It’s good to talk

Time for a shameless plug for my research….Image

Would you like to be involved in a research project about crafting and blogging?

I’m looking to connect with craft makers who would like to participate in a research project that I’m doing as part of my PhD called ‘online interactions and identities in craft practice’.

I am interested in exploring how craft makers (particularly those who practise their craft part-time or whilst fulfilling other responsibilities) use different forms of internet [Web 2.0] technologies such as blogs and social networking sites. In particular I am interested in how ideas and information about craft is communicated, how individuals communicate with others using such media and how this form of communication informs individuals’ own practices and their sense of what it is to practice a particular craft (I’ve tried to capture the essence of my research project in my little doodle).

Essentially I am looking to interview craft makers who use the internet, and to observe their internet interactions (such as blog posts and public posts to social networking sites) over a particular period of time.

Through this research I hope to develop valuable insights into the ways in which internet communications, such as blogging and social networking help us to connect with others, to learn about and develop craft practices, to communicate with others about our own practices and to contribute to a sense of what it means to practice a particular craft. It will also help to develop an understanding of how a craft makers benefit from the process of sharing information with others via the internet. I hope to reflect on these issues and possibly provide some insights into how to develop practices and derive further benefits in the future.

If anyone’s potentially interested in participating, please send an e-mail to me at ronni.littlewood@virgin.net and I can provide further details of what would be involved.

Many thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Shameless plug ends

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‘Hooking up’

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Life as a researcher, particularly as a part-time PhD student, can be a very lonely one.  Even if you’re with people every day, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to talk to them at length about the intricacies of your research without their eyes glazing over.

 

Conferences provide the ideal opportunity to chew the fat with those who are equally as nerdy, erm, I mean passionate about similar subjects.

 

So networking tools really provide the opportunity to connect with like-minded people across the world, in a way which has not been accessible to earlier ‘generations’ of early career researchers. Admittedly they’re not without their disadvantages; both twitter and Facebook are excellent distraction and procrastination tools. But I guess if used productively they can also help you to raise your own profile whilst seeing who else is out there to talk to about your research.

 

As I’ve suggested before, different platforms for networking may lead to very different adventures and modes of interaction. I’ve settled into a pattern now of using Twitter as my platform of choice for (mostly) research-related stuff, but I’m still learning.  So far I’ve found it really helpful for asking research related questions and sharing experiences (for example, about the process and experience of gaining ethical approval for my research project). #phdchat is a really useful hashtag for reaching fellow phd-ers and a useful support network too.

 

Undoubtedly, twitter has lots of potential and I wonder whether I will be able to take advantage of what it has to offer in the months/years to come I’m currently using the guidance from the Digital Tools for Research programme at Warwick University, and a useful short guide prepared by the LSE Public Policy Group ‘Using Twitter in university research, teaching and impact activities’[1] which is really more of a beginners’ guide.

 

‘Lanyrd’ is another social networking platform, which is designed to bring together ‘virtual’ and ‘face-to-face’ forms of networking. As I understand it it’s a way of registering your attendance at particular conferences (mainly academic I think, but not exclusively).  I’m a lanyrd novice, and I’d be interested to hear of others’ experiences. I’ve managed to get as far as signing up for this service via twitter although the link with twitter seems to be a bit temperamental. Lanyrd and twitter seems to reinforce each other, so the more followers (or followees) you have on twitter who share similar interests, the more you’re likely to have relevant events ‘pop-up’ when you go into lanyrd.

 

I think this is another platform which I’ll get to know over time.  It will be interesting to see whether it becomes more popular for academic or non-academic events (from my perspective it would certainly be useful for any type of gathering, be it academic, policy or practitioner).

 

For now though, it’s back to the solitary world of research….

 

 

The truth is out there*

using a ‘hook’ to loop together different strands into a coherent structure. Also perhaps a metaphor for research (hooking together theory and practice; ideas and empirical work).

I’m not sure if it’s just me. Does anyone slightly dread the moment that someone asks them ‘what’s your PhD about’ whilst looking expectantly at you to enliven them with details of an enthralling project and enlighten them with the benefit of your wisdom.

‘Erm, I’m researching the Psychology of Creativity’ has been my initial attempt at a response. Inevitably this leads to more questions.

‘That’s interesting,’ comes the usual response ‘what aspect of creativity in particular?’

And then I’m faced with a couple of choices. Do I talk about the theoretical roots of the research; the work socio-cultural psychology research on collaborative creativity and creative work; the importance of situating creative work in a broader social and cultural context?

Or is it better to tell people about the empirical focus of the research – the focus on how amateur crafters (in particular knitters and crocheters) develop their identities and creative practice through Web 2.0 interactions (such as blogs and social networks). Or simply, how knitters and crocheters use the internet to communicate about their work.

I usually opt for the latter approach as the first generally tends to alienate most people I speak to. I can understand that. Truth be told lots of the socio-cultural psychology literature can alienate me at times and I’ve been reading it for years – it should be an old friend by now. And talking about the practical focus of the project genuinely engages people (I think) – it’s talking about things that people know something about, whether that’s practising a particular craft or using blog sites or social media. And I find something quite rewarding about that. It leads to more of a conversation and less of a mini-lecture which wasn’t invited in the first place.

But it taking this approach often results in a question for my own internal monologue. ‘Nice crafty stuff and a bit of messing about on the internet, all very well and good and that but why is this a suitable social phenomena for a piece of research?’

Hmmmm.  I’m not necessarily going to answer that one right now.  Partly because I’d be giving everything away too soon, but mostly because I’m still pondering that one. The slightly unnerving part for me is that talking about my research, whether in conversation or in a blog, gives it a life and allows it to take on a form other than that which exists in my head or in any writing which I have done as part of my PhD. And readers will make of this what they will, bringing their own assumptions and providing their own interpetations. That is an exciting and a scary prospect at the same time. The truth is out there … somewhere.

Let’s just say for now it’s a PhD in knitting, crochet and the use of the internet – or ‘spinning yarns and webs’ as I’ve decided to call the blog.  I quite like the sound of that.

*From the popular 90s TV programme ‘The X files’: http://www.xfiles.com/