This past year has seen my progression from a fairly intense MA in English at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC to the completion of my first year as a PhD student at University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. The first year of the PhD here at UBC consists of coursework and I would have thought I were an expert at doing that (and it turns out you do get pretty good at it after a while) but it felt like I was simply going through motions I had done already and it didn’t really mean a lot to me. This is not to say that there were not moments of great exhilaration and discovery, but simply that having come from doing a full year of graduate courses and then, not three weeks after finishing, lining up to do it all over again made it seem as though somebody was playing a mean Groundhog Day-inspired trick on me.
That being said, mind you, I learned a great deal over these past three semesters that I could not really have learned going it alone. One of the greatest things I did during this first year of PhD work — since I had a bit more time being more comfortable in my role in the graduate classroom — was focus more on what kind of a scholar I was going to be and, perhaps more importantly, the kind of scholar that I wanted to present to the world and have it (them?) perceive me as. To that end, then, I became a somewhat late adopter of Twitter with the intention of gauging it as a platform for scholarly discussion, networking, and persona-building. After a few common missteps, I found that the Twitter universe (I detest sloppy portmanteau words such as ‘twitterverse’ so avoid using them at all costs) offered quite a large community through which I could not only engage in the activities listed above, but so much more that I did not anticipate. I became, and still am, active on Twitter every day and I can be found here for anyone interested.
My activity on Twitter, of course, led me to other social media that looked interesting and potentially useful in creating my, I guess, brand. So, I’ve also got a profile over at Academia.edu, though I rarely use that for anything too involved. I find it more of a “Hey, hello, there. Look at me. I’m here. Come talk to me on Twitter” kind of application. Perhaps I give it short shrift since I don’t spend nearly as much time on it as I do on Twitter and thus maybe I’m missing some of its capabilities. I base my opinion solely on the few times that I’ve tried to contact people through that medium to only receive prolonged electronic silence in response; and I think I’ve done it enough to convince myself that it can’t just be my horrible personality keeping them away, but rather they, like me, do not use that particular website for anything substantial either. With all of that being said, please follow me on Academia.edu. I am in desperate need of a decent following over there.
Facebook is the obvious elephant in the ointment in my discussion of my growth as a scholar and someday professional Victorian somethingorother. I use Facebook. Every day. I’m addicted to it. I’ve decided, however, that Facebook is my place for friends and family and Twitter for colleagues, mentors, other scholarly type pursuits, and other professional people and ne’er the twain shall meet. So, I guess that Facebook is for the folks I’ve met in real life and don’t necessarily have a bunch in common with and Twitter consists mostly of people I’ve never met – but may someday – who share a great number of interests with me. That’s why I think I can hash out the really important topics with colleagues rather than friends. Like settling the whole footnote vs. endnote thing. The debate continues!
Okay, so I realize after reading what I’ve just written that it looks like I work for Twitter. I don’t but, no matter, what I really have been trying to get to is the story of how I came to start a blog and what I hope to accomplish by doing so. The first impetus to starting a scholarly blog was the “my friends are doing it” mentality and I think that plays a significant role still in my decision to commit to something as time-consuming as a blog. It is not only another way to share and express ideas – half and wholly formed – but also a method of keeping your competition in check because, as we know, the academic job market is not exactly bursting with traditional opportunities and I have fixated myself on the idea that whoever has the best blog is going to get the dream tenure-track job because that’s obviously how these things work.* I want to treat this space as somewhere I can use to keep, organize, forget about, and share things. I have a terrible habit of putting things in all sorts of different places so this blog might be a good way to keep the things that are not only important to me, but also useful for others who may benefit from the things I keep here. I’ll be posting quite a bit on ever-evolving perspicacity of grad school and all the things that work and, more importantly, don’t work in my experience. The organizational aspect of this space will work in much the same way; I like the idea of being able to just come on here and mash my keyboard to make words without any kind of regard for the minutiae of what it is I am saying and then tagging those posts with keywords for future reference. I think this organizational ability will extend to my meager CV and other professional documents that ought to be a public part of any scholar’s online persona. When I say I will also use this space to forget about things, I am talking about an active type of forgetting. That is, I will likely forget almost everything I’ve written in this space mere milliseconds after I hit ‘Publish’ but, if I go into this activity knowing that what I write will be ultimately forgotten, the corollary of that is rediscovering what I have written/forgotten and hopefully bringing new insights the next time I engage with those thoughts and materials. Lastly, this is a place for sharing. I plan on blogging my way through the remainder of my graduate student career and likely into my professional career and I find that it is becoming more important to be open-access about doing so. There are so many other academic blogs and websites that are so much better than mine will ever be, but I feel that simply sharing on a forum such as a blog is doing something rather than simply festering in my head where it cannot possibly do anyone any good.
With all of that in mind, I guess I just have to say that I don’t have any particular aim for what I want this blog to look like or even what its contents will be. I will definitely be documenting my progress and process of my PhD because I have been the beneficiary of such information from others and it is, apart from the advice of my committee, an invaluable resource in figuring out just what the hell it is you are meant to be doing. That’s about the only plan I have. Other than that, I guess I’ll use the posting space to write things that entertain me or as a test track for things I’m not sure about. We’ll have to see. It’ll likely be way different than I envision it because of the whole forgetting thing.
*This is not even slightly how these things work.