Friday, 4 January 2013

PhD conferred!

I made it! My PhD was officially conferred in November 2012, but I've been very slack in blogging about it, and have been working full-time during the day, and at nights, on weekends and in my spare time I've been celebrating, attending conferences, putting the finishing touches on a forthcoming article about youth research ethics, working on an edited collection I'm editing with my supervisor titled 'Mediated Youth Cultures', working on my own book proposal, and so on and so forth. I've also started blogging over on which is a bit more grown up (professional?!) than this blog, so no more posts here.

The reports from the PhD examiners were wonderfully constructive, supportive and were returned to me so quickly! They pointed out the wobbly bits, and gave me some excellent suggestions on how to tighten those sections up for the book. I had a few typos to correct (despite having proofed it what felt like thousands of times!) and an extra page to add in my methodology to clarify part of my research design. So the actual revisions probably took me half a day to do, but the advice on how to proceed in turning the thesis into a book will keep me going for a while. I'm so indebted to my two wonderful examiners, Prof. David Buckingham and Assoc. Prof. Annita Harris, not only for their thorough reading and feedback, but also for getting the reports back to me so quickly. This has been truly invaluable for the job search.

There are too many people to thank and acknowledge for their contributions to my work (and my life) throughout the PhD in a post like this, but I've had a crack at doing this some justice in the formal acknowledgements at the beginning of the thesis. I've taken the first 11 pages out of the thesis and put them up over here, including title, abstract, table of contents, and acknowledgements.

Where to next? For now I'm in a professional job at Griffith as a student advisor, helping students in the School of Humanities (Arts, Communications and Journalism) transition into life at university. It's a great job as I really enjoy working with students. I will have some more (long-term) job news to share shortly. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

thesis submitted for examination

This time last week, I submitted my doctoral thesis for examination! It is still sinking in. I would've liked to have gone to sleep for a week, but alas - I have classes to teach and a part-time Learning & Teaching Projects Manager job that needs doing to pay the bills, so I haven't really slowed down yet. I do have a feeling that something is missing though - a kind of guilt that I've had over the last couple of years has vanished. The guilt came when I was doing things that were not associated with the dissertation. Even when it was productive stuff (publications, teaching, RA work, going to conferences) there was still a little internal voice that was telling me all of this other stuff was a distraction - 'just work on the dissertation'. Now, that voice is gone. It has been replaced by another voice... 'what will the examiners think of it?'.

The last sofa is still just out of reach while I wait for the reports to come back. Until then, I think I'll bask in the relief for a while.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Mediated Youth Culutres

I meant to post this at the end of May when this was first released, but better late than never! The special issue of Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies that I have been working on with my supervisor, Andy Bennett, is now online. This issue brings together 13 articles that make visible an international and cross-disciplinary research agenda concerned with mediated youth cultures: 

  1. "‘Connect and create’: Young people, YouTube and Graffiti communities" by Ben Light, Marie Griffiths & Siân Lincoln
  2. "The pedagogy of regret: Facebook, binge drinking and young women" by Rebecca Brown and Melissa Gregg
  3. "‘Individuality is everything’: ‘autonomous’ femininity in MySpace mottos and self-descriptions" by Amy Shields Dobson
  4. "Leaving MySpace, joining Facebook: ‘Growing up’ on social network sites" by Brady Robards
  5. "Female Pressure: A translocal feminist youth-oriented cultural network" by Rosa Reitsamer
  6. "From Punks to Post-Hipsters: Exploring Subcultural Models Of A Youth Net-Radio Hierarchy" by Andrea Baker
  7. "To Write Love through the indie imaginary: The narrative argument of a mediated movement" by Ryan M. Milner
  8. "The Outlaws of Psytrance in the Time of the Vibe-Tribes" by Graham St John
  9. "Breaking expectations: Imagined affinities in mediated youth cultures" by Mary Fogarty
  10. "Sexting, Consent and Young People’s Ethics: Beyond Megan’s Story" by Kath Albury and Kate Crawford
  11. "The landscape of keitai shôsetsu: Mobile phones as a literary medium among Japanese youth" by Kyoung-hwa Yonnie Kim
  12. "A Generational Thing? The Internet and New Forms of Social Intercourse" by Fredrik Miegel and Tobias Olsson
  13. "Mediating culture in transnational spaces: An example of young people from refugee backgrounds" by Raelene Wilding
My co-editor, Andy Bennett and I would like to thank all of the above contributors for their work. We would also like to thank the many reviewers who provided valuable, constructive feedback on earlier versions of these articles. We hope you enjoy!

Friday, 27 April 2012

social network sites and belonging for young 'at risk' Australians

Yfoundations (peak body for youth homelessness in Australia) have published an essay I wrote for them as a blog. Not 100% suitable as a blog post (was written as an essay for their old journal), but the argument is the same.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The value of reviewing academic monographs

I came across this article via the twitters today, titled 'Why Bother Writing Book Reviews?' The author, Rachel Toor, asks us 'Is the time spent reviewing other people's books more important than writing your own stuff, making your own contributions?' 

Modified stock image c/o thekellyscope
While she points out a few positives associated with reviewing books, especially in disciplines where like mine (social sciences) where the academic monograph is the entry point into academic life, she concludes by saying that no - you shouldn't bother with book reviews: 'It's better to write one good article than to review 20 books, and even better to write one good book'. While I agree with the sentiment that sometimes the monograph and book review 'sausage factories' are not always the best uses of our time, writing book reviews can actually be very valuable for emerging scholars (grad students/postgrads) like myself.

While reading the article, I initially felt a slight twinge of regret at having written five book reviews over the past few years (OMG WHAT A WASTE OF TIME?!), but then I reflected on the positives:
  1. I got some free books, and for a poor postgraduate, books are sometimes better than food.
  2. My name and some of my thoughts made their way into some stellar journals. I have two review essays in New Media & Society, for instance, one of the leading journals in my field that I dream of getting an article into one day. Sure, as Toor points out, maybe nobody will ever read those review essays. However...
  3. ...I get a surprising number of 'hits' on the review essays I've uploaded to my profile.  People are searching for book titles or keywords and coming across my work through these book reviews. My guess is that a few of those hits are students googling for quick ways to summarise a book for an assignment, or maybe the authors googling themselves, but I suspect a few are simply from people interested in a subject area who have come across my essay and perhaps even glanced over my other work.
  4. Probably most importantly, the task of a book review (with a deadline attached!) makes me read critically and with depth, and then produce something coherent from that reading. This is something all emerging scholars/grad students/postgrads should be encouraged to do. Most do undertake this kind of exercise by way of notes that never get read again. Writing a formal book review, however, makes you articulate yourself with an audience in mind... and someone might read it!
  5. Finally, beyond the vague 'networking' and 'marketing yourself' rubbish above, I've actually established some real dialogues with the authors of the books I've reviewed. I was very humbled to get an email from one author who thanked me for my review (even the critical bits!) and asked me about my own work. I've also since worked with another author whose edited collection I reviewed. He contributed to a special issue I've been working on. (This is also why you shouldn't bee overly critical in your review essay, and never cruel or nasty).
So, yes. There are these positives, but there may be other more important things postgrads should be working on: fieldwork, a chapter of your dissertation, converting a chapter into a journal article, an important conference presentation, going out on a date, cooking dinner. Don't throw out the idea of writing a book review or five, though. You might be surprised by the outcome.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

a 2011 retrospective

What a year! I'm coming to the end of my one year full-time contract at Griffith now (filling in for Dr B while she was on research leave) and I'm heading back in to life as a sessional while I finish off my PhD. It was a busy year with its ups and downs, where I tried to develop my profile in a few areas for the job hunt ahead.

In terms of teaching, I'm very happy with how all of my courses went in 2011. The teams involved in Youth & Society and Social Sciences in Australia did a fantastic job, and it was a pleasure working alongside my friends and colleagues: Adele, Bob, Chris, Raphael and Shanene. In Social Sciences in Aus, it was a great pleasure to use the new textbook 'Think Sociology', which I collaborated on with Dr B and a team of sociologists from around Australia. The smaller course Youth Culture and Subculture, which I delivered myself, was also a joy, and it was great to work with the third-years on their small-scale ehtnographies. This course is a tribute to Dr B's marvellous skills in designing an advanced course. It ran like a dream! In addition to positive anecdotal evidence and feedback from students, all our courses performed very well in their formal evaluations, ranking highly in comparison to other courses in the academic group.

Social Sciences in Aus team - Bob, myself, and Raphael (rent-a-fence not included)

My service in 2011 was dominated by my role as First Year Advisor to the School of Humanities, which was thoroughly enjoyable. From fielding timetabling questions before matriculation at the beginning of my contract through to helping students heading in to their second year with selecting majors right up until Christmas, it has been a very busy and rewarding role. I'm proud of the retention strategies we've implemented (with my colleague from Nathan campus, Wendy), along with the various steps we've taken to improve the first year experience in all three of our programs - the Bachelor of Communications, Bachelor of Journalism and the Bachelor of Arts.

I've met and built relationships with so many inspiring scholars over the past year, both nationally, at events like the Griffith Uni Cultural Research Postgraduate Symposium and the annual meeting of The Australian Sociological Association, and internationally, at my first Internet Researchers conference in Seattle, IR12.

Dr Erika in Seattle, with friendly cushion
New #ir12 buddies!

I'm very excited about progress made on two projects I'm working on with my supervisor Andy Bennett, the first being a special issue of Continuum on 'Mediated Youth Cultures' featuring thirteen thoroughly fascinating articles on topics including YouTube graffiti communities, MySpace mottos, youth net-radio, sexting, Japanese novels consumed on mobile phones, and transnational youth refugee networks. One of my own articles, titled "Leaving MySpace, joining Facebook: ‘Growing up’ on social network sites", will also be in the special issue. It has been such a pleasure working with Andy, the contributors and the external reviewers on this project. More on this when it is published hopefully in June. The other project is a book proposal for an edited collection on the same topic, again featuring an international assortment of fantastic scholarship, but the proposal is still under review so more on that front at a later date.

Anyway, this post is already a mile too long, but I shall end by saying that I've also made some solid progress on my thesis over what others call 'the break'. I've had a couple of things come out, and I've also got a couple of new journal articles in the pipes too, so I haven't had to sacrifice too much of 'my own' work/research given the above. In all, a productive year, I think!

Monday, 29 August 2011

internet addiction

I was asked in an interview I did for Triple J recently about 'internet addiction', which was really about 'social media addiction'. I've always really strongly resisted this 'addiction' metaphor, because I don't think pathologising a social practice which has many positives attached to it is healthy (pardon the pun). Sure, I think some people could learn to exercise more self control, but we could say that about lots of things: drinking too much, reading too many books, working too many hours, watching too much television, spending too much time cleaning, and so on and so forth. Some of these investments are framed as more useful than others, but I think we need to keep asking why, something Alan McKee did in a really interesting way with 'put down a book week' back in 2002.

One thing that came up in my doctoral fieldwork with young people who used sites like MySpace and Facebook in the course of everyday life, was that the negative discourses circulating about these sites were being written back into how they understood their own practice. They often reproduced these discourses themselves, embarrassed about engaging in a social practice on a daily basis. Some of them even described themselves as 'addicted' or lamented the time they spent online.

Photo by mandiberg on flickr

I understand why some people get jumpy around having these technologies enter into the everyday: "The kids will forget how to have REAL conversations and will forget how to make REAL friends." For the vast majority of young people, that is simply not true. As I am arguing in my thesis, social network sites are often used to organise, facilitate and document offline social interactions and to strengthen relationships forged offline. Then, they are used to de-brief from and archive social experiences. This is a new form of mediation that will take some time to get used to, but we must push back against those knee-jerk reactions and fears that frame these practices as necessarily negative, inconsequential or even damaging. To witness how these discourses have been written back into young people's own conceptualisation of these sites is much more troubling, I think.

I recently came across an interview by Henry Jenkins with Sherry Turkle on her new book, Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. I haven't read the book yet, and I'm looking forward to seeing how this obviously critical edge plays out, but here is a nice extract on 'addiction', from that interview:
No matter how much the metaphor of addiction may seem to fit our circumstance, we can ill afford the luxury of using it. It does not serve us well. To end addiction, you have to discard the substance. And we know that we are not going to "get rid" of the Internet. We are not going to "get rid" of social networking. We will not go "cold turkey" or forbid cell phones to our children. Addiction--with its one solution that we know we won't use--makes us feel hopeless, passive. 
We will find new paths, but a first step will surely be to not consider ourselves passive victims of a bad substance, but to acknowledge that in our use of networked technology, we have incurred some costs that we don't want to pay. We are not in trouble because of invention but because we think it will solve everything. As we consider all this, we will not find a "solution" or a simple answer. But we cannot assume that the life technology makes easy is how we want to live. There is time to make the corrections. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

doing nothing

Inspired by a 'sociological experiment' by Nathan Palmer at Georgia Southern University in the States, Raphael, Bob and I decided to do the same experiment with our first year sociology students today.

The experiment involves doing nothing for five minutes in a public place. No checking phones, no reading, no talking, no fidgeting, just looking around. The idea was to feel the pressure of the many norms that shape our everyday lives, and to highlight one of the most common performative folkways: doing something. Even when we're waiting for a bus or a flight or a class to start, we often busy ourselves with something, even if it's just leaning on a window and doing some people-watching. So what would it feel like to stand in a public place with a bunch of other people and do nothing for five minutes?

These aren't great pictures - didn't want to use any where students were obviously identifiable - but you get the idea. See Palmer's documented experiment for a much better record along with some student reactions and thoughts. 

Next year I might plan things a little better and make a small-scale learning and teaching project out of it. Too much on at the moment though! Still, it was a fun exercise, and it certainly produced some good conversations about norms, deviance and the invisible social forces that shape us. 

The reactions of the from the the other people sharing the space (non-participants) are worth a mention. Many already in the space were initially surprised and curious when we filed out and then froze. Some expected a flash mob, with a dance routine only moments away, while others just went silent and walked through us. Surprisingly, some actually joined us. That they stopped in their tracks and stood alongside us - even if for a moment - was a great examples of how a group of people can modify the norms of a social context. Sociology!

Monday, 13 June 2011

you have mail!

I got some nice things in the mail this week. A hard copy the journal Sociology which includes an article I wrote with my supervisor Andy Bennett, 'MyTribe: Postsubcultural manifestations of belonging on social network sites', and an advanced copy of the introductory sociology textbook I've been working on, Think Sociology, published by Pearson Australia. Progress!

Friday, 15 April 2011

new website

So my last website design was a bit rubbish. I built it from scratch with my childhood HTML skills, but it just wasn't cutting it. So I dived into WordPress, wrangled with some MySQL database issues and finally figured out some permissions errors. Tada!