Since October, my research work has been stuck in a spin cycle and I have been unable to reboot. I chose to write here because my working proposal document is too intimidating for me to open at the moment. I shudder at writing anything.
A series of both fortunate and unfortunate events have led to this state. In October, I had three presentations to prepare for: one was my inaugural pilot project on using social network analysis for the academic community, the second was on the same topic, but condensed and repackaged for a general education audience interested in online learning, and the third was a grassroots round-table discussion at the local TESL affiliate level. Each one required a different level of preparation, none of them light on time.
I was headed in a good direction and ready to return to writing my proposal when I received a rejection of a submission I had made to a journal. It was a mental setback that my ego didn’t want to process. Instead of #AcWri, it became #ThinkingAboutAcWri. I bowed out of a 14 day writing challenge, which made me feel guilty, and #AcWriMo didn’t produce much writing, although I did read two books and take copious notes, which is still writing, but anxiety related to my working proposal document remained steady. Other things took place concurrently, but I’m not ready to share those just yet. They are of the fortunate variety.
Last week, I attended the TESL Ontario Conference. I had a brief presentation about self-directed professional development as part of a career booster panel, and I assisted with a remote session. I didn’t attend too many sessions, and I don’t know how time escaped me – I had all the good intentions of attending a UDL session, but I managed to reconnect with many old and new colleagues, and had two more opportunities to come face to face with former virtual connections. These encounters still rank as the best conference experiences. This time, @ELTAugusta and I met in her EduLINC session about a blended learning research project. We had much to chat about, but we put the conversation on pause because of time, to be continued virtually.
Augusta reminded me that I have been quiet in twitter chats for a while, and other tweeps at the conference echoed that they missed my comments about English language teaching. Its been a conscious choice to withdraw from active participation in the past year, and it was based on some advice (or warning) about ethnographic research, and the challenges faced by a researcher concerning the insider/outsider perspective.
I didn’t realize that my connections were missing the content or comments I had been sharing previously. My silence frustrated me as well, but I wanted to focus on my research, and remaining objective was important, I was told.
I read Kozinets’ Netnography book over the weekend, and his stance on the researcher participating in the community they wish to research is more fluid than the strict advice I was given about ethnographic research. Netnography and pure content analysis takes the observational stance to the extreme and the participative stance can also become an extreme, not allowing the researcher to use a wider lens to view the community being researched.
Participation in online communities can enhance the experience for all participants and provide the community with a common ground. Ultimately, the best stance is to maintain the tension between the two.
All of this to say: my research doesn’t define me. Rejections and anxiety connected to academic life are normal (not normalized). My online Twitter community is supportive and unique to my context – I’ve curated my connections and the content I seek. Research in this realm would be impossible if I weren’t engaged with things ELT-related. So I’ll keep fighting the good fight, as a former colleague urged.
If I’m on the netnographic seesaw, or writing in the academic world, or trying to finish my proposal in order to declare candidacy, I’m staying grounded.