… I wrote a rough guide to the Westeros.org Forum

My PhD supervisors suggested that I write a guide to the forum on which I am conducting part of my fieldwork.  This, they said, would help them to understand my fieldwork more.  I have since realised that it was also a useful exercise for me, because it let me lay out what my current understanding of the forum is.  

I would very much appreciate comments from users of the forum, either here or on the Westeros Forum itself, about how my general understanding of the forum compares to theirs.  Therefore please take some time to read my guide here > Forum guide < and let me know your thoughts.

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… I got a bit silly

What are conferences really about?

[I meant for this to be a serious conference write-up, but my brain got in the festive spirit, and everything went a little silly.  Enjoy!

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I haven’t been to a huge amount of academic conferences or symposia, but from those I have attended I have learned a great deal.  In particular I have learned that it’s all about what happens in the foyer.  There are tests, operated by some shady ethnographic research body and funded by behaviour modification pharmaceutical corporations. But do not fear; I have the inside scoop!

Think about the registration desk:  A pack is handed to you, and you innocently fix the badge to your lapel at the perfect angle.  The no-nonsense angle that says, “Yes, I’m an academic, I’m supposed to be here,” but that also says, “Yes, I’m an academic, and I don’t care whether you think I’m supposed to be here”.  There can’t be anything wrong with that, can there?  That’s what you think!  Every change in badge position and angle is catalogued and plotted on a giant geographic graph of gradient about gender and gerontology, which is then used to determine the potential sales of your next monograph.  But that’s not the worst thing!  The most formidable aspect of the name badge is its ability to render itself invisible to its wearer at some point during the closing notes.  The very last piece of data it gathers is what time you take it off, and how many people saw you wearing it outside school grounds.

Next time you approach the refreshments table, take a moment to wonder why nothing is labelled and why there are no instructions.  Those neat rows of cups aren’t as innocent as they look.  They serve a more terrifying, more nefarious purpose, almost too shocking to believe!  It’s a test, I say, a test!  Take a look at those nearest to you.  Is someone paying a little too much attention to how you operate the pump action flask?  Do they ask you obvious questions like, “Is that the coffee?” as you fill your mug with a lukewarm fine Columbian blend?  Your more optimistic thoughts may be that these people are trying to ‘network’.  Don’t be so blind!  They’re in on it!  Their badge-cams are automatically logging how long it took you to find the milk, and someone on the end of the wire is applying out-of-context content analysis to your small talk.  All of this helps the researchers decide if the embarrassing and belligerent Q&A plant takes the seat next to you during the following panel.

I have to sign off now, I’ve already said too much!

… I really tried to blog about my Buffy fandom

Why I can’t write about Buffy

I’ve been struggling for some time (years, perhaps) to compose a paper about my own fandom.  It feels important to add my story to the aca-fan group confessional.  With that goal in mind, I have for some time maintained a private series of notes.  The notes are a chronological account of my Buffy fandom.  So why has it been a struggle?

The chronological account of my Buffy fandom itemises the milestones along my journey to identifying as a fan: the first time I watched the same episode twice in one week, my first box set, my changing use of digital technology, when I started to seek out like-minded people.  It shows that the temporality of the text mirrored events in my life (Buffy moved into freshman accommodation the same year that I did).  It traces my nomadic routes to the other texts of which I became a fan.   It tots up how much money I’ve spent on prop replicas and DVDs (do you remember when the first Buffy DVD box set was £80?).  It muses on the value of the subcultural capital I have accrued over the years.  Through it I can see the social and economic forces at work in the creation of my fan identity.  Buffy is the text that first revealed to me my fannish tendencies.  

But it is statements like that which trip me up when I try to write something down.  I stop in my tracks.  Am I taking a textual deterministic standpoint?  Is that really what I want to say? 

So instead I move on to reflecting about my fandom in general.  I’m a fan of many things to many varying degrees, and my Buffy fandom is waning and has been since the series ended.  In the beginning it was like the grand overture to, and the rising crescendo, of the symphony of Me.  Now it’s one instrument in the orchestra; playing along happily with the rest, but seldom standing out. 

But such metaphors make me stumble again; because the academic in me starts to filter my account through the lenses of discourse analysis or postmodern identity formation.

I can’t reconcile my fragmented identity.  The fan-self writes and the aca-self analyses.  Worlds collide, and the two accounts never seem to correlate.  This is why I can’t write about Buffy

… I wanted to share

Tips for editing and proofing

When I started to type this post I intended to use a paragraph from the first draft as a working example.  Not surprisingly this led to a particularly paranoid approach to the first draft and what I ended up with wasn’t all that useful for a demonstration.  I hope the tips speak for themselves, but if you would like any clarification or examples please ask.

I feel I should clarify that I don’t have any special writing qualifications or experience that sets me apart from others (if you’re a potential employer, ignore that, I’ll think of some!).  But I do tend to get good feedback on my writing so I must be doing something right.  Writing is one of my favourite parts of the academic process and I have a methodical approach to it that I would fall to pieces without.   I would like to share some of the more definable parts of that process with you, so here are my top 5 (in no particular order) tips for editing and proofing.  Continue reading

… I had an identity crisis

 “The two of us wrote Anti-Oedipus together.  Since each of us was several, there was already quite a crowd.”[1]

I recently read Deleuze and Guattari’s chapter on Rhizomes for the first time.  I’m still in a phase of working out how best to use their work in relation to my own writing, but the chapter resonated with thoughts I’ve had about the nature of my own identities.

Continue reading

… I discussed the literature review process on #phdchat

This week’s #phdchat topic was the process of the literature review.  There was talk about using NVivo to handle this integral aspect of the thesis, and I mentioned that I’d had a little experience using it in this way, and that I had written a review.  It was written for a compulsory research training module I did last year (hence being a tad formulaic), but a few people expressed an interested in it so I will put it up here.  An extract of the review portion is below, as this may be the most useful to you.  You can see the full paper (including the bibliography) here if you like. Continue reading

… I wrote my first post

I discussed among my selves whether or not to write an introductory post (name, rank, serial number).  My first attempts at an autobiographical introduction began in a manner I found akin to my muffled, disjointed ramblings when I’m confronted with the question, “What do you do?”

I gave up. My first post is instead some recent thoughts inspired by hyperlinking through fandom during the course of my research.

Teenage fandom and the Internet for company

Fandom came to me late in life – at least relative to the aca-fan confessions of several distinguished authors on the subject – at the age of 18 when I moved away from home to university.  Perhaps the migration to a new personal and social context enabled an instinctive bud of fandom to bloom, or perhaps I purposefully sought something with which to cultivate the bare soil of my new surroundings.  I could search my developmental years and extract indicators of future academic and fannish occupations, but it is slim pickings unless I get creative.  Teenage fandom, then, at any level more elaborate than cutting-out Jason Donovan pictures from Smash Hits! or scribbling ‘AN luvs RK’ (bonus points if you guess who RK is) in an exercise book, is new to me.  My empirical knowledge of modern teenagers is limited to the media and to what activities I witness in public spaces. Continue reading