Category Archives: 23 Things

Adventures in academic life: the iCog conference

Saturday of eighth week. Where did the term go? This blog has been neglected but I’ll be catching up, and reflecting on why the blog got neglected, later this week.

In the meantime, I attended the inaugural conference organised by the iCog Network in Sheffield last weekend, and used the opportunity to have a go at Twitter reporting.  iCog describes itself as a network for postgraduates and early-career researchers working in interdisciplinary cognitive science, and their site is well worth a visit.

I’ve also pulled together a Storify on the conference. As ever, feedback and comments are welcome. I’d certainly try it again – what do you think?

Social media fledgling

A gratuitous goldfinch – linked from

Apologies for the pun, but the 23 Things tasks for this week are to explore some other social media vehicles, in particular Twitter and RSS readers.

I’m already on Twitter and have been for a while.  I enjoy reading other people’s tweets, the immediacy and wit of the response to events but I’m not really sure how best to become a more active user. And in the light of recent media coverage of libel and trolling, and friends’ horror stories, I’m a little bit wary.  Prompted by Thing 7, I’ve started a list of linguistics tweeters to follow, which I’ll expand over the next few weeks. I’ve also changed my profile so that I’m now @SpkgOnTongues, and WordPress tells me that some readers have arrived here via that route.  But I still don’t know what kind of content I’ve got that would work well on Twitter, other than letting people know that I’ve written a new blog post.  Today’s experiment was asking a question (non-academic) to see what comes back, but so far it’s been a null response.

RSS Feeds (Thing 8) are a different matter.  I’m a huge fan of Feedly on the iPad: I like the way that I can segment my areas of interest and it encourages me to go further into topics that bloggers raise.  I’ve also started using it to keep an eye on what this year’s other 23 Things bloggers are up to.  I hadn’t realised that there was also a web version, and so I’m looking forward to browsing with a larger screen.

As for Thing 9’s encouragement to try Storify, or,  I don’t think I’m quite ready yet.  But it’s something that I’ll consider later on in the term as a way of reporting back on responses to and during a conference that I’m going to.  At the moment though, there are other priorities.

I’m really interested to know who else I could be following on Twitter, whatever the subject.  Or what kind of things I should be tweeting about.  Any suggestions?  Maybe it’s time to dip my toes into the murky waters of #ff?

network error, try reloading ;(

It’s 23 Things time again.  The task this week is to dredge the internet for references to me, and reflect on what I find.  The difficulty I have with my name is, there are a lot of us about.

Starting with just Stephen Jones brings up the usual suspects: the milliner, the rugby player, the TV presenter.  But also some unexpected treats, like the author of “Zombie Apocalypse #1” (add to e-reading list).

When I add in “Oxford”, I find a criminologist, a policy consultant, a private-school headmaster and the leader of a free church.  Adding in “Oxford University” unearths a geneticist, a sports scientist and a musicologist.  Putting “linguistics” onto the end of the search string finally brings up my MPhil class list (as the first item, no less), and this blog at number three.  So I am findable, but it needs persistence.

Facebook doesn’t show up.  That’s good: I want a degree of separation between my personal and professional lives, and I’m pleased that the privacy settings seem to be working, at least to some extent.  But neither does my LinkedIn profile, which is up-to-date and shows my current student status.  Until I google with my old organisation, when I pop up at the top of the first page, besuited and smiling.  Hmm.

What do I think about all of this?  Overall, it’s not surprising and it’s not a problem either.  Today is term 1, week 2, Thursday of my return to study.  I have no academic products to offer anyone yet.  I’m still feeling my way into the subject and deciding where I’d like to specialise.  My past is part of why I’m here today, and is informing my approach to the MPhil and academic life more broadly.  It’s impossible to airbrush it out, and so I’m relieved that the internet didn’t really take off until my 30s: the on-line footprint that I’m managing is a lot less lurid than it might have been otherwise.

My follow-up actions are straightforward.  Think about how I might change LinkedIn to point a bit more towards the future.  Set up a profile on academia.  And spend most of my time on the MPhil work so that I can shift over time from reflections on process, to reflections on content.

PS – If anyone is able to get a result out of the MIT Personas project, let me know.  The introductory pages are really tempting, but all I ever got from the search box was “network error, try reloading ;(“ after a variable search time.  This teasing, inconsistent feedback kept me glued to the screen as if it was a Las Vegas slot-machine.

Becoming a blogger

Like most of my friends, I started off on social media with Facebook.  Having resisted for a long time, I progressed rapidly from silent lurker to poster, commenter and sharer.  LinkedIn came later, when I realised that I wanted a connection to colleagues without them being aware of all my social adventures.  Somehow I was never as active there as on Facebook, and since I left paid employment at the end of June, I’m not quite sure where my LinkedIn presence is going to go.

Then I found real-time linguistics, and real-life linguists on the net, through Twitter and the Feedly blog reader.  All of a sudden, I realised what I had been missing. People were pointing me towards interesting articles and sharing their work.  They had good advice, and provocative questions.  And they wanted to interact.  I was already interested in language, and spending increasing amounts of time reading around the subject.  Blog posts and tweets brought the subject alive, and helped inspire and motivate me to take the plunge and move into full-time study.

Thus far, so good.  But why a start a blog now, given everything else I’m taking on at the moment?  I have to thank Tanya Golash-Boza, author of Get a Life, PhD, which is helping me build a bridge between my old life and my new one.  She has written many helpful posts about personal effectiveness, time management, prioritisation and the like.   These topics are familiar from the old life, and make a lot more sense now that I have more control over the shape of my working day.  What’s new for me is the reflection on the skills and mind-set I will need as a baby academic, and that has been incredibly useful.

The message that comes through loud and clear from Get a Life, PhD is to write every day.  Every day. There is no getting round it: writing is the crucial core skill for any academic. All those hours of reading, analysing, listening, thinking, that I’ll be putting in over the next two years, all those hours are going to be worth nothing if I can’t convert the results into a structured, compelling message, whether it’s in a peer-reviewed article or, more urgently, in a three-hour examination.  It’s also a skill that has fallen away, rather than been honed, over the twenty-odd years of work since my MSc. In other words, it’s one of the biggest changes of emphasis that I’m facing.

So I need to practise: essays, outlines, articles, blog posts, anything that strengthens my writing muscles.  And like any kind of exercise, a training programme and training buddies will help me keep disciplined.  In this context, signing up to do the Bodleian’s 23 Things was a no-brainer.

Over the next term – and maybe longer – I will be using this blog as a place to reflect on the process of becoming a linguist, as a postgraduate, a mature student, and a returner to Oxford after a long gap.  I hope to make contact with other people who share some, or all, or none of those characteristics.  And I’m really interested in your responses to my reflections.