Earlier today, I ran the first of my social media summer workshops at the Jubilee Graduate Centre. There was a good turn out from a nice mix of PhD students from across the disciplines, and some interesting discussion. Hopefully, I’ll see most of them again next week for the second workshop. Here are the slides.
Archive for July, 2012
It’s workshop time again at the Jubilee Graduate Centre. Following previous programmes over the last few years, at Jubilee and across the University, I’m running two more lunchtime sessions. The workshops are open to all PhD students at the University of Nottingham, and are designed primarily for those with little or no experience in using social media in their academic practices. However, more experienced users are very welcome to come along to share their experiences and contribute to the discussions. As always, I hope each workshop will be informative and interactive. I’ll be demonstrating key social media and facilitating discussion around emerging practices.
Social media summer workshops – Towards a more participatory and collaborative scholarship
Workshop 1: Social Networking and Collaboration
Thursday 26 July, 12.00-2.00pm.
Using Twitter, social networks sites, wikis and online community sites for networking, information sourcing and collaborative working.
Workshop 2: Sharing and Managing Work Online
Thursday 2 August, 12.00-2.00pm.
Informal dissemination and sharing of work through blogging and content sharing sites, as well as managing content through social bookmarking and bibliographies, curation tools and RSS.
Places can be booked here.
According to Bruce Sterling’s TV Tropes wiki:
- The Ur Example is the oldest known example of a particular trope (‘Ur’ is a German prefix meaning primitive or original)
- The Trope Maker is the first unambiguous example of a particular trope
- The Trope Codifier is the example of a particular trope that has come to define all other uses
The Trope Maker may or may not be the Ur Example, and the Trope Codifier may or may not be the Trope Maker.
For example, The Towering Inferno is generally recognised as the Trope Codifier for ‘staggered but equal’ or diagonal billing in films, specifically devised to resolve the top billing demands of Steve McQueen and Paul Newman. However, there is uncertainty as to whether this is the Trope Maker, as this type of billing may have been employed for similar disputes in previous films. In addition, the trope characteristic of an Ur Example may be unintentional. Therefore, any earlier film that used similar billing purely as a design aesthetic could be a candidate for Ur Example.
“very few [Generation Y students] employ collaborative technologies such as wikis, blogging and Twitter in their research, despite using such tools in their personal lives.”
Elizabeth Gibney. Few Tweet successes as Generation Y fails to use blog-standard tools. Times Higher Education, 28 June 2012.
I’m unconvinced with the argument that the new generation of researchers routinely use multiple social media recreationally. This seems to have become a rationale for academic appropriation that is rarely challenged. In my experience of running workshops at the University of Nottingham and elsewhere, many postgraduate and early career researchers are ‘on Facebook’ and use little else. Ask them, and some include using Wikipedia (as a resource only) as ‘engaging’ in social media (mostly unaware of the potential of using the underlying technology of wikis as a platform for collaborative text editing). Few blog recreationally, or even read them. Twitter use is limited and often doesn’t extend much beyond the signing up stage.
Yet this limited engagement and awareness regularly seems to be sufficient to appropriately constitute ‘significant’ recreational social media use, propagating the belief that when adopting them for academic purposes, new researchers are intimately familiar with the tools, practices and culture of multiple types of social media.
Peter Rawsthorne’s list of ‘half-finished’ blog posts reminds me that I have several texts at various stages of development myself. Some of the participants in my PhD research described similar blogging practices when it came to generating unpublished drafts.
Having multiple texts (or at least ideas for texts) ‘on the go’ at any one time is not exclusive to academics who blog. As curious and engaged researchers, we create numerous short-form and informal texts in our everyday academic actives; to make notes, record events and projects, conceptualise and synthesise ideas, and construct arguments. However, in deciding to share some of these in the public domain, the academic blogger encounters additional motivations and considerations as to when (s)he decides to publish them, and in what state. Many bloggers it seems, may have a number of blog posts in draft form, at various stages of completion, at any one time. But there is little discussion around how they determine if and when a blog post is considered ‘finished’ and ready for public view.
Attitudes to how ‘well-written,’ substantive or formalised a blog post should be may differ considerably. Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know I have a flexible attitude to what constitutes a blog post – and have argued previously for the blogging space as a site for experimentation (in format, style, content and subjectivity), free of many of the constraints associated with formal academic outputs.
Topicality can be a factor here too. Bloggers may feel it necessary to draft a blog post quickly if it is in response to another blog post (such as this one), or if it is related to a breaking event or a new publication. However, some posts may remain dormant and incomplete for some time if there is little impetuous to finish and publish them.
The strategy of stockpiling completed drafts may also be a common practice. Though I think the pressure to blog regularly is often over-emphasised, having a number of posts ‘in reserve’ can be seen as being useful, particularly for busy periods when blogging is a low priority. In addition, some posts may be temporarily withheld if they compromise formal publication opportunities, or simply kept for a time when they will have the most impact.
Last Friday, I presented at the Challenging the Binaries conference hosted by the Centre for the Study of Literacies at the School of Education, University of Sheffield. It was friendly and engaging, with some excellent keynote presentations and subsequent debate facilitated by Neil Selwyn. Discussions focussed a lot on how the ‘new’ and the ‘digital’ are conceptualised within literacies studies, and – coming from outside this field – I found some of the approaches to researching digital technologies both refreshing and challenging. There is, I think, potential for greater dialogue between the literacies and educational technology fields around social media and digital practices. Thanks again to those who came to my session and contributed to the discussion. Here are the presentation and notes.
Drawing on my own research into how PhD students are using social and participatory media.
Research question related to identity production and agency within doctoral education.
- Theoretical aspects of identity – key themes from postmodernist and sociocultural perspectives
- Methodological and analytical aspects of my research
- Some key findings
2. Theorising / Conceptualising Digital Identity
The concept of digital identity is primarily a sociotechnical construct that has evolved through a number of theoretical perspectives.
Digital or online identity generally understood as the representation of a persona that an individual presents across the digital environments in which he or she participates.
General Westernised notion of identity as a coherent, unified subject – maturation is conceptualised as establishing a consistent identity.
Digital identity is seen as multiphrenic (Gergan, 2000) – identity created through multiple subjectivities, but also performed and presented across multiple media / formats / genres.
Emergent contributions from the sociological and sociocultural literature – combining personal subjectivities with cultural forms and social relations.
3. Doctoral Contexts
Consensus that doing a PhD is not just acquiring specialised knowledge and skills, and making an original contribution to knowledge.
But constitutes a critical and transformation of identity – often the most transformative period of an academic’s professional life.
Kamler and Thomson (2006) – writing constitutes principal role of performativity in establishing scholarly identity – literature review reconceptualised as a key site of identity work.
Proposing social media as increasingly important sites for doctoral identity work.
Requires holistic approaches to develop authentic representations of ‘doing a PhD’:
- Include academic practices beyond those related purely to thesis-development.
- Challenge models of socialisation and enculturation exclusively within localised or disciplinary settings.
4. Usher Framework
Identity represents a hugely complex theoretical field - from psychology, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies.
Usher, Bryant and Johnson - Postmodernist educational perspective.
Schema of experiential learning – distinct social practices in the context of lifelong learning.
5. Confessional and Critical Practice
Two generally opposing social practices:
Draws on Foucault’s notion of the ‘confession’ – as rituals in power relationships.
The learner is:
- Disempowered in accepting the dominant (often solitary) model of learning.
- Required to align her subjectivities with formal educational discourses.
Within digital environment:
- Pedagogies are based on rhetoric of the ‘self’ – manifest in professional profiling, portfolio development, self-branding.
- Reinforces educational binaries of formal and informal, and professional binaries of work-based and recreational activities.
- The learner is a politically constituted agent able to shape her own learning.
- Resonates with critical pedagogy – politics of self-representation.
- Rather than adapting to specific learning contexts - these are challenged and potentially changed through discursive practices.
- Partly played out in the digital environment.
6. Sociocultural Perspectives
Reified forms of perfomativity – social production, interaction and participation.
Identity development as a competency.
Provisional Selves – external feedback and internal beliefs – prioritise and value different activities and roles
Students assess their capacity to enact the behaviours associated with them before taking on the identity associated with that role. In effect, envisioning imagined possible or ‘provisional selves.’
Implications for socialisation and enculturation within norms and values.
Situated learning perspective – identity development is constitutive to the increased capacity to participate in multiple communities of practice
7. Figured World
Socioculturalist / postmodernist theoretical view of identity as distributed, constantly forming multiple, sometimes contradictory, selves.
Holland et al reconceptualise this as active participation in specific environments they call ‘figured worlds.’
8. Research Design
Highly qualitative, mixed-method design
Open coding and ‘thick description’
Consecutive interviews spaced at 3/4-monthly intervals – interpreting and refining participants’ perspectives.
Chose NOT to use Activity Theory notation (i.e. triangular model) – so not to compromise ‘authenticity’ of participants’ own terminology and meaning making processes.
9. Analytical Framework
- Social, cultural and historical perspective of doctoral practices
- Culturally-mediated, object-oriented activity systems
- Objects are emergent and partly shared, fragmented and contested
- Development of cultural artefacts
- Figured worlds and genre knowledge
Analytical framework of interrelated activity systems – to describe shifting patterns of digitally mediated doctoral practices across multiple practice contexts and through key transitional phases of doctoral study
At operational level – objects as ‘problem spaces’ equate to interrelated doctoral practices.
Focus on development of contradictions and cultural artefacts.
Socio-cultural fork of Genre Studies (e.g. Berkenkotter & Huckin, 1993).
Traditions of using tools rather than artefact categorisation.
Conceptual fit with activity theory.
Development of ‘genre knowledge’ – social and dialogical process.
11. Figured Worlds
Identities are improvised:
- within specific social / cultural situations
- based on past experiences (history-in-person)
- using the cultural resources available
- in response to the subject positions
In appropriating these improvisations as heuristics they can become tools of agency and identity construction.
Figured worlds enable cultural artefact development by providing the social and cultural contexts.
12/13. Some Findings
The PhD student is characterised as negotiating multiple, wide-ranging, and potentially conflicting practice contexts.
Developing strategies across multiple contexts and sites of identity production provides PhD students with opportunities for effectively positioning themselves in sites of knowledge, resources, opportunities and influence.
Sophisticated negotiation of identity and roles – “playing the game.”
Doctoral identity construction and agency:
- Within and across multiple practice contexts
- Within and outside of formal institutional and disciplinary boundaries
Social media practices within and across figured worlds increase ‘authenticity.’
Diverse interrelated doctoral research cultures – (inter)disciplinary, supervisory, departmental, peer group, entrepreneurial, industry and third sector relations.
Use of social media provides spaces of authorship (Bahktin) provide opportunities for empowering and potentially disempowering this process.
14. Digital Literacies
Implications to digital literacies.
Digital literacies – highly contested term.
Beyond cognitive / functional use of digital technologies and related skills / competencies.
Towards holistic understanding of creative and critical uses of digital technologies, and social and cultural settings.
Digital identity equates to ‘ways of being’ in the digital environment
Navigating increasingly complex interdisciplinary and interrelated practice contexts.
Genre knowledge – compare with multimodal literacy (Gunther Kress etc.).
Contribution to a deeper and more nuance understanding of digital literacies – within the contexts of research practices and doctoral education.