Tag Archives: academia

Butterflies

Butterflies are beautiful creatures out in the wild. In my stomach, not so much. When next I write, I hope to be able to share that I’ve successfully defended my thesis. The meeting will be in about two hours.

I can handle this (thinking positively). I’ve talked to audiences of 50 people and responded to questions. I can certainly talk about my own work with three people who want me to do well, right?

Update: pass!

I think it went well. I’ve got a few revisions/edits to make by the end of the week, but I’m one step closer to being finished! Yeah! Life is good. 🙂

Audience Issues and Publishing

In an earlier post, I asked whether it’s feasible for an academic that Book #2 or #3 is written for a different/wider/less academic audience than Book #1. While doing some research this evening, I happened to find an example.

Why Video Games Are Good For Your Soul (Publisher: Common Ground, Apr 2005, paperback, 128 pp) – The text is about pleasure and learning. In the introduction, Gee states that the text is for anyone who is interested in video games even though he will talk about game theory. He is quick to qualify “theory” and promises not to engage in too much jargon.

His earlier text is more for an academic audience. What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy (Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; New Ed edition (May 7, 2004), 240 pp)

Other examples?

On my way back from the bar

I happened to mention the word computer and music to someone else in English Studies and I witnessed their defenses go up, immediately. Umm, hors d’oeuvre anyone? As much as I’d like to continue the conversation, I know there are some situations when no matter what I say, the other person will remain a staunch critic.

For example…

When it comes to music, strictly speaking, yes, technologies such as those used by Pandora do mean that a computer is choosing music for me. Is the computer making me stupid? Well, no! How is using that service different than, say, me hiring a mechanic to help out when I don’t have time to handle the maintenance work on my car or bike myself? I know how to change the oil in my car and bike — that does not mean that I choose to do it myself each and every time. I have other priorities right now. Thank you very much.

There are some times, such as when I’m writing, that I just want music to play so that I can concentrate on something else that I am working on. I don’t want to be an active participant in choosing and listening. In this case, I want to use it as a tool to aid my concentration elsewhere.

There are other times that I am in the mood to discover new artists. IMHO, Pandora’s technology is better than LastFM because the folks at Pandora have done more precise analysis, at least in my experience. When I tune in to my station on Pandora, I don’t get just any country song (pick your genre), but one with the same qualities as the original song. In this case, the new media tool is helping me discover possibilities that I didn’t know existed. How is that a bad thing?

You could argue that smaller bands aren’t as well represented. I’d acknowledge that as a constraint. Let’s have a conversation now. What is your best way of finding new and less well known artists?

However, let me just add this caveat: must I always be in control, choosing, and analyzing in order to be considered involved/worthy/academic/smart and not being led around by my computer? Ok, maybe that is more snarky than a simple caveat.

Still, I would argue that observing the behavior of the tool makes me more appreciative of the human work that went into building the tool and makes me much more aware of the many different layers or elements in a composition. In this case, I am discovering more of my own preferences and learning more about music with the help of the tool.

BTW, did you catch that senioritis recommended John Mayer’s CD, Continuum, a few days ago? I’d have to 2nd that recommendation. Now, not only am I enjoying a little Mayer on my internet radio station, but I’m also finding, with the help of the tool, more artists that play similar stuff.

The people at Pandora.com have analyzed more than 4,000 pieces of music on so many different levels than I could ever have the time to do myself, unless I suddenly decided to pursue graduate study in music, which is not on my list of things to do.

We enjoy music in so many situations. Why get all stressed by a computer helping you out once in a while? Can’t we just put on some music and chill?

On my calendar

Just so you know why blogging may come and go in spurts. However, I am trying some new things in my professional writing class that I want to blog about. Also, I am co-teaching a course, Introduction to Composing with Digital Media, that I really must blog about soon. I will do the audio and web portions of the class. The other instructor is doing the visual/Photoshop and video portion.

Thesis: This is it. It has to get finished. I’m graduating this semester. I will be writing daily. I’m feeling good about it too — a very inspiring atmosphere of late has me feeling optimistic about my own research and writing. It’s amazing what a good haircut and a few other discussions will do. 🙂

January 30: Columbia Literacy Academy, follow-up talk to the one I gave in November. Will show examples of how teachers are using blogs in their classrooms. My talk: 20 minutes 40 minutes on tech/q&a, Group: ~20

February 28: Missouri Western State University, 1 hour presentation and moderate follow-up forum/panel, Topic: Becoming Literate in a Digital Age: Why networked communications require nuanced responses (or something like that). Audience: 50?

March 1: MWSU, Workshop on blogging with high school students and possibly instructors. 25-30? Time?

March 23: 4C’s Talk on WAC and Digital Literacies.

Make 3 Lists

I was reading Are you Leaking at Christine Kane’s blog. In addition to being a great singer songwriter, CD’s & Lyrics, she also talks about life balance and creativity.

In the post above, she talks about energy drains and how any incompletes in our life, from email to laundry to car repairs, can drain our energy when we let them hang over our heads for a long time.

Well, in academia, I think we all have “incompletes” of many types. They’re hanging around just by the nature of the work. Not only is there all that stuff we do for students, but there is always another project we want to work on, or that we finally have to finish.

To connect what she wrote about with this type of work, I think it would be beneficial to make 3 to-do lists for long-term projects.

1. One list would be for everything that needs to be done on all our projects. Think of 43 Folders and capturing all that has to be done and getting it downloaded to paper.

2. Then, for the second list, identify what we want to do on a given day towards finishing that long-term project and being as specific and realistic as possible. For some people, it might work to project plan the whole thing, but I think for many people just concentrating on a week at a time would be helpful.

3. After we’ve worked on the project, I think we want to create a what-to-do-next-time list. I think the habit of always saving time to do this list each time we work on the long-term project will help prevent the energy drains that Christine talks about.

Other people have said similar things before and most often linked making the lists to productivity. I’ve even talked about how I think I’m more productive when I fill in the project name on my daily schedule and cross off the hours as filled.

However, making a what-to-do-next-time list for writing projects seems highly beneficial in order to help prevent massive energy drains from the whole project being one big “incomplete.”

Maybe I’m just slow and everyone else has already made this connection. But for me, it’s the difference between saying to myself:

work on the project to get it done, OR

work on a small piece of the project so you can feel better about what you’ve accomplished for that day and so the whole incomplete project doesn’t drain your energy and make your whole life feel out of balance.

In academia, our in-boxes (physical, virtual, and mental) are never going to be empty. But, this idea might be one way to help us feel better about walking away from them at the end of the day without the energy-draining feeling of them leaking all over us.