Through Struggle and Indifference – now available!

Yes, I’m delighted to announce that (with insufficient fanfare given how much blood, sweat and tea went into its creation) my thesis Through Struggle and Indifference: the UK academy’s engagement with the open intellectual commons. is now available online and open access.

Regular readers will note I’ve managed to hide no fewer than 2 jokes in its pages – albeit minor ones.  And that’s not including the doubtless myriad of typos that are still in there too.

Guess this means I need to revise the other pages of this blog now to bring them up to date too.  Now, I just need to either re-write the whole damned thing into a book – or start writing some papers from it…the labour never ceases!

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A Crazy Couple of Weeks

Got a little behind with the blog thanks to my PC having exploded (well sort of) and waiting on the parts to build the new one.   It’s all up and running (and about 1,000% faster – running Win7 off an SSD drive means boot times are now laughable).  So what have been up to in the world of PhD:

  • Open Access: Slowly reading papers and reports on open access and the UK for my next chapter. Suggestions welcomed for any recent papers or reports on the topic that are a must read. Sorta approaching it as an historical overview to begin with.
  • Teaching: Had my last seminar of the year in the first week of December, and gave my class their marked coursework exam back.  No one lynched me on the spot which was good, and I hope that my feedback came in useful.  Seminar was on the impact of consumerism on society and the media.  Not sure it really hit home (and coming before Christmas, perhaps this one was always going to be a bit of a lead balloon moment).  In an effort to bring the message home I showed them a couple of videos.  The first is an extract from Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe, looking at how the G20 protests a few years ago were spun by the media.  The second, a bit more of wake up call for activism and how to take a personal response to the consumer society.  Sadly the sound on the PC was a bit flakey so I couldn’t run the first vid (damn!) but here they both are for those of you whom might be interested.
  • Birthday: Had my birthday.  Took the day off to go walking.  Very pleasant.
  • Rep: Did a few student rep things, all by emails and started planning for the next committee meeting I need to attend by asking awkward questions of the other reps.
  • Elsevier: I’ve been following with interest the story this week around Elsevier’s take-downs sent out to academics mounting their PDFs on Academia.edu.  Back in the day when I was a repository manager at UoLeic, the ethos was always for extreme caution – let some other repository or site be the one to take the fall.  It was perhaps a little overtly conservative for my own taste, but one wasn’t really in a position to effect a change in institutional ethos.  On the other hand I did do my best to alert my academics to the dangers of just posting whatever they like.  I suspect this story is going to grow over the coming weeks, and I can’t help thinking Elsevier’s waited until the run up to Xmas in the hope it might get buried over the festive season.
  • Impostor syndrome:  Having a fair chunk of this lately, with associated feelings of not feeling any smarter/wiser/more learn’d than I did this time last year.  It’s hit my studying motivation hard, and there have been days when I’ve more less had to slap myself around to keep focusing on the text I’m reading.  I’m sure it will pass once I have a proper break (planning to have a good couple of weeks off study – first break of a more than a couple of days since…erm, last Christmas).  Really hope I can find my enthusiasm and drive again, in the new year.
  • Student numbers: Having spent a few months looking at the HE’s sector expansion and neoliberal incursion, I’m not surprised to see that academics are not impressed by the UK Government’s latest suggestion to move yet further towards a mass education system.  More does not make for quality, and just further degrades the value of the degree whilst diminishing the value of those who choose not to come to university but actually gain real world skills.  Dare I suggest, much needed skills (tried to find a good plumber lately?),

And that’s been about it.  I will endeavour to write something a bit more fulsome next week for the last working week of the year for me, before I take 2 lovely weeks holiday and do something other than read and worry about not reading enough.

Camping

The Goose awaits to bathe in knowledge

Yesterday, along with about 175 other librarians* I descended on Birmingham for the first Library Camp UK.  Sadly this didn’t mean pitching some tents in the middle of the James Watt Queensway. What it was (as you’ll find described in 11ty hundred better written and more information packed blogs elsewhere) was an unconference drawing together librarians of every kind in one place and saying – “go educate one another!”  If success is based on volume and excitment, then it was a resounding one – I certainly had an excellent time both during and afterwards.  If anything this may well be the single best event I’ve attended all year, and despite my intention to just go and listen and talk I found myself pitching a session after all.

Rather than try and encapsulate what I took away I thought I’d reflect on what for me were the highs, the bits that need a bit of a rethink and my hopes for next time.

Great things

  • The venue, the welcome, the convenience of the parking.  And the cost – a whole pound a head!  What a bargain.  The organising team should justifiably walk around today with the smuggest of expressions on their faces – they’ve absolutely earned the right to strut 🙂
  • The genuine enthusiasm for all aspects of the profession  from everyone I spoke to.  It created a fabulous buzz.
  • Stealing a room over lunch to film with the Weasel.  My thanks to my actors, and yes you’ll see the results soon.
  • The diversity of topics.  The diversity of interests.  The openness to learn.
  • The high use of social media by most (if not quite all there).
  • Randy meets yet ANOTHER female fan :)The conversations (and hugs) I had with people I’ve never met in the flesh before.  Not to mention everyone who name checked or patted Randy Weasel in passing.  I was getting quite jealous by the end.
  • Being told by a couple of people that I’d inspired them in one way or another.  Bloody hell, that was a bit of a shocker, deeply flattered and not quite sure how to take it.  Trousers on one leg at a time like everyone else folks.
  • All that cake.  While I wasn’t eating any (trying to work on the old llama-waistline at the moment) it looked fab.  Shockingly a load was left behind – was half tempted to go buy some boxes and ship it home for the Wife.
  • The lack of agenda that people came with to the event.  I’ve been to some conferences where it’s clear people have a hit list of people to talk to and if you’re not on it, you get bypassed.  Which is down right rude.  At LibCamp if you spoke to someone they talked to you. Aces.
  • That it was done and done in a day.  I know some folks stayed over on Fri and Sat nights, but to be able to go and return in a day (given it’s my weekend) was fab.
  • The staff at Jesops whom were helpful in my quest for a quick release foot, and then a tripod.
  • The pizza and post event companionship.  Topped off the whole event nicely, even if the kitchen staff needed a bit of a poke to speed up their service.  Pizzas were just fab.
  • And to be honest the single best thing – the people.  Just the people.  Loud, animated, enthusiastic, engaged, laughing, shouting, passionate and fun people.

The rethinks

  • That the parking discount failed to work 😦  Bit of a bum note at the end of a long day.
  • Pitching for the sessions in a mad scramble at the start of the day.  I’d have liked half the pitches in the AM and then the rest at lunch – because after the morning what I wanted to hear was going to be very different from right at the start.  I think it would help the evolution of the day’s content.
  • Blank sessions or networking ones.  I think a speed-networking one would be a smash – get to know all the people you DON’T know.
  • I think there was WiFi – but it wasn’t clear how to log onto it (or maybe that’s just my Android o/s).  I’d hope next time WiFi passwords would be dolled out at the entrance as some of the rooms had pretty ropey mobile signals which restricted tweeting.
  • Kooei likes the poet at least!The poet. Amusing (a little) in the morning.  Cringe inducing at the end.  I noticed a fair number of people voted with their feet.  It was a nice idea though to do something different, and I heartily support it – but it just didn’t work for me.
  • The staff at Jacobs whom were utterly crap, incoherent and down right couldn’t give a damn when I came asking about tripods and camera shoes.  Never shopping there again!
  • Time.  Could time be stretched next time to about a month – I might just then be able to devote the amount of time and attention to everyone I wanted to talk with.  Came back and kept thinking “Arg, only talked to them for two minutes – really meant to go back and talk more but then 5 other people started chatting to me…”  Oh okay, I started chatting to 5 other people 😉  So many great people, so little time…

And next time (and let’s all hope there is a next time!)

  • I’m going to pitch a session on stand-up comedy and edutainment in library education.  Not to mention a weasel session, I’m kicking myself for not putting it on the programme.  Hell maybe I should just offer to be the videographer for the day.
  • A twitter wall or fountain for the #tagged comments running on a screen in reception.  Especially useful for those of us whose devices argued about getting a signal.
  • And given the success of this one – probably an arena sized venue because a whole lot of other people are gonna want to come…

*[Edit: Caveat: Just for Dave P: When I say “librarians” I kinda mean in the way “We’re all librarians today!”.  Personally I just happen to work in a library as a manger, I’m not really a librarian.  Saying “a group of people whom all have vested interests related to libraries and librarianship, and suppliers and information management, and repositories, and data and education etc” isn’t as catchy.  Also remember, saying “I’m a librarian” is a great way to keeping your car insurance low – saying “I work in education”…up it goes!]

 

Petition

Oi, we're over here!And so the UK Government’s new e-petitions site (e-petitions? ePetitions?) has got a lot of press this week.  I know a lot of folks feel strongly about petitions.  Personally I feel they about as much use as a fart in a colander, but if you think otherwise then go sign this one.  At least it’s heart is in the right place.  Although if you remember a million people did more than sign their name on an ethereal site to protest the war, they marched on the heart of government, and it did diddly and squat.  More’s the pity.

The march did fill column inches in lazy dead tree press organs and give the chattering classes on main stream media something to pontificate about.  And I suspect that epetitions will go much the same way.  Look at all the news articles this week about people calling for the return of the death penalty!  And then more people calling for the death penalty to stay away thanks awfully. And so on and so on.  Given the population of the UK is around 70 million these days (90% of whom live inside the M25 I assume given the media’s focus on events there) 15,000 people is just over 0.02% of the population, so essentially statistically irrelevant.

As of this entry here are the top petitions that are still live.

  1. Petition to retain the ban on Capital Punishment
  2. CHEAPER PETROL AND DIESEL, BY ROBERT HALFON MP AND FAIRFUEL UK
  3. Keep Formula 1 Free To Air in the UK View
  4. Restore Capital Punishment
  5. Britain wants referendum to leave EU
  6. Legalise cannabis
  7. Hold a referendum on withdrawing from the EU
  8. End mass immigration

To be honest I’m glad that your average petition completing loon(who is happy to give away their name, address, email and mad views to a government they clearly don’t trust) rates keeping the death penalty at bay.  I’d vote for that, but I ain’t wasting my time on no petition.  The rest of it though increasingly reads like the pages of BBC Have Your Say or the Daily Mail/Express (can anyone honestly tell those two apart these days?).  I’m sure many an MP or their speech writers will mine these expressions of “belief” come the next election.

That said, the most shocking thing is how badly most of the petitions (even some of the one’s the above with their teeny tiny ground swell of opinion) are written.  I don’t claim to be a great writer (or even a semi-competent one, something about grammar I’m sure I should rememebr…oh wait-everything!) but honestly do these people even think before pressing keys.  I mean Robert Halfon MP doesn’t even know about NOT SPEAKING IN CAPS.  Don’t know the chap, but I assume he doesn’t follow the school of SHOUT, SHOUT and SHOUT again when giving orders.  Or maybe he is General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett.

Oh, and here are a few of my favourite ones I’ve come across to date.

So for those of you who might still want to have a pop at one of these, after an extensive reading of far too many of these damned things, here are Llordllama’s rules for Writing a Half-Decent ePetition

  1. Avoid writing in plain, clear English.  The more flowery phrases you can throw in, especially half remembered Latin vocab pro hoc ad astra, the better!
  2. The title of the petition must be suitable for publication as the Daily Mail’s headline of the day “All immigrants to stop stealing my cheese“, “Gay traffic cones to be removed from Cheltenham by Wednesday” or “The Prime Minister must speak out about pedestrian crossings on my street
  3. Must  contain the phrase “everyone knows that…” or “we all know that” or similar for perceived “common knowledge”.  You are writing as the Voice of Britain after all!
  4. IF IT IS IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO BE A PETITION THEN IT IS IMPORTANT ENOUGH TO BE  BE WRITTEN IN ALL CAPS
  5. People’s attention spans are short – don’t give them a chance to click off without signing by ending a sentence!  Ensure your entire petition is a single sentence three paragraphs long without pausing for breath or any semblance of punctuation.  That way by the end they’ll be so weary people will just be grateful to sign.
  6. Ensure your gramophone is blasting out the the tune of God Save the Queen (Pistols or traditional, your call)  in the background as you type.  It will help the hate flow…sorry, words flow.
  7. For the love of Jovis, don;’t ask anyone else about your idea.  That would risk sullying or watering it down – it needs to go out to the world untainted by the ideas of others.  If you must, only share it with your closest drinking companions before writing it.
  8. Write what you want to say.  Then read it aloud.  If you don’t quite capture the ground pleasing demagogue of Hitler or Mosley, complete with hand gestures, then rewrite it.  Petitions are designed to SHOUT INTO OTHER PEOPLE’S BRAINS remember.
  9. Try and make sure you include hot buzz words out of OK, Heat or Sky News.  Extra points for Pedo, Death Sentence, Criminal Scum, Schools, Fiasco or Podiatrist!
  10. If at all possible try and make sure that your petition defies the laws of good sense, taste or basic physics.

Seen by 100s more people than most epetitionsHopefully by trying to remember these rules – there’s a good chance your petition will not only garner a few like-minded folks to sign it, but will get picked up in the media.  Whom will raise the question with some poor junior minister, and we can all enjoy watching them squirm on Newsnight (or just the edited highlights on 60 seconds on BBC3 for the majority of you).

Actually I lied – there is one epetition that needs your support, needs it right now.  Please go sign it, and let’s show the rest of these epetition writers what Britain really thinks…honest 😉