This peer interview is with Adeline Koh. You can follow her on Twitter @adelinekoh. All links open in new windows. If you read this interview and find it interesting or useful, please take a moment to share it on your networks. Thank you.
Ernesto Priego: Please share with us who you are and what you do…
Adeline Koh: I am an assistant professor of postcolonial literature at Richard Stockton College, and this academic year I am a visiting faculty fellow at the Greater than Games lab at Duke University’s Franklin Humanities Institute.
I was originally trained in 20/21st Century British and Anglophone literatures and postcolonial theory, but since then my research has broadened to include film, new media and the digital humanities.
At Duke this year, I’m designing Trading Races, a historical role-playing game set at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 2003, the year of the landmark Supreme Court decisions. Players in the game assume the roles of an imaginary Michigan Student Assembly and real figures such as Sandra Day O’Connor, John Hope Franklin and Carl Cohen.
The game aims to teach race consciousness to undergraduate students. We just completed our first playtest, and the game is set to pilot in two classes (one at Duke and the other at Stockton College) in Spring 2013.
EP: Can you tell us about your http://www.adelinekoh.org/ site? What´s your vision for it, and how do you include it in your academic workflow?
AK: adelinekoh.org pretty much functions as a combination of an academic blog and updates about anything I’m doing that others might find useful. Sometimes I’ll put up ideas that I’m musing through to get feedback (my hack/yack post and archival silences and colonialism post part one and two are examples of these); otherwise, I’ll put up slides of talks I’ve given or storifies of events I’ve taken part in. I don’t have a regular schedule for it in my workflow, but I usually try and update it if I’ve done something interesting lately.
EP: How did you start blogging? What took you to it and what were the challenges you first faced (technical, cultural, etc.)?
AK: Like many academics, I was averse to blogging for many years as I thought blogs were mostly an outlet for adolescent angst, rather than serious work. But I began following some academic blogs around 2009, which showed to me that blogging could really be used as a serious academic tool to disseminate ideas, get feedback and to grow your own scholarly community. So I started blogging–in slow steps. Most of my blog posts began with reporting on events I’ve attended. I don’t think I’ve faced many challenges with blogging so far, other than the occasional troll-ish comment.
EP: What were the blogs that made you change your mind, and where do you think that idea that blogs “were mostly an outlet for adolescent angst” had come from?
AK: The usual Digital Humanities suspects :) Mark Sample’s blog, Brian Croxall’s blog and most of the ProfHacker team. Dan Cohen wrote an excellent blog post in 2006 titled “Professors Start Your Blogs” which writes against the stereotype about blogging being an outlet for display of teenage teenage angst, arguing that blogs are simply one genre that can be adapted to many purposes. Where the stereotype comes from? I guess reading one too many of such blogs in the early 2000s…
EP: I guess there’s a similar negative stereotype about tweeting being just about Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and what you had for lunch… can you tell us about how you personally use Twitter within academic settings? It was through Twitter that I first became aware of you and your work. Feel free to include advice for those still in doubt…
AK: Yes, the same translates to negative stereotypes about Twitter. Within academic settings I’ve found livetweeting events (with permission, where possible) a great way to both contribute to the academic community and to get to learn about other people’s work. I’ve learned so much about what goes on at conferences I’ve never heard of simply by listening in on people’s hashtags. It’s also been a terrific networking tool, when used appropriately. I’ve also had many interesting conversations with people over Twitter, mostly about the state of higher education. What I like most about the medium is that it allows anyone to join in. Its openness has been, for me, one of the most attractive things. And to those who are still in doubt, I’d point them to Ryan Cordell’s post on why you should have a digital academic presence–to summarize, it often creates an “entry point” for people to get to know you and your work, and vice versa.
EP: Final question: do you feel your online presence is recognised positively amongst your peers and wider academic circles? What do you think is needed to improve online scholarly behaviour –discussing themes, sharing links to articles and other references, participating in conference backchannels?
AK: In general, yes. My online presence has been critical to reaching audiences outside of my own institution–something extremely important to consider if you are based at a small liberal arts college like mine. It’s led to many invitations to give presentations, collaborate in different projects etc. But this may have something to do with the fact that most of the research I’ve been disseminating via my online presence has to do with topics on the digital humanities and digital pedagogy. People in my more “traditional” research fields–postcolonial theory and world literature–might consider my work in social media to be less significant.
In regard to your question about improving online scholarly behavior–I think that being a good “digital citizen” is similar to being a good academic citizen in general. Don’t self-promote exclusively; promote the work of others that you find interesting. Enter into discussions respectfully; treat others the way you would like to be treated yourself. And as far as possible, cite your references–or link to them.
EP: Thank you very much for giving us this interview, Adeline.