Posts Tagged ‘#rp2nott’

Reflecting on #RP2Nott

Monday, November 14th, 2011

I’m a bit late with this follow up to our Research Practices 2.0 event a couple of weeks ago, but it’s been good to allow a chance to reflect on the several things that struck me the most on the day:

Can we stop talking like academics?

Most academic practices reflect the most basic human activities, but we try our best to make them sound otherwise. Even the most generic academic terms are loaded by disciplinary bias and individual assumptions. PhD students (and I include myself here) are amongst the worst culprits as it consolidates the necessary enculturation process inherent in becoming legitimised as an academic (you see, there I go again).

Using broad terms are useful starting points though not always workable. For example, in the morning session I helped facilitate, one table interpreted data collection as general academic information sourcing rather than in the narrower methodological sense. So, terms like collecting stuff, exploring ideas, explaining things etc. are useful to cut through the bullshit.

Tools vs. Practices

Social media is itself a problematic term. Social media constitute a range of different tools and platforms. Whilst some provide defined parameters of use that may be attributable to recognisable activities, many do not. As the Visitors and Residents framework suggests, understanding the effectiveness of social media can be dependent on whether they are perceived as purposeful tools for specific academic activities, or as flexible, social and cultural spaces for participation, enquiry and critique.

Despite practice-based approaches such as those we promoted at the event, there are those who inevitably lean towards the instinctive tool-focussed ideologies inherent in learning new technology, and therefore partly quantify the success of workshops or events on box-ticking exercises such as the collaborative listing of social media we employed in the first session. Some attendees appreciated the opportunity to explore some of the social media we discussed in the morning session in the drop-in IT workshop after lunch.

Expectations and Assumptions

To me, the success of an event like this is partly dependent on the dynamic between how it placates and challenges both (a) expectations of the event, and (b) assumptions of practice – in this case, not only using social media, but also what it means to ‘do a PhD’. And, as Jen’s excellent account of her workshop experience suggests, this is equally true for facilitators. The difficulty is; that dynamic is different for each individual who participates.

Thinking practically, this might be best served by developing an initial dialogue necessary to gain an understanding of these collective expectations and assumptions, and adopting a flexible approach that can adapt to changing needs. Basically, there are as many ways to do events like this, as there are events. If we go away not wanting to rip it up and start all over again, we are probably doing something fundamentally wrong.

Feeding the Fish: Peripherality, Social Media and Doctoral Enterprise

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

During my workshop at the Research Practices 2.0 event on Saturday, we discussed some of the fundamental questions about sharing work online.


  • What type of research work / activities / content etc?


  • What type of social media / online spaces?


  • During what stages of PhD / study / project?
  • How might this support / compromise ‘formal’ dissemination?


  • What types of format / media etc.

Who (to/with)?

  • Audience – size, demographic?
  • Identifiability – real or ‘imagined’?

I had a great group, who were not given anywhere near the time they deserved to discuss these sufficiently. But they responded brilliantly, generally embracing the idea of research dissemination beyond text-based formats and reporting of findings.

In following up these questions – particularly the ‘What?’ and the ‘When?’ – I referred to my interpretation of Jakob Bardram’s (2007) Fish Model. This plots the student’s engagement in theoretical and empirical work (which I crudely termed the ‘Research Scope’) with the duration of the PhD.

This highly conceptual model is hardly an authentic representation of anyone’s actual PhD, but it does usefully indicate at-a-glance the broad ‘focusing out’ and ‘focussing in’ periods that commonly describe the doctoral research trajectory.

I extended this model to incorporate how, as PhD students; we might at least maintain the scope of academic engagement and learning expansion (represented by A). Indeed, there is justifiably an argument to go beyond a process of mere sustainability in favour of a continuation of the ‘focusing out’ trajectory (as represented by B). Or, crucially, do we relinquish the agency for continued expansive learning to adopt a ‘blinkered’ approach that conforms to the reductionist constraints of ‘finishing the thesis’ without compromising direct disclosure of ideas or findings before ‘formal’ publication.

Holistic models of doctoral practices provide more authentic representations of what doing a PhD actually entails, and the complex socio-educational structures that underpin it – what Cumming (2010) refers to as ‘doctoral enterprise’. Such approaches incorporate activities, forms of intellectual enquiry and social interaction beyond those parameters defining thesis-development, to those that are more attributable to exploring the general research field, and engaging in multiple practice contexts.

For the purposes of the workshop, this was a simple way of demonstrating the ‘dialogical’ relationship between what McAlpine et al. (2009) distinguish as the ‘doctoral-specific’ and the ‘academic-general,’ which describes the potential interrelatedness and influence between the core and the peripheral.

This blog post itself partly represents an example of such a dialogue. It references an event and a project, which can be seen as peripheral activities not directly linked to my PhD research. However, my activities in the project have (not surprisingly) been informed by my research into doctoral practices and social media. Additionally, I may chose not to reference Bardram’s Fish Model in my thesis, but some of the conceptual ideas it has helped describe will be explored. Articulating these ideas in this way is contributing to my process of understanding and conceptualising that will benefit my thesis.

Similar dialogical processes between thesis-development and peripheral activities (such as teaching) may not necessarily involve social media. But it’s taken me a while to realise in my own PhD research, that it is fundamentally the nature of this dialogue – which is social, contested and in a state of flux – that is key to understanding the cultural aspects of social media adoption and use.


Bardram, J. E. (2007). The Art of Doing a PhD. Doctoral Colloquium. UbiComp 2007. Innsbruck, Austria.

Cumming, J. (2010). Doctoral enterprise: A holistic conception of evolving practices and arrangements. Studies in Higher Education, 35(1), 25-39.

McAlpine, L., Jazvac-Martek, M., & Hopwood, N. (2009). Doctoral student experience: Activities and difficulties influencing identity development. International Journal for Researcher Development, 1(1). 97-109.

Dissemination 2.0

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

This is the abstract for the workshop I am running in the afternoon session of Research Practices 2.0 event on Saturday. The downside is I don’t get to see the sessions @jennifermjones and @mark_carrigan are running at the same time! However, we will each be feeding back in the plenary that follows.

In what ways can I use social media to disseminate my research?
What are the potential benefits and risks involved?

Social media are providing new spaces for disseminating research work, enabling new forms of dialogue and engagement with different audiences, through various formats and media.

In this interactive session, you will be able to discuss and develop ideas about sharing your work online. Drawing on specific examples of social media – such as blogging and content sharing sites – we will explore how they can challenge and support established forms of research dissemination and publication. We will identify potential reasons for not wanting to share work online, and how we might address this by discussing different stages and contexts of PhD study, and core and peripheral research activities.

#RP2Nott Programme

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

We’ve now finalised the timings for the Research Practices 2.0 event on Saturday. Looking forward to a busy day.


Research Practices 2.0
Social and Participatory Media in Academic Life

Saturday 29th October 2011
Business School South, Jubilee Campus, University of Nottingham

9.30–10.00 Registration & Coffee

10.00–10.30 Introduction Session
(Lecture Theatre A25)
Claire, Andy & Emily

10.30–11.30 Morning Sessions
(A24, A26, A06, A07)
Lead Facilitators – Warren, Claire, Jennifer & Kat

11.30–12.00 Coffee & Networking

Sign up for the afternoon sessions
Opportunity to watch participant videos in A08

12.00–12.45 Plenary
(Lecture Theatre A25)
All Facilitators

Reporting back from morning sessions
Open discussion and questions

12.45–1.45 Lunch

Opportunity to use the IT Suite A03 and watch participant videos in A08

1.45–2.30 Afternoon Sessions
(A06, A24, A26, IT Suite A03)
Mark, Jennifer & Andy plus IT drop-in facilitators (Claire, Emily & Kat)

2.30–3.00 Coffee & Networking

Opportunity to use the IT Suite A03
Fill in assessment forms

3.00–4.00 Plenary
(Lecture Theatre A25)
All facilitators

Reporting back from afternoon sessions
Open discussion and questions


Thursday, October 20th, 2011

The Research Practices 2.0 one-day event is fast approaching on Saturday 29th October. This is the culmination of the project and internship programme that developed out of the Graduate Centre workshop sessions I conducted with LeRoy Hill. It also compliments a web resource (to be located on the University of Nottingham Graduate School site), which we will be launching at the event.

In addition to me, Claire Mann and Emily Buchnea from the project team, we are delighted to have @WarrenPearce, @jennifermjones, @mark_carrigan and Kat Gupta (@mixosaurus) helping facilitate the event. Most of them contributed to the video interviews we conducted, which will constitute a significant part of the web resource.

We had a meeting yesterday to finalise a collaboratively-designed workshop session that we will be running in the morning across four groups. Later in the afternoon, me, Mark and Jen will be leading three separate sessions focused on more specific practice contexts. In addition, there will be opportunities for attendees to use a ‘drop-in’ IT clinic and to view the videos. We are looking at filming the plenary sessions for later inclusion on the web resource.

It was good to see the 100 places taken up within a week or so of publicising the event. We have a considerable number on a reserve list that we’d love to accommodate, but many more would compromise the interactivity of the sessions.

We wanted the event to be as inclusive as possible so it’s particularly satisfying to see attendees from across the disciplines. And whilst this project has been developed primarily for the University of Nottingham doctoral community, it was always our intention to make both the web resource and the event accessible to external PhD students and researchers. So it’s great we have a good representation from a number of other (primarily East Midlands) universities.

Pitching events like this is difficult. People will come with a range of experiences, competences and perspectives on social media, and different assumptions and expectations of the event. We hope to be responsive and collaborative by creating an informal and interactive environment for discussion and an opportunity to listen to and share experiences of using social media.

I’ll be blogging more on this, before and after the event, in the next few weeks.