Thursday, December 26, 2013

Reflections on 2013

The end of the year is always a good time for reflection.  Looking back at 2013, my working life has been characterised by collaboration, creativity, community-building and connections.  All four aspects have been rewarding, challenging and enabled me to work with people and complete projects I could never have done on my own.  Being busy with all of these is one of the reasons I don’t seem to have time to write on this blog!  So here are a few highlights....

Last January, I put in a proposal to the BAAL Executive committee to start a new special interest group for scholars working in Language and New Media. We held our first colloquium in September at the BAAL annual meeting and first workshop in Leicester in November. You can join our group by adding yourself to our Facebook page and emailing our communications officer Bettina Beinhof ( who will add you to the mailing list.

Part of that work of building the community of scholars in the UK working on social media/computer mediated discourse has included co-authoring a student textbook with David Barton, Johnny Unger and Michele Zappavigna: Researching the Language of Social Media.  It’s been quite a challenge to pull that together in the timescales that Routledge wanted, but we’ve done it and that textbook will be out next year. I know considerably more about research methods now than I did 12 months ago. The book is much stronger because of the expertise that David, Michele and Johnny have brought to the project: it’s all the better for the work they put in.

The most creative aspects of collaborating with others have been brought about by the work I’ve done on the AHRC Research Network: Transforming Thresholds.  We’ve got another four months to run with that project.  It’s been one of the most energising, transforming experiences to work with the brilliant network of academics, museum practitioners and commercial partners. I’m especially thankful to Ross Parry and Alex Moseley who helped plan the events and who make me think more creatively about how to collaborate effectively with others, to Nathan Human of Citizen 598 who filmed everything, to the Digital Hub at the University of Birmingham who have felt like a second home through the first couple of events, and ‘Team Petrie’ (Giancarlo Amati from UCL, Tracy Harwood from DMU’s Retail Lab, Jo Sivell from the University of Birmingham, Angus Deuchars from Arup, Juan-Luis Sanchez and Maria Marot from Cosas Industries) who helped put together the case study that I was most closely involved in at the Petrie Museum. I’m always going to remember that baking hot day in July when the images and soundscape were installed in the museum’s stairwell!

I’m also incredibly grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to talk about my work at a series of different events this year (15 of them), and the connections that were created across academic communities and countries. Landmark memories will be the super-smart and super-nice bunch of graduate students who I worked with at the Summer Institute of Narrative Studies for Aarhus University, the equally super-smart and super-nice scholars and museum partners from Southern Denmark’s DREAM project (both of which gave me opportunities to visit beautiful places in Denmark); speaking at the 4th international Narrative Conference in Guangzhou (a privilege to see a remarkable city and to make new friends); within the world of narrative studies, speaking at the contemporary narrative panel at the ISSN Manchester Conference, and at the feminist narratology symposium in Cambridge; and in the somewhat newer-to-me world of Knowledge Exchange work I  also very much enjoyed the Creative Exchange’s Knowledge Exchange conference in Lancaster, especially singing an anthem of KE.

Looking back, I’ve much to be thankful for in 2013. I’ve met and worked with amazing people, and learned as much from what has gone wrong as well as the successes.