Archives for category: impact

Ok so I’ve started a history podcast. Well, me and a bunch of amazing producers at 2SER (a community radio station in Sydney). It’s called History Lab and this is the two 2 min taster:

Podcasting, in case you have been living under a rock, is definitely now a thing. 

According to Sharon Taylor, CEO of Omny Studio, downloads in Australia are now in the tens of millions per month. While you might have noticed radio stations making a big push for podcasts they are by no means only podcasting platform in town (actually only 14% of weekly podcasts are by Australian radio stations or Australian radio personalities). For lots more statistics have a look at The 2018 Infinite Dial Australia study, conducted by Edison Research and Triton Digital (they also have reports on the UK and the USA).

For academics, impact and engagement are also now definitely things. Historians, of course, engage with broad audiences in a variety of ways, from writing for public audiences, to building partnerships with teachers, institutions and community groups – and, yes, to making tv and radio documentaries too! But the rapidly growing popular demand for podcasts makes it a promising – but as yet unharnessed – platform for doing in and with broad audiences.

With History Lab we are trying to make a new kind of podcast. We’ve got some good stories to tell, but we are interested in much more than just the story. Instead of an academic or other expert doing the research and then telling you what it means, we want to draw you as a listener in to the investigative process. We want you to come along with us as we try to make sense of the traces the past leaves in the present.

Sometimes this is confusing and frustrating: records are patchy, evidence is destroyed and a lot of the time people disagree about what happened and what it means. Sometimes there are more questions than answers. But more often than not, trying to make sense of the traces of the past is also pretty exciting. Things are not always what they seem. Aren’t we always in the process of finding that out?

I’ve written a short piece about why I think podcasting matters to historians and what is special about History Lab (it involves an iceberg analogy), but this is the redux version:

First, in a world of fake-news and post-fact, showing what lies behind historians’ claims to knowledge about the past is imperative if those claims are to be believed.

Second, and related, personal experience is transformative. Abstractions and stories must be taken on trust, but lived experience is direct. Hearing steps echoing in empty corridors and the host wondering about the things historians say, invites the listener into the process of discovery. It opens up the experience of history-making to all who listen.

In these two ways, the History Lab podcast seeks to be a contribution to public discourse – it is premised on the notion that doing the work of thinking and making meaning together is central to the good society.

So come and join the History Lab.  Listen online, download in a podcast app and subscribe to receive notifications whenever we release an episode. Tell your internet friends by posting it on facebook, follow @historylabpod on the twitter or send out a carrier pigeon.

Best of all, sit give your friends a good cup of tea and tickle their ears with some history.

Series 1 is as follows (and yes Episode 1 releases imminently!)

  • Episode 1: (30 May) Lindy Chamberlain and the Afterlife of Evidence – What has happened to all the evidence on which Lindy’s trials turned?
  • Episode 2: (13 June) Damages for a broken heart – What is the history of love and heartbreak in colonial Australia?
  • Episode 3: (27 June) When the Titanic sank in the outback – Why is there a memorial to the Titanic in the middle of outback Australia?
  • Episode 4: (11 July) Fishing for answers – We encounter the practices of the Eora fisherwomen and discover if you listen closely the past of Sydney Harbour still sings.
  • Bonus Episode 5: (18 July) The making of History Lab  Explore the thrills and spills of Season 1, and how you can get involved in the next season.

But, wait there’s more!

Don’t just listen to History Lab – help to make it! History Lab is open as national engagement platform for historians of all stripes. Find out more about how to pitch us an episode and a whole lot more at our website https://historylab.net

 

 

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Impact is not just coming, it is already here. Rant and rage, it’s a fact of academic life. In my view that’s (mostly) not such a bad thing. As a researcher I want my work to reach broad audiences, though I recognise that attempting to measure the impact of research is a fraught exercise with potential perverse effects. Our physicist friends tell us that observing a phenomenon changes it, and even “quality metrics” are pretty bad at capturing the kinds of value produced by culture. Scholarly work not only has intrinsic merit, but its “real world” effects or applications can take decades to manifest.

Yet like it or not, impact assessment is upon us. This means that historians need to spend a bit of time getting their head around what it means and how it might shape their work. And to my mind, there’s good political and disciplinary reasons for doing so.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Last week I gave a talk on social media to post-graduates from the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Foolishly (but only fairly) I promised to practice what I preached. So here are the salient points (and links) as I remember them.

Why you should think about the social media

Increasingly scholarly conversation is happening online – in curated and individual blogs, on twitter, and through other electronic forums. If you are not engaging with these forms of publication you are likely to be missing part of what is happening in your field.

Participating in the world of social media helps generate a bigger (and more diverse) academic audience for your research. Much of this will be  in aligned disciplines, or in different national contexts. If you are not engaging online, you’ll be missing part of your potential audience.

Social media also helps generate a broader non-academic audience, especially with those industries to which your thesis may connect. Try to consciously develop and promote your “shadow expertise”; that aspect of your work that might inform a non-academic sector. It’s tough in the academic job market, and this could well be where your post-phd career ends up going.

And finally, social media is increasingly a factor in every employment sector. Engaging online gives you skills that will serve you well, wherever you work.

But always remember the golden rule

NEVER LET YOUR MOUTH EXCEED YOUR VOICE.

This is Stefan Collini’s advice to public intellectuals in Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain and it should be etched onto the computer screens of every academic who reaches for the internet.  Have something to say that is well founded and established, and well supported. Be respectful of other people’s work and opinions and give them due reference. The last thing a junior (or indeed any) academic needs is to have a ruined reputation all over the internet.

If there is a second rule, it might be this: VALUE YOUR TIME – blogging & tweeting can be very rewarding because unlike most other parts of academic life you get direct feedback. But it’s a drug. Keep your main game in view and remember: your authority to speak will in 98% of cases come from your research. So respect it, foster it, prioritise it.

How to start

See how other people are doing it. Set up a twitter account and follow scholars you admire (and those you don’t!) Read the relevant blogs in your field – some of these are likely to be co-authored. If you are totally lost, The Chronicle of Higher Education’s blog page is as good a place as any to begin (and you have discovered this blog so you’re not doing too badly!)

People disagree on the merits of maintaining an individual blog as against contributing to established co-authored or other forums such as The Conversation, but my view is to go for both:

  1. Set up a blog site for yourself that will act a bit like your online CV:
    • use it to a) experiment with writing pieces and b) as a place to collect any material you publish on other platforms. WordPress is easy to use and integrates well with other social media.
  2. Generate content:
    • Work in progress & the process of working (see for eg. the Thesis Whisperer or Trickster Prince).
    • Communicate research you have published (eg https://t.co/UCbgE8RslC)
    • Wait for news item & apply research
    • Provide context through your “shadow expertise” – are you writing a Phd on the history of fashion? Contact fashion magazines and pitch articles to them.
  3. Maximise your reach
    • Connect to other people’s online content through using links, and cross-promote on twitter (using #hashtags), facebook, linkedin and academia.edu.au, among other social media outlets.
    • Write for established platforms, such as co-authored blogs, The Conversation, print outlets, your university, industry publications. The internet is a big place with a lot of shouting people on it, and you need to find a way to be heard. Established sites offer you support and a readership that is invaluable.

Parting comments

Academic research usually takes a long time to produce. It frequently works with complex information and tells stories that complicate what we think we know. The interwebs do not thrive on such complexity. This doesn’t mean you should go for simplifications , but it does mean you need to work with people’s attention spans. Put your argument up front, rather than at the end; try to stick to 500-800 words maximum. Inject some personality. Too often wonderful academic research is communicated in ways that do not make it easy for people to access or connect with. Paywalls and professional convention carry part of the responsibility, but as scholars we can do a lot more too to reach out to a public that has demonstrated a robust appetite for ideas.

Reading list

Prof Patrick Dunleavy’s Shorter, better, faster, free: blogging changes the nature of academic research, not just how it is communicated and How to write a blogpost from your journal article

LSE public impact blog and in particular their twitter guide and reading list on using social media for research and the 5 Ws of communicating your research.

The Times Higher Education magazine’s Tips for academics on Blogging and Social Media