returning to research after (sort of) three and a half years away
I basically just spent three and a half years home with kids. Not quite, I worked full time for a few months between the babies, and have been part time for the last year, but part time with a baby at home and juggling childcare with my husband has not left much time for reading, writing and thinking about research. To be honest I’ve barely scraped by doing my teaching and things I had to do and oh my do I feel it now. I think I may have missed a few things. But finally both little ones (now 18 months and nearly 3 1/2 years old) are enjoying preschool (barnehage) and I am loving having full days back at work. Have you noticed that work is more enjoyable when you have enough time to do it properly? I’m also loving how energetic I am in the afternoons with the kids – parenting is such a different kind of work (and fun!) to being a professor that I enjoy it immensely, rather than being exhausted from having already spent all day with them. I love, love, love not having to fit work into naptimes and evenings. Hooray! And I love being back with my colleagues – here’s the latest photo of our growing group at Digital Culture.
(Back: Davin Heckman (Fulbright scholar), me, Scott Rettberg. Middle: Eric Rasmussen, Patricia Tomaszek, Lise Kristiansen (student advisor), Hilde Corneliussen, Daniel Jung. Front: Rolf Beev (teaching coordinator), Daniel Apollon.)
There are some advantages to spending time away from research. For instance, I can pinpoint the advent of social media quite exactly. Late in 2008 I finished my book, Blogging, and had been reading and blogging voraciously while writing it. Nobody talked about social media back then: the term isn’t even mentioned in my book because nobody used it. Jessie was born in April 2008, and I pretty much ignored academia for the rest of the year. When I returned to work a year later social media was everywhere. The shift in terminology was astounding.
I’ve also learnt a lot about all manner of blogs about children, homes and crafting, and I’ve not only had ample opportunity to refresh my knitting skills (so much more fun to knit for babies than for adults) but I’ve learnt about the new craft economy and sharing communities around that. I’m not sure it will transfer to research but it’s fascinating terrain.
And of course I’ve done a little bit of research, too. I’ve been involved with the ELMCIP project, and am writing an article for that about early electronic literature communities – I’m presenting some of that next week at ISEA in Istanbul. (I know, Istanbul!) I did some work with Clare Hooper on Gowalla and geocaching last year. This year I’m going to be revising my book Blogging for a second edition to come out next year. And I’m teaching of course.
I’m also going to start blogging again. A lot more than once a month. I now understand all those people who used to ask me how I found time to blog. I get it: if you have small children and every minute spent on unnecessary tasks at work feels like its stealing from your time with them it’s hard to justify. But being a researcher means taking time to read, explore, think, write and participate in discussions. Right now I feel as though I’m not quite a part of the research community any longer. I need to engage to get back in, and blogging is the obvious way to do so.
So I’m back! Hello world! 🙂