Pecha Kucha

This is a very new idea to me and I have just received a CFP for a 10 minute presentation based on the Pecha Kucha style.

My immediate response was to google the term and see what it threw up. Started in Japan in 2003, it is an innovative presentation style consisting of a 20×20 presentation lasting 10minutes; you show 20 images lasting 20 seconds each, talking about each one. This is an unique and concise way of getting people to present their research in a fast and dynamic way.

I am intrigued and am contemplating submitting an abstract (it is being run by my Undergrad supervisor so I am familiar with the folks on the panel) but not sure how I can fit it into my PhD research; though I have some ideas… I also think it would be interesting to put a presentation like this up on my public academic profile at Academia.Edu

So that is my new challenge for 2012 – firstly to learn how to pronounce Pecha Kucha

AND – to submit an abstract for a Pecha Kucha Style presentation, get it accepted and actually survive the experience.

Any advice welcomed!

My other challenge is to finally learn how to use colons and semi-colons with efficacy and precision! Apparently according to Lynne Truss

“The main reason people use [the semicolon], however, is that they know you can’t use it wrongly — which, for a punctuation mark, is an uncommon virtue” (Truss 122)

Virginia Woolf may have wholeheartedly subscribed to that dogma but unfortunately  my supervisor doesn’t!!! I would like at least one piece of crit that doesn’t berate my use of the colon and semi-colon! Tall order me thinks!

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Geeks’ Corner

What do you call a gathering of Geeks … a conference. Boom Boom

Ok! so my career as a stand-up comic is still never going to happen developing but yesterday I was inspired to write about my support network after reading the lovely Jacqueline’s post ‘Calling all Dreamers’. She hit on something that has underpinned my entire academic career – that of support.

I have been the beneficiary of so much support, from my family from my friends and most importantly (in some respects) my fellow Geeks – the number of which totals two. These two people provide me with a very important outlet – the space to talk shite! about what I love to talk about most – literature, politics, gender dynamics, feminism, history. I know I can drop the odd quote into the conversation without sounding like an utter freak. I can spout forth about Nietzsche and there isn’t a single eyebrow raised or a glazed over eye. It is so important to have a context like this in which you can feel, well how shall I put this, normal. 

 

My aspirations are shared with these friends (only one of which is still in academia, the other is now in retail but still has the heart of a true Geek). When I whine about want to discuss my supervisor they don’t groan and tell me to change the record, they can often share some sympathy, if not empathy and horror stories of their own. Like fellow academic bloggers they can offer me the correct panacea for my troubles, inste

ad of scrabbling around for relevant platitudes …

most importantly ~ They GET my jokes!

If I come unstuck in my research I can seek out their

advice. When I am feeling insecure about my work I can get one of them to give it a quick glance over and say ‘aye that’s ok’ (he’s a bloke and very succinct in these matters). But most of all I can relax, laugh and be so utterly geeky in their company and not be embarrassed. I don’t have to justify what I do (which even with very supportive family can be a bit of a bone of contention). The same things rock our boats. Sharing discoveries about our research is met with shared euphoria and you don’t feel as though they are doing it just for your benefit.

The Thesis Whisperer blog today issued a post about collaborative work and this kind of fits in with what I wanted to say as well. Because, it may be a cliche, but a problem shared really is a problem halved. Working in isolation, as we inevitably have to, we need these points of contact with fellow like-minded people to sustain our energy and enthusiasm. It also kind of plays into my posts about Conferences, Forums and Symposia acting as a sort of ‘living well’ of community and inspiration. It is important to sustain contacts and relationships of this mutually supportive and understanding nature.

What follows is an example of the consequences of eschewing this kind of mental support – albeit an extreme one and one taken from the early part of the Twentieth-century, but , still in my opinion, one worth re-telling.

***GEEK ALERT*** What follows is also related to my Phd and may provide the cure for insomnia should you choose to read on! To any one interested in Suffrage and Women’s Rights it may be of vague interest. 

‘A Brave and Beautiful Spirit’

 As human beings were are designed to live in a community (even if it doesn’t feel much like it a lot of the time). Mentally it is proven that bouncing ideas around ‘brain storming’ and taking part in collaborative work can have enormous benefits to our own personal intellectual development. This already acknowledged fact was  given  further credence recently as I read my god help me if I lose it, damage it, am late returning it British Library Book ‘A Brave and Beautiful Spirit’: Dora Marsden 1882-1960. Marsden was an intelligent and remarkable woman, who began her intellectual life at 13 when she became a Teacher-Apprentice. She worked as a teacher and attended, via scholarship, Owen’s College at Manchester University receiving a BA. Manchester was one of the first colleges to accept women and confer them with degrees.During her time at University she became interested in the hot topic of the day Suffrage becoming friendly with many women who would later become synonymous with the Woman Movement of the early Twentieth-century. In 1908 she became active in the WSPU whilst still a teacher  ~ there is a strong affiliation between women teachers and the suffrage movement which began life with Mary Wollstonecraft’s assertion that women should be educated back in the 18th century. She quickly rose to prominence and carried out some incredible stunts to draw attention to the movement and the rights of women to secure the vote.  Not least was The Winston Churchill Affair which has become legendary in suffrage history briefly recounted here from Spartacus.

4th December, 1909, she joined Helen Tolson and Winson Etherley in attempting to disrupt a meeting in Southport that was being addressed by Winston Churchill. According to the local newspaper “the security for the meeting was unprecedented in the history of the town”. While Churchill was speaking he was interrupted by Marsden. Emmeline Pankhurst later recalled that Marsden was “peering through one of the great porthole openings in the slope of the ceiling, was seen a strange elfin form with wan, childish face, broad brow and big grey eyes, looking like nothing real or earthly but a dream waif.”

Dora Marsden provided an account of what happened next in Votes for Women: “A dirty hand was was thrust over my mouth, and a struggle began. Finally I was dropped over a ledge, pushed through the broken window, and we began to roll down the steep sloping roof side. Two stewards, crawling up from the other side, shouted out to the two men who had hold of me.” Despite being arrested the local magistrate dismissed all charges against them.

Disaffected with WSPU autocracy, she and fellow members Grace Jardine and Mary Gawthorpe left and began a small periodical called The Freewoman: A Feminist Review in November 1911. It was a notorious and controversial publication which eventually was banned from distribution by W.H. Smith and in it Dora Marsden was to pursue her continued interest in Philosophical academics. Her life is one of tragedy. So brilliant a star was dimmed by a series of events which led to her moving from the hub of literary life, London, to a small place called (ironically) Seldom Seen, near Ullswater, ostensibly to get the peace and quiet she required to ‘think clearly and work industriously’ … it was the beginning of a very slow and sad decline, which Les Garner believes culminated  with an attempted suicide in 1935. She spent the last 25 years of her life in an asylum for the mentally ill in Dumfries, still continuing ‘her work’. Like many great thinkers (Descartes for example) she believed that isolation was the key to clear and lucid understanding, when in fact what she most likely needed was the discursive community she had striven to create  within the pages of The Freewoman/ The New Freewoman. Once she withdrew from this ‘living debate’ her mind lost its ability to relate philosophy to reality and as a consequence it drifted towards insanity instead of brilliance.

So sad, so tragic and (albeit a rather  extreme) a salutary lesson to anyone who thinks they can’ go it alone’ .

Reading Between the Lines

… is a skill that we really should develop and hone as academics but is something I find difficult. I need to read every word in context and then usually twice (with particularly difficult concepts) in order to even begin to grasp the basics.

This means I am a very slow academic. Things take a long time to ‘happen’ as my nose is often buried far too deeply in a book to notice that time is flashing past and I haven’t written a word. It’s exacerbated by the fact that every time I read one thing I am exposed to numerous other ‘essential’ sources that have thus far eluded me … which ensures I often end up on an erogenous  erroneous book hunt ( Oh look … we are right back full circle to my good old friend Procrastination). My strap line should really read – the more I learn the less I seem to know! Too much knowledge is a dangerous thing – as is being intelligent enough to know how little intelligence you actually hold … I am beginning to wish I was born ignorant and blissful. I was most certainly conceived in blissful ignorance but that is a whole other blog post! 

So I am trying to read a little and write a lot, changing the old habit of reading oodles and writing in a panic! I have even changed my Facebook profile to a KEEP CALM AND KEEP WRITING notice … a good warning to those near and dear that I am in deed in the throws of giving birth to yet another piece of research.

Matters are never helped by libraries not holding books in stock. I am fortunate in that my institution is very generous to its grad students and we are allowed to order directly for the library (though it has to have approval), which can really cut out the middle man. I have already ordered up one set of books which prove to be a great help to my research and I have another on its way – though sadly it won’t arrive in time for this section but hopefully it will for the revisions later on. I understand the logistics in housing library collections, especially when it comes to specialist subjects but it can be frustrating to say the least to have to rely on inter-library loans and research trips. This week I found myself a victim of the distant learners curse. A library book I had out on loan was recalled, with all the sinister usual threats of heavy daily fines. I had to have it back in the library before 5 pm on Wednesday. Dutiful as I am I did as requested. Thursday morning I got another email informing me that a long awaited book from the British library was now available and I should collect it immediately, as it would need to be returned before the Christmas vacation and was also subject to immediate recall. I had little choice but to jump back in the car and complete yet another 40 mile round trip to collect said book! Again this inconvenience is ameliorated by the fact I don’t have to pay for Inter-library loans, and many grad students at other universities do, so I guess it is a small price to pay for such a service.

However this has caused a knock on effect – in that I now have book shelves groaning under the weight of books I have bought because they can be obtained cheaper in the internet than it costs me in petrol to get them from the library! Whoops!

I BLAME THE GOVERNMENT – because that’s what student’s do right?

I am also trying desperately trying to overcome the mental challenge of loathing Mondays – it is ridiculous really as I don’t have ‘weekends’ in the normal sense as I work to my own schedule and my partner works shifts, so why it should still loom ominously one each week is beyond me …

I know what will cure it – a bit of book therapy .. now where is that link for Abebooks … I am going on a book hunt! I guess I can always buy more shelves …

Going Experi-mental

Are you guilty of playing it safe? Of sticking to tried and tested methods of writing, researching, thinking? I know I am.

Write Dangerously

However the way to discover new things is to think outside the box, to challenge conventions and to get go a little bit experimental!

In the past I have talked about software I’ve downloaded, tactics I’ve tried, thoughts I’ve had, mind mapping, even blogging – all of these are my way of trying to find fame, fotune, a wealthy husband, notoriety, success, media attention  a new way to succeed in a very traditional field, that of Literary Criticism.

Yesterday’s post about lacking originality was another way of trying to find a pathway to something new – even when you feel there is nothing left to find.

It is very hard to be innovative when studying something like literature. But when you  analyse literature to any degree you are immediately confronted with writers who are trying to do something new, something hitherto unseen, something exciting. The trend of the Modernists to ‘make it new’ was a reaction against the generic formulaic Victorian and Georgian formalism. Modernism was the apotheosis of experimentation, with Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake being the apotheosis of that apotheosis … imagine if he had stuck to the tradition of writing in linear, structured, coherent sentences.  Whilst Joyce is often held up as inspirational and ridiculous in equal measure, and often to cries of Emperors New Clothes, it cannot be denied that his work has the authenticity of longevity – we will be talking about if for many, many decades to come. Dorothy Richardson and Virginia Woolf wrote fervently to create ‘the woman’s sentence’ – the antithesis of the black imposing masculine ‘I” that had dominated literature in the preceding centuries. They argued against the male dominance of the novel and took a step allowing women writers to engage a more feminine approach.

If unlike me you are not into Modern and contemporary literature, it isn’t a far stretch to look at the greats, such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Donne, Herbert, et al and recognise experimental literature when you see it … any banned book is another test case for change and advancement.

It’s easy to dismiss this ‘experimental verve’ as part of the artistic or ‘creative’ process that as academics we ‘should’ sit outside of, but we don’t and we shouldn’t. Any piece of writing involves the creative process. Yes we do have to follow certain conventions, but that doesn’t mean what we ‘say’ has to be conventional. Whilst I do find some forms of new criticism, like the idea of Hymenal Space (especially considering it’s medically questionable that the Hymen actually exists/ed)  ‘out there’ and I find my nose wrinkling up slightly at the thought, I do applaud anyone who is prepared to push back boundaries to create or investigate something new.

We don’t have to be Joyce, Woolf or even Leavis, Bahktin or Chomsky, but we can all try to look at our work from a different angle, structure our work in a way that works for us as well as for the examination boards and test the boundaries (via out supervisors) a little. Even if it turns out it doesn’t work, you will have learned new things in the process and become a more thorough academic in the process.

And if we can’t do that in our actual Ph.Ds we can do it in places like this! Or NaNoWriMo … places that encourage you to be different and new and unique and uninhibited – unleashed from the constraints and conformities of traditional academic writing.

So today is ‘Forget health and safety Tuesday – go a little bit experimental’.

Research – When it seems it’s all been said before.

As any academic will know the crucial thing to being successful is to publish. But that isn’t really the whole story – you have to publish something that hasn’t been published before saying something that hasn’t been said before in a way that no one else has thought of saying it … or do you.

Last week was rather strained work wise, time wise, stress wise  (you get the gist) so the blog went to the wall as I wailed my way through the week. Why? Because of  the discovery of two articles, a book and a PhD thesis that I had hitherto failed to uncover in my multimillion internet/library trawls, all of which seemed to be my thesis in print. So convinced was I that my ‘originality’ had been scuppered I was afraid to read them, it was just too demoralising.

When I finally plucked up the courage and confronted the damn things, instead of just assuming I was done for I found, to my delight, that they not only confirmed that my assessment of the material I am working with was spot on, but that the manner in which I am approaching the project is in fact a unique one. Much of the material  repeated stuff I already knew and had sourced from other material, and the original stuff that these papers presented would help my project rather than hinder it. The despair lifted somewhat.

In the midst of the despair I was reminded of a conversation I had with El Secondo a while back, about lacking originality; she said it is rare for anyone to say anything completely new, the key is in the way you fit all the pieces that already exist together and present it, whether or not that leads to an ‘original’ conclusion. Engaging with other scholarship is crucial to the process. This encouraged me. Literary criticism is a difficult field to be original in, you usually find that some other academic has said what you are trying to say and much more eloquently – so what do you do? You quote them, you reference them and you use their scholarship to enhance your own. The reciprocity is there in your promotion of their original work. It’s not a bad system. It ensures that good work gets the spotlight it deserves and keeps scholarship fresh and alive – I have come to view my thesis as a conversation with other academics in my field, and as such it has become a much more fluid piece that it was.

 

Hopefully this week will be more on track than off piste … 

Awash with Awards!

Well, well two awards in as many days – how wonderful. My attempts to curry sympathy with my readers are clearly working!

Rule No. 1 – Thank the person who nominated you for the award
  • Thank you to maturestudenthaginginthere for the nomination. I can’t pass the award on as I don’t follow many blogs and I am not very good at finding blogs that appeal to me. I must work harder at building up my blog quota.
Rule No. 2 – Make a list of 7 things people may not know about you
  • I suck my thumb
  • I am addicted to watching ER every night before I go to sleep.
  • I can speak a smattering of Welsh
  • My father’s grandmother was the first of her family to live in a house – she was from a gypsy family.
  • I once modelled at the London Hair and Beauty Show at Earl’s Court
  • I ‘ve written a children’s book (which was rejected by Harper Collins and hasn’t been resubmitted yet)
  • I find ears incredibly attractive and like rubbing them
Rule No. 3 – Nominate 15 blogs you think should receive the award
  • This one flummoxes me – apologies!I promise once I get a few blogs to follow I shall update the list!
Thank you so much for this Jac – 😀

Leibster Blog Award

Well thank you so much to the lovely Studyingparent who has kindly nominated me for a Leibster Blog Award. And she doesn’t even know yet that I am also a BIG SCD fan!I am touched by the nomination and even more touched by her description of my blog. I have never had many followers as I do not openly promote myself as I could do – but I do love it when I pick up a new fellow blogger/reader long the way.

Nominated by Studyparent

The Liebster Blog Award is given to blogs with fewer than 200 followers containing good content and warranting more support.

The Leibster award rules are:

Acknowledge & thank who gave you the award and link back to them.

Reveal five of your own top reads and and let them know by leaving a comment on their blogs. I can’t actually do this because I only follow a few and I think they have already been nominated … I shall come back to this part in the morning once I can think straight!

What a lovely start to the weekend! Thank you.