Absence makes… blogging harder

I haven’t written here for some time. It is not because I am short of ideas, but rather – I am short of time. I am convening three modules this year at work and had to write one (from scratch) and modify two. Coupled with the strike action, becoming a new ‘Co-Editor-in-Chief‘ and various things going on outside of work – I have been stretched!

I really do want to return to posting here though. I am unsure how often and in what way… I hope to return to the ‘work notes‘ in particular, I find these quite helpful, personally. So, I hope people are still reading things that get posted here, I also hope that, if you like things I have written in the past, you might like to get in touch and talk about them – I would welcome it ūüôā

As Adam Greenfield used to regularly say in his own blogposts: be kind to yourselves and those around you.

Standing in the way of control – website issues

If you look at the dates of postings here, or if you happen to follow my posts, you may have noticed that there has been a longer-than-average silence. This has not only been due to being busy at work (though it has been a very busy term, with the commute more challenging than usual). I have also experienced some issues with this website (hence this post has happened twice – due to reverting to a backup) and in particular with WordPress that my wonderful hosting company ‚Äď Reclaim¬†‚Äď have been very kindly and expertly helping me with. I‚Äôm now able to post again but I think there will need to be a bit of spring cleaning behind the scenes in the near future!

I can‚Äôt speak highly enough of Reclaim Hosting ‚Äď they have been a bit of a revelation to me. The support has been superb and the prices are very very reasonable (this is not an advert ‚Äď I genuinely think these things 

I have a couple of bits of work-y news:

  • I have been promoted to ‚ÄėSenior Lecturer‚Äô, which is good. The paperwork took quite a while to complete and if anyone is in a similar position and would like to talk about it I‚Äôd be happy to do so‚Ķ It is run in a fairly strange way where I work, insofar as it is almost a second probation, so it‚Äôs a relief that it‚Äôs done. I recognise how fortunate I am in my situation and will do my best to make the most of it.
  • I am still working on my book idea around the ‚Äėautomative imagination‚Äô. Unfortunately I was unsuccessful in my application for a BA ‚ÄėMid-Career Fellowship‚Äô to support this. I‚Äôm trying to make progress regardless. I‚Äôve integrated some of the themes into my teaching and I have a loooong reading list, mostly physically located on a small table I have purloined for my office(!) If anyone reading this has any ideas about other avenues to explore for funding or support I‚Äôd really love to hear them! Likewise, if you‚Äôre interested in talking about ‚Äėautomation‚Äô I would also welcome the opportunity to talk.
  • I‚Äôve been involved in a sort of core curriculum review in my department this year (sadly without workload recognition) in which a group of us (who currently convene those modules) are redesigning our core methods modules. This has been really interesting. We have certainly had to consciously think through what a/our geography degree is for, and what sorts of things we should be inviting the students to learn.
  • I have put forward a double-session on ‚ÄėGeographies of/with AI‚Äô for this year‚Äôs RGS-IBG annual conference, which hopefully will be accepted ‚Äď still waiting to find out.

I would very much welcome anyone getting in touch to talk about automation, or any of the other things I tend to blog about, so please do feel free.

Standing in the way of control ‚Äď The Gossip

Excellent post by Angela Last on teaching geohumanities

Louise Bourgeois work of art

I enjoyed reading this thoughtful piece on teaching ‘geohumanities’…

An experiment in teaching geohumanities

As someone whose work gets framed as ‚Äėgeohumanities‚Äô, I often get asked about my take on the field, both in terms of research and teaching. I usually answer that I feel that geohumanities is in danger of becoming a mere rebranding exercise for cultural geography or environmental humanities. Looking at articles from journals across those three fields, it becomes difficult to make out a difference. This dynamic seems aggravated by the demands of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) that evaluates research output according to discipline. Many academics have complained that, while contemporary problems (and research funders) demand interdisciplinarity, the current research (and academic career) assessment punishes discipline transgressions. Your work will always be scrutinised for sufficient adherence to disciplinary boundaries, and it seems not enough that most of your work can be accounted for in this way, and the fact that there are dedicated journals for this field in which you can publish. Although the new framework promises to pay more attention to interdisciplinarity, the paranoia around disciplinarity persists. Certainly, during last year‚Äôs job interviews, I experienced anxiety around my work and the journals in which I decide to publish. Even at interviews for geohumanities themed posts, when bringing up potential practice based or inter/cross-disciplinary outputs, the answer was often ‚Äėno‚Äô.

A related issue is interdisciplinary teaching. There are many different ways of doing this, depending on institutional logistics (timetabling, student location, connection to other departments etc), levels (undergraduate, postgraduate) and staffing. An increasing number of universities claim to have interdisciplinary undergraduate teaching programmes such as ‚ÄėLiberal Arts‚Äô, but in reality, subjects are still being kept separate and taught by specialists. The location of an interdisciplinary programme also often determines the angle. For instance, if an art and science programme is located within an arts faculty, the syllabus is more likely to be art centred, no matter how diverse the student body.

Read more here.

Reblog> Celebrating 25 years of Gender, Place and Culture

Via the Gender, Place and Culture blog.

Celebrating 25 years of Gender, Place and Culture: a note on our celebrations and the ’25 blogs’ series, by Editor Pamela Moss

It is wonderful that Gender, Place and Culture is celebrating 25 years of publication. As part of this celebration, throughout the year, Gender, Place and Culture will be a sponsor for lectures and sessions at multiple conferences. There will be a series of reviews of some of the influential books within the discipline that give some insight into how feminist geographies came to be. We will also publish a number of journal articles that show how they have transformed the wider discipline of geography, what issues are important to feminist geographies now, and what the future may hold. If this is something that appeals to you, you can find out more about it here.

The introduction of this website for¬†Gender, Place and Culture¬†has also opened up a new venue for publishing. In addition to announcements and calls associated with the journal, the blog has been an opportunity to write about the things feminist geographers immerse themselves in every day ‚Äď what is done well and what can be done better!

In celebration of turning 25 and in honouring our commitment to showcasing the contributions of feminist geographers in the field, Anna Tarrant and Lisa Dam have commissioned a new set of blogs to be published throughout the year that speak to the interests of feminist geographers ‚Äď whether it be a reflection on the ethics of research practice, on a moment in the history of the discipline, or on how to survive the challenging times we live in. We invite you to keep up with us as we post a new blog (hopefully more!) roughly every month.

We know that the field is flourishing. And it has been mostly about you ‚Äď your research, your scholarship, your reviews, your commitment, your feminism, and your interest in feminist geographies! If you have an idea that you want to blog about this year in order to contribute to our celebrations ‚Äď let Anna and Lisa know at¬†gpcat25@gmail.com.

Non-Rep as a ‘Key Idea” ‚Äď Paul Simpson blogs about a book

nonrepresentational geographies

On his new website, Paul Simpson (Ass. Prof. in Geography at Plymouth) is blogging about the writing process of a new book. Part of the “Key Ideas” series for Routledge, Paul is writing¬†Nonrepresentational Theory. The book is due at the end of 2018, so I guess/hope there may be a quite a few blogposts to come. It’s great to see someone other than the “usual [prolific] suspects” doing this and I look forward to following the process in Paul’s blogposts. The first two posts about the book are here: “NRT book post 1“, “NRT book post 2“.

I hope you stick with it Paul! ūüôā

It is interesting to see a colleague recommence blogging, because, recently, it feels like it’s been on the decline… part of my motivation to have a break from Twitter is to try and refocus on this blog, which I’ve always found more interesting and ocassionally, rewarding. Although, as is evident if you browse through, it remains largely a case of me writing with little in the way of interaction from any readers, whoever they may be.

If I ever write anything longer than a journal article, I’ll do my best to commit to blogging about it here. But that’s by the by, check out Paul’s blog.

Reblog> Call for blog post contributions: Help celebrate 25 years of Gender, Place and Culture

From the Gender, Place and Culture blog:

In 2018, Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and we’d like to mark the occasion by hearing from those of you who have an interest in all things feminist geography! We are therefore looking for expressions of interest to contribute blog posts to our website!We seek 25 blogs for 25 years. The posts will be released approximately twice a month throughout 2018. And, if we receive more than 25 blogs, we’ll post them more frequently! As well as being shared via our Facebook and Twitter feed (please share with anyone who you think might be interested!) using our special¬†#GPC25¬†hashtag, the blogs will also be featured on this¬†site¬†and a new GPC@25 website that is currently under construction.

What we need now

All we need at this stage is: 1) title/subject and 2) a short statement of a sentence or two outlining the broad topic. We will decide on the release date of the blogs nearer the time. So at this stage you are only committing yourself to delivering a 750-word blog/essay in principle.

What should I write about?

You may already have a great idea but as a guide, the theme is “Feminist Geographies at 25″¬Ě. Blogs might reflect on the following ideas, but do not need to be limited to them:

  • Key interventions made by feminist geographers;
  • Histories of feminist geography;
  • Doing feminist geographies;
  • Key themes or issues;
  • Feminist geographers that have inspired your work;
  • Impact of the journal in your work;
  • Calls to action;
  • Why you wanted to be published in Gender, Place and Culture; and

Comments on current events are also appropriate, especially when related to aspects of feminist geography.

Who can write for the site?

We welcome submissions from geographers of all career stages ‚Äď researchers, scholars, master’s and doctoral students, post-docs, undergraduate students, and community activists. We would especially like to encourage doctoral students and early career researchers to contribute.

Where do I submit my idea and my blog?

Submission ideas should be sent to our dedicated GPC@25 website email address (GPCat25 @ gmail.com) by 31st August 2017. These will ideally be posted in the first half of 2018. A second submission date will be set later. Blog ideas will be vetted and selected that reflect the broad interests of feminist geographers. Once your post has been selected, Anna Tarrant the social media coordinator for Gender, Place and Culture, will get in touch with you to provide an approximate timeline for delivering the blog. We would expect that most contributions be sent to us in the space of 2-3 weeks.

If you have any questions, please ask. Ideas do not need to be fully formed at this stage and we are happy to provide further guidance/advice if necessary.

Jen Jack Gieseking on How to Set Up Your Own Website and Why It’s Worth It

Nice post by Jack Gieseking on why it’s worth setting up a website as an academic. I’d broadly echo many of the points here, albeit from a different standpoint ‚Äď I’m less prolific and I guess I’m more in curatorial mode on this website at the moment… (I am actually writing again though, so that’s nice)

For Academics: How to Set Up Your Own Website and Why It’s Worth It

Dear Academic Friend,

Over the years, many of you have asked me how to build a website. About eleven years ago,¬†a graduate school friend¬†patiently sat next to me and taught me the ropes using pure HTML. It’s much easier now. If you want a little convincing as to why to do this or want to get firmly rooted on your politics in this, continue reading. If you are already determined to build your own website,¬†click here to skip down.¬†My mantra here: ideas are free; let’s share.

Really, people want to hear about what I do?¬†Let’s begin with the obvious: what you do is important. Wildly important. You may think you are boring, dull, unclear, or talking to your navel, but someone, somewhere needs your work on the lesbian spaces, the history of the lute in 1689, Saharan slavery practices, a rare snail on the coast of the Bahamas, or the relationship of the human-animal of lab scientists studying jellyfish. They truly do. Let’s say you actually choose to believe me for a second and the grip of self-doubt can be put aside for even a few minutes. You know I’m going to encourage you to set up your own website. Now let’s deal with your concerns.

Read the rest of this post on Jack’s website.

(Not) Getting Paid to Do What You Love: Gender, Social Media, and Aspirational Work ‚Äď Brooke Erin Duffy

Via Culture Digitally.

This looks like an interesting read by Brooke Erin Duffy. Although I know what Duffy calls here “aspirational work” is popular, I have been a bit surprised by how many of our students at Exeter actively do this kind of work – mostly fashion vlogging. I have had at least one dissertation on the topic for each of the last three years and many of the videos produced for my final year option module draw on these themes. Those I’ve spoken to are acutely aware of the nuances of the negotiations of different norms and values ‚Äď ‘authenticity’ and getting paid don’t always sit well together it seems.

I hope I have the chance to check out this book¬†so I can actually learn more about what I can only vaguely sketch (perhaps wrongly) at the moment, I hope some of those who read this will too…

Book Announcement: (Not) Getting Paid to Do What You Love: Gender, Social Media, and Aspirational Work

Fashion bloggers and Instagrammers seem to enjoy a coveted lifestyle‚Äďone replete with international jet-setting, designer-comped fetes, and countless other caption-worthy moments. Yet the¬†attention lavished¬†on these so-called “influencers”¬Ě draws attention away from a much larger class of social media content creators: those aspiring to “make it”¬Ě amid a precarious, hyper-competitive creative economy.

I tell their story in my new book¬†(Not) Getting Paid to Do What You Love: Gender, Social Media, and Aspirational Work,¬†and¬†I’m grateful to my publisher¬†Yale University Press¬†for allowing me to share the¬†first chapter¬†with you.

The book focuses on female content creators and draws upon¬†in-depth interviews with bloggers, vloggers, designers, and more. I learned that, often, these young women were motivated by the wider culture’s siren call to “get paid to do what you love.”¬Ě¬†But their experiences often fell short of the promise: only a few rise above the din to achieve major success. The rest are un(der)- paid, remunerated with deferred promises of “exposure”¬Ě or “visibility”¬Ě‚Äďeven as they work long hours to satisfy brands and project authenticity to observant audiences.

A grueling balancing act is required, one that I explore through the lens of “aspirational labor.”¬Ě¬†As both a practice and a worker ideology,¬†aspirational labor shifts content creators’ focus from the present to¬†the future, dangling the prospect of a career where labor and leisure¬†coexist.

Despite the book’s emphasis on gendered work, the concept of “aspirational labor”¬Ě offers a¬†framework for understanding, critiquing, and anticipating larger¬†transformations in the social media economy. Indeed, the book closes by exploring the striking parallels between social media aspirants’ self-branding labor and the work so many of us undertake in contemporary academe.


Clever people at York are talking about Thresholds. Check out the website, it’s really interesting!

Based in the Science & Technology Studies Unit (SATSU) at the University of York, Threshold is a thematic programme of work that will unfold over the coming months. Taking Thresholds as a focal point, this research programme will use a range of diverse resources and perspectives to explore the liminal edges of everyday, organisational and social life. What and who reside beyond or within different types of thresholds? Who has to cross thresholds? What prevents people or things crossing? How does power operate through thresholds? How is it that thresholds articulate with limits, extremes, dangers and tipping points? These are just some of the questions we will explore.

Aimed at generating ideas and dialogue, this programme is geared toward political, conceptual and creative exchanges and contributions. Led by Joanna Latimer, Rolland Munro, Nik Brownand Dave Beer, this programme will develop a variety of perspectives on this central focal point of thresholds. This website will be used to communicate our key ideas, to promote events and to share outputs.

Reblog> The scholar and social media

Excellent advice here from Tamson Pietsch on the uses and limits of social media, especially blogging. Found through @HelenPallett.

I very much support the ethos and practices suggested here:

The scholar and the social media


Last week I¬†gave¬†a talk on social media to¬†post-graduates from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.¬†Foolishly (but only fairly)¬†I promised to practice what I preached. So here are the salient points (and links) as I remember them.

Why you should think about the social media

Increasingly scholarly conversation is happening online ‚Äď in curated and individual blogs, on twitter, and through other electronic forums. If you are not engaging with these forms of publication you are likely to be missing part of what is happening in your field.

Participating in the world of social media helps generate a bigger (and more diverse) academic audience for your research.¬†Much of this will be ¬†in aligned disciplines, or¬†in different national contexts.¬†If you are not engaging online, you’ll be missing part of your¬†potential audience.

Social media¬†also helps generate a broader non-academic audience, especially with those industries to which your thesis may connect. Try to consciously develop and promote your “shadow expertise”¬Ě; that aspect of your¬†work that might inform a¬†non-academic sector. It’s tough in the academic job market, and this¬†could well be where your post-phd career ends up going.

And finally, social media is increasingly a factor in every employment sector. Engaging online gives you skills that will serve you well, wherever you work.

But always remember the golden rule


This is Stefan Collini’s advice to public intellectuals in¬†Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain¬†and it should be etched onto the computer screens of every academic¬†who reaches for¬†the internet. ¬†Have something to say that is well founded and established, and well supported. Be respectful of other people’s work and opinions and give them due reference.¬†The last thing a junior (or indeed any) academic needs is to have a ruined reputation all over the internet.

If there is a second rule, it might be this: VALUE YOUR TIME¬†‚Äď blogging & tweeting can be very rewarding because unlike most other parts of academic life you get direct feedback. But it’s a drug. Keep your main game in view and remember: your authority to speak will in 98% of cases come from your¬†research. So respect it, foster it, prioritise it.

How to start

See how other people are doing it. Set up a twitter account and follow¬†scholars you admire (and those you don’t!) Read¬†the relevant blogs in your field ‚Ästsome of these are likely to be co-authored. If you are totally lost,¬†The Chronicle of Higher Education’s blog¬†page¬†is as good a place¬†as any to begin (and you¬†have discovered this blog so you’re not doing too badly!)

People disagree on the merits of maintaining an individual blog as against contributing to established co-authored or other forums such as The Conversation, but my view is to go for both:

  1. Set up a blog site for yourself that will act a bit like your online CV:
    • use it to a) experiment with writing pieces and b) as a¬†place to collect¬†any material you publish¬†on other platforms.¬†WordPress¬†is easy to use¬†and¬†integrates well with other social media.
  2. Generate content:
    • Work in progress & the process of working (see for eg. the¬†Thesis Whisperer¬†or¬†Trickster Prince).
    • Communicate research you have published (eg¬†https://t.co/UCbgE8RslC)
    • Wait for news item & apply research
    • Provide context through your¬†“shadow expertise”¬Ě ‚Äď are you writing a Phd on the history of fashion? Contact fashion magazines and pitch articles to them.
  3. Maximise your reach
    • Connect¬†to other people’s online content through¬†using links, and¬†cross-promote¬†on twitter (using #hashtags), facebook, linkedin and academia.edu.au, among other social media outlets.
    • Write¬†for established platforms, such as co-authored blogs, The Conversation, print outlets, your university, industry publications. The internet is a big place with a lot of shouting people on it, and you need to find a way to be heard. Established sites offer you support and a readership that¬†is invaluable.

Parting comments

Academic¬†research¬†usually takes a long time to produce. It frequently works with complex information and tells¬†stories that complicate what we think we know. The interwebs do not thrive on such complexity. This doesn’t mean you should go for simplifications , but it does mean you need to work with people’s attention spans. Put your argument¬†up front, rather than at the end; try to stick to 500-800 words maximum. Inject some personality. Too often wonderful¬†academic research¬†is¬†communicated in ways that do not make it easy for people to¬†access or connect with. Paywalls and professional convention carry part of the responsibility, but as scholars we can do a lot more too to reach out to a public that has demonstrated¬†a robust¬†appetite for ideas.

Reading list

Prof Patrick Dunleavy’s¬†Shorter, better, faster, free: blogging changes the nature of academic research, not just how it is communicated¬†and¬†How to write a blogpost from your journal article

LSE public impact blog and in particular their twitter guide and reading list on using social media for research

The Times Higher Education magazine’s¬†Tips for academics on Blogging and Social Media