA); is an adolescents utilisation of "a pattern of behaviour that uses verbal, financial, physical or emotional means to practice power and exert control over a parent" (Holt, 2013, p. 1). As well as causing psychological damage to the parent and child it is a growing social problem which is largely absent from within both academic and social policy domains (Miles & Condry, 2014). This study sought to contribute to existing literature by examining parents’ accounts of APVA shared within online forums to identify themes of issues of significance to them via a thematic analysis (Braun & Clark, 2006). Data comprised thirty-two archived message ‘posts’ written by twenty-three (71.8%) mothers, four (12.5%) fathers, and five (15.6%) step-fathers describing the abuse that they experienced by their adolescent (93.3% male, 13.3% female). Findings formed three themes; the ‘emotional turmoil’, the ‘need to explain’, and ‘fractured relationships. The themes are discussed in relation to wider literature and recommendations for further study are suggested to address limitations.
  • Media in Saudi Arabia: the challenge for female journalists

    Aljuaid, Kholoud (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2020-07)
    This study explores the role of women journalists in Saudi Arabia and provides more understanding of the challenges and barriers that working in the media presents for them. There are also a number of opportunities that may not have been fully recognised and where these women can make a difference. Against a background of reforms in Saudi Arabia, resulting from measures being put in place to comply with international human rights laws as well as a need for the country to utilise the economic benefits of a female workforce, the role of women in the media is increasing. The social changes that are taking place may not fit well with a more conservative society but female journalists are showing that they have been facing up to these challenges. Using a qualitative approach, this study sought to elicit the perceptions of a range of women working in the media and also interviewed male editors to gain their perspective on females working in their domain. The study revealed that the women chose journalism as a career because it was an area in which they excelled and which they very much enjoyed, despite numerous challenges they encountered. Although they had faced disapproval from family initially, they managed to win over parents and husbands once they started to have their work published. In more recent years the universities have been establishing media and communication courses for women and this is giving more support to journalism being a career choice. Nevertheless, it was clear that women were restricted by their gender in having access to influential chief editor positions, which were reserved for males. It was also found that the male editors approved of women working in journalism and spoke highly of the quality of their work. However, this may also be because the women open up the readership of newspapers by writing articles targeting other women and thus increase sales. In addition, some newspapers are found to be paying much lower rates to women than to their male counterparts. Reasons for this were given as being the costs of employing women, who often need drivers, cannot interview males, are not permitted to go unescorted, need a separate workplace environment, and who have maternity rights.
  • Myo-Electric Sensor system for precise robot control

    Rana, Khaqan-Jim (University of Bedfordshire, 2019-11)
    Robotic prosthetics has been a field of great interest in recent years and much work has been conducted in the various disciplines that it consists of. Among these disciplines is the research on sensor technology which used to enable control of such prosthesis through muscle activation. Responsiveness and accuracy is vital to implement a functional sensor system for prosthesis, as such this thesis will present the research and development of a sensor system used to control a robotic prosthesis as well as a feedback system which compares the position of the robot fingers and the intended movement in order to correct the servo motor position. These sensor systems are developed to produce precise robot control of prostheses without causing amplification errors. The research will discuss the suitability of different sensors for the sensing of the muscle activity of the user and sensors for the development of the feedback system and describe their implementation and processing. In addition to this, different configuration of sensors and code will be employed and compared, so that the most suitable configuration is found, which is the configuration that is responsive to the muscle activation of the user, eliminates noise and prevents amplification errors, and enables movement of analogue manner rather than digital in order to create a natural feeling control of a prosthesis which imitates the intention of the user. Furthermore, the cost of commercially available robotic prostheses are expensive, making it inaccessible to lower-income users and people within conflict zones who are in need of such technology, thus the research will focus on using inexpensive components and material to lower the production costs in order to raise the accessibility of robotic prostheses to people in conflict zones and countries of low income. This research shows that the implementation of the proposed sensor system and feedback system indeed enables analogue mannered, responsive and accurate control of a robotic hand while preventing amplification errors, and the use of commonly available components and low-cost material is a viable option.
  • An ecological approach towards understanding father involvement and engagement within Luton's most disadvantaged areas

    Donald, Louise (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2020-08)
    Father involvement and engagement exists within a family, which exists within a societal context; it is therefore influenced and determined, to varying degrees, by a variety of ecological systems working in cohort, in a bio-psycho-social fashion. In light of this, while fathers can have a significantly beneficial role in the lives of their children, regarding healthy physical and psychological development, the evidence consistently indicates that father involvement and engagement is reduced comparative to socioeconomic deprivation. Despite this fact, very few studies have explored this association through the lens of marginalised fathers themselves, nor have they utilised the first hand perspectives of mothers and professionals towards better understanding how fathering is shaped and impacted within an economically deprived context. With higher levels of deprivation in Luton than the UK average, this study sought to explore this issue within Luton’s most disadvantaged areas. A mixed methods sequential design was employed. Drawing from the interviews of fifteen professionals, nine fathers and eleven mothers; the findings provide valuable insight into trajectories of father involvement and engagement relative to contextual circumstances, linked to internal and societal beliefs about fathering. The key emerging themes therefore support an ecological viewpoint of father involvement and engagement, demonstrating the fundamentally significant impact that family background, the father-mother relationship and professional inclusion can have on fathers. This is further supported by the associated patterns identified within the cross-sectional questionnaire, which show links between sociodemographic factors, beliefs about the father role, parent mental health and father involvement. For the fathers at the forefront of this study, there was a clear pattern related to disadvantage, putting them in greater need of support in a variety of areas. However, the findings also highlight that there is very little support in place, tailored to meet their needs. This study exemplifies that examining fathering from an ecological perspective enlightens our understanding of how and why we see reduced levels of involvement and engagement amongst disadvantaged fathers, providing a more complete picture of how factors associated with disadvantage can have a wider impact. In order to more forward and make positive, sustainable, changes to the lives of fathers, and families living in socially disadvantaged communities, researchers, family professionals and policy makers should recognise and work from an ecological perspective, integrated into practice and policy formation.

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