126 Characters in Search of an Author: Twitter and Thinking Out Loud on Social Media, the case of the Indigo Children

But what do you want here, all of you?
We want to live.
THE MANAGER (ironically)
For Eternity?
No, sir, only for a moment… in you.

These lines are from Luigi Pirendello’s 1921 metatheatrical play, Sei Personaggi in Cerca D’autore (“Six Characters in Search of an Author”) where six unused and forgotten fictional characters insist on being put on stage during the rehearsals for another Pirendello play, Il Giuoco Delle Parti (“The Rules of the Game”). On Twitter the ‘rules of the game’ include the limitation of tweets to no more than 140 characters.  To maximise the amount of information and connectivity in a tweet an author can use social media ‘tricks’ such as automatically shortened urls, hashtags, and acronyms.

In this paper I argue that when a tweet is significantly shorter than 140 characters, only 14 for example, questions arise for the researcher. First, what is the motivation of an author who writes a tweet that is ‘missing’ 126 characters? Second, why are they choosing to use Twitter for their text?  This paper will examine the abbreviated tweets made by members of a loosely bounded community of New Agers in order to consider the ways in which Twitter is put to work by authors allegedly in control of their characters in a medium that enables a shortened route between thinking and publishing.

Brevity is the soul of wit… or do missing tweet characters matter?

During my digital ethnographic research on the Indigo Children, a concept from within the New Age Movement whose adherents are geographically disparate but socially networked through the internet, I encountered many tweets containing just 14 characters: just “Indigo Children”. Interviews with these authors through Twitter and by e-mail provided insight into the public/private double mindedness of the Twitter format that enables thinking out loud with increasingly mobile technology and near immediate posting times.

Interviewees also readily drew my attention to the place of the apparently white middle class Indigo Child concept within a wider black Hip Hop culture, and “shoutin’ out” or “reppin’” were among the reasons given for the 14 character tweets.  Reppin’ or Representing is done by individuals “constructing self-definitions to elevate their social status and align themselves with desirable persons, places, or things (e.g., friends, neighbourhoods, clubs, clothing brands etc.)” (Stokes 2007).  The sympathy between the entrepreneurial, self-making model of the Hip Hop mogul and the conception of the Indigo Child as an evolved form of humanity influences these kind of abbreviated tweets. Finally, as a tweet can be a momentary post forming a part of a larger conversation as an “ambient audience” of followers (Zappavigna, 2012) absorbs the post and reacts to it, the role of louder thinking, or ‘shouting’, to get attention for posts will be considered, with reference to the growing Attention Economy online (Bergquist and Ljungberg, 2001).


Bergquist, M. and Ljungberg, J. (2001) “The Power of Gifts: Organizing Social Relationships in Open Source Communities” in Journal of Information Systems, (2001) 11, 305–320

Stokes, C. (2007) “‘Representin’ In Cyberspace: Sexual Scripts, Self‐Definition, and Hip Hop Culture In Black American Adolescent Girls’ Home Pages”, in Culture, Health & Sexuality: An International Journal for Research, Intervention and Care, 9:2, 169-184

Zappavigna, M. (2012) The Discourse of Twitter and Social Media, London; New York: Continuum International Pub. Group

Serious Academics taking Game of Thrones Seriously… No, Seriously!

Further to my last post on the religions of Game of Thrones, I spotted a couple of academic takes on the world Martin has shown us.  I’ve decided to collate them here as they are very interesting:


So, again, there’s my take on the genealogy of religions I think Martin is tracing for us:

“All men must die, but we are not men” – Daenerys Targeryen. Thoughts on a Game of Thrones and Religion

The there is Peter Antonioni’s view of the technological development (or not) of Westeros, here:

Game of Thrones: Why Hasn’t Westeros had an Industrial Revolution?

Dr Antonioni is Senior Teaching Fellow and resident non-linear thinker in the department of Management Science.

I would like to ask Dr Antonioni whether the lack of a Protestant Ethic in Westoros could be one reason for this lack of development, but that’s because I’m a Weber-head 😛

Finally, and from a field I know NOTHING about, some Stanford boffins have considered the geology of Westeros and the surrounding countries:

Game of Thrones Geology

As a colleague and friend of mine, Dr David Robertson, has pointed out, there is a fictional precedent for a project of imagination like this.  He cites Jorge Luis Borges’ short story, Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” where there is a conspiracy by intellectuals to imagine, and therefore create, a fictional world.  Here are some more details from the Oracle, Wikipedia.

Now, I’m not suggesting a conspiracy to bring Westeros into reality like some kind of tulpa, (although there are some parts of it I would like to visit on my Hols.), but I think a book bringing together these serious academics considering Game of Thrones seriously might be a lot of fun 🙂

New Religious Studies: Then, Now and Tomorrow – a guest blog post by Benjamin Zeller

Today we are very honoured to have a guest blog from Benjamin Zeller, co-editor of the The Bloomsbury Companion to New Religious Movements with George Chryssides.  This blog post was first presented as a conference paper at the 25th Anniversary Inform Conference in London at the beginning of February.  When I listened to Ben’s paper I was struck by how clearly and succinctly he got into some of the issues in New Religious Studies as it is now.  But I was also struck by how well he highlighted some of the trends that will impact New Religious Studies, and of course academics wanting to work in this field (like me…), in coming years.  I hope you find it as interesting and stimulating as I did (feel free to thank Professor Zeller in the comments section and I’ll pass it on):


“When I first decided to focus my academic research on new religious movements (NRMs) I was a graduate masters student at Harvard Divinity School. I crafted a list of the major scholars working in the field with whom I might consider studying for my Ph.D. I wanted to both stay in the United States for funding reasons as well as within the discipline of religious studies where I was most comfortable, as opposed to politics, sociology, or legal studies. Imagine my chagrin when I discovered that almost none of the American religious studies scholars with whom I shared common research interests in the study of NRMs worked in departments with viable doctoral program. (Thankfully, there were a few.) I contrasted this with friends and colleagues in the study of the Buddhism, Christian Patristics, or Hebrew Bible, all of whom seemed to have an embarrassment of riches in their choices of doctoral programmes to which to apply. I will briefly return to my own experience later in this paper, but it serves as a frame, showing the way in which the study of NRMs in the American academy is both peripheral and in some ways unique.

The academic study of new religious movements in the U.S. context has undergone a remarkable transition over the past three decades. With origins in the sociological study of religion, the main researchers are now institutionally located within religious studies departments. Yet at the same time, several forces have resulted in the study of NRMs becoming diffuse throughout religious studies, rather than solidifying as a mature subfield. This results in both a concentration of scholars within religious studies departments as well as a diffusion of such NRM scholars across different subfields of religious studies.

Here I consider the reasons for this transition, the underlying economic and social factors, and the ramifications for how scholars research and write on NRMs. Effects have been both positive and negative, with a plurality of approaches and methodologies now characterizing the study of NRMs, but simultaneously a centrifugal effect. The impact of these various developments for how scholars write about NRMs is profound, as these authors’ location shapes their approaches, topics, and perspectives.

The Origins of the Field

            The origin of the field of the study of new religious movement is beyond the scope of this paper, though as George D. Chryssides and I have noted in the introduction to our Bloomsbury Companion to New Religious Movements, the study of NRMs in the Anglophone world emerged primarily from the sociological models of Weber and Troeltsch, and ethnographic work in the 1970s.[i] A rising numbers of American sociologists of religion in the 1970s came to focus on the study of NRMs, including David G. Bromley, Anson D. Shupe, Jeffrey K. Hadden, Thomas Robbins, Robert W. Balch, and James T. Richardson, among others. Certainly non-sociologists, such as historian Robert Ellwood, psychologist Dick Anthony, and archivist J. Stillson Judah were involved in the early days of the study of NRMs in the United States, but overall the field originated and remained housed within departments of sociology.


                                                                                   The 1960s and 1970s…

This had obvious effects on the research agendas and written studies of NRMs. By the mid- to late-1970s, American sociologists of religion with interest in NRMs produced a flurry of ground-breaking articles published in the most important social scientific journals, including American Sociological Review, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Sociological Analysis, and American Behavioural Scientist. The majority of these first publications focused on sociological typologies, theories of social or religious deviance, models of sectarianism, and the study of social processes such as conversion, socialization, and apostasy. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, one could safely speak of the study of NRMs as no longer an emergent field, but one quickly establishing itself as a subfield within the heart of American sociology.  

The authors of the majority of these studies based their work on either ethnography or surveys. Obviously such choices emerged from their training in departments of sociology, and in emphasizing these qualitative and quantitative methods, they followed academic norms appropriate to the sociology of religion. This clearly had an impact on how they wrote, resulting in tightly focused studies delving into one or several social dynamics of new religions. This research broke new ground particularly in the study of conversion and socialization, and today—nearly forty years later in some cases—we still cite these studies as formative. (For example, John Lofland and Rodney Stark’s “Becoming a World Saver” article, a study of the Unificationist Church published in 1965, is still one of the most frequently cited studies on religious conversion.[ii]) Yet their tight focus on matters sociological had other results too. As my friend and colleague Robert W. Balch wrote of his research into the new UFO religion that would come to be called Heaven’s Gate:

‘When I lived with the group in 1975, I was so absorbed by the minutia of everyday life that I didn’t think much about its beliefs. They were simply a given. Although I recognized that the belief system shaped and constrained members’ actions, I, like other sociologists, was more concerned with the actions themselves than with the beliefs on which they were based.’[iii]

That is to say, the focus of sociologists of religion on social forces resulted in studies with obvious lacunae, such the study of groups’ theologies, rituals, mythological structures, and historical contexts.

One cannot ignore the social milieu of the researchers themselves, namely the infamous “cult wars” of 1970s America, featuring deprogrammers, concerned parents, anti-cult organizations, and Evangelical Christian missionaries on one side; and the proponents of individual new religious movements, civil liberties, and youth culture on the other. Sociologists of religion found themselves in the middle. Researchers soon found themselves co-opted and relabelled as “anti-cultists” on the one hand, or “cult apologists” on the other. Because sociologists of religion came to dismiss the various models of brainwashing as invalid on empirical grounds, many found themselves accused of supporting the NRMs they were studying. This story has been told before and told well, but I raise it to emphasize that this context affected how these sociologists wrote about NRMs.[iv] With new religions accused of abusive recruitment and socialization techniques, scholars focused on such issues. Such topics therefore became the mainstays of research on NRMs.

The Shift to Religious Studies

The decade after this—the mid 1980s into the 1990s—witnessed an academic shift as increasing numbers of researchers trained in the interdisciplinary field called religious studies took an interest in the study of new religions, while simultaneously interests among American sociologists shifted in new directions. The effects of this transformation led to new topics, methodologies, and approaches represented in the academic writing about new religious movements.

Religious studies draws from multiple disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, history, theology, ritual studies, area studies, gender studies, and media studies. The field came of age in the United States during the 1960s from a confluence of factors: increasing student interest; the growth of the secular academic interest in religion rather than theology; legal recognition by the Supreme Court in 1963 that the First Amendment’s prohibition against religious establishment permitted the academic study of religion in state-sponsored universities (Abington v. Schempp); and increased funding from both private and public educational institutions for the study and teaching in this new field.

The 1960s religious counterculture, but even more so the 1978 Jonestown deaths, drew increased attention from scholars in the inchoate religious studies field to the topic of NRMs. The 1984 founding of a program unit focusing on NRMs within the American Academy of Religion, the national professional association and guild for religious studies, represented the at least begrudging acceptance of the study of new religions as a subfield, though those involved recall that not all scholars were convinced of the legitimacy of this new endeavour.[v] Subsequently an increasing number of American religious studies scholars began to look to the phenomenon as an area of research.


The AAR Conference

The AAR’s institutionalization of NRM studies into the New Religious Movements Group represented a sea change in the field of the study of new religions. As a standing program unit, the NRM group could include calls for papers alongside those of other program units such as those focused on study of major world religions, systematic theology, or comparative religion. The subfield coalesced within this program unit, and the success of the program unit led directly to the creation of the field’s new journal, Nova Religio: Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, in 1997.

In terms of effects on writing the scholarship of NRMs, the creation of the program unit and journal cannot be overstated. Previously, religious studies scholars interested in the topic published under more general interest journals, such as the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Journal of Religious Ethics, or Church History. Yet these journals had no particular interest in the study of NRMs, and few such studies appeared on their pages. Most of the other journals in religious studies focused on denominational groups or theological movements well outside the realm of NRM studies. Despite this, the AAR group created an academic community in the United States wherein scholars of NRMs in the religious studies field—including historians, theologians, comparativists, and anthropologists as well as sociologists and social psychologists—could cohere. Nova Religio subsequently created a written forum wherein such scholars could write for each other as well as a general audience, and develop more cohesion as a subfield within religious studies.

Simultaneous to the rise of religious studies, sociologists of religion began to turn to other topics during the late 1980s and 1990s. The rise of Evangelicalism and the Religious Right, increasing religious tensions within the political sphere, and immigration captured increasing interest among American sociologists of religion. Between 1970 and 1975, the leading American journal for the sociology of religion, the JSSR published 12 articles on NRMs. From 1975 to 1980, it published 19 articles, and from 1980 to 1985, 22 articles. Yet from 1985 to 1990, it published only 13, from 1990 to 1995 only 9, and from 1995 to 2000, only 8 articles.[vi]

The shift of interest from sociologists to religious studies scholars resulted in obvious changes in how NRMs are studied, with an increase of focus on cultural, theological, and historical issues. One can look to the articles published in the first five years of Nova Religio for evidence of this transformation. The journal published a mix of articles using historical, textual, and gender studies approaches as well as sociological ones. Importantly, Nova Religio moved away from quantitative studies, and the social scientific research it publishes far more often is qualitative in nature. While JSSR and similar social scientific journals continued to publish quantitative studies on NRMs, albeit in lesser numbers, Nova Religio’s focus on qualitative social scientific and humanistic research resulted in two developments: a proliferation of diversity of approaches to the study of NRMs, but also a decline in the number of quantitative studies of the topic. This first effect has been a boon. From my perspective, the second has become a problem.

Economic and Institutional Factors

One direct effect of the increasing shift to a religious studies perspective among scholars working on NRMs has been the bifurcated existence of many of these scholars. While NRM studies has become a bona fide and accepted subfield within religious studies, it is nevertheless not one of the major subfields within the field. Such major subfields are generally limited to Biblical Studies, Ancient Mediterranean religion, Islamic Studies, South or East Asian Religions, North American Religions, and Medieval Religions. More recently Religion & Culture (i.e. critical theory) has been added to this list of usual subfields, at least in some quarters.

The lack of inclusion of NRM Studies within the list of the major subfields has a very real effect: graduate departments organize faculty and students within these subfields, and institutions hiring scholars and researchers look to fill positions in accordance with these subfields. Of the major graduate institutions producing scholars in religious studies, none has “New Religious Movement Studies” as an organized subfield. As a result, graduate students seeking to study NRMs or faculty wishing to train graduate students fit themselves within one of the existing subfields, generally either North American Religions, Asian Religions, or Religion & Culture. As a result, the current generation of scholars focusing on NRMs lives a bifurcated academic existence, defining themselves always as two things: scholars of NRMs as well as scholars within another subfield.


Wearing more than one hat at a time can be tricky… [ed.]

This of course has repercussions. On the positive side, NRM studies is not ghettoized and becomes integrated within broader academic conversations. Researchers writing on NRMs write for broader audiences, and engage in conversations with scholars well outside the subfield of NRM studies. This increases academic diversity and breadth of research topics and approaches. One finds articles on NRMs published in journals focusing on Asian religions, North American religions, and cultural studies, for example. Yet at the same time, this acts as a centrifugal force on the study of NRMs themselves, with colleagues spending half or more of their time engaged in the professional obligations, networking, and research of their “other” subfield.

The exclusion of NRM studies from the list of major subfields in religious studies has had another direct effect. Though some graduate programs have in recent years transitioned to interdisciplinary approaches, eschewing official subfields altogether, this is not the case in terms of the way that most colleges and universities hire their faculty. The life of the mind may be lovely, but scholars of NRMs need to eat, and they need jobs. There are no jobs in the study of NRMs in religious studies departments in the American academy, or at least there are none that are defined as such. American scholars studying NRMs hold chairs in Christian studies, Asian religious studies, comparative religion, theology, history of religions, and numerous other subfields. Because tenure-track lines are few and academic administrations seldom willing to create new ones—in fact, recent years has witnessed such lines decreasing in number—there is little possibility of this changing. As a result, junior scholars interested in new religions must market themselves as working in other subfields in order to secure funding and jobs.

An examination of the job announcements advertised through the American Academy of Religion—the major “job board” on which employers in religious studies advertise—from recent years illuminates precisely this problem.[vii] In the 2012-2013 year, only 3 of 160 available fulltime positions in religious studies innumerated NRMs as the among the desired possible fields of study. These three jobs—one in church history, on in North American religions, and one in Chinese religions—all listed NRMs among possible areas of focus, alongside numerous other possibilities. None gave priority to the study of new religions as particularly desirable.[viii] Looking to the previous academic year, 2011-2012, the same pattern is evident. Of the 163 advertised jobs, only 1 job, in Chinese religions, included “popular folk sects and new religious movements” among the desirable areas of research expertise.[ix] Because of the difficulty in accessing archived job advertisements, it is quite difficult to look earlier than this, but anecdotal evidence suggests that from as early as 2006 the same pattern was evident.[x]

None of this is to say that specialists in NRMs did not receive new jobs during these years. Many—including myself—did. Yet these American scholars of NRMs must by the nature of their positions define themselves as something other than specialists in new religious movements. They must teach classes outside the subfield of NRM studies, and must advise and work with students in far different subfields. This has real effects on how they (we) research and write about NRMs.

Predictions for the Future

            All this being said, what predictions might one offer for the future of the study and writing of NRMs in the American academy? First, one must recognize field-wide and industry-wide transformations. The overall trajectory in American higher education has been toward contingent faculty, a euphemism for part-time adjuncts. The plight of adjuncts was recently highlighted in a New York Times article, “Crowded Out of Ivory Tower, Adjuncts See a Life Less Lofty,” one that focused on the economic plight of highly-trained individuals working without benefits, health insurance, or promise of future employment for the equivalent of two-thousand pounds a course.[xi] This problem affects every academic field, though humanities and social science departments face special burdens. The increasing number of NRM scholars who must work as contingent faculty rather than fulltime results in such scholars having less time to engage in traditional academic research. They are ineligible to apply for many grants and fellowships, and they are disadvantaged in those for which they are able to apply. The paucity of funding means such scholars are less likely to engage in immersive ethnography, quantitative studies, and longitudinal work. While the AAR and related scholarly organizations have made efforts to develop models of non-traditional scholarship, the basic fact is that the professional study of religion in the United States assumes a tenure-track model, and those positions are becoming fewer and fewer. NRM scholars will continue to face that hurdle. The longterm effects are—to be honest—unclear.

[i] George D. Chryssides and Benjamin E. Zeller, Introduction to The Bloomsbury Companion to New Religious Movements, Chryssides and Zeller, eds. (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), 4-5.

[ii] John Lofland and Rodney Stark, “Becoming a World-Saver: A Theory of Conversion to a Deviant Perspective,” in American Sociological Review 30, no. 6 (1965): 862-75.

[iii] Robert W. Balch, Foreword to Benjamin E. Zeller, Heaven’s Gate: America’s UFO Religion, (Forthcoming from New York University Press).

[iv] For details on the positions of scholars in the “cult wars,” see Benjamin Zablocki and Thomas Robbins, eds., Misunderstanding Cults: Searching for Objectivity in a Controversial Field (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001).

[v] I am thankful to Timothy Miller, who spoke to me about this history.

[vi] In my assessment of whether journal articles considered the topic of NRMs, I defined NRMs quite liberally.

[vii] My data on advertised jobs derives from an archive I have kept of advertisements on the American Academy of Religion’s job board. Since the AAR removes advertisements after the institution’s paid advertisement period ends, no proper archive exists, though most of these positions are also archived on the Academic Job Wiki, available at http://academicjobs.wikia.com/wiki/Religious_Studies_2013-2014; http://academicjobs.wikia.com/wiki/Religious_Studies_2012-2013; and http://academicjobs.wikia.com/wiki/Academic_Jobs_Wiki.

[viii] In addition to looking for any mention of the terms NRM, new religion, or new religious movements, I also looked for references to emergent or alternative religions. Of note, during this period there were no job advertisements that indicated interest in sub-specialities within NRM studies, such as the study of contemporary paganism, esotericism, or Pentecostalism, though four additional advertisements included Afro-Caribbean religions as among possible areas of interest.

[ix] None listed Afro-Caribbean, Pentecostal, Pagan, Esoteric, or other subspecialties within NRM studies.

[x] I base this latter statement on my own archive, which is incomplete from 2006-2011.

[xi] Rachel L. Swarns, “Crowded Out of Ivory Tower, Adjuncts See a Life Less Lofty,” New York Times, January 20, 2014, A11.

A Little Experiment

I’ve been experimenting with hosting some of my teaching papers and my essays on Academia.edu, here.

I’m curious to see what sort of numbers I will get and what papers are more interesting to viewers.

I’m not posting anything that I am currently working on or about to turn into a more formal paper, but some of the ideas in these papers will certainly find their way into my thesis.

I’ve been very busy lately, so this is a very short post, but hopefully more soon… 🙂


Popular or Scholar?

I’ve been thinking a little about writing style lately, as a paper I presented at the BASR conference has been getting some attention and I’m working it into a publishable piece.  My supervisor hasnt read the expanded version yet, but he read the conference paper (as rough as it was) and his position is that it isnt scholarly enough – that its more like an after dinner discussion point (ouch!).

This of course challenges me to rework it into something suitably scholarly, but it may well be that the argument itself is just not scholarly enough.  And my supervisor, knowing that I will be applying for fellowshios and postdocs, is warning me against publishing for publishing’s sake and not getting quality work out there that committees can judge me on. I understand his concern, but there is also something very nice about being ‘popular’.

What I do, the areas I research, almost always make people say ‘Oooh, how interesting’. Last night we had a welcome back returning grads dinner in my college and I spent a fair bit of time explaining to other grads what an Indigo Child is, how many Jedi there actually ARE, and debating the merits and demerits of the Church of Scientology (I did also find out more about nano-bots, the current trends of thought in the study of Classics, and admired rather some lovely artwork, so it wasnt just me rabbiting on!

I also think however, that working on a popular subject is a little like having your religious beliefs inspired by pop-culture.  However serious you are, and how ever seriously you take the subject, the nature of the origins of what you do can trivilise what you are doing to other more serious academics (not including my supervisor in that comment, and he may well be right!).  So maybe I need to x amount more serious and scholarly than the average academic Joe to counter balance that.  But my natural inclination is towards public accessibility and communicating what is going on in these fields in an appealing way.  My presentations often have visual jokes in them, the titles to my papers are often attention grabbing or pun-ish (e.g. my new paper is called, “See Mom it is Real”: The UK Census, Jediism and the Problem of Really ‘Real’ Religion”…). 

I may have a problem…



Roughing it

One thing I am forcing myself to do lately is to write things almost freestyle without much consideration of sentence structure, grammar or spelling (some people might say that I have always written like that…).  I’m trying to get into the habit of getting it written rather than getting it RIGHT.  I’m the kind of person who will go over and over the same introductory paragraphs till they gleam (or are really boring…) and still not have a middle or an end.  But my i’s will be dotted, my t’s will be crossed…


I’m about half way through the rough first draft of a paper on New Age Bio Medical Conspiracy theories for a religious studies conference in September.  I KNOW that there are parts that dont make any sense yet, I KNOW that I’ve still got some things in bullet points that need expanding, but today I want to get to the end of that first draft and finesse it all later.  Likewise with the Powerpoint presentation for the paper, I KNOW that I havent got quite the perfect picture for slide 6 yet, or the right font size and layout all the way through. But I need to charge on to the end to get it done, then get it GOOD.

Likewise for this blog post.  Usually I will stop after a paragraph and mooch around the internet to look for an  amusing picture to stick in to show of my wit and intelligence (yes, I am one of those people…).  This time I am just barrelling through with very little editing and I’ll stick some pictures in once I am done. Like this cute kitten:


Changing my work style is necessary I think.  In part I think this is a more productive way to work, I have 80,000 words to get written for my thesis.  They cant possible be all individually handcrafted little gems, even if I hope the overall argument will be! I do feel a little like I have hit the mid-PhD slump Patrick Longston writes about here, and his tips are very useful.  But freewriting about the problems you are having was one of the techniques I was shown at the Writing Summer School I mentioned before, and I do think its extremely useful to get you into the writing action when you get jammed up by procrastination and anxiety.

So today…. I’m going to finish that rough draft of the conference paper, even if I write it in a very  slapdash way for now. A key phrase from the Summer school: “Give yourself permission to write badly”.  What a relief THAT is….


People in squishy hats

I had the pleasure of attending my youngest sister’s graduation ceremony at Warwick this week.  Its always a great sight: a gaggle of nervous undergrads rocking the robe and mortar board, usually over the party dress that they’ll wear to cocktails and dancing later! A bit different to a Cambridge graduation where the dress code is strictly waitress/waiter: black skirt/trousers and a white shirt (or a plain black maternity dress for my MPhil graduation!).  Our German College Praelector is infamous for rigorously upholding the dress code and sending people away if they get it wrong (Navy shoes! Shocking!)


And among the gradauating cohort at Warwick there were a few PhD students in their squishy hats and fancy gowns.  This was a useful reminder to me that people DO finish their PhDs and have a nice day with family and friends while still wearing that silly squishy hat.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel, if you just keep plunging on through the dark!


So in that vein, my plan for the rest of this week:

  1. Seriously, get more interviews organised and done!
  2. Plan papers for the EASR/BASR conference and start timed writing to get going on them 🙂

Still plunging on in the dark….



To-Do-List no. 25367…

A slightly short day and week again this week as I have a graduation to go to (well done little Sis!).  But here’s the highlights of what I want to get done this week…

  1. MORE interviews… organising and doing.  I am really worried I am not getting enough interviewing done.  It seems to be at least a couple of weeks of too-ing and fro-ing via e-mail before I actually get someone in place and I really need to have more done by the end of this year.  40 plus if my supervisor is right….
  2. Finish reading and notes for the papers for the BASR/EASR conference, start planning them! Major task as most of August I have no childcare and the conference is at the beginning of Sept!
  3. I’m planning on attending some of the Cambridge timed writing groups and working more on my journal article that stalled prior to the writing school. 
  4. Read Brasher.  I’m being put off by the ‘cyberspace-y’ pictures in the book, but I’m sure she’s got something good to say….



Learning How to Write (I Probably Should Have Done That a While Ago!)

I have been a little quiet on here for the last couple of days as I’ve been attending a Summer School on writing skills for grads.

I’ve always assumed that I am a pretty okay or even a good writer as I’ve been paid to do it for various mediums over the last ten-ish years.  But I do find academic writing tricky.  I think in part its because I presume that there is an authoritative, neutral academic ‘voice’ to emulate.  Doing this course has shown me some of the fallacies of that voice.  Its unclear, its unnecessarily mystifying, it might even be a bit elitist (“What, you dont know what I mean by ‘detraditionalization’! You ignoramus! Please do get out…”).  I am now aiming to bring some clarity, and some elegance (!) to my academic writing… wish me luck!

Which brings me to the other aspect that this course has helped me with (so far, two days still to go).  We’ve been discussing some of our problems with just sitting down and writing the bloody thesis.  There seems to be a common thread of anxiety running through the participants, whether they are first years or fourth.  A PhD is a BIG thing to do.  But writing it doesnt have to be if we tackle a little at a time, or warm ourselves up by writing small chunks of texts regularly.  That’s what I am hoping to do with this blog: practising writing regularly as well as drawing out ideas and themes from my research.

Oh, and the course is being held in this awesome location I’ve never been to before.  They do maths here: