Bigger, better, shorter, faster, free

This week I enjoyed a couple of hours listening to Professor Patrick Dunleavy from LSE blog fame, discussing research impact.
It started off, as most sessions at uni do, with me getting lost. This time I got lost way before the Uni’s buildings as I didn’t follow my GPS and then I did follow my GPS and then I detoured to miss an accident and followed the GPS through the Toll tunnels. I think my GPS decided to get back at me for ignoring it a few times and I went out of one tunnel and into another. Basically instead of arriving 30 minutes early, I arrived $20 poorer and with only 5 minutes to find the Global change Institute building – which in case you are ever looking for it, is not on the Uni ‘OMG I’m lost’ ap. But I did my usual bounce from information board to information board around the Uni and arrived as they were giving the introduction to Patrick. My supervisor walked in, just in front of me, so I felt better, at least I was in the right place.

It took me a little while to align my expectations of the lecture and swirling thoughts with what I was hearing. I often feel that I’ve missed the first episode of a TV series – everybody seemed to know what was going on but me. I caught up when Patrick started discussing research impact and the role of blogs and social media. There were suddenly questions and comments from the floor – concerns about the risks of social media, frustrations at the Uni’s slow pace in the use of academic blogs. Certainly this seemed like a hot and at times emotive topic for many.

I was bemused by the distinction, which was I’m sure very deliberate, between academic blogs and social media. The latter referred to Twitter and FaceBook. I’ve always seen blogs as social, no matter the descriptor. I see the social aspect, particularly for academic blogs as the strength and benefit. This concept came up a couple of times.

Firstly, when thinking about the impact of my research, once I’ve stopped my excited celebrating that I’m published in a big, well-regarded journal – how many people will have access? The policy writers to which I am hoping to have influence? Nope. The public service employees who can inform and direct policy? Nope. Educationists? Nope. Teachers? Nope. Other researchers with whom I have already discussed my work or have influenced my work? Yep!

I will have provided access to those who were already in the know and not the group I wanted to have an impact on – problem.

Secondly, as someone at the lecture articulated in their question – ‘The policy writers and public service don’t know what to do with the research, they don’t know how to use it.’ (Don’t you love a question that is a statement) now I was right with them on this one, I’ve stood on both sides of this topic. I started nodding until they then went on and ‘blamed’ the workers. ‘They’ needed to learn how to read research. ‘They’ needed to take action to run programs to learn how to interpret research for their area and work with researchers. ‘They’ needed to access the many programs that are available (apparently) to help.

I echo Patrick’s comment of, ‘we live in a high tempo world’. In policy or project roles, I and those around me were pretty busy trying to access enough information to provide advice in the 3 hours that we had from the request. Remember that access was generally not available to the big published journals. Could we have contacted our research department? Local universities? Of course and for some projects that occurred, and those partnerships were valued highly – not going to happen in a few hours.

What can happen is a Google/ Google Scholar search. What can be accessed read and consumed are and quickly are blogs, news articles and Twitter links. If you want your research to have impact on those that you address in your abstract or conclusion, then put it where they can access it, in a language they can digest easily. I don’t want a 10 course degustation with matched wines if I have 15 minutes for lunch. I wanted to cheer when Patrick said, ‘I’m a knowledge democrat, I don’t think universities own knowledge’.

Professor Patrick Dunleavy has his own blog, The Impact Blog and Tweets at Write4Research. This lecture included topics raised in a previous blog – The Impact Blog

Which brings me to another one of his comments – To have impact – live long and repeat yourself.


Live long … Leonard Nimoy, 2011 Attribution: Gage Skidmore

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Non-Ethical holiday

  The holiday itself is not unethical, I am not being unethical – but I have at last submitted my ethics applications to both my university and Department of Education and Training. So this is the non-ethics holiday. Instead I have read a Graphic guide to Foucault (I don’t think he would have been an easy or likeable person), a couple of emails to my advisor (more on that soon) and playing with some ideas for articles that will be the last part).

Firstly though – the holiday – Koh Yao Noi island in Thailand. We have been here before and loved it’s quiet easy going nature and also the food. This time we have rented a house over the water from which we watch every sunset. The breeze comes up just before lunch when you think you can’t take the heat and humidity any more and we relax back into the cane deck chairs with a book, a cold beer, prepping for the next meal or massage. 

And then I get an email from my advisor telling me about an advisoral team change that is different to one one we spoke about. A couple of emails later I had the last word (I have a feeling I am not his easiest student to advise, but I really like him as a person and for his academic skills. There are some of his other skills that I’m working on…). So my final email was – ways to drive your advisor up the wall. Send holiday photos – I sent him four. Point out that if he had mastered or even dabbled in social media we could talk through Skype or messenger – this is an ongoing debate with us. And finally in a beautifully punctuated list point out and demonstrate that I now love using semicolons (which is a bit of an exaggeration) now that I am finished writing my ethics application. He spent a lot of time (sorry) editing and adding semicolons into my work. 

I am now at the next waiting stage – waiting for ethics to return. I have lots of reading to do, but I’m hopeless at gathering readings and not really formulating any considered notes or shape from them – I need a small short term goal apart from ‘my thesis’. So I’m considering writing some articles – I am not aiming for publication, I’m aiming for focus. And I think I’ll start with a couple of ‘Response to…’ type articles. On my list are Neil Selwyn, Ben Williamson, Jenny Ozga, Paul Henman, Bob Lingard, Sam Sellar and Ian Hardy. More on that later, time to walk down my dusty, concrete road to get my nails done and then off to P’Chan’s for lunch, possibly a seafood salad, or tamarind fish or stir fry prawns or…


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Days 5 – 15

Christmas! Family! Glazed ham with orange marmalade, whisky & mustard. Glazed balsamic and maple duck. Grilled peach and pecan salad. Asparagus and halloumi salad. Boiled Christmas pudding. Sharing presents. Cleaning the house. Sprawled on couch. Cups of tea. Glasses of bubbles. Beach. Bobbing in waves. Beer peanut toffee. Pickling. Wrapping. Sitting. 

And this is the balance I strive for between work and rest, home and study, family, friends and colleagues. I don’t try to get even amounts of time for each, each day, even each week – but over time. I just have to make sure that the blocks of time are not extended to snapping point. 


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Day 4

The King reigns but does not govern. Dean challenges us to print those words out, put them on the wall and ponder.

Following on from the Master Class on Foucault was the public lecture with Mitchell Dean this afternoon. He spoke about how we all contribute to keeping Foucault ‘alive’. Foucault remains influential today although we need to place his writings in the context of his time. Dean commented that he was sure that if Foucault were alive today (he would be 90 next year) that he would have continued to confuse and challenge with his writings, lectures and thoughts.

I found it interesting and sad that the only words of FoucAult’s that have been ignored are those in his will of no post humus publications of his work. Was it that he knew his ideas would shift with the times?

A question was asked that While Foucault always worked in the shadow of the state, the shadow of the sovereignty or the ‘king’, how do we operate in the shadow of the economy – and is one of my questions how do we operate in the shadow of the digital?

I’m looking forward to rewatching the lecture that was recorded as there were points that I wanted to note, but didn’t want to miss the next comments. And yes, already I wish I had been in a better space and had presented a paper, but at least I know the expectations and protocols around such an event – a whole new world.


Mitchell Dean


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Day 3

What a way to start a week – Master Class with Mitchell Dean, world renowned academic of Foucault. I had decided not to present a paper at this session – my Imposter Syndrome was flourishing. As it was I almost didn’t take up the opportunity to attend but I’m glad I did. I almost went home half way through the day, but I stayed. 

There were some great presentations and I would have been fine presenting today, in a couple more weeks. I would have enjoyed the opportunity but sometimes you have to know when to pull up. Work and life had been going full pelt and I needed to be a little kind to myself.

There were a few ‘aha’ moments from Dean and presenters – Mitchell Dean posed the question in his keynote address – How do we move with Foucault past Foucault?
Advice for someone who wants to use MF? “People can read into Foucault anything they want” Dean

Accounting – naming + counting gives visibility (and thereby making some things invisible). Interesting when considering digital governance as I do. (Digital governance) Numbers have limitations. Numbers are constructed and it is an interesting to look at the space of the construction – this idea needs my further consideration.

I was a little surprised at the chair’s comment regarding our level of understanding of Foucault considering we were at a master class – it certainly didn’t encourage me to say anything, even after Mitchell’s reassuring retort. 

“Please don’t feel free to ask some stupid questions’ Chair

“I was happy to start with some stupid answers!” Dean 

Diane, a fellow OWL (shall expand in another post), presented and said when referring to Foucault’s concept of power that what she referred to as the Network of power – gets messy, gets ugly lots of things are going on at the same time. ‘Bless Michel We have capillary power’ Dianne spoke of the micro level and the first impact of simple acts of power.

“I’m just filling in a form – no, it is changing you” – can this equate to teachers filling in data to O/S? How does it change the teacher? Is this change visible? What is the impact of the change? What is it giving visibility to? What is the change? “The network of power is assembling us differently”

Many things during the day resonated with my thoughts and study, but I was too tired to really take advantage of this opportunity. I am sure I will look back and sigh at the missed opportunity to have personal feedback from Mitchell Dean! What I would have liked to have shared was –
Disciplining educational policy in an era of digital governance – what is the role of digital policy instruments? 

Imagine three intersecting circles. In one sits policy – from text to discourse taking in ‘what is an author’.

In the second, Data – from national, state such as NAPLAN, international PISA, TIMMS, Regional and local attendance, behaviour.

The 3rd circle is relating to the digital, or software. I’m looking at digital sociology as I look at the life of data, not just the effect of data on our lives.

The Rouleaux triangle, the intersecting space created by these three circles is where my research takes place. All of this within a Foucauldian framework of governmentality (the influence of the conduct of our conduct in schools or department of education), discipline (taking in dataveillance) and power (freedom to say no).

But I didn’t, instead I went home, had a wine, dinner, chips and went to sleep.  


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Day 2

Day 2 started with catching up with an old colleague for brunch. Always good to catch up with friends. Then it was time to pick up fave daughter and drive up the coast to start the Christmas pudding process with my Mum. Back home to find pizza ready for dinner. Exhausted from 4-5 hours driving. Have I completed the required reading for the Master class tomorrow on Foucault? No, but I’m hoping to stay awake – workng on attainable goals this week. 

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Day 1

Day 1 of my 12mths leave to whack a large hole in my PhD. Walked out the doors at work yesterday afternoon feeling a little flat – I thought it would be exciting, scary – all the big emotions. But I just felt a little sad, a little happy for the holidays to start, a little ‘hmm, I’ll be able to focus on my study’. Actually it was mainly just, ‘hmmm’. 

My plan is to get a whole lot of things cleaned up first, to minimise the distractions so day 1 – woke up at 12:30am and couldn’t sleep. Returned to sleep at 3am and slept in until 8:30 woke to lovely soft rain – so no markets this morning – yes I’m a sook.

I’ve tidied up the linen cupboard, dusted, tidied up the lounge room and had lunch. The pantry has been reorganised, vacuuming done and the shopping. I’ve even started the Foucault readings for the master class on Monday. 

I have a sneaky suspicion I’m avoiding something. But more on that later, perhaps Day 2, or 3.  

Colour coded towels

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