As Autumn Is Progressing, So Am I

It’s been a while since the Media symposium and I am pleased to tell you that it was successful. Interdisciplinary events are always great; you get to move outside your comfortzone and meet new people. The Media symposium was hosted by UEA’s schools of Policital Studies (PSI) and International Development (DEV) and they did a great job.

For the occasion I experimented with a simpler version of my usual exuberant presentation technique. No Prezi this time, no pictures or videos, just a basic powerpoint. The effect was amazing: I hardly got any questions. Which wasn’t the effect I was going for, obviously. While this issue was completely solved by the valuable discussions I had during the coffee breaks, the difference was surprising. And it made me think: maybe my love for entertaining presentation techniques isn’t just nice and funny and cute. Maybe it’s the core of what I do.

Next Friday I’ll be off to the first Public Intellectuaevent. How convenient. To my surprise some people didn’t seem too excited when I told them about the seminar series. For some, apparently, being a public intellectual is something that distracts one from one’s main job as an academic: research. It’s a misconception I’ve stumbled upon and ran into over and over again since I became an academic myself. Being public isn’t just fun. It’s a necessity. I recently attended the first session of UEA’s Developing Teaching Skills programme and teaching is all about making things understandable for people who are not familiar with them. It means: getting their attention. It means: being able to explain very difficult ideas. It means: engagement. How’s that not public?

Sure, some people would say. But in the end research is what it’s all about. Teaching is just something we have to do, but it’s not a priority. To these people I would say: well, maybe. But teaching is becoming an increasingly vital part of our work. The non-teaching academic is dying out. Almost everyone has teaching obligations to fulfill. With government funding decreasing universities are becoming more and more reliant on tuition fees. Which means that people pay us money to be taught. I say: we’d better make sure we can do things the right way.

A few months ago I toyed with the idea of organizing a workshop which would teach students to use performance techniques when presenting their research. Dua to a lack of time I’ve had to put that idea on hold. But I hope I can use the Public Intellectual events to explore how engagement might become more for me than “just fun,” in other words, how I can use it to share my work and benefit from the results. Stay tuned.

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