Thinking Big, Thinking Small, Thinking Differently

The week after last, I trekked it down to London to attend the ‘Thinking Big: New Ambitions for English and the Humanities’ conference hosted at Senate House by the Institute of English Studies (where I did my MA) in collaboration with the School of English, Newcastle University. I had been asked to present a ‘provocation’ related to my research on the Digital Horizons panel. I’m good at provoking people, I thought to myself. I can totally do this. Off I went.

Despite having such a frustratingly vague name, this conference exposed me to so many interesting ideas about it means to study English and the humanities today. I learned things I didn’t know that I needed to know. I met people whose research blew me away with how innovative and interesting it was, and was humbled to see so many people engaging with publics in creatives ways that I hope to one day emulate myself. As a PhD student, it can be difficult to remember that there is a world outside of your thesis: Thinking Big showed me through its panels and their corresponding workshops (i.e. discussion-based seminars) that there are academics out there who are doing amazing work both nationally and internationally.

So, dear readers, because many of you were unable to make this conference, I have written you an overview of all that I learned at Thinking Big. This is a long one, but worth reading if you want to know about cool stuff happening within the humanities right now. Maybe you’ll get some ideas for your own cool stuff.

Read on, y’all. Continue reading “Thinking Big, Thinking Small, Thinking Differently”

New Directions, Networking… and Cookies

Well, folks, my first conference presentation as a PhD student was a success!

This past Tuesday, I had the pleasure of presenting some of my research at Oxford Brookes University’s annual ‘New Directions in Print Culture Studies’ symposium, hosted by The Oxford International Institute for Publishing Studies. This conference featured the wonderful Drs Shafquat Towheed and Samantha Rayner as keynotes, as well as a bunch of other academics investigating a vast range of topics within the fields of book history, print culture, and publishing.

My research is still very much in its early stages, but those who heard me speak were so supportive of what I was doing. I didn’t scare anyone away from natural language generation!

Want to give my presentation a peruse? Here you go:

One of the best parts of any conference is meeting people within your field who can challenge your views, but who can also offer you the support you need to continue improving as a researcher. As with every conference, I did do some pretty typical networking, and ended up meeting some interesting people from across the UK and Europe.

Here’s a hot tip: If you’re not great at starting conversations with strangers, just stand ever so slightly in the way of wherever the cookies (or other sweet treats) are. When someone realizes that he/she has to speak to you in order to get you to physically move, that is when you make your conversational move. Ask that person what he/she has found to be the most interesting part of the conference so far. Grab another cookie for yourself as you do so. Once both parties have a cookie in hand, y’all are practically guaranteed a jolly chat. You’re welcome.

Seriously, though, while networking went well, it was the panel I was assigned to that made my day. I sat on a panel with two other women – Dr Kate Macdonald from the University of Reading, and Laura Dietz from Anglia Ruskin – whose research topics differed drastically from my own. However, as we got to talking and presenting we realized just how much overlap there was between what we were saying. Following our presentations, Kate offered me some ideas about potential research avenues (which I’ve already begun diving into), and Laura provided insight into some ways to collect qualitative and quantitative reading response data (which will be very helpful for next year).

Also, we now have this photo where I look like I am going to eat Laura:

Sorry about that, Laura.

Hopefully I’ll be attending more conferences soon, although for now it’s back to the grind of chapter writing.

Got questions about the presentation embedded above? Hit me with ’em!