University as workplace: new directions

On 4th September I presented at BAAL 2015 (Aston University), a paper entitled “The University as a Workplace: New Directions in the Study of Academic Writing” .  There were a lot of nods in the room while I was talking, which suggests we are on to something!  Further to Sharon’s reflections on our autoethnographies of email, many of the questions afterwards picked up on the issue of emails, and how the reading and writing of emails integrates with and affects people’s working lives and experiences.  In particular, people were interested in the idea that the singular notion of the practice of ” doing email” actually brings together tasks, and therefore practices, of many different kinds: quick or complex, boring or challenging, potentially emotionally disruptive and definitely out of one’s control.

This was also the first time I had used our handy little project logo in public:


Someone who had come in after the start of the paper said to me afterwards, “I saw the logo at the bottom – are you part of a skills centre or something?”  I still have to figure out what that means about the semiotics of branding ….

The new landscape of academic communication: conference paper

Between 13th and 16th July 2015 I attended the 19th European Conference on Literacy in lovely Klagenfurt, Austria.  The theme of the conference was ‘Literacy in the New Landscape of Communication’, and our paper based on early project findings developed this theme, entitled ‘The new landscape of academic communication: transformations of writing practices in the contemporary university’.  Drawing on some of the phase 1 interviews, we drew out a few key aspects of changing writing practices that are starting to emerge as important: the significance of changing working and writing spaces; new patterns of collaboration, particularly those afforded by digital technologies; and managerial demands, particularly those associated with the REF.  Thanks to all those who attended the paper and engaged with it, we had some stimulating questions (including the penetrating ‘Does tenure still exist in the UK?’) and some recognition of similar kinds of experiences in people’s own work.  If you would like to see more detail (and some great quotes from our initial data!), the slides are downloadable by clicking this link:

‘The new landscape of academic communication: transformations of writing practices in the contemporary university’.  Paper given at 19th European Conference on Literacy, Klagenfurt, 13-16 July 2015.