Almost There: Final ’23 Things’ Blogpost

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Photo Credit: jay8085: CC BY 2.0

Well here we are at the the final ‘Thing’ of the ’23 Things’ course. First of all, I would like to thank the Research Development team for putting this course together and for all the useful information that they have provided.

The main thing that I will take away from this experience is this blog. I am going to continue to blog and keep this site updated with posts related to academia and my research interests (queer theory, medieval women, fairies, monsters, time, space etc.). As I mentioned in my last post, I have been jotting down ideas for future posts (female authorship, parallels with now, queer identities in medieval romance and many more) and I hope to start this once I have submitted my PhD. I also want to develop this blog so that it becomes a the key source of information about my academic career thus far and my future research projects.

I also vow to get better acquainted with reference management software and will ensure that I utilise them in future projects.

Finally, I am looking forward to incorporating more digital technologies into my teaching and have been particularly inspired by Slideshare and the other tools that we looked at in Weeks 6 and 7.

It may have been difficult to blog each week, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I am looking forward to the direction that this site will take and being able to share more of my research with you all.

A Whole Bunch of ‘Things’

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British Library MS Burney 275 f. 293.  

Apologies for the delay in posting; as my submission date looms ever closer I have found less and less time to devote to this blog and have instead contented myself by jotting down ideas for future posts.

The next group of ‘Things’ (17, 18, 19, and 20) are particularly intriguing as they focus on ways to collaborate and digitally share materials.

It is so easy to isolate yourself when you are in the midst of researching or writing. Being able to spend more time engaging with other people about your research or collaborating is therefore something that I find attractive.

I was unaware that the University of Surrey subscribed to adobeconnect. It would have been an especially useful tool on the few occasions where I have had to miss research seminars or PGR workshops. I can also see that it would be a useful tool when collaborating on a project; I am quite adept at using Google Drive, Dropbox, and Doodle polls but the ability to easily brainstorm or share materials in this way would be a great addition to my digital arsenal.

Interestingly I tend to use Google Drive primarily in teaching but am mainly collaborating on projects via Dropbox. I am not sure why I have made this distinction but it could potentially be an assumption (perhaps incorrect) that students easily navigate google already.

Moving forward I hope to further explore the ‘Things’ this course has introduced me to and incorporate more digital tools into both my teaching and research projects. As part of this development, I also want to continue to build this blog and make it a key feature of my professional profile. I hope to include more information about myself such as my CV and research projects.

As I come towards the end of my PhD, I am excited about my future in academia and hope that this blog will continue to grow as I embark on that journey.

Open Access and Impact

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British Library Additional 10293 f.261r: Detailing a novice having her hair cut by the abbess of the White Nuns.

This weeks ‘Things’ cover research impact and open access and I have chosen to focus particularly on open access in this blog post as, although I still consider myself to be a novice when it comes to academic publishing, I strongly feel that open access is an extremely important development in the world of research. Indeed, my first article ‘Fairies, Monsters and the Queer Otherworld: Otherness in Sir Orfeo’, part of MEMSA’s first conference journal, has been made freely available via academia.edu. My experience writing the article, and working with the editors Natalie Goodison and Alexander J. Wilson, was a great first foray into publishing and I am pleased that anyone interested in queer theory, otherness, or Sir Orfeo can easily access this piece of work.

In my field of medieval studies, open access has been a widely discussed issue for some time and there have been many pioneering developments in recent years:

Punctum Books – co-founded by Professor Eileen Joy and Professor Nicola Masciandaro in 2011, punctum books is an open-access and print-on-demand independent publisher that encourages innovative projects that do not necessarily

The Open Access Companion to the Canterbury Tales – an exciting ongoing project edited by Professor Candace Barrington, Professor Brantley Bryant, Dr Richard H. Godden, Professor Daniel T. Kline, and Professor Myra Seaman that encourages interaction and participation from the readers. It also provides essays from an international team of scholars on the content and context of the Tales. 

Hortulus – An open access online graduate journal of medieval studies. As it is a multidisciplinary journal, it covers a vast array of interesting research from around the world.

Although I have listed just a few of many examples, they highlight the ways in which open access has become increasingly utilised in medieval studies in innovative and exciting ways. I hope that in my future endeavours I can take a more active role in these changing attitudes to publishing academic research alongside more traditional avenues of scholarly discourse and dissemination.

 

 

Sharing Media

[I]t wasn’t much good having anything exciting like floods, if you couldn’t share them with somebody

A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

This week’s ‘Things’ are all about making and sharing media, something that has been on my mind for quite some time, as I have contemplated uploading content relating to my research to YouTube.

Being able to share materials relating to both research and teaching on digital platforms is invaluable as it allows audiences to take their time to digest the information and provides an opportunity for further engagement with the material. As Piglet’s thoughts in the epigraph emphasises, the act of sharing enriches an experience and this is especially true with regards to research.

By exploring the sites and tools listed by the ’23 Things’ blog I hoped to find a fun way to present ideas and was particularly impressed with Screencast-o-matic as it was available for free and was easy to use and navigate. While I have not included an example here, it is certainly something that I hope to use in the future, especially in my teaching.

I also think that uploading presentation of lecture/seminar slides is a really useful component of teaching and enjoyed browsing through Slideshare.

Finally, I have included below a link to my first ever Prezi presentation. I created it for my first conference paper at the MEMSA conference at Durham but sadly had to use a PowerPoint instead due to issues with the internet connection.

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I think that Prezis provide a great alternative to PowerPoint slides as they are engaging and visually interesting. I am always pleased when my students choose to utilise this way of presenting and am hoping to use them more frequently myself.

 

Digging a Little Deeper into Online Resources

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Boar Digging Grave from Walters Manuscript W.102, fol. 80v detail. Image Credit: Flickr and Digital Walters

This week’s ‘Things’ include Wikipedia, online images, podcasts, online presentations, and online courses.

While I do not often use Wikipedia in my research (being told in the first year of my BA degree that it was an unreliable source and should NEVER be used definitely spooked me), it is frequently used in my house to end debates between my partner and I – his better memory means he usually wins. I also find myself on Wikipedia when I am trying to increase my knowledge of events or people when I am reading historical fiction or watching something.

Interestingly though, I always access Wikipedia content through a google search so have not noticed that it actually has other features such as news and history. Naturally my first point of call after reading ’23 Things’ blogpost was the anatomically inaccurate dinosaur images thread! – Fascinating stuff.

I am also quite familiar with many of the other ‘Things’ we were asked to explore this week and often procrastinate by finding interesting podcasts or YouTube videos on topics that interest me. Some of my personal favourites include:

Medieval Death Trip Podcasts – MDT covers passages from medieval sources and provides some interesting insights and useful context.

Many of Professor Jack Halberstam’s lectures (as well as lots of other queer theorists work) have been uploaded to YouTube including Halberstam’s 2014 lecture ‘On Behalf of Failure’.

BBC Radio 4’s ‘In Our Time: History’ – Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss history topics.

English Heritage YouTube Channel – The channel posts lots of interesting videos about their sites and the history behind them (including yummy looking Victorian Christmas recipes).

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Stonehenge. Photo Credit: Pixabay

However, the ‘Thing’ that has had the greatest impact on my research experience, and the subject of the rest of this blogpost, is my discovery of MOOCs or Massive Online Open Course – in particular the Digging Deeper MOOC offered by Stanford University in 2015 and split into Part 1: Making Manuscripts and Part 2: The Form and Function of Manuscripts.

This free course about medieval manuscripts conceived by Professor Elaine Treharne at Stanford University and developed in collaboration with other Stanford University staff and graduate students, staff at Cambridge University, and Stanford Academic Technology Specialists was invaluable to my research. It enabled me to increase my understanding of how medieval manuscripts were produced and allowed me to indulge my love of medieval manuscript images.

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Adoration of the Magi. Walters Manuscript W.34, fol. 33v detail. Image Credit: Flickr and Digital Walters

While I have always enjoyed looking at medieval manuscripts, before this course I had little experience of working with them. I did a joint-honours BA and took an interdisciplinary approach during my MA which meant that I could not take all the modules I wanted to and unfortunately gained little experience of using manuscripts. The Digging Deeper course therefore enabled me to learn the terminology and develop my palaeographical and codicological skills. The two best features of the course were the high-quality, informative videos (with transcripts) and the accessible images of digitised manuscripts included every week for us to explore.

I expect I will continue to utilise these resources in the future and look forward to discovering more images, podcasts, videos, pages, and MOOCs that can enrich my learning and research.

P.s. Immediately after posting I realised my title references another song from Disney’s Princess and the Frog: Dig a Little Deeper. No idea why the songs from that movie haunt my subconscious.

Things 7 and 8

This post will cover Things 7 (reference management tools) and 8 (Creative Commons and copyright) of the ’23 Things’ course.

When I was writing my MA dissertation, I became aware that many of my peers were using reference management software and while I felt it was too late for me to get to grips with a new system of doing things, I vowed that it would be a big part of my PhD research.

Fast-forward a year (almost) to the start of my PhD, and after reading a mountain of information about how to successfully complete my thesis, I once again decided that I would make use of a reference management tool such as RefWorks… I tried, I really did, but I just could not get along with the system and reverted back to my old ways of manually inputting references and saving files to my memory stick(s). The reason for this may also be that I am still more comfortable using a notebook and pens to make notes and jot down quotations.

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Image:Pixabay

What also continues to frustrate me with such tools is that when I try to export a citation, I often have to edit them substantially afterwards, thus taking up just as much time as manually inputting the information.

Clearly I have not yet found the best resource for me! Hopefully one day I will get to grips with reference management tools. To help with this, I have created an account with Mendeley: it is compatible with my iPad and, after reading the ’23 Things’ blogpost, it is the tool that appealed to me the most (incidentally it is also the most popular option amongst the aforementioned MA students). Although it is probably to late for me to make the best use of it for my PhD thesis, I hope that it will be of great help in future projects.

The second ‘thing’ of this task, Creative Commons and copyright, are issues that I have recently had to think about a lot; one of the articles that I am currently writing is on the images of British Library MS Cotton Nero A.x. that accompany the fourteenth-century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This has required me to seek permissions to use the manuscript images and I realised how difficult it can be to understand copyright and ensure that you are following copyright laws, particularly online. I have browsed the CC License page and will soon add a CC license to this blog as I intend to use it to discuss and share my research.

Being Visible

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Happy New Year!

Sorry for the delay in posting, I have been poorly with shingles since the beginning of December! Fortunately, I am feeling much better as we welcome in the New Year.

Quite a few weeks ago the ’23 Things’ course set us a new task: to explore the professional networks, LinkedIn, Academia.edu, and ResearchGate.

Before this task, I had not considered LinkedIn as a good option for expanding my network and promoting my research. With a more open mind, I began exploring LinkedIn and unfortunately reaffirmed my decision that it wasn’t for me. While I can see that the site has some useful features, it is simply not suited to my needs as my search for academics in my field came up short.

I am however, as previously mentioned in this blog, a frequent user of Academia.edu and am able to follow a number of academics whose work speaks to my own. The main thing that I like most about the site is the ability to share and read research. As a PhD student, having a space to promote my ideas and create a presence has been very useful and rewarding. While I am still happy with Academia.edu on the whole, I am aware of the numerous criticisms of the direction that the site was moving in, with a system that would mean paying for visibility – see the #DeleteAcademiaEdu on Twitter and Inside Higher Ed’s summary of the controversy. Since the event, Academia.edu has dismissed the idea and I hope that the site does not go down this route in the future.

As for ResearchGate, if I am being entirely honest, I completely forgot that I had created a profile until this course began! And whereas I monitor my academia.edu page, I have a lot of work to do to update and make the most out my ResearchGate profile and this particular network. It is therefore one of my New Year’s resolutions to update my profile and take advantage of the features ResearchGate provides.
Edit – fixed links.

Things 4 and 5

This week on ’23 Things’ we were asked to consider our personal online brand and explore Twitter.

The first thing that we needed to do was Google ourselves.

Full disclosure: This is not the first time that I have ended up Googling myself! Last year, I was working on the third chapter of my thesis on the thirteenth-century lay Sir Orfeo and did a Google search for ‘queer theory’, ‘Sir Orfeo’. I was astonished to discover that within the first three hits were links to my University of Surrey profile and my academia.edu page, where I have posted a copy of my very first publication.

At the moment of writing this post, if I Google my name my University of Surrey profile and my academia.edu page still appear. If I add ‘Surrey’ to my search, links to my other accounts such as Twitter and ResearchGate are added, as well as some conference programmes, but there is no sign of my Facebook page which I use mainly to connect with friends and family.

I am quite happy with what I have discovered, even if it feels slightly strange to actively look for information on myself, and am reassured that I do maintain a professional presence online.

The second half of this week’s task required us to explore Twitter. For me Twitter is (almost exclusively) an academic space. While I do follow some friends and family (and my mum ‘likes’ everything I post), I mainly use it to keep up-to-date with conferences, research projects, and other academics working on fields I am interested in. One positive aspect of this is that my Twitter feed is inundated with fascinating images from medieval manuscripts and medieval memes that never fail to put a smile on my face.

Moving forward, I can see that I need to be more active on Twitter to enhance my impact. I have downloaded Hootsuite, an app that manages social media accounts, and can see that it will be a good way to organise my thoughts and plan tweets. Similarly, one key thing that this task has solidified for me is the importance of keeping my various profiles up-to-date.

23 Things

I first thought about writing a blog when I began my PhD in April 2014, and here I am over two years and an almost completed PhD thesis later on my second blogpost! What has finally prompted me to start blogging? Quite simply, deciding to take part in the ’23 things for research’ course run by the Researcher Development Programme at the University of Surrey. The central aim of the course is to engage researchers with a range of digital tools that can help them to develop professionally and personally.

It may have been a long journey to get to this point but it seems fitting that it should come about as I am facing the transition from my PhD to (hopefully) the next step in academia. I am hoping that this blog (and the ’23 things’ project) will allow a space for me to document ideas pertaining to my research, open up a dialogue, and engage with people who are interested in similar things.

I am not entirely new to the benefits of digital tools and social media, I have an academia.edu page where I can share abstracts, conference papers, and publications and from the moment that my supervisor recommended that I boost my academic presence by starting a Twitter account (@amylouise921), have been in LOVE with it as a platform. While I am more of a retweeter than a tweeter (something I hope this blog will make up for), Twitter enables me to connect to a vast network of people who engage in topics that cover my broad range of interests: from medieval literature, to the study of women, to feminism, to queer theory, and all of the intersections in between.

So I am very much looking forward to what all of this brings and hope that it can help me to communicate my ideas to a wider audience.

What’s in a name?

Writing is not something that comes particularly easy to me (perfect choice of career I’m sure you’ll agree). Contemplative and a fusspot, I overanalyse every word and spend a lot of time deleting what has taken me a long time to write. However, I have decided to commit to writing a blog.

It should come as no surprise then that the first challenge I encountered after making this decision was what to name it. My aim is after all is to engage with people about my research on medieval space and identities and I wanted the name of the blog to convey that.

For reasons unknown, the first thing that popped into my head was ‘Friends on the Other Side‘, a dark voodoo inspired song from the 2009 Disney film The Princess and the Frog. On the surface this film set in 1920s New Orleans about a hardworking, ambitious woman and a pampered prince being turned into frogs has little to do with the medieval world. And yet, as the song continued to play in my head, I began to make connections between the film and some of my primary research interests: transformation, transgresssive identities, magic, strong female characters, and monsters.

In addition, one thing that has struck me while writing my PhD thesis on queer time and space in medieval literature has been the frequency of liminal spaces as points of contact in the romances and lays that I have been working on. In Sir Orfeo for example, Heurodis is playing by an ‘orchard-side’ (66) when she falls in to an enchanted sleep and meets the Fairy King and in the Wife of Bath’s Tale, the knight encounters the loathly lady ‘under a forest syde’ (990). The ‘Otherside’ also evokes the concept of the Otherworld, an alternative space in the medieval imaginary that is populated by fairies.

And so here we have ‘The Medieval Otherside’, my very own liminal space where I hope to reflect on aspects of my research and draw connections between the medieval world and the now.