The End is in Sight

Milestone marker!

This week I turn 25. For many of my friends, they’ve been freaking out about getting older. For me, I’m concentrating on completing my Masters at the highest standard I can (and maintaining my lifestyle blog).

This week also marks seven months since I started at the University of Sheffield. With just five months to go, the end is in sight. This fills me with both excitement and fear. I’m looking forward to what life has to offer me in the next stage of life. Plus, the next five months is the dissertation phase and therefore the phase I have been looking forward to the most. Unfortunately, this also means that it’s time to start looking for jobs, thinking about where I want to live, and the practicalities of adult life.

So here’s to the next five months of dissertation research and writing. Oh, and the small matter of deciding whether or not I am going to continue into a PhD.

The Power of Storytelling

I’m have a confession to make.

This post is another plug for another event.

On Thursday 11 May at 6.00pm, I am going to be one of the researchers sharing stories about their research as part of Tales from the Ivory Tower. Maybe researcher is stretching it a bit as I’m a MA student who hasn’t started her thesis research yet. However, getting up in front of an audience to share a story seemed a really good way to throw myself out of my comfort area and into something completely new.

So why storytelling?

Stories have a power that presenting a research paper doesn’t have. They welcome in people to share your experiences and knowledge. When we share a story, our audience comes with us on a journey. By the end of the story, it is as much their’s as it is ours.

I’m going to be sharing a little about how being the granddaughter of divorcees and having an obsession with Arthurian legend has led me to the thesis I want to study. I will be effectively inviting people to share in my life in the hope of changing their minds about how the choices of one generation impact the lives of their children and grandchildren. Telling this as a story engages their emotions, their sympathy, in a way that presenting an academic paper cannot do.

Being the storyteller

Developing my own story has been as much about learning about myself as it has been learning a new technique or more about a subject area. I’ve discovered my limits about what I’m willing to share and how I am willing to share it. I’ve realised how much my own choices are impacted by other people. You could say I forced myself into a corner where I had to accept certain things about my family that I had ignored before.

The power of a story is in it’s ability to make the audience sympathise with the narrative. Once you have gained an audience’s sympathy, then you can explain your research,

 

If you are interested in how researchers turn research into narratives or what has been their inspiration, we will be sharing our stories in Brood Cafe Bar at Roco on 11 May, You can register here.

Why Choose a Research Proposal as an Assessment?

This term, I have had some weird assignments. Namely, I have to write a research proposal and a project proposal to be assessed for two of my modules. My first question on both occasions was, “what’s wrong with a good old essay?” I mean, I’m here to learn and then show what I have learnt and how I can apply that to my own work. That is why we write essays.

To be honest, it was a good opportunity to practice writing one for my PhD applications next year but I thought that would be all it was. Then I started writing the research proposal. It turns out that not only is writing a research proposal concisely really tough (how do I know what I need to explain and what I don’t) but it also requires a lot more knowledge than I thought it would, both of the subject and the methodology. So I’ve been refreshing my memory on the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, who’s in dire need of a reassessment, reading up on politeness (crucial and not restricted to the British) and trying to make sense of notes from my textual analysis seminars. In other words, I have had to put a lot more work into this proposal than I expected.

So do I now understand why we’ve had such weird assessments this semester? If this research proposal is anything to go by, our tutors and lecturers are trying to prepare us for the “Real World”. Let’s face it, the reality is that we won’t be writing essays for the rest of our lives, unless you become an academic. No matter what job you are in, you are probably going to create proposals of one nature or another at some point. So being assessed on our ability to create a convincing proposal is probably a lot more useful than another “good old essay”.

The Role of the Closed Cemetery

This week I guest posted on the website we have set up for the Friends of Wardsend Cemetery. You can see the whole website at http://www.wardsendcemetery.wordpress.com

Friends of Wardsend Cemetery

Hi. I’m Katy, another of the students studying Public Humanities at the University of Sheffield. I’ve also benefitted from the cemetery local to my parents’ house in Wiltshire since I was 15. Attached to the St. Denys the Minster, it provided me a place of refuge when my sister was watching rugby, somewhere to read poetry without interruption, and a place to think things through. It also bought me closer to my town when I discovered a WW1 grave, who’s occupant died 10 days before the Armistice was announced.

Why am I telling you all of this?

When we had our brief for the partnership with the Friends of Wardsend Cemetery, I was excited to find that we were focusing on a cemetery. This was a fantastic opportunity to be part of reclaiming the cemetery and turning it into a place of refuge, like my cemetery back home.

Many people…

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Crowdsourcing and Engagement

We’re five weeks into Digital Cultural Heritage now and I’m starting to notice that certain words are becoming regular parts of the DCH vocab. Notable amongst these are metadata and crowdsourcing. I’ve already talked about metadata in a previous post. So now it is the turn of crowdsourcing to be understood.

Reading quotes for PH

I personally like the idea of crowdsourcing. It bridges that gap between the ivory towers of academia and the person on the street (or in front of the screen). Sometimes, as with so many good things, it can be misused. You end up with the equivalent of sweatshops, where volunteers are used to do the simple but time-consuming jobs like tagging. Other times, it works fantastically as a collaboration where everyone learns from everyone else. A great example is Measuring the Anzacs, which encourages citizen historians to tag and transcribe records of Anzac soldiers. While academics benefit from the additional help in tagging and transcription, the so-called ‘crowd’ have the opportunity to see behind the statistics to who the soldiers really were.

The thing about crowd sourcing is that it needs people to engage. That is when it works at its best.

Let’s be honest. No one is going to spend their time tagging or transcribing medieval manuscripts unless they are interested in it. The nature of crowd sourcing is that it is never a random crowd who engage with the project but individuals who are interested in the topic. For example, a marine biologist will most likely not engage with a Shakespearean project but an member of an amateur dramatics group might do. Thus, the need for engagement in crowd sourcing means that most projects ends up being group sourced by default.

These groups may not be structured or chosen on purpose but they are united by common purpose. So you end up with a group sourced project who are all engaged with your project.

And if you’re honest with yourself, you would rather have a small group of actively engaged people than a large group of vaguely interested people who don’t really care.