Friday, July 30, 2010

Research in the 21st century

Back in the day, research involved writing to countries far distant to see if they have a book, and waiting six weeks for a response, or longer for them to send the book. But research in the twenty first century is not just about online library catalogues and electronic journals (though you gotta really appreciate them!). I thought I'd share with you some resources I've found out about in the last year or so.

Firstly, the more specifically linguistic resource, and even more specifically Systemic Funcitonal Linguistics. I've joined two email lists - SYSFLING (Systemic Functional Linguistics International Group) and SYSFUNC (Systemic Functional Linguistics in Australia). It's cool to get these emails and realise how broad the community is, and all the interesting things that are being researched and written about and asked about. At the risk of sounding supremely geeky, finding about newly published books hot off the press, and conferences and journals and presentations, is really exciting. But additionally it's a resource you can call upon. I got onto it because I had a tricky bit of analysis and I asked the two SFL lecturers at uni for a verdict and one voted one way and the other the other. But the second also suggested I floated the question on SYSFUNC. I waited until I upgraded to PhD so I felt more worthy to address the community. Then emailed it to the wrong list - SYSFLING. However I then got email upon email from all sorts of people. Later I picked up a book and got excited because several of the people who'd emailed me had written chapters in the book. Kinda suggested I should take them seriously.

Moral of the story: find the useful email lists and join them. Even if you don't participate in the discussions, you learn a lot. And there's email lists out there for all sorts of topics!

Second story, is twitter. Given, there's a lot of people I'd like to be on twitter, and nobody quite in my corner of linguistics, but there's heaps of language and language-learning/teaching related tweets. See the feed which should theoretically be right there:
I might've missed it, however. But if you doubt me on the benefits of twitter, read this far more eloquent argument. At this point I was going to link to an interesting article but I can't find the link. Oh well. But if you're on twitter, follow me (@jazzlinguist) and/or follow my group (@jazzlinguist/linglang) and I'll add the interesting linguistics / language related tweeters to it. Or go through that list and pick which ones you like. Why do it? Well it's easies to read articles from twitter on the bus than to read all the books at uni I have to read. And my entire twittexistance was justified by a single tweet on my topic: "NOVALanguages:
Glossary of Jazz Terms, defined from the perspective of the Jazz musician:" It also helps you keep up to date with current, topical, interesting and amusing information you would not have otherwise heard about. And it can put you in touch with a whole community of people, near and far, who share your interests, obsessions and sufferings.

Moral of the story: networking need not only be at conferences. Get on board with the latest technology and get your story out there. It may lead to further opportunities, it may lead to invitations, it may lead to useful resources or it may just be a useful procrastination tool and we can all do with one of those.

Also a few of these sites and people are on facebook - search for Langology, Linguick, Grammar Girl and Hyperlingo. Useful when you have non-twitterering facebookers you want to share things with.

Well that's all I can think of for the moment. I'll post more if I have any more, but thought I better get this out as we're at the busy time of year for me. I have two seminar presentations, three conference presentations and lots of work to do this semester.  Very glad to have just had a holiday!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

3 minutes

Dear imaginary readers,

Fear not! I did not start this blog only to abandon it, or to post once in a blue moon. My month's silence can be contributed to 3 things: 1) studying without internet access; 2) computer break down; 3) proper real no work no study holidays. Oh, and I did write one long blog entry only to have the computer lose it. So I'm back and studying again so I shall sure blog more as I have something to procrastinate.

I wanted to share with you the events of the Three Minute Thesis Competition. I thought it was more widely established than it actually is - started in Australia at University of Queensland, I think, and this is the first year at University of Adelaide. So what is it? According to UQ, "It is an exercise in developing academic and research communication skills. Research higher degree (PhD and MPhil) students have three minutes to present a compelling oration on their thesis topic and its significance in language appropriate to an intelligent but non-specialist audience." 
The Rules: 1 slide, no transitions, no props, no music, just 3 minutes speaking with that single slide.
The Motivation: MONEY! To go to conferences. Which I need. And failing that, a t-shirt designed by Jorge Cham, he of PhD Comics fame.
The Competition: At this stage, to tell the truth, pretty light on. We just had the faculty round, and there were only 6 of us competitors. 3 linguists, 1 creative writing, 1 geography & environmental studies, 1 english lit student. So you'd think the chances of a linguist getting something were pretty good.

So no, I didn't win. None of us 3 linguists did, nor got the people's choice award. I tried to stack the room with linguistics students but none of them came.

Nevertheless it was an interesting experience and as one of the other PhD students pointed out, it helps to know what to say at dinner parties. How to present you and your research to other people without sounding boring. Or conversely, sounding ultra boring if you don't want to talk about it. "What are you doing?" "PhD of linguistics" "What that's about then?" "Grammar."

So I think I went through about 6 different slides and 5 different scripts in the process of deciding what to present. Slide 1 told the story as I've experienced: starting with my brother, who inspired me to choose the topic, moving to Jazz great Fats Waller who seems to express the spirit of jazz, to Tom Cruise because my students chose Top Gun codenames.

But it was a bit too conversational. Then I rewrote the speech to better explain literacy. And it was a good explanation. But it was a good written explanation. No snap when read aloud. And I couldn't think how to turn it into a slide. So I turned it around and tried for the pop culture and intelligent culture hook. The Mighty Boosh's Spirit of Jazz, who doesn't really say anything enlightened or deep and meaningful. And Albert Einstein who seemed to express the spirit of the competition. I tried it in one order then in the other.

So I completely changed tack. And this is what I ended up with:

It's kinda hard to explain in a blog as it's designed to be looked out while the speech is listened to. I told the story of an amalgamated student who does honours and my research. Here's the first few lines and hopefully you'll get the idea:

Let me tell you a story. It’s about a kid in high school who has THE CALLING – maybe he plays trombone, maybe drums, maybe he’s a PIANO MAN. He’s learnt classical piano, but decides to study jazz at university where they teach him that IT DON’T MEAN A THING IF IT AIN’T GOT THAT SWING.

Well, I thought it was good anyway. So I encourage other people to do it. It's great to see some people thinking outside the box and presenting their research in a way that really makes you want to know more.

Now I just have to think of a new idea for next year. Or new songs. Either/or.