Raising the Bar – 20 fascinating talks, 10 bars, one night Event as iCalendar

(Other University events)

28 August 2018


Venue: Various locations, Auckland

Website: Raising the Bar

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L-R David Mayeda, Amber Milan and Nicholas Rowe at the Sweat Shop Brew Kitchen.

Raising the Bar is back for a second round. The University of Auckland is proud to once again host this unique event in which our academics give free public lectures in pubs and bars.

The event will feature 20 talks by leading University of Auckland academics at 10 inner-city Auckland bars. Some of the topics this year include:

  • Blockchain – bigger than the Internet?;
  • Not Sleeping Well? You are not alone; and
  • The unlikely correlation between Lasers, milk and sperm.


Raising the Bar is a worldwide initiative to bring knowledge to a city’s nightlife. The concept originated in New York and is spreading worldwide as more cities embrace the opportunity to hear fascinating topics from professors over a beer.

Last year’s event was a sell out with more than 1500 spaces quickly snapped up. Registrations open on July 24 and the public are urged to get in early to secure a bar stool at one or more of the venues.


Book your free ticket
(goes to the Raise the Bar website)


Who's speaking, and what they're talking about

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Lasers, Milk and Sperm

Who Cather Simpson (Science)  Where Mezze Bar  When 6.30pm

Cather’s endlessly-fascinating lasers at the Photon Lab were once thought to be rather useless, possibly indulgent pieces of academic kit.

A few years on those lasers (and clever researchers) have given rise to two award-winning companies: Engender Technologies (a sex-sorting business to accelerate genetic gain and cost efficiencies in large animal reproduction) and Orbis Diagnostics (providing revolutionary in-line milking measurement for the dairy industry, using microfluidics technology for protein, fat, somatic cell and progesterone).

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I’m looking at you buddy! Yes, Big Brother is everywhere

Who Andrew Chen (Engineering)  Where Snickle  When 6.30pm

We are comfortable with police, traffic and public safety CCTV cameras, right? Now surveillance systems run for commercial interests collect data about our everyday lives: from tracking pedestrian traffic, biometric scanning at ATMs, and facial recognition software in supermarkets and sports events, and much more. Technological advancements in computer vision are pushing the boundaries of how machines understand videos and images.

This talk focuses on privacy implications of modern and advancing surveillance systems, our perceptions of privacy and ways to protect those being observed. That’s you. I’m looking at you. Now.

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Dancing on a wire: stories from the field

Who Nicholas Rowe (Creative Arts and Industries)  Where Snickle  When 8pm

How can cross-cultural arts projects cause political trouble? Across the world, international development programmes invest heavily on cross-cultural artistic projects as a form of cultural diplomacy. While appearing innocuous and inherently beneficial to local communities, artistic interventions can also extend colonial hegemony and cultural appropriation.

In this talk Nicholas Rowe shares stories of the intercultural dilemmas that can emerge from artistic exchange. He draws on three decades of cultural work across the Middle East, Asia and Africa. He also introduces the book series Talking Dance, which shares stories of dancers from across the Middle East and South East Asia.

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Bootys, Beats and Beyoncé: Race and Queerness in Bounce Music

Who Kirsten Zemke (Arts)  Where Little Easy  When 8pm

Buckle in for the electrifying and risqué beats of Bounce! This talk will explore a genre of queer hip hop music – a unique sound from the black gay community of New Orleans. The historical and cultural gumbo of New Orleans is no stranger to creativity and innovation in the face of adversity – after all, this is also the home of jazz and Mardi Gras. Bounce provides a fascinating platform to explore ideas and contexts around race, sexuality and gender.

Recharged after Hurricane Katrina, the underground energy of Bounce has found its way into mainstream pop culture. Copied and sampled by pop artists such as Drake, Beyoncé and Miley Cyrus, it has carved a space for marginalised voices and beats to be heard and gave ‘twerking’ to the world!

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Auckland’s Big Blue Backyard & the Big Things That Live There

Who Rochelle Constantine (Science)  Where Oakroom  When 6.30pm

The Hauraki Gulf, Tīkapa Moana–Te Moananui-ā-toi, is New Zealand’s only marine national park. It’s our Spaghetti Junction of the sea – a 4,000 km² hot-spot for cetaceans, seabirds, sharks and people, a region abundant with biodiversity, large and small.

What draws these large marine organisms to this dynamic place? What stories could they tell us? Is it tough out there for whales, dolphins and seabirds to co-exist with humans who also love to swim, fish, sail and move through the waters? Join Associate Professor Rochelle Constantine as she weaves the story of the Hauraki Gulf and its importance to all megafauna.

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The Soundtrack of Gods: Music and Esports Grandeur

Who Ivan Mouraviev (Creative Arts and Industries)  Where Oakroom  When 8pm

Professional competitive video-gaming tournaments are truly multimedia festivals. Noted for their gameplay feats, their showmanship – and for the pomp and ceremony rivalling Olympic Games-style openings and spectacular musical concerts.

In this lively talk, Ivan considers recent tournaments for games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends, and how their musical dimensions reflect a much longer historical relationship between music and sport. Through this unconventional topic, discover how music enlivens artistry and athleticism at some of the world’s biggest eSport events.

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Saving the planet - at 400 km/h!

Who Eva Hakansson (Engineering)  Where Birdcage  When 8pm

Eva Hakansson will take you on a high-speed adventure at the famous Bonneville Salt Flats. She readily admits that her 400+ km/h, red, sexy, bullet-shaped electric motorcycle “KillaJoule” is really just “eco-activism in disguise”.

Did we mention that she built it in her backyard shed, in her spare time? With the same dedication as a Greenpeace activist, she uses the unusual channel of high speed racing to open people’s eyes and minds for sustainable technology. Meet a modern version of famous kiwi racer Burt Munro.

Sold out

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When the food you love doesn’t love you back

Who Amber Milan (Liggins)  Where Sweatshop  When 6.30pm

Most people with food intolerance figure out what to eat the hard and fairly unpleasant way. It is an issue for nearly every second person. Then again, it’s hard to be certain because we don’t know the cause of many digestive complaints, let alone how to diagnose or treat them. In this talk Amber will share her research looking at what we know about food intolerances and why they are so hard to pin down.

Using milk intolerance as an example, Amber will explore how to deal with dairy, how our overall diet can change how we tolerate trigger foods, what our genes and gut microbiome have to do with all this and how we can change the way our bodies respond. Most importantly, Amber will discuss how scientists can help find better ways to diagnose and manage intolerances.

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A detective story  Apples, ancestors and rock hard evidence

Who Simon Holdaway & Ben Davies (Arts)  Where Sweatshop  When 8pm

In this talk, a double team of internationally-acclaimed archaeologist Simon Holdaway and digital prehistorian Ben Davies will use apples to explain how to measure the hunter gatherer movement based on archaeological finds of stone artefacts from Egypt to Australia.

No power point – just apple slices and cores. These experts say forget Maccu Picchu and the Pyramids! It’s the humdrum commonplace scatterings of stones that gets an archaeologist going and tells us who’s been doing what and where!

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Secrets from a Neuroscientist

Who Cathy Stinear (Science)  Where Talulah  When 6.30pm

If you want to rock the next pub quiz, this is the talk for you. After all, neuroscientist Cathy Stinear declares her head is “basically full of cocktail party chatter about the brain”. She will whittle myth from reality and leave you doubting everything you thought you knew but knowing just a little bit more.

Discover everything from how to keep your marbles as you age (spoiler alert—it’s not Sudoku!) to why your teenager is such a disaster sometimes (there’s a reason they can’t hire a car until they reach 25, yet we let them drink and vote!) Find out whether our digital addictions are rotting our brains, whether you absolutely need 10,000 hours of practice to hit a golf ball like Tiger Woods, and much more.

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Simple Questions With (Some) Simple Answers: Big Bangs and Black Holes

Who Richar Easther (Science)  Where Vodka Room  When 8pm

Primary school children and scientists often ponder the same questions about space. Was there more than one Big Bang? What happens when you fall into a black hole? Will the universe expand forever?

In this talk Richard outlines the ways that Einstein changed our ideas about space and time and how this leads to deep ideas about the expanding universe and black holes. Now tested with observations and experiments, Richard will share the answers we are finding to some of those questions – and which questions we’re still trying to crack.

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From Sleep Sex to Insomnia: Myths and Revelations about Sleep

Who Tony Fernando (Medical and Health Sciences)  Where Everybody's  When 6.30pm

Warning! Tony Fernando’s talk promises to be lively and entertaining — but might just put you to sleep!

At least 20 percent of the population doesn't sleep well. Tony’s interactive session will enlighten you on the myths and current findings about the science of sleep, sleep disorders and treatment approaches. His discussion will cover sleep disorders including insomnia, shifted body clocks, sleep apnoea, sleep walking, sleep sex and nightmares.

Bring your questions and settle in for what happens when you close your eyes.

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The Voice of the River

Who Dan Hikuroa (Arts)  Where Talulah  When 8pm

What is water if you cannot swim, fish or drink? Many rivers are no longer safe for our simplest needs. Other waterways have been subjected to the humiliation of having been buried alive in pipes, or flow sporadically, if at all, redirected for irrigation. Voices articulating the decline of our water quality, of lost wetlands, of exhausted or polluted aquifers and intensive catchment land modification have been continuously ignored. More recently communities, industry, politicians and philanthropists have joined the chorus of concern. A critical strand of this effort is to understand the issue from the perspective of the river – what would the river say? What is it saying?

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Does Education Propel You to Greatness?

Who John Morgan (Education and Social Work)  Where Mezze  When 8pm

‘Sorry the lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock.’ This apology, care of Banksy, is imprinted in the shadows of Canary Wharf. It’s a message to students of the post financial crisis, students who have been fed a mantra of ‘work hard, borrow from the Bank of Mum and Dad, keep calm and go to university’. But the economic value of education is more and more doubtful. New Zealand students face some of the highest tuition fees in the world, leave with great personal debt and enter an economy in which real wages have stagnated for decades and property prices are out of reach for all but the entitled. Universities reassure students that a degree comes with a hefty financial reward, but is that the case? John Morgan poses the question ‘why bother with education?’ and offers some surprising answers.

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The Global Refugee Crisis: Why Our International System is Part of the Problem

Who Anna Hood (Law)  Where La Zeppa  When 6.30pm

The world is in the midst of the largest refugee crisis in history. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that there are currently around 65 million people worldwide who have been forcibly displaced from their homes.

This talk will challenge a number of common assumptions about the crisis including what are the causes of it are and how we should address it. It will suggest that not only is our current international system incapable of fixing the crisis, but that it is in fact one of the key reasons we have a crisis in the first place and one of the biggest barriers to resolving it. Join Anna in a confronting discussion that will challenge what you thought you knew.

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Political somersaults  What's with the US and can it happen here?

Who Maria Armoudian (Arts)  Where Everybody's  When 8pm

In this talk, political and media expert, Maria Armoudian explores the factors behind America’s shift from Obama to Trump. She examines the driving polarization and sharp, sometimes violent divisions between people on the left and right, tying together ideological, economic and institutional factors. 

What accounts for the drift from relatively egalitarian principles to increasingly divided economics and opportunities? And can it happen here in New Zealand?

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Untangling Racism's Tentacles

Who David Mayeda (Arts)  Where Vodka Room  When 6.30pm

Racism tends to be acknowledged as a social concern only if it carries obvious disparaging connotations and when it emerges in interpersonal interactions. This is true globally, including here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In this presentation, David will illustrate racism’s pervasive power by explaining how it functions across multiple social contexts in Aotearoa and will close with suggestions on how society can begin untangling racism's tentacles and move towards more racially equitable outcomes.

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Humanity and the machine: Is technology going to make our lives better?

Who Suranga Nanayakkara (Auckland Bioengineering Institute)  Where Birdcage  When 6.30pm

Does dealing with multiple smart devices leave you feeling discombobulated? Suranga says we either spend time figuring out smart technologies, otherwise the way we use them will disconnect us from the actual physical world around us.

So, how can we create devices which extend what we do and how we do it in a way that feels natural? The need for intuitive technology that adapts to us is increasingly apparent.

In this conversation Suranga will highlight human-machine interfaces which break down the barriers between humans and technology, creating seamless human-computer integration blurring where human input ends and technology begins.

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Blockchain: The technology that will soon change your life

Who Alex Sims (Business)  Where Little Easy  When 6.30pm

Could anything surpass the impact of the Internet? Brace yourself! Blockchain (the underlying technology of Bitcoin), which is one version of distributed ledger technology (DLT), could transform the world. In lay terms, Blockchain is the safety deposit system of cryptocurrency. It’s the stuff of techie librarians’ and international auditors’ dreams. Think: every transaction, who, what, when, how – recorded, compressed, packaged, sealed, warehoused, with an unbroken, tamper-proof storage and retrieval system.

Blockchain, however, goes far beyond mere money and could secure our identities, privacy, health records and more. Sit back as Alex unpacks the Blockchain phenomenon and DLT genius.

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Waste-not, want-not: Fashion’s backlash to overconsumption

Who Miriam Seifert (Business)  Where La Zeppa  When 8pm

Is your wardrobe cluttered with post-purchase regret? Had a “What was I thinking moment” once too often? If you are lured by the latest thing, Fashion Quarterly could soon label you as passé.

In this vibrant, entertaining talk, Miriam will disrobe the seduction of affordability. Cheap and cheerful is out. The slow movement is fast approaching down the catwalk as fashion moves from an era of over-consumption to anti-consumption.

Nearly two decades after Naomi Klein’s startling No Logo had marketers and GMs scoffing, slow fashion is shaking up global consumption and production for a rapid seismic shift. How will businesses react? And what shoes will go with that?