With a bit of time to stop and think over the Xmas break, I’ve had a thought or two on my academic trajectory for 2017 – which of course came to me over a few beers with friends and family…
I’ve just returned from holidays where I spent much time with family, friends and people who I have no idea are. I kind of did an ‘East Coast Suburbs’ tour of Australia, and realised that with a young family of three boys, suburbia is pretty alright. Dudes can run, scooter, play, basketball, hang, meet other young kids, etc., and rarely did we have that overwhelming city feeling of ‘Where’s Mr 4? Is he in someone’s car?’ kind of vibe that is just part of the tapestry of city living I guess.
I also spent a lot of time with people not in my usual networks – weak ties to the network studies people reading this. It was awesome, and as an ethnographer it really sharpened my skills for my upcoming field work this year. One of the most interesting realisations I had was while camping in one of the many coastal spaces in Northern NSW was that most people couldn’t give a shit about what academics think, or where there trajectory is heading over the next few years.
I watched on with awe of this camping family that lived across the road from us in Minnie Waters. The parents owned a permanent caravan which they had for about 30 years, and there was generations of family that would pop in over the course of the week or so that we were there. They had 4WDs, boats, fishing and crabbing gear – all the toys that made their holiday life totally fun and enjoyable. They had friends and wives and girlfriends and kids… all the while laughing and hanging out with each other (and no doubt eating the best seafood).
It was at that moment that I thought ‘these people have a great life, and they just don’t care what stuff we academics are doing. Like, at all. So that was the impetus to the thinking behind this year’s academic goal:
Make my academic work have some real world impact!
In the day to day grind of academic life, I think we head down and go for glory with our publications, grant writing, strategy development, research and teaching and kind of forget the bigger picture (well I certainly do at least). Some of the real world stuff that has been surfacing in the latter part of 2016 gathered much academic interest (that has enormous real world impact), but I never really saw much of it move from the ‘ivory tower‘ and into any kind of action. I may be wrong here, and tell me if I am in the comments, but I see this as a pretty flaw of the academic profession.
I think we are pretty good at pointing out the short-comings of politics, economics, cultures, governance, communication, etc., but I think we have a problem with converting that into any real impact. Certainly any impact that would have an effect on our fishing family in Minnie Waters.
I saw some great research last year that worked it’s way into the main stream press and reached wider audiences, but on the whole, I only heard a lot of talk about all the bad stuff. I’m using this as a launch pad to try and use 2017 as a time to not only critically analyse shit, but to also make some kind of positive change with it.
Topics that are always coming up in my filter bubble include (to name a few):
- Fake News
- Alt Right
- Algorithms (the algorithm made me do it)
- Negative economic growth
- Disastrous left-leaning parties
If we put all of this together, it could be a right disaster for our entire contemporary civilisation. Are we not in über privileged positions to have a bird’s eye view of this stuff, and should it not be our responsibility to feed this in to the public sphere?
It’s one thing to identify this, but another thing to action it. I’m not clear on how to do my part yet – maybe more media appearances? Maybe I will engage local community groups and feed information into them? Maybe I’ll run in politics as Obama Reckons I should?
But I certainly need to get out my academic circles this year and talk more with ordinary people about how they can change things – you know, encourage people to lead their own shit.
Oh yeah, and I’m going to do this after I finish my book, submit my DECRA, take on my responsibilities as the new undergraduate coordinator, write a new university wide online course for social media, continue to teach my Social Media MOOC, coordinate and teach four subjects and undertake the field work for my new research project.
I do love how time off makes you put things into some sort of perspective 😉