Engage 2014: a conversation on #some

Three sessions at Engage 2014 focused on research communication and dissemination:

  • A Conversation with the public
  • Social media communities: challenges, lessons and opportunities for engagement with science
  • Attributes of digital engagers: academic identity and role in engaged research online

First up, A Conversation with the public. The Conversation (@ConversationUK) is a current affairs website offering “academic rigour and journalistic flair”, targeting a niche in the market with “in-depth, research informed, academic-led insight”.

Articles are written by experts, ie the individual researchers, with editors for eg Scotland. It’s fast moving, with eg a rolling response to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. Owned and governed by a trust, with a range of funders.

I’ve just signed off the newsletter (it’s been in ‘too much’ corner for a while, although the editor’s note is well done) and taken a proper look:

  • RSS feeds at faculty level
  • topics in abundance which you can follow via RSS or as a reader, but not controlled, limiting usefulness
  • bunging in Denmark brings up nine results, inc the usual suspects but rather deeper than the mainstream press; duly RSSd
  • republishing is invited – this is probably key
  • is there much conversation? you need to be registered as a reader to comment; on the blog (no RSS) there’s a weekly off topic space for general discussion, that must keep someone busy…have to wonder how much it is the same people talking to themselves

The Danish equivalent, Videnskab.dk (Facebook | Twitter) looks very similar, with faculty or higher RSS and topics, RSS hidden for those, but should work if you bung them in a reader. They also offer courses on research communication and formidling (~dissemination). Trying out the newsletter for now. Again, looks like overload, and wonder about usage levels.

No English spotted, but turns out there’s also something called ScienceNordic.com (Facebook | Twitter), set up in partnership with a similar service in Norway and covering a pretty broad definition of science including the ‘human sciences’. Duly newsletter’d for now, with an RSS feed for the society & culture section.

Next up, Social media communities: challenges, lessons and opportunities for engagement with science with Oliver Marsh (@SidewaysScience). Social media offers a range of opportunities for public engagement, but what role should researchers play in these emerging spaces, and what skills and support might they need to engage effectively? Are gatekeepers still needed?

Finally, Attributes of digital engagers: academic identity and role in engaged research online - the potential for digital forms of communication to support and create opportunities for engaged research, with Trevor Collins (Open) and Ann Grand (@ann2_g). The session involved a Visitors and Residents mapping to explore how people engage in online places – see blog post for more.

#acwri: academic writing

I may have spent over 10 years editing writing by academics into something more accessible, but heck! academic writing is a thing, and as written by non-native speakers offers some opportunities for editorial and translation interventions. Can we boil things down to some rules?

First off, I took a look at FutureLearn/Reading’s Beginner’s guide to writing in English for university study, aka #FLeng4study, which started on 6 October and ran for five weeks. According to the organisers there were over 28K learners from 55 countries enrolled. Like most FutureLearn MOOCs the level felt sub-HE to me, but the following emerged:

  • the key features of academic writing are content (the main ideas and information you want to give plus evidence, ie details and examples), organisation (well structured and linked, giving a coherent whole), language (accurate grammar, good spelling, formal and objective rather than personal style)
  • more on organisation:
    • introduction – two parts; the first part gives some background to the topic, the second part has a narrower focus, telling the reader exactly why you are writing the essay (the thesis statement)
    • paragraphs – also two parts; the first part introduces the reader to the focus of the paragraph (the paragraph leader or topic sentence), the second, the paragraph body, develops the idea as introduced in the first part
    • conclusion – the first part summarises the ideas in the essay, the second part has a wider focus, giving a suggestion for the future, eg a prediction, recommendation or solution to a problem

Week 3 was on using academic language, perhaps rather basic, but illustrates some basic errors:

  • use the present simple for facts, which are permanent or always true and activities, which are repeated or regular; note that the auxiliary verb do is used with the present simple to form negative sentences and questions
  • use there is/are to introduce new information, followed by more information in the rest of the sentence or the next sentence
  • describe general situations using plural nouns without ‘the’
  • use the present continuous for situations which are temporary or changing; formed by using the auxiliary verb to be and the present participle
  • use a variety of clause structures:
    • compound sentences with two simple clauses linked by linking words (and, but, or, so)
    • complex sentences using subordinators (although, because, when, whereas)

Week 4 had some tips on writing a plan, perhaps using mindmapping software:

  • collect all the ideas you have
  • identify the main points and focus on these
  • draw a diagram to show which ideas and evidence to use, organised in a way to answer the hidden question in the title
  • don’t forget evidence (details, examples, facts) to expand on your points

Next up, #acwrimo, aka Academic Writing Month, which with impeccable timing started on 1 November. Find it on Twitter | Facebook | Scoop.it | spreadsheet | map. Launched in 2011 on PhD2Published, #acwrimo is not about quantity over quality but rather about “positive attitudes to writing and established regular and sustainable practices”, with participants encouraged to commit to six basic rules. There’s loads of activity already. Interesting reflections from regular participant Explorations of Style (2012 | 2013).

There’s also a permanent hashtag, #acwri, with fortnightly chats, which I shall keep an eye on no longer run, plus subhash #acwribomo,

And cue linkage!

English for Academic Purposes (EAP):


Style and alternatives:




Tweeting about reading

Anouk Lang in reading as/and performance on the micro-narratives of reading:

  • what role does Twitter play in the reading lives of individuals?
  • a presentation of self, esp in relation to books which already have high cultural value, eg via prizes, book clubs
  • in tandem with one’s reading habits as a platform to broadcast one’s own sophistication:
  • for quoting favourite excerpts
  • critical pronouncements, negative reactions providing insights into the background knowledge and expectations with which readers approach a book, using the vocabulary of creative writing classes
  • desire for discussion with others to help with one’s own processing of a book (familiar to those who study reading in offline spaces)
  • articulations of pleasure, some of which give insight into the location of reading and the immersive power of a narrative
  • (comment):  showing an unfolding relationship with the book that is not part of typical literary analysis or even less formal reviewing. It’s more viewing than re-viewing!

See also her burst analysis on #canadareads.

Social reading:

Art, writing and big issues

Update, 23 Nov: Copenhagen Museum hosted a panel debate on architecture, art and urban nature yesterday, no coverage traced. Speakers included Camilla Berner of the Oversete Nyheder installation at Kongens Nytorv, a simple idea which may/not have been effective in situ. The summer’s growth was cleared at the beginning of September – and it’s good to know that the square will one day be restored to its previous state. But when? I can barely remember it as a funtioning square without a fence.

On Sunday some blocks of Greenlandic ice were dumped on Rådhuspladsen by go-to artist Olafur Eliasson (see comments, Classic Copenhagen), Klimakunst sees five artists installed in Østerbro’s Klimakvarter during October, while the Free Word Centre’s Weather Stations project is developing a literary response to climate change. I tend to the sceptic, like group working it’s one of those things where the intention seems more effective than the execution, although there’s money in it, folkens…

Two recent events explored the theme. 23 October saw Pynt eller politik: kan kunst og arkitektur fremme den grønne omstilling? (Storify | YouTube). Watching the stream the debate on engagement stuck out, with participants highlighting the need for new forms of communication, perhaps reducing the dystopian angle on climate change in favour of something more positive. More idealistic was a call for more of the aesthetic, which in turn would emphasise the ethical in society and education (this works better på dansk), more solutions and positive stories, less of the victim, endless facts and figures – current discourse is too functional and economically driven. What is needed is collective action rather than passive individuals, a lifestyle and value system change away from consumption. After that the second debate, on investment, touching on the ethics of nudging, seemed old fashioned.

Kudos for the streaming and a decent Storify, but maybe the event could have tried out something a bit more innovative than people giving presos. And just wondering, are Danes really bæredygtige or bare dygtige? (Broadly, good at sustainable lifestyles or good at doing what they are told…we create society or vice versa.) I don’t have a problem finally! sorting my household waste, but I don’t really feel it’s going to make a huge difference towards CPH’s climate goals, which don’t inspire, but rather feel childishly idealistic.

28-29 October saw Environmental entanglements: art, technology and natures (spot the Rennie Mackintosh font), organised by ITU’s Energy Futures squad (new on on Twitter; my bolding below):

This symposium brings together an interdisciplinary group of internationally acclaimed artists and academics in order to investigate how the arts, humanities and social sciences are responding to an increasing awareness of the complex environmental entanglements we are living in. In four themed sessions, the speakers explore alternative imaginaries and creative materializations of environmental issues. The symposium aims to foster lively cross-disciplinary conversations about the role of arts and humanities in articulating the political, scientific, social and aesthetic implications of environmental change.

It is becoming clear that a major part of the environmental problems are caused by the way our (mostly western) infrastructures are designed and that the resistance to changing existing infrastructures are often related to aesthetic issues (eg NIMBYism) and to a lack of creativity when it comes to re-imagining the very nature of these infrastructures. Therefore a growing number of artists have taken up engineering and architectural challenges as they propose ideas for spectacular and functional infrastructural constructions. In this session we will discuss what it is artists and designers can do differential than engineers and architects when it comes to re-imagining environmental infrastructures.

From the programme the following were of interest:

Incidentally, once again this wasn’t as well done as one might expect – time to revitalise event amplification – and curation?

Which is where this sort of thing comes in.

Writing with WordPress

Recent forays into #writing, inc #FLfiction14 and #FLHouseLit, haven’t led to many changes in my habits, so in the absence of any other exciting MOOCs let’s have a look at WordPress’ offerings.

I’ve bunged The Daily Post into my feedreader, and it’s already come up with tips on the freelance life.

Over the rest of week 1:

  • Monday saw the start of Blogging 101 and Writing 101. As well as tagging to show up in the Reader the former comes up with the usual “write first, edit later” advice, while the latter seems to be mainly concerned with fiction, kicking off with free writing – both of which is fine, but what if you write/edit forever, and never publish?
  • Tuesday: Blogging 101 is back to basics with editing your title and tagline, while Writing has a rather nice assignment on describing a setting, one to come back to
  • Wednesday: Blogging: “if you didn’t want anyone to read your posts, you’d keep a private diary”…hmm for me it’s something inbetween; the assignment is to follow five new topics in the Reader and five new blogs; well I follow loads of blogs but via RSS – will investigate the Reader more, inc the fair few who follow my A/drift blog, but it feels a bit like Twitter, ie I’ve got more than enough inputs already TYVM, and “engaging with the community” = jargon; Writing: more free writing, see Monday
  • Thursday: publish a post for your dream reader, including one new type of element, and write about a loss, the first in a three part series: nowt very new there
  • Friday: try out three other themes and write a story in as few words as possible
  • Saturday: Blogging on spending even more time in the Reader, following topics or reading recommended blogs

Week 2:

  • Monday: Blogging with a couple of tips on About pages (make it into a story, distill it into two sentences and use it as a widget), Writing on writing a character study
  • Tuesday: headers and widgets; write a compare and contrast dialogue, that could work…
  • Wednesday: leave a comment; write an adverb free post (use strong verbs) in a report on what you see at a local cafe, park or public place
  • Thursday: write a post building on the comment you left yesterday, linking to the other blog and creating a pingback; write a scene at the park etc from three different points of view; tells different stories and livens up your writing
  • Friday: widgets; write about your favourite childhood meal, in your own voice

Week 3 (how long does this go on for?):

  • Monday: blogrolls; use short, medium, and long sentences to compose a response about the home you lived in when you were twelve – the self geography meme…
  • Tuesday: publish a post based on your personalised take on today’s Daily Prompt; write a post inspired by a real world conversation, with an element of foreshadowing at the beginning
  • Wednesday: read six posts written in response to yesterday’s prompt and leave comments on at least two of them; write about finding something, the next post in the series started on Thursday in week 1

And with that, I’m off on holiday. Some interesting stuff here, though!

Update, 11 Nov: ebooks are now available for Writing 101 and its friend, Writing 201, on doing something about all those drafts. Worth a try – duly downloaded.

#corpusmooc (and text analysis) linkage

Bumped from March as so much interesting stuff…

Updates: just came across culturomics via a 2011 TEDx talk – no, stay…two researchers who helped create the Google Ngram Viewer analyse the Google Books digital library for cultural patterns in language use over time. See the Culturomics site, Science paper etc. Critique: When physicists do linguistics and Bright lights, big dataEMOTIVE, sentiment analysis project at Lboro…Laurence Anthony reviews the future of corpus toolsSentiment and  semantic analysisanalysing Twitter sentiment in the urban contextWisdom of the crowd, research project from inter alia Demos and Ipsos MORI, launches with a look at Twitter’s reaction to the autumn statement

Aha, a links post…I’ve got links on text analysis and related all over the shop – see the category and tags for text mining and sentiment analysis on this blog for starters, in particular #ivmooc 4: what? and #ivmooc 2: burst detection, plus Word clouds for text mining. Here’s a broadly corpus related haul.




There’s no shortage of cases. Here’s a selection with particular appeal, either due to subject matter or methodology:

Blogs, Twitter…The dragonfly’s gaze looks at computational approaches to literary text analysis, with a nice post listing repositories and exploring file formats.

Different ways of reading

For a several years I’ve found reading on a screen (and even at all) hard in that I’m programmed to scan, but what with ebooks and tablets really gaining traction and more quality ‘lean back’ content on offer it’s time to review my habits. I’m also interested in different ways of reading – and how they might relate to different ways of writing.

Reading on a screen:

What works for reading on the Web? It doesn’t have to be short, see #longform, but does the nation still shudder at large blocks of uninterrupted text? For more see Ebooks and digital literature.

Ways of reading:

I practise curated reading (I’ve just made this up). If you read book reviews, vaguely literary blogs etc, you already know a fair amount about a book before you pick it up – one of those sources may have made you pick it up in the first place. I might also have done a bit more searching around the book, looking for interviews with the author, their website, free/open bits of their writing elsewhere, online book reviews…so after I’ve read around 50 pages I might feel I’ve had enough. OTOH I might go through the curation process while I’m reading the book, or afterwards, and then put the whole thing together as a book review.

In what happens when I read non-fiction Barbara Fillip talks about connecting: “Once I’m deep into the book, my mind starts wandering and I start making connections with totally different aspects of my life…I get interrupted, read something else, and the connections between the two items I’ve been reading appear.” Think of it as an introvert appropriate approach to social reading.

The other side of this particular coin is that you can sound as if you have read the book without having ever opened it, channelling Pierre Bayard (in Brain Pickings). I’ve heard Iain Sinclair bemoaning a couple of times that people can talk reasonably intelligently about his books without having made the effort to read all 400 pages.

And if you do make the effort, maybe you can write a book about it? Surely there have been loads of these (eg Susan Hill’s Howards End is on the landing: a year of reading from home), but The year of reading dangerously: how fifty great books saved my life by Andy Miller seems to be the latest in the canon. After listening to the Little Atoms podcast and scanning the sample chapter I feel like I can tick it off my to read list, especially as Andy admits his choices are “literary lad classics”. But his advice is to sticking with a book, particularly in these days of instant opinions, as the value of say, Middlemarch, may be in the whole experience.

Update, Dec: in Five Dials 34 (PDF only; pp44-47) Nick Hornby is interviewed about the guilt of not reading and his column/book Stuff I’ve been reading. The June 2010 column, reprinted in Salon, covers Francis Spufford’s Red plenty. As the man says,

Read what you enjoy, not what bores you.