Students and Social Media

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Inside Higher Ed -- Students and Social Media

I recognise some of the differences in attitudes to social media among (some) academics and (some) students discussed here.

Practice seems to be quite varied in universities here, with some agreeing there will be no facebook connections between staff and students, others much more 'open', and everything in between.

We recently started a closed facebook group for English Language students at Middlesex (with separate groups for other students). Some staff and some students have created separate identities for this group while others use existing identities. In both groups, there are people with no interest in facebook in general who have reluctantly joined because they see the benefit of being in this particular conversation.

On a totally separate note, I'm known as they guy who's always entering competitions (off to a free cinema screening tomorrow morning, for example) but I'm entering far less often now because I refuse to 'like' a company or product on facebook just so that I can enter.

B--)

induction challenge

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There is a prize for the first student this year to tell me who this is B--)

Conan Doyle interviewed

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If you haven't seen it, here's a filmed 'interview' with Conan Doyle talking about how he created Holmes and the doctor who provided the inspiration for Holmes's techniques.

Conan Doyle on Sherlock Holmes

The Holmes stories are useful in teaching pragmatics and inference, particularly in understanding what 'deduction' is and the role it plays in human communication (Holmes's inferential processes aren't really deductive, but deduction is part of it, which means they have something in common with what we do when working out what other people are trying to tell us)

There are lots of interesting things for linguists in the interview, from phonetics to pragmatics (and maybe beyond). For students of detective literature, it's interesting that he refers to Watson as Holmes's 'rather stupid friend'. Alongside Agatha Christie's comments (see previous post) this could form the beginnings of an exploration of Watson and/or Holmes, or detectives and sidekicks in general.

(Personally, I'm not much interested in spiritualism but still fascinating to hear Conan Doyle talking about it towards the end)

B--)

duchess of death

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Guardian Review - The duchess of death

Interesting to read Agatha Christie on other detective writers. I completely agree about what a great creation Watson is, and the influence of Conan Doyle.

I wonder what Dorothy Sayers fans think about her comments on Harriet, who she says is 'a tiresome young woman'.

She's also down on Poirot a bit:

'I would give one piece of advice to young detective writers: be very careful what central character you create - you may have him with you for a very long time'

It looks like this is (part or all of) a preface to a new edition of Ask A Policeman:

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If you'd like to read more about Agatha, I'd recommend my colleague Merja Makinen's Agatha Christie - Investigating Femininity:

makinen_agathachristie.jpg

There's also an interesting paper by Siobhan Chapman in a special issue of the Journal of Literary Semantics I edited recently:

http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/jls.2012.41.issue-2/issue-files/jls.2012.41.issue-2.xml

(I'm afraid you can only access it if your library has a subscription)

It applies ideas from 'neo-Gricean pragmatics' (ask me if you don't know what that means and would like to) in explaining reader inferences (I won't say more for reasons of spoiler avoidance). It's surprising how little neo-Gricean work on literary stylistics there has been. Siobhan's paper could be the start of something. . .

B--)

students and feminism

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I went to a really interesting discussion at the Duke of York's theatre last night:

http://www.royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/jumpy-panel-discussion

This link doesn't mention one panellist, Olivia Grant, a recent graduate who discussed her experience at uni. She described her first class on gender which began with the teacher asking 'how many of you consider yourselves feminists?' Olivia was the only person (out of around 30) to raise her hand. She described a sense that feminism was somehow 'taboo' in a way that caring about race and class issues isn't. She also said (trying to quote but maybe getting it slightly wrong) '. . .then they tell you how much more male lecturers are paid than female lecturers and your brain explodes'

The discussion was really interesting, discussing relationships and differences among suffragettes, the 'second wave' of feminism (they referred to the 70s but I guess it began in the 60s and carried on beyond the 70s), Greenham Common and the situation now. For me, though, the main interest was in how Olivia's experience echoed my own experience in class.

Also interesting to see how positive everyone was about Caitlin Moran's How To Be A Woman which was a big hit of the summer for my family (although my daughter was asked to stop reading it aloud to us on the beach - to do with the noise rather than the content, I think)

I overheard an interesting conversation on the street afterwards. Two young women were agreeing that Greenham Common is something nobody had really mentioned to them much before. 'You really have to seek it out,' one of them said. 'I remember my mum telling me about the suffragettes because I thought it was unfair that I couldn't wear nail varnish when I was about seven, but nobody told me about Greenham'

B--)

Billy on the radio

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I had a great time in PEI last year at the APLA conference. A highlight was my first radio appearance discussing academic work. Karen Mair interviewed me for Mainstreet PEI She was an excellent host and I really enjoyed the experience. Here's the sound file if you want to listen to it:

billyonmainstreet_cbc_121111.MP3

B--)

do lectures exist?

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I went to a fantastic event for Guardian Extra members last night. Alan Rusbridger (re-) presented the Hugh Cudlipp lecture he originally gave in January, with the title 'Does Journalism Exist?' It was a fascinating discussion of current issues facing journalists/ newsmakers/news proprietors, beautifully presented and in a nice, informal and collaborative atmosphere. It also got me thinking about lectures in general and what a lecture is.

When we were setting up The Lecture List, we spent a fair amount of time discussing the semantics and pragmatics of the word 'lecture'. Everyone agreed it had a range of negative connotations (dusty dons, puzzled students, ...) On the other hand, public lectures are more and more popular, so there's clearly something attractive about the events behind the word. In the end, we decided the site would survive the connotations and that the notion of what a lecture is might also begin to change as the public appetite for lectures increased.

Last night's lecture was an excellent illustration of why lectures are so popular. A chance to be in the same room as someone with expertise in a particular area (one speaker in the front row began his question by saying how 'privileged' and 'honoured' he felt to be so close to the editor of the Guardian and to be able to ask him a question face to face). And it was a very engaging presentation with supporting audio-visuals, humour and insight, followed by a very relaxed and open discussion.

My heart kind of sunk at the beginning, though, when he began by half-apologising for giving the presentation in the 'archaic' lecture format (he said 'arcane' and then corrected himself, which I guess was also revealing). It sank again when he said 'I'm going to read it, because that's what a lecture is'. Two thoughts occurred to me: the happy one that we're lucky most lecturers don't stick to etymology when deciding what a lecture is, and the dread anticipation of a lecture read from a script. In linguistics, reading lectures from a script is very unusual. In some other subjects, they're more common. While some speakers can read out a text in an engaging way, others do it in a way which means no-one can maintain attention.

Luckily, this was far from a boring, old-fashioned 'reading'. The topic was fascinating, the structure was clear and the delivery was very relaxed and empathetic .

The lecture convinced me that journalism does exist but that it has moved on from an old-fashioned form where 'experts' with privileged access select what readers will be exposed to. Also that it's not completely clear what range of things count as journalism. I think it also demonstrated that something similar has been happening to lectures.

B-)

Billy on the beach