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.
Frankenstein’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.