View from a hovel: Why I changed the name of my blog

You may be wondering why I have changed the name of my blog. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now but until recently I haven’t been able to articulate deeply. It was one of those things that you know to be true but is as yet only a feeling.

The idea came while re-reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for a couple of co-authored papers I’m part of assembling. When I got to the part about the creature living in a hovel, engaging in his education, with people who can’t really see him, I realised that is the life I have been recording in this blog.


A hovel, in the terms of Frankenstein, is a broken down “shed” attached to a dwelling, generally used for storing animals and tools.

While my house in no way assembles a hovel, my casual academic life resembles the contents. I am a part of a stable of Research and Teaching Assistants for the universities in my local area. Fixed term and tenured academics, store my details and, if I’m available, use me for their projects and to lighten their loads.

hovelFrankenstein’s creature stayed in such a hovel for a long period of time. He could observe a lovely family through a small hole in the wall. Watching them is how he learnt to speak, read, understand refinement, history and the lives of the humans.

The life of a casual academic is like that. I get to watch academia without truly being a part of it. It can also be a very educational position because it is an apprenticeship in the language, manners and traditions of academia. As an RA, I often get to be a fly on the wall of senior management meetings, seeing the inner workings of an institution. Sometimes, I am a cheap counselor as I hear the personal and work struggles of academic life during one-on-one meetings. This information humanises the profession, but also helps me to make an informed decision about whether I want to be a part of the Academy.

And I do.

Towards the end of the hovel scenes, in Frankenstein, the creature plans to reveal himself to the family he has been watching. He knows that he is ugly and monsterous, so plans to introduce himself to the blind father first. The creature is very articulate and well spoken, so the blind man does not suspect who he is talking to. When the rest of the family return and catch the creature, they chase him away and sell up and move to get away from him.

My research is the epitome of interdisciplinary, something which is well regarded in the Academy, but difficult to find a place for or code for grants. I don’t fit anywhere neatly. I have spent the last couple of years in Education only revealing my social media side, which is very popular in a faculty which is under the pump to be visible and social media is often seen as a way for qualitative researchers to do that. So I have been running blogging research work and teaching people how to use Twitter.

But all I am is the “social media chick” at the moment. I have been trying to demonstrate that I am more. I am truly a Frankenstein’s creature of a researcher. My content is Education cultures. In sociology you can study any content using the skills of sociology. I study online cultures so there are very few qualitative methods as yet.I read theory to inform the creation of a methodology that can reasonably speculate about online culture. Online culture morphs and changes rapidly but is always demonstrated through visual or written text, so I need to be across composition theories. These are usually poststructuralist in some way because online writing can intersect Cartesian Dualism.  I am constantly watching online dynamics but am bound by the ethics of research about what I can use to publish my findings, so I have to think deeply about online ethics, and even write some. So I am a feminist – educationalist – sociologist – theorist – philosopher – digital literacy communicator (I think), before I even bring my private life into it as a academic mum.

I don’t fit. I keep changing my Twitter bio so people will “get” me. At the moment I’m a social media theorist. I’ve been an education researcher, digital sociologist, critical theorist, digital literacy expert and so many others.

But I’ve decided to embrace my monsterousness. By being such an assemblage, I have realised I have actually opened up my options, rather than reduced them. I don’t have to stick to Education. Education culture is my current content. But there is so much more to me. I could work at applying what I do to Peace and Conflict Studies, Communications, Philosophy, or even Geography.

I don’t need to court the Education Academy if it is just not that into me. I just need to tap into my composition theory to work out how to spin my applications for different disciplines.


7 thoughts on “View from a hovel: Why I changed the name of my blog

  1. Except that you’re not quite in a hovel, because many of us see you. Many of us are fellow monsters, who just managed to wear a mask for long enough to pass an interview. Or thankfully, knew some other monsters in charge.

    My story as an early career researcher who can use a computer is similar. I’m a curriculum studies nerd, but there’s no grant money in that. So I’ve ramped up my digital pedagogies work to demonstrate relevancy. Digital pedagogies aka elearning aka blended learning aka digital literacies aka connectivism…the shifting buzz words compromise my identity each time.

    I’m not sharing this to at all minimise the difficulty of finding a full time, ongoing gig in academia. Please take it as read that I know the reality of that struggle. And as a new member of the academic mum club…well. Yes. Makes me wonder if I’ll ever be able to make the most of either role.

    But rest assured that your struggle is that of many academics. My favourite way to be torn in two is as someone who is interested in sociology, philosophy AND psychology. A position that is best hidden in most research meetings where most folks see the fields as mutually exclusive and paradigmatically at odds. Oh the joy.

    So, if you’re in the hovel, but I’m in the house but also monstrous…who is the nice family?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s an interesting challenge and if I’m going to stick to the Frankenstein metaphor, isn’t the point of the story to consider who is truly the monsterous? Or maybe I want to resist cleaning myself up, so maybe academia isn’t for me. Maybe wanting the Academe to want me is not the point and I should be more feminist about it and say that if I am not wanted the way I am then screw the Academe.

      But really the point of me keeping this blog is to record all these thoughts and make them public. It’s an autoethnography/narrative research of my story as I explore this space….so maybe I’m really Mary Shelley! She was rather monsterous, being the daughter of an anarchist and the first feminist, a not-married relationship in early 19thC when she wrote the book. Now all those things are normal and no longer monsterous. Maybe I can hope for the same and ARC to work out how to code interdisciplinarity.
      Either way, part of my ontology and activism is to keep the work of academia visible and transparent, so thank you for making a contribution to that purpose!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh and when I get a job (which I will), guess what blog will provide the data for a book :)?….always thinking, always scheming, nothing goes to waste and I remain “research active”


  2. I identify with feeling like I’m in a hovel: I have a stable and rewarding job teaching English in a middle school, but want to connect with the academy, which I left behind when I finished my MA in philosophy. On the one hand, I get to teach kids about how to use a feminist and postcolonial lens to read the world and word. It’s invigorating to work with young people using Adichie’s ‘dangers of a single story’ to critically examine literature. On the other hand, it’s hard to connect to some of the conversations I want to have outside the classroom about the politics of technology, work, and education. It would be much easier to be at a university, but I couldn’t see wanting to leave behind teaching middle school.

    Social media is helping me stitch these two parts of my life together and finally become some sort of hybrid writer. More accurately, it is the people on social media who put their thoughts out there and engage in dialog that help me. It’s a hovel with benefits.

    Thank you for running such a stimulating blog!


    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s