Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Hola Guys

How are you all, Ive set off on my next adventure on my way to Peru. However it involves a stop over in Madrid, Spain. I am probably more nervous about this adventure for a number of reasons perhaps the main one is cause it been there first language is Spanish. I have learned some Spanish in preparation for this Adventure. Other reasons are perhaps some of the advice that has been giving to me when arriving and how to get around. But Ill come up against this tomorrow when I fly to Lima, Peru.

My flight From Liverpool John Lennon Airport, wasn’t to bad it was a 2 hour journey and was quite pleasant. When I first got of the plane I realised how much heat hits you like a brick in Spain (First time i’ve been). Even though the temp reads 15C it still feels warmer here than Britain. I managed after 10 minutes finally got a taxi to my hotel. I don’t think the taxi driver was to appreciative of where I was going 10-15 minute journey and it cost 20 euros (Standard fair) but I think he appreciated me tipping him. I got to My hotel which is the Travelodge Torrelaguna and I was greeted with Hola como estas (Hello how are you) and she soon realised I was Ingles (English). I checked into my room and thought this Travelodge was allot cleaner and better feel than back In England. I was surprised to see a bidet in my bathroom but from what I can tell its popular in European countries. The wife was 3.90 Euros which isnt to bad for a daily rate which could be worse I guess been In Madrid and the only English speaking TV channel I could find was the BBC. I did go to a local restaurant called VIPS which was very nice to have a Argentina Rib Eye Steak.

As it was a late flight it was a bit hard to see any of Madrid really but tomorrow ill be taken my 12 hour flight to Lima, Peru so i wont get to see any more what this city has to offer. Perhaps on my way back ill manage to see some of it.

Take care guys and catch up with you soon. 🙂IMG_20150902_220414 IMG_20150902_230936 IMG_20150903_010113 IMG_20150903_010142

Posted by & filed under ana moura, Announcement, Artica, bárbara teixeira, choreography, exhibition, intermodal full body interfaces, isabel valverde, joana barreto, kinesthesia, Livestreams Links, Liz Solo, MediaLab Prado, Metabody, Mixed reality participatory performance environment, paulo fernandes, Photos, Senses Places, somatic-technological dance, todd cochrane.

INTRA-ACTION – XXI Century Quixotes: politics of the multisensorial body in the era of expressive homogenisation.
1-25 July
METATOPIA 1.0 – Performances, concerts, installations
July 22-25
Physical location: Medialab-Prado, Plaza de las Letras. C/ Alameda, 15, Madrid, Spain
Virtual location/SLURL: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Odyssey/31/147/681
Livestream channel: http://original.livestream.com/beverde

Senses Places is an ongoing collaborative project creating mixed reality participatory performance environments that engage participants in a physical and mediat(iz)ed kinesthetic/somatic movement relational experience.  We foster possibilities for multiple embodied and environmental interactive amplifications and permeations by designing/choreographing physical-virtual interfaces with/through avatars, video images, bio-signals and aspects of environments, based on live videostreams, webcam, and biometric devices, towards new inclusive modes of embodied sharing, exchanging and creative community.
Taking place in a shared virtual place* at Second Life’s MUVE, and at remote physical places, private or public, depending on the international collaborators in Japan, Newfound Land, Portugal, The Netherlands, Brazil, and New Zealand, the project builds site specific hybrids, evolving through each mixed reality instantiation, in a collaborative process of physicalizing the virtual and virtualizing the physical, where participants generate unknown posthuman corporealities.
Senses Places was an invited project at Metatopia 1.0 exhibition, integrating the ensemble of in progress Metabody projects at MediaLab Prado. In this site specific environment, Senses Places was installed inside a deformed tent constituting its smallest and most intimate physical instantiation.

Artistic direction: Isabel Valverde, GAIPS/INESC-ID, Intelligent Agents and Synthetic Characters Group, and UAb/CIAC (PT)
Technical direction: Todd Cochrane NMIT, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NZ)
Collaborators involved: Ana Moura (PT), Liz Solo (NFL), Bárbara Teixeira (PT), Joana Barreto (PT), Paulo Fernandes (PT), Artica (PT)
Support: *Odyssey Contemporary Art and Performance Simulator, Metabody

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Photos: icv


Posted by & filed under blended learning, edtech, education, flipped classroom, lecture, online learning, ukulele, video.

Last night some new strings arrived for my ukulele. I’ve only ever restrung a ukulele once (despite owning a zillion) so although I knew I was a complete n00b, I figured I ought to be able to work it out.

Last night someone in my house may have thrown a violent tantrum of frustration.

Don't tell me to be calm!!
That person may have been trying to change ukulele strings.

That person may have been me.

When faced with the task in which I am incredibly lacking in any knowledge or experience, i would turn either to someone knowledgeable nearby (in person or through PLN) or youtube. In this case, it was youtube. This was just a short manual activity, surely a video is going to be the best way to learn it. The situation, and my experience, made me think of the iterations of flipped classrooms and recorded lectures that I have experienced up until now – and why I’m still skeptical of the “down with lectures!” push that seems to be gaining traction.

In light of the recent conversations of the value of lectures (from many viewpoints), I wondered – what would have been the optimal way for me to learn this valuable, yet infrequently applied, knowledge?

I knew the makers of my ukulele make a lot of informational videos, and that my ukulele build (with the slotted headstock) is somewhat unique, so I specifically searched for the brand assuming that they would have something relevant – and they did. The value of this resource was that it was exactly specific to what I needed to achieve. There was little fluff or extraneous title slides or cue music. And there was my just-in-time just-enough resource.

Unfortunately, their videography skills meant sometimes fingers or hands were in the way of seeing the string action, and (most) strings are clear plastic, so difficult to see clearly on dark wood or if they’re behind or in front of each other. If I missed something, usually to recreate on my uke what they were going through on the video, I would miss important visual cues that had an impact later on in the process. Of course, the advantage of video is that you can pause and rewind, being able to go back to a specific section and watch it over again, and over, and over, and over, and over, and WHY IS THIS SO FREAKING DIFFICULT ITS JUST A STUPID STRING ARRRRRGGGHHHH!!!!!!!

And, so, tantrum.

You see, when I didn’t fully grasp something, I couldn’t ask for the video to move around to another view, I couldn’t ask for them to clarify a word I didn’t understand, I couldn’t ask them to slow down individual steps (it’s somewhat difficult to press pause on a tiny mobile device screen whilst also holding a thin slippery but stubborn string in both hands and between teeth and balance ukulele body between legs for fear of it hitting the table and chipping a very expensive piece of wood). I was a passive consumer of information. And I was frustrated at the lack of control. If that had been an assessment, I would have lost all motivation. If that had been a pre-course ‘reading’ of the flipped classroom persuasion, I would have arrived at class demotivated, frustrated and woefully behind.

The passivity of these recorded lecture resources creates a risk that if the deliverer of that information is not accounting for all the questions and situations in which their information may be consumed, it might be completely ineffective. If I had a ‘tutor’ or ‘lecturer’ available, I might have been able to ask those questions directly, just-in-time.

And how many of the flipped classroom video resources that so many proponents of the anti-lecture movement are going to effectively address those? What about the research into the length and style of effective videos? Are they simply going to reuse recorded lectures from previous years? Are they going to be created using technology that supports engagement with the resource (the Echo360 active learning platform and Kaltura’s capturespace control over video inputs are two products that come to mind)?

As it happens, through sheer stubbornness I eventually finished. The resulting sound, heard from a few brief strums and plucks, confirms that it was worth the hassle. I also know that next time it will be easier (not in the least because the video provided some helpful steps that, once understood, make perfect sense and are easily replicable).

So, yes, a video can be useful and solve a variety of problems (distance, time, scale, replication) and in this case was ultimately successful and effective in helping me some my immediate need; that is, “the proof of [my] mastery is in what [I] can do“.

But don’t think that a video replaces a person.

“Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer should (and deserves to) be”

(source)


Posted by & filed under SFL.

Reconnecting Paths: Relational Network Theory and Systemic Functional Theory as Complementary Perspectives on Language

Presenter: Professor MAK Halliday

Presented at Connecting Paths: Halliday, Hasan and Lamb, conference, City University Hong Kong / Sun-Yat Sen University, November 2010

Despite the title of this session, this turned out to be not a discussion of where the linguistics (that is, plural, two ‘registers’ of functional linguistics) of Halliday and of Lamb intersected: Professor Halliday is confident that the two theories are complementary essentially because they agree on  what language is, what a theory is, that a theory must be based in data, and that a description in linguistics must be relational.

Rather, the recorded seminar presents Professor Halliday’s commentary on the conference papers presented to that point in the program. (The actual paper which was scheduled to have been presented is available in Halliday in the 21st century, vol. 11 of the Collected Works of MAK Halliday, ed. J. J. Webster, Bloomsbury, but it is not in Macq or ACU libraries, so I haven’t sighted a copy yet.)

In his lengthy prolegomenon (perhaps 45 minutes of his session), drawing on prompts and summaries from the other speakers (Hasan, Butt and Martin are mentioned), Professor Halliday re-defined important concepts in his view of language (language as a semiogenic system which is also a biological and physical system; trinocularity of SFL; particles, fields, waves and strings analogy; the grid of theory as a product of the purpose of the theory) and, following on from that last point, what he believed linguistics was: “a way of thinking about things, and intervening in them”.

Along the way there was I felt an unconsciously humorous twist to his argument on how linguistics should be taught to students. To quote him: linguistics is not the study of different linguistic theories: you shouldn’t be taken through the different schools of thought just to discredit them — “That’s a favourite trick of the Chomskyans”, he says (haha).

Another point where he differentiated his approach from others was one that he himself raised at this year’s symposium: that his general theory of language was designed to explore, not the usual questions of linguists, but those of all the other fields “where language is the essential source of energy”. At the 2015 symposium, he characterised these people as anyone interested in meaning. In this presentation, he again gives priority to meaning as one of the two realms of human experience (as he states in a 2005 paper:

There are two phenomenal realms that we as human beings inhabit: a world of matter, and a world of meaning. Both matter and meaning are involved in all the regions of our experience. Meaning relies on matter to make it accessible to a receiver; and matter relies on meaning to organize it.

[Halliday, M. (2007). On matter and meaning: the two realms of human experience. Linguistics And The Human Sciences, 1(1).]

This is what he means by an appliable linguistics.

Additional reading

Where does Bernstein discuss “how the inner world reveals itself” (see Hasan’s paper at this conference)

Continuing discourse on language, vols 1 & 2, eds C. Matthiessen, R. Hasan & J. J. Webster, Continuum (2005/2007)

Relevance to the study

Another joke was of practical help to my thinking, or at least to my anxiety:

Student (they’re always coming up and asking this): Is this feature semantic or lexico-grammatical?
Professor: Yes.

The issue of blurred boundaries, which was also dealt with from several aspects in this talk, is revisited in the ‘critical review’ page in this log.


Posted by & filed under adult education, adult learning, education, facilitation, learning design, powerpoint, presentation, subject matter experts, Tips.

Or “The difference between being a Subject Matter Expert and being a teacher”

When I was in high school, I was Vice-Captain of the girl’s First XI cricket team. Not because I was especially good, in fact I was average-poor most days, but mostly because only 12 people turned up to tryouts. I was, however, pretty good at keeping spirits up on the field and also pretty good at translating and articulating coach’s instructions on how to execute a particular skill better, even if I couldn’t actually demonstrate it myself. I knew that when bowling you want your body to be almost side-on and the arm with the ball to make a wide arc with your upper arm grazing your ear as you step through.

When my friends struggled with algebra or calculus concepts, or how to interpret the wordy physics exercises or couldn’t wrap their heads around how to conjugate ‘venir’ v ‘ir’ in French, they didn’t often ask the teacher, they asked me. Whereas our teachers might simply repeat the formula or answer or just move on, I could come up with ways to explain or other examples that made more sense or different interpretations of the formula.

When I worked at a linen and haberdashery store during university, my colleagues who had worked there for years and knew the processes and products in and out struggled to work out how to impart that knowledge on me – preferring to make me stand and watch or rattling off step after step with no context.

All of which is to say, just because you know your shit, doesn’t mean you’re shit hot at how teach it to others.*

Recently I sat through** a training workshop by a presenter who was obviously experienced in his topic – he was about 50-60 years old, he mentioned he’d been in the role for some 20-30 years*** and had plenty of personal examples that he could and did**** share. I’m sure on paper his qualifications in the subject area were impressive.

The problem was, the topic was not one that could be effectively transferred in a passive-learner/lecturing format. There were so very many things wrong with the delivery of this session that even when he tried doing something right (physical activity to practice some of the topic info), the entire group had switched off that no one engaged.

And this is my beef with the idea that if you are talented or exceptional in an area you are the best person to impart that knowledge/skill on others. I can think of a number of people who are exceptionally talented in their field – and they are the worst people to try and connect with others, let alone mentor or teach.

So why do we continue with the misguided belief that “if you can, do; if you can’t, teach”? It’s a pervasive yet misguided belief. The obvious situation is higher education, where research-based experts are asked/required to teach students in their field – some successfully, others not so much. Yes, there are some who are exceptional and expert and are also exceptional at sharing that with others. Are they in the majority, though? I would argue that a similar situation occurs repeatedly in corporate sector – you are the procurement expert so you can show our other employees how to follow our procurement policy, you are the software expert so you can show our other employees how to use it, you are the best salesperson so you can show the others how to sell, etc.

One of the many problems with this thinking is that it takes skill/empathy/reflection to go back to when you were not an expert and convey information at that level. It can be far too easy to simply rattle off info you know to be fact without being able to clarify the underlying why or how, because you’ve already moved beyond that.

So, while I can’t share the feedback I gave to the aforementioned training provider, I can share some tips that address common mistake I’ve seen by SMEs when delivering training:

  1. Find out how your audience is different: No one else has the same experience or knowledge as you, nor anyone else, so start by acknowledging that no two groups will be the same. Work with the organiser beforehand or the audience (if you can wing it) to learn about this specific audience – what are their roles, what are their objectives, what are their needs, what do they bring to the conversation, what exposure have they had already to your topic? Then use that design your training session accordingly – what examples can you use that might resonate, what can you change to make it more relevant? While there may be similarities, a good prep is unlikely to mean that you can completely reuse content from a previous session without changing anything. Assume uniqueness.
  2.  Absolutely no absolutes: In a similar vein to the above, avoid the use of the words “never”, “always”, “all”, etc. I’m going to put it out there that it is highly unlikely that there will be situations, regardless of your topic, when what you’re about to say will apply 100% of the time without exception or caveat or edit. To do so, and have someone question you in it, whether out loud or just in their head, lowers your credibility – and that’s what you’re trading on as a SME, isn’t it? Assume ambiguity. 
  3. Talk less, ask questions you don’t know the answer to: Yes, you are the expert in the content, but are you also the expert of your audience’s situation? If all you do is provide examples from your experience, how do you know that they’ll resonate with your audience? If all you do is list facts and figures and concepts, how do you know they’re making sense? Provide information, yes, then ask questions that encourage the audience to put that information into their own context. Provide them with opportunities to work practically with the topic (I struggle to think of a topic that couldn’t benefit from some kind of hands-on scenario-based activity) – think of problem solving, case studies, role plays, group work, facilitated discussions. You could even start with an activity that challenges preconceptions and existing knowledge, if you’re comfortable winging it a little bit. Assume practice makes perfect. 
  4. Create a community: In order to have a space where the majority of your audience trust you and so are comfortable contributing, you need to create a mini-community – do not underestimate safety. Consider establishing protocols about how you will communicate , e.g. I like the silent hand-raised to bring group chats to a close as it provides visual signal, encourages groups to signal to each other, allows important conversations or thoughts to reach a conclusion without interruption – in short, I believe it shows that I value the contributions of the groups enough to let them reach a natural pause while also valuing the community’s needs and objectives. Your words have power, so avoid blanket generalisations, leading questions or forcing (whether by language, activity design or social norm) anyone to contribute. If there’s any chance your topic and activities could call up potential triggers or require anyone to work outside a comfort zone, you should establish that early and provide safe options to not participate. While I dislike dichotomies on principle, resources about supporting personalities and preferences may be useful, e.g. Introverts and extroverts. Assume you need to build trust. 
  5. Leave intolerance, bigotedness, prejudice and stereotypes at the door: Even if you found out how your audience is different, as in step 1, you probably still don’t know the half of it. You cannot presume cisgender identities, heterosexuality, lack of mental illness or physical disability or learning disability or learning preference just because it might not exist in your worldview or you can’t see it. So start with the lowest common denominator, people, and design for inclusivity in your content, language, delivery style, activities. Assume diversity. 
  6. Invest time in your presentation content: Presenting and speaking publicly with the intent of conveying information and/or effecting change in your audience is a skill. Do not presume that because you are charismatic in small-group conversations or because your colleagues look to you for advice that this will translate automatically into effective presentations. Seek out helpful hints for your slides (because let’s face it, you’re probably going to use PowerPoint, aren’t you). Resources I, and others I admire and trust, have found useful include slideology and this article from The Conversation. Assume your presentation needs (a lot of) work.

This is not an exhaustive list of training and facilitation tips. That’s what training to be a trainer is supposed to give you. If you’re an SME delivering training regularly, consider getting (at a minimum) a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and reading about adult facilitation. I started with Joan Dalton’s Art of Facilitation and highly recommend it as a resource, especially in relation to language.

*i had to work out a way to fit this quote in here somehow. It’s one of my favourite pro-grammar quotes…

** And I mean literally, 2.5 hours of being talked at while I sat silently and obediently (if you don’t count the frequent frowns and “WTAF” facial expressions)

*** You can see how well I was paying attention, huh

**** Oh, and share he did. At least 1 example for any story shared by the group, where he, of course, trumped theirs.


Posted by & filed under digital humanities.

Conference: DH2015 Global digital humanities: the annual conference of the alliance of digital humanities organizations

Held at the University of Western Sydney – South Parramatta, 29 June to 3 July 2015

This was the first time this international conference had been held in Australia, and I attended as someone nearly completely new to the area of digital humanities.

The conference was an excellent introduction to digital humanities. I had expected to see new things in corpus linguistics, but I did not: instead, however, I was able to experience striking presentations derived from many different data sources. In conversation with well-established digital humanities researchers, it was suggested that you couldn’t be doing digital humanities if you weren’t doing something ‘cool’ — which surely raises the bar high for new entrants and reduces the chance of methodological maturity?

Two themes came into accidental prominence during the conference:

  1. Indigenous digital humanities — designed as a feature in the program, the impact of Australian Indigenous culture was particularly strong on the international and particularly the North American attendees. An immersive 3D recreation of Indigenous life on the banks of the Parramatta River pre-European contact was presented by UWS researchers within the exhibition area, literally embodying the ‘utopian core’ at the heart of the digital humanities project, according to Jensen (2014).
  2. The inclusion or exclusion of women and speakers of languages other than English from the conference program and organisation. This started as a tweet (on why the keynotes and panels had been all male) and turned into a whole stream of conversation within the conference.

Relevance to the study

(I will describe the Pelagios workshop in a separate post. )

The third keynote, The Robot Apocalypse, was highly relevant to the study: presented by Genevieve Bell, of Intel, it looked at events in the history of machines and their depicted relationships with humanity.

Tools which may be of use in the study include Heurist.

An interesting corpus of French text messages could also be a good data source: it is unannotated.

References

Jensen, K. E. (2014). Linguistics and the digital humanities: (computational) corpus linguistics. MedieKultur, 57, 115–134.


Posted by & filed under digital humanities.

I undertook a pre-conference workshop with Leif Isaksen and Mia Ridge in using the linked open data site Pelagios and annotating it with Recogito.

We learned how geospatial data can be developed from humanities sources, such as from old maps or from text in open source literature. The result is a ‘bottomless’ maps, always open for additional annotations, revisions and extensions.

An example of a research question thrown up by the use of this data might be – “Why are Rome, Athens and Constantinople always mentioned in texts together?”

Additional reading

Space and time, Leif Isaksen: http://www.nedimah.eu/workgroups/space-and-time

Relevance to the study

The key insight from Isaksen is in the treatment of ‘place’: place is not necessarily a location, or a name.

The thickest data is in the ancient world: but I thought it might be possible to search the site for mentions and locations of robots in ancient Greece.


Posted by & filed under #blogjune, agility, edtech, education, performing, stem, ukulele.

Unless you’ve worked with me, you may not know this, but I am the self-proclaimed Queen of “Winging It”. It’s the curse of procrastinators everywhere that what must eventually be done is done under duress extreme time pressure. Sooner or later, if you’re a bad learner not unlike me, that means throwing caution to the wind and just doing it.

The years I have spent honing this craft have resulted in an innate belief that I can do almost anything with enough pressure and confidence.

This weekend I was a headline performer at the Mandorah Ukulele and Folk Festival.

A few days out from the performance, I get the run sheet that says I’m to be onstage for up to 70 minutes (including setup – which takes all of 3 mins- and breakdown – which takes even less). This would present no problem, if I wasn’t used to and expecting a 40-45 minute set. Those extra 15-20 minutes means 4-5 songs plus preamble and potentially rearranging the order to maintain or recreate the flow. At the same time, I need to plan for contingencies such as playing faster than usual and getting through my songs quicker than expected, or the timing on the day running over and having to cut songs out with the call of “15 minutes to go”. 

Reflecting back on my prep for the weekend, I noticed I did a few things that are consistent with how I plan for presentations or training workshops:

  • Over-prep the content: Plan and rehearse all the songs possible to give me more than required (in a presentation, I’d have prepared more slides or talking points or resources to point people to)
  • Identify the fundamental: I’ll pick the 4-5 “must play” songs by looking at, for example, the lead songs on my EP and the emotive flow I want for my set (upbeat, slower, show off riff, big voice, upbeat and dancier to end)
  • Map and highlight: Map out the prepped songs to that flow, identify the time markers that raise decision points (20 mins to go means finish current songs and have just 4 more to end) and highlight the surplus songs that can be cut out or added in as time permits
  • Go with the flow: Know that it’s not going to go to plan, accept that and do it anyway

When I think of going with the flow, I’m reminded of when I opened the Moodlemoot AU in 2014. I’d prepared a 15-20 minute presentation, covering the important themes of the confererence, acknowledgement of owners (and its relevance), administrative information and a little bit of humour. The keynote presenter who started, however, ended about 10-15 minutes over time, which meant in order to keep the rest of the program on track – which is the most important thing in a multi-streamed conference, in my opinion – I had to condense my opening of less than 10 minutes.

One of my pet hates is when presenters are pressed for time and instead of cutting or deciding to make info available afterwards (and it’s almost de rigeur for conference presentations to be available to attendees after anyway), they waste time saying “I don’t have much time, so I’ll go quickly through these”.

The correct answer is: “we have a little less time together than expected, so I’ll discuss the key points I want you to take away and the full presentation will be available afterwards”. A better answer is: not to mention the time at at all and just cut to the fundamental concepts and make the presentation available. That 15-30 seconds you spend explaining something that the audience might not even know about it wasted. Just like I don’t stop and point out when I’ve made a mistake when performing, don’t point out when things aren’t going to plan – the majority of people won’t notice or care.

Which brings me to the fundamental principle of winging it – confidence is key.

I have confidence in confidence alone
If you’re calm, breathe and smile, no one will know you’re freaking out on the inside. No one should know what to expect, because surely you wouldn’t be repeating the exact same set/presentation/training workshop/etc that many times to the same people, would you? Therefore, if they don’t know how it’s supposed to be, the best they’re getting is what you have to give, so be calm, breathe, smile and give it your best and don’t call attention to how it could/should have been because that’s irrelevant.

I’m wondering, though, how much of that can be taught and how? How does one learn to make as much structure as possible and have confidence that the rest will be ok? Is it just experience? Are there (coping) strategies to help teach agility and adaptability? It seems to me that for all the cries of “kids need to learn to code” or “we need more STEM graduates“, if the future is as uncertain as they say, wouldn’t we do better to teach how to wing it?


Posted by & filed under digital humanities.

Fugitive Texts: Replication, Attribution, and Bibliography in the Digitized Archive

Presenter: Ryan Cordell, NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks at Northeastern University

part of the Literary Studies Seminar series, ANU

Cover Photo

Dr Cordell works on the Viral Texts project, which uses “robust data mining tools to discover reprinted content across large-scale archives of nineteenth-century newspapers and magazines“. He was in Australia for the DH2015 conference and before this talk had just met with the Trove team.

Relevance to the study

The tracing of a fugitive poem across the recycling network of nineteenth century newspaper editors all across the USA was presented in a helpful format that could be useful for indicating the spread and history of the ‘me fecit’ term.


Posted by & filed under educational linguistics, linguistic historiography, theories of language.

Interrogating the In-between: Humanities & Languages Postgraduate Research Conference 2015, University of New South Wales

This one-day conference provided the opportunity for students from a number of universities to present to and provide feedback on their individual research topics.

[More detailed account of the presentation: Battles and books]

battleThe title of my presentation was Battles and books, and I attempted, for the largely non-linguist audience, to examine:

  • Are there patterns in the history of linguistics?
  • Do your ideas about language affect what you do with it?

Initially, I situated my interest as a worker in higher education, and indicated that in later research I would seek to link a history of personification to an examination of how abstract terms are used within the management and structure of a university.

in-between-wheeler-2

Battles and books, slide 12

For this presentation, I looked at one strand of this question: the contest between ideas of what language is and how language should be studied at university.

I discussed examples from points in intellectual history where abstractions of linguistic concepts were depicted as being in battle, looking in more detail at d’Andely’s Battle of the seven liberal arts (c. 1250). To bring this history into a local and more immediate context, I extended the discussion to the ‘reading wars’, their genesis in 1980s California, and the ‘phonics’/’whole word’ debate still sporadically conducted via Australian newspapers.

I concluded by commenting on the practical and policy importance of ideas about language held by non-specialist employees of a contemporary university, given the topical political pressures on evaluating English language proficiency.

Relevance to the study

The benefits of developing this presentation to my research were:

  1. the opportunity to present the possible argument of my PhD proposal to a general audience
  2. the opportunity for feedback. The student audience followed the historical outline, but it was the staff who were attending the conference and mentoring us who expressed interest in the proposed research into the ideas about language found in university management and institutional advertising.