Anew (post): Some thoughts

•28 April 2012 • Leave a Comment

Note: This post was published by Hook and Eye on 10 May 2012.

Yep, that space in the title was omitted on purpose. This is “a new post,” certainly, but it’s also about starting anew, thinking anew, living anew. Once again I present me, offering tentative explanations (fear: excuses) and reflecting on (fear: suffocating in guilt over) time gone by. Enjoy (?).

The Year of Living Emotionally: T/Making Time as an Academic

Prefatory Note: I swear this isn’t a note of apology to my supervisory committee, though it might read like one…

It’s been one helluva year. I feel as if, over the past twelve months, I’ve reached my highest high and lowest low, with a whole lot of everything in between. A year ago I was dragging my exhausted self through the final pages of my comprehensive examinations, completely worn out from an overbooked conferencing schedule and a bout of depression that made getting out of bed an accomplishment worth celebrating. Somehow, on the heels of this, I wrote, submitted, defended and passed my comps, and just in time—as the final answers rolled off my tongue in the defense room, my already hoarse voice slipped away, and I entered the next marked period of my 2011, to be comprised of four months/rounds of an uber-cold/flu (otherwise known as, “you’ve put your body and mind through the ringer, and now you’re going to pay for it”).

But if the first half of 2011 was a bit of a stinker, well, the latter half was akin to that montage you inevitably get forty-five minutes into a romantic comedy. Having never really dated anyone before (oh the ease with which I type this now, compared to the fear and shame with which I lived it before), I somehow stumbled my way into a surprisingly terrific, now serious and long-term relationship, and my first. Where sadness, depression, illness and general malaise kept me (partly) from my work in the winter/spring, tummy butterflies, elation, walks in the park and general upliftedness were keeping me (partly) from it now, especially since the person-in-question was in all likelihood to be moving away at any moment. (He’s still here.)

I’m not entirely sure these are things I should be sharing with you. As a humanities scholar (or, you know, a thinking/feeling person), I want to believe I can honestly express my feelings and recount past events without suffering the repercussions of such revelations later. I don’t want to be someone reluctant to discuss mental health, when occurrences such as the one I have described briefly above are all too common. So here I am, giving it the old college try.

What I want to say is, my work suffered at the expense of my life this year, and looking back (with my annual committee meeting around the corner), I’m…not a tad bit sorry for it. Now to be fair, it’s not as if I accomplished nothing since last April; post-comps I busied myself with a bibliography course, a long proposal, several CFPs, a handful of publications and two RAs (hello, thesis committee!). But there was work that got put off, and I have decided to own that putting-off in a way I never have before.

I felt every second of this past year, sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. But I wouldn’t give up a second of it, not for a completed chapter, or a whole thesis, for that matter. Life happened for awhile; if that makes me a “bad academic,” well, I suppose there are worse things one could be.


Best Laid Plans

•6 November 2011 • Leave a Comment

Happy November, everyone! Yes, that’s right. It’s not September anymore. It’s not even October. Somehow two months of time disappeared into the black hole that is the start of a new school year. I’ve been around long enough that I shouldn’t be surprised by this, yet this year in particular I find myself asking how on earth did I let this happen??? I am not currently teaching or marking, and my RA-in-lieu-of-TA has yet to commence (though I was finishing up an RA from the end of summer in the early days of October). I am not currently enrolled in any courses, attending any classes or seminars or the like. I am not currently conferencing, or organizing/coordinating much, save for the odd department social event here and there (welcome week events and all-things Halloween). I am not currently, nor was I tearing out my hair over the supremely dreaded grant application season, having been fortunate enough to secure federal funding for the next two years.

All of these things are true, and yet, November roared in like a lion (yes, I know I got that one wrong), and I find myself looking back agape at two months of no blog posts, and no dissertation pages. Which is not to say I’ve not been busy. The aforementioned RA was fairly time intensive, and pleasantly so; all of the research (especially cultural studies scholarship on the archive, everyday life and the project as it is realized by and through social media) conveniently overlapped with my own work. Not to mention, just the other week I was also able to submit an article to a peer-reviewed journal. And I’ve been–imagine it!–living up a life that was considerably less lived across much of the first half of this year. The truth is, I’ve actually been living (largely) guilt-free of late…until I checked in with this blog the other day and realized that my grand scheme to produce position paper blog entries on current social media news stories on a regular schedule kind of fell by the wayside. Alas! So…

In an attempt to make up for my extended absence, I will be blogging and tweeting (hopefully sometimes “live”) Thursday and Friday as I attend McMaster University’s Student Success Centre’s Social Media + Job Search Conference. The two-day conference claims it will help participants

  • Discover how to build relationships using social media tools
  • Develop strategies which build buzz and personal brand
  • Understand how social media can be used for advocacy
  • Discuss ideas about social recruiting, privacy and professionalism online
  • Develop the skills and strategies for job searching in today’s labour market.

Call it morbid curiosity, but I will be there. And I imagine I will have some things to say about what I “discover” there. Stay tuned…

Bibliography in the Age of the Internet, Part III: Blogging and Thesis Preparation

•28 July 2011 • 1 Comment

On the docket: Google Alerts, Delicious, Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr…and current/future dissertation plans!

I have opted to slightly alter what will now be the final post of this series (the fourth and final proposed post on “the Googlization of everything” has been canned on account of obviousness/unnecessariness). I will be briefly discussing “better” blogging (as it relates to this blog, in fact) and touching on my plans for the next few months, mostly in an effort to actually formalize my plans for the next few months.

One might think I am perhaps unqualified to discuss better blogging, having not been the most disciplined of bloggers here and elsewhere. (I have had several blogs, both academic and personal, but I always seem to fall out of my blogging routines and, as the social media marketing publications remind us, consistency is paramount! That having been said, this post marks #30 in just over a year, so let’s celebrate that!). However, as with everything else in my life, I aim to do better (don’t we all), and have something of a plan to facilitate my improvement.

When it comes to selecting a (free) blogging service, your choice, depending on what you hope to get out of your blog, really comes down to Blogger, WordPress or Tumblr. Each platform has its benefits and limitations. In homage to the post that would have been on “Googlization,” I will point out that Google (now, as of 2003) owns Blogger, so if you like all of your apps synced and/or you want to always be signed into everything, this may be the program for you. Personally I prefer WordPress to Blogger; I feel it has a better platform and superior functionality. It allows me to do more but doesn’t necessarily require that I know more to do it. Good deal. As for Tumblr, arguably the “it” blogging service of the moment, its ultimate-ease-of-use and instantaneity, in my opinion, sort of makes it the Twitter of the blogging world (to the point where I sometimes wonder why I would have a Tumblr if I have a Twitter); and much like Twitter these days, it seems the primary function of Tumblr is to blog by reblogging the content of others. Tumblr is a blogging service for sharing; if you have dreams of typing out sprawling online odes, it’s probably best to make use of one of the other two.

Blogging “Better”

In an effort to improve my blogging consistency, I have devised a blogging schedule for the coming academic year (which I intend to really try to stick to…really). With this series of bibliography blogs out of the way, as of September, I hope to publish one entry every two weeks, or two per month, based on material I encounter through my Google Alerts and organize with my Delicious account (I will briefly discuss both the Alerts and Delicious in a moment). Ideally, these posts will aim to be fairly concise, but will critically engage and question/challenge the news story or idea to which I’m responding. For anyone who has taken an undergraduate or graduate university course, I see these posts as akin to the “response paper.” We’ll see how it goes.

Google Alerts

As I note above, the inspirational or primary material for these blog responses will most likely come from the results of my Google Alerts, the weekly key-word searches I have set up through Google’s service to scan the web for content related to my work (my current alerts are for things like “social media,” “social networking,” “Twitterature,” and so on). I have also edited the schedule according to which I receive my Google Alerts: whereas in the past I was getting daily results (a daunting mound of information), I now receive a week’s worth of Alerts via email on Sunday night, and the plan is to review these links and blog about them every second Monday. Again, this is the plan.


When reviewing Alert-ed material, it’s Delicious that helps me organize it, a tagging service that is certainly a step up from the “Bookmarks” you’ll find at the top of your browser page. You can actually find my most recent Delicious links on the sidebar of this page. Delicious can actually be integrated right into your browser, enabling one to literally tag a page with the click of a mouse. (Note: I was without a Delicious add-on in my browser for several months up until a few days ago, as it took the Delicious team awhile–too long!–to redesign the app for Firefox 4.0 and 5.0. This was not my happiest time. The good news is a beta version of the add-on for all versions of Firefox was introduced in July, so my tagging–and yours!–can recommence!) One final note of personal preference re: Delicious tagging: I like to present my links in an unbiased manner (so, for instance, I have no tags that read “stupid” or “ridiculous” or “HATE”), largely because I choose to keep them public. I think the amassing of everyone’s links on Delicious is perhaps its best feature; it has certainly helped me find and track a lot of information on social media. And now, blogging in response to some of this material with allow me to engage with it in a more in-depth manner, and comment on it—hopefully a useful exercise for the thesis writing to come.

In conclusion (the future is now): Thank you for embarking on this bibliographic journey with me; I hope you enjoyed it, and I apologize that it took a little longer than anticipated to roll it out. Where do I go from here? Well, I’m RAing at present, fortunately working in and around social media stuff that will no doubt aid in the preparation of maybe, possibly, hopefully starting to write my first chapter (I will be linking to some of my RA-produced work in August). In the meantime, I have an article due 1 October, a few CFPs requiring shining proposals and some extracurricular stuff to attend to. From here, I see reading for chapter one across October and November, and hopefully starting to write by November; let this not be wishful thinking. (Look forward to future updates on my progress, here and on Twitter.)

Bibliography in the Age of the Internet, Part II: Twitter and Academia

•25 July 2011 • 1 Comment

On the docket: Twitter! (That’s pretty much it. Also brief mention of TweetDeck, recently Twitterified.)

I started using Twitter in early 2009.* (In fact, I can tell you the exact date I joined: 8 April 2009, precisely 838 days from today, 25 July 2011.) At that time I was working a 9-to-5er (8:30 to 4:30, to be more precise), and had initially found in Twitter the most ideal procrastination tool, perfectly suited to my interests and needs at that time: a mix of celebrity, (t)wit and nearly endless streaming material. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the initial appeal of Twitter had much to do with its budding celebrity presences. Receiving tweets from the likes of Buffy alum @amber_benson, Sorkin muse (and my recent Facebook friend) @JoshMalina and even @yokoono (among others) made this popcult dreamer giddy with delight.

*Twitter was officially launched in 2006 and rose to prominence across 2008-2009, to give a sense of the application’s overall timeline.

Once I began the first year of my PhD (and coincidentally decided to focus my research on social media, a move not entirely unrelated to my, at this point, several-month Twitter obsession), I opted to create a second Twitter account, designed to serve as an “academic” Twitter account. To this day I remain skeptical of the necessity and my own justification of this second account. Why do I feel the need to distinguish personal thoughts from “professional” ones, and what does this decision reveal about the discourses I am (implicitly) endorsing regarding social media and academia (big questions deserving of dissertation chapter-length answers)? In separating personal tweets from “academic” ones, have I somehow supported the claim that Twitter is by nature superfluous fluff? This is, of course, not my intention (the ultimate goal is more likely as straightforward as improved organization or clarity of information), but I worry it may nevertheless be the result of having opted to separate the two. For the time being I have decided to retain both accounts, with an awareness that this decision is at best curious, and at worst problematic. (For those interested in wrangling two or more accounts, I recommend making use of one of the many external apps, the best of which, at least in terms of those that are FREE, I feel to be TweetDeck. Whether this quality will persist since TweetDeck’s recent purchase by Big Papa Twitter remains to be seen.)

Since my first days on Twitter, the ways and means of the social platform have certainly changed. (For a humourous account of Twitter’s five-year history, check out the video posted above!) Unlike Facebook, where changes in content have largely had to bow to changes in platform (I’m thinking here of Zuckerberg and company’s persistent platform transformations, additions and deletions, as well as Facebook’s oft-criticized privacy settings roller-coaster), many of Twitter’s evolutions have been user-driven, or at least user-inspired; Twitter looks and functions as it does now partly on account of the early actions of its users. One of the most prominent examples of this user-generated transformation is the 2009 edit of Twitter’s lead-in question, from “What are you doing?” to “What’s happening?” The difference may seem slight, but it is significant. As Twitter’s ever-growing user-base increasingly altered and otherwise targeted their use of the medium and, correspondingly, Twitter feeds (at least some of them) became less an unfolding of the days events and more a diverse exploration of the format’s information-sharing possibilities (e.g. news sharing, link compiling, conversation generating, and so on), Twitter’s creators responded in kind, allowing form to follow content and literally opening up the question. (For those interested, you can find Twitter’s own explanation of this shift here. The official announcement reiterates much of what I just said, though it is considerably more self-serving.)

Nowadays users continue to either implicitly or explicitly independently define their Twitter use, adopting it as a platform for some/all of random thoughts, wit/humour, sharing links/information, promoting causes and participation, hashtag conversations (more on this in a moment), and so on. Additionally, the “140 character limit” is hardly a “limit” on Twitter anymore—a good percentage of tweets are composed almost exclusively of hypertext, linking to further, character-heavy elaboration (photos, webpages, blogs and other microblogs).

There are two aspects of Twitter I’d like to quickly discuss in relation to academia, before moving on to the next–and final–entry in this series: 1) the practice of hashtagging (especially at conferences) and 2) building and developing follower and following lists. Again, for current Twitter users, this information may seem tedious, but in all of your collective Twitter wisdom, if there’s anything you would like to add, please do!


As the Twitter user count increased across the years, the mass of Twit-formation likewise exploded; the entirety of tweeted information is an unimaginably enormous, ever-growing archive of information (I have published some thoughts on Twitter as archive here). As a means of better managing and organizing this information, Twitter, like many other social media applications, incorporated the use of tagging, a system they have gradually improved over time. Rendering tweeted material more accessible and searchable, hashtagging soon gave rise to things like micro-memes (swiftly realized, game-like challenges based on a suggested hashtag, e.g. #whatiwoulddoforaklondikebar), the most popular of which appear alongside each user’s Twitter feed, first as “trending topics,” and now simply as “trends”.*

*In 2010, Twitter also introduced promoted trends, which, alongside promoted tweets, continue today.

Similarly, the use of hashtagging on Twitter has gradually begun to be introduced in academic contexts, most notably at conferences; the practice has become, among certain factions (unsurprisingly the digital humanists or “DHers” being chief among them), quite tendentious, perhaps most infamously at the 2009 MLA conference. By 2011, most of the larger conferences (and increasingly many of the smaller, sometimes with far greater fervour) have spawned at least some semblance of a conference haghtag conversation–the tags in each case typically being easy enough to discern (e.g. #mla09, #pcac11, etc.).

Depending on the conference, hashtagging can be a useful way to follow the conference goings-on, even when one is not in attendance. Generally, I think the introduction of tweeting to academic conferences is an inspired idea, though my endorsement has become more tentative since having seen some of them in action. Making use of Twitter as a space to continue or expand upon conversations is one thing; but should these conversations be taking place during the papers/panels themselves? I watched a whole row of laptopped spectators at a recent conference carrying on a full conversation on Twitter while the panelists were presenting (I only learned of this conversation at the end of the day, as I prefer to not have my computer or cell phone out during presentations). I’m assuming this group (of tenured faculty) would claim that their simul-tweeting represents a form of enriched engagement with the presented material, but I don’t completely buy it. Were they talking out loud during each paper, few would argue the question of disruption. Is Twitter so different? (Answer: yes, and no. Debate.)


To some degree, what follows is a brief “how to” with regards to building a Twitter contact list(s). Personally, this is something I continue to work at, aided presumably by the fact that  it is easier to find academics that make use of social media if they happen to study social media. Following from the previous discussion, conferences are among the most useful forums for discovering like-minded academics on Twitter; one need only follow the conference’s hashtag feed and/or check with co-panelists and audience members to discover fellow tweeters. Outside of conferences, one can search “obvious” and “famous” names/scholars on Twitter, and then mine their following lists as well (e.g. one of the first academics I searched on Twitter was Henry Jenkins, and his follower/following lists led me to easily 40% of those scholars I follow today).

As I said, for certain disciplines, this will be a more productive operation than for others. Thus, it can also be useful to expand the scope of your search beyond academics-on-Twitter; upon review of my own following list, I learned that not only do I follow colleagues and scholars in my field, I also follow publications, publishers, institutions (my own and others, e.g. digital writing labs at various international institutions) and authors (whose writing might take place on or off Twitter). All of these groups of tweeters deepen my research scope and have proven useful and relevant in different ways. Some choose to officially group those they follow using Twitter’s “lists” feature, but I’ve never really found it necessary to do so. Mind you, there might be something to be said for keeping one’s total following within certain bounds.

In conclusion: I hope to continue building and targeting my Twitter following (and increasing my Twitter followers!), and am curious to see how hashtagging at academic conference becomes more and more useful and/or harmful to the reception and elaboration of critical ideas.

Oh! And please do, um, follow me on Twitter: @pamelaingleton for academic musings, @buffyslayergal for everything else.

Next up: Better Blogging (and big! plans! for impending thesis work)

Bibliography in the Age of the Internet, Part I: Managing Online Academic Profiles

•12 July 2011 • 3 Comments

[General note of apology: I had intended for these posts to go live as early as two months ago, certainly no later than June. Unfortunately, due to various illnesses, they have been delayed until…now. Your patience in this matter has been greatly appreciated.]

On the docket:, LinkedIn, RoSE

As I mentioned in a previous post, in order to fulfill my bibliography requirement for the PhD, I am required to prepare a paper on the databases and archives with which I will be interacting over the course of my doctoral research. The official question up for grabs: How will these bibliographical resources, archives, and communities relate to/enrich my dissertation project?

Because the use and study of especially online databases and archives already make up a sizeable portion of my research (generally speaking, these spaces are my research), I have reframed/rephrased the question thus: How can I enrich my current use/study of these bibliographical resources, archives, and communities?

I want to begin by talking a bit about managing one’s online academic profile. (Please note: I am by no means an expert on any of these topics, and am still working out some of the details for myself. For some, this series of blogs will seem painfully pedantic. Hopefully everyone can find something of use across these posts, and any ongoing discussion that emerges as a result will prove equally useful to us all, myself included.)

It is my impression (since perusing the brief entry for on Wikipedia) that the majority of academic social-networking sites are designed for, and often limited to, scientists and scientific research (see Epernicus, Quartzy, ResearchGate, VIVO, etc.). For non-scientists, it seems the only profile-driven site for self-promotion at the moment is, a fairly straightforward platform that permits its users to “follow” other users (sort of like Facebook “friending”), share their work (abstracts, talks, papers, etc.) and keep tabs on their own Google stats ( emails its users every time their name is used in a Google search, quoting the content, time and location of the search). See the site’s own description below: helps academics follow the latest research in their field:

  • You can follow what academics in your field are working on
    • the latest papers they are publishing
    • talks they are giving
    • blog posts and status updates they are writing
  • You can create a webpage on, and share your own research. You can:
    • list your research interests, and upload papers and talks
    • get stats on paper views and downloads
    • find what keywords people use to search for you on Google

At present, the capabilities of are fairly limited and unexceptional. Its most useful feature is arguably its prioritization in the Google search algorithm: if you have an account, your profile will always appear as the first hit on any Google search. This can be useful for directing fellow colleagues to your most relevant academic information, instead of your backyard BBQ photos from last weekend, or that OC fansite you developed back in 2008 (or worse yet…). The site was recently successful in garnering some funding, so I guess we’ll wait and see how it develops from here. (Since speaking briefly and informally on in several venues in my department, a number of colleagues have joined the site, thus demonstrating its use, as well, for virtually imaging one’s department.)

By contrast, LinkedIn basically functions as an online CV. Résumé-type information can be entered/uploaded to the site’s fairly sleek interface; unlike, the folks at LinkedIn have definitely worked to improve the appearance and functionality of their platform since launching in May 2003. That having been said, the site is mainly targeted at professional or business marketing/networking, and is not specific to academics. In other words, LinkedIn is not, so to speak, an online “academic” community, rather a professional one. This is not to say academic work is not professional work; in fact, presenting oneself as, you know, a worker among other workers might have its own benefits in terms of how we conceive of academic work.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, in 2011, it’s a good idea to have some kind of monitored, updated online presence as an academic. For those wary of the Internet and its trappings, remember: whether or not you choose to take control of how you are (re)presented online, you are most definitely already “out there.” With every conference, symposium, department event your name and various tidbits of personal information are released into the WWWild. In my opinion, it is better to attempt to control this information than have it control you (yikes…I am tip-toeing dangerously around a much more involved discussion than I have time to sufficiently explore here). Both and LinkedIn offer a centralized source through which you can create, maintain and–mostly–control your online academic profile. In some cases, depending on your department, these platforms (in addition to or as a substitute for Facebook and Twitter accounts, and personal/academic blogs) may be your only means of establishing a profile online; some departments do not provide a similar interface/webpage for creating these profiles, or the management of such profiles often remains beyond one’s control, as is the case in my department.

Finally, I just briefly wanted to mention a related online academic profile project in the works from the folks at UC Santa Barbara, and specifically project-lead Alan Liu. The project/database is called RoSE, or “Research-oriented Social Environment.” Work is ongoing and the site remains, for the time being, closed to the public. Funded as part of the Transliteracies Project, also led by Liu, RoSE presents itself as a means of “tracking and integrating relations between authors and documents in a combined social-document graph…It allows users to learn about an author or idea from the evolving relationships between people-and-documents, people-and-people, and documents-and-documents.” I was present when Liu spoke at greater length about RoSE at last year’s (2010) NeMLA conference in Montreal, QC, and took issue with the leveling or collapse of information or “data” the project presumes. The equation of works with living, working scholars with long-dead novelists and so on seems to me more than slightly problematic. I introduce it, however, 1) because it is a fairly well-funded humanities project (and we all know how rare those are) and 2) because I think RoSE is merely one of many such academic databases that will continue to emerge in coming years, both through and apart from social media.

In conclusion: I will continue to maintain an profile, and hope to improve upon my current LinkedIn profile. I also intend to propose that either/both sites be taken up department-wide and linked through our main webpage, instead of assigning the responsibility of maintaining individual profiles to a single person using a significantly less lucid outline (I think these could be better, and I blame no one that they are not).

Next up: Twitter and Academia