Metaphors we bond by

Skills and literacies, everyone’s favourite words

# Skills is not a dirty word (Leonard D. Pertnoy, Missouri Law Review, 1994)

# Hacking is a mindset, not a skillset (Tanya Snook, LSE Impact Blog, 16 January 2014)

# Effects of postgraduate medical education “boot camps” on clinical skills, knowledge, and confidence: A meta-analysis (C. Blackmore et al., Journal of Graduate Medical Education, 2014)

# In conversation with Sir Ken Robinson (August 2015)

# UK Engagement Survey: universities have limited impact on students’ ‘soft’ skill development (THE, 10 December 2015)

Responses of more than 24,000 undergraduates indicate limited development in areas such as creativity and citizenship over course of degree.

# Academic superheroes? A critical analysis of academic job descriptions (Rachael Pitt & Inger Mewburn, Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 2016)

# Null effects of boot camps and short-format training for PhD students in life sciences (David F. Feldon et al., PNAS, 2017)

# “Students should encounter research or activities linked to research and innovation at all levels of higher education to develop the critical and creative mind-sets which will enable them to find novel solutions to emerging challenges.” (Paris Communiqué, 2018)

# Media literacy – everyone’s favourite solution to the problems of regulation (Sonia Livingstone, LSE Impact Blog, 8 May 2018)

# Future graduates will need creativity and empathy – not just technical skills (Natalie Brett, The Guardian, 20 December 2018)

# Our soft skills can keep robots in their place (Ed Conway, The Times, 18 January 2019)

# RT @timeshighered It’s time to start calling soft skills “power skills” @RBC CEO Dave McKay tells #TeachingEx (5 June 2019)

# Digital literacy demands new thinking from higher education (THE, 2019)

Students have a heightened confidence in the digital space that is not necessarily matched by their competence.

The writing must go on.

The new session is approaching, and I am planning to do more on the writing front this year, especially for the benefit of post-fieldwork students. This post is simply to keep in one place bits and bobs that have inspired my plans. You can think of this post as a sequel to my ‘productivity hacks‘ and ‘big qualitative data‘ posts.

# Reverse outlining (Rachael Cayley, 2011)

# Living in a writing dystopia (Joli Jensen, 2013)

# Do you have quotitis? (Nick Hopwood, 2014)

# Writing together by the fireplace (2014)

# Importance of managing the logistics of writing (Jamie Bartlett, 2018)

# The vicious circle of overwork in academia (Ryan Cordell, 2018)

# Painting the town red (Anthony Ocampo, 29 January 2019)

# Snowflakes, crystals, fractals, and other metaphors for thinking creatively about [nonlinear] writing (Annette Markham, 2019)

# RT @AcademicsSay Being an academic is basically just saying “I’ll finally get that paper written this summer” until you die (9 July 2019)

# Writing over the holidays (Chris Smith, 2019)

# RT @Used_For_Glue I don’t know who needs to hear this, but the aim of the first draft is not to get it right, but to get it written. (22 July 2019)

# 곽재식의 어떻게든 글쓰기 (2018)

On bodilessness

Speaking of space and place, here is something that I have been following and meaning to document for a while: bodiless protests. I am afraid I can’t afford to write it up in a more synthesised manner at the moment, but I thought I’d at least put everything in one place.

# “iPhone candles(March 2010)

# Patent for “robots for picketing” (March 2013)

# Julian Assange featuring in a US conference in hologram form(September 2014)

# Snowden hologram replacing a removed statue of his in Brooklyn park (April 2015)

# World’s first hologram protest in Madrid against the country’s new “gag law(April 2015)


(Image from International Society for Presence Research, 13 April 2015)

# Amnesty “ghost rally” in Gwanghwamun (February 2016)

# Projection of “@jack is #complicit” on Twitter HQ (Jan 2018)

# Projection of “This is not normal” and “sh*thole” (with emojis!) on the Trump Hotel in Washington DC (Jan 2018)

# #WeAreWatching project against institutionalised racism (September 2016)

# The internet is mostly bots (December 2018)

# Shut it downbeamed on the Chosun Ilbo building (July 2019)

# Hong Kong protesters use lasers to block facial recognition tech (2 August 2019; see also the “asymmetric haircuts” tactic and “garments covered in license plates“)

# Wearable face projector (from 2017, but I came across via a pushback against a 2019 #AntiMaskLaw in Hong Kong)

Challenge accepted [2]

I created a Twitter account in 2007, but have always been a half-hearted user. The reason has been quite simply the restriction on message length. However, in the age of TLDR, being able to summarise research findings in one or two tweets seems to be an increasingly useful skill. So, here we go, my attempts.

# […] The thesis was that the Internet is as much a ‘metaphor’ as a technology, and successful e-campaigns have been those tapping into the former discursively (rather than the latter logistically). (9 March 2019)

# […] News articles that attracted a large amount of reactions from readers and articles that drew *divisive* reactions were two distinct groups [in our new Quality & Quantity piece]. (23 April 2019)

Staying afloat

One of the questions I get most frequently from students upon their return from the field is “What now?”. They come back gloriously with tens of hours of interview recordings, pages after pages of ethnographic fieldnotes, and gigabytes of photos and news clippings, and they all say — understandably — that they feel overwhelmed by the challenge ahead of staying afloat and making headway in that sea of unstructured data.

RT @JessicaCalarco Doing qualitative research often feels like playing Jeopardy – you can see the answers (i.e., the patterns you find in your data), but you don’t always know the question (i.e., the problem those patterns solve). (21 December 2018)

I share with them well-established tips such as ease into it, embrace the messiness, keep an audit trail, put oneself in the reader’s [examiner’s] shoes, read what you want to write et cetera. These tips have all been highly appreciated, but then there are every now and then situations where students are still looking for something more concrete and readily usable in their research while I consciously try to be less prescriptive and more ‘Socratic’ (so to say). Those situations always feel to me like we are communicating back-scratching coordinates.

While I maintain that I shouldn’t be, and cannot be, too prescriptive, I thought I’d put together a nice ‘mixtape’ of resources for them. More will be added on.

For code-based theory building (as in GT)

For ‘Big Qual’ analysis 

For thematic analysis

For framework analysis

For discourse analysis

What we mean by a ‘case’ when we say we do case studies 

Then and now

Just came back from a conference on “migration, mobility, and borders”, organised by and for our doctoral researchers. Interestingly, I was invited to give a ‘career talk’. My immediate suggestion was to bring in a career consultant instead, but for a combination of a couple of reasons, I ended up doing the talk. Come to think of it, I have been living and working among doctoral and early career researchers for almost 15 years, while being required to monitor the latest developments in the sector, so I told myself that I might indeed have one or two things to say about for their benefit.

Considering the theme, I prepared my talk along the lines of the increased expectation of (early career) researchers to be available/willing to be globally mobile. That is just one of the many, previously non-existent expectations imposed on the current generation of PhD candidates. I included this image (as a GIF) in my slides because every time I see it, I think of them. I honestly do.

Here are a couple more items that highlight how far things have changed in the PhD game.

# 2015 advice for your 856-year-old Ph.D. (Christian Sandvig, 5 August 2015)

Academic superheroes? A critical analysis of academic job descriptions (Pitt & Mewburn, 2016)

100 years of the PhD (Bogle, 2017, Vitae)

# The UK doctorate: history, features and challenges (Deem & Dowle, 2018 [email of 12 January 2019)

# “How I Got My First Academic Job, 1965 ed” (@profmusgrave, 20 March 2019)

# Thesis declaration, now and then (source: Got this off Twitter two months ago, but despite my best efforts, I can’t trace back to the original link. Let me know!)

+ Speaking of thesis declarations, see also Stephen Hawking’sone that broke the internet.