Comradery and Non-Dickery

Social media is my research landscape.

Yeesh, you wouldn’t believe the work that has gone into those six words over the years: definitions and how to use or usurp them has been one of the things I’ve struggled with most throughout my studies.

But I have arrived at a point whereby the current draft of my methodology chapter states that social media is my research landscape.

As well as this, it is where an aspect of me lives, and where I engage with people I have met as well as people I will never meet. I have a love/hate relationship with social media. It’s complicated.

Minus the negatives, though, one of the things I think social media is great at is bringing people together, facilitating connections. If used wisely, it can act as a positive arena in which to share common experiences; the good and the bad.

I follow several curated accounts on Twitter, some more closely aligned to my research than others. Aside from the focal point of folklore and Orkney, I am an internet researcher; and it’s interesting to follow such accounts during their many curations. A different flavour of tone and engagement every week.

This week, there have been some great conversations led by @mcmsharksxx, currently curating @biotweeps. The topics haven’t necessarily been new topics – imposter syndrome, the profile of women in STEM (and beyond), mental health – but they have been handled well, with great community engagement.

What was really interesting this week was that there was some (accidental?) parity between @biotweeps and @WetheHumanities (curated by @mrmarkporter). Two complementary tweets got me thinking.

“Being mislabeled outside my expertise due to assumptions about my current work also leads to really bad expectations & impostor syndrome”

“My question for the morning: Have you ever ventured into research well beyond the bounds of your established expertise? How did it go?”

Folklore is an interesting beast, and the origins of the concept of folklore and folkloristics are fascinating. There is no accepted academic definition of folklore; something which has both frustrated and delighted me over the last few years. Frustrated, because it can at times be daunting studying a subject which is so widely interpreted in the academic community and beyond (especially when it is such an emotive and personal subject to many). Delighted, because I’ve never been a great fan of labels and classifications.

Reading about earlier folklorists, I am always struck by how they appeared to allow their creativity and self-determination to choose their academic path. It surprised me to realise, looking back, how much I, too, have managed to persist at that (note, persist: ask me after my viva if I’ve succeeded). I was certain there was material of interest, and I rather stubbornly insisted upon that throughout my studies, eventually convincing myself (and, fortunately, my supervisors) that there was merit in the direction my thesis was taking.

Everyone loves to discuss the concept of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary work. So much so that these terms have, at times, become checkbox exercises to justify collaborative funding or project approval. But we should be thinking in these terms all the times, and I love that folklore continues to encourage that.

It has taken me a long time to get to the point whereby I can start to make peace with the fact that I don’t need to be an expert in all the many disciplines my research touches upon. I just need to know how to handle my own particular niche in a wider context. Not knowing the minute detail of years and years of academic pursuit in every discipline going should not deter us from remaining inquisitive and trying to connect the dots. Last year I blogged about Conference Presentation and Etiquette, and mentioned that attendee who loves to bring up what they know, and what they possibly hope you don’t know. When I was drafting that blog post, I spent some time pondering the internal dread that type of dick move causes; likely deterring excellent researchers from sharing thoughts outside their immediate academic comfort zone, but which could be valuable and encourage new ways of thinking.

The more I research, the more I realise how little I know. But every day I get more confident in what I do know, and a little bit more determined to connect my own dots into something which touches on several potential disciplines, with folklore as the binding factor.

A true collaborative and creative approach is something everyone undertaking research should develop, however scary making connections, asking questions, and putting yourself out there might be. And if the academic community is as full of comrades as I’m sure it is, as demonstrated this week by the conversations mentioned above, then I think we’ll all do just fine.


Note: I reserve the right to continue to freak out about whether my research is even vaguely of an acceptable standard up to, during, and after submission of my thesis.


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