On Academic Discipline Jumping – My Final Guest Post on Ethnography Matters

March 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

discipline hopscotch

The following is an excerpt from my third and final Ethnography Matters guest post, which you can find here.

This past fall, I decided to order my first batch of post-PhD business cards, and could no longer waffle on the question. I tried out about 20 different combinations (Digital culture scholar? Media folklorist? Media Ethnographer? Media: Various and Sundry?) before I settled on “Digital Culture/Media Studies.” That’s the least inaccurate way to put it, but still doesn’t quite capture what I do (and, as I just realized, is not the handle on my Twitter profile. There I identify as “Digital Culture/Folklore”).

Again, I’m not that worried about what words get affixed to my work or myself. As far as I’m concerned, definitions—along with academic disciplines generally—are (or should be regarded as) fluid; how I frame my work depends on the project I’m working on. But academia is rife with traditions, territory marking being one of the most conspicuous. So “Digital Culture/Media Studies” (or “Digital Culture/Folklore,” depending on how I’m feeling, apparently) is a thing I say now, though in my mind there is, and will always be, an implied asterisk. What that asterisk indicates, who knows. Ask me again at the end of my next project.

I know I’m not alone in my resistance to traditional disciplinary bounds (the question of why we insist on public binaries when privately almost everyone vacillates between different shades of gray has always baffled me), so for the remainder of this post I will offer some advice for young scholars engaged in and/or contemplating interdisciplinary or otherwise nontraditional research–advice I would have appreciated having spelled out at the outset of my project.

And what advice do I give? Here are the tl;dr bullet points:

  • Make sure you have a good support system
  • Good support systems are not magically bestowed, and are not something you’re owed by anyone
  • Take strange questions seriously
  • Remember that you are not the center of the academic universe
  • Learn to appreciate naysayers
  • Imagine a diverse audience

For more, go read the thing!

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