Putting that bird to rest

21 12 2009

That’s it, I’m calling it a dissertation. No more bending over backwards, no more worrying about arguments, no more fewer moodswings, no more late night revision rounds, no more excuses. Time to look up some old friends. Have a beer. Check out some new music. Relax. Sleep. Night everyone.

Watson’s laws of academic life

29 10 2009

Professor Sir David Watson, who recently won the Times Higher Education Lifetime Achievement Award, has nine laws of academic politics he would like to share.

* Academics grow in confidence the farther away they are from their true fields of expertise (what you really know about is provisional and ambiguous, what other people do is clear-cut and usually wrong)

* You should never go to a school or department for anything that is in its title (which university consults its architecture department on the estate, or – heaven forbid – its business school on the budget?)

* The first thing a committee member says is the exact opposite of what she means (“I’d like to agree with everything the vice-chancellor has just said, but…”; or “with respect”…; or even “briefly”)

* Courtesy is a one-way street (social-academic language is full of hyperbole, and one result is the confusion of rudeness – or even cruelty – with forthrightness; however, if a manager responds in kind, it’s a federal case)

* On email, nobody ever has the last word

* Somebody always does it better elsewhere (because they are better supported)

* Feedback counts only if I agree with it

* The temptation to say “I told you so” is irresistible

* Finally, there is never enough money, but there used to be.

[H/T: timeshighereducation.co.uk]

On prescriptive retaliation: Muphry’s Law

23 10 2009

Muphry’s Law is an adage that states that “if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written”. The name is a deliberate misspelling of “Murphy’s Law”.

[H/T: Best of Wikipedia]

Here is the law in full, as originally laid out by John Bangsund:

(a) if you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written;
(b) if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book;
(c) the stronger the sentiment expressed in (a) and (b), the greater the fault;
(d) any book devoted to editing or style will be internally inconsistent

Hope for a generation (of sociolinguists)

7 10 2009

I think the world of sociolinguistics and other forms sociocultural scholarship on language. And so I am pleased to learn of languageonthemove.com, “a collaborative space where research on language and communication in multicultural and transnational contexts can be shared, brainstormed, discussed and disseminated.”

The ‘portal’ is managed by Ingrid Piller and Kimie Takahashi and comes with a blog, conference announcements, resources, and an award for aspiring sociolinguists:

Each year we would like to present two young researchers in the field with the chance to “play” with us on Language on the Move. We will feature the awardees’ work prominently on the site and mentor them over the course of one year to take your research (and your research writing!) to “the next level” – whatever that “next level” may be. The mentoring relationship is designed to be informal, related to the dissemination of your work, and to complement and support your existing supervision arrangements but not to infringe upon those in any way. Oh, and we’ll also throw in a book voucher at the end of the year.

Lovely idea. Then again, so is this.

The contingency of academic labor

26 09 2009

There are a number of methodological and theoretical similarities (and differences) between journalism and what I call ‘soft’ science (i.e. mostly qualitative, social science like media anthropology or linguistic ethnography). In essence, journalism and soft science are eclectic sense-making practices that produce accounts which are situated (socially, geographically, topically) and interpretive.

There is another link between news work and academic work: the labor conditions in these two fields are becoming increasingly precarious, contingent or otherwise ‘atypical‘. The arts faculty at my alma mater no longer offers post-doc positions because it simply cannot afford them. External funding, downsizing, increased teaching loads and productivity demands (publish and perish) have become symptomatic of an ongoing trend towards the commercialization and marketization of tertiary education.

I am writing this down not just out of self-indulgent frustration over professional insecurity but because I share Mark Deuze’s concern that if the market orientation of the university

does not come with specific caveats, protections, checks and balances, the university as we know it becomes just another factory workplace – not a place for independent and critical reflection; a place that teaches people to make up their own minds.

This post is loosely based on Michael Bérubé’s feather-ruffling Op-Ed and Mark Deuze’s eloquent rant on the precarity of work in academia.

An antidote to frustrations in academia

29 05 2009

Doing research is a lot like blogging. I often find myself asking the big questions. So what? Who cares? Why bother? Pessac Léognan or Chasse Spleen? Sex before or after dinner? You get the picture. I guess Phillip Vannini feels the same way. Maybe that’s why he sent out this call for papers.

Much too often research in the social sciences and humanities suffers from an ivory tower complex, the symptoms of which prevent wide audiences from fully enjoying the processes or appreciating the value and utility of research. As a result, research is often destined for and consumed by a small cadre of readers who have access to both the narrowly accessible media in which research is published, and the difficult lexicon that characterizes academic writing.

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Articles are indexed and/or abstracted in

16 05 2009

I have just learned that Pragmatics, the journal of the International Pragmatics Association has been indexed in ISI Web of Knowledge, the holy grail of academic publishing. And here comes the kicker: all Pragmatics articles from Vol. 18, 2008 onwards are now indexed. Guess when NT&T’s special issue on news management came out…that’s right, Volume 18, Issue 1. I am a very happy camper. My CV looks a lot better with two additional A1 publications.

Electronic Theses Online Service

15 05 2009

Lovely new dissemination initiative by The British Library. EThOS is an open-access hub for PhD dissertations produced in the UK. The aim of EThOS is fourfold:

  • To offer a ‘single point of access’ where researchers the world over can access ALL theses produced by UK Higher Education
  • To support Higher Education Institutions through the transition from print to e-theses
  • To help UK Higher Education Institutions expand available content by digitising paper theses
  • To demonstrate the quality of UK research and help attract students and research investment into UK HE


Monday morning round-up: memo to self

4 05 2009



  • Mitsu the Beats feat. José James: Promise in love (via Ellen)
  • Gotta love The Ohio Players’ brand of Ecstasy
  • Am now the proud owner of a LDBK t-shirt. Watch out for the LDBK manifesto!

Preface – “San Juan, Winter of 1958”

19 04 2009

As I’ve blogged before, I’m currently writing up my PhD, an intertextual account of print journalists writing business news. In the run-up to actually submitting (late June) and defending (late August), the plan is to post chapters, extracts and other drafts here. Below is the preface (with some minor changes). Comments are deeply appreciated!

Preface (draft version, revised 19 April 2009)

Long before he coined the phrase gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson worked as a sportswriter for El Sportivo, the Caribbean’s bowling tabloid answer to Sports Illustrated. After the magazine’s demise, Thompson returned to the US in the early 1960s and fictionalized his island adventures in The Rum Diary, a sweaty tale of lust, journalism and heavy drinking. Set in the post-war boomtown of San Juan, Puerto Rico, Thompson’s protagonist and narrator is Paul Kemp, a 30 year old journalist who feels that time and women keep passing him by.

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