HONE YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH. Learn how to describe what’s very broadly at stake in your work. This can take years of practice to get good at — and it’s especially hard to do straight after completing your PhD — but we don’t have years (we usually need to hone a pitch before the PhD is even finished), so here’s a cheat. Imagine you have to convey the life or death importance of your work (and that your life actually does depend on getting the message across). What would you say? Instead of being lost in the intricacies and jargon of your field, you have to tell someone — anyone — just why your work matters. This sort of thing is often described as an ‘elevator pitch’, a short teaser you could recite to the most important person within or outside your field in a short elevator trip.
DON’T BE A STALKER. While social media networks encourage us to watch each other and to jump into conversation with complete strangers, there are ethical limits. It’s important to learn the conventions of a professional space (whether physical or virtual) before engaging too rampantly in that space. It is not okay, for example, to use Twitter to follow one single person (and only that person) while using it for nothing else. That’s just creepy. It is also not okay to keep pushing people to engage with you. If someone is not responding, you need to respect their boundaries and/or how busy they are. Finally, social media channels are all about sharing, so make sure that you are contributing to your network, as much as (if not more than) they are contributing to you. If someone sends a message to you asking for help or for your thoughts on something, return the favor.
STALK YOURSELF. Or rather, Google yourself. It’s a really useful exercise and will help you begin to think about ways to hone what Jesse calls your “Googlesume.” Know that potential employers, editors, and students are Googling your name, so what shows up is a part of your identity whether you’re aware of it or not. Buying your domain and creating professional profiles on social media are the best ways to harness what shows up in a Google search for your name but so too are making sure substantial work is well linked-to. In brief, when you google yourself, think carefully about what you see and the message it is conveying about you. You’ll be surprised about how much of what you see, you actually have direct control over.
Emma Waight (@EmsWaight) is a third year PhD student in Human Geography at the University of Southampton. She blogs at emmawaight.co.uk.
If there’s one thing I do a lot of, it’s write. Everything from my diary (which only I read), to my PhD thesis (which if I’m lucky three people will read) to my blog (which is open to all). I’ve always rather enjoyed writing; a helpful quality in a social scientist.
I haven’t always wanted to be a social scientist though. Growing up, I was dedicated to a career in fashion and planned my subject choices and work experience around being a fashion journalist. In my sixth form leaver’s book my English teacher wrote that he looked forward to seeing me as a future editor of Vogue. Now my main ambition is to publish a social theory text on consumption or material culture. Sometimes people find it difficult to comprehend the path I’ve taken to date, but actually, is a fashion journalist all that different to a scholar of material culture?
I recently attended a career and leadership development course and completed a MBTI psychometric questionnaire. The report suited me perfectly (apparently I come across as mysterious, which I like, so I won’t spoil it by saying which type I was) and matched me up to jobs such as writer, sociologist, teacher, artist, counsellor. I’m a conceptual thinker, creative and value driven. Being a fashion journalist would have suited the creative part, but perhaps didn’t fit with my values. This is clearly the case, as I directed my undergraduate dissertation to ethical fashion, followed by an MPhil on the same topic, leading to a PhD on consumption and its social role. I am very fortunate to have had the space to explore this; I doubt fashion could have ever fulfilled my inquisitive nature and desire to make a difference.
So now I’m able to do the two main things that I enjoy—I’m writing up my PhD in human geography and planning an academic career in the social sciences, whilst I continue to blog about ethical fashion for my own blog and others. Both roles stem from a desire to investigate the wider world, to find out about stuff that interests me. Both involve desk-based research as well as getting into the field for interviews and observation. Both involve writing up that research in order to communicate on a broader platform. And both allow others to engage with my ideas, provide feedback and become part of a wider conversation. Clearly, there are huge differences too and I’m sure many academics would be livid to hear me comparing academia to journalism, but I do believe many of the processes are the same.
Starting a PhD in human geography was a steep learning curve, simply due to the change in subject matter, not in the way I approached writing. Yes, I had to learn some new lingo but now I’m nearing the end of my PhD, I can see that an interdisciplinary background has helped rather than hindered in the long term. It allows me to draw on a broad range of literature, using them as I see fit to build up my argument. One thing I did struggle with at the start was the use of first person. I had been trained before to take a more report-like, business style approach to writing which becomes difficult when you need to discuss and highlight reflexivity as a researcher. My cultural/social geography PhD research draws strongly on ethnographic techniques; hence I had to learn to adopt a narrative approach to my writing and not be afraid to situate myself within my topic.
The fact that I was blogging in a fashion role before my PhD meant that blogging about academia was a natural progression. Not only do I write about PhD life for our departmental postgrad blog, but I also use my academic work as a basis for popular writing on consumption and shopping issues. I’ve found a happy medium where I can have two interlinked elements of my life, and both feed into each other. I hope in the long term my broad networks will lead to interesting collaborations both inside and outside of academia, and mean that my research has a use outside the ivory towers (which is happening more and more across academia anyway). Sometimes I still feel like I have a lot of catching up to do in the social sciences, but no academic knows everything and I intend to make the most of my interdisciplinary background as a strength rather than a weakness.
BE A GOOD HACKADEMIC. Hackademia is all about honing your academic skills. It’s about thinking holistically about what it takes to be a good professional academic — which doesn’t end with simply being really quite clever. In our other tips we’ve helped you think about things like how to focus, collaborate, and critique your own work, but we produced these tips by being good at something else: researching and reflecting on our own methods. Therefore being a good hackademic means taking time out to regularly research everything from how you grade your students papers to whether papers are the best form of assessment and even what impact the tools you and your students use to write and grade papers might have on their learning. It means scouring professional development outlets like the Chronicle and Hybrid Pedagogy for debates on grading, or whatever other topic is keeping you up at night. It means keeping abreast of all the new tools out there you can deploy to grade and teach and research. And most of all it means sharing this information: good hackademics conduct their own professional development programmes and make them public!
BE A CEREBRAL STALKER. One of the wonderful things about social networks like Twitter is that you can find out about people’s work by watching and listening in on their public exchanges. Isn’t this precisely what platforms like Twitter and Facebook are for?* 😉 Certainly it makes the perfect way in for newcomers. So try this:
1. Find someone you admire on Twitter, follow them and the various topics that interest them – even follow some of the people they follow.
2. Lurk / listen for a few weeks, perhaps, before boldly @mentioning the person, directing a question their way, or asking them for some kind of feedback.
3. There are savvy and not so savvy ways of doing this, but we totally encourage tweets like this one, “Hey @charlottefrost, I noticed you’re working on a project about ______, what do you think of ______. Any advice?” OR, “@Jessifer, I just retweeted your new article, do you have any additional sources on _______?”
4. Rinse and repeat. Very meaningful conversations and even meaningful collaborative relationships can develop from this sort of educated (and polite) cold-calling. OK, that’s not really being a stalker is it?
* We don’t encourage stalking outside of social media channels (or even actual stalking within social media channels). There is a different set of ethics related to how we engage on social media and how we engage in face-to-face situations. Be careful to respect the boundaries of the medium in which you’re approaching someone.
HAVE A BUSINESS CARD. It might seem strange for two Twitter-obsessives to suggest something as old-fashioned as a business card but what we’re really promoting is being multi-modal. Business cards remain useful ways to leave your details with somebody, especially if you’re easily connected with your card – the physical trace can work in ways different from our virtual presence. Also, you’ll find that different cultures respond better to different forms of networking/self-promotion. For example in Hong Kong, where Charlotte lives and works, business cards are considered an essential networking convention (even human beatboxes carry them). There is even a ritual to receiving a business card and reading all of its details before continuing to talk to the person who gave it to you. Today it’s quick, cheap and easy to get a stash of cards so the only thing to think about is how to present yourself. You might keep your card very minimal, you might go for lots of visual or textual information, you might even include a word cloud rather than job description to better represent your academic interests. And, if you are indeed a Twitter-obsessive, don’t forget to include your Twitter handle.
BUY A DOMAIN NAME. This is relatively simple. If you don’t own your own domain, buy it now. You don’t necessarily even need server space or a website to put up. In lieu of anything more elaborate, simply forward your domain to your work profile or Academia.edu page. Eventually you might build a blog or substantial website and use the domain for that. The point is to start laying claim to your online identity. You’ll be glad you did as your career grows, because you’ll have an easy-to-find web presence with some history that will help your work show up in google searches.
BE A GOOD BLOGGER. Blogging is a genre and so it has certain conventions. On the other hand, while we’re full of tips, we’re also both fans of experimentation. Here are some suggestions on how to get started with blogging, but these are only a jumping off point, from which you should carve your own path:
Make it as easy as possible to post to your blog. Many blogging sites allow you to email your content and add an image as an attachment. Or there are sharing widgets you can add to your desktop or smartphone so you can add content at the click of a button. This means you don’t have to login anywhere to write full blog posts. It also means you can recycle content. For example the usual email announcement about your upcoming talk can be speedily repurposed into a blog post.
Help readers share your content. Most people can copy and paste a link from your blog post to their Facebook wall, but if you’ve added some sharing buttons (which can be done in seconds using a WordPress plugin) then you make it even easier. Likewise, consider setting up a ‘recipe’ tool like IFTTT so that when you upload a blog post you automatically post it to your own Facebook page, Twitter account, etc.
If it’s too big a commitment to blog alone, set up a group blog with some friends/colleagues. This can be an even better idea than blogging alone because you’ll bring more readers to your site with the increase in volume and variety of content. It’ll keep the blog fresh and full of interest and take the pressure off each of you to be highly productive.
Schedule staggered content. If you’ve got four big things planned in a month, write four posts and schedule them weekly. This will stop you ever having to even think about apologising for not posting. Likewise, if you’re suddenly feeling prolific, by all means write a whole bunch of posts, but spread out their publication. You might also bank a few posts in advance for quiet times.
Plan ahead. Aim to feed your blog with varied content by keeping an eye out – in advance – for what that content is going to be and by taking advantage of every opportunity. For example, if you know you’re going to a conference, why not arrange to interview someone or report on a particular paper or session?
Comment. Take time to read other people’s blogs and add your own comments to their posts. This will help you get a better idea of what other people are blogging about (and how) as well as directing them and their audience back to your own blog.
Have a piece of stock content as your fall-back. It could even be light-hearted. Why not post a relevant video every Friday, or ask another academic the same set of questions every Wednesday? The goal is consistency, and what might otherwise feel like “filler” can actually help create bridges from one substantive post to the next. And sometimes its the stock content that draws in the bigger crowd, meaning more people will eventually discover the meat of your research.
Other bits of regular content can include: book reviews; summaries for newcomers to the field; posts about your latest paper presentation, guest lecture, or journal article; profiles of your students and their work; and championing of contingent colleagues that might not otherwise have time to write about their own work.
Recycle and reshare. As your blog grows popular pieces of content will become less visible. Periodically review your content and re-share (through Facebook and Twitter et al) good posts over a period of time. You might consider writing a new post that updates or expands on the older one (but definitely visibly links to it). Also, when reviewing your past content, notice which posts are thematically connected and take a second to add links back and forth between each post. Again this will make burried material more findable to new visitors.
Look at your stats. Google Analytics will tell you how many people are visiting your website/blog and from where. Initially this might just be a nice ego boost and a way of forcing yourself to continue blogging when you feel stressed and over-stretched but eventually this is the type of data that can be used on grant applications and even CVs.
SET UP A BLOG. Having a blog or a website as a platform for your career is a really good idea. So often these days people will just plug your name into Google and work with whatever results come up. Having your own site allows you to have more control in how you’re perceived. It’s great for job-hunting as it can be your online dossier and you can also use your blog when you teach to communicate with students and share course materials. With a blog as part of your site, you can regularly broadcast what you’re doing, including posting abstracts for conferences and papers or sharing notes for lectures you’re giving. It’s also a really good way to reflectively share the work of your peers and work out ideas for forthcoming publications.
GET A TWITTER ACCOUNT. And while you’re at it, sign up for every social media platform, even if you don’t intend to use them. Here’s why: you’ll secure your user name of choice (good for branding purposes to keep these consistent); you’ll have a history with the tool when you do go to use it (which helps your profile show up in search results); and you’ll start making connections, even if you aren’t actively massaging those connections. Remember that not everyone is on any single social media channel, so having a presence on them all will assure that no potential collaborators fall through the cracks. As with the bulk of the tips in this series, this is actually less about promotion and more about presence — making sure that you’re only one mouse click away from a potential editor, colleague, or co-author.
But why the Twitter account in particular? Twitter is actually one of the lowest-maintenance platforms you can engage with. Just write your mini profile, upload a picture and off you go. The best way to engage is to log on at certain times (or leave Twitter open while you work) and just dip in to read tweets and chat with others when you have time. You may never keep up if you try to read all the tweets so it’s best to think of it as listening in on a live conversation. In fact liveness is key to Twitter, many people think of it as a place you send boring life updates, but it’s much more of a discussion space – like an Instant Messenger but where (potentially) the whole world is listening.
Twitter also boasts a number of live chats that provide space to discuss a range of academic conundrums, which will also help you build an almost-instant network of supportive peers. Check out #phdchat for all things PhD, #digped for discussions on teaching in the digital age, #acwri for academic writing, #ecrchat for issues pertinent to early career researchers and #scholarsunday for recommendations on who to follow. Finally, if you teach, consider finding ways to incorporate twitter into your pedagogy.
Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/
under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB
Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiddleoak/ under this licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en_GB
Hybrid Pedagogy’s Jesse Stommel and our very own Charlotte Frost continue their Hackademic series with a new set of hints, tips and hacks focused on academic networking.
‘Networking’ is a word often made cold by its business associations. It’s easy to imagine CEOs on a golf course and think that’s a million miles away from what we do as educators and scholars. Perhaps a better way to think of networking — particularly in academia — is as yet another form of publishing. For example, each time we share information about our work we’re performing a valuable citation. In the same way that direct marketing takes an idea straight to the right audience, this form of citation is fast and efficient. And it goes both ways. Each time we find out details about someone else’s work we’re potentially saving ourselves hours of research time. And each time we boost that person’s work by sharing it on social media, we’re potentially saving someone else hours of research time. This info-thrift can be very potent and it’s why coffee breaks at conferences are often where the real work happens. So whilst there’s no need to take up golf… We are here beginning a new set of tips in our How to Be a Hackademic series focused specifically on academic networking. So, our first bit of advice:
GO PUBLIC BY DEGREES. The decision to go public on social media with our professional life is actually a very nuanced one. And it’s not a decision anyone should make all at once. We strongly encourage going public by degrees. Start with a professional site that houses a CV, links to syllabi, online publications, etc. Academia.edu is a great place to start or perhaps set up an about.me page. You might then decide to explore a platform like Twitter where you can dip your toe in by following lots of interesting people and gradually engaging them in conversation. Eventually you might decide to get a domain of your own and use a tool like WordPress to build a more personalised online space.
Charlotte Frost and Jesse Stommel met (as they often do) in a Google Doc to do some writing. This time, however, they invited a group of people to join them, and they demonstrated how and why they write together in Google Docs. In the blog post below, you can read the text they generated, but the original Google Doc they used can also be viewed as can the video of them writing together (which we’ve included below). If you have any further questions ask away in the comments section of this post.
My name is Charlotte Frost and I am a Visiting Assistant Professor here at SCM in Hong Kong. I run lots of projects looking at writing in an academic context including PhD2Published and AcWriMo. My other work is focused on digital and new media arts and the history of net art (the latter of which was the subject for my thesis). Jesse and I regularly work in Google Docs together on all manner of things because apart from anything else its fun.
My name is Jesse Stommel and I’m a teacher and researcher working in the US. I teach Digital Humanities and Digital Literacies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I’m also the Director of Hybrid Pedagogy, a digital journal of learning, teaching, and technology. I’ve been working closely with Charlotte for quite a while, and we have begun to inhabit each other’s writing in such a way that we often finish each other’s sentences.
In this session we’re going to:
Use a Google Doc to show how we work together and discuss what works for us
Describe and give examples of public writing.
Show which parts of a Google Doc we use for what.
Address some of the difficulties we encounter as we work in this way.
Demo all of this in a meta-sort of way, so you can watch it unfold before your very eyes.
(And hopefully film this demo so you have something to look at and refer to afterward)
Why Write Collaboratively?
Accountability: Writing together is a huge procrastination crusher. There’s safety in numbers and it makes it much less daunting to look at a blank screen with someone else there – you are NOT alone! (cause someone else is right there with you, prodding your sentences into life!)
Camaraderie: Having someone to talk to and write with and even ask questions about all sorts of things helps (especially questions about writing and academia of course!). It can make it easier to get started (see above) and make the whole process a lot more enjoyable.
Instant Proof-reading and Peer-review: Your partner can read for sense AND mistakes – if they don’t get it, others won’t either. But also, let them find your mistakes and save your blushes later on.
Less Work: If you work on something like this together in a Google Doc (whether it’s a blog post, article, outline, etc.) you halve the work. And, if you’re working with someone like Charlotte [says Jesse] it’s even less than half, because she’s very very prolific.
Progression: It will move your thinking and writing forward AND fast. There’s a difference between ‘thinking writing’ and ‘doing writing’ the former helps you work something out, the latter helps you show what you’ve worked out. A collaborative document can be used for either, but if nothing else, use it for ‘thinking writing’. It’s a sandbox for making sense of something of something.
Why not? Learning is social and doing this kind of work with collaborators helps improve your work and your partners. Writing does not have to be solitary. Sure, some writing prefers to live alone, but sometimes writing wants to live right alongside its readers.
How to Write Collaboratively?
(there’s lots of stuff to consider as you get started, but sometimes the best thing to do is just start putting words on the screen and work the details out as you go). Here are some strategies we’ve found work well:
Time and Place:
Set up a Google Doc and a specific time to meet – as well as the duration of your meeting.
Your work can continue asynchronously outside the scheduled time (especially if you’re working in different time zones) but writing together at the same time is key – so try to do that regularly.
But perhaps only do it for an hour at a time, it’s a tiring practice if you’re working very collaboratively.
Establish the ‘permissions’ you’ll set for the document, who can edit, who can comment, who can read, etc.
Decide whether you want your document open to the web.
If you’re inviting more people to work with you, make sure that you make them ‘editors’.
[currently this document is set up to only allow folks aside from Jesse and Charlotte to view the document — or participate in the chat — though we often open up our documents to a wider group of editors at some point during our process.]
As well as writing your main body of text you’ll also be:
Using the chatbox for live discussion about all things writerly/academia and to arrange what you’ll achieve in your joint writing sessions.
Using the ‘comment’ function to select parts of the document to provide targeted feedback.
Decide how to navigate the various writing spaces together.
We meet in the chat box to get started and to arrange what we’ll do during a writing session, and we’ll often pop back into the chat box when we need to confer about our process.
We’ll also use the chat box as a space for dividing up what each of us will do during a writing session.
Sometimes, we will write in different colors just for fun to distinguish our voices. But we usually take that out as we polish the document.
Other examples of how you can use a Google Doc to work publicly and collaboratively:
Partner with one other person and both use the same GoogleDoc to each work on a different project but so that your progress is witnessed and/or so you can get someone else to periodically review your work and comment on it, etc. (There are anxieties associated with writing in public in this way, so doing this work helps build trust.) Sometimes, Charlotte will work at the bottom of a Google Doc while I work at the top. This gives us some amount of privacy but the ability to “call each other” into our section of the document.
Write in a Google Doc and make it public for viewing and reviewing (you might allow people to comment but not rewrite the text itself). Offering up a piece of work to a specific group in this way is a great technique for obtaining instant peer review.
Example: Arts Future Book is one of Charlotte’s research projects and in this instance she wrote a paper and left it open to public peer-reviewing (using a blog rather than Google Docs though)
Use one Google Doc for a large group as a sort of central repository for content.
You can brainstorm in the same doc and share ideas. and shape it up into something later. An Extreme example:of this is DigiWriMoNovel in a Day (which had about 100 people working in one Google Doc.)
Write collaboratively with one or more people. Take turns to draft sections of the doc (perhaps its an article you’re writing together) and use the comments to discuss each other’s sections and how to combine them better.
Take turns to draft sections but then work on the same paragraph at the same time to review, comment AND edit.
What Difficulties Do We Encounter When We Write Collaboratively?
Stage Fright: It will expose how many times you change a sentence before you finish it (or how many typos you make 😉 Charlotte likes to make typos, as do I. Luckily, we both find typos immensely charming.
Solution: If you see the other person writing at the speed of light you can lose your train of thought. Just carry on in your own way at your own pace until you feel comfortable. One of the most important things you can lean is that we all write differently and we have to find our own practice for ourselves.
Disagreements: It’s easy to get attached to your writing and hard sometimes to let someone else into your process. Occasionally, you will find yourself unable to share a common voice.
Solution: Decide in advance how you’ll resolve your writing issues with your writing partner. Agree to Skype, meet, or just agree to differ on what ever the issue is. Sometimes, you might decide that you want to write certain sections of a document independently, while continuing to collaborate on others.
Technical Problems: Technology can be temperamental. Occasionally, the gods of technology just don’t rule in our favor.
Solution: If you lose more than 15 mins to lost connections/Google Docs not refreshing it might best to just give up and work alone or on something else. But work out the next time you CAN meet and stick to it.
Ownership: Who owns this document? Who gets to decide its boundaries? When we work together in this way, who is the “author” of a document like this?
Solution: While we have both clearly been co-composing this particular example, what if one of us were writing and the other were primarily editing and offering feedback? If you set out to work on something together, even if one of your writes more of it, we think it’s probably best to just agree from the start that the work will be collaborative. This kind of work can’t be quantified in a cut and dry fashion. The production of one word is sometimes more difficult than the production of 10. Actual writing isn’t the only thing you bring to the table when you collaborate and we find that the balance of the work evens out in the end.
This Google Doc workshop was offered as part of the Improving Your Academic Writing workshop series Charlotte gave at the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong as part of AcWriMo 2013.
This is an interruption to AcWriMo by Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel! This weekend they are hosting a virtual flash mob in creative writing. So if you need a break but still want to expand your writing practice, see below for how you can join in…
A virtual flash mob unleashes upon the web (or into a single space on the web) a somewhat coordinated, somewhat chaotic flurry. All too often the work of the web looks nothing like the web, forcing dynamic text into static containers, community into hierarchical forums, and rich experiences into flat content management systems. The classrooms of the web are too often contained, given no room for improvisation, experimentation, failure, and discovery. We are interested, rather, in creating events that push the boundaries of what is possible online, relying on the rich ecosystem of digital space to create things impromptu and unexpected. The democracy of the web is not something it hands to us a priori but something we must take, forcefully if necessary.
Beginning November 15 at 11:59PM Eastern, Hybrid Pedagogy, in association with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Continuing Studies, will host a Digital Writing Makerthon. A playful experiment like MOOC MOOC and DigiWriMo, the Makerthon aims to create a text-image-sound hypertext novel written in 48 hours by multiple authors. More than a simple text novel, this novel project will invite all forms of digital media: text, video, audio, animation, graphics, tweets, computer code, etc. As well, the novel will exist in multiple places at once. While the narrative will be primarily housed in one document, writers may choose to use hyperlinks within that document to lead readers willy-nilly across the landscape of the Internet.
Last year during Digital Writing Month, hundreds of writers collaborated to write a novel in one day. This year, we’re raising the stakes, allowing more than just text to fill the page. In true maker fashion, we want story to give way to craft. We’re calling it a makertext — a narrative made into a living artifact.
Digital writing and storytelling is at the center of many online experiments — from DS106 to Phonar to the journal Hybrid Pedagogy itself. In his recent article, Sean writes, “Storytelling has changed. Stories are no longer told to audiences, but by audiences.” Some would say that digital environments, along with the inherently social and collaborative capabilities of platforms like Google Docs and Twitter, have changed the nature of writing, in ways both good and bad, permanently. The Digital Writing Makerthon seeks to explore what happens when writers actively engage with narrative as it is both enabled and deconstructed by digital tools.
The Makerthon will be held from November 15 at 11:59PM EST to November 17 at 11:59PM EST. (Visit World Time Buddy to find out what time we’ll be starting in your time zone.) Writers-artists-makers are encouraged to join for as much time as they can commit during the weekend — be that 15 minutes or 48 hours.
The Makerthon is a collective act of creativity — a massive artistic collaboration — but it is also a demonstration, a gathering place for doers, makers, writers, and thinkers. For more information, and to sign up, visit www.readmake.com, and follow @Jessifer and @Slamteacher on Twitter.