Friday, April 8, 2011

Reduce, reuse, recycle?

I'm in Maryland (well, when you read this I'll be in Maryland. Right now I'm at the airport in Cincinnati, of course) for a conference. We'll be Theorizing the Web all day on Saturday, and my contribution is a paper on the privacy practices of personal mommy bloggers.

I've been joking that what I've been creating this week, in preparation, is a "Frankenpaper": parts of Saturday's 15 minute conference paper is built from text I created for a public talk in the Digital Media Series at Stratford, reworked for a lecture celebrating 50 years of the Faculty of Arts at UW, and then reframed in a minor way for an invited lecture hosted by the MA in Humanities at Laurentian University in Sudbury. Incidentally, those talks all revisited ideas and prose I first considered and wrote in 2005, for the Reader's Forum of English Studies in Canada. Still with me? Okay. My conference paper is also built from an article I've recently submitted to Biography--which was written from the ideas I pulled together for a different conference paper for last summer's International Auto/Biography Association conference in Sussex. Oops, I did pull stuff right from the conference paper, too, that I had removed from the article version of that research.

The Keynote slides draw from the Stratford/Arts/Sudbury presentation, as well as from the IABA presentation.

Basically, the only strictly-speaking new writing in Saturday's conference paper is in the transition sentences between the ideas. (Although, arguably, those are the places that evidence is turned into argument.)

What I've been really thinking about lately is this: how much reusing and recycling of our work is appropriate here?

I used to build absolutely everything from scratch every time. Have a look at my CV: one article on 80s video game movies. One article on email in romantic comedy. One article on mid-1990s rhetorical posturings in Internet manifestos. One book chapter on blogging in literary studies. It is exhilarating and exhausting to write like that.

Lately, I've changed practice: I've got one article published, one forthcoming, and one submitted, all on personal mommy blogging. I've given three public lectures this year, on largely the same thing, but to very different audiences. I'm giving two conference papers reporting on one survey, to two different academic communities.

Is this 'cheating' somehow? Or is this what depth of engagement looks like? Is this purely strategic maximization of lines on the CV? Or is it better dissemination of research results in an interdisciplinary field?

Basically, is this reduce (effort), reuse (the same materials), recycle (my ideas)? Or is it, to switch metaphors, back to yoga, deepen (my knowledge by repeated trials), broaden (my scope by bringing different theories to bear on one set of practices), and open (by sharing my work more widely and frequently)?

How much reuse is good? Or is it all bad?

What do you do?

7 comments:

  1. Frankenpaper! Love that.

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  2. Or, is this a function of where you are in your career?

    I've felt the pressure (ambiguous, often self-imposed) to have that broadly diverse CV that you mention marks your earlier production phases. Indeed I feel like without constantly producing *new!* and *innovative!* ideas I'm somehow not creating that interview-worthy CV...

    Thanks for the great post A!

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  3. Just read that a prof uses a chinchilla as a metaphor instead of Frankenstein.

    I have always thought that a diverse C.V. meant that I was representing myself as unfocused and a bit dilettantish (I didn't know that was even a work! Thanks spell check suggestions!). I guess it is up to me to show how all of my diverse interests are related to my "core" research interests.

    The mommy blogger movement is something that I am equally fascinated by, but from a distance. I'll let the experts like you parse it out for me! :-)

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  4. See, on the one hand, you want to be known as "that [one, go-to] person who does mommy blogging." On the other hand, you don't want to be known as "that person who [just] does mommy blogging." I agree that sampling looks a bit unfocused, but we also don't want to look like we are *too* (as per the academic stereotype) focused. I wouldn't have been called up to do some great projects if I was known as that "person who does the Georgian Bay," or whatever it is I do; and you (I'm guessing) also want to be called on to talk about digital humanities, popular culture, etc. etc. I guess as long as each cluster of publications/talks is part of a larger work, but with a set end-point or result, with that work as only one on the road map of life, then that's a fair balance, oui?

    PS. LOVE the yoga vocabulary.

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  5. By the time I leave Croatia, I will have delivered the same "guest lecture" five times, all to different audiences, of course.

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  6. I do repetition with a difference, just like (but not quite like) the Queen of Reps, Judith Butler. Once in awhile I publish something way out there too, just for fun. The out-of-the-way stuff often turns into my core stuff (or it's what I'm known for, which is fun too).

    My mentor taught me to publish what matters as well as what builds my career, because I'll be nourished that way. I think she was right. So I don't always recycle when I think I need to learn something new.

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