Spesh To’ics Week(s) 5-10(ish): Awkward talk

At the start of the special topics module I had no inkling of what kind of space I’d like to work in, in fact I had a list of disperate ideas (that indeed I spoke about at our initial presentation). From that initial session, during which I was pointed toward the work of Eugene Garfield, the terrain of my inquiry has emerged gradually, with some moments of great realisation within it. Along the way I’ve discussed my thinking with my peers, with lecturers from other taught HighWire courses, with the module leaders for special topics, and with anyone else who would care to listen to me! Alongside the less formal discussions I also attended workshops and had some one-to-one meetings as part of the ‘official’ special topics support offered. I guess as a whole, this could be considered my community of practice.

I want to reflect on this because, interestingly, some of the conversations have been bordering on confrontational and certainly came to occupy space on the edge of my comfort zone. I think it’s probably to do with my chosen subject, and in particular – in the early part of the studies on the module anyway – my naivety about it. I realise that occupying a space that involves contention isn’t at all unique, in fact it is probably desired in order to be truly innovative, but I’ve been intrigued about the range of feedback I’ve had on this piece of work, which I’ve perceived as being unusually strong – the whole way through the module. While the strength of opinion about my ideas has been consistent throughout, the depth of my knowledge has continued to grow. I’d say I have a fairly good handle on these ideas now (I’ve written various blogs on the subject, as well as a dummy grant proposal, actual grant proposal and literature review).

So what to make of this, why bother writing a reflective log about it? Well there are two angles that interest me. Firstly I guess the reason for a significant interest is that I’m working with something that is directly relevant to all of my peers and all of our mentors; it’s no secret that in this realm we pretty much live or die my the success of, or the lack of, our publications. This interesting piece in the Essex Student Journal gives an interesting introduction to why publication is so important. What was really interesting though was that there seemed to be a strange distribution of how strongly worded peoples opinions were. Generally speaking, students are intrigued and encouraging. Professional academics are much less positive, although having extended conversations, after a time seem to become more positive about my desire to explore this area. Some academics have been extremely anti, and made me feel like they would rather that I didn’t pursue this line of study. All of these are of course according to my subjective viewpoint, they’re also moving targets. What is really interesting, however, is that in the early stages of my inquiry I was as I already mentioned, very naive. I didn’t have the confidence (or knowledge) to stand up for my thoughts, and hence felt slightly ‘battered’ by some of these conversations, at the time at least. Looking back at those kinds of conversations, if I were to have them now I think I could stand up for myself properly. I think my initial hunches were actually quite good. So on reflection, I think although being respectful of ones mentors is of absolute importance, having the confidence to challenge them and enough self-belief to stick to a your own trajectory. That.. that…. that is a valuable thing, and I think it worked for me on this occasion.