My Stateside Learning Journey 2010

With my Apple Mac and iPhone as travel companions, I’ve started this weekend the first stage of my Stateside Learning Journey (SLJ). So what is a learning journey? Well, we are all on a learning journey, in life, work and play. However, this is a journey with a specific remit to ‘learning in situ’, visiting institutions on ‘The States’ side of the world (but not just the US), to take part in a experience through sharing experiences, thoughts, ideas with scholars, students, people I meet along the way and within myself, through my own critical reflection.

So today, I’ve  just arrived through Chicago O’hare airport, on route for a family-run B&B in Evanston, a couple of blocks from Northwestern University. This will be my residence for the next 4 and a half weeks. The first city in a 6 week learning journey wherein my hope is to meet, observe, listen to, work and collaborate with a number of very interesting, and intelligent minds in the fields of Digital Media and Communications, Education and Learning. So how did I get here and what inspired this learning journey? What inspired it was DML2010 and what has funded it is an alot of hard work and an ICA?

International Collaboration Award (ICA)

This SLJ came out of a conversation and emails with Associate Professor Eszter Hargittai, founder of the Web use Project in the Department of Communication Studies in the School of Communication, Northwestern University. Well renowned for her research into digital media participation, access, literacy and social issues, we met and spoke in February at the DML2010 in San Diego. Despite being from differing faculties (Communications versus Management) and drawing from similar but also different theoretical disciplines, we observed that our research journey’s had certain synergies.

So in the summer this year I applied and was awarded with an International Collaboration Award (ICA) from Cardiff University to fund a 4 week research visit to visit Prof. Hargittai and work with her and her colleagues in Web Use Project. With other research monies generated from industry talks and seminars, I generated funds to extend the journey by a further two weeks to make my way to Columbia in New York and then on to Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver. The schedule of the SLJ2010 include:

  • Northwestern in Chicago (17th October-20th November)
  • Columbia in New York (20-24th November)
  • Simon Fraser in Vancouver (24th-29th November)

Swimming Outside the Goldfish Bowl

Experiencing a world outside the goldfish bowl is an activity that is critically important to our craft as academics. By this I don’t just mean through reading outside your discipline, but through conversing with other knowledge critical souls at other institutions, especially overseas and in divergent fields. To critically develop our craft, we academics rely heavily on collaboration and modern technologies like email, relational databases, and community networks help mediate it. However the power and presence of face-to-face conversation is especially important for forging new networks, dialogue and evolving mindsets.

Occasionally we might get a stolen hour or two at a 3-day conference jam-packed with presentations, papers, exhibits, new faces, old faces and social events, to chat or share ideas, but these are highly reliant both on funding and time to attend. Two things the modern day academic has very little of. Even in such a connected digital space, face-to-face conversations still play a critical role in developing social bonds and deep rich learning for academic researchers, especially those from differing fields (e.g., Business Management, Communications, Education, Political Social Policy). As such, a bag I did pack and a wandering I have gone. Actually being from Australia, I should have termed this a ‘Walk-about!’ :-)

From a UK Business Management school ranked 4* in the UK (CARBS), with doctoral training from a leading Business Faculty in Australia (UNSW), these training and faculty contexts have formed the institution boundaries of my early academic career. However, not my world view or the critical focus of my research in digital participation, learning and literacy, which I research in the context of Marketing Management Practice and Higher Education.

As such, to learn further from outside the goldfish bowl, my journey includes faculties in Communications, Media and Education studies.

Aim of this Learning Journey

Ultimately, the aim of the journey is to learn from, explore and collaborate with scholars in Digital Media and Communications, Education and Learning to develop knowledge and deeper understanding in the following areas from each my research is grounded:

  • The substantive area that defines my research, i.e., Digital media Participation, Learning and & Literacy esp. in management/marketing practice and education;
  • The methodological considerations in it’s undertaking, i.e., Inspired by the work of Lave and Wegner (1991); and Wegner (1998) on Communities of Practice and Situated Knowledge; and Kozinets, (2002) on Netnography;
  • The contextual considerations, which condition and set boundaries for case informed research such as the research I’m/we are engaged with.

Be part of this Learning Journey!

This time away is more than what most academic researchers, practitioners or educationalists in non-research-led institutions ever get to do, so I feel both fortunate and excited by the prospect of  this journey. But I also want to share it if I can! As such, I’ll do my very best to blog, tweet about it in order to share the experience and thoughts with other interested academics and those outside the halls of academe who are interested in reading about it.

So do please comment on, re-tweet and share these entries, and pose any questions or comments for me along this time.