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!

Éclair: A Cake, Long in Shape, but Short in Duration

Simon Winchester has a very British name. He has a very British accent. He has a very British sense of humour. He has, in short, everything that I like in a man.

I read Winchester’s The Meaning of Everything (a history of the Oxford English Dictionary) last summer, and it was one of the first books I put on my recommendations page. As I wrote in my review, “Simon Winchester is an incredible writer, and makes his history book read more like a novel. You just have to give The Meaning of Everything a read.” I stand by that; I recommend this book to anyone even slightly interested in the history of dictionaries or English words.

I get it, though – not everyone has the time to curl up with a cup of tea and read for pleasure. Which is why I present you with this:

In 2003, Simon Winchester gave a lecture in Hart House’s Great Hall (where I recently saw a bangin’ July Talk show). TVO filmed it, and made it available to the world via YouTube.

In the lecture, Winchester presents the highlights of his book, interspersed with some dry – British –  jokes. He begins with a brief history of dictionaries – did you know that the first worth-mentioning monolingual dictionary was published in the 17th century? – and then goes on to talk about elephants, hot dogs, and James Murray. He’s incredibly articulate, and incredibly funny.

Even if you only have a couple minutes, skip to any part of the video and watch for a bit. This stuff makes for good cocktail party material.